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The Ultimate Reloading Manual
Wolfe Publishing Group
  • alliant reloading data
  • reloading brass
  • shotshell reloading
The Ultimate Reloading Manual
load development

223 Remington Hog and Deer Loads

Author: Patrick Meitin
Date: May 21 2024

Bullets used for testing included from left to right, Hammer Bullets 57-grain HHT,
Cutting Edge Bullets 60-grain Copper Raptor, Hammer Bullets 64-grain Hammer Hunter,
Quality Cartridge 68-grain Game-StopR and Speer 75-grain Gold Dot.

The 223 Remington is one of the most popular cartridges in the U.S. today and the AR-15 is one of American’s favorite rifles. So, it only makes sense that

Patrick’s rifle did not get along with Hammer
Bullets’57-grain HHT as its best showing
was just 1.12 inchesat 2,669 fps –
though that is plenty of accuracy for
hunting purposes.

many hunters want to use their favorite cartridge, chambered in their favorite rifle, to hunt deer and hogs, though in the case of deer, this is not legal in every state. I might agree, when standard-issue factory ammunition is involved, but handloading sturdier bullets makes the 223 Remington more effective on deer-sized animals, including mature wild hogs that are becoming more popular each season as they become more readily available.

Cutting Edge Bullets’ 60-grain Copper Raptor
did best with 23.5 grains of Hodgdon H-4895,
printing into .75 inch at 2,878 fps.

I’ve collected eight or nine white-tailed deer with the 223 Remington (largely mature/dry management does, but also dozens of hogs, which it could be argued are generally sturdier than deer. My own tallies pale in comparison to friends who reside in Texas and hunt with 223 Remington ARs. Admittedly, the 223 Remington doesn’t provide the “drop-them-in-their-tracks” energy delivery of AR-15 rounds like the 6.5 Grendel or 6.8 Remington SPC, but it certainly gets the job done with proper shot placement and especially with quality controlled-expansion bullets.

Despite liberal hysteria and cracks about deer not wearing Kevlar vests, few deer hunters choose an AR for high-capacity magazines or quick follow-up. In fact, most deer hunters choose a 10-round magazine that poses less interference while taking a solid rest (and to make it big-game legal in some states). The obvious appeal is easy handling, low recoil and easy maintenance. The AR-15 is by

One of the better groups of the entire test involved
Quality Cartridge’s 68-grain Game-StopR bullet
and 25.5 grains of Shooters World Match Rifle.
That group measured .53 inch at 2,864 fps.

design ergonomic, including adjustable stocks that allow fitting a single rifle to many shooters, from young beginners or women to burly men. The vertical pistol grip offers more intuitive ergonomics over traditional stocks, and the side-lever thumb safety makes accidental discharges highly improbable, while also proving easier to manipulate while wearing insulated gloves. Detachable box magazines also make these rifles easier to load and unload safely. Its military origins mean it was designed for quick and infrequent maintenance.

As already hinted, the newest controlled-expansion bullets combined with faster barrel rifling twists (1:8 or 1:7) has made the 223 Remington extremely viable as a deer and hog round. This is especially true of today’s monolithic copper bullets, which Neal Emrey, former head of ballistics at Hornady, pointed out perform similar to a lead-core bullet weighing about 20 percent more. Copper’s long-for-weight profiles (copper is obviously lighter than lead) provide higher sectional densities and near 100 percent weight retention. Barnes X, Nosler E-Tip, Hornady CX and many other “boutique” brands like Quality Cartridge or Hammer Bullets have stepped in to meet this demand. I have taken mature deer with mono-copper bullets as light as 50 grains with the 223 Remington (Hornady’s GMX), but find more comfort in a 55-plus grain minimum.

In addition, we now have lead-core projectiles with controlled-expansion qualities, either mechanical, like Nosler’s original Partition, or chemical bonding combined with heavier, tapered jackets – like Swift’s Scirocco II and Northern Precision – or Speer’s Gold Dot, which includes a copper jacket bonded to the lead core via electrolysis. Others, like 75-grain Swift Scirocco IIs and Speer Gold Dots have accounted for the vast majority of my 223 hog kills.

These Florida hogs were cleanly bagged using Hornady factory ammunition
loaded with 50-grain GMX bullets. Patrick prefers a touch more bullet weight on wild boars.

With these stipulations in mind, I chose five bullets to run this series, comprised simply of what I had on hand in sufficient numbers when starting this project. They included Hammer Bullets’ brand new 57-grain HHT, Cutting Edge Bullets’ 60-grain Copper Raptor, Hammer Bullets’ 64-grain Hammer Hunter, Quality Cartridge’s 68-grain Game-StopR – all of these are monolithic copper numbers – and Speer’s lead-core 75-grain Gold Dot. Heavier/longer 224 bullets are available of course, but it becomes difficult to accommodate the 2.26-inch confines of the AR magazine without severely intruding into powder space.

One of Patrick’s favorite hog bullets from his AR-15 223 Remington is
Speer’s 75-grain Gold Dot, which was used to take this Texas hog.

Powders were chosen from modern, clean-burning, temperature-stable options, when possible, largely on the promise of maximum velocities. Maximum velocities equate to maximum energy delivery, an important factor when looking to stretch the capabilities of a light cartridge.

The test vehicle was my parts-build AR-15. The unmarked upper receiver, E.A. Company lower, heavy 20-inch (1:7 twist) barrel and buffer-tube assembly have remained the same in the 15-plus years I’ve owned this fairly accurate rifle. Everything else changes according to whim. Today, it holds a skeletonized 15-inch handguard with Picatinny rails in all the right places and generous M-LOK slots, a CAA adjustable buttstock, ERGO Tactical Deluxe Grip with SureGrip Palm Shelf, Black Talon Tactical trigger, 10-round MAGPUL magazine, Bowden Tactical AR-chitect Linear Compensator, Burris P.E.R.R. cantilever mount and Trijicon AccuPoint 5-20x 50mm optic. I use this rifle for everything from sniping ground squirrels and coyote calling, to deer hunting and culling feral hogs. It has proven capable of producing regular ¾-inch groups with tailored handloads, so that was my benchmark for this series.

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