The variety of hunting rifle calibers often leaves novices wondering which one is the best suited for a particular type of game. You don’t need to be a rifle expert to guess that different cartridges are suitable for hunting different animals. Some cartridges are more or less universal, performing equally well against the differently-sized game, while others are good against one type of prey.
As suggested by gritrsports, the .223 Remington is one of the most debated calibers on the market, mostly because shooters cannot agree on whether it is suitable for deer hunting or not. One group of hunters claims it’s inhumane to use such a low-power cartridge against a bigger animal. The second group appeals to the variability of loads, saying that bullet design has evolved greatly within the last decades and many ammo manufacturers produce the best 223 deer hunting rounds. As always, the truth lies somewhere in between. In this article, we’ll try to shed light on both perspectives to understand where these opinions come from. Hop on our enlightenment train, the next stop – Caliber Acquaintance.
Getting To Know .223 Remington Rifles
Before answering the question “can a 223 kill a deer”, we want you to know where the cartridge comes from. After all, in order to understand the mainstay of people’s opinions, we need to learn a few things about the caliber itself. The .223 Remington was developed by, surprise, Remington Arms in tandem with Fairchild Industries for the United States Army as part of the project to create a small-caliber, high-velocity firearm. As you can see, it was initially designed for the battle and only later was adopted by hunters. The reasons for this were several: the cartridge was capable of inflicting sufficient damage to neutralize an enemy while being not cumbersome and compact. If it can deal with a person, hunting deer with 223 should be a piece of cake, right? It’s not impossible, that’s for sure, but is it optimal?
The .223 Remington is first and foremost known as a round for AR-15 rifles. It dominates the semi-automatics market and is rightfully considered one of the most popular calibers in the USA. That is actually one of the reasons that debate is going on – if you already own a rifle you are in love with, you might be reluctant to buy another for the sole purpose of hunting. AR-15s, chambered in .223 Remington, are frequently bought for home defense and plinking, but more and more shooting enthusiasts begin to wonder whether hunting deer with 223 is an equally good idea. One could tell you that semi-automatics are not the best choice for hunting, because the additional precision, valued by any hunter, is sacrificed for the sake of increased fire rate. The latter is hardly a priority while hunting, that’s why bolt-action rifles are perceived as classic hunting weapons. The good news is that there are bolt-action rifles chambered in .223 Remington. They will be a better fit for hunting but might not be as good as semi-automatic at home defense. The final decision is up to you, of course, since both tasks are doable with both rifle types.
Why .223 Remington Is A Good Rifle For Deer Hunting
Let’s take a look at the supporter side of the fence. Honestly, the people’s desire to use 223 for deer hunting is not some copium mechanism – they have reason to do so. We already mentioned the first reason – convenience. An AR-15 chambered in .223 Rem is America’s most popular rifle, and many Americans own it. Now then, the fact that you can’t buy a different gun doesn’t automatically make a 223 rifle jack of all trades. But the truth is, not everyone can afford to have a separate rifle for home defense and hunting, not to mention rifles for different types of prey. In that regard, .223 might be the middle ground that can fulfill several functions. There is plenty of prey smaller than deer, and these rifles truly shine at varmint hunting.
Then, we have shootability, or shooting economy. Every avid shooter knows that, at one point, your ammo expenses will exceed the sum you paid for your firearm. The question is, how soon this moment comes. But it’s not only about the price. The .223 Rem cartridges are light, compact, and produce little recoil. They are also among the cheapest and most widely available centerfire rifle cartridges on the market. The ballistics are impressive for the money you pay. Talking about money, the rifles themselves are pretty affordable. This caliber is very beginner-friendly and can serve as a reliable doorman of the rifles world.
The third and last benefit finally has to do with bullet technology. That is the part that has to do with the cartridge’s ability to take down a deer. Several ammunition manufacturers, including Federal, developed .223 loads specifically designed for deer hunting. Federal, as one of the producers of the best 223 ammo for deer hunting, has 55 and 64-grain bullets for deer hunting. These cartridges use projectiles designed to expand and penetrate critical areas of medium-sized animals. That is the main argument in favor of using these cartridges.
Why Avoid .223 Remington For Deer Hunting
Our guide wouldn’t have been complete without taking a look at a different point of view. Since we are not persuading you into doing anything, we’ll try to remain unbiased. Our opening argument is power. As we’ve mentioned before, the .223 Remington is not a particularly impactful cartridge. Many hunters prefer using surefire .308 Winchester or at least .243 Winchester cartridges for deer hunting, reserving .223 for varmint hunting. Even if you are determined to use this particular cartridge, you might not be allowed to. Some states allow deer hunting only with straight-wall cartridges, while others set limits on the bullet weight. You’d better check this information ahead of time lest you should run into trouble. Should all stars align in your favor and you find yourself in the forest with a 223 in your hands, you may find out that it has a very limited shooting range. The .223 cases are very light and thus are more likely to be led astray by the wind. They also impart less energy compared to other hunting cartridges and can effectively shoot at shorter distances. The general recommendation is not to shoot medium-sized animals beyond 100 yards, 200 at max. The bullet won’t stop flying immediately once crossing that point, but the impact drastically diminishes. Many shots from .223 rifles end up injuring the deer, causing slow death instead of a merciful quick one. We assume this is not your intention, so don’t shoot unless you are sure.
So, what’s the verdict? Can a 223 kill a deer? Technically speaking, it is absolutely possible to shoot a deer from a .223 Remington rifle. Such cases are not unheard of, and ammo producers have ammunition lines designed specifically for that purpose. We recommend hunting deer with a .223 rifle only in case you already own one and don’t plan on acquiring anything else. If you are in the market for a new rifle, we suggest buying a .308 Winchester, a 6.5 Creedmoor, or a .243 Winchester.