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The Myth: The .223 is too Light for Deer

I read somewhere that today’s premium bullets represent the greatest advance in big game hunting technology since the widespread use of the optical sight, and I agree 100 percent. Many of the myths that we face today are the product of outdated truth.

The Myth
The .223 is too light for deer.

The Facts
I read somewhere that today’s premium bullets represent the greatest advance in big game hunting technology since the widespread use of the optical sight, and I agree 100 percent. Many of the myths that we face today are the product of outdated truth—what your grandfather or Elmer Keith said 50 years ago may not be true today. The fact is that today’s premium bullets penetrate deeper, expand more reliably and stay together better than ever before. This has been a game-changer for small calibers (note the resurgence in the .243 Winchester). It’s not that the laws of physics or reason no longer apply, but the fact is that bullet technology has readjusted the scale of which calibers are appropriate for what game. Thanks to these advances, .224 caliber bullets are no longer designed with either varmints or Soviet infantry in-mind. Let’s take a look at factory ammo.

Federal Premium alone lists four factory loads appropriate for deer-sized game, I’m not talking FMJ behind the ear appropriate either—these are legitimate, put-it-on-the-shoulder big game bullets. All of these bullets should shoot well without the need of the fast-twist barrels necessary for the longer, heavier (and excellent) .224 bullets on the market. I’ve personally used three of these bullets in various loads on management whitetails and a truckload of feral hogs—none of them lived to tell about it.

I asked around for some opinions based on more than anecdotal experience. As always, I found a public relations professional willing to answer some questions.

“We would agree that there are adequate loads/bullets for humanely taking deer with the .223,” said Tim Brandt, Federal Premium Public Relations Manager. “We have several .223 loads featuring a couple different bullet options that are designed especially for hunting. Our Fusion line is great example. We see excellent weight retention, expansion and penetration from this bullet in the .223 platform. Hunters that live in areas where it’s legal to use this caliber should have no problem finding an effective load to take into the deer stand.”

Tim also included the following test data, which shows that the average Fusion bullet penetrated nearly 15 inches of gelatin and expanded to .54 caliber. Most of a bullet’s expansion happens within the first inch or so of penetration which means that the Fusion load effectively sends a .54 caliber ball through the vitals of its intended target. I observed recent tests of the DoubleTap load with similar results.

Gelletin

Federal Fusion Rem. bullet fired into 10 percent ballistic gelatin at 100 yards (bullet expanded and penetrated to 15 inches)

Bullet

Five Federal Fusion .223 Rem. bullet expansions shot into 10 percent bare gelatin

One of NRA’s contracted experts, Richard Mann, helped develop the Bullet Test tube. (It’s slightly harder material than the gelatin used in Federal’s test.) Mann tested Federal’s loads in it and on deer, and here’s what he found:

“The .223 Remington is a suitable cartridge for hunting deer, within its limitation. This cartridge relies on velocity to drive the lightweight bullets deep. This same velocity contributes to tissue damage. The key to using a .223 Remington on deer is to keep impact velocities high. In other words don't shoot deer much beyond 150 yards. Past that distance, the velocity drops below the level needed for dynamic bullet expansion. When robustly constructed bullets like the Barnes TSX, Nosler Partition and Fusion are used inside 150 yards, penetration with the .223 Remington is on par with cartridges like the .243 and the .30-30 Winchester.”

Ok, so we heard from the nerds in the lab coats, what do the guys that shoot deer for a living think? My friend John Shaw has killed more deer than anyone I know—he’s managed an exotic game farm, worked on a Texas whitetail ranch, passionately hunts whitetail in numerous states using the .224 and .22-250. He has also culled scores of does for meat, depredation, and management purposes. John has this to say:

“I rely on my 22 centerfires more so than any other caliber. Low recoil and the typical pinpoint accuracy found in rifles of .224 caliber allow for careful shot placement. If you treat hunting with your .223 much like bow hunting and wait for the perfect shot, there is no reason that this caliber should not be considered for many applications. However, bullet choice is a major factor. Shots to the central nervous system with any type of bullet will work but I recommend premium, controlled expansion bullets, such as Barnes Triple Shocks, Nosler Partitions, and Trophy Bonded Bear Claws. Typically, I keep shots under 200 yards but animals hit in the shoulder, heart, and lung region with a quality bullet expire quickly."

The Conclusion
I’m not saying the .223 is the perfect whitetail bullet, I wouldn’t pack it on a trophy hunt or where long shots were likely but, with the right bullet, it is a legitimate choice for some big game animals. With big game bullets ranging in weight from 55gr. to 70gr., it’s versatile at a range of velocities.

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100 Responses to The Myth: The .223 is too Light for Deer

geno wrote:
October 23, 2014

My kids and I have killed plenty of deer with the 223. I have never tried the fusion bullet but when we had to switch to the partition because the quit selling the trophy bonded bear claw the kill time was not as fast. Thats for sure. Why did they quit? We will try the fusion this yr.

Marty wrote:
October 23, 2014

I intend to try my 223 this year on deer. I've killed an embarrassing amount of deer and hogs in my life with everything from a 243 up thru 35 Whelen and 45/70 and most every thing in between. In looking back I really don't know if I can honestly tell you the difference between the deer's reaction when shot any of them... well placed shot = dead deer; poor shot = headaches. The older I get the more I'm starting to detest recoil and high volume(powder) cartidges. I shoot a TC Encore that drives tacks. The hogs I've shot with it have never complained, they just head for the grill. I cant believe it want get the job done on deer.

matt wrote:
October 05, 2014

Started using 223 for deer got 2 my 1st year using it. Its allmabout shot placement the 1st one was in the head 20 yards away and the 2nd was in the neck shooting at head 250 yards away both shots dropped the deer in its tracks. No meat was ruined i loved it

Bruce wrote:
September 25, 2014

.223 is very lethal for white tails with in 125 any day of the week with a clean shot. As far as I'm concern with out proper shot placement deer will run off hit with any caliber, and yes I think our military is well armed with the 556 as well

Jesse Walden wrote:
September 14, 2014

I've hunted with .223s for years, and taken more deer with that caliber than all other calibers combined. I use the Speer 52gr HP, and it's absolutely devastating. The vast majority of the deer shot have dropped in their tracks. And if they did run, it was a very short distance, and the blood trails were unreal. I think most people have been brainwashed into thinking the .223 is a 'varmint' round, and don't understand the amount of damage this round can do with the right bullets. Some will say if you make a bad shot with a .223 the deer will run off and get away. Well, hate to break it to ya, but that applies to all rounds and calibers. It comes down to YOU, the hunter to make a quality shot and not expect the size of the bullet to bail you out of making horrible shots.

rick wrote:
September 02, 2014

Always wondered why a caliber too small for deer is good enough to send our sons and daughters to war with?

OFBG wrote:
July 13, 2014

Bullet construction, distance, and shooting skill are all important factors, but I believe that it all depends on how you define 'deer'. There certainly are many 'big game' animals that can be taken cleanly and humanely with a .223, but others, not so much. Several folks have mentioned killing mulies at 300+ yards with a .223, but mulies are not all the same. Neither are whitetails; NM has Coues not much bigger than a Golden Retriever, and the upper Midwest has whitetails that rival elk. Over 30 years ago one fellow told me that he only hunted 'Texas whitetails' with .223 because he once shot one with a .30-06 and 'there wasn't any meat left to dress out'.

William Bennett wrote:
July 11, 2014

There is a show on TV called (I think) 'Life below zero'. It follows folks living in Alaska around showing how they survive such a harsh climate. Last season they were all going out the get a moose for the freezer and I saw a guy hunting with an old AR-15...the A-1 model. Can't remember if he got a moose or not, but there is a huge difference to me between shooting a whitetail and shooting a moose. The .223 would be so far down on my list as an acceptable moose round that I would not even consider it. This guy in Alaska used the same rifle to shoot seals, grouse, moose, wolves. I guess it was the only rifle he owned.

William Bennett wrote:
July 11, 2014

I always hate getting into these debates about one round being better than another, or one not being good enough, but here is my $0.02 worth. The .223 round CAN be an effective deer round as long as it is used within its range limitations for expansion, and you use a good bullet that expands well while holding together. I have shot at least 4 North Carolina whitetails with the .223 (Bushmaster M-4), and none have required a second shot, and none ran over 100 yards. Three of them were hit squarely in the lungs, and the fourth was a high shoulder shot that dropped him in his tracks. The closest shot was at 50 yards and the longest was right at 200 yards. I usually hunt deer with a 7mm-08, .308, or a 300 SAUM, but the .223 will do the job.

Greg Thompson wrote:
June 29, 2014

You guys must be really bad shots, I have taken mule deer here in Arizona with my AR-15 at 302 yards. One shot in the head and it dropped straight to the ground. Learn how to shot and dont waist your time on a body shot.

Rc wrote:
June 29, 2014

I have shot or been with hunter when deer and antelope have been shot out to 250 yrds on the deer with 223 and 400 on antelope with the 22-250 all using 55gr ballistic tip and the only one that even took one step was antelope and he was already on a dead run

Scott Welling wrote:
June 20, 2014

WAIT A MINUTE! 'Most of a bullet’s expansion happens within the first inch or so of penetration which means that the Fusion load effectively sends a .54 caliber ball through the vitals of its intended target.' Hole size does not equal energy deposition, hydrodynamic ram... this comment is misleading. Despite this, I agree that the .223 can be used to kill deer provided you can place the shot.

Pete Bensen wrote:
June 20, 2014

Essentially, the .223 is still not adequate for big game (deer). The same token and disclaimer 'within limitations' could include .22 rimfire and various handgun rounds. A military FMJ 55 grain round will also provide penetration and expansion through explosive fragmentation at under 150 yards. Expecting a modern bonded or soft point round to always remain intact is unrealistic. The fact is that the laws of physics are not so easily overcome. Sport hunting doesn't always allow perfect or precise shots. Most hunters consider that to be a luxury akin to dedicated trophy hunting. Basically, a less than optimum shot or an unusually large game animal makes use of .223 inadequate AND irresponsible.

sgtguthrie wrote:
June 20, 2014

I use a 75gr Swift Srocotto II handload ;-)

Tucker wrote:
June 20, 2014

A 223 with a 75 grain hornady would take a deer no problems

Nate wrote:
June 06, 2014

.22 mag out to 100 yards works well with the right round to. So why not a .223

Ron wrote:
June 02, 2014

I once killed a deer with the bumper of my F350, but I don't recommend it. Just because something will 'kill' an object doesn't make it the best one to use. We've all seen those YouTube videos where a pig was shot-to-death with a .223 Rem gun. That's like shooting a buffalo with a .243 (eventually it may die from it, but it's not ethical or humane at all). 30 caliber, thank you very much. It's been working excellently for over 100 years (there's a reason). 'Nuff said.

Jonathan wrote:
March 29, 2014

I have not hunted deer with a .223 but will say that in MD, the DNR guidelines state it must have a muzzle velocity of at least 1200 ft/lbs and be an expanding (hollow point) bullet. Almost all .223 ammunition meets that criteria. I've seen some articles that look for 1000 ft/lbs on impact as a guideline. Seems to me with a quality bullet, proper shot placement and reasonable range where bullet energy is still high that it would be an effective round. Definitely need to know the limitations of the round and stick to a good shot. I plan on getting more trigger time and becoming very proficient before I head out to hunt (of course accompanied by a seasoned hunter). Very much appreciate all the insight here from experts and those with more experience than myself!

Mike wrote:
March 22, 2014

And dare I add 1000s of elephants and other large African game have been killed by 7x57mm Mausers, 6.5x55mm Swede and .303 British. So I submit that shot placement is crucial as many hunters can't hit the intended target to begin with

Mike wrote:
March 22, 2014

I saw a TV show on one of the cable channels a while back and Eskimos up in Canada used .223 bolt actions to kill/harvest polar bears. Yes it is about shot placement.

Jeff wrote:
February 22, 2014

I've shot quite a few deer with several different 223, the first couple deer I shot with a 223 were shot with 55 gr Vmax, both deer dropped in their tracks, 1 shot n the neck the other shot behind the shoulder. Since then I started loading Sierra GameKing 55gr spitzer boat tails, that little bullet flat out shoots and does a number on all sizes of deer. I've never thought of a 223 as a 'deer rifle' but if used by someone who can place their shot it definitely kills better than it should!

Tucker wrote:
February 17, 2014

I have a .223 rem n I shoot deer all the time with my gun. I shot a doe at 178 yards with 55gr I put it on the shoulder n she drop. All the deer that I shot with me .223 they barley run bout 20 yard n drop. A .223 is great for deer.

Shawn wrote:
January 31, 2014

Rick, I really doubt they were 'good hits.' I killed 5 deer this year all with my RRA AR. I used Fed Fusion 62 gr, all neck shots. The biggest was an 8pt buck at about 30 yds. The furthest was at about 200yd on a doe. Neck shot. All 5 dropped instantly. (I freaking love neck shots) If you can't kill a deer in the 90-170ish lb range with a good .223, then you shouldn't be hunting because you can't shoot.

SkinBasket wrote:
January 23, 2014

Brought down a 280 pound buck and a large doe this season on Black Hills 75gr .223 from the Sig556, the former from about 80 yards and the latter at 40. The buck ran zero feet, the doe about 60 yards. As others have said, you put the bullet through the right spots, and it doesn't matter how big or small it is.

Rick wrote:
January 13, 2014

After reading articles like this, I decided to give it a go because I love my stag 15. First deer I shot was with the Barnes TSX. Good clean hit. No blood. No deer. After that, I moved up to the 62 grain hog hammer TSX. Yesterday I had a deer run up to me and stop. I took the shot at 15 feet. Good hit. Deer hunched up and ran off slowly. No blood. No deer. I retired my 15 as a deer rifle after that. I'm gonna put the scope on a .30-06 and actually harvest the deer next time. I owe that to the animal and have to admit I am ashamed of myself for wasting two fine animals by using too small a bullet.

Efren M. Oliva III wrote:
January 06, 2014

I been shooting with different calibers. But the v223 round with the right bullet and shot placement will do the job.I shoot deer out to 200-250 yards with no problems. Just practice at different yards with by the away I use a Sig said 556 and the bushmaster act, both in 223. Thanks

Shaun wrote:
January 06, 2014

At 41 y/o I killed my first deer this past Sat. with my AR-15. Shot was about 60 yards and he didn't make it farther than 30 yards before expiring. I used Federal Fusion 62gr. Any questions I had about the .223 being too light for whitetail we dispelled after that.

Bernie wrote:
December 22, 2013

I shot a red @257yds In. The neck dropped like a rock(I'live and hunt in Nz)hunt lots of rabits hit and kill consistently 250 to 300 yd shots.I am confident to make these shots in good conditions ie little wind etc

Jim Bob wrote:
December 11, 2013

I hunt bear and moose with a Ruger 10/22 with a busted stock. It's all about shot placement!

Edtanvaldez wrote:
December 03, 2013

I have experienced hunting with my savage in223 cal here in Guam. Deers here are big and tough but they'll go down with a .223 rounds placed into their vitals. Heart and lungs just shred like cheese!

Tony wrote:
November 15, 2013

Going hunting tomorrow for the first time in over 25 years. The center fire only rifle I own is a S&W M&P 15. Going to use Honaday TAP 75GR HP.

Jim P wrote:
November 14, 2013

The .223 cal. has the same problems that we had with the 5.56 mm in Vietnam, not good in the brush. Energy, foot pounds from speed is not the same as from weight. A high speed, low weight bullet will be deflected by brush, but a heavy and slower one will clip a path to the target. All about ballistics! A 7.62mm/.308 cal is much better.

jesse wrote:
October 31, 2013

I drop deer in texas with .223 tula ammo every year

Poppa burgundy wrote:
October 30, 2013

Had to chime in on this I was raised shooting a 22-250 and killed elk bear deer antilope everything az has to offer recently a .223 has taken over as my deer rifle after moving to Kentucky you're lucky to shoot over 100 yards and a .223 is nasty in this thick brush I love fast light calibers because I know whatever I put my crosshairs on is gonna be hit and hit in a hurry as a meat hunter I won't carry anything else in the woods I prefer a single shot handi rifle if you need more than one shot you probably should spend more time at the rifle range!!

Nick wrote:
October 09, 2013

I have a friend who shoots deer with a 17 and he never lost a deer he tags out with it since he got it

DamonLee22 wrote:
October 03, 2013

I've shot plenty deer with my 223 and 5.56 mm, all went down like a sack of potatoes. Back a couple of years ago I took a 209 lb whitetail buck at around 80 yds, he ran almost a hundred yds with a perfect shot that took out a lung and heart... The shot was made with a hundred fifty grain SP Remington bullet from a 270 Winchester. Just goes to prove these animals are tough, and even a large caliber bullet isn't always the magic answer.

rdsii64 wrote:
August 01, 2013

I used to think that a 224 diameter bullet was to light for deer sized animals. then I put a 75 grain hollow point over 25.2 grains of AA2520. That combinations is good for 2750 out of a 20 in barrel and from 250 yards will kill anything with antlers. The wild hogs dont like that load either. At ranges I a willing to squeeze the trigger, I almost don't need my .308 anymore. My AR is my new favorite hunting tool.

tom goode wrote:
June 04, 2013

may 5, 2013 200yds. is nothing for a 62gr h.p. it will do the job on any white tail if you can put the bullet in the vitals. but try the 75gr hp in a bolt action an you can take one at 300 plus yds. but remember practice makes perfect an hp placed right does the rest. good hunting to many people thinks it takes a big rifle it's the shooter not the big bullet .

Dennis Horg wrote:
February 20, 2013

Comments...In the early 80's I took a nice 6 point in the Black Hills with a 222 Rem model 7. Neck shot puts them down every time.

Julia wrote:
January 22, 2013

perfectly. It informational resource, I'll bookmark it and visit it again!

jim carter wrote:
December 31, 2012

My dad always hated the 223 but i like shooting it,I probably trust my lil cheap Stevens 200 more than any of my other rifles(tack driver) I changed his mind when I dropped 2 hoggs running the never had a chance. My daughter has taken small buck with the gun it dropped in it's tracks.I load with 55 grain nosler ballistics. So far nothing has suffered

chris morris wrote:
December 27, 2012

I saw results of the .223 or 5.56 nato in vietnam.This round has plenty of power for deer.If you are shooting a .223 or a 338 mag ,your shot placement and distance to the target is important in both

elricker wrote:
December 11, 2012

Started on the .223 with a mini-14 when I was a teen and took a few deer using the only bullets I had 20 plus years ago,FMJs. I never lost a deer nor failed to instantly drop them. All shots either in the heart or spine. Later I "learned" that FMJ was not acceptable so I got a box of Rem. soft point core loks. I lost a deer and a bear immediately after. (Before good and new inexpensive bullets many years ago.) I went back to using the FMJ for a bit but went to a bigger cal and forgot about ever wanting to use the .223 again. With the advent of BArnes I am going to try once more.

loetutu wrote:
December 06, 2012

Barnes 70gr TSX. Ive shot a doe with this round and it DRT. With a LMT 16' 1/7 twist and that 70gr it is a perfect combination for whitetail here in WI. Where I hunt ill never shoot more 150 yr. Shot placement is everything.

Richard wrote:
November 23, 2012

Had the opportunity to utilize the Federal Fusion 62 Gr. .223 this season here in Wisconsin. This was a good size Whitetail at approx. 50 yards. It basically dropped in its tracks. Shot placement was the front shoulder.

Bennwj wrote:
November 19, 2012

It also depends on how big the deer are. I have used my bushmaster M-4 on at least a half dozen Eastern North Carolina whitetail and all died within 25 yards of where they were shot. These are small deer....generally less than 150lbs and a hit in the chest forward of the diaphragm with a good 62 grain psp is absolutely fatal. Keep shots under 200 yards....150 is best and it is more than adequate.

Johnlaw wrote:
November 10, 2012

As a patrol deputy in a rural area I shoot a lot of car injured deer. Those that are imobalized and in point blank range get 165 grns of .40 cal to the noggen or chest, anything else that is mortaly wounded but hard to get close to gets 55grns of 223 federal soft point anywhere from 50 to 100 yards. Head, neck, chest, it always stops them from further suffering.

Richard wrote:
November 07, 2012

I plan on hunting with my H&K SL-6 .223 this season here in Wisconsin. H&K utilizes the barrel twist of 1:10.6" on the range it is shooting the 62gr.fusion in .750 groups at 100 yards. This is one round to certainly consider

Dan wrote:
October 31, 2012

I visited the NRA forum on a discussion on .223-caliber rifles for hunting. The .223-caliber may be a controversial round but “it is certainly capable of getting the job done quickly and efficiently”. Despite the controversy ammunition experts have proven, “the .223-caliber has plenty lethal power to get the job done quickly”. “Rifles used for bear hunting must use ammunition developing a muzzle energy of at least 1,200 foot pounds”. Premium high-power .223-caliber ammunition exceeds those requirements.

Dawgbone wrote:
October 21, 2012

I have never hunted deer with my .223 AR, but am highly considering it. It's legal here in GA and given what I know to be its terminal performance on two legged fauna(trust me, all that 5.56 can't put down a haji crap is just that... crap) maybe I will give it a shot with a decent bullet. I have only ever had one deer run, and it was a doe who got about 25 yards after being shot with my old 6.8 RRA. All of my bucks have dropped on the spot with .30-06. I don't think it had anything to do with the diameter of the bullet, but rather with the fact that their central nervous system or vitals were destroyed by a well placed shot. I am a good shot, expert by uncle sams standards(yeah, super humble, me) but that didn't happen by accident. It came with a lot of patience, shouting by CATM instructors, and tax payer money. Still making that shot when buck fever hits is something we all have to master, and yeah I flat out missed a huge eight point at 200 yards cause of nerves once. Luckily he just looked around like 'The hell?' And I was able to take a second shot that dropped him. I will give it a go with a suitable bullet, and if I do my part it will all come down to the bullet. That will let me know how to go from there.

throck wrote:
October 17, 2012

I have killed several deer with my little .223, my sons have killed many. Some of the most startling quick-kills I have seen were done with that single shot rifle and the .223. Within 200 yds., and with proper shot placement and bullet selection, the 223 is a reliable and decided killer.

Zuhl wrote:
October 04, 2012

My cousin and I both has only .222s as kids. Not .223s. We harvested dozens of deer between us and never needed more than one shot to do so. And those are only 50g bullets. It is all about shot placement. Organs or head. If you cant make that shot then don't hunt. I still prefer that gun at short range over my 25-06 for whitetail.

BloodySnowBank wrote:
September 07, 2012

Here in Alaska you get game of all sizes and shapes, my wife and I shoot several flavors of .223 rounds. We've killed everything from ptarmigan to deer to moose to both brown and black bear. If your caliber isn't killing like you want to to: aim better, because with today's technology even a small round like the .223 should kill just about everything your little heart desires. With one well placed shot.

Brian wrote:
July 24, 2012

Last year, I took a 5 Point buck at 19 Yards with my mini-14. He went 20 yards and dropped dead. When I dressed him, I found his heart to be burger. Shot placement is king over caliber any time.

carmine wrote:
July 22, 2012

I dropped a 2 1/2 year old 6 point buck with m6 Olympic Arms M4 using Wolf Gold 75 grain HPHP 223 ammo double tapped in the chest at ababout 10 yards. He went maybe 20 or 30 yards before he died. It can be done and has been done with lower caliber's than a 223 Remigton.

Chandler wrote:
July 20, 2012

I'm sometimes surprised at the venom that seeps out of folks about using the .223 round on deer or less-than-huge hogs. Having hunted with a Remington .308 for 30 years without losing a single animal (all neck shots, by the way), I have recently fallen in love with two rifles of the .223 caliber. I dropped two small hogs, a nice buck, and nailed a turkey in the back of the neck at 80 yards or so. I also dropped a 400+ lb. calf that had to be culled for a friend - all with 62g Fusion. The shooter's ability, the bullet placement and distance is everything, large round or small. Happy hunting all.

Barry wrote:
July 02, 2012

My young son learnt to hunt in Namibia with ,223. He started off with duiker, warthog, hartebeest.I personally have taken a kudu cow at close range. Criteria: distance (wind and drop) and shot placement. Hit the engine room behind the shoulder blade. Neck shots - only on smaller game and very close distances as it has limited hitting power.

Ed Janowicz wrote:
March 13, 2012

I can't begin to tell you how many deer I killed as a kid with a 223 but lets just say more than one and none lost. That being said shot placement is everything and all kills were under 150 yds. Would I choose a 223 for the perfect deer and hog rifle not in your dreams. But for a young kid or a women shooting at ranges under 200 yrds and a good shot it should work just fine.

John wrote:
March 02, 2012

I've seen way more injured deer by 12ga bullet slingers then anything else. Bullet placement is the key period.

ShooterBob_SC wrote:
February 25, 2012

I was told not to use it on deer and knowing the issues my friends have had overseas against dangerous game, I pretty much wrote off the .224 bullets on deer. Here in the south east where I hunt, we're in the 'the woods' and actually seeing 100 yards is rare. Our deer are modestly sized so I'm taking the Mini 14 or the AR next time!

Don wrote:
January 18, 2012

The 223 is easy to shoot accurately, and its light recoil makes practice sessions enjoyable. I own a New England Firearms Handi Rifle which has accounted for at least 40 deer, with none lost.Well over half died instantly, and none travelled over 25 yds. With proper shot placement, the 223 is a decided killer, and a joy to shoot.

Keith wrote:
December 15, 2011

Agree completely with Mr Wood. My 223 has busted 2 bucks in the shoulder and neither made it over 30yds. Damage to vitals was massive.

Bruce wrote:
December 11, 2011

my wife and i have taken quite a few deer with my ruger m77 223 using 55 gr bear claws. only 1 ran about 30yds the others fell dead in their tracks the bearclaws are not around anymore so i am making the switch to the 64gr powerpoints. i think its a great deer and varmit round. i have larger calibers but i love carrying the little rifle makes a great mountain rifle with light weight and accuracy for those big oak ridges i hunt. its plenty for deer just use the right bullets enough said.

Jon wrote:
November 28, 2011

Killed 2 this year using Federal Nosler Partition 60gr. First one went seven yards after being hit in the shoulder. Second one went about 40 yards after being hit a little high on the shoulder. Both rounds passed all the way through and left 1 to 1.5 inch exit holes on the opposite side shoulder. Is the .223 enough for deer? Absolutley if you do your part and wait for a good shot. It seems that the people who argue against it for a larger caliber want the larger rifle to make up for their inability to take a well placed shot. NC

Whtwolf06 wrote:
November 27, 2011

60 yard shot with handload 65gr SGK 1 inch off the eye with a thru and thru shot. Deer was drt. Accuracy is amazing with .223 might be new deer gun here in Michigan

Rob wrote:
November 15, 2011

My oldest son (9) took a small doe a couple weeks ago during the youth hunt here in WV with an AR I built for him. He was using Remington 55 grain SP ammo. He shot it just behind the shoulder a little high, but it passed completely through the deer and took out both lungs and punched a 2" hole in its liver on its way out. The doe only went about 30 yards. We stepped off the shot distance and it was right at 190 yards. .223 will definitely do the job if you do yours of putting it on target.

Timothy wrote:
October 27, 2011

the 223 is a very capable round. we use it here in Texas to take Nilgai on harvest but its all bout shot placement

Jimbo wrote:
August 07, 2011

I've taken 6 whitetails over the past 7 years hunting the George Washington National Forest in W.Va with my Mini-14. I use Barnes or Winchester ammo in the mini while hunting. Only 1 of the 6 deer required a follow-up. The rest were dead where they stood. I shoot my mini all the time because it is a pleasure to shoot. I have taken several running coyotes with this rifle and and feel very confident with it. Old biases just don't belong. If you don't like the caliber, don't use it. Laugh all you like while I continue to take deer and other game with it. Having said that, I can always reach into the gun cabinet and bring any number of larger 30 cal or 7mm rifles to the fore if I "Feel" that's what I want to use based on any number of factors, not all of which are quantifiable. I only shoot what I am comfortable with and have practiced with. I KNOW what I can do with my Mini and a clip of .223. See you in the Deer Woods.

p moore wrote:
August 05, 2011

My youngest daughter loves to hunt. When she was 9 (3 yrs ago) got her a "youth rifle" in .243. Kicked the snot out of her. I tried it and it kicked the snot out of me. More so than bigger calibers. Bought her a Savage youth model in .223. (She says she loves the accu-trigger or what ever they call it) Shot it very well at the range and she dropped a huge doe during season. Deer flipped (half gainer) landed on back and didn't move. 95 yard shot. I would not have her shoot more than 100 yards any way at that time. Worked great. Shot a black buck management with it next year. Great for her.

John Hill wrote:
July 31, 2011

.223 is not for everyone , have killed 6 with the 223 using 64 gr winchester in my handlosads. all took only one shoot. 4 dropped in there tracks. two ran maybe 40 yards. just got to wait for your shot and do a lot of practice all year.As I am a NRA instructor for rifle and shotgun.

Alex wrote:
July 22, 2011

I have tagged out 4 years in a row in Georgia with a .223 in a Mini 14. None of which ever took a step. Thats 48 deer

jacpot66 wrote:
July 22, 2011

i have used my mini 14 since 95 and have taken tons of deer with it i get 2 to 3 a year and have only lost one deer i use a 60 gr hp and as long as you can put your shot in the heart or lungs. that deer is dead

Debbie wrote:
July 21, 2011

Gee, that's all I hunt with is the .223 with the Mini 14! I have taken white tailed bucks and several feral hogs. I've always dropped them with 65 grain soft points.

Raff wrote:
July 21, 2011

My 223WSSM 55gr.leaves the muzzle @ 3950fps. I'd have to use a Barnes solid if they make one.

DOCJJR wrote:
July 21, 2011

Appropriate use of the .223 Remington (and other fast .224s) on deer is situational. If the hunting property has no chance of presenting a shot over about 200 yards, and the hunter is patient enough to wait for the right shot (just like bowhunting), then it's a perfectly acceptable caliber, assuming the use of modern premium hunting bullets. If it's a western hunt with even the possibility of a longer shot, or an expensive trophy hunt, then I wouldn't take a .223, or a 30-30 for that matter, especially if you have a better option in your gun safe. On the last day of the season with a minute of legal shooting time to go with a 200" trophy facing straight away at 300 yards and you're eating tag soup with a .223, where the magnums put him on the wall.

Joe wrote:
July 20, 2011

I have been shooting whitetail deer for 5 or 6 years with .223 with a 55 grain bullet in excess of 300 yards and they run approx. 30yards before they drop. My opinion is anybody needs to know enough about their gun and how to have good shot placement no matter what caliber it is.

amr wrote:
July 20, 2011

the 223 or 22-250 is a great deer rifle for recoil the recoil sensitive such as children and women. i have seen many deer killed in my home state of new york with these rounds here most of the shots we have are under two hundred yards and my 22-250 did more damage to a doe at 150 yards with barnes then my 300wsm these light rounds do have to be used by responsible patient hunters and would not recomend it for everyone

George wrote:
July 20, 2011

I've been shooting hogs in Texas for several years with a lot of different calibers from .308 to 7mm Mag to 270 WSM. I got a .223 and have shot quite a few now with it. I would never have believed how well it kills them using a Nosler 55 grain Ballistic Tip- as good or better than nything else I've used. Most of these are much large than a deer and harder to kill. I've only shot one doe with my .223 and used the Barnes 55 grain TSX, but she ran 20 steps, spun out, and fell dead. I have no doubt that with Barnes 55 grain TSX or Nosler 55 grain Ballistic Tip, the .223 will kill deer cleanly at 100 to 150 yards, based on what my experience has been on many larger hogs and the one doe.

kane wrote:
July 19, 2011

This is all a matter of personal prefrance. My father has a shoulder injuy so he dosent prefer to shoot his 30-06 over his .223 because of recoil, its all about the bullet and where it is put. My #45 super kodiak shoots a 400 Gr. arrow only 150 feet per second or so, yet Fred Bear killed everything in North America with one almost like it and I have taken deer with mine. Bottom line is hunt with what you feel comfortable with! I prefer the lighter callibers as well because their more fun to shoot and they dont burn though my powder as quick(I reload a lot) in my mind the editor is right on point!!!!

Jeremiah wrote:
July 19, 2011

I have seen 4 whitetails harvested with a .223 no tacking involved. Take the shot, drop them, and move on to th next one.

wisconsin regular wrote:
July 19, 2011

Curious about this last year I loaded some 70gr Barnes tsx for my RRA ar-15 shot a doe at 60 yards broadside teh bullet hit at the "point" of the front shoulder blade blew a 2" hole through it, went through ribs on both sides taking the top of the heart off (down ward angle from tree stand)The doe 120-130 lbs dressed went about thirty yards DOA. The bullet was under the hide opposite side. The TSX did not expand but instead is bent in the shape of a "J". Going to try 70 grain speer PSP this year. Tracked plenty of deer shot by hunters using 30-06, 7mm mag,after they blew the leg off because they can't shoot em straight. Just give me a good shooter caliber is less important.

LJJ wrote:
July 19, 2011

I've been taking whitetail deer for around 30 years with the 223 and it has served me very well. I do believe it has its limitations but where I hunt the need for long shots are limited and deer size tends to be on the smaller side.

Garrett wrote:
July 19, 2011

I have killed between 30 and 50 deer with a .243. From a terminal standpoint, the deer all died very quickly. But that's not really the issue. Small calibers more often have exit wounds that clot up, or are too small to leave blood trails to begin with, especially when your shot placement is higher than the mid-line of the body. When you hunt in or near thickets, small calibers are not a good idea. I've been using .30 caliber for 10 years now. I will not go back to using a .243, and certainly not a .223. It's not about what will kill a deer, it's about finding your game and taking it home.

Patton wrote:
July 19, 2011

My cousin and I have taken many deer with our Kel-Tec .223's. All with only one shot. He uses 55 gn hp Sierra Game Kings, and I use 60 gn hp Hornady's. None of the deer have gone more than 100 yds after being shot, most droped in their tracks.

trehfip wrote:
July 19, 2011

Anything in the .22 caliber is risky and for most hunters a tool to wound. If you need a challenge because hunting is boring switch animals or a more challenging habitat. We don't need to feed the stories that non-hunters hear about hunters.

whm wrote:
July 18, 2011

Anyone who would take a neck shot on a deer is an idiot. It's about making a clean kill, not seeing how light of a caliber will kill something. Gee...why not write about how effective a 22 LR can be with proper shot placement.

CSS wrote:
July 17, 2011

I have personally seen a 223 round take deer on many crop damage hunts. The secret is shot placement and distance. You can certainly use larger rounds, but if your trying to harvest an animal for meat, it is an excellent round for quickly putting an animal down.

Charlie wrote:
June 10, 2011

I agree with Matt, Shoot em in the neck. Visualize the spine in there and put the round right through it. They fold up like their legs were reeled into their body. It also makes gutting the animal a lot cleaner.

Glenn Summers wrote:
June 09, 2011

As a professional guide for over 40 years I have found dozens of wounded or dying deer shot with fast, .22's. Most hunters are not expert riflemen, do not shoot regularly and are not capable of using small, sub-caliber cartridges to hunt deer. And why should they? There are plenty of .250 caliber and larger that are excellent deer cartridges.

KW wrote:
May 29, 2011

JT, I don't like to give legal advice but here's some for free: if it's illegal, don't do it.

JT wrote:
May 27, 2011

In Wyoming it's illegal to use a .223 for deer hunting.

Bob wrote:
May 27, 2011

I loaned my brother-in-law my Les Baer AR in 223 for a deer hunt in a blind, since he had no rifle and out of necessity. I took him to the range a few times to help him learn how to operated it safely and shoot accurately (and it's a Les Baer after al). With the 1:7 twist barrel and a 77g HPBT bullet, I deemed it adequate for a standing broadside heart/lung shot at up to 150m, so that was the stipulation (no more than 150m, standing still, braodside only). With that in mind, he dropped two where they stood on two separate hunts. Even I was impressed. When I moved to CA I had to sell the gun, and he snapped it up, has it to this day, though he later went out and bought a proper 30-06 since he got the hunting bug... While normaly a match round, the 223 in 77g has all the characteristics needed on light skinned game at short to moderate ranges FOR THE RIGHT SHOT AND LOCATION. I judged his 110 deer to be at the top of that range, and supervised his shooting to within the parameters I could support. It worked. I am NOT a fan of lighter bullets in this calibre for hunting a deer sized animal.

Bryan wrote:
May 27, 2011

I prefer to drop 'em on the spot, with something in the 30 caliber range so bears,etc. don't get to deer before I can find it!

Snug wrote:
May 26, 2011

Gee! Gosh!Golly!After only sixty years of R&D the .223 can duplicate the one-hundred and ten year .30-30.Just flat amazing! what will they think of next..... I've got it! An electric car like the Baker.

Steve wrote:
May 26, 2011

Do you recommend stick or ball powder with the .223? (or is this only relevant v Soviet supported opposition)

KAGE wrote:
May 26, 2011

I agree, no matter what the round or the target, shooting is like realestate, the 3 most important factors are location, location & location!

Chuck wrote:
May 26, 2011

I once read about an Indian woman who hunted everything, including moose and black bear with her .22 LR that had a broken stock. Her secret? She got close and knew where to shoot them. That was out of necessity, not choice. In the hands of a skilled hunter with lots of field experience, almost anything will work. Then there is the rest of us.

KW wrote:
May 25, 2011

Matt & Eddie: I agree with both of you, neck shots are tricky and can easily go wrong- but they have a place. The point of this piece is that, with today's bullets & loads, the .223 is no longer just a "neck cartridge" for big game.

Eddie Rabbitt wrote:
May 24, 2011

Matt, Necks are for big cats and guillotines. Heart/lung is the best shot, if you can see it.

Matt DeLura wrote:
May 23, 2011

Advancements in technology aside, I'll go with "its all about shot placement". 223 rem is a perfectly acceptable cartridge. Not to sound unethical, but, the vitals are for amateurs, go for the neck