223 Remington Load Development: 52, 55, 69 HPBT, Varget and the Ruger American Rifle

I believe 223 Remington is one of the more underappreciated cartridges on the market. Sure, the industry sells a boat load of it. Unfortunately, most of this success is due to its widespread use in semi-automatic rifles. While these guns are fun, and sometimes accurate, they don’t seem to do the cartridge justice.

Left to right: 224 Valkyrie, 223 Remington, 223 Ackley Improved, 6.5 Creedmoor, 308 Winchester and 300 Winchester Magnum

The 223 Remington is historically known as an accurate round in bolt action rifles. It’s light recoil, low powder usage and readily available components make it a great choice for many different shooting disciplines.

I recently purchased a Ruger American Rifle in 223 Remington and was impressed with its accuracy (especially at its low price). In this post we are going to take a look at ten different loads I developed with 3 different bullets using Hodgdon Varget powder.

I selected Varget because, like H4350, I use a lot of it. While there are number of exceptional powders for 223 Remington, Varget is a no brainer when you have a lot of it. I used 3 different Sierra bullets, the 52 BTHP, 69 SMK and 55 HP. Since this rifle feeds from an AR magazine, OAL was limited to 2.250″ and the long heavy bullets were off the table.

I’ve been shooting a lot of Starline Brass lately. Starline has been in the brass business for a while, but their push into the world of traditional rifle brass is noteworthy. I’ve had fantastic results with their 6.5 Creedmoor brass, finding it durable and capable of great accuracy for one of the lowest price points on the market. This makes Starline a great value.

You may note I shot the 52 BTHP more than the 55HP and 69 SMK. I viewed this session as a chance to clean up my inventory of bullets and finish off some open boxes I had laying around.

Before we get to the loads, let’s have a quick look at the disclaimer below.

For reloading information: WARNING: The loads shown are for informational purposes only.  They are only safe in the rifle shown and may not be safe in yours.  Consult appropriate load manuals prior to developing your own handloads.  Rifleshooter.com and its authors, do not assume any responsibility, directly or indirectly for the safety of the readers attempting to follow any instructions or perform any of the tasks shown, or the use or misuse of any information contained herein, on this website.

It is important to note that these loads were developed in a bolt action rifle and not a semi automatic rifle. I’d never recommend using loads developed in any bolt action rifle for a semi automatic rifle. In fact, in many load manuals, Sierra’s in particular, semi automatic and bolt action loads are listed in separate sections of the book.

For testing and evaluation purposes, I mounted a Harris bench rest bipod and a TRACT TORIC 3-15 scope with Warne rings on my Ruger American. All shooting was done at 100 yards with a bipod and rear bag. Muzzle velocity data was recorded with a MagnetoSpeed V3 barrel mounted ballistic chronograph.

For the 52 grain HPBT, muzzle velocities ranged from 2,793 feet/second to 3,106 feet/second. Five shot group sizes ranged from .488″ (.466 MOA) to 1.025″ (.979 MOA).

For the 69 SMK, muzzle velocity ranged from 2,846 feet/second to 2,926 feet/second. Five shot group sizes ranged from .907″(.866 MOA) to 1.508″ (1.440 MOA).

For the 55 HP, muzzle velocities ranged from 3,103 to 3,105 feet/second. Five shot group sizes ranged from .504″ (.481 MOA) to 1.130″ (1.079 MOA).

Average five-shot group size for all ten loads was .909″ (.868 MOA).

I was impressed by how well the loads worked in such an inexpensive factory rifle. I’ll be following up with more load development in the 223 Remington on this, and other bolt action platforms in future posts.

Starline brass, Sierra Bullets and Varget are available at Brownells!