Are you in search of the best AR-15 Ammo? Not to worry, we’ve got you covered. We’re going cover a lot of ground about which AR-15 Ammo is compared between two calibers. Also, we’ve hand-picked some of the best ammo that we believe can be best used in certain situations (like home defense and deer hunting). The AR-15 is a powerful rifle to have in your arsenal. And it obviously can’t be effective if you don’t have the right kind of ammo for it. But rest assured, we’ll makes sure you know which type of ammo to go for by the time you’re done reading this.
For those of you who can’t wait…
- Best 5.56 Ammo For Self Defense
- Best 5.56 Ammo For Deer Hunting
- Best .223 Ammo For Self Defense
- Best .223 Ammo For Deer Hunting
How To Buy AR-15 Ammo
Before we continue on with this topic, there are some things that we need to cover. These are more or less the legal terminologies and technicalities of purchasing AR-15 ammo. While we are not legal professionals, we suggest that you should check your local, state, and if need be federal laws on purchasing AR-15 ammo. A handful of states will probably allow it, while some others may not. Either way, it’s never a waste of time to double check. Also, if you are purchasing ammo, the age limits are 21 years of age for handgun ammo and 18 for rifle ammo. If you need a starting point on the gun laws in your state, go to this page.
With that out of the way, one of the main places to purchase ammo is online. In fact, a little over one half of gun owners have said that they prefer purchasing ammo online. This is mostly due to the fact that they are able to get better deals and discounts as opposed to going to their local gun shop. Of course, ammo prices at gun shops may be slightly higher than online. Plus, online vendors will always have a much more vast supply of ammo on hand compared to physical locations. The latter will have a limited amount, but will have the option to order it for you. Only then will you need to pay a price plus more for shipping. Some vendors will likely offer free or low cost shipping. And last but not least, if you buy online, your wallet won’t have to deal with the constraints of sales taxes. That is...if you’re state has them.
Vendors To Buy From
Keep in mind that there are different vendors that sell AR-15 ammo. Each one will have their supply available for purchase and set at a price. So it is important for your to look around and make comparisons as you go from site to site. With that in mind, here are the four of the best vendors that you should check out while you’re looking for AR-15:
Of course, we have to go with one of the most prolific vendors of guns, parts and accessories. This is one of the places where you can get excellent customer service, great deals, and shipping prices that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Plus, they have a great return policy on gun parts and accessories. As for ammo, they may not have a return policy for them due to safety reasons. So, please double check to make sure if that is the case if you’re not happy with the AR-15 ammo that you’ve bought from them.
How can we forget the “World’s Foremost Outfitter” on our list of vendors? This vendor has been around for many years and many generations. So you know that they’re a good reliable source for all things guns. The one major thing that stands out about them is that you can find bullets of every type of gun, gauge, or caliber possible. You name it, they’ve probably go it. Another major thing to note will have the budget ammo shopper nodding their head in approval. The prices of ammo have reduced quite a bit. In fact, if you’re looking for AR-15 ammo and looking for a place that won’t suck the life out of your bank account, Cabela’s would probably be the one place to start.
Remember, quality matters no matter what you buy. Especially AR-15 ammo. So be sure to look around and find the best ammo you can afford as far as quality is concerned. Don’t buy ammo because of the ridiculously low price tag. That being said, this is the vendor that every outdoorsman knows, likes, and trusts.
These guys are probably another place to check out and order ammo from. Some of the things that have impressed us is their ability to ship your order in the quickest time possible. Not to mention, they’ll typically have same day shipping available if you order prior to a certain time. If you go on their site, you’ll notice that they have a count of what’s available. And it’s in real time as well. If that ain’t the best in convenience, we don’t know what is. And if you don’t have a login account, you can still be able to figure out what you can pay for shipping. This is a good reliable supplier to go with in the event if one of your favorite suppliers somehow, some way runs out of the ammo that you’re looking for.
One thing that intrigued us about this place is the fact that not only they sell ammo, but they also sell power tools. We’ll worry about your next cordless drill another time. But they do indeed sell a wide variety of ammo. They offer some pretty good discounts. You get 5 percent off guns and ammo purchases each time as a Sportsman’s Guide member. This is another viable option for the ammo shopper that is on a budget and is adamant on saving money. Every little bit piles up over time, so your wallet will thank you for that.
Brands Of Ammo
As you’re buying ammo, knowing which brand is good and what’s not as good is important. Some ammo buyers have often bought boxes of the same because of the name alone. If you’re a first time buyer, you probably will need to take the advice of “buy it on the name alone” with a grain of salt. With that in mind, here are some of the brand names of ammo that are available for AR-15s:
Federal or American Eagle
Of course, we’ll go with a brand that is made in the United States. When it comes to gun parts, accessories, ammo, or whatever else, nothing comes close like the United States when it comes to manufacturing. That’s because gun manufacturers will almost always have these strict qualities and standards as far as quality, performance, and anything in between. The good news is that this brand of ammo is abundant. And for that reason, it’s being sold at a pretty good price. While you’re best bet in finding AR-15 ammo of this brand is online, ammo for other guns made by them can be found at Walmart of all places.
One thing to keep in mind that this is ammo made outside of the United States. More specifically, these are made in South Korea. But the good thing about these are just as reliable and useful. By the way, they’re also abundant and cheap in price as well. Worth the deeper look if this is a brand that might interest you.
These rounds will have steel cases that are coated in polymer. This AR-15 ammo is also made outside of America. More specifically, these are Russian made. If anything, the Russians make some serious weaponry. So making ammo as tough like this comes as no surprise. This manufacturer produces hundreds of millions of round each year and have been around for well over a century. If you want an AR-15 that is...as the Russians say “strong like bear”, then you’ll probably want to give this brand a better look.
It doesn’t matter what type of rifle you own or what caliber it is, Hornady is a brand that is deserving of our praise. They’re reliable and most of their rounds are made from brass. And yes, they’re abundant in count and reasonable in price. Also, they’re an American brand as well. This is the brand that is also a trusted name among gun owners and enthusiasts.
Yes, there are other brands to choose from. But it’s important to know of two things about them: the quality of their ammo and how much they typically go for in price. Some are more affordable than others, and some are not. Be sure to do your research on any brand that is not one of the four major brand names listed above.
AR-15 Calibers: 5.56 vs .223
There are two calibers of the AR-15 that we’re going to look at: the 5.56 and the .223. If you want to get really fancy, their real names are 5.56 NATO and the .223 Remington. If you have no idea what caliber your AR-15 is, you can check it on the barrel. Along with the caliber is information on the barrel twist, physicality, model specs, and possible pertinent information.
The one thing that you might notice is that the ammo for each caliber will look almost exactly the same. However, 5.56 rounds can be loaded to higher pressure barrels than .223 rounds. A distinct difference between the two is that the .223 rounds are often designed for civilian use. Which means that 5.56s are military grade rounds. With the .223s, they’re supposed to meet standards and restrictions in terms of the dimensions and the amount of pressure. These are known as SAAMI specifications. However, the 5.56 rounds will follow other specs as they are compatible to be fired in higher pressure to ensure a much higher velocity.
The thing that you need to note is that not all ammo can be fired in all chambers that exist in an AR-15. For example, a 5.56 chamber will have the capability to fire both 5.56 and .223 rounds. The same applies if your AR-15 has a .223 Wylde chamber. If it has a .223 Remington chamber, then it’s .223 rounds only. Of course, this means that it won’t be safe to fire 5.56 rounds in this chamber in particular. It may not cause bodily harm to you, but it will most certainly cause harm to your AR-15. So err on the side of caution and don’t even try it or entertain the idea of doing so.
AR-15 Barrel Twist
As mentioned earlier, another piece of information that you’ll find on your barrel stamp is what is known as the barrel twist. The barrel twist ratio will look like this (i.e.--1/7). So what exactly is it? When the bullet spins in revolutions, it will spin a certain number of times every specified amount of inches. Most barrel twists range from 1:7 to 1:12. A 1:9 barrel twist is considered to be the most popular among AR-15 owners. Another thing to note is the bullet weight can also be ideal for a certain barrel twist. The heavier the weight, the number of the ideal barrel twist changes. For example, a bullet weighing at 40-grain will be ideal for barrels with a 1:12 barrel twist. Meanwhile, a bullet weighing in at 55-grain will be ideal for 1:9 twist barrels.
Speaking of bullet weight, the heavier bullet weights are more or less reserved for the military. A normal AR-15 cartridge will weigh anywhere between 55 and 62 grains. If you own a barrel with a twist ratio of 1:7, 1:8, or 1:19, firing rounds that weight at these amounts will be fine. You may not even notice a difference if you’re firing at a target from hundreds of yards away.
1:8 or 1:7
1:7 or 1:8
There are two types of bullets for the AR-15: full metal jacket (FMJ) or hollow points (HP). The alternative name for the latter is soft points (SP). So what’s the difference between the two and which is best for a certain purpose? Let’s take a look at the FMJs.
Full Metal Jacket (FMJs)
If you first heard about them in the classic war movie with the same name, then yes...full metal jacket ammo does exist. One of the major things that stick out with FMJ rounds is that they are much cheaper compared to their hollow point counterparts.
The use of FMJ rounds in a home defense situation may not be as ideal. But don’t mistake that previous statement as FMJ rounds not being suitable for self defense. Most militias around the world have relied on FMJ rounds for their weapons. However, this isn’t by choice. A stipulation in an international treaty that was signed decades ago states that the use of expanding rounds are prohibited from use. Believe it or not, this treaty also banned other actions such as dropping hand grenades from hot air balloons. However, FMJs are still useful in a home defense setting. Those who pass on FMJ rounds for some reason like “they just passed through them” or whatever else is probably a lie.
If you’re in search of military style rounds for a 5.56 caliber, the two most popular types to know about are the M193 and M855. The M193 rounds are the standard military style rounds that weigh in at approximately 55 grain. Meanwhile, the M855 rounds will typically weigh around 62 grain. These have a steel rod embedded inside the round itself. This of course will give it a bit of an edge in penetration power compared to the M193. Also, some ranges won’t allow M855 rounds due to their steel core. So if you frequent an outdoor shooting range, talk to whoever is in charge or the rules and regulations and ask them if the M855 rounds are allowable. If you want a round that does a good job hitting soft targets from 100 yards out or less, then the M193 rounds will probably be more your speed.
Hollow Points/Soft Points (HP/SP)
Hollow points will do a slightly better job if you’re in a home defense setting. Yes, it has its share of advantages. But like everything else with advantages, there will always be disadvantages. We’ll get right to them in a bit. To begin, there’s a reason why there’s a hole on the top part of a hollow point bullet. It’s purposely there to create a weakness. This weakness will create a resistance of its own when it hits something that is soft in texture. As a result, the bullet will expand. One thing you’ll notice with hollow points is that the wound cavity will be larger. At the same time, the likelihood of seeing an exit would will be very slim, if not none at all. So odds are, if you hit an attacker with these types of bullets, they’ll stay inside the body.
Hollow points have quite an impact. But not enough of an impact to punch a hole through someone. Low grade body armor will have more of a chance to stop hollow points as opposed to full metal jacket rounds. Plus, in order for these to work properly and expand like they’re supposed to, they need to meet some kind of resistance. And that can come in the form of when the bullet meets soft tissue (or anything equally soft or thereabouts).
Top Ammo For The AR-15
Now, we’ll be taking a look at the best AR-15 ammo for both the 5.56 and .223 calibers. We’ll be looking at the best rounds for each caliber for the purposes of hunting and home defense. We chose these rounds in particular based on overall performance and price. We also made sure that they are compatible with your AR-15, regardless of which chamber you use (but remember, if you have a .223 Remington chamber, use .223 rounds ONLY). We’ll also choose which 5.56 ammo we think is considered the most devastating, best in price, and the best 5.56 round for those who have a 1:7 twist barrel. With that said, let’s unveil our favorite 5.56 rounds:
Best 5.56 Ammo
Best 5.56 Ammo For Self Defense
For self defense ammo, we’ll be looking at two brands of ammo for an AR-15 5.56 caliber. Likewise, we’ll be doing the same for the .223 caliber in both the self defense and hunting categories. Having said that, let’s take a closer look at each one:
First on the list, we’ll be looking at the 5.56 rounds from the Black Hills brand. These rounds are hollow point rounds that weigh in at 50 grain. The Black Hills brand is best known for manufacturing the best quality rounds on the market for the AR-15. In fact, the military considers them their go-to brand for rounds that are used in long range competitive shooting contests. If it’s trusted by the military, then it’s obviously something good. These are brass cased rounds that are ideal for a self defense situation (and yes, they can be used for any other purpose).
These rounds are high in speed, low in recoil, and light in weight. If this is exactly what you look for in a type of 5.56 round for your AR-15, you might want to consider getting this type in particular. A box of 50 are actually sold at a pretty good price. If you’re a budget shopper looking for rounds and want something that’s below $100, the Black Hills rounds might be the choice for you.
Earlier, we talked about how some states have laws and regulations over AR-15 ammo. Of course, some ammo have to be manufactured to ensure that it meets the compliance requirements of states like California. If you reside in California and want an AR-15 round that is in compliance with those laws, you’re in luck. The Hornady Superformance are probably the only rounds you’ll have to rely on. That is unless you come across something else that is California-compliant. But if you don’t live in states with strict gun control laws, obviously you don’t have to worry. But we digress.
These are polymer tipped to ensure that they will have a greater amount of energy upon impact. They also contain copper, which means they’ll also expand on impact as well. As far as velocity goes, this kind of round is going to be high. We’re talking up to 200 fps compared to other 5.56 rounds. This can be done without any changes like increasing barrel pressure or recoil. Weighing at 55 grain, these will fire very well with AR-15 rifles that have a 1:7, 1:8, or 1:9 barrel twist. If high velocity is something you look for in a 5.56 round, then the Hornady Superformance rounds will probably be best for you.
Best 5.56 Ammo For Deer Hunting
Now we turn our attention to the best 5.56 ammo for those who use their AR-15 for deer hunting. Below are what we believe are the two best 5.56 ammo rounds that are on the market for deer hunting (or for other big game hunting). Here are the following two that you should consider:
First up, we have the 5.56 rounds from Winchester USA. The Winchester name has been around for a long time and has been long trusted by gun users and enthusiasts alike. These rounds are full metal jacket rounds that weigh in at just 62 grain. So these are heavier AR-15 rounds, but worth the use for hunting. If you’re AR-15 has 1:7 or 1:8 barrel twist, these rounds will be suitable.
Of course, these are quite affordable. Plus, for a name like Winchester, many seasoned gun owners have bought rounds on the name alone. If it’s a name that they know and trust, they’ll keep buying more. While it may not be smart for first time buyers to get something based on the name alone, we’ll make an exception here. If you want a 5.56 round for hunting that is in good quality and you don’t want to break the bank, Winchester might be the go-to brand for you. These are reliable rounds that you can use if you want to knock down that big game target from long range. When that deer or elk is hundreds of yards out, you want a round that is high in velocity, sharp in accuracy, and has a knockdown power that will be hard to match. The Winchester rounds can do just that. Not bad for affordable, quality rounds.
Best for 1/7 twist
Next, we have the Barnes VOR-TX 62 Grain rounds. The Barnes brand rounds came to existence well over 50 years ago. These were originally designed by the military as a lighter and faster round without relying on a lot of recoil. This is a great all-purpose round. But when you’re using it for hunting big game, that’s where it shines the brightest. This type of round has brass casings and copper heads designed to give you superior accuracy with every shot you fire. If you hold accuracy to a high standard in your kill shots, you’d be insane to pass up the opportunity to look at these rounds a little closer.
These are accurate, reliable, and probably the best 5.56 rounds you’ll need for hunting. On top of that, these are also among the more affordable rounds you can get. If you can get by with a box of 20 and don’t want to suck the life out of your bank account, the Barnes rounds might be worth the purchase.
Top Honors for 5.56 Ammo
Before we unveil our top honors for 5.56 rounds, let’s say that we chose ten of the best 5.56 rounds available on the market. Yes, we chose two for each purpose (self defense and hunting). But what if we expanded that list. And of the three, which would we consider for a certain category? Below, we’ve named our top favorites in the following categories: Most Devastating, Best Price, and Best For A 1/7 Twist Barrel. With that said, here’s what we chose and why we went with them:
Most Devastating 5.56 Round: Which round does the most damage? Which rounds would you rely in when it comes to self defense, hunting or both? Of the four listed rounds above, we decided to grant the honor for most devastating to the Black Hills 50 grain rounds. These rounds are hollow point rounds that have the ability to do some serious damage, regardless of whether or not you are using them for self-defense or hunting. After all, they are all purpose rounds. So that puts this a quite an advantage.
Best Price On 5.56 Ammo: This was a tough choice. For this pick, we went with the lowest price, but made sure that they were high in quality as well. At this point, we’ve decided to go ahead and give the nod to the Winchester USA rounds. Excluding the name itself, you’re getting rounds that are great in quality, high in performance, and at a ridiculously low price. Mind you, these are not poor quality rounds. These are rounds that are available at a shockingly low price point.
Best 5.56 Ammo For 1/7 Twist: Prior to choosing our 5.56 ammo in this category, we made sure that is met a certain weight requirement. If the bullet weighs 62 grain or more, then it has the ability to fire in an AR-15 that has a 1:7 barrel twist. Since there are two different brands of bullets listed above that weigh 62 grain, it was hard to decide which one was best. But after some debate and discussion, the Barnes VOR-TX came out on top as the victor. This is yet another brand of ammo that you can use for all kinds of purposes. Plus, the fact that it’s lightweight and will fire at a high velocity without the aid of more recoil makes it even better.
Best .223 Ammo
Now we turn our attention to the .223 rounds for your AR-15. Like the 5.56, we’ll be taking a look at the best ammo that is used for self-defense and hunting, respectively. And once again, we’ll be giving top honors to the brand of rounds for the best price and the best in accuracy. Let’s begin with the top two rounds we’ve chosen for self-defense:
Best .223 Ammo For Self Defense
It’s only fair that we choose ammo that is designed for not only chambers that can fire both 5.56 and .223 rounds, but also for ammo that can be fired from Remington rounds. But nonetheless, we found the type that will fit the bill. The 223 Rems are soft point (yes, that’s the alternative name for hollow points) rounds. And these are designed exactly for self-defense use. Looking at the design, you shouldn’t confuse these with FMJ rounds. They have small holes drilled at the top. Speaking of FMJ rounds, these 223 Rem rounds won’t overpenetrate like them. These were originally designed for law enforcement use. But now, they’re available for civilian use for the sake of home defense. These are made from nickel-plated brass and are considered non-corrosive. If you’re looking for the ideal home defense rounds for an AR-15 and have a chamber that can handle just .223 rounds or both, the 223 Rems might be the kind of rounds that are worth a further look.
Next on the list, we take a look at the Federal Premium LE Tactical rounds for the .223. If you’re looking for a battle-tested kind of home defense round, then these might be it. These were designed for law enforcement use in urban areas. In the big cities, especially in high crime areas, these are the rounds that law enforcement officers have relied on. Now, you can use them on your AR-15 and defend your home when the situation warrants it. The velocity of these rounds when fired is 3320 feet per second if fired from a 24 inch barrel. These are high-quality tactical rounds that were made for self-defense. So if you’re looking for something rugged and high in velocity, the Federal Premium rounds will more or less be your favorite choice.
Best .223 Ammo For Deer Hunting
We begin our list of 223 deer hunting ammo with the Golden Bear brand. Not only is this round ideal for deer hunting, but you can use this when you’re hunting just about anything. Varmint, small game, big game, and so on. Doesn’t matter what you hunt, these rounds are reliable. At 62 grain in weight, they’ll fit perfectly with AR-15 rifles with a barrel twist of 1:7. These rounds are soft point rounds, which are designed to kill your target animal quickly. If you’re looking for ammo that won’t damage any meat, fur, or trophies, then you’re looking at the one .223 round that can get the job done. There are some concerns that soft points can ruin the meat or trophy quality because of how the bullet expands. The low level of fragmentation with these rounds won’t do that. But that doesn’t mean they’re useless. They can still deliver a killshot like nothing else. So if you’re looking for a hunting round for the .223, you should give the Golden Bear rounds a better look.
These are Russian-made, higher end 223 rounds that are available at a pretty good price for 500 rounds in a box. If you’re looking for a good hunting round without breaking the bank, these are the kind of rounds that might be worth using.
Next, we’ll be taking a look at rounds from none other than the Remington brand itself. If you know the story about Remington, you know that when they first came out with these rounds, it was met with resentment because of the rifle that fired these rounds would always malfunction. Now today after nearly 60 years of service, this brand has become one of the most reliable brands among gun owners and enthusiasts. These .223 rounds are further proof as to why they are just that. These rounds were originally used by the military. Over time, they’ve become more reliable for other uses.
These are soft point rounds that will expand on impact and give you a quick, deadly shot for any game that stand in the way. Especially when it’s a big buck or elk. These come in brass casings and are boxer primed and ready to go for reloading. If you’re looking for reliable rounds that have been getting the job done for nearly 60 years and will guarantee you a good kill shot every time, the Remington brand will probably be the kind of rounds you’re looking for. At 55 grain, these are designed to work with AR-15 barrels with a 1:8 or 1:9 twist. High in accuracy without the aid of more recoil and coming from a name that is highly trusted by gun owners, these Remington rounds will challenge any other brand no matter what.
Top Honors for .223 Ammo
Like the 5.56 rounds, we’ve chosen the honors for best .223 rounds for the price and also best .223 rounds that are most accurate. With that said, let’s get right to it:
Best Price On 223 Ammo: There are .223 ammo rounds that are available in all kinds of counts per box. And at the same time, we also look to other factors like quality, reliability, overall performance, and so on. After deliberation, we’ve decided that the Remington brand 223 Rem 55 Grain PSP rounds are considered the best for the price. Again, this wasn’t based on the price tag alone. We determined this to be the best for budget shoppers because of its ability to be accurate and increase the chances of giving you a better kill shot when you’re hunting or if need be, a self-defense situation. Most importantly, these are reloadable and ready to go whenever your need them most.
Most Accurate 223 Ammo: Accuracy is always something that matters when you’re choosing a .223 round for your AR-15. It doesn’t matter what you use it for, you want to hit your shot right on the money every time. With that said, we’ve decided to go with the Golden Bear brand. According to some users, they were able to get good shot groups as far as 200 to 250 yards. Not bad for a .223 round that can be used for long range shooting. Accurate and deadly are the two words we can describe this kind of .223 round. And it is very deserving of an honor like this.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
The following are some frequently asked questions that pertain to choosing the right kind of AR-15 ammo. Use this Q&A section as a reference as you go about looking for rounds that you intend to use for the purpose of either home defense or hunting. These are the following questions:
Is AR-15 ammo expensive?
The short answer: it depends. The long answer is that it will depend on a few factors. First, what type of bullet it is? Remember, FMJs are expected to be much cheaper than hollow or soft point bullets. Another thing to look at is how many you’re going to get in a box. Obviously, the more there are in a box, the more it will cost. So pay attention to the price per round while you’re looking around for AR-15 rounds.
What caliber is AR-15 ammo?
Aside from the 5.56 NATO and the .223 Remington, there are dozens of other calibers that are found within the AR-15 group. Some examples include the 9mm Parabellum, 300 AAC Blackout, and the 6.5 Grennel among many others.
What an AR-15 bullet does to a body?
Once again, this will depend on the type of ammo that you’re using. Let’s take a look at hollow or soft points for example. These have the ability to fragment on contact with soft tissues and even vital organs. The fragmentation will be sharp enough to sever any organs, arteries, or anything else. They will have a larger wound opening, but will almost never have an exit wound. Full Metal Jacket rounds will have two wounds (entrance and exit). Both will be roughly the same size. They won’t fragment or break apart like hollow points, so the aim has to be dead on accurate.
Does an AR-15 bullet tumble?
The only times that AR-15 bullets tumble is when they hit something. When a 5.56 bullet tumbles, they will likely create severe wounds in the process. Likewise, the .223 will tumble once it is able to hit something. As far as severe wounds go, the information is inconclusive. There has long been a debate about whether or not that AR-15s tumble. The answer is, they do.
Can you reload AR-15 Ammo?
Yes. But it’s not an easy task. It is important to learn how to reload your AR-15 with through the use of a trained professional. There are cartridges that are available in both the .223 and the 5.56 that are reloadable. If you’re looking for reloadable ammo for each, be sure to double check if the ammo that you’re interested in does that.
No matter the purpose of your AR-15, finding the best AR-15 ammo is important. Knowing what to look for and knowing which type of bullet will work more effectively will make your search process a little more easier. If you’re going to for a quick kill against a deer or if you’re using your AR-15 to deter home invaders or attackers, it’s up to you to make the decision. Remember what your needs and preferences are and what end goal you want to achieve with the AR-15 ammo you choose.