Long Range…with a 223?

The new 223 Valkyrie is the latest “game changer” according to the people who make it their business to sell articles in order to sell guns. After all, pushing a high BC bullet that stays supersonic to 1300 yards has to be infinitely better than the plane, old, tired, worn out 223 Remington, right?

Well…not so much. Once you start comparing apples to apples, which means a 24″ barrel in the 223 Valkyrie to a  24″ barrel on a 223 Rem with a Wylde chamber (to take a long for caliber bullet), and start loading a high BC bullet like the Hornady 75gr ELD-M in the 223 Rem over a max charge of Varget…well the 223 Valkyrie, even with it’s 90gr match bullet has less than 250 yards of supersonic advantage over the old, tired, worn out 223 Remington. Yes, 1100 yard shots are within the performance range of the 223 Rem, but I’ve only ever seen it done in tactical oriented competitions against E-types and iron maidens. There is a reason for this, but it can be counter intuitive to when you also know that the 223 Remington is the preferred choice for “across the course” High Power and Service rifle, handily beating the older (but still excellent) 308 Win.

So why isn’t the 223 Remington more common on the long range firing lines of the world? Well, to sum up a long line of data, it comes down to case size and primer consistency. The smaller a case, the more sensitive it is to primer variance affecting total pressure, and pressure spike shape, which greatly effects the harmonics of a rifle barrel. This is why larger cases, like the 308 Win, remain preferred for long range High Power and Palma, because the same variance in priming compound force between the two cartridges produces a much smaller percentage change in pressure for the larger case. If small rifle primers were perfectly consistent, then it would stand to reason we’d see more 223 Rems out there shooting long distance for competition.

The longer the range, the more you need consistency. From 600 yards and in, even having double digit standard variation in your match load isn’t going to matter, with either the 223 or the 308. However that is not the case at 800, 900, and 1000 yards. For example if you were shooting a 24″ barreled “Space Gun” 223 Rem and had a load that clocked in at 2,880 fps with a 20f/s standard deviation. The spread at 1k would be 1.2 minutes using a high BC bullet like the Hornady 75gr ELD-M. That is literally a foot of spread (for all intents and purposes it rounds to a foot, so I excuse my use of the word literally). At 600 yards the same dispersion is only 0.4 MOA, or just under three inches. This means that for your run of the mill High Power match, having a load with 20f/s standard deviation doesn’t matter as long as you can do your part on the rifle, since the load is only ever going to put you out 0.4 minutes off intended point of aim.

Now this is only looking at a 24″ barrel, and if you are shooting Palma or F/TR class you can easily get a 32″ pipe to put on your rifle. That may change your performance, especially if you can get the standard deviation down into the low double digit or high single digit range. But still, you’ll be competing against people who are going to be shooting tricked out 308s pushing equally high BC bullets equally fast.

So to sum up this article, the 223 Valkyrie will actually be a better “long range” option for the AR platform, but it won’t be a game changer. If anything were going to be a game changer the 6.5 Grendel, 6.5 LBC, 6mm Hagar, 243 WSSM, or 30 OSSM would have “changed the game” by now. Since none of them are legal for Service Rifle, none of them have been adopted by Service Rifle shooters, and Match Rifle shooters have often chosen the longer AR-10 or bolt action rifle platforms to build on (although many simply build “Space Guns” on the AR-15 platform for economic reasons, and because economy stick with the 223 Rem).

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