Clearing the Caliber Confusion: .223 Wylde vs. 5.56 NATO

Though they share identical case dimensions, the .223 Remington and 5.56 NATO are slightly different—and the .223 Wylde makes the most of both of these loads.

Brad Fitzpatrick

The 5.56×45 NATO broke cover in 1957 as a military cartridge, and since that time it has served in multiple campaigns and conflicts around the globe. The 5.56×45 offered a lot—it was a flat-shooting, fast cartridge with minimal recoil and minimal weight (read: you can carry a lot of them). So great was the 5.56 that it soon followed in civilian garb as the .223 Remington, a cartridge that has remained viable and popular since its release date.

There are some that will tell you that a .223 and a 5.56 are the same cartridge. Well, in terms of case dimension, that is true. So, how do they differ?


Technical Dimensions of the .223 Rem vs. the 5.56 NATO Cartridges

Technical Dimensions of the .223 Rem vs. the 5.56 NATO Cartridges. Image credit: here

The short answer is that they differ with regard to pressure and chamber dimensions. Pressures in the 5.56 cartridge are higher than the .223, and as a result the chamber of the 5.56 is different as well. There’s more throat length in a 5.56 barrel—about .077 inches—and the angle of the throat is different to accommodate increased pressures. It is, therefore, alright to fire a .223 cartridge in a 5.56 chamber, but going the other way can cause pressure problems. Simply put, the .223 doesn’t perform as well in 5.56 chambers as it could. If you have two cartridges that are so similar in external case dimensions why not have one chamber that makes the best of both loads?

Enter Bill Wylde. Bill had the idea to create a chamber that would serve the 5.56 and the .223 Remington equally well. The .223 Wylde has the same chamber angling as the standard 5.56 chamber, so there’s no problem with pressures, and it also has a .2240 freebore diameter. The result? You have a chamber that is sufficient to handle the hotter 5.56 load without concerns about pressure and you get the gilt-edge accuracy that’s common in many quality .223 rifles.

The .223 Wylde Chamber Dimensions

The .223 Wylde Chamber Dimensions

Is there a compelling reason to switch to a Wylde chamber? Well, the most obvious reason is that you can fire .223 ammo without giving up accuracy and 5.56 ammo without worrying about excess pressure. Sure, you can fire .223 ammo all day from a 5.56 without worrying about pressure problems thanks to generous chamber size, but if you really want to tighten those groups that .2240 freebore diameter helps. In fact, .223 Wylde chambers are known for extreme accuracy, which is better on the whole than what you can expect from a standard 5.56×45 chamber.

Better accuracy, more versatility with ammo—so what’s the downside? Well, right now that can be cost and availability. The gains that the .223 Wylde provides haven’t prompted a whole bunch of companies to swap to that chamber, but there are certainly .223 Wylde-chambered target rifles out there. Do you need a Wylde? No, but it will help your long game and will make your AR 15 rifle build even more versatile than it is now.

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Understanding Twist Rate for the 5.56

Matching bullet weight to twist rate is vital for maximum accuracy. How do you know which twist rate is right for you?

Brad Fitzpatrick


In the 1960’s, when the 5.56×45 and the accompanying AR platform debuted, both rifles had barrels with twist rates of 1:14 inches, or one full rifling twist for every 14 inches of barrel. That’s because at that time the standard choice in 5.56 ammo was a 55 grain FMJ projectile. And although the 50-55 grain bullet is still a versatile and effect varmint hunting bullet, for military and long-range purposes most ARs have switched to heavier bullets. That means that the AR 15 barrels must switch, too.

Today you won’t find very many 1:14 barrels because, frankly, there isn’t a whole lot of demand for them. They’re good at stabilizing lighter bullets, but they won’t stabilize heavier projectiles. For that reason, the 1:12 is about the slowest AR barrel you’ll see today. Because there’s a “sweet spot” when combining bullet and barrel twist rate, you’ll need to have an idea what type of ammo you’re going to be shooting. If you’re going to limit yourself to 55 grains or less, the 1:12 will work.


Originally at 1:14 twist, more common 1:7-1:9 twist rates are available in the market today

But why give up the 5.56/.223’s blessed versatility? Why not get the most out of your rifle?

In that case, you’re probably going to want to look for a faster twist rate that stabilizes larger bullets. 1:10 and 1:9 twist barrels, which work just fine with 55 grain projectiles but will also handle heavier 60, 62, and 69 grain bullets. These two barrel twist rates are situated in the middle of the pack and, generally speaking, allow you to shoot a wider variety of bullets than any slower-twist barrels. But as you go beyond 1:9, barrels do better with heavier bullets and don’t perform as well with lighter ones. Just as slow-twist barrels won’t stabilize heavy bullets properly, fast-twist barrels will sometimes overstablize, which reduces bullet stability and results in poor performance. For that reason, the faster twist barrels—1:8 and 1:7—are best with heavy bullets. 1:8 twist barrels will stabilize bullets up to 80 grains, and 1:7 tubes will actually stabilize heavy, long-for caliber, aerodynamic bullets up to 90 grains.


A small example of the hue variety in bullet profile and weight

So, what’s right for your AR 15? That depends. If I were building a strict varmint gun—something that would almost exclusively fire bullets in the 55 grain and below range—I’d opt for a 1:10 twist rate, which has proven effective for me in the past. The 1:10 is highly versatile and will work with most bullets, from 55 grain polymer tip varmint bullets on up to heavier boat-tails for a little extra reach. If I planned to shoot a bit of every type of ammunition I’d go for a 1:9 or 1:8, which would allow me to take advantage of a broad range of bullets. If I were building a long-range target gun and knew I’d be using bullets from 77 grain on up, well, I’d have a 1:7 twist.

If you’re building a 5.56×45 AR then it will help to know twist rates. You’ll understand how your gun and ammunition work together, and you’ll be able to get the most out of your loads.

Related Products

80 Percent Lowers

80 Percent Lowers

As more shooters are building their own ARs from rough-machined receivers the ATF stands in to clarify what makes a gun a gun.

Brad Fitzpatrick

There are guns, and then there are ghost guns, at least based on the terminology coined by California Senator Kevin De Leon to describe unfinished lower receivers that could later be turned into functioning, firing ARs by competent gunsmiths. The issue as de Leon saw it was the fact that these guns could be built without being serialized, but so-called 80 percent rules place gunsmiths in a tough spot. For gun owners and smiths it was a simple matter of buying unfinished receivers that were to be machined later and built into custom rifles just as the actions of high-end bolt action rifled are oftentimes sent out in the white for later machining. But for de Leon and his counterparts the 80 percent receiver was viewed as a danger to society. In an effort to regulate and control receiver sales legislation was passed that worked to redefine what guns really are.

That a piece of machined aluminum is the equivalent of a firearm and must be treated as so may seem absurd to gunsmiths who are simply trying to receive raw materials to finish manufacturing a custom gun, but anti-gun forces have taken up machined receivers as the topic of the day. There is no evidence that has been presented that measures to control receiver sales will, in turn, keep criminals from breaking the law, but the current focus on receivers and the vague language that classifies a gun or not again could certainly cause issues for gunsmiths that will require more paperwork, more time and hassle, and could potentially land individuals trying the remain in compliance with the law in hot water.

“Because receiver blanks do not have markings or serial numbers, when firearms made from such receiver blanks are found at a crime scene, it is usually not possible to trace the firearm or determine its history, which hinders crime gun investigations jeopardizing public safety,” the ATF said in a statement related to receiver production.“[F]irearms that began as receiver blanks have been recovered after shooting incidents, from gang members and from prohibited people after they have been used to commit crimes.”

It has become critical, therefore, for anyone who purchases a receiver to know what, at least according to the ATF, makes a gun and gun. According to the GCA section 921(a)(3), a firearm is anything “which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive.” That readily be converted portion is where things get murky. According to these regulations a receiver that does not have holes or dimples for the selector, trigger or firing pin is not classified as a firearm. So long as the receiver doesn’t have the fire control cavity machined it is not classified as a firearm. Once these action occur the receiver is then classified as a gun.

The vast majority of those who purchase an 80% lower receiver, a so-called “ghost gun,” are doing so legally and without intention to harm others. One of the most compelling reasons to own an AR is its simplicity and high level of modularity, and having receivers available for finish work by a competent smith is part of the AR experience. As with all firearms regulation, the Second Amendment rights of American gun owners are called into question, and it’s imperative that gun owners are educated in the law and are a voice of reason when knee-jerk legislation seeks to limit our rights.

The Best Optics for Your AR

From CQB to nighttime animal control to extreme long range shooting, having the right optic on your AR makes all the difference.

Brad Fitzpatrick


I’m often asked which optic is the best for an AR, and that’s a topic I love because it offers me a platform to explain just how versatile black guns can be. AR carbines and pistols are light and compact, and that makes them perfect for close-quarters defensive work. In addition, they’re great for mid-range shooting, everything from 20 to 200 yards. But the reach of the AR extends far beyond that distance, out to 800 or even 1,000 yards. They’re great for hunting, home defense, and competition shooting. In short, your AR can do just about anything.

That is, if you select the right optic. There are a bunch of choices for AR shooters, but here’s a quick guide to some of the best scopes, lasers, and reflex sights based on what you plan to do with your rifle.


Reflex sights are a great option when shooting CQB-style or when on the move.


Close Range: For everything out to 100 yards, I like a reflex sight. That’s because they’re compact, lightweight, and they offer a clear both-eyes-open aiming point. The red dot is the fastest and most flexible sight for shots out to 100 yards, and they perform well even beyond that range, but if the bulk of your shots in the field or in competition are closer than a hundred steps, a reflex or red dot is your best option because magnification can be a hindrance (ever tried to take a snapshot when your scope was on 9x?)  On a recent helicopter hog eradication shoot in Texas I used the Trijicon SRS (sealed reflex sight) with great results, but the company’s newest offering, the MRO, is another superb choice. Likewise, Burris’s AR-F3 combines a lightweight, durable FastFire III optic with their durable AR-F3 mount, which allows the sight to sit low and has metal “wings” that protect it. For budget reflex sights, it’s hard to beat the economical Bushnell First Strike, which offers an easy-to-see 5 MOA dot. One other option is a laser sight like the Crimson Trace MVF-515, which has a light and laser. It’s great for moderate-range shooting, and if you have night vision equipment you can opt for the IR module.


Moderate distance shooting made much easier with a variable-zoom scope.


Moderate Range: I consider moderate range anything from muzzle tip to a quarter mile. As previously stated, if my shots are under a hundred, I want a light, compact, reflex sight for fast shooting. If, however, I want to extend my rifle’s range I want the option of magnification. One of the best options is EOTech’s Holographic Hybrid Sight II, which combines an EXPS-2 holographic sight with a G33.STS magnifier. The EXPS-2 holographic sight offers all the benefits of a reflex sight, and you’ve got the option (the magnifier swings in and out of the line of view as needed) for instant 3X magnification. If you’re looking for a standard optic, pay attention to low-power variables like the Trijicon VCOG in 1-6×24. I like this sight a lot because it offers a first focal plane reticle (which maintains constant size relative to the target and aids in aiming) and it doesn’t require scope mounts. Leupold’s Mark AR MOD 1 1.5-4×20 is another great option, and it features a compact, durable design with Firedot illumination and stadia lines. Yet another great (and affordable) option is Nikon’s M 223 1-4×20 BDC 600 scope, which has holdover points out to 600 yards for 55 grain polymer-tipped loads. It also has zero reset turrets, another bonus when shooting at various ranges.


A large main tube body is important for light transmission, helping you hit that gong way downrange.


Long Range: The long-range AR is really a specialized platform, and if you are serious about banging steel way downrange you need to invest in top-shelf glass. For starters, a 30 or 34 mm main body tube makes sense; a good 30mm scope gives you more internal adjustment capabilities for making longer shots, and 34s are better still. You can select either MOA or Milrad reticles based on how you prefer to shoot, but be sure that you get good, clear glass. Other options like a zero-stop are nice when you’re trying to hit a target at a great distance.

Burris’s Veracity has performed well for me, and it’s available in magnification ranges from 2-10 to 5-25. The Veracity has Progressively Thick Crosshairs, which narrow toward the center for rapid target acquisition at higher magnification. The Leupold VX-6 offers extremely clear glass, 30mm tubes, a 6x zoom ratio and T-MOA reticle, which has 1 MOA stadia lines and can be used for range estimations. The VX-6 line is available in a variety of magnifications, from 3-18x all the way to 7-42x! Nightforce’s ATACR line is also excellent, with first focal plane reticles, .25 MOA/.1 Mil-Rad click values and magnifications ranging from 4-16x to 5-25x.

AWC Obama Countdown


We admit it. We’re doing our own Obama Countdown at AWC. But it’s not what you think. Sure, we are well aware there are 571 days until the next U.S. Presidential Election on November 8, 2016. We also know there are 644 days until President Barack Obama’s last day in office on January 20, 2017.

This Obama Countdown is different. It impacts you much sooner.

It’s time to say “Bye Bye Barack” to our products named after the president. They are being discontinued by AWC. You have until April 30, 2015 to order your “Obama’s Blaster.” All orders placed by midnight on this date will be honored.


The “Yes We Can Build a Firearm” product was the brainchild of AWC Founder, Dimitrios Karras, a U.S. Marine who bravely served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Launched in September 2014, the Obama’s Blaster exercised the strength of Freedom of Speech in America. Boldly, it came just six months after the ATF Raid of AWC property in Oceanside, California.

The AR–15 Upper Receiver named, “Obama’s Blaster,” created a nationwide controversy. At the time, Dimitri told the media, it was “obviously a joke” and not meant to suggestion action vs. any political figure. He called it, “A commemorative AR-15 part honoring President Obama’s role as the most distinguished firearm salesman of all-time.”

Today, Dimitrios Karras says his point has clearly been made. “The reality is we never intended it to last this long,” Karras said. “However, because of the widespread anti-Obama sentiment, we have had to keep up with demand from the public for this product.”

Silver Linings Playbook

The title of the hit movie sums up the difficult strategic decision, AWC CEO, Bryce Stirlen, had to make. It is a necessary play for the company in taking aim at its business targets on the next level of growth. “There really a silver lining for our customers and supporters,” says Stirlen. “We are just wrapping up production on a new and improved product. We’ll be announcing the news about this in the very near future.”

For obvious reasons, this is all we can say now about this Obama Countdown. However, we want you to know this friends…

No matter what else changes…no matter what you may hear or think…take it from us at the source…the core of this U.S. Veteran driven company is still supporting 2A all the way.

Adds Stirlen, “We know what we’re doing. We know where we’re going. We will continue to expand our business and build our product line. With any makeover, you look different on the outside. But rest assured, we have the same values on the inside. Our company remains 100% committed to supporting the Second Amendment, gun rights, and delivering the highest quality arms and tactical products proudly made in the U.S.A.”

So let the clock on this Obama Countdown begin. There are 14 days until the Obama’s Blaster becomes a blast from the past. It’s available now through midnight, April 30, 2015.