Using a .223 Remington for hunting deer might be one of the most controversial subjects when it comes to campfire arguments. This is especially true with the current popularity of the AR-15, which is most commonly chambered for the .223 Rem.
One reason for this is a lot of hunters think they know things, when in fact they know very little. So, this is for those who don’t know. And, just for educational purposes, if you haven’t killed at least a dozen deer with the .223 Rem., don’t bother commenting on this topic because you don’t have enough experience or anything relevant to share.
Here are some various misconceptions, quotes and advice about using the .223 Rem. to hunt deer that I found while nosing around on the Internet. I won’t name names or websites—no reason to embarrass my fellow hunters with my good old hillbilly wisdom.
Internet silliness: With the .223 Rem. for deer, it comes down to marksmanship.
Hillbilly wisdom: Really? Really? And when does hunting not come down to making the shot?
Internet silliness: The .223 Rem. is an ethical cartridge if you know how to shoot and know where to shoot an animal.
Hillbilly wisdom: So, what cartridge is an ethical cartridge if you don’t know how to shoot and know where to shoot an animal?
All of these cartridges are deer killers. The .223 Rem. just
happens to be the smallest one in the lineup.
Internet silliness: Now that the advertising dollars are in the right area, they (gun writers) are all now promoting AR-15s and the .223 Rem.
Hillbilly wisdom: Um, no. Now that folks are buying AR-15s chambered for the .223 Rem. like they’re lottery tickets, they want to know (read) about hunting with them. And guess what? The first-ever commercial rifle in .223 Rem. was a Remington 760 pump. I bet you didn’t know that, even though Remington has always had money to spend on advertising. The thing is, readers drive content, which is why magazines without stuff on the AR and the .223 Rem. don’t sell well.
Internet silliness: It was designed to wound. A wounded soldier takes five soldiers out of the fight.
Hillbilly wisdom: Sorry, the FMJ bullet, which the military uses in the .223 Rem./5.56 NATO, was designed for wounding and killing enemy soldiers. The .223 Rem. cartridge was designed for the M16 rifle.
Ammo manufacturers are increasingly offering deer-capable loads for the .223 Rem.
Internet silliness: The 5.56 NATO is not the same as .223 Rem. The NATO round runs at higher pressures and has slightly different case dimensions.
Hillbilly wisdom: Again sorry. The .223 Rem. and the 5.56 NATO have the exact same external case dimensions. (That’s a topic for a later, detailed discussion.)
Internet silliness: Anything in the .22 caliber is risky and, for most hunters, a tool to wound.
Hillbilly wisdom: OK, let me get this straight. For “most hunters” it’s a wound tool, so that means for some hunters it’s not? I’m guessing you’re talking about shot placement, and if that’s the case, a bad shot is a bad shot regardless of the caliber of the cartridge.
Remington’s new Hog Hammer load for the .223 Rem. uses a Barnes
Triple Shock bullet. It will kill a hog or a deer handily.
Internet silliness: Most hunters are not expert riflemen, do not shoot regularly and are not capable of using small, sub-caliber cartridges to hunt deer.
Hillbilly wisdom: First off, how can any caliber be “sub-caliber”? Caliber is a measurement of diameter, not an opinion. So, the notion that someone who doesn’t shoot regularly should use an above-, top- or dominate-caliber cartridge—whatever that is—is, well, kind of stupid.
Internet silliness: The .223 Rem. is considered a light load for taking deer because it really is.
Hillbilly wisdom: You’re exactly right. The .223 Rem. is a light load for taking deer. That doesn’t mean it’s the wrong load. That’s like saying a 6-pound rifle is a light rifle for taking deer. And, well, it’s a light rifle for just about anything.
Internet silliness: It also depends on how big the deer are.
Hillbilly wisdom: Come on, really? A 200-pound deer’s chest is about 2 inches wider than a 100-pound deer’s chest. You don’t have to shoot through an extra 100 pounds to kill a 200-pound deer, just an extra inch.
Twenty inches of penetration with a large wound cavity is deer-killing capable
any way you look at it. This is what a .223 Rem. can do.
Internet silliness: The .223 Rem. is a great deer rifle for recoil-sensitive hunters such as children and women.
Hillbilly wisdom: Absolutely! But you seem to suggest it’s not a good rifle for a man because it doesn’t kick hard enough. That’s foolish. If a kid can kill a deer with a .223 Rem., his daddy can!
I know, I’ve probably hurt someone’s feelings. But trying to turn emotions and opinions into facts is wrong and misleading. Yes, compared to most hunting cartridges, the .223 Rem. is of a smaller caliber. And yes, compared to many cartridges it generates less energy. So what? It also kicks a lot less and is a lot easier to shoot regardless of how tough you are.
Simply damning the .223 Rem. because there are a lot of bigger cartridges makes about as much sense as saying a nickel is worth more than a dime because it’s bigger. A .223 Rem. with a good bullet such as the Barnes Triple Shock, Nosler Partition or Federal Fusion will penetrate 18 to 20 inches in 10-percent ordnance gelatin. The same type of bullets fired from a .308 Win. will penetrate about 4 inches deeper. The deer will not give a fresh food plot either way!
Some hunters get it, some don’t. I can’t be held accountable for those who believe in Internet and campfire silliness.
And, contrary to the popular belief that the .223 Rem. is not legal for deer hunting, my research shows the cartridge is currently legal in 39 of the 50 States. It’s not permitted in: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Islands, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming, and five of those states are shotgun-only states. (If you know otherwise, please share.)