.223 Wylde is Worth the Hype [See Why]

223 ammo and barrel
April 4, 2023 Edited April 17, 2023 42465 view(s)
.223 Wylde is Worth the Hype [See Why]

.223 Wylde has seen a recent explosion in popularity among AR aficionados, who claim that it offers shooters superior accuracy, greater versatility, and more reliability. But what is .223 Wylde, and how much of the hype is justified? We’re taking an in-depth look at the history, development, and benefits of the .223 Wylde chamber design, and seeing how it stacks up against the classic .223 Remington and 5.56 NATO designs.

What is .223 Wylde?

Cartridge or Caliber?

First, let’s clear up a common misconception: .223 Wylde isn’t a cartridge, and if you go to your local shop and ask for a box of it, the only thing you’re going to get is a funny look. That’s because it’s actually a hybrid chamber designed to safely and accurately fire both .223 Remington and 5.56 NATO cartridges with equal ease, and setting up an AR-15 in .223 Wylde is as simple as swapping out a barrel or buying a complete upper.

History

To understand why .223 Wylde was developed in the first place, we need to take a brief historical detour back to 1957, when the .22 caliber rifle cartridges were being tested for military use. That year, Remington Arms teamed up with Fairchild Industries to create the Remington .222 Special for the U.S. Army. To avoid confusion with civilian .222 cartridges that were also being developed at the time, the cartridge was renamed to .223 Remington, and was formally adopted by the Army as their new intermediate cartridge in 1962.

However, a decade later, the Belgian firearms manufacturer Fabrique Nationale was tasked with developing a standard round for NATO use based on the .223 Remington cartridge that the United States had already heavily invested in. FN’s solution was the 5.56x45mm NATO round, which shared the same exterior dimensions with .223 Remington but, according to FN’s testing, boasted a better drag coefficient as well as a marginally higher muzzle velocity and effective range thanks to differences in powder load and chamber leade, in exchange for creating higher pressure inside the chamber when fired.

In practical terms, the result was that a rifle chambered in 5.56 NATO could safely fire .223 Remington (at the cost of slightly reduced accuracy), while a rifle chambered in .223 was not rated for the increased pressure created by the 5.56 cartridge. The minor loss of accuracy when firing .223 out of a rifle chambered in 5.56 was considered a non-issue for a semi-automatic rifle designed for military use, and so over time the majority of rifle manufacturers began chambering exclusively in 5.56 NATO.

Problem solved, right? As it turns out, not quite.

Bill Wylde, a gunsmith from Greenup, Illinois who specialized in precision rifles, compared both cartridges and realized that because they shared identical case dimensions, specifications from both chamberings could be combined in order to achieve the best of both worlds. As to how this was accomplished, let’s look at a detailed comparison between these different chambers.

.223 Remington vs. 5.56 NATO vs. 223 Wylde

223 vs 5.56 ammo on table

As we’ve established, the exterior dimensions of the .223 Remington and 5.56 NATO cartridges are identical. So why aren’t they completely interchangeable? The answer comes down to chamber design.

Chamber Design

The dimensions of a .223 chamber are slightly smaller in general, but the real issue lies in the leade – the area between the front of the chamber and the point where the bullet connects with the rifling of the barrel.

In comparison, the 5.56 NATO chamber is slightly roomier, with a longer leade and tighter leade angle to accommodate longer bullets and the higher pressure of the 5.56 NATO cartridge.

Chamber Pressure

Because the 5.56 chamber is built to withstand higher pressures, shooting the lower-pressured .223 Remington cartridge out of it is no problem at all. But when shooting 5.56 NATO out of a .223 chamber, the shorter leade combined with the extra grain of powder in the cartridge creates a significant pressure spike, which can theoretically lead to a catastrophic failure that could destroy the firearm and injure the shooter.

Realistically, the odds of that happening are slim, and the most likely issues you will run into from shooting 5.56 ammo out of a .223 chamber are increased fouling, split casings, and blown primers, all of which are reason enough to avoid doing it. When it comes to putting your face near a hunk of metal that is constantly containing small explosions, it’s probably not a good idea to roll the dice.

But if a 5.56 chamber can handle .223 without any problems, why the need for the .223 Wylde? Rather than a question of safety, it comes down to performance.

Steel Target

Accuracy

Even though the 5.56 NATO chamber will reliably feed .223 ammo, there are still some minor compromises being made. First of all, because the dimensions of the 5.56 freebore – the length and diameter of the leade – are slightly larger when compared to a .223 chamber, a .223 round sits a bit looser in a 5.56 chamber, which theoretically results in a minor loss of accuracy and muzzle velocity – though probably not enough to make a difference for the casual shooter, especially with high-quality modern ammunition.

The other consideration is twist rate: though NATO specs demand a 1:7 twist in their rifles so that standard ball ammunition and tracer rounds can both be stabilized out of the same barrel, the majority of civilian rifles on the market have a 1:9 twist rate, which is ideal for 55gr and 62gr ammo. Where the .223 Wylde chamber excels is sheer versatility – a .223 Wylde barrel with 1:8 twist not only handles standard factory loads with ease, it’s also great at slinging the longer, heavier bullets that see common use in long-distance shooting competitions. In fact, it handles the 80gr ammo used by most Sport Rifle Competitions so well that .223 Wylde has become the chambering of choice for manufacturers of National Match-configuration AR-15s.

To sum it up, by combining the leade angle of the 5.56 NATO chamber and the tighter .2240 inch freebore of the .223 Remington chamber, the .223 Wylde chamber is able to handle a wider variety of ammunition without any concerns about over-pressurization or any loss of accuracy or muzzle velocity stemming from a wider freebore.Shop 223 Wylde Barrels

.223 Wylde Pros and Cons

.223 Wylde is the best of both worlds. One is cautioned not to shoot military 5.56 ammo in a .223 chamber due to the military round’s increased pressure that it’s loaded to – 55,000 psi vs 62,000 psi. On the other hand, .223 ammo shot in a 5.56mm-chambered rifle may not exhibit the best accuracy it’s capable of, due to the way the military chamber is cut. 

The major difference between .223 and 5.56 chambers is the longer and larger-diameter freebore that the 5.56mm exhibits. That distance is .059” vs. .025” for the .223 chamber. It also is a bit larger, at a .226” diameter vs. the .223’s .224”. The slightly larger dimensions allow rifles and machine guns to function even when they are dirty or otherwise fouled.

Bill Wylde’s solution was to cut his chamber with an even longer freebore length of .078”. This allows longer and heavier bullets to be used, with no decrease in accuracy.

So… to address the topic of pros and cons… I’m not sure there are any cons. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll have a load that performs better in an actual 5.56mm-chambered rifle than it does in a Wylde chamber, but that is doubtful given what I hear and read about Mr. Wylde’s solution.

It does tend to handle 80-grain match bullets better… as a matter of fact, rifle manufacturers who make National Match barrels chamber them in .223 Wylde. It tends to shoot both .223 and 5.56mm ammo very well, and as I just mentioned, longer/heavier bullets are a dream to shoot. 

So… I only see “pros”. It seems that most .223/5.56mm AR shooters are “wild about the Wylde”!

223 Wylde Rifle

Should You Switch to .223 Wylde?

When .223 Wylde first hit the scene, the question of whether it was worth the money to upgrade was a bit more difficult. It took a while for the chambering to gain widespread popularity, and buying a 223 Wylde upper or barrel usually meant spending a decent chunk of extra cash that was hard to justify for a casual shooter who only spent time at the range plinking with factory loads.

Nowadays, that gap has mostly disappeared – whether you’re buying an assembled rifle, a complete upper, or just a barrel, there’s little to no difference in cost to go with the .223 Wylde chamber instead. If you’re at all interested in getting into long-range target shooting or competitive shooting with your AR-15, or want to hunt with heavier bullets that can punch through brush and more reliably harvest game like hogs and whitetail, switching to .223 Wylde is a no-brainer – there’s a reason that it’s the de facto rifle chamber for the 69-80 grain bullets favored by AR-15 match shooters.

It’s also a great option for shooters who just want to maximize their rifle’s versatility in general– a .223 Wylde chamber will reliably shoot any .223 or 5.56 ammo you feed it, from the cheapest factory loads to the heaviest match-grade ammo. There’s something to be said for having a rifle that can go from hunting hogs in deep brush to punching paper at 500 yards without breaking a sweat.

Shop 223 Wylde Uppers

Closing Thoughts

At the end of the day, .223 Wylde makes a very compelling case for being the ideal chamber design for the AR-15 platform. By simply combining the dimensions of the 5.56 NATO and .223 Remington chambers to maximize the benefits of both, .223 Wylde offers a chamber that can feed and effectively stabilize a wider variety of ammunition, avoid any pressure-related issues, and maintain both the accuracy of the .223 cartridge and the muzzle velocity of the 5.56. Whether you’re investing in a rifle for hunting, self defense, or competition use, there are only upsides to choosing a .223 Wylde chamber for your AR.

[Leave a comment with your thoughts about 223 Wylde and make sure you check out our other helpful blogs like 300 Blackout vs 308 and Hunting with an AR-15!]

Comments

Please login to comment.

Don't have an account?

Sign Up for free
Allen Crossland
October 19, 2021
I have the BCA 223 wylde 20inch stainless fluted barrel in 1-9 twist. Its mentioned that this twist would handle 55 to 62 gr. With accuracy. But my upper only likes the lighter 50gr. Why? Knowing that now and reading this article I wish that I would have got the 1-8 twist.
john@customerservice
October 19, 2021
That twist in that long of a barrel is why. The 1:9 twist is for the lighter, faster, rounds. So when you extend the barrel from 16” to 20”, it makes sense that it shoots the 50gr ammo better. Hope this is helpful.
Jamison Kirk
February 22, 2023
May I ask, what do you mean by 'likes' specifically? -Learning
dana murray
June 22, 2023
some firearms shoot different bullet weights more accurate than others, therefore it “likes” the bullet weight he’s using.
Infidel
July 27, 2023
From what I understand, the original .223 was developed as a flat shooting varmint cartridge. It initially came out in a 1:12 twist rate for light bullets in 38-50 gn. When the twist rate was tightened, the light weight bullets would disintegrate due to centrifugal force. It seems counterintuitive that the heavier bullets need a tighter twist. Why the military uses a 1:7 twist with 55 & 62 gn. bullets is a mystery to me.
JEFFERSON GRAVES
October 19, 2021
I've been using a wylde chamber for about 5 years now with a 1:8 twist. I have 2 ar's with bca barrels, a 16" and 24" and they're phenomenal barrels. The price is good too. Having 7 and a half years in the army I can say that I would only go with a 5.56 chamber with a 1:7 twist only if I can't find what I'm looking for.
Ken H
October 19, 2021
Very interesting, never knew details about the Wylde. Thanks for the information.
Ted davenport
October 19, 2021
Why is there hesitancy by some manufacturers to use mid-length gas systems on 16 inch .223 barrels? It would give better extraction when using higher powered 5.56 cartridges in a barrel length that doesn’t need a carbine gas system.
Jeremy stolp
August 10, 2023
Because you not "supposed" to use 5.56 in a .223 barrel for one..
John
August 10, 2023
That is what makes the .223 Wylde so awesome, you can use .223 Remington and 5.56 Nato unlike a .223 Remington barrel
Great chambering
October 19, 2021
The .223 wylde barrels are the only ar 15 barrels I purchase anymore because they produce great accuracy!
scott metcalf
October 19, 2021
It's nice to see someone acknowledge Billy Wylde for his chamber. I know Billy and he really knows his S**T when it comes to ARs and bolt guns.
TommyD
October 19, 2021
Most shooters know something about the .223 Wylde but getting this in depth tutorial is fantastic. It covers just about everything concerning the .223 Wylde. Now I have to explain to my wife why it is a "necessity" to have this. Yeah, birthday, Christmas, some sort of reason, it's now on my list. You knew what you were doing BCA, lol..... Great stuff.
Stuart Nuss
October 20, 2021
When I decided to get an AR-15, (because Beto O'Rourke was saying that he wanted to take them away) I did a fair amount of reading to figure out the specs that I wanted in an AR. I came to the conclusion that the .223 Wylde chambering, with the 1:8 twist rifling, would work well with both .223 and 5.56 rounds, in most bullet weights. I am happy with that choice.
Kirk Tabar
December 23, 2021
Great, informative content. Thank you for the education! It will be the chambering of choice for my next build.
neil larson
April 2, 2022
Thanks for all the insite of the 223 wylde and the differences of the rifling.
Frank Flood
August 4, 2022
I live across the street from Bill Wylde , "the creator of the Wylde chamber", I have one of his barrels 24" 1-8.6 twist.and love the way it shoots.
Craig Cuskey
August 5, 2022
Thanks so much for the informative article. Cleared up some confusion on my part
Donald Thomas Hanger
August 7, 2022
I have both chammberings and see no real differece. both 556 nato and wild work perfect for me and i hand load all my ammo.
Scott
November 24, 2022
I have 2 SS fluted 16" Bear Creek barelled AR's in Wylde, 1:9 twist. Shoot .223, 55 gr soft points. Both are 1/4" accurate at 100 yds. Can't say enough about these barrels
Robert
November 24, 2022
Best informative article on the wylde 223 I have ever read
Armand fornachon
November 24, 2022
Great article thanks for informing shooters about the difference in the 223 and 556
Brad Thompson
November 24, 2022
What a great article. It was to the point without giving all sorts of specs and ballistics. I didn't know where the Wylde came from, Thank You Mr Wylde for putting in work and giving the world an improved cartridge. I bought a BCA 223 Wylde 16" with a 1-8 twist for my first build. I''ll excited to build it and see how it shoots. Then I'm gonna build a 300 blackout, and compare the two. At first I was just gonna swap barrels but what the heck just build another. Wanting a Ar frame gun for Hog hunting here in Texas.
Thomas E Brown
January 29, 2023
What ammo shoots best in your 20” 223 Wylde complete upper.
Mike Bogle
April 30, 2023
I have a BCA 16" wilde right side charge
Samuel Hutchins
May 11, 2023
Bear creek, Please come out with a 22 hornet barrel. That would be awesome.
George Steele
September 30, 2023
For what possible reason? A low-pressure, rimmed round with lower performance than the .223/5.56? I'm curious as to your reasoning.
Gene Cupples
June 20, 2023
I purchased the dual charging 223 Wylde in stainless. I love it, very accurate would highly recommend.
dana murray
June 22, 2023
i knew it could shoot both, but the explanation i just read made it clear, my nxt build will be a .223 wylde,why wouldn’t you?
Aaron-
June 23, 2023
Well researched and written Eric. Thanks for the enlightenment on the upper I just purchased from BCA. Enjoyed the accompanying writing on hunting with the AR platform, which I do here in Michigan.
Denny
June 23, 2023
I now have two, Wylde guns, one being a bit more expensive, which was my first one, and then, my second one which is a lower budget rifle, and I purchased it from bear creek arsenal and it shoots literally any kind of ammo I put in it and accurately, and while I was buying the complete upper I bought a scope for under $100 and the combination works great with an Anderson Llover, that I threw together with leftover parts, I can’t complain about it and it’s one of my go to rifle just to take out in the woods and throw ammo down the range
Infidel
July 27, 2023
I didn't own any AR's until Feb. 2020. I was an AK guy. My mailman asked if I could load him some .223's. I agreed. He said he'd pick up all the components, I just had to do the case prep and loading. We were splitting the ammo. Uh..SURE! But, I needed something to de-load these. So, I bought my first AR upper from BCA. A .223 Wylde 10.5" with a 1:7 twist. I put it on a PSA pistol lower. Runs great! I've fed it 55's, up to some 88's, along with some powdercoated 77 gn. cast bullets. I had to trim off the plastic tips on the 88's to get those down to OAL, otherwise I was crimping on the ogive. Not good. The bullet can slide back into the case. Since then I purchased 2 more uppers in .223 Wylde. A 1:8 Socom and a 1:8 Bearclaw. I also picked up a .308 and a 450 Bushmaster from BCA. Satisfied customer.
Jim N
August 18, 2023
I actually have owned all three uppers. My first was .223 which I had for 2 years before I purchased my 5.56 upper, a year ago I bought a BCA-15 Wylde (16”). The morning I received it, I cleaned it up and headed to my 100-yard range. I fired every brand, spec and weight cartridges I had, including some junkier 5.56 rounds. And after 260 rounds I was sold! 223 Wylde is awesome and eliminates a need for multiple uppers for .223 and 5.56. Also, I have to say that BCA quality is something special, even the 16” barrel is sweetly accurate.
Joseph Adams
December 5, 2023
I read a review about 62 and higher 5.56 in a 20 inch 1/8 twist barrel. I purchased a dual charging 20 inch upper and put it with a Psa lower it has the 1/9 twist. I don’t hardly ever use less than 62 grain 5.56 and it’s a sub .5 inch at 100 yards. Never had any issues with it. I have two 5.56 rifles that don’t hold a candle to it. I’m sold on 226 and I will buy another one soon. Thank you B C A. For the work and craftsmanship.
Joseph Adams
December 5, 2023
I mean 223 sorry
Terry Huff
December 5, 2023
I will never order a 556 Nato chambered upper again! I discovered the Wilde chamber long ago.
jc young
December 26, 2023
in what year was the wylde introduced
Michael Urban
February 8, 2024
Hey all, but i just finished purchasing all the parts i need to build my 20" 223Wylde rifle and i start to look around ,for some ammo for it and im noting most places im looking ,dont even have it listed? I cant find it anywhere? They still have 223/556 listed but i cant find the Wylde anywhere? They stop making it or what?
John
February 9, 2024
There is no .223 Wylde ammo. .223 Wylde is a chambering. These uppers shoot 5.56 Nato or .223 Remington
Copyright © 2024 Bear Creek Arsenal, LLC. All Rights Reserved.