.222 VS .223

By: Corey


Comparing cartridges and calibres is a tricky business, with the large variety of cartridges with subtle variations which on appearance may make them appear similar, but in reality very different in performance and use.

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Table of Contents
  • Guide to calibre designation
  • Comparing the .222 Remington vs .223 Remington
  • .222 Remington (5.56x43mm)
  • .222 As a Sporter
  • .222 In Hunting
  • .223 Remington (5.56x45mm)
  • Final Thoughts on .222 vs. .223

Guide to calibre designation

That said, for a proper understanding of ammunition, one should know that calibre means ‘the diameter of the gun’s bore. When the cartridge originates as a European metric calibre, we measure calibre in millimetres (think of 9mm or 7.62mm ammunition). However, when the calibre originated as an American or under Imperial units, then we use the US Customary system or Imperial System, and it is expressed in hundredths or thousandths of an inch (think of .223 Remington, .32ACP, .380ACP, .357 Magnum ammunition).

Since the first number only refers to the width of the bullet in millimetres or inches, there is also another set of figures to express the length of the case (such as 7.62x39mm, 7.62x51mm, 9x19mm, or 9x17mm) which is sometimes followed by the designer or company who standardised it (9x19mm Luger, 6.5x54mm Mannlicher–Schönauer or .308 Winchester).

A story for the calibres measured using the imperial system, on the other hand, is somewhat more complex and less systematic.

While the first Imperial number (e.g., 303) denotes a bullet diameter and should be simply read as 303/1000 of one inch, the second figure typically refers to case length, bullet weight, or powder charge, in grains. Many cartridges are designated with an additional name to reflect the manufacturer or an individual who standardised it, or just with a sound moniker for the sake of marketing (e.g., .204 Ruger, .219 Zipper, .221 Fireball).

But that is not the end of variations in cartridge nomenclature. An example is the famous .30-06 (pronounced “thirty-aught-six”) Springfield which made things even more complicated. In this case, the “.30” indicates that the diameter of the bullet is .3 inches or 30/100 and the “06” in .30-06 refers to the introduction date 1906, whereas the “Springfield” is the name of the company that created the calibre.

Additionally, you may encounter ammo designated by a three-number system once quite favourite cartridges among big game hunters such as .45-120 Sharps 3″1/4. The first number refers to. 45-calibre bore, next to 120 grains of (black) powder and 31⁄4-inch long case.

There is one more convention for ammunition size referring to the shotguns and gauge but that is a story in itself.

Comparing the .222 Remington vs .223 Remington

 .222 Remington.223 Remington
Bullet Diameter.224” (5.7 mm).224” (5.7mm)
Case Length1.70” (43.2 mm)1,76” (44.7mm)
Overall Length2.13” (54.1 mm)2.26” (57.4mm)
Rim Diameter.378” (9.6mm).378” (9.6mm)
Case Capacity26.9gr H2O (1.74 ml)28.2gr H2O (1.87 ml)
Max Pressure (SAAMI)50,000psi (340 MPa)55,000psi (380 MPa)
Muzzle Velocity3,140 fps (960 m/s)3,240 fps (990 m/s)
Muzzle Energy1,115ft-lb (1,512 J)1,282ft-lb (1,725 J)
Bullet50gr (3,24 g)55gr (3,56 g)
Powder Load20.9gr (1,35 g)26.4gr (1,71 g)
Rifle Weight7.2lb (2,7 kg)8.5lbs (3,8 kg)
Free Recoil Energy3.50ft-lbs (4,7 J)3.54ft-lbs (4,8 J)

We deliberately made a longer intro, because ammunition can be a very intimidating subject for first-time buyers and beginners in the firearm world.

Hoping you haven’t skipped the previous guide, now you can figure out both the .222 Remington and .223 Remington belong to the same .22-calibre family, and they also come from the same manufacturer – Remington Arms Company, LLC.

Although they have the same size bullet, these “twenty-twos” come with different case lengths, bullet weights, and propellant loadings making them not interchangeable.

.222 Remington (5.56x43mm)

The .222 or Triple Deuce” was created by Remington`s chief of research and development Merle “Mike” Walker. Designed by firearms engineers and benchrest competitors, Remington’s Triple Deuce was released to the shooting public in 1950, with the goal to fill up the gap in varmint and target market.

Interestingly, whereas dozens of different cartridges were developed from other parent cases, a .222 Remington or 5.7x43mm (C.I.P) was a unique design, without a parent case. For a careful observer, the .222 Remington is almost like a miniature .30-06, or more precisely a ¾ -scale version of the .30-06 Springfield.

The idea behind the triple deuce was to offer a medium-range .22 calibre round that would fill the gap between such popular varmint cartridges as the gentle .22 Hornet and the “barrel burner” .220 Swift. In comparison to the Hornet, .222 Remington drives bullets at 20 percent higher muzzle velocities, and due to its reduced powder capacity, the .222 Remington is considerably easier on the barrel than the smoking .220 Swift.

Like all nowadays high-velocity small-bore .22 calibre cartridges both, the Triple Deuce and Two-Two-Three use bullets of .224” diameter.

As an older brother, the .222 Remington is the first commercial fully rimless .22 (5.56 mm) cartridge with a 23-degree shoulder angle and an overall length set at a maximum of 2.130 inches. This bottlenecked .22 centerfire round would perfectly fit in a short-action rifle like Remington’s bolt-action Model 722.

.222 As a Sporter

When the .222 was first introduced in 1950, it was originally intended – as a varmint round, but this highly accurate cartridge with the near-flat trajectory soon became the cartridge of choice for Bench Rest competitors. With very tight shooting groups of .04 minutes of angle, the .222 established an immediate reputation for outstanding accuracy.

The newly-developed Bench Rest competition demanded accurately, light recoiling, high-velocity cartridges, and .222 Remington promptly became the overpowering Bench-Rest favourite.

All .22 centerfires practically are known for the almost non-existent recoil, and .222 Remington isn’t an exception. In comparison to .223, the .222 Rem has also a lighter report that many owners claim is a little more than a .22LR high-velocity round. That fact makes .222 a great starter round for novices or someone who is uncomfortable with the noise.

The main attraction to the .222 for many riflemen was that it was chambered in some very accurate guns, making it a darling of the 100 yard Bench Rest shooters. Furthermore, many hunters, especially women and youths can easily obtain accuracy with such low recoil, achieving 1″ or less size groups with most sporting rifles right out of the box.

As one of the most accurate factory cartridges ever produced, Triple Deuce is superior to the younger brother “twenty-two-three” holding a good number of accuracy records.

.222 In Hunting

Alongside competitive Benchrest shooting, the “Two-Two-Two” is marketed as the suitable cartridge for use on medium game. If you look at .222`s ballistic performance, a standard 50-grain bullet fired at a muzzle velocity of 3,150 fps with 1,094 ft. lbs. of muzzle energy makes it a fine varmint cartridge out to about 225 yards.

While the Triple Deuce is a great vermin, like a fox, it is also great small species of deer calibre, where that cartridge is legal for roe deer. Known as “meat saver”, the .222 was quite popular among professional deer cullers in New Zealand. The .222 is capable of instantaneous kills of lightly built Roe deer only with exact shot placement at neck or head.

Once the darling of .22 centerfire shooters, today .222 Remington is overshadowed by the larger .223 Remington.

Anyway, the .222 Remington still has a great following either in a varmint/predator or in a precise paper punching role. As a side note, the .222 Remington is particularly present in countries where regulations forbid civilian ownership of .223 Remington as “military calibre”.

.223 Remington (5.56x45mm)

Despite the reputation hunters have of being a reactionary lot, their choices in firearms and specifically hunting rifle cartridges – are trendy. Some hunting cartridges blossom and fade, repeating the phenomenon every few years, while some like .223 Remington virtually inundated the fine little .222 Rem Mag. and the .220 Swift.

While the .222 Remington dominated the sport shooting events and hunting districts, a .223 Rem was created from the start for military arenas and battlefield.

The .223 Remington is sort of the old .222 Remington on steroids, same case configuration, only more of it.

The more original .222 Remington was, the more .223 Remington was the product of a few previous designs merging into only the best features.

The .223 Remington was developed in 1957 for a new lightweight combat rifle with a goal to penetrate a steel helmet at 500 yards. The .223 Remington (5.56x45mm) or “two-two-three” (inch) derivates from .222 Rem (5.56x43mm), and a larger cartridge called .222 Remington Magnum (5.56x47mm).

After unsuccessful trials, Remington didn’t give up, but they created in 1963 a .222 Special, a slightly shorter version of the .222 Rem. Mag. It has a capacity of only 5% less than the .222 Rem Magnum but the US military adopted it along with the new M16 rifle and designated it as the .223 Remington / 5.56x45mm NATO.

Whereas typical factory loads for the .222 Remington use 40-, 45-, 50-, 53-, and 55-grain bullets, the .223 Rem. can be loaded with lighter bullets from 35 grains to 55 grains, but also you can shoot heavyweights loaded with 69-, 75-, and 77-grain projectiles.

Obviously, the .223 Rem. case capacity is larger with 2.5 grains more water than the .222 Rem. it means that .223 Rem. will drive a 55-grain bullet at a muzzle velocity of 3,250fps with 1,265 ft. lbs. of muzzle energy.

It means the .223 Rem is a bit harder on barrels than the Triple Deuce. In real life, you can expect to fire around 5,000 rounds before you have to change the barrel. However, this isn’t really a practical concern for an average hunter, but more for the professional hunters, keepers, rangers, and target shooters alike.

As for the recoil, the difference between these two is just marginal, but the report is heftier than in the lighter .222 Remington.

Like all .224 calibre cartridges, the .223 Remington was designed purely for small game. But it has found favour with sportsman hunting hogs from elevated stands and ground blinds.

Since the .223 produces a broad but shallow wound channel, it is very important to try and avoid major shoulder bones when using .223 on medium game. Like the .222, the .223 does not have the power to initiate hydrostatic shock, so hunters have to place neck and headshots for fast killing. Surprisingly, in this calibre the best results will be when using tumbling .223 FMJ ammunition.

Related: Read our guide on comparing the differences between the .223 vs. .308w

Final Thoughts on Comparing the .222 Remington vs .223 Remington

In short, the .222 Remington is a proven cartridge, and in ubiquity is beaten pretty much by .223 Remington. On the other hand, the .223 Remington is now a major selling cartridge due to the NATO standardisation.

For the most part, you cannot notice any difference in terminal performance when used at realistic ranges and with accurate shot placement.

Both cartridges feature light recoil, which is always a benefit for any shooter to obtain excellent accuracy.

As a varmint or target shooting cartridge, both .222 and the .223 Remington are the outstanding performers. As a medium game cartridge, these .22-bores are underpowered if you expect fast kills.

From the shooter’s standpoint, the .222 is a somewhat specialty round, whereas the .223 is more versatile. There’s a much wider selection of premium hunting loads and bullet weights available for .223 Remington within its range.

Finally, with realistic expectations and an understanding of limitations, every rifleman can get the most from these fine little .22 centerfire rounds.