A comparison: 223 Wylde vs 5.56 NATO and 223 Rem
In the AR-15 world, it is a little known fact that .223 Remington and 5.56 NATO vary just a tiny bit when it comes to pressure and chamber dimensions– and the .223 Wylde chambering was designed to pull off the magic trick of walking the tightrope between the two, and doing it accurately.
In this guide we’ll be covering the best of the best when it comes to .223 Wylde rifle options.
Quick List: The Best .223 Wylde Rifles
Hailing from Utah, Christensen Arms is a serious AR maker and they have a seriously light yet well-performing Wylde-chambered rifle in their CA-15 G2. Taking advantage of Aero-grade carbon fiber– its wrapped on the barrel and used in the slim-line handguard– along with billet receivers, these rifles hit the scales starting at a svelte 5.8-pounds.
Christensen makes sure they can still handle themselves well, utilizing a black nitride-finished BCG and a single stage match-grade trigger assembly to produce a platform that they guarantee will be sub-MOA.
Texas-based F-1 Firearms has the reputation of being something of the James Bond of the AR world and their Dynamis series carbines, which were introduced two years ago, mate a Wylde chamber with a 16-inch medium-contour match grade stainless barrel and a Hiperfire EDT heavy gunner trigger.
Then of course there is the DLC-coated bolt carrier group, oversize/ambi surface controls, and Slay-AR compensator. We could go on, but you get the point.
Montana’s Falkor Defense is renowned for top-end AR builds and their Caitlyn series, which incorporates a Wylde chamber, are a good example why. Ditching forged receivers for a matched billet upper and lower, Caitlyn shows up ready to party with a 16-inch DRACOS straight-jacket barrel system, Nitrided BCG, ambi mirrored controls, and a two-stage Trigger Tech flat trigger. Did we mention it only runs 6.5-pounds?
Based in Minnesota, JP Enterprises has been around for 40 years, with most of that in the AR biz. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the company cranks out a stack of Wylde chambered rifles including their Competition Tactical, Hunter Ready Rifle and Match Ready Rifle. Our favorite is their Professional model, which features a 1:8 twist 16-inch Supermatch stainless barrel, enhanced QPQ stainless steel bolt carrier, Magpul CTR stock and 3.5-pound trigger.
Lone Star TX15:
Another company that loves Wylde chambers is Lone Star Armory. While their Multi-Purpose Carbine is sweet, it is their TX15 Designated Marksman Light Enhanced series gun that really burns bright in the night for those seeking something extra nice. With a lightweight receiver cut, an adjustable Magpul PRS stock, and options for either 18- or 20-inch barrels, the DML-E is billed as Lone Star’s “most accurate platform.”
While many of LWRC’s rifles are piston guns, their Wylde-chambered DI MKII Target /Varmint Model runs a direct impingement system and is an affordable option for those wanting a lightweight 5.56/223 capable of reaching out to range. Using a 1:7 twist 18-inch NiCorr-treated barrel, the company’s Monoforge upper, ambi controls and a Geissele SSA-E2 two-stage trigger, this one is ready right out of the box.
A budget-friendly way to snag a Wylde-chambered AR that accepts both .223 Remington and 5.56 NATO is American Tactical’s Mil-Sport Enhanced Rifle (MER). Using a 3.5-pound Extreme Target Trigger, and 6-position collapsible Roger’s Superstoc, the MER uses an 18-inch SOCOM profile barrel with 1:7 button cut rifling. Introduced in 2017, these guns have an MSRP that allows you to pull one down for around $700, which is hard to beat.
Primary Weapons Systems has a sort of cult following in the AR world and they, as others, are on team Wylde going back to their original Modern Musket days. These days, they market the MK1, MK114, MK116 and MK118 platforms in the versatile chambering with the latter being a super reliable long-stroke gas piston gun rather than DGI.
They also run a variety of finishes, BCM Gunfighter furniture, options such as Zev triggers, and all the other bells and whistles. And even better news: they sell uppers as well.
Radian Model 1:
Radian Weapons will custom build you just about any AR platform from 9-inch pistols to 20-inch precision rifles, and you know this would include Wylde guns. Their Model 1 rifle uses match grade 416R stainless barrel with polished crowns and feed ramps, along with billet receivers, ambi controls, an ATC AR gold match grade trigger, and a black nitride bolt carrier group.
Located in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, Rise Armament is die-hard when Wylde is concerned, using the chambering for just about every 5.56 NATO platform they make. With their Watchmen series pitched to LE sales, a good alternative is the RA-15 which has a lot of options ranging from stocks (either Magpul CTR or Ace ARFX), barrel lengths (16- or 18-) with corresponding Rhino Ultra-Light carbon fiber handguards, and standard or extended controls.
Like Rise, Seekins Precision is dedicated to the Wylde chambering on their 5.56 ARs with one of their best choices being the NX15. These guns are distinctive, using a skeletonized upper/lower receiver set and NOX M-LOK handguard, which yields a 7-pound rifle while still keeping a 16-inch 1:8 twist 5R 416 stainless barrel.
Not only do they look good, but they can shoot, coming standard with Timney triggers and an adjustable gas block to accommodate variations in ammo types
Rock River X-Series:
One of the oldest continuous names in the Wylde game is Rock River Arms, who have been making rifles in the chambering for more than 20 years. Today, the RRA LAR-15 X-1 line, which is available in at least four different configurations, is an easy choice. With a two-stage varmint trigger and a 1:8 twist 18-inch fluted stainless-steel barrel; Rock River guarantees a 3/4-inch MOA at 100 yards on the line.
Wilson Combat Urban Super Sniper:
Arkansas-based Wilson Combat’s SS-15 Urban Super Sniper platform uses a match-grade 18-inch stainless steel “medium-heavy” fluted barrel with a tuned 4-pound tactical trigger. Utilizing billet flattop receivers coupled with a Rogers Super-Stoc buttstock, Wilson makes these with just about any custom option or configuration you can think of. Standard features include a hard-wearing Armor-Tuff finish, and an NP3 coated BCG.
Battle Arms Development makes great looking ARs that also feel and shoot great as well. Their Workhorse series, all chambered in .223 Wylde, use a 1:8 twist 16-inch 4150 chrome-moly steel black nitride barrel in the Patrol Carbine format, enhanced surface controls and a nickel Teflon trigger.
When it comes to .223 Wylde (pronounced= “wild”), it actually comes down to the slight differences between the commercial .223 Remington and military 5.56 NATO, two cartridges that seem exactly the same to the naked eye, but have a very slight variance when it comes to the chambers reamed for each in the breech of a barrel.
An internationally standardized round (with shifting standards!) the 5.56 NATO chambering has a longer throat than its Remington doppelganger which translates to a very slightly larger diameter, allowing rifles chambered for that cartridge to accommodate a wide range of loads across a generous sliding pressure scale.
Fig. 1. There are no dimensional differences between the 5.56 NATO cartridge with a 77-grain bullet, left, and a .223 Remington cartridge with a 62-grain bullet on the right, except for the noticeably longer bullet on the NATO load. The microscopic variances are in the chamber of the rifle itself.
Fig. 2. Note the headstamp differences, with .223 on the left and NATO-cross-marked 5.56mm on the right.
While this is ideal for an infantry carbine that may be fed ammo from dozens of manufacturers and countries across its lifespan– all made by the lowest bidder– the same cannot typically be said of the .223 Remington chambering, which was originally intended for hyper-accurate, although short-throated, commercial sporting rounds.
This can cause some problems. For instance, the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute, or SAAMI, the group that publishes the standards for commercial manufactures of guns and ammunition, says 5.56 NATO chambered rifles are safe to use with .223 Remington rounds, but the reverse– shooting 5.56 NATO from a .223 Remington-chambered rifle– is potentially unsafe due to the fact that the military round can often be a lot hotter, generating higher pressure in the commercial chamber which, in turn, was designed for tight tolerances.
Getting super nerdy, the .223 Rem chamber has a .2240 diameter leade/freebore with a freebore length of 0.25-inches and a 3-degree (ish) throat angle. The extremely similar 5.56×45 NATO chamber has a .2260 diameter freebore with a 0.59-inch freebore length and a 1 (ish) degree throat angle.
Both chambers use the same minimum headspace “GO” gauge that is 1.4636-inches while the 5.56 NATO has a deeper maximum depth.
To split the middle ground between the two variances, .223 Wylde is in the sweet spot between the minor differences in the two chambers’ freebore diameter/throat dimension, and leade angle – while using tighter headspacing than in 5.56 NATO military chambers.
This provides a chamber with very tight tolerances that allows the use of both .223 Remington and 5.56 NATO as well as special loads with longer bullets, going into the 80-grain range.
While workhorse field or duty guns are typically better off in 5.56 NATO, for those looking for a potentially more accurate, precision AR-15 platform without swapping to a 6.5CM or .224V, the .223 Wylde chambering tends to yield better performance with the option of keeping the rifle fed on standard 5.56 or .223 ammo lines.
As a bonus, the relieved case body in the chamber aids in extraction while producing a more “match” performance.
Where did 223 Wylde come from?
First off, you aren’t going to find a box of .223 Wylde ammo on the shelf anywhere, it is a chambering meant to take advantage of existing ammo options. The original concept sprang from the mind of gunsmith Bill Wylde who back in the 1990s specially cut custom DCM Service Rifle and High-Power Rifle barrel chambers to have his aforementioned “sweet spot”.
This allowed them to run larger pills with a better ballistic coefficient while still functioning in the AR’s standard direct gas impingement action.
While the concept originated at Wylde & Co. in Greenup, Illinois, by the early 2000s, small-scale AR makers like Rock River Arms in nearby Cleveland, Illinois– catering to the burgeoning MSR competition shooter market– were advertising “CMP Legal” National Match A2s with the magic of the vaunted new .223 Wylde chamber direct from the factory.
Eventually, more mainstream AR makers began to wade in and out of the Wylde waters, such as OG black rifle manufacturer Colt which introduced their short-lived Competition Pro models in the chambering in 2012, then followed it up with the Colt Competition Expert CRE-16GT/18T.
Today, however, that Wylde razzle dazzle is largely just practiced among 30 or so mostly upper-shelf AR makers who deliver accurized predator, 3-Gun match, and precision rifles to the market for discerning users. In that vein, some companies such as Hahn Tactical, Rise Armament and Seekins Precision, elect to use the .223 Wylde chamber format almost exclusively for their ARs.
What about .223 Wylde uppers?
On the bright side, Palmetto State Armory has long stocked a range of uppers with stainless steel barrels, fast twist rates, and Wylde chamberings, which are an inestimable boon to both home builders and those wanting to upgrade their stock ARs.
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