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AR-15 5.56/.223 Barrels

When you're building an AR-15, you have many options. From stock configuration to grip choice to buffer assembly, there are endless opportunities for customization.

Choosing the right barrel is crucial to getting the most out of your firearm, as every detail of your barrel directly impacts its performance. At Wing Tactical, we want to help you choose the best barrel for your build, so we're breaking down the differences between the popular 5.56 and .223 barrels.

5.56 vs. .223 Barrel

The 5.56 NATO and .223 Remington chamberings are popular options thanks to offering flat trajectories, high velocities and limited recoil. The two rounds are very similar with virtually no visual differences — in fact, their exterior case dimensions are identical. However, the 5.56 and the .223 are not interchangeable. Barrels with these chamberings have some significant differences that impact safety, performance and functionality. 

Pressure

Though their case and projectiles may be nearly identical, 5.56 and .223 barrels have a major difference in loading pressure. 

The .223 Remington is a civilian barrel. When NATO began testing it and the United States military showed interest in it, they increased the pressure to improve reliability, resulting in the 5.56 NATO barrel. 

5.56 NATO cartridges have higher pressure levels of 58,000 pounds per square inch (psi), while .223 cartridges only have 55,000 psi. The higher pressure ensures military rounds fire dependably and pushes a stable projectile with minimal fuss in various conditions. 

Because of this pressure difference, a 5.56 NATO round doesn't have any extra room in a .223 chamber. If you shoot a 5.56 NATO out of a .223 chamber, pressure will increase rapidly to unsafe levels, which can blow out primers and even damage the upper receiver.

However, it is safe to use a .223 round in a 5.56 NATO barrel — it just won't be as accurate as using .223 ammo in a .223 chamber.

Throat

5.56 NATO chambers have a longer throat, which is the distance between the cartridge's mouth and where the rifling starts to engage. It's almost twice the length of most .223 Remington chambers. 

The 5.56's longer throat allows for a slightly greater power load, creating a more pressurized projectile. It's also less prone to retaining fired cases and makes it easier to extract unfired ammo. This capability can be an advantage in a tactical environment and a plus for shooters who occasionally come across an oversized case. 

Brands We Carry

At Wing Tactical, we offer top-notch AR-15 parts and accessories. You'll find 5.56 and .223 barrels manufactured by leading brands including:

  • Spike's Tactical
  • Aero Precision
  • Noveske
  • Ballistic Advantage
  • Faxon Firearms
  • WMD Guns
  • CMC Triggers
  • HM Defense
  • Strike Industries
  • V Seven Weapon Systems

5.56 and .223 Barrel FAQs

What happens when you mix 5.56 and .223 ammo?

You can shoot both .223 and 5.56 ammo safely from a 5.56 chamber, but shooting 5.56 ammo from a .223 Rem. chamber can result in catastrophic rifle damage and potentially harm the shooter. 

If you fire 5.56 ammo from a .223 Rem. chamber, the primer will likely blow out, which can damage the firearm or block moving parts as the action tries to cycle. The hotter 5.56 load also causes case expansion that can be problematic in the tighter .223 Rem. chamber. This case expansion can cause extraction failures and damage the upper receiver in extreme instances.

Which is better for my AR-15?

Whether a 5.56 or .223 barrel is better for your rifle depends in large part on how you plan to use your AR-15. If you want to get into handloading and pursue maximum accuracy, the .223 is likely to serve you best. For those who plan to put in long hours on the range and like to save money by buying bulk ammunition, it's hard to beat a 5.56. 

Want to keep your options open? A .223 Wylde barrel can fire both rounds while maintaining accuracy. 

Benefits of Buying 5.56 and .223 Barrels From Wing Tactical

Wing Tactical provides high-quality products at affordable prices. When you shop with us, you'll get:

  • Satisfaction guarantee: We ensure your total satisfaction by offering expert support before and after you buy from us. You can also return products hassle-free within 30 days of your purchase.
  • 5.56 and .223 barrels chosen by our knowledgeable team: The team at Wing Tactical includes experienced shooters and AR-15 enthusiasts. We hand-pick each part in our inventory, so you can buy our products with confidence.
  • Fast shipping: We get your items delivered fast, with next-day shipping available on all orders.
  • Military and law enforcement discounts: We offer exclusive discounts to law enforcement officers and military personnel to thank you for your service. As a veteran-owned business, we're proud to give back to our fellow service members.

Purchase 5.56 and .223 Barrels Online Today

Search our inventory to find the right barrel for your rifle, or contact our expert team for assistance.