Being confused by the difference between a .223 and a 5.56 is a rite of passage for hobbyists and gun enthusiasts beginning to explore the world of semi-automatic firearms. The two cartridges are nearly identical at first glance but require slightly different chambers to fire accurately and safely. The .223 Wylde chamber is a hybrid design optimized to safely and effectively fire both .223 Remington and 5.56 cartridges.
With a Wylde barrel, you can bridge the gap between these two chambers to get the best of both worlds.
.223 Wylde Overview
The .223 Wylde hybrid barrel is a genius feat of simple design that finds the middle ground between a 5.56 NATO chamber and a .223 Remington chamber, allowing you to use whichever cartridges you have on hand.
Generally, barrels designed for the 5.56 NATO have long leades, or throats, and shallow leade angles. 5.56 chambers have big freebore diameters to allow lots of space for the cartridge and bullet to travel through. Because of the higher pressure load of the 5.56 cartridge, the 5.56 NATO chamber is designed to withstand greater pressures whenever you fire.
On the other hand, the .223 barrel features a short leade and a steeper leade angle. The cartridges are loaded for lower pressure, so the shorter leade and quicker rifling engagement allows the gun to develop enough pressure to effectively fire the .223's bullet at a high velocity.
To create the Wylde chamber, engineer and gunsmith Bill Wylde combined the long lead and shallow angle of the 5.56 chamber with the smaller freebore diameter of the .223 chamber. Wylde's chamber is designed to withstand both pressure levels safely while also delivering high levels of accuracy for both types of cartridges.
The History of .223, 5.56 and .223 Wylde
In post-war 1950s America, the military realized that they could benefit from new lightweight firearms with smaller, more effective ammunition. They put out a call to gunmakers and inventors nationwide to come up with solutions and create the next big thing for their arsenal. A team at ArmaLite, led by Eugene Stoner, got to work developing what would eventually become the county's most popular semi-automatic firearm.
Stoner and his team soon introduced their first AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, which chambered .222 Remington cartridges. After some testing, they found that the .222 cartridges weren't achieving the results they'd hoped for, so they worked with Remington to develop a slightly longer, heavier cartridge called the .222 special — and quickly renamed the Remington .223.
The U.S. Airforce picked up the .223 cartridge and began testing and refining the ammunition for military use. They needed the cartridge to be hardier and more powerful, so they packed in more powder to create a higher pressure round they called the 5.56. In the 80s, NATO tested and approved the 5.56 as a standard cartridge for small arms calibers, propelling it into use by NATO and non-NATO infantry forces around the world.
The two cartridges remained similar, but the differences in pressure meant they needed different chamber setups to fire safely and effectively. In the 1990s, Bill Wylde decided to try to find a compromise that would allow him to use one chamber to fire either cartridge. His Wylde chamber let him enjoy the ultimate versatility while feeling confident in his safety and achieving consistent accuracy no matter which cartridge he used.
Since the .223 Wylde chamber hit the market, it has steadily gained traction and become increasingly more popular. Today, it's one of the most popular barrel options for AR-15 owners.
Benefits of .223 Wylde Chambers
If you plan to shoot both .223 and 5.56 cartridges, a barrel chambered in .223 Wylde is one of the best investments you can make. Sure, you can use a 5.56 NATO chamber with either round, but shooters often find that they have reduced accuracy when using .223 ammunition in these barrels.
For the same price, you could invest in a hybrid Wylde barrel designed to handle either cartridge interchangeably with added safety and consistent accuracy. The Wylde barrel allows you to use whichever ammunition you have on hand, which can be useful when prices and supply chains fluctuate.
No matter what you use your gun for, having the ability to switch seamlessly between .223 and 5.56 cartridges without sacrificing accuracy is endlessly advantageous.
Browse .223 Wylde Barrels
For AR-15 rifle owners, switching to a Wylde chamber is as easy as swapping in a new barrel. Browse our collection of top-rated .223 Wylde barrels to find the perfect fit for your favorite semi-automatic gun. Please reach out to our team online if you have any lingering questions about how you could benefit from a .223 Wylde barrel.