One of my biggest gun accomplishments in 2011 was falling back in love with my AR. As some of our readers might remember, I received my AR as a gift in the summer of 2009 (thanks Mom!). After dumping about two mags worth of ammo down the barrel, I realized that I now had a really fancy gun that didn’t do anything I used a gun for. I feel that .223 REM is a little light for hunting deer and hogs in my area. That isn’t to say that it can’t be done, but I prefer something with a little more mass. I don’t shoot competitively. Even if I did, the 20-inch barrel is a bit much to swing around in the shooting bay. So I found myself with a super cool looking gun that I didn’t really need…
Once I started writing for TTAG, I realized that I would need a good testing rig for optics as well as the plethora of AR accessories out there. And suddenly, my gun became a lot more interesting. After I installed a trigger from Timney, I realized that I had a pretty legitimate contender on my hands. At that point, I went looking for some factory ammo that would really perform. In doing so, I collected some data that I wanted to share with our loyal readers.
Important to note is that I have the Armalite M15A4 SPR. This has a 20-inch barrel with a 1 in 9 inch twist. Obviously, every gun is different so your mileage might vary. I took to the range to test four kinds of ammo. All tests were done at an indoor range at 100 yards. I cleaned the bore with a boresnake between five shot strings and let the barrel cool completely.
First up was the 55 gr PMC Bronze. When I’m not testing scopes and want to shoot cheap, I turn to PMC. I picked up some at my local gun store the other day for $6.80/20 round box. That works out to about $0.35/round. You can find it online for less, but shipping might eat up any savings over local. Average shot radius was .7 inches across five shots. I have fired hundreds of rounds of this particular round and have yet to have any issues with quality.
Next up was the 55 gr. FMJ from Black Hills. At about $0.46/round, it is certainly a bit pricier than the PMC Bronze ammo. The vertical stringing you see here is very likely shooter induced. I seem to remember this not going well. Taking the best three shows an average shot radius of .215 inches. Across the five shots, average shot radius was just a touch over an inch. Yikes, I’ll need to go back to the range to collect some better data! Luckily, I used the Black Hills 55 gr. FMJ ammo in my Timney. Results are here.
Third to the table is the 60 gr VMax from Black Hills. At $0.66/round, you are starting to approach regular ammo prices. Save for that one little guy that eeked out there to the right, this is ragged hole territory. Average shot radius of the five shot group is .326 inches. When I finally line up a varmint hunt, this is going to be my load of choice. But for scope tests and such, the 55 gr. FMJ is quite a bit more practical.
Most disappointing was the 77 gr. Sierra MatchKing Hollow Point from Black Hills. With an average shot radius over five shots of .916 inches, it is certainly minute of vital zone at 100 yards. I didn’t really have high expectations as Armalite only recommends 52-69 gr. ammo out of their 1:9 barrels. I would really like to see what this could do out of a faster twist barrel like that 18 inch Noveski with the 1:7 that Nick is always raving about. If I were building a .223 REM gun for hunting deer in my neck of the woods, I would be building it around that 77 gr. bullet and Noveski would be getting a call from me.
I hope this helps those that are searching for an accurate round. I can highly recommend the Black Hills ammunition. In hundreds of rounds, I have yet to have a FTF, FTE, or any other acronym suggesting failure. If you have a 20-inch barrel with a 1:9 twist, give some serious consideration to any of the 55 grain or 60 grain bullets out there. Anything beyond that and you’ll start to see some degradation in accuracy. If you have any other ammunition that you have had good luck with, please let me know. I’ll try to get it tested out ASAP.