The Best 223 Rifle for All Your Small-Caliber Shooting

.223 Remington is one of the most versatile rifle rounds in history. It works in semi-automatic and bolt-action rifles. It’s strong enough for hunting certain animals. And it’s even a tactically viable cartridge.

That makes finding the best 223 rifle a bit tricky. The immediate question is, “Best 223 rifle for what?”

One of the limitations of firearms is that it’s tough to find a gun that does everything. That’s what makes identifying the best 223 rifle a tough task.

...But we did it… By finding a whole bunch of the best .223 rifles. That way you can find the best 223 rifle for YOU.

Radical Firearms 16” FCR AR-15 Rifle
  • Shoots 5.56mm in addition to .223.
  • Built almost entirely to mil-spec standards.
  • Includes Mission First Tactical furniture.

SPOILERthe best 223 rifle for MOST people is the Radical Firearms 16” FCR AR-15 Rifle. It’s super affordable. It’s tactically viable. And you could even bring it on a hunting trip, with a little creativity.

But, if that’s not your style, keep reading. We’ve got all sorts of .223 rifles that are perfect for a variety of shooting contexts.

Top 223 Rifle on the Market Today

Best 223 Rifle Reviews: From Tactical to Practical

The overall best 223 rifle will get reviewed first. The remaining best .223 rifles will be examined in order of price.

Looking for the most affordable .223 rifles? Read the first reviews.

Or skip those and head to the end if you’re looking for the ultimate .223 rifle.

Read the reviews that work best for you.

1. Radical Firearms 16” FCR AR-15 Rifle - Overall Best .223 Rifle

A lot of people bag on Radical Firearms. And Radical Firearms does make somewhat basic budget rifles. But Radical Firearms guns work. You just don’t get many bells and whistles with them.

So the Radical Firearms 16” FCR AR-15 Rifle is a great buy. It’s a solid AR-15 rifle that’s affordable enough that you can buy one and still have money left in your budget for ammo.

First, this is technically a 5.56mm rifle. But it works just fine with .223 ammunition. A 5.56mm rifle can shoot .223 rounds. But it doesn’t go the other way. A .223 rifle can’t take the pressures of 5.56mm rounds.

That makes this rifle even stronger and more durable than a standard .223 rifle.

At its core, this is a mil-spec AR-15 rifle. All the specs are pretty much mil-spec to a tee:

Barrel with a 1 in 7 twist rate and M4 feed ramps.

Forged 7075-T6 aluminum receiver set.

Carbine length gas system.

However, there are a few upgrades.

First, the furniture is from Mission First Tactical. The stock is a super minimalist stock that’s completely functional, but super lightweight. And the pistol grip offers a super comfortable texture and relatively minor grip angle to keep your wrist and elbow in a natural shooting position.

And, lastly, this rifle is equipped with a free float M-LOK handguard, which is notably better than a mil-spec A2 handguard.

What’s the downside in all this? This is a mil-spec rifle. And that means the trigger and recoil components are mil-spec.

So the trigger isn’t as good and the recoil impulse is a bit sharper than some other rifles. You just don’t get quite as much comfort from a complete mil-spec rifle.

But the price is incredible. And these rifles work. If you need an affordable rifle that’s good enough for almost any type of shooting, this one will do the trick.

Pros

  • Shoots 5.56mm in addition to .223.
  • Built almost entirely to mil-spec standards.
  • Includes Mission First Tactical furniture.
  • Fitted with an M-LOK free float handguard.

Cons

  • Mil-spec trigger is merely adequate.
  • Not as smooth recoiling as some more expensive rifles.

If a bolt action rifle is more your speed, the Weatherby Vanguard Synthetic .223 Rem Bolt Action Rifle. It’s super affordable. And it’s an impressively well-built rifle.

The big deal with this rifle is that this rifle comes with a sub-MOA guarantee. Weatherby guarantees that his rifle will shoot incredibly tight groups if you use good ammunition. You get a lot of confidence with this rifle.

Additionally, this rifle is fitted with an adjustable 2-stage trigger. The trigger breaks the overall pull weight into two lighter stages. This helps you press your trigger without moving your muzzle.

Then the stock is synthetic, with rubber inserts that are super comfortable and offer excellent grip, even when your hands are wet or sweaty.

Overall, the ergonomics ensure that you can get those sub-MOA groups that this rifle is capable of.

My only complaint about this rifle is that the 24-inch barrel is rifled with a 1 in 9 inch rate of twist.

This is a bit confusing because 1 in 9 isn’t great for shooting heavier bullets. It’s not a safety issue. It’s just that 1 in 9 inch twist doesn’t stabilize heavier bullets as much as is optimal.

But it works. And you won’t even notice if you stick to bullets lighter than 75 grains.

The price is also excellent. If you want a really nice bolt-action .223 rifle for varminting or competition shooting, this Weatherby rifle will deliver the performance without busting your budget.

Pros

  • Comes with a sub-MOA guarantee.
  • Fitted with an adjustable 2-stage trigger.
  • Synthetic stock with rubber inserts is super comfortable and offers exceptional grip traction.
  • 24-inch barrel produces good ballistic performance at max range.

Cons

  • 1 in 9 twist isn’t great for shooting heavier bullets.

3. Savage Arms Model 10T-SR Tactical Bolt-Action Rifle - Budget Bolt-Action .223 Rifle

Savage is another company that delivers exceptional value for the money. The Savage Arms Model 10T-SR Tactical Bolt-Action Rifle is a great example of that price-to-performance ratio.

One of the best features of Savage rifles is the AccuTrigger. It’s an adjustable trigger with a trigger safety that can be set to a super low pull weight without any safety issues. You can set the trigger as low as 1.5 pounds, if you want.

Some shooters don’t like the feel of the AccuTrigger, because you have to depress the safety tab. But, once you get used to it, the safety is barely noticeable.

Additionally, the action is a Savage 110 action with an enlarged bolt handle for faster and easier operation. It’s a super reliable action that you can run quickly when you need fast follow-up shots.

And the action is bedded in a polymer stock that’s lighter and more weather resistant than a classic wooden stock.

The synthetic stock takes detachable magazines. I prefer a detachable magazine because it makes range time more efficient and makes it faster and easier to keep your rifle full of bullets.

Last detail: the 24-inch barrel is capped with a threaded muzzleThis enables you to add muzzle devices to your rifle for easier or quieter shooting.

The stock is a rather classic design, though. The stock is not adjustable. And the recoil pad is rather dense rubber. It works just fine. But adjustable stocks have kind of become the standard these days.

That’s a small fault, though. Overall, this is a super affordable and capable bolt-action .223 rifleIf you need precision on a budget, this Savage Arms rifle is for you.

Pros

  • Adjustable trigger can be set as low as 1.5 pounds without causing any safety issues.
  • Savage 110 action with an enlarged bolt handle is reliable and easy to operate.
  • Polymer stock is lighter and more weather resistant than a wood stock.
  • Accepts detachable magazines.
  • 24-inch barrel with a threaded muzzle for attaching a suppressor or other muzzle device.

Cons

  • Some shooters don’t like the feel of the trigger safety tab.
  • Stock is not adjustable.

The Savage 110 Hunter Bolt-Action Rifle is one of Savage’s flagship rifles. And it’s a well-made rifle that’s comfortable and precise.

Like other Savage rifles, this rifle is equipped with Savage’s AccuTrigger. The trigger is adjustable and can be set about as low as you want. And the trigger break is very crisp.

Some shooters complain about the feel of the AccuTrigger because you can feel the safety tab. But, once you get used to it, it’s pretty much unnoticeable. And the trigger safety enables you to set the pull weight super low without any safety concerns.

Additionally, the stock is adjustable for length of pull and comb height. That way you can set the stock where it fits your arms and where you consistently get a perfect cheek weld with your optic aligned with your line of sight.

Also, the stock is synthetic with rubber inserts on the grip and foregripThe rubber grip inserts definitely give you better grip traction than bare polymer. And the rubber inserts offer much more comfort than bare polymer, as well.

One more thing about the stock and action: this rifle takes detachable magazinesThat’s nice for making your range time more efficient and speeding up your reloads.

Lastly, the barrel is forged from carbon steelThe barrel is impressively precise and lasts for a ridiculously long time.

My main complaint about the 110 is that Savage magazines are super expensive. I’m not sure why. But you’re gonna have to pay for additional magazines.

Other than that, though, this is a remarkably affordable rifle that’s precise enough for just about any type of shooting.

Pros

  • Equipped with the Savage AccuTrigger which can be set at a super low pull weight without any safety concerns.
  • Adjustable length of pull and comb height.
  • Rubber inserts make the polymer stock comfortable and offer excellent grip traction.
  • Accepts detachable magazines.
  • Carbon steel barrel is precise and lasts for a super long time.

Cons

  • You may not like the feel of the trigger safety tab.
  • Magazines are stupid expensive.

5. Ruger AR-556 Semi-Auto Rifle - Budget Semi-Auto .223 Rifle

The Ruger AR-556 Semi-Auto Rifle is one of the best budget AR-15 rifles around. It’s remarkably affordable. And it’s got pretty rugged construction.

Like many other AR-15 rifles, this is actually a 5.56mm rifle. However, it fires .223 ammunition just fine. And the 5.56mm chamber is actually stronger than a .223 chamber. So you get a slight bump in durability in addition to broader ammunition compatibility.

Now, this is nearly a mil-spec rifle.

It’s got a carbine length gas system with an A2-style front sight gas block. And the stock is a standard 6-position mil-spec stock.

Most other aspects of this rifle are upgraded, though.

The gas block is reinforced so that it’s stronger than a mil-spec gas block. And the muzzle device is Ruger’s own compensator, rather than a standard A2 compensator.

At the rear end, the rear sight is a Magpul MBUS folding rear sight which folds down to get out of the way if you run an optic.

Also, the pistol grip is better than a standard A2 pistol grip. The trip texture is more comfortable. This pistol grip does away with the finger tab that mostly just gets in the way.

Unfortunately, the grip angle is pretty much the same as a standard A2 pistol grip, which isn’t all that comfortable. But people have been using A2 grips for a long time. An A2 grip is good enough for government work.

Internally, this Rugerhttps://ruger.com/products/ar556/overview.html rifle is almost entirely mil-spec. The only deviation from the military specifications is the 1 in 8 inch rate of twist, which is actually better than a 1 in 7 twist, since it works better with the most common .223 bullet weights.

The only real downside to some of the upgrades on this rifle is that it adds a bit of weight. This rifle only weighs 6.7 pounds unloaded. But that’s slightly heavier than some similar rifles.

It’s only slightly heavier, though. And this is still a super affordable rifle that runs really well and lasts for a long timeBuying this rifle is definitely money well spent.

Pros

  • Reinforced A2-style gas block is super durable.
  • Upgraded compensator works better and looks cooler than an A2 birdcage.
  • Rear sights fold to keep your line of sight clear for mounting an optic.
  • Pistol grip is far more comfortable than a standard A2 pistol grip.
  • 1 in 8 inch rate of twist stabilizes the most common bullet weights very well.

Cons

  • Just a tad heavier than a true mil-spec rifle.
  • Carbine length gas system produces a fairly sharp recoil impulse.
  • Upgraded pistol grip has the same steep grip angle as an A2 grip.

6. Ruger AR-556 MPR Semi-Auto Rifle - Value Semi-Automatic .223 Rifle

The Ruger AR-556 MPR Semi-Auto Rifle is an upgraded Ruger AR-556 that gives you much better ergonomics and durability. Most of the components have some sort of upgrade.

First, the barrel has a black nitride coating rather than a phosphate finish. And the barrel is capped with a radial flash suppressor.

Moving back, the handguard is a free float M-LOK handguard. It’s a huge upgrade over a standard A2 handguard.

The only downside of a handguard like this is that you can feel the heat from the barrel more than with an A2 handguard. But you’ll only notice if you’re doing a lot of rapid fire. And the rail is far more customizable and modular than a classic handguard.

On the backend, this rifle is equipped with Magpul furniture, which is a huge upgrade over a mil-spec stock and pistol grip.

Lastly, the trigger is an upgraded mil-spec trigger. Ruger calls it their Elite 452 Trigger. But it’s essentially a mil-spec trigger with an upgraded finish and polished surfaces to smooth out the trigger movement and give you a cleaner break.

It’s nothing mind blowing. But the trigger is definitely better than a standard mil-spec trigger.

The only double-edged sword on this rifle is the barrel. It’s an 18-inch barrel, which is great for long range precision and ballistic performance.

However, this rifle might feel a bit hard to handle for some shooters. It’s definitely a long gun.

But, if you want long range performance, this rifle delivers. And it’s still completely manageable, even with the slightly longer barrel.

If you want an affordable rifle that’s tactically viable right out of the box, this .223 rifle is the perfect choice.

Pros

  • Black nitride finished barrel looks better and resists corrosion better than a phosphate coated barrel.
  • Radial flash suppressor works better than a birdcage flash hider.
  • Free float M-LOK handguard is super customizable.
  • Magpul furniture is far more comfortable than mil-spec furniture.
  • Improved mil-spec trigger is good for tactical and precision shooting.

Cons

  • You can feel the heat from the barrel through the handguard during rapid fire.
  • 18-inch barrel might be a bit unwieldy for some shooters.

Geissele Automatics is one of the most respected names in firearms. And the Geissele Automatics LLC Super Duty Rifle is definitely a respectable rifle.

The things that really set this rifle apart from the rest are the trigger, the handguard, and the lower receiver.

First, the trigger is a Geissele SSA-E X trigger with a Lightning Bow. It’s a super nice 2-stage trigger with a 2.8 to 3.6 pound overall pull weight. So you get two really light trigger stages that make it super easy to press your trigger without moving your muzzle.

Then, the handguard is a Geissele MK16 rail. It’s a slim rail that’s super comfortable to grip. And it has tons of M-LOK slots for adding accessories wherever you want them.

The lower receiver is a Geissele Super Duty lower receiver, which is a great part on its own. But it’s also stuffed with an enhanced lower parts kit that gives you a much better safety selector, bolt release tab, and magazine release.

All the controls are super easy to reach and offer excellent tactile feedback for running your gun quickly under stress.

On the backend, this rifle is equipped with a B5 Systems SOPMOD stockIt’s easily one of the most comfortable stocks you can get. The rubber recoil pad is super thick. And the body is angled to give you a perfect cheek weld, every time.

Honestly, every other part of this gun is upgraded, too. But I can only write so much about one gun.

So what’s the catch? There are two things to know:

The barrel is made with a 1 in 7 inch twist. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s most ideal for heavy bullets. Most shooters won’t notice. But your bullets will be very slightly over stabilized with 55 grain bullets.

Then, this Geissele rifle is a bit expensive. Granted, there are far more expensive AR-15 rifles out there. But this one is on the high end of the average price range.

However, the build quality and ergonomics make this rifle more than worth the money. It’s actually a really well priced high-end rifle.

Pros

  • Geissele SSA-E X trigger delivers an incredible trigger press.
  • Rail is super comfortable and has tons of M-LOK attachment points.
  • Enhanced lower parts kit makes your rifle much easier to operate quickly under stress.
  • B5 Systems stock is one of the best stocks you can get.
  • Every other part of this gun is also upgraded. We’re just out of space for this review!

Cons

  • 1 in 7 twist isn’t ideal for some of the most common bullet weights.
  • Pistol grip has a steep grip angle that’s not much more comfortable than an A2 grip.

From Targets to Tactics

.223 isn’t a huge or super powerful round. But it’s versatile and easy to shoot. A .223 rifle is a great tool to have in your collection.

But there are a lot of rifles that could be the best .223 rifle, depending on what sort of shooting you do.

Radical Firearms 16” FCR AR-15 Rifle

If you need to narrow the options down to a manageable choice, get the Radical Firearms 16” FCR AR-15 Rifle. It’s a super affordable rifle. And it’s versatile enough for most types of shooting.

Now that you’ve seen the options, it’s time to add a .223 rifle to your quiver and make your gun collection more capable.