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Thread: Utility of a 223 Bolt Action

  1. #1
    Boolit Master northmn's Avatar
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    Utility of a 223 Bolt Action

    I should keep my 243 but really don't care for it and it will go down the road along with a bunch of reloading supplies so I don't get another one. Not going to knock it all that much, like the rest of you there are some calibers you don't care for and some you do.

    I am looking to get a Savage Axis in 223. I have one in 6.5CM and like it and I am too cheap to buy an expensive rifle although the Axis may see a Boyd's stock down the road. Really helped my 6.5CM. Thing about the 223 is its use. Mostly I need to get off my tail and shoot more. I have roughly 100 acres of land and want to build up a shooting range that is kind of fun just to plink on. I can get a little over 200 yards if I want. Another story. Don't really need another deer rifle and don't really go out after varmints but the 223 does kind of intrigue me. I like bolt actions. I used to party hunt when younger and still have a strong prejudice against those that use semi autos so they can miss a lot of shots but make ammo makers happy. Seen a lot of it and hear some of it on opening day now.


    Many of you must enjoy the 223. I see a lot of inexpensive ammo for them. I have had them before but due to too many rifles never shot them much, But it seems like a 22LR, may not shoot it much but seem to miss one if I don't have one. Ammo can be had so cheap it hardly pays to reload but I even have some Lyman molds in 22. Must be some use for one?


    DEP

  2. #2
    Boolit Master


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    The .223 is a fun shoot and relatively inexpensive to feed as well. I have a few AR's but purchased a Howa bolt action for plinking and varmints up to coyote. Brass is very inexpensive and that factors into the economics.

    I bought a mold for .223 but have never fired it up. I found Monmouth had 55 gr Hornady SP for $425 for 6000 and it made no sense for me to cast. Not a lot of cast success stories casting for .223 unless you want to inspect and weigh every bullet....and by the time you add cost of a hard alloy and the GC, saving $.03 a shot was not worth it to me. YMMV

    Trying to turn it into a .22 makes even less sense with .22's now at $1.50-2.00 a box. But I am lazy and do not enjoy casting.
    Don Verna

    NRA Endowment Member

  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    northmn,
    I have owned a good number of Savage rifles over the last fifty years, and I've found most of them to be pretty accurate. However, for just value for dollar spent, you owe it to yourself to at least look at the CZ527. It's hardly any more money than the Savage and comes with either synthetic or walnut stock and a set trigger that you can use as a set trigger or just use the trigger like a regular trigger. The set trigger will drop weight down to around 1.5lbs of very crisp trigger. Every one I've seen is very much sub 1moa for five shots. I've seen a bunch of them do in the .3's right out of the box with good hand loads. They also come with 1:9 twist which is the best compromise out there for med-hvy bullet weights. At least look before you make a decision. One other thing: a lot of that cheaper ammo doesn't shoot all that well. It's for spray and pray black rifles.....fun for the people who like to do that. Good luck.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master
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    I put down the 30-06 years ago when my shoulder gave out. Switched to .223 for its soft recoil, and still being able to kill deer. Have worked up load, powder and free bore to get good accuracy out to 300 yds. Now working on casting and (pc) with speed to get same accuracy. Have 28 acres and on east property line, built 300 yard range, with burms to catch behind targets and plates. Spray with round up to keep from mowing all summer. Built sturdy bench with sand bags for accuracy, and load testing. Max speed has been 3250 fps, any faster and groups open up. Freebore kept at .005 very accurate. Cast speed up to 1800 fps so far.

  5. #5
    Boolit Buddy Ateam's Avatar
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    I will second NSB, the cz527 I have has seen something like 10k prairie dogs, and it still shoots great. If I was to get another, I would like to play with the mossberg mvp, interesting design and I have heard good things about mossberg lately. Cheap too!

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    I put off buying a 223 for over 30 years , like you I shot a 243 for light shooting . But a couple years ago I decided to pick up a bolt action 223 to try my hand at light cast shooting , well I guess the cast shooting is still a work in progress but the 223 is a blast to shoot . Endless possibilities with the bullet selection , brass is laying around ever were , powder use is minimal , + their is a good chance you could pick up a set of usable dies for 10-20 bucks .
    I would have to say get one and try to shoot the barrel out of it .

  7. #7
    Boolit Grand Master Texas by God's Avatar
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    Heck yes get a .223! My brother had a 700V back in 1972. The 24" barrel made it all it could be. Very fun, don't need cast to make plinker loads. I've only killed a couple of deer with the .223 and it worked fine.

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G930A using Tapatalk

  8. #8
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    I picked up a CZ American 3 years back.
    It is the newest rifle purchase made in decades for me. I love it! Shoots great, easy to load for & it does have the longer chamber so it will eat 5.56 too.
    The trigger is nice for the old arthritic finger.
    I do find mil brass is a bit of a PIA to deal with it's OK for plinking. I prefer a commercial brass for reloading easier to deal with less work involved.
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  9. #9
    PAPERPATCH MASTER


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    I bought a Savage 111 heavy barrel when they were being closed out for the new Accu trigger models. I put a Timmney trigger on and adjusted it down to 2 1/2 lb. Next came a 4x12 Leupold scope. A Harris bi-pod finished it out. I now have, for my purposes, a lethal varmit .223 set up.Robert

  10. #10
    Boolit Master Tripplebeards's Avatar
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    I own 4, 243’s and 2, 223’s. The 223’s are a POF P415 and Remington LTR 700. Both of my 223’s will shoot .3”groups at 200 yards with my jacketed loads. I’ve dumped coyotes where they stand out to 250 yards with a 60gr vmax so far with them. Never had a longer shot yet. I’m getting 3650 FPS out of my LTR with 40 gr nosler ballistic tips and .3” groups at 200 yards as well. Both my rifles are AWSOME shooters. I had a 223 H&R laminated vaminter I sold to a buddy who passed recently. Wish I had it back. That thing would drive tacks at 100 yards.

    I still love my 243 for long range coyotes. It puts them down as far as you can see. They’re just hit and miss on fur destruction. I have a Remington VLS with a hs prescion stock, a Remington 600, and even though I’m not a fan of AR’s I just put together 2 varmint barreled AR 10’s in 243. Never tried them on deer just varmints. They are about the flattest shooting factory loaded caliber with a 55gr jacketed bullet.

    I think for my next varmint rifle I would like it 5 lbs or under to use as a light weight walking rifle. Probably chambered in 223 or 22-2250. Ruger makes a ranch rifle in 223 with an adjustable trigger. With a little polishing and removing a few coils you can get it around a crisp 1 to 1 1/4lbs. Takes me about 15min to so this. I like the CZ’s as well. The cz is a lot better quality but the Ruger with an adjustable trigger and bedding blocks is going to be ready to go right out of the box as far as I’m concerned.
    Last edited by Tripplebeards; 01-09-2019 at 07:56 PM.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master FergusonTO35's Avatar
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    Yes, a .223 bolt action is a very useful tool. I disagree with those who say the cartridge is not worth reloading. It really opens up your options and gives you the means to find the load that shoots best in your rifle and fits your specific needs. I have a Zastava 85 and like it alot. It is not really a carbine, but has a thin barrel and action scaled to the cartridge. I feed it 55 grain Hornady soft points over 18 grains Reloder 7, basically a .221 Fireball level load. Accuracy is superb and the barrel takes a long time to heat up. As with 9mm, you can pick up all the brass you want at the range.
    Currently casting and loading: .32 Auto, .380 Auto, .38 Special, 9X19, .357 Magnum, .257 Roberts, .30 WCF, .45-70 Gov't.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master Tripplebeards's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FergusonTO35 View Post
    Yes, a .223 bolt action is a very useful tool. I disagree with those who say the cartridge is not worth reloading. It really opens up your options and gives you the means to find the load that shoots best in your rifle and fits your specific needs. I have a Zastava 85 and like it alot. It is not really a carbine, but has a thin barrel and action scaled to the cartridge. I feed it 55 grain Hornady soft points over 18 grains Reloder 7, basically a .221 Fireball level load. Accuracy is superb and the barrel takes a long time to heat up. As with 9mm, you can pick up all the brass you want at the range.

    I also agree about reloading. My 1 in 9 twist 20” barrel loaded with 27 gr of benchmark pushes a 40 grain nosler ballistic tip at 3650fps. I can go another .7 gr according to nosler’s number 7 manual. The 223 will never be a 22-250 but its gets close to 22-250 hyper velocities, trajectory, and energy when reloading with lighter 40 grain bullets out to 400 yards.

  13. #13
    Boolit Buddy McFred's Avatar
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    I have a CZ in .223. The factory 9 twist really loved 50 Nosler BTs and 69 SMKs, but I rebarreled it to an 8 twist for 77s and 80s. Handloading should support killing everything from paper or rats on out to deer if you can place the proper bullet in the proper location. Seems that's a pretty broad brush for an inexpensive, lightweight rifle that's cheap to operate. What's not to like?

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    Savage has the Model 25 Walking Varminter. Pretty nice looking gun with a Boyds Stock, but the plastic wears so well...

  15. #15
    Boolit Master
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    I love my Axis HB in .223. Even with the factory stock and cheap scope (4-12 Bushnell) it was good for much less than MOA performance. I bought it because brass was easy to come by and reloading components are cheap. Barrel life is supposed to be very long. Doesn't take much powder in that little case. Small amount of recoil is nice too. I liked the rifle so much I put a Boyd's stock on it and a Vortex Diamondback scope. Has almost 1000 rounds through it now.

    I shoot paper and prefer longer ranges. I load 69 and 77gn Matchkings. Norma 69gn match bullets are almost as good. Hornady 75gn ELD Match are ok too. The furthest I have shot them so far is 500yd and the 77gn are still less than MOA at that range. Working on shooting them at 600yd. I have quite a few 5 round 1/2 in groups at 100yd with both of those bullets and several 10 round 1" groups at 200yd.

    I initially thought that it would be cheap to fire the .223 cause of all the ammo available. Turns out that much of it just is not very accurate. I have found the bulk stuff to be 2MOA or worse. I guess you can experiment to find some that fits your needs. I did not.

    The good news is that I have found the only critical component when reloading is the bullet (unless you are looking for bench rest accuracy). Mine does not like bulk bullets. I have quite a few 1/2" groups fired with mixed brass and charges thrown from a powder measure (Varget). One time I measured each charge as it was thrown and the spread was almost half a grain. They still shot better than MOA.

    So, my experience and what I use the rifle for, the .223 is an excellent value, even if not as cheap to shoot as I initially thought it would be.

  16. #16
    Boolit Master
    lefty o's Avatar
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    i wouldnt be without a 223 bolt gun. accuracy, varmints, target work, low recoil, cheap to shoot, easy to load for, etc, etc.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master
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    A bolt gun in 223?

    Oh yes!!

    All the jazz surrounding the 223 cartridge seems to involve 223 and an AR. Now most of that is deserved, a bolt gun in 223 is also just grand!

    My two are the handsome little CZ 527 American and the Ruger American Compact. I have a 223 barrel or two for Savage bolt guns but they seem to get used with other cartridges, 204 ... 257 Roberts, you name it.

    The argument has been made to handload the 223. I could not agree more and doubly so in a bolt gun.

    I hope the OP does get a 223 to his liking and it serves him well. Mine sure do!

    Best regards

    Three44s

  18. #18
    Boolit Master Forrest r's Avatar
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    Kind of hard to go wrong with a 223 bolt gun. It's also kind of hard to find a rifle/brand that won't shoot moa or less with several different brands of ammo or handloads. I was looking for a cheap range toy/223 bolt gun to test my home swaged bullets in. Ended up buying a cheap savage axis hb with the accru-trigger and 4-12x40 scope for $300 with the $50 mail in rebate. Sold the scope for another $50, ended up with $218 in the rifle ($18 tax). Never did anything to the rifle other than punch out the bore when I 1st got it with a couple dry patches and checked the torques on the hold down screws. Have no idea what the trigger is set at and I've used it as is/as it came out of the box. I put a 24x scope on that savage axis to test the home swaged bullets with.
    I was swaging 62gr hp's for the 223 using free range lead/free 22lr cases /free mixed range brass. Went to the range and ran some rounds thru it (+/- 50) testing it for function and getting the scope on paper. After that it was time to get serous so I grabbed some bl-c2 and made up loads for a ladder test using the home swaged bullets & mixed nato range brass. +/- 25.5gr of bl-c2 has always produced moa groups with bullets in the 55gr to 62gr weight range. The savage hb axis was no different.
    [IMG][/IMG]

    While not the best by any means, that 5-shot group ladder test was done after +/- 50 rounds down the tube then cleaned the bbl. Using home made bullets & mixed brass that fl sized/trimmed/loaded. The 25.5gr load put 3 in the same hole & 2 out for a group under .9". Not too bad for $.09 a round blammo ammo out of a beater 223.
    [IMG][/IMG]

    Never have tried/used cast bullets in the 223 & don't know if I ever will.

    I really don't think the brand of rifle matters when it comes to the lower price point rifles. It comes down to the bbl length/contour you'd want. Hb's do better for range time/play when doing high volumes of trigger time in 1 day/sitting.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master Shawlerbrook's Avatar
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    Yes, cannot beat the price of feeding a 223.

  20. #20
    Boolit Master RKJ's Avatar
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    I got a 700ADL in .223 as I was having so many problems loading for an AR, my thought was, "I know how to load for a bolt gun and I would be able to figure out the problem". Well, I did, (beside a loose nut behind the press, the sizing did was not set down far enough), but I also found I prefer the bolt gun to the AR. It's a blast to shoot, accurate and doesn't beat me up. What's not to like?
    When I wrote this, I missed where you said utility of one. I find I go to the range much more with that .223 than any other gun (pistol or rifle) that gets me out of the house (which makes my wife and I both happy) so the utility of it is it keeps life blissful.
    Last edited by RKJ; 01-12-2019 at 05:09 AM.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check