Predators & Small Game
The .223 for Deer
AR-15 rifles are among the most popular types of firearms in the country right now, and for good reason. They’re extremely accurate, easy to personalize, and a ball to shoot. Though they’re among the best guns out there for a predator hunter, whitetail hunters often wonder, “Should I use a .223 for deer?”
Before considering anything else, check and see if it’s legal to use a .22-caliber bullet in your state—in many states, it isn’t. Question answered. But if it is and you want to hunt with your gun, you’d best pick your bullet carefully.
With your .30-06 or .270, just about any bullet you choose will work fine for deer. But that’s definitely not the case with a .22 centerfire. Not long ago, there weren’t many deer-worthy bullets available for the .223. You were either limited to full-metal-jacket rounds (which are unsuitable and often illegal) or highly frangible hollowpoints and softpoints, which fragment virtually on impact. But now several companies offer heavier .22-caliber bullets designed specifically for deep penetration and controlled expansion. Winchester has the 64-grain Powerpoint in .223. Federal has several deer-worthy bullets in its factory ammo lineup, including a 60-grain Nosler Partition and a 55-grain Barnes Triple Shock X. Remingon has a 62-grain Core Lokt Ultra Bonded load. Black Hills, CorBon and others also offer a variety of heavy, deer-worthy .223 loads.
No matter the construction, keep in mind the heaviest of these bullets is just a little over half the size of a standard .243 deer bullet—a caliber many hunters feel is marginal for whitetails. Regardless of the bullet, the .223 cannot be trusted on heavy bone, quartering, or long-range shots. But keep it within 100 yards, keep it broadside, and aim carefully. Hit even the biggest buck through the lungs with a .223 and the right bullet, and he’ll be dead in seconds.