Best AR-15 Ammo [2022]: Range & Home Defense

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Not sure the best ammo to feed your AR for the range and home defense?

We’ll go over caliber, barrel twist, bullet type, and price range to find your perfect fit.

Popular 5.56 and .223 Ammo

It’s still getting hard to find affordable ammo to feed your AR with demand/supply issues spilling over into 2022. Steel case is plentiful but brass is more scarce.

But we go through every few weeks and update with what’s in stock:

And Lucky Gunner has their .223 ammo and 5.56 ammo.

Brownells also has an in-stock ammo section.

Can’t wait?  Here’s the best AR-15 ammo:

  1. American Eagle XM193
  2. American Eagle XM855
  3. PMC X-TAC LAP
  4. PMC Bronze .223
  5. Wolf Gold .223
  6. Federal Gold Medal
  7. Federal LE Hi-Shok
  8. Speer Gold Dot Duty

Ready to see why we chose these and the best places to find them for cheap?

Table of Contents

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AR-15 Calibers: 5.56 vs .223

Your average AR-15 comes in two popular calibers, the 5.56x45mm NATO and the .223 Remington.

You can double-check what it is by looking at your model specs or physically on your barrel, which should be stamped with the caliber and barrel twist rate.

Faxon 16" Pencil Barrel
Faxon 16″ Pencil Barrel

The two cartridges are physically identical but the 5.56 may be loaded to higher pressures than .223 ammunition.

The .223  is a civilian round and has SAAMI specs (an organization that sets standards for pressure and dimensions) while the 5.56 is a military round that has its own specifications that might require higher pressure for higher velocity.

XM193 Rounds
XM193 5.56 Rounds

Therefore, it’s best to follow the advice:

  • 5.56 chamber: OK to fire both 5.56 and .223
  • .223 Wylde chamber: OK to fire both 5.56 and .223
  • .223 Rem chamber: OK to fire only .223

Please note that .223 Rem and .223 Wylde are not the same things. One (Wylde) is perfectly safe to fire either 5.56 or .223, however, a .223 Rem chamber is not safe to fire 5.56 NATO.

Your barrel or rifle probably won’t instantly blow up from shooting a 5.56 in a .223, but why risk it?

Combine that with the variance in the machining of the barrel and ammo production standards, it’s best to use the proper ammunition.

AR-15 Barrel Twist

Your barrel stamp should indicate the barrel twist after the caliber.

Criterion Barrels, Different Coatings
Criterion Barrels, Different Coatings

You should see a ratio of 1:7 all the way up to 1:12 and it means that the barrel will spin the bullet one revolution every X inches.  Most barrels will be from 1:7 to 1:9 twist, with the most popular being 1:9.

Take a look at the chart below to see the ideal twist rate for your barrel.

Ideal Bullet Weight vs Twist, Shooters Log
Ideal Bullet Weight vs Twist, Shooters Log

The heavier grain bullets are usually reserved for the military and their tracer rounds.

With normal cartridges, you’re most likely to see 55-grain and 62-grain bullets. These are fine to shoot in 1:7 to 1:9 barrels and you probably won’t even notice a difference up to 300-yards.

Bullet Types

You’ll see two big families of bullet types, the full metal jackets (FMJ) and the hollowpoint/softpoints (HP/SP).

XM193 Rounds
XM193 Rounds, FMJ

The FMJ’s are great for plinking while HP/SP are more for home defense or long-range applications. FMJ is also sometimes called Ball ammo.

9mm 147 Federal Hydrashok HST
9mm Hollowpoints For Example

Don’t you love multiple names for things…

Other confusing acronyms you might see include (BT) which means boat-tail and indicate the back of the bullet has a more aerodynamic shape than simply cutting off straight.

62gr XM855 vs 77gr SMK vs 55gr FMJ
62gr XM855 vs 77gr SMK vs 55gr FMJ

Lastly, if you’re looking at military 5.56 rounds, you’ll see M193 and M855. The 55 grain M193 is the standard FMJ of the military while the 62 grain M855 is the “green tip” penetrator round that has a steel rod inside.

Green Tip 5.56 XM855
Green Tip 5.56 XM855

Things to keep in mind for M193 vs M855:

  • Pricing is similar
  • M855 is better at penetration (duh?)
  • Some ranges do not allow steel core ammo like the M855
  • M193 is better at soft targets under 100 yards
  • More info about the differences
  • Most of the time you’ll see XM instead of just M…that means it didn’t quite meet military specifications but still meets commercial specs.  Learn more here.
Clip of 5.56 XM193
Clip of 5.56 XM193

For more on how to pick the right ammo for your AR-15, check out the Brownells Daily Defense video below.

Where to Buy

We’ve selected a couple of our favorite online places to buy ammo. We’ve been buying from them ever since we got started and they have great live inventory, appropriate shipping charges, and quick service.

And since prices and inventory fluctuate, we recommend looking at all the vendors to see the price differences.  Sometimes one will be running free shipping deals!

Finally…the recommendations!

Best AR-15 Ammo

Now we combine the good stuff we learned above and stick to 55/62 grain bullets that are close to military specifications. These are the rounds that we’ve shot tons of and never had a problem.

Assorted 5.56 Rounds (XM193, XM855, Gold Medal 69gr)
Assorted 5.56 Rounds (XM193, XM855, Gold Medal 69gr)

Our suggestions are also all brass-cased so you can keep them if you think you might ever start to reload your own ammo in the future.

1. American Eagle XM193

Our Editor’s Pick is currently American Eagle XM193 since it’s never failed to go *boom.*

Federal XM193
XM193

And the price is almost always one of the lowest.

  • 25% off all OAKLEY productsOAKLEY25


2. PMC X-TAC XP193

Our second choice is PMC which also has never failed but is often a cent or two more than American Eagle.

PMC X-TAC 5.56
PMC X-TAC 5.56
  • 25% off all OAKLEY productsOAKLEY25


3. American Eagle XM855

Our favorite green tip ammo suggestion is going to sound about the same…what can I say, it works and the price is right.

Green Tip M855
Green Tip M855

Best 5.56 XM855 (Green Tip)

  • 25% off all OAKLEY productsOAKLEY25


4. PMC X-TAC XM855

And PMC’s X-TAC XM855 variant is also GTG.

  • 25% off all OAKLEY productsOAKLEY25


5. PMC Bronze

If your barrel is .223 or if you want to shoot some slightly lighter loads in your 5.56 barrel.

PMC Bronze .223 55gr
PMC Bronze .223 55gr

My personal favorite is PMC Bronze since it’s affordable and the brass is great for reloading. Plus…it’s on the low end of recoil so I love it for competition.

  • 25% off all OAKLEY productsOAKLEY25


6. Wolf Gold

If you aren’t looking to reload and want the best bang for the buck…all my buddies and I love Wolf Gold. Buy it cheap (1,000 round boxes) and stack it deep! 

Wolf Gold .223 55gr
Wolf Gold .223 55gr

Wolf Gold is made in Taiwan and not Russia like other Wolf ammo.

Best .223 Bang-for-the-Buck

  • 25% off all OAKLEY productsOAKLEY25


And finally…if you’re going for pure accuracy…

7. Federal Gold Match 69gr

Our favorite when we do our accuracy testing.

Assorted 5.56 Rounds (XM193, XM855, Gold Medal 69gr)
Assorted 5.56 Rounds (XM193, XM855, Gold Medal 69gr)

And the “gold” standard for accurate factory match ammo.

Federal Gold Medal .223 69gr
Federal Gold Medal .223 69gr
  • 25% off all OAKLEY productsOAKLEY25


8. Tula & Wolf Polyformance

We don’t readily use these next suggestions in our ARs, but if you’re really trying to save money, you can opt for Russian steel or coated steel cartridges.

Red Army .223 55gr
Red Army .223 55gr

Start off with a small batch first since some AR-15s don’t like steel-cased ammo. They offer pretty good savings but are dirtier shooting and less accurate…but probably great for the range.

  • 25% off all OAKLEY productsOAKLEY25


Also keep in mind that you can’t save these to reload later, and you need to shoot at a range that allows both steel casings and bi-metal bullets.

  • 25% off all OAKLEY productsOAKLEY25


Self-Defense AR-15 Ammo

For self-defense you want the bullet to put all its energy into the bad guy by breaking apart.

That means FMJ and the penetrator rounds are usually not the best choices.

I recommend going with specific use self-defense ammo that is hollow/soft point and used by law enforcement.

9. Hornady Critical Defense 55gr

Both Speer and Hornady are great but I give the edge to Hornady since I love their pistol defensive ammo.

  • 25% off all OAKLEY productsOAKLEY25


10. Speer Gold Dot Duty 55 gr

Another go-to brand for self-defense rounds…Gold Dot.

  • 25% off all OAKLEY productsOAKLEY25


Conclusion

So there you have it, our recommendations for the best AR-15 ammo in both .223 and 5.56.

Let us know what you went with and how it runs in your AR.

Want more AR-15 guides…check them all out here. Looking for a new AR? Check out our huge Best AR-15s Guide.



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