I have literally been loading .223 for twenty years. It is the most forgiving cartridges I have worked with in my entire career of reloading. It really is not hard to get this wonderful little cartridge to shoot very well.
****NOTE!!! ALL LOADS TESTED BY ME ARE MOLY COATED. YOU MIGHT FIND YOUR LOAD IS .5 GRAIN LOWER****
55/52 grain loads (for 100-200 yard practice)
(COL of 2.25-for reference only)
27.5 R15- this is great load and burns very clean at that charge, it rivals just about any 55 grain load I have tried. It is a very safe load because, frankly, you can’t get any more powder in the case. This is will not work on a progressive, as you need to shake the case or use a drop tube to pack the case. Yes, this is compressed… and boy does it shoot. Excellent velocity too. Keeps the barrel cool too… I’m not sure why. I always joke that you could take an LC case, dump it in a bowl of R15, shake it level, and stick a bullet in and it would shoot pretty darn good (although this is heresy in modern reloading circles).
26.5 Varget- This load is also SNEAKY good. It is capable of bug hole groups at 100 with a good bullet. Basically this load is about 1/8″ from the top of a LC 223 case with no shaking. You can run it on a progressive but you will get spills occasionally.
26 IMR 8208- I have not tried this yet. I will soon. XBR 8208 is showing higher velocities than R15 and Varget in my 6br. Great powder. I love the way it meters and it is super duper clean.
25.5 IMR 4895- Good load. Not great. Cheap powder used to be available so I used it for bulk loading.
25 AA 2015BR- THIS IS MY FAVORITE 55 grain load. It will shoot lights out at 100-200 yards with match bullets or 55 grain varmint bullets. It burns super clean. Runs fine in a progressive, and meters slightly better than Varget and doesn’t fill the case so high.
25 VV133- shoots the same as 2015BR, but while I like VV powders I don’t like the expense.
25 R10x- I think this is Alliants version of 2015BR with a copper fouling additive. Shoots the same as 2015BR. I have not done enough testing to know if I would switch yet, but in a pinch I would buy R10x to replace 2015BR. It does burn with a black goo similar to R15 (I think they use the same fouling additive) but I don’t have any problems cleaning my barrels, it’s just that first patch comes out BLACK!!!
xxx H322- this is the load that might replace the 2015BR load because it burns so clean, seems pretty stable for temp, and it meters like ball powder.