Today I’m going to show you the best 223 rifle.
I’ve hand-tested 10 rifles alone for this review.
The best part?
I’ve sorted each rifle by use. So whether you’re on a budget or need the best .223 caliber rifle, you’ll find it here.
Let’s dive in!
The 3 Best 223 Rifles
If you’re pressed on time, here’s a quick list of the best .223 rifles:
- Ruger American Ranch: Best 223 Bolt Action Rifle for the Money
- FN Herstal SCAR16: Best .223 Rifle
- LWRC International IC-SPR: Best for AR-15 Users
1. Ruger American Ranch: Best 223 Bolt Action Rifle for the Money
Over the years, Ruger has become synonymous with reliable, good quality rifles. Their Precision .338 Lapua rifle even put Ruger on the board as a top manufacturer of reliable rifles.
And the Ruger American Ranch Rifle is no exception.
The .223 bolt action rifle is a great affordable option if you’re looking for a solid work rifle to throw in the back of your truck.
Let’s take a look at what the American Ranch Rifle has to offer…
First and foremost, I was incredibly surprised by the accuracy the Ruger American Ranch Rifle brought to the table.
I tried a slew of different ammo through this rifle and managed to get groups of less than one inch at 100 yards.
Even some of the lower grain ammo like Wold Gold 55gr kept in neat little groupings.
With higher quality ammo, this could be one of the best 223 varmint rifle.
For example, I ran it with Remington’s 130 gr Hog Hammer ammo and managed to get groupings down to as small as .52” at 100 yards.
I was a little concerned about what the reliability was going to be like on this rifle because of the low price point.
The American Ranch Rifle has been designed and manufactured with affordability in mind, and oftentimes, this can lead to inexpensive and less reliable parts that gum up the works.
I was very relieved to see that wasn’t the case here.
Shot after shot this rifle was 100% reliable without a single jam — even after feeding a variety of ammo through a number of different magazines.
Reliability on this rifle is spot on.
In terms of handling, one of the biggest things this Ruger 223 rifle has going for it is its lightweight and portable design.
Even with a sling, scope, and loaded magazine, this rifle only weighed in at around 7lbs, making it easy to throw over your shoulder, or in the back of your truck.
The only downside to the lightweight design is that it does lead to what some might consider a “flimsy” feel — not quite as solid as some comparable models.
All in all, the handling on this rifle was not only functional and portable but really fun to shoot.
Ruger has used their version of the Accutrigger, called the Marksman, on this rifle and its awesome.
Out of the box, the American Ranch Rifle sports a 4lbs trigger pull, but with the Marksman trigger, it allows you to adjust the pull down to as low as 3lbs. It’s just as light as a .357 SIG pistol.
It had a clean break with no over travel and a nice crisp pull.
Overall I have no complaints about the trigger on this one.
Magazine & Reloading
There are a couple of different models of the American Ranch Rifle and one of the biggest differences between them comes in the magazine capacity.
The standard Blackout model comes with either a 5 or 10 round AR magazine, whereas the Bushmaster .450 model comes with a 3 round mag.
One of the cooler features of this rifle, in either model, is the way the magazine sits flush with the stock belly.
In my opinion, this gives the rifle a little more of a rugged feel since I never have to worry about the mag snagging on anything. It’s compatible with any standard 20-30 round AR mag as well, which is nice but will obviously eliminate the ability for a flush mag.
My only complaint would be the fact that buying replacements for the mags that will sit flush will cost you quite a bit for what its worth.
In that sense, the ability to accept the standard AR mag ends up being quite a benefit if you don’t want to fork over the extra cash.
Length & Weight
Out of the box, the American Ranch Rifle weighs in at 6.1lbs…
…and capped out at about 7lbs once all the accessories were added and it was loaded.
The overall length is 36” with 16.12” of that consisting the barrel.
It’s around the same weight as the CZ USA 527 Carbine Bolt, and a couple inches shorter.
As is usually the case with .223 — which is a very mild recoiling cartridge in the first place — I found that the recoil on this rifle was mild at worst when working with just the muzzle nut.
With a brake or suppressor, it would be nearly non-existent.
The current MSRP on the Ruger American Ranch Rifle is $549, but with a little research, I was able to come across several retailers selling it in the $450-$500 range.
Ruger American Ranch Rifle Review: Is It Worth It?
If you’re looking for a lightweight, easy-to-carry rifle that is a whole lot of fun to shoot, then the Ruger American Ranch Rifle is for you.
It has some great features that make it completely worth the already low price point:
- Little to no recoil
- Flush Magazine
- Lightweight and portable
- Adjustable Marksman trigger
- Consistent accuracy (.52” – 1” groups at 100 yards depending on ammo)
- Reliability (Not a single jam or malfunction, regardless of some of the lower quality parts)
With a price point at under $550, I would absolutely say the Ruger American Ranch Rifle is the best 223 rifle for the money.
Given the price point, quality, and absolute joy it was to shoot, I can’t think of a single reason for you to not give this rifle a shot.
2. FN Herstal SCAR16: Best .223 Rifle
The FN Herstal SCAR16 is the semi-automatic, civilian version of the select-fire SCAR16 rifle used by the armed forces.
Usually, when we see civilian market versions of military-grade weapons, it’s there only after years of use in the field first.
However, the SCAR16 was made available to the public almost immediately after its military release.
Let’s take a look at some of its features to find out.
I found the accuracy on the SCAR 16 to be more than decent for a short-barrelled tactical shotgun.
I managed to get 1.5” groups at 50 yards with 55gr plinking ammo, which is nothing to scoff at. With a heavier bullet and an added scope, this gun provided surprising bench accuracy.
All this in combination with the nearly non-existent recoil made for a consistently accurate shot.
You will never have to worry about reliability being an issue with the SCAR16.
This gun was nearly flawless. Even after hundreds of rounds, I never once had a single jam or misfire. It’s just as reliable as the best home defense .45 ACP carbines and will never fail you.
After getting the barrel nice and hot, I didn’t notice a single shift in POI. In comparison to the traditional AR platform, this gun did an amazing job staying consistent with every shot.
The ergonomics on this firearm are solid, to say the least.
If you’re looking for a gun that’s going to shoot fast and accurate, this is definitely a good option. It’s well balanced, incredibly low recoil, and the short trigger reset eliminated quite a bit of time between shots.
Another nice feature is the ambidextrous controls.
It features ambidextrous selectors and magazine releases, as well as a charging handle that can be mounted to either side.
The stock is both foldable, as well as fully extendable, offering not only versatility but compactibility.
As I mentioned earlier, one of my favorite features of the SCAR16 was the trigger reset which allowed me to pop off rounds very quickly.
The trigger guard is made of composite polymer and is enlarged to allow for easier shooting with gloves. It seemed to do great, right out of the box.
I didn’t find that I had to pump a bunch of rounds through it before it operated effectively. The trigger is also double action, which helps eliminate accidental firing.
Magazine & Reloading
The smooth and easy reload on the SCAR16 really stands out.
The ergonomic design makes reloading so natural that it’s possible to reload without moving the rifle or even breaking your sightlines.
Even though it’s not an AR15, the SCAR16 is compatible with any AR15 magazine.
I tried it out with 5 or 6 different AR15 mags and every one of them worked just fine no matter how dirty, dented, or ancient they seemed to be.
Some proved more reliable than others, depending on the quality of the magazine itself, but overall, they all did the job.
Ideally, this rifle is designed to use factory FN mags or standard USGI mags, so you will definitely notice the best results if you stick with these.
Length & Weight
The SCAR16 definitely hits the mark when it comes to portability.
Weighing in at only 7.25lbs and the overall length ranging anywhere between 27.5” and 37.5”, this rifle offers a lot of variety.
The recoil on the SCAR16 is just about non-existent and there was little to no muzzle rise — a huge plus in my book.
The only downside I found was that because the muzzle brake redirects most of the exhaust to the sides and rear, it can make the blast fairly unpleasant for anyone standing nearby.
Not the worst feature in the world, but definitely something to be aware of.
I’ll have to admit:
The SCAR16 isn’t for everyone. Averaging MSRP around $3,299, this rifle is meant for those who have deep pockets 🙂
With four-sided Picatinny rails, there is plenty of room to customize the SCAR16 to exactly the way you like it.
With that in mind, here are some of the best SCAR16 accessories I’d recommend picking up:
- Elcan SpecterDR Optical Sight: This dual sight optic allows you to switch from a 4x magnified sight to a 1x CQB sight in an instant and is one of the most highly recommended sights for the SCAR 16.
- If it’s over your budget, then I’d recommend getting an Aimpoint Pro. It’s a battle-proven optic that is used by law enforcement agencies.
- Tango Down Rail Cover: Helps with grip.
- Magpul Angled Fore-Grip: Helps with grip.
- Specter Gear 2 Point Tactical Sling: Even though this is a fairly lightweight rifle, you’re going to want to get a sling for it.
Since the SCAR 16 is able to accept any kind of AR mag, you’ll want to stock up on a few extras. I suggest the HK 416 Maritime Mag.
Don’t forget to load up on ammo!
FN Herstal SCAR16 Review: Is It Worth It?
In my opinion, the accuracy and reliability alone make the SCAR16 worth it.
But factor in some of the other awesome features and you’ve got one of the best 223 semi auto rifle that’s well worth the price:
- Incredibly low recoil
- Reliability (not a single jam or misfire)
- Compatible with any number of AR15 mags
- Accuracy is on point (1.5″ groups at 50 yards)
- The trigger was smooth and consistent right out of the box
If you’re looking for a reliable and accurate rifle that packs a punch and is a blast to shoot, the SCAR16 may be for you.
I definitely recommend giving it a shot:
3. LWRC International IC-SPR: Best for AR-15 Users
The LRCW IC-SPR is a beast.
With a rugged design, endlessly reliability, and resiliency to match, its easy to see why you’d gravitate towards this rifle.
But is it worth the hefty price tag?
Let’s find out…
For the price of this gun, I would have expected the accuracy to be a lot better.
I was expecting to hit 1” MOA. But unfortunately, the best results I was able to get were 1.75 MOA center to center (after firing roughly 20 rounds).
It wasn’t as accurate as other AR-style rifles, like the Springfield Armory Saint 300 Blackout.
It definitely left something to be desired when it came to accuracy. There’s a couple different factors here that could be contributing to the lack of accuracy.
Ammo type is a big factor.
I tried both a plinking round (Wolf Gold) and a match round (Federal Gold Medal Match 77gr). In terms of accuracy, the Gold Metal definitely produced better results than the Wolf Gold.
This could be because of the 1:7 barrel twist which tends to favor a heavier bullet.
The accuracy isn’t too bad. Although, I expected more.
This is where the gun shines.
Even while pushing through different kinds of ammo with several different magazines, this gun stayed consistent.
This isn’t entirely surprising, considering LWRC is very well known for their reliability.
All things considered, the IC-SPR handles very well.
It’s a little front heavy due to the gas system and handguards. But all in all, it was still very comfortable and easy to handle.
The only thing I could see being an issue for some shooters is the width of the buttstock. It could be uncomfortable for some or interfere with your line of sight.
With that said, one of the nicer features the IC-SPR boasts is its ambidextrous controls.
Often ambidextrous controls simply means there is a safety on both sides and that the trigger can be reached easily from both directions. This is especially good if you’re a newbie shooter or teaching someone young.
However, the IC-SPR has fully mirrored the controls on both sides of the rifle making for a truly ambidextrous experience.
The trigger on the IC-SPR is nickel-boron coated, which is going to do great when it comes to long term wear.
This is going to aid in corrosion resistance as well as offer some permanent lubricity.
The manufacturer does warn, however, that this doesn’t mean the gun should be run dry.
Adding a few drops of CLP will help keep functionality and reliability at its maximum. The trigger guard is shaped well and allows for easy access even with gloves on.
Now, with all that said, I did find that I wished the trigger were a little crisper, given the price point.
Magazine and Reloading
Reloading this gun was a breeze.
It didn’t have any issues with any of the types of mags I tried with it — all of them inserted and released from the well easily.
The magwell was a little sticky at first, but after a few trips to the range it eased up without issue.
The ambidextrous magazine release is a nice touch, that I was surprised to find I used more often than I expected.
The rifle does come with one 30-round magazine, but it’ll accept any AR-15 mag you want to throw in there.
Length and Weight
The IC-SPR comes in two different barrel lengths:
The weight varies depending on the barrel you go with, but the overall length is consistent in both models at 32”-35.25”.
The 14.7” weighs in at 7.0lbs where as the 16.1” comes in just slightly heavier at 7.3lbs.
One of the cooler features on this gun is the self regulating short-stroke piston system.
This system helps eliminate gas and carbon buildup in the receiver which in turn reduces recoil and rise in the muzzle.
Overall I found that the recoil was minimal at worst and definitely made for an easy experience.
There are several factors that will impact the price you pay for the IC-SPR.
The MSRP for the standard black model is $2396.00.
If you’re willing to fork over a little extra to get one of the more distinct designs (Flat Dark Earth, Olive Drab Green, Patriot Brown, and Tungsten Grey) then you’ll be looking at an additional $144.00 on top of the standard price.
IC-SPR Review: Is It Worth It?
With a price tag north of $2000, the question on most people’s mind is going to be is it worth it?
That’s really a toss up. So let’s quickly recap the pros and cons:
- Very reliable – No issues with jamming in any of the test rounds
- Ambidextrous controls
- Easy Reload
- Minimal Recoil
- Accuracy left a lot to be desired
- High Price Point
At the end of the day, it’s really going to depend on what is most important to you.
If accuracy is not a major factor for you, then this is absolutely a fun, reliable, and tough looking rifle with some great features that I definitely recommend trying out.
Now It’s Your Turn
I hope you enjoyed my best 223 rifle guide.
Once you narrow your choices from pistol vs. rifle vs. shotgun, you’ll need to decide on a caliber.
Just like .30-06 Springfield, .223 is one of the best rifle calibers.
So as a recap:
If you’re looking for the best 223 bolt action rifle, get the classic Ruger American Ranch.
Want the best .223 rifle? The FN Herstal SCAR16 is for you.
Or if you’re a big fan of AR-15s (like myself), get the LWRC IC-SPR.
Now I want to turn it over to you:
Which rifle will you pick for your .223?
Let me know by leaving a quick comment down below.
5 thoughts on “The Best 223 Rifles [Hands-On Tested]”
I’ll take one of each.
Excellent Review.Have you ever tested a Ruger American Predator 223 ? I was set on this rifle until I read some reviews that this rifle had terrible groups.Should I go for the American Ranch instead?
I like the Ruger American Ranch 223 , used to hunt with a Remington 222 bolt rifle for woodchucks long time ago and I know that that 222 could drop a deer but never tried. What model were you testing (Ruger American Ranch) very interested in getting one without the scope, Glenn
Hello. I did like your review on the Ruger American Ranch rifle, (223) I have looked all over the state for one , Ruger makes the 5.56 round that will shoot the 223, but they do not make a Ruger Ranch in just the 223, if you find out they do please let me know. Glenn
I am only a beginner but I wanted a rifle that’ll shoot a 223. I’m really pretty green at this point and I don’t need to put a shell where it’s not supposed to be and hurt someone else or myself. I like the Ruger American Ranch rifle I like the looks and the good things you had say about it. I sure hope I have better luck with my search than Mr.Russell. Thanks for all your work Terry