5.53 or .223 Ammunition, Which rounds are good for both plinking and home defense?

Hi everyone it’s been a while since I posted.

I just got my first custom built AR-15 Rifle and while I have some experience with rifles from the Marine Corps I never had a choice in the type of ammunition used. I need something where the ammo is less likely to go through much drywall in a home defense situation since I live in an area with a lot of people in a close vicinity and after seeing a few videos with 380 failing to expand properly and over penetration on drywall I would feel more comfortable using my rifle a home defense situation.

So question is what ammo either 5.56 or .223 is best for in home defense?


All depends. Do you have a lot of land and are far from neighbors? .223 or 5.56 ball or hollow point. Crowded metro suburb, I would look for a frangible ammo (something that breaks apart when striking an indoor wall) in either load (BTW make sure your rifle is chambered in .223 Wyld or 5.56 before using 5.56). 5.56 has more power, so better at longer ranges than .223. Personally for indoor use I prefer a shotgun or pistol. Thought about using an AR, but I am more proficient with a pistol or shotgun. Perhaps their are others that have a better suggestion…


@Christopher_S1 Thanks for your reply, I live in an urban setting with apartments. So I don’t have a lot of land. My rifle is made for 5.56 which in my understanding means it can also take .223. I’m concerned about multiple attackers since drug dealers have been threatening people and the police won’t do much since they say they need to see it or we need to record it for them. I stay away from trouble but have a family to protect as well.


IMO, the TLDR for your use-case is to find a loading of Sierra Tipped Match King, commonly referred to as TMK. (Note, this is different from Sierra SMK which is similar). It is loaded by several manufacturers including Black Hills and Corbon. The TMK is a fragmenting round with a great reputation for terminal effectiveness, and will have likely the least amount of penetration concerns.

More info…

The difference between 5.56/.223 ammo at urban distances is negligible. So I wouldn’t worry about that aspect.

You MUST realize, however, that anything you fire that is capable of stopping an intruder will go through several sheets of drywall and remain lethal. This counts for handgun, rifle, shotgun. An AR15 5.56/.223 round will go through less walls than say a handgun round, a true rifle round like .308, or a shotgun slug it WILL still go through some walls.

In something like an apartment setting, the BEST way to mitigate those concerns is to plan ahead. What are the possible entrypoints for an intruder, where might you be, and what angles/lanes can you fire through with a minimal risk of penetration. Know where your backstops are more than just drywall. Like some of the outer walls of an apartment may be concrete, maybe a bookshelf or other large furniture would work as a backstop. Also knowing the layout of any neighboring apartments would help too if you know this angle ends up going into the neighbors closet for example.

And it should go without saying, that the best way to prevent a miss going through walls into a neighbor is to hit your intended target. So anything you can do to improve your own accuracy (and a long-gun is a great start) will pay more dividends than anything else.

The only way to ensure it won’t go through any drywall is a shotgun with birdshot (which is NOT a reliable stopper) or something like Byrna pepper-ball shooter.

For more reading enjoyment… link to another thread


I think I’d go with frangible, if you can find it, it can offer you a little bit of over pen protection. Frangible ammo was quite common around here last year but lately I haven’t been able to find any.


Plinking and self defense are not an “and” situation imo. Plinking, m193 is fine for the most part, and suits my defense thoughts with m855 as if my AR’s ever get used for defense, I won’t be worrying about walls.
Frangible makes sense for your situation, and I linked the cheapest supplier listed on Ammoseek. TS has been around awhile, but I’m not to keen on 5-7 days to ship. The Ammoseek link lets you modify your search, and I used ‘frangible’ for the TS link.
I’d get some fmj for plinking, and keep a couple mags of frangible for when you’re home. Shoot some first of course to see poi shift, and you may find more leeway shooting frangible at indoor ranges not allowing fmj.
And yeah, 5.56 chambering allows .223 usage. Not much difference for most applications ime, I find much bigger differences between various brands of what’s supposedly the same stuff.


Everything that can be relied upon to stop an attacker right now, is dangerous through multiple interior walls.

I tend to go with doc robert’s if in doubt.


Personally I have Federal Tactical Bonded 55gr, the LE223T1, as seen here

Or Federal Fusion 62gr MSR

The barrier blind SD/HD/Duty loads seem to be the best choice, generally speaking, for self defense or home defense.

For training and plinking, just whatever 55gr FMJ. 223 or M193.

For more accurate shooting, medium ranges, the Black Hills mk262 (expensie, hard to fine), or the more common and <$1/round IMI razor core 77gr SMK 5.56 (check Midway USA) which also make solid SD/HD choices, though not as good with intermediate barriers. Oh yes also PPU/Prvi Partizan .223 75gr BTHP Match is a great one for the money, very accurate and consistent

DO NOT worry about whether or not it’s 5.56 or .223, worry about its reliability in your gun and worry about the bullet. Some of the top .223 rounds are better for self defense than almost all 5.56

MOST of the good self defense/home defense/duty rounds readily available are .223, because of police agencies who have .223 chambered rifles

This is why stuff like the Gold Dot is so easy to get in 223 and some of them aren’t even made in 556 now


Good job, I should have looked closer. I new you could buy over the counter frangible hand gun amo but I didn’t know you could get in .556.

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I would be worried that some of the highly frangible rounds might not penetrate enough to stop an attacker so do your research before choosing one.

The TMK round that @Harvey mentioned sounds like a good option. I have a couple of mags filled with NON-bonded Federal TRU soft points on the off chance that I have to use my rifle inside my home. They are designed to penetrate walls less than most rounds but they still reach the minimum penetration requirements in the intended target.

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I would NOT recommend frangible rounds. Those are designed to turn to dust when they hit something hard, like steel. How sure are you that whatever you hit will either dust it, or leave it as essentially an FMJ?

Like @Nathan57 Doc Roberts work influences my decision making also. I’ve settled on Speer Gold Dots (bonded soft points) for where I am and my environment. They are widely used by law enforcement, available in 55gr, 62gr (or older manufacture 64gr), and 75gr all in .223 pressures, and (pre-COVID) extremely available and very reasonably priced. You can still find them here & there even now.

But for anyone who is worried about penetration, a fragmenting (not frangible) round is the way to go IMO. And the current “best” fragmenting for AR15s is Sierra’s 77gr TMK.

I maintain that for those who really really are concerned about it, and cant find any way to mitigate the risks, and their projectiles must be stopped by drywall is either a shotgun with birdshot or a non-lethal method like pepper spray or tazers.


I personally do not have an AR set up for home defense, but I did buy some of these back when they were readily available on the shelf at BassPro:

223 Remington 55 gr FTX® Critical Defense® - Hornady Manufacturing, Inc

Springfield Armory did a sheetrock penetration test with them last year. Note they used an SBR which should have slowed the bullets down a bit. They also “assumed” you would hit the attacker (6 inches of ballistic gel) before the sheetrock:

5.56 vs. Drywall: Is Your Home Defense Gun Dangerous? - The Armory Life

At first I regretted they put the ballistic gels right up against the sheetrock on either side of the “wall”. After thinking about it, the bullet would not slow down measurably if they had given it 5 feet on either side of the wall.


FWIW, I have later concluded firing an AR inside my house is not my first choice due to how loud it seems compared to a 9mm handgun.


In my humble opinion none of them 223 and 556 have too much over pressure for real home use a tuned 300 blk light weight bcg and soft buffer spring add or subtract weight from buffer till it runs subs and test 3 mags vary the shooting speed when reliable you have a home defense shooter that ain’t going to bust your windows

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Good job. For people that reload ( like me ) tend to not be in touch with over the counter amo and are more in touch with what we load for specific results and performance. Some bullet heads are known for explosive fragmentation, IE: Nosler bullets the tip, Hornady Vmax and
Sierra blitz king to name a few.
*** GOOD VIDEO ***


As per the OP, 223 vs 556. I know there could be some different thoughts on this topic… but

I’m a reloader, I use as a reference the Hornady and Lee reloading reference books. Per the books that I have, there is no difference between a 223 and a 556 on a round basis. They use the same type and amount of powder, the same bullet head, same casing and same primer.

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I am pretty sure you can get the Sierra TMK (Tipped Match King) or the Speer Gold Dot as just a projectile if you want to reload it.

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I don’t use a .556 for home defense. There are plenty of frangible bullet heads available for reloading in .224 caliber. I load .243, 7m-08, 30-30
45 Colt, 45acp, .357 magnum, .357 maximum, .38 special, 9mm,
221 Fireball, and 22 hornet. It’s too much fun.
I only buy 22 long rifle amo.
Stay sharp.

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Thanks everyone for your input. It gives me a lot to research on. On top of that I found an article discussing this on ar15.com.

Locally I’ve been told Varmit rounds are the way to go to avoid over penetration and good expansion at close distances. Thoughts?

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Varmint rounds are like the ones @Blacky mentioned above (Nosler, VMax, BlitzKing, and others). They are great for thin skinned, small creatures … you know… varmints. Coyote, fox, ground hogs. They are not great at larger 2-legged predators. They will still go through drywall.

So I don’t know that you gain much in terms of not hitting your neighbor, and you are giving up significant performance in the potential intruder.


If it doesn’t offer 12" absolute-minimum of penetration (for the bullet or the majority of the bullet in retained weight of a single piece) in calibrated ballistics gel, both bare and layered denim, I wouldn’t want it.

That I am aware of, what people consider “varmint” loads tend to not penetrate adequately.

Anything that can be relied on to stop an attacker will be dangerous through multiple interior walls.