Puzzled by .223 velocities that don’t come up to speed

Q: I have been reloading for a Tikka T3x in .223 and am not sure if I can safely increase my powder charge based on the velocity displayed on my chronograph. 

I have been using 25gn of AR2208 behind 55gn Nosler Varmageddons and 55gn soft points. The cartridge OAL is exactly as per your manual. My chronograph is a Caldwell Ballistic Precision unit. 

This load averages only 2880fps, whereas I thought it would be around 3100fps. 

I tried OSA factory loads with 55gn soft-points and they clocked 2900fps against a published 3200fps, from memory. 

I can’t complain about the accuracy. Both factory ammo and handloads are grouping in 0.3 inch on average at 100yd, but I am curious about the difference in velocity. 

I know that barrel length may make a difference, but I wouldn’t think that much. I have no idea of the accuracy of the Caldwell chronograph. I have read that AR2206 is better in the .223, but I have a good supply of AR2208 and unless it makes a huge difference, I prefer to keep using AR2208. 

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I have enjoyed your articles for over 40 years and use your reloading manual.

Neil Angwin

A: The only things I can suggest are: your gun either has a slow barrel or else your chronograph isn’t giving a true reading. 

I have a Sako L461 in .223 Remington fitted with a 22-inch Ruger .223 stainless barrel. Your Tikka T3X probably has the same length barrel. 

Loading 27gn of W-748 behind the 55gn Nosler Solid-Base bullet achieved 3196fps, when you could get W-748. 

26gn of AR2208 with the Hornady 60gn V-Max managed 3120fps. 

My Sako gives the highest velocity with the 55gn bullet and 26gn of AR2206H — 3220fps. 

Your load (25gn AR2208 and 55gn Nosler Varmageddon) should be getting at least 3100fps. I’d keep using AR2208 as you have a good supply of it. 

You say that the OSA factory loads clock 2900fps in your gun; in my Sako L46 they are doing 3066fps. 

The Geco 56gn load does 3115fps and Hornady Superformance 53gn load gets 3310fps. 

Every rifle is a law unto itself. Maybe you could borrow another chronograph to check if the velocities are the same?




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Nick Harvey

The late Nick Harvey (1931-2024) was one of the world's most experienced and knowledgeable gun writers, a true legend of the business. He wrote about firearms and hunting for about 70 years, published many books and uncounted articles, and travelled the world to hunt and shoot. His reloading manuals are highly sought after, and his knowledge of the subject was unmatched. He was Sporting Shooter's Technical Editor for almost 50 years. His work lives on here as part of his legacy to us all.