223 Trainer Rifles By the 6.5 Guys
.223 Trainer Rifles By the 6.5 Guys (Steve Lawrence, Ed Mobley)
About a year ago we were hanging out with our gunsmith Travis Redell of RBros Rifles and we asked him what our next build should be. In the back of our minds we were expecting him to recommend one of the more powerful 6.5mm cartridges or a flat shooting 6mm. Instead Travis recommended we both build .223 trainers. His response was interesting but not terribly exciting.
Fast forward a bit to the 2015 SilencerCo Quiet Riot when we had a chance to spend some quality time with a very successful shooter Bryan Morgan (Ed was actually lucky enough to be squadded with him). Bryan shared that he spends most of his time practicing with a .223 trainer and only shoots his match rifle for the most part to make sure it’s sighted in.
After some additional research and contemplation, we started to get excited about our trainers with the following objectives and benefits in mind:
- Reduced wear on our match rifles (we were going through two barrels a year on our 6.5×47 Lapua match rifles)
- Reduced cost – we could shoot 200 rounds in a practice session vs 75 – 100 for the same cost
- Time savings – we could reload sub-moa ammo on a progessive with no need to weigh individual charges
- Reduced recoil allowing for focus on fundamentals
- Superb barrel life – 5,000 rounds at a minimum with some reporting practical accuracy up to 7,500 rounds and beyond
We want to give special thanks to our sponsors Defiance Machine and RBros Rifles for making our builds possible. BTW, if you place an order through Defiance you can get a really cool serial number limited only by your imagination and whatever the BATF considers acceptable.
.223 or .223 AI.
We had to decide between .223 AI and plain old .223. In our case most of our practice takes place at 200 yards so we didn’t need the extra velocity, and purchasing new dies and forming brass for the .223 AI didn’t excite us. Depending on who we spoke with, some reported feeding issues with the .223 AI and one notable shooter said they were going to switch from .223 AI to .223 with their next barrel change.
I hope you enjoy the series of articles to be written by the 6.5 Guys. You can visit their website HERE.
On the other hand, there are folks who use their .223 trainers for matches out to 600 yards. In that case, .223 AI is the right choice especially if your main match rifle is a barrel burner. A .223 AI pushing 75gr Amax bullets at 3,050 fps has near identical ballistics out to 600 yards.
We ended up going with plain old .223. However, we are still able to hit targets out to 900 yards so we don’t feel handicapped at all.
You can learn more about the .223 vs .223 AI by reading this informative article.
We didn’t expect the selection of a .223 magazine to be much of an issue as we were going to go with the Accuracy International polymer magazines. Unfortunately they stopped manufacturing what had become a bit of an industry standard for those shooting .223. After a bit of searching we came across two magazines – one made by Accurate and the other made by MDT.
Both magazines require slight modification depending on your use case (go to the 7 minute mark on our video below where we provide a full explanation). The Accurate Mag has some ridges on the back that interfere with the trigger guard on the XLR chassis. Fortunately these ridges can be filed or sanded down with minimal effort. The Accurate Mag will not accept cartridges much longer than standard AR magazine length but this can be remedied by removing a small plastic tab in front of the follower. The plastic tab doesn’t seem to serve any purpose and it impairs the usability of the magazine, so why they put it there is a mystery.
Both magazines are a good choice with the MDT being about half the price of the Accurate Mag. Unless you run an XLR chassis (or others with similar trigger guards) you can use this magazine without any modification. On the other hand, the dimensions of the Accurate Mag are identical to a 10 round AICS mag which is an important consideration as your .223 trainer should be as close to your match rifle as possible. The Accurate Mags are also a bit smoother and have a higher quality feel.
Area of Accurate Magazine plastic insert to be modified
Area of MDT Magazine to be modified
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