There are a lot of cartridges you can chamber in more than one caliber of firearm. The 38 Special is right at home in a 357 Magnum. You might know the 44 Special chambers fine in a 44 Magnum too. Swap out a 22 Long for a 22 Short, and you’re on your way to squirrel country. But perhaps the best known case of this is how you can fire 223 Remington from a firearm designed to shoot 5.56×45.

What is 223 Wylde?

223 Wylde is a firearm designation for a rifle that is optimized to shoot both 223 Remington and 5.56×45 ammunition.

223 & 5.56 Are Not Created Equal

223 and 5.56 ammo both fire from a 223 wylde rifle

The 223 Rem achieves its versatility thanks to its identical physical dimensions to those of the 5.56. However, if you load a 5.56 round into a rifle rated for 223 Rem, you may destroy the firearm, at best. (At worst, you won’t be having an open casket funeral.) This is because 5.56×45 ammunition is loaded to a higher pressure than the 223 Rem, which can blow the wrong rifle to smithereens.

Shooters who would rather not wind up with faces that would let them serve as extras on zombie movies often invest in rifles that can safely fire 5.56. They reason it will permit them to fire more cost-effective 223 Rem as well. However, the chambers of 223 Rem and 5.56 rifles have significantly different dimensions. 5.56×45 rifles have a longer section of bore just ahead of the them (called the leade). This provides clearance for the bullet.

Simply put, a 223 Rem can’t perform to its fullest potential when you fire it from a rifled chambered for another caliber.

Enter the 223 Wylde

Leade Angle graphic on a bullet

A demonstration of throat angle or leade angle on a projectile. (Graphic courtesy: Lilja Barrels)

Bill Wylde perceived this problem. As an experienced engineer and gunsmith he was qualified to do something about it. Wylde designed a chamber with the dimensions and leade angle of the 5.56 and the free bore diameter of the 223 Rem.

Shooters frequently refer to leade angle as another term, throat angle. In a 5.56×45 chambered rifle, the leade angle is .162 while the leade in a .223 Remington rifle is .085.

The Wylde change in leade angle means the chamber handles either caliber’s pressure levels without posing a risk to the shooter.

As a bonus, the lead angle change also measurably heightened the 223 Rem’s accuracy compared to when it is fired from a rifle chambered specifically for 5.56. Shooters quickly took note, and the 223 Wylde is now ubiquitous at competitions throughout the country.

So, What Is 223 Wylde?

the barrel of a 223 wylde rifle

To reiterate, the 223 Wylde is not a cartridge. Rather, it is a means for safely and more accurately firing 223 Rem out of a rifle that can also handle 5.56.

Refashioning an AR-15 with a 223 Wylde chamber is as simple as changing its barrel. Other types of rifles may demand a seasoned gunsmith’s hand for the job. The modification for the AR-15 is cheap, so more economical 223 Rem ammo can quickly offset the expense if you shoot often.

You needn’t necessarily upgrade a rifle to 223 Wylde, either, if you would rather buy one new. Wilson Combat’s Super Sniper is available chambered in 223 Wylde direct from their factory, as is Lantac USA’s Raven. Ashbury Precision Ordnance introduced their bolt action Asymmetric Warrior rifle chambered in 223 Wylde in 2018.

While you can certainly get by firing 223 Rem out of a 5.56, that there’s a better and affordable alternative really clinches it for the 223 Wylde. You’re effectively venturing nothing by making the switch — worst case scenario, you’ll have one less reason to blame a missed shot on your hardware. You can always say the sun was in your eyes. Many of us have gotten by with that excuse since our underwhelming careers in little league baseball.