A trip to the range last week was interesting. Three fellows were sighting-in their new AR-15 type rifles. One of the chaps seemed to be complaining about something after nearly every shot. His complaints centered around how hard the little rifle was recoiling, and the rough condition of his empty brass cases (he'd planned to reload the cases after firing them). The other two shooters seemed perfectly satisfied. The one chap wanted to blame his rifle because when he shot the others' guns, he could notice a pleasant difference between his and theirs.
Something was wrong somewhere, and I figured I just might know what it was. While chatting with the boys, I noticed that two of the rifles sported 5.56 NATO-marked barrels, while the unhappy chap's barrel was simply stamped .223. The ammo all three were shooting was military 5.56mm NATO, as assembled at the Lake City government plant. I started by explaining that the government 5.56mm chamber and the commercial (civilian) .223 chamber are NOT the same. Both 5.56mm and .223 ammo will chamber in either barrel chamber, but the big difference in the two chamberings is that the NATO chamber has a longer leade or freebore (that distance or "jump" before the bullet contacts the rifling).
Since the 5.56mmNATO ammo is loaded "hotter" to start with, the longer freebore allows pressures to build more gradually. Military 5.56mm is loaded to about 62,000 pounds per square inch. The .223 civilian chamber is cut with a much shorter freebore, and civilian .223 ammo isn't loaded as "hot", only about 52,000 pounds per square inch. So you can quickly see why you shouldn't fire 5.56mm NATO ammo in a .223 civilian chamber, and a hot, Alabama day compounds the problem! Government ammo in a short freebore equals trouble! Now it's OK to fire .223 ammo in a NATO chamber. Don't hammer yourself or your firearm. Know what chamber you have, and purchase your ammo accordingly! You may also find ARs that are stamped "Wylde." These chamberings are a compromise between the NATO barrels and the commercial .223 barrels. The Wylde freebores are longer than the .223 civilian chamber, but not as long as the true NATO freebores. They will handle any 5.56 or .223 load you want to feed it! Have fun!
Now one last note...Wisconsin authorities are taking West Nile Virus seriously, to the point that the state is asking hunters to voluntarily collect the hearts of ruffed grouse taken in the state's central and northern forests. The hearts will then be tested for the presence of West Nile. County biologists will provide sampling kits with instructions and all of the supplies needed to collect the heart and a small amount of blood from one bird. The public is also asked to report sick or dead grouse. If the public is willing to collect a dead carcass for testing, place the entire bird in a plastic bag, keep it cool but not frozen, and deliver it to a county wildlife biologist the same or next day.
West Nile infects birds, animals, and people. It is transmitted by mosquitoes, and there is no evidence it can be contracted by handling grouse this way, but it is recommended that gloves be worn when handling any dead animal. Recently, Mobile County officials confirmed the county's 12th case of West Nile Virus. The first case was confirmed in August. Humans with the virus or other mosquito-bourne diseases often have symptoms of high fever, severe headaches, nausea, stiff neck, muscle weakness, paralysis, disorientation, and seizures. In rare cases, the virus can cause coma or death. Use that mosquito spray!