View Full Version : Deer with .223?

January 4, 2012, 12:02 AM
I have no doubt that within reasonable distance, a 223 could kill a deer. Why is it frowned upon by so many?
Within 100 yards, if you have a good shot, shouldn't a .223 be fine for a deer?

January 4, 2012, 07:47 AM
Shot Placement is the key.

I've been a sharpshooter for our local Forest Preserve District for 2 years. We have used "balistic tiped" ammo so there is no over penetration. I have found that the proper shot placement will drop them out to 100dys. However, if you flub the shot there is almost no blood trail because of the small exit wound, if it exits, that is impossible to follow.

As an aside, we are testing .308s this year and it clearly apprears we are switching to them next year. At 200yds your shot placement options open up considerably.

So I think the answer is, shot placement.


January 4, 2012, 08:05 AM
Use premium heavy bullets designed for that . The Barnes all copper etc.

January 4, 2012, 08:34 AM
It depends.

There are many factors that come into play in making that decision.

The size of the deer. The maximum distance you will attempt a shot. The bullet type. The "presentation" of the shot, as in, standing broadside, quartering away, alert, grazing, etc.

I would definitely try it on small Texas whitetails, using a 60gr bullet, preferrably the Nosler.
I was looking at 6 does last Sunday evening, and none of them would weigh more than 90 pounds. I felt slightly overgunned with my Marlin 45-70. It would have worked fine, but I chose to not shoot, for several reasons. At that point, I was thinking that a smaller caliber, like my 6.5X55 would have been more reasonable.

If I was hunting larger mid-west whitetails or mulies, I probably would not consciencely choose the .223. (did I spell that word correctly?)

Deja vu
January 4, 2012, 08:40 AM
I use a 357 magnum carbine to harvest deer about every year. I have yet to have any issues. I use the railing on my porch as a bench and keep my shots with in 80 yards. (probably 20 or so deer so far)

I see no reason a 223 would not work if a 357 magnum will. Just make sure you do your part.

January 4, 2012, 09:21 AM
It is because we are Amercans. Lots of folks here want everything bigger. They want the military to adopt guns adequate for moose hunting to shoot humans. They think guns perfectly adequate for grizzly are the smallest thing that will kill a deer.

With good softpoint ammo a 223 will kill deer just as dead as bigger rounds, and at ranges longer than 100 yards. It's not a long range deer rifle, but neither is a 30-30.

Art Eatman
January 4, 2012, 11:10 AM
Prior to maybe a dozen or so years ago, most bullets for .22 centerfires were designed for varmint hunting. Lighter weight, thinner jackets. Designed to blow up.

As more people took rifles such as ARs and Minis to their deer-hunting, and, as well, to long range target shooting, heavier bullets became more common and then, naturally, "big(ger) game" bullet design entered the equation. So, now, there are bullets in .223 which are designed for controlled expansion on Bambi--and have proven to be effective.

Even so, my own opinion is that one should be a bit more discriminating about the angle of the shot than with heavier bullets, as penetration might not be adequate for a clean, ethical kill. I'd be less likely to take a quartering shot with a .223 than with a .308, for instance.

January 4, 2012, 12:40 PM
Nothing wrong with it at close range. I like to take my old AR into the thick stuff on windy days and walk deer up. It is a nice short, quick rifle. I prefer the factory Hornady VMAX bullets. They really tear up the vitals. You usually don't get much of a blood trail, but they usually don't go far either. I never put more than one round in a deer with a .223. You just have to use common sense with a .223. For years I used my .22 HI-POWER to hunt deer and was constantly told by other hunters and Gun Writers I was under gunned. Apparently the deer don't realize that and I never hit one with the HI-POWER and failed to get it.

January 4, 2012, 05:55 PM
I have no doubt that within reasonable distance, a 223 could kill a deer. Why is it frowned upon by so many?
Within 100 yards, if you have a good shot, shouldn't a .223 be fine for a deer? More "frown upon it", that have never done it or seen it done and examined the carcass themselves. In short, most will offer the opinion that it does not have adequate power for deer, without the encumbrance of actually testing. It just seems like bigger cartridges should be used to them.

January 4, 2012, 06:14 PM
Shot Placement is the key.

I've been a sharpshooter for our local Forest Preserve District for 2 years. We have used "balistic tiped" ammo so there is no over penetration. I have found that the proper shot placement will drop them out to 100dys. However, if you flub the shot there is almost no blood trail because of the small exit wound, if it exits, that is impossible to follow.

As an aside, we are testing .308s this year and it clearly apprears we are switching to them next year. At 200yds your shot placement options open up considerably.

So I think the answer is, shot placement.


How do you get a fun job like that? :D

And I wouldn't use a .223 on a big Wisconsin buck. Like in that movie Blazing Saddles where the Sheriff is putting on his gun to go get "Mongo" and his buddy says "don't shoot him, you'll only make him mad".... :D

January 4, 2012, 07:08 PM
There is almost no margin for error with the .223, even with heavy (for caliber) bullets, hot loads and long barrels..... at best you are just over 1,000 ft/lbs of energy at 100 yards ..... If the shot is not perfect, you are not going to have much of a blood trail to go on...... I have seen deer hit with twice that force, through the chest, and still go quite a ways.

Couple that with the fact that somebody will read this thread and remember that some guy on the internetz said .223 was fine to hunt deer with .... and proceed to take his M-4gery with the 16" barrel and some 55gr soft points out there and start blasting ..... and does not have a clue that he is only pushing around 700 ft/lbs @100 yards (and would not be a legal weapon for deer in my state).

Lots of things can go wrong....... does a 60 gr Partition have the gas to continue straight through the chest if it hits the thick end of the shoulder blade or the top of the femur? What if the target is quartering away?

Where I hunt, the deer are well fed - nobody feeds them, but they are surrounded by corn, beans, and hay ...... a year and a half old doe can run 150 lbs live weight...... a 200 lb buck is not rare.

Use enough gun.

January 4, 2012, 08:53 PM
Somebody give me a logical thought out answer to this. What is the difference between losing a deer with a 30.30, a rifled slug, or a .22 caliber center fire rifle? How does that work? If the bullet is big enough is it the shooters fault, and if the bullet is small it is the guns fault? The only deer I ever lost with a rifle was shot with a 30-40 Krag (180 Gr.) and threw a heavy blood trail for 50-60 yards. The next close to a loss was with a 7-30 Waters (140 Gr.) and hit high through both lungs.

January 4, 2012, 09:00 PM
This debate it seems is never ending.

Personallt, I would not use anything smaller than .243 for Wisconsin whitetail.

The .223 is marginal at best for a typical northern deer.
Can it be done? Yes.
But IMO, there are just too many "ifs"
IF you have the proper bullet design.
IF you have excellent shot placement.
IF you keep the range short.
IF you get the right angle.

As jimbob said "Use enough gun."

January 4, 2012, 09:44 PM
I went deer hunting in Missouri this past year and brought my .243. I have killed some big Wyoming mulies with it so I wasn't worried about it being "big" enough. I shot a nice buck the first day, in the vitals, and it ran a little ways. In most places in Wyoming that I hunt, that's not a big problem because we can track them pretty easy. I lost that deer after searching all day in very thick CRP grass and bushes. We found a lot of blood but no deer. Where we were hunting, I needed a cartridge that would drop them on the spot. My cousin that I was hunting with was using a .300 WM and I was making fun of him for using a cannon for 50-75 yard shots. He didn't lose his deer.

The point I'm trying to get across is that there is no one size is big enough for everything. If a .223 and the person shooting it is capable of getting the job done, then it's big enough. .223 isn't enough gun where we were but that doesn't mean it's unethical in other places. Someone not knowing what they're doing can use a .50BMG on small game and be under-gunned.

January 4, 2012, 09:45 PM
Took a doe this year with a 77gr SMK shot her in the neck, she didn't move.

January 4, 2012, 10:33 PM
with the tiny deer here in Arkansas, a lot of folks hunt with 223's cause they're compact. All of my nephews trade out a mini 14 and bag out every year, all 1 shot kills with remington 55gr ammo. granted, none are over 60 yds and shot placement is good

January 4, 2012, 11:10 PM
JPM, you bring up a very interesting point... hunting with a .50 bmg. I've seen videos of this on youtube. its simply crazy. the exit wound is the size of 2 basketballs. even still, the deer managed to run 75 yards

January 4, 2012, 11:28 PM
A hunter in our group took a good sized buck this fall - reduced recoil 7-08 out of a 16" barrell (139gr @ 2400) ..... buck was standing in high grass/ CRP at about 50 yards, quartering away...... bullet hit him high in a short rib, went across the top of his lungs and stopped against a rib on the opposite side, just infront of his shoulder ...... he ran 100 or so yards and dropped in th 4' tall grass ....... if I had not taken a bearing on where he went down, the coyotes would have found him before we did ..... as it was it took 15 minutes, with 3 people..... there was no blood trail at all- I just stumbled over him as we started making circles from my best guess where I saw him last..... I think that I am done with the reduced recoil loads now......

....... but even that load packs almost 50% more energy at the muzzle than a 63 gr .223 (given a muzzle velocity of 3K) and has twice what the .223 has at 100 yards (velocity being a transitory thing, and mass and BC, like diamonds, enduring) ...... The .223 is not enough gun for me..... YMMV.

January 4, 2012, 11:39 PM
Took a doe this year with a 77gr SMK

....And then there's the ...... people..... out there using match bullets on game animals.....:rolleyes:

..... depite the fact that the manufacturer of that bullet warns against it......

That bullet was designed to punch paper..... it has a thin jacket that could lead to the bullet coming apart if it hits a rib..... or it may not expand at all- it was not designed to ......

January 4, 2012, 11:41 PM
Art, jimbob86, and Jo6pak nailed it. I enjoy shooting my .223 rifles (both bolt action Remingtons.) Accurate, fun, light recoil and not too loud. BUT, I would never hunt pronghorns, whitetails (in the north 1/2 of the US), or mule deer with anything smaller than a .243 Win, and I prefer my .270 for such game (and my .300 Win Mag for larger game). Your cartridge (and rifle) must provide the velocity, energy, and accuracy at longer ranges to be considered reliable for the game you you are hunting. For example, I've taken game at 20 yards or less with the same rifle and handloads I've used to take game at 400+ yards. A .357 handgun would have been adequate for the super close shots, but obviously not the long shots. The short answer is this - a hunter needs a firearm that can be relied upon to take the game at the longest range at which the hunter has confidence shooting at game, plus some yards to accomodate the hunter's excitement if the game appears to be a trophy larger than expected.

January 5, 2012, 12:36 AM
This would be the first year that i've shot deer with a match bullet. Honestly bullets don't mean crap without shot placement. I'm not saying that shooting match bullets is right it's not, i was just doing it to get a kill with the rifle, thin some deer out, and get some meat. None the less neither moved. Both hit in the neck both dropped. Thats not a guarantee by any means but placement comes before bullets. I wish sierra would make a line of match hunting bullets like berger does then you get the best of both worlds and i would never have to worry about any of this :) the point of my post was really just to point out if your really set on it, yes you can take deer with .223. Hell find a 80/90gr hunting bullet and shoot them in the head if you feel you need a desired hit and drop. It's just as lethal as behind the front shoulder, lung shot, etc.

I took a 165yd shot on a doe with a 6.5mm 129gr triple shock out of my .260 right behind the front shoulder. Last i checked the rifle was grouping 1/2Moa, breathing was fine, trigger pull fine, and so i shot. She started to hunker as if she was hit and then started to trot. So i figured i'd put her down, i suck at shooting a moving target so i missed. I couldn't find any blood, she ran into a slew and didn't show the slightest sign of being hit other than the hunkering over. I can't figure out what went wrong. I was on a slight slope laying prone in a field and the only two plausible explanations i have is either a range miscalculation or due to me being on a upward slope the shot went into the ground. My Father thinks that i hit her and it just went through. Idk something isn't right.

January 5, 2012, 09:06 AM
You are not the only one this has happened to. I reload and have had problems with certain type bullets opening up at close range. It sounds backwards, but it happens to a lot of people. It looked as if I pushed a pencil through on the first shot. Some bullets are just not a good design and I throw out the rest of the box and never use them again. When possible, I reload with Remington Corlockts. Never had them fail me. A lot of these "Super Dooper" bullets fly like crap and do little when they get there.

January 5, 2012, 09:48 AM
Could be that the triple shock just went straight through her not expanding. Usually i would've shot her in the neck. But i wanted to see if the triple shock would really drop here with a behind the shoulder shot. IIRC i remember reading that problem with triple shocks.

January 5, 2012, 10:49 AM
Animals are unpredicatable when shot- I shot a year and a half old buck a couple of years back with my 270 WIN (150 gr SGK mv of 2900) @ 200 yards broadside.... at the the first shot he hunched up a bit, the second shot was no reaction (I thought I missed), and the third shot, I held in front of his shoulder- he stumbled a little, walked in a circle and laid down and died. Upon closer examination, it had 1 shot through the liver, 1 through the lungs and one through the top of the heart. All 3 exited with 1/2" exit holes ......

I had not zeroed my rifle on paper- just put 3 rounds through a paper sack placed over a tumbleweed, offhand at 100 yards...... turned out I was grouping almost 3" right @100 when I checked it out on a range later that afternoon......

Art Eatman
January 5, 2012, 11:21 AM
Well, since we're drifting from .223 on deer: I've used Sierra Game Kings for years and years. Sub-MOA, often half-MOA in .223, .243 and .30-'06. Mostly dead where they were standing when hit.

January 5, 2012, 11:21 AM
..... When my 12 y.o. niece shot an older and larger deer at the same spot at about the same range with her 7-08 A-bolt II (140gr @ 2800) this fall, "poop" sprayed out his behind, he mule kicked, hunched up and ran 10 yards to the creek and piled up..... shot through the heart, bullet went in through the the nearside "elbow" and out the far side a couple inches forward....

When I hollered, "Hit him?" from the other side of the creek, my brother answered, "Dunno! He ran into the creek......"

"And he pooped!" My niece (P) added......

I'm thinking, Great! Gut shot deer...... "See any blood?"

..... (pause while I ran to get further down the creek, to get between the creek and an unpicked cornfield, and brother and niece walk to where the deer was at the shot) ....

Me-"Do you see any blood!?!?!"

P-"No, but there's a lot of poop!"

Me- "Deer poop all the time .... and everywhere .... that could be days old."

P- "UncleJim, it's still steaming- I saw him poop when I shot him!"


BrotherJohn- "Here's some blood .... and hair!"

P- "More blood.... here he is!"

The deer had made it out of sight, and fallen down into the creek...... and kicked a little..... including the slide into the creek, he had not gone 20 yards.

I've shot deer through the chest in one side and out the other and had them go 100 yards .... or drop to the shot. I've even lost a couple .....

you never can tell.

January 5, 2012, 12:36 PM
I wouldn't do it but I have a neighbor that has never lost a deer shooting them with his .204 Ruger and he's up to about 25 with it now. Most are DRT head or neck shots. He's shot the gun, is confident in it, never uses it in windy conditions and limits his range to 100yards and under, though he did bust a sookie with a neck shot at 120 this year that was DRT.

Conversely I've lost one deer in my life with a 30'06 165grn Nosler Ballistic Tip at 130 yards. I didn't make the best shot but the bullet failed to expand passing between two ribs on one side and out between two on the other. Bullets do weird things when they leave the barrel sometimes, animals are resilient and tough and shot placement is everything when hunting.

I have as much or more confidence in my .243 than in my mags or .30 caliber rifles. Every shot I have made with it this season has been a one shot smoker that resulted in corn pile dead or 20 yards of tracking.

January 6, 2012, 02:09 AM
It's done, and I have seen it done, w/ bamaboy and a Mini-Mauser and a 6x Leupold. Federal Tactical (read bonded) 62 gr slug the first time and a Fed bonded 55 the second.

Both deer went no further than deer have gone shot w/ heavier calibers and were every bit as dead. Both were hit properly (lungs) under very controlled settings, me coaching, rifle on a support, ideal angles, much practice prior.

First deer got a pass through and easy trail, about 75 yds.

Second deer we got absolutley no blood trail, (no exit either) though the deer went only 50 yds or so, it got into some VERY thick cover and the followup was interesting.

Proper bullets, proper placement, and ideal conditions, and the .223 can take deer. We moved to a bigger caliber the third year and the .223 is for practice and varmints now.

January 6, 2012, 05:25 AM
As others have said it is certainty doable if you do your part. I shot a 120lb doe this season using a MFS 62gr, granted I was only at 35yds but I was impressed with the damage that it did. The round broke right shoulder bone, broke a right side rib, turned the top of the heart and the tips of both lungs into jello, broke a left side rib and kept on going. The only trace of the bullet I found was small 1/4" piece of the jacket. I have photos of the carnage if anyone to see them.

The doe fell backwards and made it about 4' from where I shot her, blood all over the place.

Anything other 100yds I feel would be pushing it but if you hunt in an area like mine anything over 75yds is a long shot.


And yes I know that is a 30rd mag and yes it was blocked to 5 rounds. I didn't get a 5rd mag ordered before deer season.:o


January 6, 2012, 09:57 AM
Took mine around 150yds. I wouldn't try to take a deer over 200yds with a .223. As it loses energy pretty fast. Anything under that IMO is fine for me.

Didn't get a picture of the deer but here's the spot i was in.

Clifford L. Hughes
January 6, 2012, 02:18 PM

I'm sure that the .223 will kill a deer out to 200 yards with a well placed bullet. The same goes for most center fire rifles. The key here is well placed bullet. Most deer hunters are not going to get the picture book shot of a deer standing stationary broad side. With a larger caliber rifle you have a larger kill area because the larger bullet tears up more vitals, and with a marginal shot you are more likely to down the animal.

Semper Fi.

Gunnery sergeant
Clifford L. Hughes

January 6, 2012, 02:37 PM
So many 'weekend warriors' cant kill em with a 30-06 or larger.

They sight the gun in once a year, maybe. Cause when you try to help them, they dont want any help and they know that a few clicks will lower the group 6" at 50 yards-or they move the windage and then the elevation rather than both at once.

If they hit the paper 'that is good enough'.

The same hunters want to move the opening of deer season from a long time Nov 15th to the second Saturday of NOV so they can hunt more.

They need more shooting. Go out and shoot 2 or 3 boxes of ammo/year and after a couple years you will find out how to load the magazine.