AR Ammunition Testing - Part 1
Ammo Testing, The light at the end of the tunnel:
Recently we changed the specification of my Northwest Custom Parts AR Build. (NWCP Build Review). The change came around due to reliability issues. As you will be aware seconds count in the practical stages and a light strike or mis feed can literally ruin your day! So, after some testing it was decided the best course of action was change out the Barrel and Bolt combo for something we knew was tried and tested.
The new barrel and bolt meant that I had to start from scratch with my ammo again. Despite there being many of these barrels and bolt combos out there you just never know how they will perform until you put some lead down range.
A caveat to my testing. It’s not really that scientific. I’m looking ultimately for reliability and accuracy, that’s it. With regards to cost I have resigned myself that shooting is not a cheap so if my AR likes expensive ammo then so be it.
My first small trial was to see if it liked any of the ammunition I had in my cabinet already, because let’s be honest nobody likes wasting ammo they have already brought. I had around 700 of the federal bulk pack which is a Copper coated Hollow Point (HP) round weighing in at 36grains leaving the muzzle at 1260fps. 25yards is my normal zero as I’m currently running the Vortex Viper PST II scope. The ammo was sporadic at best producing a 6-8” group with little to no consistency. However, it was cycling ok which was a good start for the new barrel and bolt combo. My other staple in my ammo cabinet is CCI Mini Mag, I always have some in stock as club ammo for practical nights at FDPC. The Mini Mag is a common go to round for many shooters. 40gr copper coated round which is 1240fps at the barrel. Not too dissimilar to the Federal in speed but slightly heavier and no HP. Initial impressions where it grouped better than the federal which wouldn’t have been too hard. However, it wouldn’t cycle every round with a couple of light strikes. My Ruger MKIV LBP runs Eley Force quite successfully so that was the last choice of the ammo cabinet stock. At 42gr it’s the heaviest I have seen in .22 ammo and travelling quickly at 1250fps. It became evident very quickly that the rifle didn’t like it despite the groupings being good. A couple of jams in the breach and light strikes ruled it out though. Whilst at the range I grabbed a handful of CCI Standard from a friend and ran it through. Immediately the groups tightened back into an inch at 25 and it cycled ok for the 20 rounds I ran. Time to hit the local RFD!
The previous testing showed that the rifle was going to like a slower round. I picked up 8 different types of ammo to test! Rather than explain each type the below table shows their basic stats.
Brand Description Speed / FPS. Weight Head Type Cycle. Light strike Cost / 100
Federal Champion Bulk Pack 1260 36 CPHP YES YES £6.84
CCI Mini Mag 1235 40 CPRN YES YES £9.00
Eley Force 1250 42 LRN NO YES £10.00
CCI Subsonic 1050 40 LHP YES YES £11.45
CCI Standard 1070 40 LRN YES YES £8.60
CCI Quiet 710 40 LRN NO YES £9.00
Winchester Subsonic 1065 40 LHP YES YES £11.50
Blazer 22Long rifle 1235 40 LRN YES YES £6.50
Remington Gold 1095 40 PLRN YES YES £7.94
Fiocchi Standard Velocity 1150 40 LRN YES NO £9.00
Geco .22 Semi Auto 1150 40 LRN YES NO £7.90
As you can see from the table, I tried to keep it simple. After noting the basics, the important details were does it cycle? And did any of them Light strike. With regards to the light strike, even if it was only 1 from 50 it counts as a yes. A box of 50 rounds split into two magazines of 25. A3 Target with 4 diamond centre points, one for each brand of ammo. A group of 5-10 to check accuracy then the rest were tested in double taps and extended bursts of fire to check for light strikes.
CCI Subsonic HP: Ignore initial top left group, adjusted scope to suit.
CCi Standard: Decent grouping, couple of light strikes
CCi Quiet .22: Terrible, would not cycle in the gun, most likely due to extremely low 710fps.
Winchester Subtonics: Group is average, would fire a few then light strikes.
Blazer: Good Group, few light strikes
Fiocchi: Good initial group, no problems cycling or light striking
Remington: Ok group, many light strikes.
Geco: probably the best group, no issues cycling or light striking. There are also 100 rounds there not 50.
Going on my original two criteria for the ammunition of reliability and accuracy there are only two brands here that passed the test. Both the Fiocchi and Geco ran flawlessly through the AR and grouped well. They are both at the cheaper end of the scale as well which is a plus point. I realise this is a basic test and only 50 rounds of each cannot give a definitive performance test. The next stage will be to purchase 500 of each of the Fiocchi and Geco to train and run them for a few weeks. Fingers crossed they continue to prove reliable and accurate. Then I can concentrate on improving my skillset rather than hoping the gun fires. There is something to be said for building custom rifles compared to an off the shelf rifle. Believe me there are points where I contemplated just buying a smith which is a more than capable AR Minirifle for competing. But! When this rifle is running, she is awesomely quick! She also looks the part!