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Keith's Comment

.223 Conversions

Judging from the inquiries I receive on .223P conversions, it seems that this calibre is gaining in popularity for both Target Rifle (fullbore) and "F" Class Std competition.

I choose to name this calibre .223P to distinguish it from .223R. The difference? .223P has a long throat to accommodate the long 80 grn bullets, whereas the .223R is short throated to accommodate 55 grn bullets. .223R ammunition may be fired in .223P chambered rifles, but NOT the reverse.

As the realization dawns that the shooter shooting a .223P with 80 grn bullets is not disadvantaged when competing against .308 rifles with 155 grn bullets, this conversion will grow in popularity. I made the change myself several years ago due to a right shoulder rotator cusp problem.

There are some myths about these conversions that need to be dispelled, hence this little article.

Most currently used .308 target rifles can be converted safely to .223P, the simplest and most cost effective conversion is possible with Barnard actions. If you are the owner of a Barnard model "P" or "S" .308P target rifle this conversion can be carried out by replacement of the barrel and the extractor claw. This is a perfectly safe conversion, provided your gunsmith does the work correctly. The fact that the .308 bolt face is .100" larger than the .223 case head diameter does NOT in itself affect the safety of this conversion. The bolt face recess does not support the case head in any way during firing. Its function is to "hold" the case for ejection. This of course means that the .223 case will not eject reliably with this conversion but will extract as it would in a .308" bolt face.

If your gunsmith does the barrel work correctly, the small diameter .223 cartridge will feed into the chamber easily even in the "P" action which has a large diameter bolt. Early "P" models will need to have the firing pin diameter reduced from .078" to .062" and the large diameter firing pin hole in the bolt bushed to prevent primer blanking. This firing pin diameter change applies to all actions converted to .223P.

Other action conversions must be assessed on their merit. Some action conversions may be easily reversed, some not.

Keith Hills
November 2009