In praise of good ol’ Federal American Eagle 223 FMJ
This won’t be a technical ammo review, mostly because I never set out to review Federal’s American Eagle .223 55 grain full metal jacket (FMJ) load when I bought a few extra boxes at Walmart this fall.
Sometimes things work out surprisingly better than planned. So here I am, writing a retrospective look at two recent outings with this common and affordable ammunition.
I picked up this ammo at a Walmart for $6.84 per 20-round box … a little less than 35 cents per round, not including tax. Not a bad price at all.
Although the grain weight and cartridge appearance is the same as older American Eagle FMJ I had, in the black box with white print, the packaging on this one was quite different. The background is olive drab and “223 REM.” Is printed on the side in military stencil font.
Maybe this is a different ammo recipe, I thought to myself as I loaded up for some plinking on a blustery October morning. The wind was blowing so hard across the elevated shooting platform, I could feel a cold zone setting in just above my knee socks. The good news—it was only about a quarter-value wind in relation to the assortment of steel targets placed at various distances below.
I settled in behind my AR, an outstanding piece of equipment by Battle Rifle Company, topped by a Lucid L7 scope. Both have been previously reviewed on this website. The IPSC-type 200-yard target looked big as a Volkswagen with the scope at 3x power. Pinnnnng. That was too easy.
A little adjustment of aim brought the 300 yard target into view. It took two shots to determine a windage hold, and after a few good hits on this smaller (literally and in my field of view) steel, I decided to tackle the 525-yard target, a hanging 10-inch plate.
Now this was a challenge. With a couple unfortunate gusts affecting bullet trajectory, it took at least seven shots to figure out a hold that worked. For a few minutes, I felt frustrated and mad at myself for wasting ammunition. And then—it came together. Eight of the next 10 shots rang the steel at 525 yards.
Granted, I’d not tested this relatively new gun at that distance. But 525 yards is pushing the limits of the .223 caliber. This combination of rifle, scope, and American Eagle ammunition was surprisingly on point. I was amazed at the ease with which this relatively inexpensive load was showing match-grade performance. On the ride home, my feet and hands were still chilly but this new aspect of love for my AR’s performance made it a perfect day.
A couple weeks later, a colleague put me, using the same gun, optic, and ammunition, through daytime and dim-light carbine qualifications, the same test he uses for certifying law enforcement officers. While the 70-yards-and-less distances aren’t really a test of ammunition accuracy, the rapid firing sequences and frequent reloads on the clock are a test of its functionality.
Again, American Eagle 55 grain FMJ stood up to the task, helping me earn a 97 on the day shoot – a reflection of not knowing my 15-yard holdover before that moment, and a perfect score on the night qual. But I was still wondering, now more than ever—had Federal tweaked this load somehow to make it better?
The ever-helpful Federal Ammunition rep, Jared Hinton of Vista Outdoors, was the obvious person to query. I asked him if the new box is indicative of changes to the old formula. No, he said. Turns out, Federal prints different boxes for different customers. The OD box is Walmart’s design; other outlets like Bass Pro Shops have their own design as well. The difference is only skin deep.
This is one load I’ll keep buying. Although every brand’s FMJ isn’t suited to every gun, Federal American Eagle 55 grain FMJ has proven to be a great performer for my rifle, one that leaves money in my pocket for hot coffee after the range.
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