350 Legend vs 223, the best light hunting rifle

I have a 350 legend and a .223, they’re great guns. Both cartridges are getting popular for hunting and home defense.

The 223 and 350 Legend are great calibers for hunting or self-defense. They have a similar effective range, but the 350 Legend does more damage. Both are low-recoiling rifles and work well on deer-sized game. The 350 Legend will work on larger animals than the .223, but it had more recoil.

Let’s go over all the major differences of each cartridge. Both have some serious strengths and weaknesses.

.22 Caliber vs .35 Caliber

The 223 is a 22 caliber, while the 350 legend fires a 35 caliber (9mm) bullet. Because of this, the 350 Legend uses much heavier bullets than a .223 can. That’s why the 350 Legend is good for larger animals. The wider bullet means that in a pistol, the 350 Legend will create much more damage than a .223.

The main way that a .223 creates enough energy for capacitating damage is through velocity. The average .223 load is 55-grains going 3100 fps. That’s got some serious potential as a small and medium game hunting option. Lightweight fast bullets often do not penetrate very deeply, but it’s more than enough for deer hunting or home defense.

With good bullets, the .223 will have an easy time taking a large deer. Proper bullets are absolutely needed for it though. the 350 legend has a much easier ethically taking deer just because the bullet is so much bigger. The larger bullet very easily causes more vascular damage and destroyed tissue.

The 350 Legend bullet is 60 percent wider than a .223 bullet. That means that when there is no noticeable hydrostatic shock or bullet fragmenting (over 250-yards or when fired from a pistol), the 350 Legend will cause over twice the bleeding that a 223 does.

.223 and 350 Legend bullets recovered from ballistic targets at 100 yards.

They Both Have the Same Chamber Pressure

Both the .223 and 350 Legend has the same max chamber pressure of 55,000 psi as measured by S.A.A.M.I. The 350 runs at a higher pressure than most 35 caliber Cartridges do. That’s how it gets such high energy levels for a straight-walled, mid-power cartridge.

The 350 Legend launches a 180-grain bullet at 2100 fps with a muzzle energy of around 1750 ft/lbs. the 223, having the same pressure but a lighter bullet shoots a 55-grain bullet at 3200 fps with 1200 ft/lbs of energy.

The reason both have the same pressure is because that’s the maximum pressure an AR-15 can handle. The 350 Legend, although insanely popular in the Savage Axis and Ruger American bolt-action rifles, was designed for compatibility in the AR-15.

If you have an AR in 5.56 or .223, all you have to do is switch the barrel and get a different magazine and you can shoot the 350 Legend. other than the barrel and magazine, all other parts are compatible. Most people who want to swap 223 for 350 Legend just buy a 350 Legend complete upper for $250-$450. That’s what I did.

I bought a complete upper from Bear Creek Arsenal so I can swap back and forth in 20 seconds. I know some people talk bad about Bear Creek, but I’ve bought 4 rifles from them with no issues, so I’m happy with them. My Bear Creek 350 Legend is a good shooter. I can make a fine shot out to the maximum distance for the 350.

Notice the heavy base intact on the 350 legend. That helps it drive deep into a target.

The 350 Legend Penetrates More Than .223

The 350 Legend penetrates nearly twice as much as the .223 does with hunting ammo, due to the increased energy and heavier bullets. That’s why the 350 works on larger animals like mule deer and bears, and can be used on small elk.

When It comes to Hunting power and capability, the 350 Legend beats the .223 every day of the week. Both have a similar max range, But the 350 Legend is a much heavier hitter. It’s like the difference between getting hit by a stone from a slingshot or getting punched by a heavyweight champion.

The lack of penetration of the .223 means that it sometimes doesn’t exit a deer and if it does, it makes a small hole. That means a light blood trail. The 350 Legend penetrates more and makes a bigger hole than the .223.

Both Have a Similar Range, but the 350 Works Farther

The 223 has a maximum effective range of 200-yards on deer to ensure proper penetration. The 350 Legend is good to 250-yards before it loses too much power to penetrate well. Both work well. The .223 drops 3-inches less at 200 yards than the .350 legend, but the 350 is good for a bit farther before it runs out of energy.

I’ll take a minute to explain the maximum point-blank range. That is, the furthest you can just point and shoot, and hit within 3-inches up or down of the bullseye. For both of these, the best sighting distance is about 175 yards. With 62-grain hunting loads, The .223 has a maximum point-blank range of about 250 yards. The 350 legend has a max point-blank range of 200 yards.

Some hunters will use the 350 Legend out to 300-yards, but that’s too for me to be comfortable with. I wouldn’t shoot past 250 yards at the most. Technically, it still has around 600 ft/lbs of energy less which is within the range of the .357 Magnum, but I personally set 650 ft/lbs as my lowest limit. Below that, I just can’t trust the bullet to work well.

Neither of those is that bad. It’s hard to get much beyond a max point-blank range of 200 yards. I prefer to keep all shots into a point-blank (point and shoot, no holdover or adjustments) range. If you keep shots to a god, point-blank range, you’ll have fewer misses and bad shots.

If You’d like to know more about the max range of the 350 Legend, I broke it down in a more detailed article. Here’s the link.

Both Work For Deer and Hogs

The .223 and 350 Legend work equally well for deer and hogs. Both will make a clean kill at 200 yards, but the 350 Legend works better on large Russian Boars. Both cartridges are becoming more popular across the country for deer and hogs.

I’ve shot a few hogs. My brother in Texas Hunts hogs. We are both comfortable using either a .223 or 350 legend on wild hogs. I hunt deer with a 16-inch barrel .223 DPMS rifle and 62-grain Winchester Deer Season XP ammo. I’m not the world’s greatest shot in the field, so I keep things under 200 yards. It works great.

The reason I prefer the .223 for deer personally is recoil. My rifle is weight-forward and has a heavy barrel. It has around 2 ft/lbs of recoil and almost no muzzle rise after a shot. To me, that just makes it fun. plus, if I need a follow-up shot, the muzzle rise is so small that even with a scope I don’t lose focus on my target in between shots.

However, the 350 legend is a thumper. And, fewer deer are lost with the 350 than with the .223. The 350 has a wider margin of error than the .223 does. The 350 will bust through the shoulder when the .223 will not. The 350 will work with a poorer shot angle, on a bigger der, or at a further distance.

350 Legend is a Good Bear Gun

The 350 Legend is a perfect gun for Black Bears. The 180-grain Winchester Power-Point ammo in 350 Legend has killed a lot of bears. It will work well out to 200-yards and has very manageable recoil. Its low recoil allows most shooters to shoot it more accurately and comfortably than larger calibers, and it’s great for youth hunters.

If I wanted one gun to hunt bear, it’d be an AR-15 in 350 Legend. I’ve tried a lot of bear guns. 30/30, .308, 30-06, 450 Bushmaster, and 12-gauge shotguns, just to name a few. Of all I tried, I like the 350 Legend the best. I’ve found it to be the best combination of penetration, recoil, and ammo price out of them all.

I dare any black bear to give me a clear shot at 200 yards. That day will be his last day. I would have absolutely zero doubt in the 350 Legend taking a 400-pound bear. I’ve seen it done many times. More and more bears are being killed with the 350 Legend all the time.

.223 has 50 Percent Less Recoil than 350 Legend

The .223 has half 3.5 ft/lbs of recoil of a 350 Legend and the 350 Legend has 7. For small children or people not used to shooting, a 223 is a perfect starter rifle.

I’ve really learned to love low-recoiling rifles. They are just darn fun to shoot. They’re also easier to shoot both fast and accurately. Since modern bullet technology makes the .223 practical for everything from gophers to deer, it’s a fine hunting rifle for most people.

It’s also highly applicable to a tactical or defensive situation because it’s so light recoiling. It’s easy to control when shooting fast, and a lot easier to stay on target. There’s something to be said about that.

The recoil of the 350 is definitely more than a .223, but it’s still not bad. It’s less than half the recoil of a .308. I’m a little guy, and I can shoot 100 rounds of hot-loaded 350 Legend and not feel anything in my shoulder.

It’s got a little pop to it, but it doesn’t feel bad at all. it’s about like getting a moderate shove. It may be too much for very small children, but the average 14-year-old could handle it fine.

223 is faster and flatter shooting

At 250 yards, the .223 has about 7 inches of drop when sighted in at 100 yards. The 350 Legend has 36 inches drop at 300-yards, but the .223 has 36 inches drop at 425-yards. The .223 travels the same distance faster, so gravity has less time to pull it down.

Subsonic 350 Legend Made to Supress

If you’re looking to run suppressed, the 350 legend is better than a .223. The 350 Legend can still be powerful in a quiet, subsonic load. Subsonic 350 Legend is great for hunting or defense out to 100 yards. The .223 can’t be both quiet and powerful but the 350 Legend can.

Winchester makes a subsonic, 255-grain load in 350 Legend to work well with a suppressor. It runs very quietly and hits 650 ft/lbs of energy, it’s slow at 1050 fps, but its high ballistic coefficient makes it penetrates fairly well.

350 Legend is Better than .223 in pistols

350 Legend runs much better than .223 in a pistol. It’s more powerful and more effective than .223 in short barrels. With 145-grain ammo, you can get 2050 fps in a 10-inch barrel with 1350 ft/lbs of energy. That’s equal to full-power .223 ammo out of a rifle. The 350 Legend performs very well in pistols and short-barreled rifles.

I am quite impressed by just how well the 350 shoots in short barrels like an AR-pistol. Ruger sells an AR-pistol chambered in 350 Legend for defensive use. It’s a very good and effective defensive firearm.

If you want to now more, I have an article on the breaking down the balistics of 350 Legend by barrel length. Here’s the link.

Price and Availability

Both 223 and 350 Legend are comparable in Price. Cheap fmj loads in both calibers run around $15 a box, and good hunting rounds are $20-$35 a box. Both are similar in price, but the 350 Legend is not as commonly sold in stores. Most gun stores sell .223 ammo, but some stores don’t stock 350 Legend ammo.

You might also be interested in this article 350 Legend vs .357 Magnum

Jordan Buck

Jordan Buck is an outdoor writer, a man of faith, and a family man. He grew up hunting, fishing, and trapping. Jordan has taught marksmanship, woodsmanship, and self-defense classes. He has earned black belts in four martial arts and is a certified Krav Maga instructor. He also runs his own Gun Blog and YouTube Channel. Jordan enjoys giving his time and resources to help others and has spent 15 years volunteering in a boy's mentoring program He is and will always be an American Patriot. MOLON LABE

2 thoughts on “350 Legend vs 223, the best light hunting rifle

  1. In the fourth section you state. “ That’s why the 223 works on larger animals like mule deer and bears, and can be used on small elk.”. I believe you mean to state the 350 works better on larger animals.

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