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.223 Critical Defense Review

June 30, 2018

There is a trend going on right now with home defense.  Where the pistol or shotgun used to be the go to guns the rifle and in particular the AR15 platform is taking over.  Why is this?  It’s pretty simple.  The 223/556 rounds have more energy than most common pistol calibers that are used for home defense, we will let you guys have the 9mm vs. 45 ACP debate in the comments.  While the AR is giving up a little energy to the shotgun, typically about 300ftlbs, it makes up for it in round capacity and ergonomics. Don’t believe me try reloading a shotgun under stress.  It turns into a shit show real quick unless you have practiced which most people do not.

The thing that is easy to forget and that goes back to one of the basic 4 firearms rules:  knowing what your target is AND what is around it including past it.  So with the selection of any home defense round for any platform it becomes a balancing act: Using ammo that delivers enough physical trauma to the bad guys without going into the next room or your neighbor’s house/apartment.

The people over at Hornady recognized this and attempted to design a rifle round specifically for home defense.   Their goal was to come up with a rifle round that would dump all of its energy upon impact, does not matter if it’s the bad guy or into a wall if/when you miss.

What you never miss?  Look we aren’t all John Wick people miss in the real world especially when they aren’t used to shooting under stress and their heart rate going about 180-200 beats per minute.

In doing some research we found that the 223 Critical Defense ammo is new enough that there isn’t much in the way of testing out there.  The only videos I could find of it on YouTube was just the Hornady marketing videos, but the way YouTube has been treating gun channels lately that might also be a reason.

So we decided to do some of our own testing, just remember we are working with a tight budget.  We didn’t have a gel block so we just used old fashion gallon jugs of water 3 deep.  We were comparing the 73gr 223 Critical defense rounds to some other common 223 home defense rounds from our personal stock, 55gr Speer gold dot and 55gr Amax.  Each ammo type was shot 1 time each at its set of 3 water jugs from 10 yards away out of an AR15 with an 18” barrel.

First up?  The .223 55gr Speer Gold Dot.

223 gd

As you can see from the pictures the Speer gold dot mushroomed almost perfectly.  It did however go into the 3rd jug of water.


Next we shot the 55gr 223 Amax. 

223 amax


We found parts of this round in the 2nd jug of water and it had enough energy to penetrate the 3rd jug.


Last but not least the 73gr 223 Critical Defense.

223 cd

This was the only round to NOT penetrate it into the 3rd jug.  Upon inspection of the 2nd jug we found that the round had fragmented.



The 73gr 223 Critical Defense ammo appears to work as advertised having the least amount of penetration of the rounds that we tested.  This round is specifically designed for home defense.  We took some shots with it at some steel at 300 yards and there was a noticeable audible difference, weaker, at that range.  This round is something that you are going to primarily use at 25 yards at most and more realistically less than 10 yards.  Beyond that well good luck explaining why a civilian had to take a defensive shot at beyond 25 yards with a rifle.  Yes there are times when a shot like that is justifiable but they are very far and few between.

Is it the best ammo for a civilian to use for HD?  Until more testing against more rounds has been done the answer is simply no.  There are too many variables and different types of ammo that we did not have for testing to come to the conclusion that this would be the best ammo for a home defense rifle.

Is it worth considering?  According to the results from the above testing yes.