How Far Can An AR-15 Shoot Accurately?

Have you wondered how far can an AR-15 shoot accurately?

It’s important to know what your rifle is capable of so we’re going to talk about distance and accuracy for an AR-15 firing the .223 round.

So, how far can an AR-15 shoot accurately? An AR-15 has an effective range of 400-600 yards when chambered for .223 caliber rounds, this changes when firing different caliber ammunition.

how far can an ar 15 shoot accurately

What Determines The Effective Range Of A Rifle?

The effective range of a rifle and caliber is defined in a couple of different ways.

The U.S. Army defines it as the maximum range at which a typical soldier can hit a torso sized target at 50% accuracy.

A civilian and general definition says that effective range is the distance at which a firearm can hit a target with reasonable consistency.

Three main things impact the effective range of a rifle: the barrel length, the ammunition, and the area. For our purposes, we’ll assume that the area isn’t a problem and focus on the length and ammo.

A longer barrel contains more energy and results in higher muzzle velocity. This pushes the bullet farther and increases the distance a round travels before it begins to drop.

A caliber and ammo grade can also extend or limit the effective range. Larger calibers usually have more gunpowder, which means more energy.

The higher the grade or amount of gunpowder that farther the round can travel. The larger the caliber, the more punch the bullet has as well.

How Far Can An AR-15 Shoot Accurately With Different Calibers?

Depending on the caliber of the round your firing with your AR-15, your effective range will change. In general, the more powerful the round, the farther your effective range is.

Check out this table for a quick reference on the effective ranges for common AR-15 calibers:

Caliber Effective Range (in meters)
.223 (5.56 NATO) 400-600 meters
.308 800 meters
.338 Laputa 1500 meters
.50 BMG 1600 meters (1 mile)
9mm 100 meters
.450 Bushmaster 250 meters

Take note that effective range doesn’t refer to the power that the bullet has at that range, but how far it can hit a target with some degree of accuracy.

For example, though the 9mm and .450 Bushmaster have stopping power, their bullets drop faster than standard rifle rounds.

On the flipside, the .223 (the standard) can travel farther, but it may not be enough to take down a grown buck at 600 meters unless it’s placed in the exact right spot.

Then there’s the .50 BMG which could take out a vehicle if you hit the engine block with range and power.

Related: How To Hold An AR-15

How Far Can A .223 Round Travel?

To answer this question is tricky because it depends on several different factors. Are you firing level with the ground or angled up in the air?

In general, the maximum effective range also indicates generally how far the round travels before it starts to drop although this can be extended with a longer barrel and faster twist ratio. So for this answer, you’re looking at 400-600 meters.

If you angle the rifle up at all (even just slightly above parallel), the number goes up dramatically although there is no functional accuracy.

Power wise, the .223 shot from an AR-15 has the potential to travel up to 3 miles, but you won’t be able to aim at anything.

Safety Tip: This potential for long (yet inaccurate) travel is why you should always know what’s behind your target when you shoot and make sure that there’s something there to catch the bullet in case you miss.

Are AR-15s Accurate?

Short answer: Yes. The AR-15 is an accurate rifle within its range.

Long answer: In some ways, this is like asking if a pencil can spell words correctly. It depends on the person using it.

Different AR models from the cheap to expensive lines have different accuracy potential.

They usually range from 1-3 MOA (minute of angle) with average being closer to 1.5. The lower the MOA, the more accurate the rifle is.

It also depends on the shooting your doing.

If you do a lot of rapid fire even with semi-auto, your accuracy is going to drop. You won’t be as centered on the target if you fire quickly.

In general, the rifle is going to outshoot you. It can be more accurate than you’re probably going to be, so don’t blame the gun; go out and practice.

If the recoil and muzzle rise is throwing off your aim, you may want to consider a muzzle brake.

Related: The 7 Best AR-15 Muzzle Brakes

Quick Tips To Improve Accuracy

Want to make the best of your rifle? Here are some quick tips for improving accuracy with the AR-15:

  • Get good gear (scopes, scope rings, mounts, stocks, etc.)
  • Keep your rifle clean inside and out
  • Hold the AR-15 correctly
  • Zero your rifle
  • Don’t pick your head up after you shoot
  • Know your trigger pull
  • Practice, practice, practice

Following these tips may help with AR-15 accuracy on your part.

As the section above shows, it probably won’t be the gun that lets you down but your ability.


We hope you enjoyed learning about how far an AR-15 can shoot accurately. Knowing the capabilities of your rifle can make you an expert.

The answer: 400-600 meters with the .223 (5.56 NATO).

It’s a complicated answer, but each part can make you a more responsible and effective gun owner. Now if you find yourself at the range or out hunting, you know what you’re weapon can handle.

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