Army To Switch To “Green” 7.62x51mm NATO Round

The Army plan on switching to the leadless M80A1 7.62x51mm in 2014, after having gone “green” with the 5.56mm M855A1 EPR (Enhanced Performance Round) which they switch to from the M855 in 2010.

“The EPR replaces the lead slug with a copper slug,” said Lt. Col. Phil Clark, Product Manager Small Caliber Ammunition in the Program Executive Officer Ammunition.

“This makes the projectile environmentally friendly, while still giving Soldiers the performance capabilities they need on the battlefield. So far we have eliminated 1,994 metric tons of lead from 5.56 ammunition production.”

The round’s new bullet design features a copper jacket and exposed hardened steel penetrator. The switch has prompted a number of significant performance enhancements over the M855A1’s predecessor which was fielded in the early 1980s.

Similar improvements are expected from the 7.62 version.

Readers who are using the M855A1 EPR, are you happy with the rounds performance? How well does it perform on soft targets?

Thanks to Lance for the tip.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • sean

    But DU is still peachy keen!

    • Tom

      As far as the Navy goes we don’t use DU anymore. At least not on ships.

  • Kujuboman

    That is funny 5.56/223 is the same regardless of copper or lead

  • Matt

    The EPR round is a travisty.

    • Formynder

      I do not think that word means what you think it means.

  • Ben 10

    more lead for civilians, good. i just hope this doesn’t give those gun grabbers and eco-marxists another excuse to ban lead ammo.

    • Brilliantrocket

      “Eco marxist” ? What are you smoking, cause it must be good.

      • Jacqueshacques

        Eco-Marxists are those nut jobs who think it shouldn’t cost money to ever see a tree, and that the fish and game you eat shouldn’t give you brain damage. Crazy talk!

        • sunsync

          Please explain further, I’m not following… thanks!

      • Ben 10

        eco-marxists, you know people who want to ban lead bullets, because they claim it would hurt the environment, same wackos who want to ban light bulbs, you sound offended, are you one of them?

      • FourString

        Lol this “eco-marxist” soundbite sounds like it came from radio pundits that have no idea what they’re really talking about. I almost expect that “eco-fascist” is also used by that same crowd.

    • A Mericano

      This will end the sale of surplus ammo.

      These cartridges (and even just the bullets) will be legally classified as “armor-piercing handgun ammunition” under existing federal law, since .308 Winchester pistols have been manufactured and sold in the past.

      No more Federal “XM80” production overruns and seconds. No more Talon-style remanufactured ammo or surplus bullets.

  • curry

    more never ending bullshit

    • Well geez you gotta be green if you have to shoot people in combat:-)

      • Joshua

        Its about range cleanup sinple as that. This ammo greatly reduces te cost of it.

        Also the design of the ammo lends to exceptional fragmentstion in soft targets. M855A1 reliably fragments out to 600M from the M4A1, Everyone I know has reported excellent performance with this round.

        We did a lot of testing with it, but I never deployed with it. I have had the pleasure to see plenty of after action pics of dead insurgents and the results are incredible.

  • Julio

    Green wars! “Take nothing but lives: leave nothing but corpses”?

  • gunslinger

    i…just…don’t know

    • Samuel Suggs


      • gunslinger

        because i had nothing useful to add but wanted to increase my post count…

        do you even post bro?

  • michael

    ironic that lead, found everywhere in nature, is a problem for our military.

    • Brilliantrocket

      Not really. Before the use of tetraethyl lead fuel additives, lead was not found “everywhere in nature”. At least not in the concentrations that it is now.

      • B.

        You do realize that all the lead that there is now is what has always been around, with the exclusion of any lead from meteorites that may impact Earth. The only we humans have done is we’ve dug it up and processed it. We haven’t created lead, it’s not possible.
        However, if old estimates are correct, the world’s accessible lead supply would dry up in 42 years (New Scientist – 2007, so, 36 years now). Some estimates gave it only 18 years (Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble – 2006, so only 11 years now).
        Kinda interesting that the armed forces are switching to a lead free ammo when you look at estimates that lead may become scarce in as little as 11 years (but more likely in about 30 years).

        • Othermichael

          YOU do realize that digging something up, adding it to a substance, and then burning that substance is almost the absolute best way to disperse something “everywhere” in this nature place we live in, right? I believe he’s talking about levels in organisms.

          • B.

            Hey, you can tell with some people. There are those that think we make lead for bullets.

        • Brilliantrocket

          I was referring to surface and water/ aquatic sediment lead. Of course I know that we aren’t creating lead, I took chemistry.

          We took lead from subsurface sources, and dispersed it all around our environment. I’m all for lead free ammo. Why take risks with a heavy metal that has no known threshold below which it is not harmful? If we can get similar or better performance from copper,tin etc. ,why not?

          • B.

            Haha, ok. I honestly have met some greenpeace types that thought that we were making lead for bullets, and we were killing the environment with lead we were making.
            I agree, after working in a gun range, and having to gear up in Level B hazmat suit/ full face respirator to change the filters at the gun range, and seeing just how much lead powder, unburnt and burnt gunpowder, dust, etc. I am all for cleaner burning propellants and cleaner bullets.

          • Yea like the lady on the radio that thought we should all buy or beef in grocery stores so we don’t have to kill cows to get beef. It takes all kinds.

          • B.

            Only reason I buy my beef in stores is ranchers get angry when I go hunting cows on their land.
            Who’da thunk it.

          • MOG

            Do not hunt turkeys in a grocery store, freaks people out in the frozen food section, when the shot gun goes off.

          • Ben 10

            lead has been used for bullets for centuries, if you still don’t know how harmful it is to shooters , hunters and gun owners in general, then maybe it isn’t as harmful as the gun grabbers and eco-marxists want you to think.

        • BryanS

          How much cleaner is copper mining?

          • B.

            All mining is dirty to some degree, as is the refining processes. You gotta pick and chose which evils you want to support and which will do the least harm to what you want to protect, while getting you what you want.

        • Hunter57dor

          you realize they said the same thing about oil reserves in the 1970’s right?

          somehow, we still have oil everywhere…..

      • m

        not in the concentrations it’s is now? We didn’t create lead, we processed it and redistributed it. Regardless, other than shooting ranges and places of combat, where is the eco tragedy? I’m not even sure that any place other than a mining facility or shoot range would constitute a travesty.

        I’m sorry, I just don’t see the need to spend money on this when there are more important things our military needs to concern itself with. I’m a hell of a lot more concerned with our boys and the ROE than displacing lead.

  • Lance

    Bet it be clean except for its sooty powder.

  • Esh325

    That’s good, considering the M80 load they use today is no different from the first loading they used in the 1950’s. I wonder will the load be hotter like the M885A1?

    • Mr. X

      Armorers I know are anticipating yes, higher chamber pressure not being dinged during testing, but flatter shooting being rewarded. Basically what they’re asking for is easier to provide w/ hotter round. Buy headspace gauges and spare barrels now, prices will go up when stuff starts wearing out faster.

      Of course more expensive = less training, so maybe not.

  • ballstothewall345

    i can’t wait to get murdered by the military knowing that my death was an asset to the environment.

  • Max

    Wouldn’t the use of a pure copper projectile be more expensive? I’ve always been under the impression that lead was cheaper than copper; after all copper based ammo is very expensive for civilian use. I suppose the DoD can get around this? Serious question.

    • Samuel Suggs

      they are not pure copper

      • Max

        ” ‘The EPR replaces the lead slug with a copper slug,’ The round’s new bullet design features a copper jacket and exposed hardened steel penetrator.”

        Semantics aside. It may not be ‘pure’ copper, but my question still stands: Does it, or does not raise the price-per-cartridge? Is the DoD willing to take this expense for the environment and added benefits; or have they they found a cheap process to produce these types of projectiles? I guess to the environmentally conscious, or if lead is just “that” expensive now, the question is moot. However, these are the same people who take the lowest bid on a soldier’s survival gear, now they’re willing to ‘bite the bullet’ for the environment? I’m not buying it. Either they’ve found a process to make these cartridges cheaply, or this is proof that our priorities wacked-out. In my experience, which isn’t much considering my age, the use of lead for the most part has always been superior in firearms, and that superiority is what going to get our soldiers home. Attempting to protect the environment is a useless endeavor during warfare.

        • Samuel Suggs

          They haven’t issued a press release on the subject yet. the Chinese have been using a similar but inferior projectile for quite a while now so I personally doubt it’s too bad but we shall see I hope steve follows up on the subject.

          • Max

            Must not be terribly expensive if the Chinese are doing this. Here’s to Steve following up it.

          • Samuel Suggs

            yeah thanks for responding and sounds great.

  • matt RRC

    What is the cost for these? Are they more than normal 5.56? Is it another eco-friendly way to make a .10 round cost .90? Remember when anti-freeze was like $3.00? Yep, make everything eco friendly and “better” and you just end up paying more in the end. And for what? No thanks.

  • Cannelure

    I can’t seem to wrap my head around environmentally friendly war. If that’s not an oxymoron, then I don’t know what one is.

    • FourString

      War! What is it good for! Environmental friendliness! War! Hyah!

      • Cybrludite

        Good God, y’all.

  • MOG

    I can not tell you how many times I hesitated firing in Vietnam, thinking, “What is this bullet going to do to the environment”.

    • michael

      thank you for your service and glad you made it back.

  • Ian Carlin

    Green is just a side effect. It really does work better in every way at killing

  • Ian Carlin

    It fragments into at least 2 parts, ,the penetrator and core any velocity. Fragments like 77gr hpbt at 2 inch penetrstion at low velocity but very dirty

  • Mazryonh

    Wouldn’t TMJ rounds fix most of the lead exposure problem? It’s not like animals swallowing TMJ rounds can digest the metal jacket off to get to the lead, right?

    I must wonder whether people in poor, high-conflict countries regularly dig up fired bullets to recycle the metals. Metal detectors should be able to detect the copper used in the jackets for fired bullets, right?

  • Alex Nicolin

    Wouldn’t the switch to a steel-only core make the bullets much lighter, and thus more susceptible to wind drift, and also less likely to fragment?

  • hawkins455054

    There is a Green Agenda the Obungho is pushing, to ban lead ammo, read about it maybe a week ago, sometime in the near future there will be a push to outlaw lead ammo, just look at Kalifornia, once lead ammo is outlawed, how long and how hard is it going to be for the ammo companies to switch over all production to non-lead, will there be a viable bullet for a .22, just look at the cost for Remington’s Copper solid shotgun slugs, 15.00 for (5), not to mention how fast your favorite gun barrel will wear out, and here’s the main point, under the Green Agenda law or ATF, it is illegal for civilians to have armour piercing ammo, that would put all ammo that is too hard in that list, at least that’s the impression I get

  • Austin

    I love how absolutely batshit everyone is going over “green” ammo. Look, geniuses, the goal of the EPR round was not “to avoid polluting the battlefield.” It’s right there in the name: Enhanced Performance Round. It was intended to give the 5.56 round better barrier penetration and long-range terminal ballistics. The lack of lead in the projectile is a side effect of that goal, not the goal itself. Personally, I have heard that the higher pressures the round runs at are absolutely awful for barrel life in the M-16/4 series weapons, and I’ve heard a few anecdotal accounts of this round being directly responsible for kBs.

    If I recall, the Army gave a bunch of rounds to some competition shooter, who claimed to have shot a perfect score during the Air Force Cup at 600 yards. I don’t know if that’s true or not (far too lazy to use google), but I again, have heard anecdotal accounts that the typical accuracy for the M855A1 is abysmal compared to the previous rounds used. Add to that the substantially higher cost per round, and I am curious to see how long it will last in our current “fiscally responsible” environment.

    • Anton357

      Finally someone that is actually talking about the performance! Does it meet the stated goals? Is it effective? Will it blend?

    • A Mericano

      And to date there is no evidence that M855A1 is any better than M855.

      At least the M855A1 hasn’t actually poisoned any US troops, the way that the “green” 5.56mm from NAMMO was making Norwegian soldiers sick.

  • Joe Kelly

    It isn’t easy being green.

  • some guy

    I have used the 5.56mm version at close range in a green-on-blue response. I hit center mass with 24/24 rounds but it took another responder to hit the shooter in the head with a 9mm to kill the shooter. The shooter used an M-16 with M193 ammo and killed several people almost instantly and incapacitated some others. I fired three strings because I didn’t think I was hitting him at first, then he went down but was alive, then he went for his weapon and I fired again. The only effect my first string had was that it likely prevented him from reloading.

    This is the only engagement I have ever been in, but I do not care what the Army or anyone else says, I do not consider this performance to be effective. I do not care about what is more optimal at 100 yards. I do not care if he was on drugs (I was never told) because that happens in war and crime.
    I now carry a Surefire 60-round mag with another 30 in a Redi-mag carrier on my weapon at all times (we don’t normally wear kit here), and have mixed as many M193s as I could find back into my issued M855A1. I realize this may be an overreaction, but I don’t care. My life is worth a neckache and some money, and I don’t do foot patrols. In the future I will always, always, always use the most powerful firearm I can get my hands on, test the ammo myself, and empty the mag. I will also begin training to adjust fire towards the head.
    I know there are supposed to be some very effective hollowpoint 5.56mm rounds, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever feel comfortable with 5.56 again.

  • A Mericano

    And how much more does each round cost than plain old lead-core M80 ball?

    Good thing we don’t have a huge federal deficit or some such.