Weekly DTIC: The M855A1 Story

For this week’s DTIC… We’re going to go elsewhere. The document we’ll be looking at, Major Glenn Dean’s “In Search of Lethality: Green Ammo And The M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round”, can’t be found there, but it is available for free on Smashwords, and I encourage readers to proceed through the link and download it. This retrospective documents very succinctly the actual story behind the M855A1, why it came to be, what its project goals were, and the scope and length of the project.

Major Dean paints a very different picture than that of other writers handling the subject; one where the M855A1 cartridge was conceived of Special Forces input and a desire for greater and more consistent lethality and effectiveness, and midwifed by a research endeavor extensive in scope and length. This included tests of both commercial off the shelf projectiles and unique experimental projectiles that could not possibly meet Hague standards, as well as radiographs of the test projectiles in flight. The result was a cartridge with far more testing behind it than its competitors in any caliber. The lessons learned would go on to be applied to the M80A1 program, as well as the Mk. 318 and Mk. 319 SOST rounds.

As supplemental material, this Army Research Laboratory promotional video talks about the M855A1 and shows a look at ARL’s radiograph testing range. I already covered the results of testing small arms on this range in a previous article.

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


  • Alex Nicolin

    The goal shouldn’t be a lead free bullet, but a copper free cartridge, since the price of copper is one of the main drivers of ammo prices. Mild steel jacket and case would be much cheaper.

    • JMLipoff

      Steel doesn’t expand to fit a chamber as well as brass does, which leads to a lot more gas and carbon venting rearward back out of the chamber. For a gas impingement rifle, that may be a problem for a military application.

      • Spencer W

        Alex was talking about the jackets not the cases.

        Your concern over steel cases is not realistic. Yes brass is better but steel does just fine. Look at all the european steel case rounds that are used everyday here in the U.S.. The miniscule amount of gas loss and parts wear increase is nothing when you look at the cost savings.

        • Zachary marrs

          Does anyone put out a steel case 5.56? Or is it all .223 loads?

          • Depending on who you talk to, some of the Russian stuff is supposed to approach 5.56 spec. Whether that’s true or not I do not know.

            I know the Russians have documented problems with their steel cases at higher (60KPSI+) pressures, but I think that is because of the metallurgy involved, not the fact that the cases are steel. One US steel case program suggested that stainless was in fact superior than brass for high pressure applications.

          • Sparkle Dragon
          • That is the one I was referring to earlier, thanks!

          • Thracian Beast

            I’ve been searching these info data bases for years, great stuff if you know where to look. That was me that posted that I just set this acct up. Hey just a question do you have any data on the Black Hills 100gr OTM load with the blue coating. Besides the stuff on ammo oracle and threads on various forums? Thanks

          • Thracian Beast

            Oh your welcome lol

          • Spencer W

            I would have to agree with Nathaniel on this one. They could easily produce a true .556 steel case but most of the time it is more .223.

        • Alex Nicolin

          I was talking about both bullet jackets and cartridge cases. The metallurgy for steel cases was figured out long ago, as far back as the 1940s. Most of the German 8×57 IS ammo used in WW2 was steel cased. The loading pressure was the standard one ~57KPSI. They were made from cheap, mild (low carbon) steel, and copper plated.

          The Germans made 7.62 NATO ammo with steel case, firing steel jacketed bullets after the war, for their army. At that time, they used the G3, which is brutal with cases – because of the roller delayed blowback the case head is stretched far more than in fully locked actions, even with the gas flutes along the chamber. They didn’t have issues with the cases, and the bullet jackets fragmented violently. Patrone AB22 DM41 and DM111

          • Spencer W

            You are correct, not sure how I missed that. My mistake, sorry.

            I didn’t know the Germans used steel case in WW2, cool.

          • Randolph

            That is not exactly true. Steel cased rounds were used by german soldiers in the first WW already. These cases were copper plated. In the second WW cases were laquered. Initially steel cases were only used for the model 98 rifles. Self loading rifles were required to work with steel cased ammunition then. Later in WW II they used some form of an additional wax coating to make the steel cased ammunition also for machine guns. Internal and external ballistics differed somewhat from brass cased ammunition.
            Bundeswehr didn’t use steel cased 7,62mm ammunition. The only steel cased ammunition was for machine cannons. But the bullet jacket was always plated steel. The Soviet occupied part of Germany made a great use of steel cased ammunition for their infantry weapons.

      • I don’t think a properly specified steel cased round would greatly impact the reliability of service rifles. However, the Army doesn’t see enough benefit in “normal” steel cased ammunition to warrant “reinventing the wheel” as it were, and having to learn how to make the best steel cased ammunition it can (the metallurgy is much trickier than it at first appears, for both brass and steel, the difference is we had brass figured out by the thirties).

        Now, the Army is very, very interested in new methods of making steel cases, and is trialling a new flow-formed (? not sure precisely the method, will look it up) steel cased 7.62mm round that greatly reduces cartridge weight.

        It’s reasonable to expect that if they have good success with this, both 7.62mm and 5.56mm variations could be fielded.

        • Rusty Shackleford

          If the M855A1 can lend itself to the M80A1 then a properly made steel case made for the 7.62NATO cartridge can lend itself to the 5.56NATO, which can lead to properly made steel-cased ammo on the American market. Here’s hoping.

    • Lead free is important as it greatly improves the number of ranges at which soldiers can practice. Regardless of whether these environmental regs should exist or not, they do, and the Army wants to be able to practice at ranges beholden to them.

      The more soldiers are able to practice, the more effective with their weapons they will be. That’s a far better deal than any wonder-round, even.

  • Davey

    OK. I read the article. Yeah, it’s a different perspective. Yeah, M855A1 is a better general purpose ammunition in most situations. However, let’s put this heroic R&D effort into perspective. It’s not that much better than alternatives, and isn’t so outstandingly “green” – taking a pass on the argument that being “green” should be as much a priority as being “lethal”. Lots of money was spent. Lots of people postured. Lots of media attention was focused and… yawn.

    So, what has the Army produced?
    A round with better lethality than alternatives in some situations, but less in others.
    A round that seems to shine in longer-barreled automatic weapons.
    A round that whose lethality isn’t nearly so much improved in short-barreled weapons like the M4.
    A round that isn’t as barrier-blind as law enforcement ammunition that follows FBI protocols. It has a particular problem with auto windshield glass.
    A round with substantially higher chamber pressure (63,000 psi).
    A round that substantially accelerates barrel wear.
    A round that increases wear on bolt carrier groups, bolts, extractors, and ejectors.
    A round that will likely be be more expensive to manufacture than alternatives. And finally,
    A round that the USMC passed over in favor of Mk 318.

    In all fairness, it’s absolutely OK for the Pentagon to look at all of the negative opinions and say, “We’re good with that.”; leaving the issues raised in the G&A article and elsewhere by Dr. Gary K. Roberts unchallenged.

    In the end, the M855A1 development program isn’t going to down in history as an abject failure, compared to more deserving nominations. Just don’t bother to trade in your existing stocks of Mk 318, Optimized/Brown tip, or even MK282; all of which have been fielded since M855.

    • I’ve seen very little substantiation of the complaints made by Roberts and his followers about M855A1. Further, I am certain the ARL has more experience designing and testing ammunition than he does. If the ARL is pleased with their effort, I see no reason why I should not also be.

      Several of your bullet points make no sense to me, also. For example, why does this bullet “seem to shine in longer-barreled automatic weapons”? It was designed for the 14.5″ barrel of the M4, the first cartridge to have been designed to burn in this length of barrel.

      • Mark N.

        Which is exactly what the article says, along with mentioning a substantially reduced flash, a result achieved primarily with a faster burning flash suppressed powder at greatly increased chamber pressure to achieve the same velocity as the 855 out of a 20″ barrel. The new round is also designed to be better balanced than the 855 to reduce the yaw effects and inconsistent efficacy described here in a prior posting, yet be producible in massive quantities.

        • Minor quibble on an otherwise fine comment: M855A1 isn’t quite so hot as that, producing 2,970 ft/s velocity from a 14.5″ barrel (MV for M855 is approx. 3,100 ft/s from a 20″ barrel, 2,920 from a 14.5″ barrel).

          Of course, readers should keep in mind that muzzle velocity is highly variable, and such figures should be seen as guidelines only.

          • valorius

            When i was in many moons ago, m855 was stated to have a mv of 2850fps from the m16a2.

            Go figure

      • valorius

        Roberts says m855a1 gives you cavities.

        If i want to know when to floss, ill ask his opinion.

    • Russ

      The full-on media campaign to promote this round couldn’t help but raise suspicions. The decision to use a carbine and the use of the NATO standard round was bound to cause some problems for the Army; you always give up something. Running an over gassed M4 balanced at the extreme edge at 63 KSI sounds like a really bad idea.

      • I see it exactly the opposite way, really. M855A1 has rustled the jimmies of some people (esp. Remington) who’ve invested heavily in alternative calibers, and a pretty extensive bashing campaign has been undertaken to discredit the round.

        The technical data I’ve seen, not intended for public consumption, is pretty favorable towards the A1 round.

        • Russ

          While I completely agreethat complete technical data is best understood by the experts (not me for sure), this conversation is taking place on the extreme margins of the 5.56 performance envelope. The basic formula was KE=1/2MV^2 and it works. It worked in a 55 grain bullet at 3250 fps and then less well as the rifle changed along with the M855. The M4 is…well, I’m a Marine.

          I’ve been only mildly interested but I can’t help noticing ridiculous claims in accuracy improvements and other wildly improbable improvements in everything else for the A1. I’m a natural skeptic I guess. I believe the 5.56 is here to stay for a long time and personally I don’t think it’s killing ability can surpass the M193 in a twenty inch barrel. I hope that the A1 in the M4 is as successful as the M193 and that it piles ’em up.

          • The KE produced by the A1 from a 14.5″ barrel is not very different from the KE of the M193 from a 20″. The various other advantages it has should more than make up for that margin.

          • Russ

            There isn’t a single performance advantage to shortening a barrel ballistcally speaking. In the AR platform specifically, the M4 or any SBR is inferior in every way to the rifle except for real or perceived handling advantages.

          • Sure, but it’s not greatly inferior. There are different opinions on this, but I don’t think the Army is clearly wrong in desiring shorter-barreled weapons.

          • valorius

            Yes, as an infantry weapon, the m4 is clearly inferior to the m4.

            Shorter sight radius, lower velocity for any given load, and a shorter spear = clearly inferior.

            This coming from an ex infantryman.

            The m4 even exists at all because FN won the m16 contract.

          • Geodkyt

            Valorius, I’m with you on most respects, but “sight radius” is a dead issue now. When’s the last time you saw a US soldier who had an M4 that DIDN’T have some sort of optic mounted?

          • valorius

            Optics break bro.

          • valorius

            An m193 from the 20″ m16 fragments with the violence of a micro grenade. As the impact velocity decreases, any round is going to face less structural stress, and will not fragment as violently.

            I’m with russ the marine on this one. The m16/m193 was a win filled combination,

          • Geodkyt

            Going to the M4 with M855 costs you at least 50m of “fragmentation range”. Of course, once you’re past the range at which M193 would fragment from a 20″ barrel, there is NO discernable difference in effectiveness in meat.

            My issue is that, with the M4/M855 combo, that “fragmentation range” is INSIDE the effective range of your average Third Worlder with an AK — with an M16/M193, your max “frag range” is just OUTSIDE the likely threat’s effective range. At 300 meters, you can poke a bunch of icepick holes and wait for him to bleed. At 100 meters, you need him D-E-D Right Friggin’ Now.

      • Rusty Shaxckleford

        I became suspicious when the Army held a PR day to promote their new magic bullet and instead of using a standard M4 with the 1×7 twist, they used an accurized, match-grade M16 with a stainless steel barrel and a 1×8 twist from the AMU. Come to find out, they did that because using a 1×8 or 1×9 twist will yeild a group size approximately half that of the standard 1×7 twist barrel will group. This is true with both the M855 and M855A1. While the M855A1 is more accurate than the M855, it needs a 1×9 twist barrel to shine, although a 1×8 would be a good compromise for a standard twist rate.

        One would think that with the money spent, the ARL could have at least insured the M855A1 would follow a similar bullet-drop as the standard M855 so they could use the same optics with BDC that they bought over the last decade, but they didn’t. ARDEC claimed there was no need to re-zero when switching from M855 to M855A1 except that the claim was immediately disproven, forcing them to switch the claim to “it lessens the need to re-zero” whatever that means.

        As per the independent tests done by (Ret) Maj. John L. Plaster, while there was approximately 20% of fired rounds resulting in flyers due to uneven application of water-sealing, the round is more accurate and more deadly than the older M855, which didn’t start to yaw until 7″ which proved a problem when insurgents are malnourished and have an average torso depth of 7.5″ while M855A1 begins to yaw at 3″ with a temporary cavity of 4-6 inches and a minimum penetration depth of 12 inches. While there was not enough rounds to prove if it is truly barrier blind, I’m hopeful it will be.

        • Russ

          Very interesting! I hold the belief that accurate means consistent. So that even crappy ammo, if it is very consistently crappy, is “accurate.” Major P has a terrific rep but keeps reporting the A1 as more accurate which is not likely. It’s not likely given that ATK, which manages Lake City, is using the same machinery to produce the new ammo as they did the old ammo. IOW, even if the A1 bullet is more consistent, the brass, primer, and powder measuring is done to same consistency as the old M855, yielding excellent, but not more “accurate” ammo. What is “barrier blind” btw? Is it the ability to punch through barriers? And thanks!

          • Rusty Shackleford

            Consistency is very important. I don’t know if the “1 in 5 shots produced a flier” statement was due to a certain lot of the M855A1 or if it is the norm for the new round, but I believe the improved accuracy claim is mostly due to the improved concentricity of the penetrator when compared to the standard M855 which is almost always off center to some degree.

            Barrier-blind is a term based on the ‘FBI Protocol for Handgun Ammunition’ but expands upon it to include all small-arms ammo. It means the ammo has been tested to ensure high performance i.e. total penetration, weight retention and in the use of HP, expansion when shot through all common urban barriers like auto glass, sheet metal, plywood, drywall, heavy clothing as when it is shot through bare gelatin. A good example is a picture from a Hornady Critical Defense ad that can be seen as the first pic in this article:

          • Russ

            Well, that sounds a magic bullet indeed! Tntoutdoors has wonderful video on the M193 in gelatin. Having no other mechanism to transfer energy (like a hollow point) it yaws and breaks at the cannelure. Energy transfer is tremendous and even leaves visible shock wave damage in the media. I remember reading tha the designer of the SS109 specifically designed the projectile to more “humane” than the US M193 (fuck that–excuse my french). I will continue to assume that M855 is a better penetrator, it and the A1 are less successful on tissue and organs, that is real people. But then again, my Dad carried an M1 rifle in Korea and told me that they rarely got ball ammo, instead they carried black-tipped AP for reasons unknown. He has never mentioned a lack a lethality with that truly barrier blind round. Any thoughts on that AK74 bullet with the truly nasty rep? It appears to provide a legal mechanism for maiming people and many are impressed with it’s relative accuracy for such an inconcentric projectile.

          • I have never seen any document suggesting the M855/SS109 was designed to be more humane, and I can think of no reason it would be more humane than M193, since they perform almost identically.

            The 5.45mm 7N6 is certainly capable of maiming someone, as all bullets are, but it is primarily designed for maximum energy deposition, and is not an especially cruel design. Further, the 7N6 bullet is entirely (on paper) concentric, notwithstanding manufacturing variances, of course. The .303 caliber British Mark VII projectile is designed to tumble in the same way.

          • John

            Speaking of which, has there ever been an endeavor, by the military or commercial, of creating a 5.56 that has similar terminal ballistics to the 5.45 [that is to say, among other things, designed with an air pocket in the nose meant to destabilize and tumble the bullet on impact]?

            Just something I keep wondering but don’t know

          • valorius

            All non expanding spitzer bullets tumble in people/gel.

          • valorius

            Plz delete

          • Geodkyt

            SS109 is NOT M855 — M855 is the style of SS109 the US issues.

            FN SPECIFICALLY pushed their round as “more humane” and had developed it to deal (in part) with concerns raised by (amongst others, Sweden) about the “inhumane” nature of M193. The Humaneness was one of their top talking points during the NATO trials, along with better penetration and being easy to convert existing M16s to by changing twist rates and sight calibrations.

            Of course, it was rather easily proven that, with similar jacket styles, impacting at similar velocities, M855 performs EXACTLY like M193 in gelatine — it just hits slightly slower at ranges out to 500m due to being heavier and starting out slower.

          • There are a couple of reasons to believe it’s a bit more accurate, but it’s a moot point as it’s not something standard M4s (much less the average soldier behind the trigger) can take advantage of. The original reason for the emphasis on accuracy was because SOCOM wanted a standard round that could replace Mk. 262 but be bought through Big Green funds.

        • If you shot M855A1 from a 1/9 barrel, I am positive it would not stabilize adequately. It’s a very long bullet.

          The AMU rifles grouped better because they are accurized, with significantly better barrels and triggers than a standard M4. They were chosen to “show off” the great accuracy of the round, which is beyond that a normal M4 could make use of.

          M855A1 has a very similar trajectory to M855, having a very similar muzzle velocity and ballistic coefficient. I have never seen an ARDEC document later than 2010 (after M855A1 began fielding) that claimed rezeroing was not needed. Further, this has nothing to do with trajectory, and does not mean that existing BDC scopes will not work with the A1.

          • valorius

            The reason for the 1:7 twist is m856 tracer ammo, not m855. M856 doesnt stabilize properly in anything less tha1:7

      • valorius

        The switch to tue m4 was idiotic…i have no doubt it was done because FN won the m16 contract. The m4 was a way to make sure colt still got the armys business.

        In 5.56mm velocity is king….the m16 is a much better platform for that round.

        • Russ

          Yeah, in spite of all the grey areas where we can disagree and argue, lessening the barrel length does not improve AR/5.56 performance ballistically. I don’t know how much a shorter weapon helps the soldier shoot better.

          • Geodkyt

            And the 5.5″ length savings is a ridiculous joke of an argument for the M4 as a general issue infantry rifle. If the M4 was, say, a foot shorter (it would have to be a bullpup then), I could buy the, “But it’s shorter!” argument for line infantry having a 14.5″ barrel.

            The M4 isn;t 14.5″ because that’s a good length. It is 14.5″ because that is the length at which an AR15 with the handguard length from the old XM177 can properly mount a bayonet. Colt didn’t want to design new furniture and FSH mounting jigs, and after all, it was ONLY intended for tank crewman anyway. . .

    • gunsandrockets

      Very interesting. Thanks.

      The amount of money wasted on U.S. small arms development since WWII compared to the results produced seems almost as embarrassing as the history of bomber programs since the B-52.

    • valorius

      Dr roberts….the dentist?

  • big daddy

    This will go on and on, use the proper ammo and all this will stop. What that proper ammo is we pretty much know the military will not use due to a century plus old BS piece of paper. Now the military is going backward looking to use .40 for their pistols. The round must penetrate and expand, the key word is expand. A 5.56mm round that expands will do the job they want, we pretty much all know that. If they are going to keep using ball to get the results they want they must go to a bigger round which goes against everything they are trying to achieve. We never even signed the agreement as far as I know. As long as we face the same type of adversary in the future we do now, why bother being imaginarily humane? Fuel air explosives are humane? It’s typical political BS.

    • There are several bullet configurations that the US considers Hague-compliant that offer greatly improved terminal effect.

      Further, normal hollow point/expanding projectiles, while fine for shooting at your leisure at medium-sized game at moderate distances with no intervening barriers, do not meet all military requirements. This search for something truly “general purpose”, i.e., terminally consistent and capable against a wide variety of targets and intermediate barriers, led directly to M855A1, and I have very little doubt that meets those goals as best as a “billion per year” round of ammunition can.

      • gunsandrockets

        How much grief has the U.S. Army endured by insisting that carbines, rifles, and light machineguns all use the same cartridge? To what benefit? Commonality? While there are already so many types of munitions other than rifle cartridges used in an infantry company?

        • I don’t see any reason why they should use any more cartridges than they already are. What would something new accomplish that 5.56 could not?

          • gunsandrockets

            Why do you assume differentiation requires a new cartridge?

            As for why cartridges for rifles, carbines and light machineguns should not all be the same 5.56 cartridge, the answer is pretty obvious. In my opinion a universal cartridge is as obsolescent a doctrine as is the concept of the assault rifle as a universal infantry squad weapon.

            Peacetime armies seem to gravitate towards the idea of a universal weapon, at least in part for presumed economies of logistics and training. Yet wartime experience seems to break those preconceptions and drive adaptation of more complex mixes of small arms.

          • valorius

            I think the real problem is that the m4 carbine and its 14.5″ barrel has completely neutered the 5.56mm round.

            If colt had won the m16 bid instead of fn, i have no doubt whatsoever that the army would be using the m16a4. The m4 is really better suited for the needs of SOCOM and REMFs. It is a terrible general purpose infantry rifle.

          • gunsandrockets

            Hey it could be worse. Instead of the M-4 the U.S. Army almost ended up with the 13 inch barreled M-8!

            I suspect that the Army would have been happy with an even shorter barrel if the M-4 could have operated reliably enough with it. I recall reading somewhere that the M-4 barrel length came about from experimentation following experience with the even stubbier XM-177 which had an 11.5 inch barrel. Supposedly a 14.5 inch barrel was the shortest length that would function reliably.

          • valorius

            Im ex mechanized infantry and i thought the m16a2 was just about the perfect infantry weapon. It was not too long for vehicle use. It was not too heavy. And it was very accurate while getting the most out of the 5.56mm cartridge.

            The m4 would be great for remfs, DATs or speckled feces, but for line infantry units it just makes no sense.

          • Geodkyt

            Nope — it was internal Army politics, with the Airborne Mafia insisting they needed the same rifle the Special Forces guys (who really COULD justify carrying carbines most of the time), and teh rest of the Infantry pointing out paratroopers are just grunts who fall out of the sky. It REALLY WAS a bunch of “Looks Cool Factor”.

            Meanwhile, the guys who really would have benefited the most from M4s were last on the list for replacing their M16A2s, because Trnsportation Corps guys and the like (those people whose job actually involves them NOT shooting a rifle; if they’re pulling triggers they aren’t doing their actual MOS job, especially those that have a crowded work space or a bunch of other stuff to deal with) aren’t “sexy”.

          • valorius

            Selecting an all new colt made carbine over the fn made m16 is the epitome of “army politics.”

      • big daddy

        I was in the Army….long time ago and carried a M16A1 Having been in the Army I have a lot of DOUBTS about anything they do or say. The M855A1 might be an improvement but as far as consistently having effective hits, that I would really like to know about. The original 5.56mm round did have devastating effect and did not make little holes, but it had too many drawbacks. I have little confidence in the 5.56mm in combat and would have gladly carried a little extra weight for a bigger round, lucky we did not have a war at that time. All the vets around here, Ft. Hood, most I spoke with did not like the 5.56mm. My friend saw the ammo boxes filled with M855 in my home and said why do you have that crap? I said it’s for the range. The idea of using a 5.56mm for any type of penetration seems a bit silly although it does need some. Your SAW ammo and carbine/rifle should be different. As far as I know the M855 was designed originally for the M249 SAW. A SAW needs more penetration than a combat rifle. It seems that the MK318 was heading in a better direction than the M855 for carbine/rifle type weapons. I would think a barrier blind round that has good penetration but will not just make a .22 caliber hole and come out the back of an enemy is what is needed. It should open up inside like a hollow point, that would be the best way to go since the original intent of the 5.56mm round is gone. Oh wait again you cannot have ammo that opens up like a hollow point, again that’s what we need. And as usual the Army is trying the one round fits all which doesn’t work, that’s why the SS109 came about right, the M193 wasn’t a good SAW round. I know I am no expert and am relying on anecdotal evidence as well as some ballistic reports. It seems more logical to have the riflemen in an infantry squad use what LE uses for more effective wound ballistics and the SAW gunners use a round with superior penetration considering their roles in combat.

        • I don’t really agree with this.

          • big daddy

            Well I’m just going by what I have read on ballistics and wounds, like I said I’m NO expert. This round contradicts a lot of what I read and what LE is using like the Hordany TAP rounds. I’ve seen what a good barrier blind expanding bullet can do on gel. I haven’t seen what the M855A1 can do and I haven’t seen any wound ballistics for it. What does the FBI say? I wouldn’t just go by what a DOD/Army representative would say or any test by the Army, they have been know to be less than honest with their testing. I want to see more testing by independent ballistics experts before I just go along with it and I haven’t seen it. You can use all the science you want to but proof is in the actual testing and combat wound reports.

          • valorius

            The mk262 mod1 round is even better than tap for terminal effect, but m855a1 should be vastly superior at armor penetration, especially at extended ranges.

        • valorius

          The purpose of the original ss109/m855 was to give the saw the ability to penetrate soviet era body armor at extended range. M855 will stabilize from a 1:9 twist, but the associated m856 tracer round needs a 1:7, hence the 1:7 twist of the m16a2 and saw.

          The new m855a1 should be be the best available compromise between body armor penetration and wounding capability.

          Lead core Mk318 falls far short of the hardened steel tip m855a1 in armor penetration.

      • valorius

        The m855a1 would be even better with powder optimized for the m16. The real problem is the m4. It’s 14.5″ barrel is just too short.

    • valorius

      The army already uses expanding 5.56mm ammo.

      5.56mm brown tip optimized uses the barnes tsx expanding bullet.

      • big daddy

        As far as I know that’s a SOCOM & USMC round that has NOT be given to US Army personnel. MK318.


        • valorius

          Mk318 is a Different round. In any case, most socom personnel are us army.

      • brainy37

        Brown tip SOST rounds are not expanding bullets. The open tip feature provides a funny wind cup effect which help stabilize the bullet and is found in most match ammo. The bullet itself is a fragmenting round. It’s not a commercial bullet and custom made for the military by Federal, not Barnes. The Barnes TSX is polymer tipped and not open tipped.

        No one uses an expanding bullet.

        • valorius

          “5.56 optimized/brown tip” is a 70gr barnes tsx expanding bullet.

          It is NOT the same round as the USMC mk318 sost.

          • brainy37

            If you’re not referring to the SOST round then you aren’t referring to any military round. Found Doc Roberts original post on Lightfighter and while the TSX round is a recommended load for LEO/civilian, it’s not anything for the military. Likewise his post on the Mk 318 SOST round is fairly specific.

            SOCOM and the USMC don’t get to flaunt the JAG except in Hollywood.

            On top of that, an expanding round isn’t exactly that great. Expanding bullet’s advantage is consistent expansion, not huge devastation. Thereis no yaw and no fragmentation which let rifle round punch above their diameter. Even an expanding .308 only makes a 0.62″ wound channel where as a yawing .308 can be as large as 1.4″


          • valorius

            Youre wrong, im sorry.

          • valorius
          • brainy37

            NSN’s don’t have letters in them. Actually, as I’m reading through one of those links, someone else agrees with me.

            “I don’t think this is a real stock number (one officially assigned by
            the Defense Cataloging Center in Battle Creek). The only time I have
            seen letters in an NSN is in a temporary locally assigned stock number
            which allows the supply system(s)to handle and track items that do not
            have a real NSN.”

            So far, all of the links all point back to the single strategypage link which is nothing but a single paragraph with no references or other details.

            Again, it doesn’t matter if you’re tier 1 super ninja elites, if you go outside of the rule of law then you go to jail. The JAG says expanding hollowpoints are a nogo and that’s final.

          • valorius

            Maybe roberts is lying and the people that wrote the articles are delusional? Or maybe you’re wrong…

            Btw, the seals are known to have used hydroshok operationally in the past, and any expanding round is perfectly legal for “counter terror” ops such as the bin laden raid, even in an active warzone.

            This round clearly exists whether you choose to accept it or not. R roberts is risking his entire reputation to perpetrate a lie.

          • brainy37

            Roberts didn’t write that article nor did he ever say that it was in use by SOCOM. He has tested it and the original is on Lightfighter. It’s one of the M4 duty rounds on his recommended list. The article you posted again is based on speculation. When an article says, ” does not have all the facts” or ”
            we’re not yet sure” are pretty big flags to take the article with a grain of salt.

            Also, hydra shok is only for pistols.

          • valorius

            Roberts did write one of the test piece i linked to, and he specifically mentions the round in this recomendation article:

            “For longer range engagements using precision weapons like the Mk12 SPR or DMR rifles with faster 1/8 or 1/7 twist barrels, one of the combat proven 5.56 mm (ie. 5.56 mm NATO pressure loads, not .223 SAAMI pressure loads which run about 200 f/s slower) heavy OTM loadings are a good choice: the Barnes 70 gr TSX (Optimized “browntip”), Hornady 75 gr TAP (#8126N), Nosler 77 gr, or the Sierra 77 gr Match King (Mk262 Mod1).”

            By name.

            The USAF had the F-117 in service for nearly a decade, SOCOM had stealth blackhawks in service for god knows how long…….but you dont believe a round that is discussed in multiple articles, has been tested and discussed by roberts, who has posted a photo of the ammo on a stripper clip is real.

            Alrighty then.

          • valorius

            I know hydrashok is only for pistols. What does that have to do with anything? Hydrashok is jhp ammo that has been used by US combat forces.

            Here’s the link to the roberts quote in my last post, by the way:


          • valorius

            This is a direct quote from a roberts pdf:

            “Recent efforts to improve 5.56 mm ammunition terminal performance, most importantly the “Barrier Blind” ammunition requirements from multiple organizations, including the FBI, USMC, NSWC Crane/USSOCOM, & JSOC have yielded several options from industry that appear to effectively address this issue. The FBI was the first organization to specify barrier blind projectiles; over the past decade, the FBI’s “barrier blind” projectiles, including the Federal 62 gr TBBC JSP, Winchester 64 gr bonded JSP, and Nosler 60 gr Partition JSP, have demonstrated superior terminal performance in both lab testing and numerous OIS incidents compared to common military issue 5.56 mm ammunition. The 01 June 2006 U.S. Marine Corps RFI for “Barrier Blind” ammunition (http://www.cbd-net.com/ index.php/search/show/1087257) resulted in development of the ATK 77 gr TOTM (Tactical Open Tip Match) projectile that combined the Law of War legal, JAG approved Mk262 nose configuration with the bonded “barrier blind” bullet core construction used in ATK LE ammunition. The ATK TOTM design is an outstanding, simple, adaptive design–projectiles can be manufactured with a traditional lead core or in a lead-free version, bonded or non-bonded. ATK used the basic TOTM design configuration in developing the SOST (Special Operations Science and Technology) projectiles for NSWC Crane/USSOCOM, however the initial SOST projectile variants use a less robust, non-bonded core that sacrifices a bit of intermediate barrier capability for reduced production cost. The SOST 5.56 mm 62 gr Mk318 Mod 0 OTM (Federal T556TNB1) is optimized for relatively short barrel weapons, uses heat stable, flash suppressed powder, and offers good terminal performance, with early upset and reasonably good intermediate barrier performance for a non-bonded projectile. Mk318 Mod1 is a lead-free version. In addition, U.S. JSOC elements experimented with several blind to barrier projectiles before selecting the Barnes all copper, lead free 70 gr TSX OTM projectile loaded by Black Hills; known as the “Brown Tip” or “Optimized”; this load has proven highly accurate and effective in combat use”

            There you go, in black and white: the tsx 70gr optimized expanding schp round has been used in combat by us forces….unless roberts is flat out lying.

          • brainy37

            Just ran it through FedBizOps, ISO, and FLIS. No such NSN exists. Fedbiz would show small purchases. Unless the SOCOM guys have a super secret slush fund then the ammo purchase would show up. Especially if it’s been in regular use. Any group from SOCOM still has to go through the correct channels and are not special in this sense. A regular Captain can buy the same super secret stuff too but that would strain their annual budgets.

          • valorius

            Doctor roberts claims it not only exists, but that he has tested it.

            Another article online has been redacted completely for OPSEC.
            Top of article from defense review:

            “May 14, 2008
            Modified on 5/15/08 — Some information has been redacted/removed from this article by the author/editor (David Crane) for OPSEC.
            Updated again on 9/11/09 with originally-provided bullet and manufacturer info redacted on 5/15/08.”


            Roberts also posted a picture of these rounds on a 10rd stripper clip with brown painted tip.

        • valorius


          Brown Tip 5.56mm for Short Barrels

          May 16, 2008: U.S. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) has used its own, bureaucracy free, budget to design and manufacture special ammunition for the short barrel (10-15 inch) weapons (like the M-4 and SCAR Light). The new ammo, referred to as “5.56 Optimized”, or “brown tip” (because the tips of the bullets are brown for easy identification) uses a bullet that is solid copper and 70 grains in weight (compared to 62 grains for the NATO standard 5.56 bullet). The solid copper design is believed to be based on a commercial (http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htweap/articles/20080516.aspx#) design (the Barnes Triple-Shock X) that was introduced five years ago. The new round was designed to achieve better accuracy and hitting power at the ranges (under 300 meters) the short barrel weapons are most effective at. The brown tip ammo costs more, because of its unique design and small production runs, but SOCOM doesn’t worry about that when it’s for something that will make its operators more effective, and help keep them alive.

  • Secundius

    There’s a reason for Brass cartridges over Steel cartridges. “Static Electricity”. Some Naval ships still line there magazines with brass plating, to prevent the risk of accidental detonation by sparks. Caused by static electricity build up.

    • Mark N.

      Not certain that that applies to firearms, although it is certainly relevant when you have bags of loose gun powder packed in silk bags that need to stuffed inside the chamber of a large cannon.

  • Jim

    Another idiot mentioning the Hague when American never signed the Hague conventions why would we worry about their antiquated crap that is over 100 years old.