Congress Orders Army And Marine Corps to Decide On 5.56mm Ammunition

The United States House of Representatives has ordered trials to be conducted to determine the right ammunition for both the US Army and Marine Corps, following on the recent controversy that each service was using its own unique round. Army Times reports:

The Army and Marine Corps will conduct comprehensive testing this year to determine the viability of adopting common rifle ammunition, a potential cost-cutting initiative that could have serious implications for troops on the battlefield.

Members of Congress are driving the efforts, saying the switch to a single 5.56mm cartridge for all conventional U.S. forces stands to save American taxpayers considerable expense. It is likely to prompt a showdown between the two rounds favored by each service, raising the possibility the Marine Corps could be forced to adopt ammunition it rejected in 2009 because its early development was plagued by problems.

On capitol Hill, the House Armed Services’ Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces has ordered Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to study the issue and report to Congress by next March whether it still makes sense for the Army to use its M855A1 round while the Marine Corps moves to make the M318 Mod 0 Special Operations Science and Technology round its new standard.

“The Army and Marine Corps are using a very similar enhanced small caliber 5.56 rounds for the same operational environment,” subcommittee chairman Rep. Mike Turner, a Republican from Ohio, told Marine Corps Times April 29. “We want to ensure our warfighters are provided with the best equipment available and ensure maximum value to the taxpayer.”

The subcommittee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Loretta Sanchez of California, has indicated she also supported the potential shift.

Concerns with the Army’s round

Marine Corps officials say they do not oppose the idea, provided the Army has fixed its round’s propensity to wreak havoc by causing excessive wear on a weapon’s inner workings.

The problem stemmed from the M855A1’s high chamber pressure and exposed steel tip, which could chew up a weapon’s feed-ramp, erode barrels and crack bolts, said Col. Michael Manning, the program manager for Infantry Weapons Systems at Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Virginia. The Marine Corps believes SOST is superior “at this time,” he added, “but we are always open to testing and are participating in ongoing testing of the M855A1. We will always adopt whatever is best for the service.”

While the projectile design of the M855A1 in my opinion provides superior general purpose capabilities to the Mk 318 round, the concerns about its wear characteristics are very real. The round has proven to erode the aluminum feed ramp extensions that are integral to the upper receiver after tens of thousands of rounds, leading to an earlier retirement of rifle upper receivers than the previous M855 round. The Army is seeking to fix this problem with new magazines that will present the ammunition at a positive angle so that the rounds never contact the feed ramp extensions, but it’s unclear if the USMC has been given any of the new magazines for testing, or if they are amenable to the idea of adopting a new type of magazine jointly with the Army.

Other concerns of wearing out bolts and barrels more quickly are also relevant, but the reduction in life of these parts is not as great as the upper.

I would be very surprised if these trials determine that the Army and Marine Corps cannot field a unified rifle round. I suspect the most likely result will be the armed forces-wide adoption of the M855A1 round, possibly with the new improved magazine in tow, as this would likely reduce costs the most.

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


  • ScoreDude

    65gr GameKing…, that was tough.

    • J-

      I’m with you. I think we should have a 5.56 soft point and 9mm JHP for use on terrorists, irregular forces, and other groups (Somali Pirates, ISIS, Boko Haram) that don’t abide by any internationally recognized conventions on war. If you are lighting POWs on fire, we can shoot you with any bullets we want.

      • Zach

        We don’t have to abide by any such regulation anyways. We never signed onto that bit of the Hogue (Hague?) convention.

        • ClintTorres

          Is that the one where all signators agree to use rubber overmolding on their stocks?

          • FWIW

            I think it’s the one that young countries who don’t have much experience yet sign on to before they learn there are better options out there.

          • Only something like 34 countries (out of over 168) have signed that Hague Convention.

          • ScoreDude

            Bahahahahahahah….+1 ClintTorres

      • Bob

        Dipped in bacon grease.

      • All the Raindrops

        We do issue JHP in some applications, like base patrol where battle with “regular” forces is not the mission.

        All in all, it sucks a lot to be shot with any bullet.

  • Plumbiphilious

    Would switching to steel upper receivers (and included feed ramps) after aluminum ones wear from the new round, while retaining other lower weight components that aren’t going through as much wear (e.g. the ejection door) be a plausible answer?

    • Giolli Joker

      Are there steel uppers out there? I admit I’m quite ignorant about AR-15 variants, but this really sounds new to me…
      (They’d be heavier, BTW)

    • Riot

      It would ruin the “advantage” of the M4/M16 that is it’s lighter weight. (The M4 barrel profile is taking the piss to achieve it in this regard.)
      The weight of the barrel and trunnion less upper would be at least 2.5 times heavier.

      • Patrick

        Just go back to a rifle style barrel extension so you don’t need the M4 feed ramp cuts in the receiver. The hardened steel barrel extension should do just fine without adding weight.

        • Mako_Dragoon

          The tips of the bullets would still strike the receiver. That’s why they got the feed ramps to begin with.

        • The M4 feed ramp was instituted for a reason.

      • Ethan

        Not so. Look at the steel inserts in the DPMS GEN II. Obviously using all new uppers is a logistical nightmare, but the weight isn’t a significant issue.

    • ostiariusalpha

      You don’t need a full steel receiver; just do what DPMS did with the GII steel feed ramp insert, problem solved.

      • Steel feed ramps would be a viable solution to the wear problem.

    • All the Raindrops


  • DZ

    Just have the USAF do the testing, that way its truly impartial. /sarcasm

    • hikerguy

      I like your sense of sarcasm. Shows wit and intelligence.
      Lets make them flip a coin.

      • Jon

        That is how we got the M16

        • hikerguy

          That’s interesting, Jon. How did that come about?

          • Fed24

            USAF adopted the AR15/M16 in 1962 so were the first to adopt it in US service albeit they might well not of been the first to deploy it in a military sense. Surprisingly that honor probably goes to the British Army who had procured a small number of Model 601 AR15 for trials in 1959. Some of those rifles apparently got some lets say “hot testing”.

  • Joshua

    Last I checked the Marines have not tested M855A1 since 2009, even then they only tested 1,000,000 rounds. Maybe they have done some testing since then, but that is the last I heard of.

    Also does congress even know how many different rounds are available? Do they want M995 and M856 to also be removed, since you know they are different rounds.

    Also not sure on price of Mk318, but I do know M855A1 is right around .45c a round or something close to that.

    • Esh325

      They are talking about main battle rounds. There’s no reason to have two different main battle rounds.

      • Mako_Dragoon

        I can think of several reasons.
        The two forces have vastly different budgets per the number of grunts.
        The two forces have different mission capabilities/tactics.
        The two forces main rifles are different.
        The two forces have different missions, especially when not engaged in a long drawn out war.

    • ScoreDude

      Heres the mind blowing part….fill a once fired lake city case up to the neck with H4895, plop a 12 cent Hornady SP .224 in it, and most cl 1-7 twist tubes will shoot it around an inch. Total cost….~$0.22. Only the tards in the Pentagon are capable of turning this fiasco into F35 R&D. Unreal.

      • Not after you stake and seal the primers and seal the case necks and pay for the tooling to make a billion a year, oh yeah and it has to be yaw independent and penetrate hard cover and all that.

        • All the Raindrops

          And soft points are banned by the Geneva convention.

          • andrew

            I believe they aren’t. I’ve read it thorougly. As far as I can tell that rumor came from the Hague Convention, which the US generally follows, but is not signatory to. I am not a lawyer, though, so there’s a good probability that I am wrong. I have, however been issued lots of ammo that some barracks lawyers might think is illegal, but the real lawyers assure is perfectly legal. I suspect the majority of DoD forces stick with fmj due to real or perceived penetration advantages, logistics, and real or percieved cost advantages.

          • valorius

            JAG says soft points are illegal, so they’re illegal.

      • Joshua

        It’s not quite that simple, but I applaud the effort.

      • Grunt

        Yeah that’s neat and works well on gophers, but govt requirements are what make it more complicated, i.e. lethality index and barrier blindness for starters.

      • Ron

        You have already removed the most expensive part of the round, the brass case not to mentiont the dunnage, hence the signficant savings over 40-50 cents paid per round by the government.

        • Actually, I believe the government cost for an M193 (yes, they still buy them), and its the closest price match I can think of to your SP hunting bullet) are under $0.20 per round. Heck, I recently (within the last year) purchased XM193 (pretty much lacking only the primer sealant), on clips, marked up twice, for $0.34/round, delivered to my door. And it was a small order – only 900 rounds. When Uncle Sam orders direct, in quantities of, “a metric buttload”, they get it a *lot* cheaper…

    • valorius

      i seriously doubt the US Army is paying .45 a round for m855A1 in high volume production runs.

      • Ron

        current runs of M855A1 are cost $0.68 per round, the cost includes stripper clip and dunnage

        • valorius


          • On clips, in bandoliers, in ammo cans, packed into cases, palletized for overseas delivery and sealed for long term storage under adverse conditions.

            Dunnage is all the packing crap that *isn’t* ammo.

          • valorius

            I’ve never heard that term. Learn something every day, thanks. 🙂

  • colin

    Quick question, the A1 chamber pressure is 62,000 (?) psi. Does the mk318 have a similar pressure or does it use other black magic to achieve its results

    • -V-

      The Mk318 is an open tip (read: JHP) round. Thats how it gets better results.

        • Commonsense23

          Depends on who you ask. Ask the JAG and you get one answer. Ask the guys at Crane and you will get another.

          • I’ve never seen one expand like a JHP.

          • valorius

            It expands a lot like a Sierra pistol JHP….IOW it expands then the petals fragment.

            It doesnt expand like today’s generation of hollowpoints with high weight retention and pretty petals though, that much is evident.

          • andrew

            our JAG calls it OTM. Not sure about Crane.

          • Ethan

            Follow the link Nathaniel just provided. This has been debunked.
            Regardless of semantic classifications, the OTM does NOT perform like a JHP.

          • buzzman1

            Yeah the JAG guys who banned it now nothing about ammo. After they were educated on the difference between an open tip and a JHP they rescended the ban on the MK318

          • valorius

            Mk318 is not an open tip, calling it an open tip is just legalese trickery.

        • valorius

          Yeah, it really is.

      • All the Raindrops

        It’s OTM not JHP.

        • valorius

          Sure it is, because OTM is “legal” for warfare. It’s not an OTM round. It’s a fragmenting hollowpoint like an old Corbon Sierra pistol bullet, known for fragmentation during expansion.

      • buzzman1

        Me thinks you read that in a comic book.

    • Good question, colin. Mk. 318 Mod. 0 uses the same propellant, but I believe the chamber pressure is the same as the older M855.

      It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the newer, lead-free Mod. 1 will use the higher chamber pressure maximum of the A1, however.

    • Mako_Dragoon

      The M855A1 is a much longer bullet than the SOST (Mk318Mod0). So with less available case capacity the pressure has to be bumped up to achieve the same velocities.

  • Herr Wolf

    concern for the taxpayer- what a joke

    • Zebra Dun

      Yup, ain’t funny but it’s still as ludicrous as hell.

  • Bal256

    Judging by our track record, I’d say the ability to do more damage to unarmored dirt farmers will probably be more useful in the long run than something that can pierce Russian helmets at 600+ yards.

    • forrest1985

      Most forces like Isis and the taliban rely on the ability to “blend in” with the civilian population. Wearing a nice helmet and flak jacket kinda ruins the illusion so yeah anti- dirt farmers it is.

      • buzzman1

        You mean like the Viet Cong?

    • valorius

      You been paying much attention to what Russia’s been up to lately?

      M855A1 is a far better choice for use vs a 1st world opponent.

      • Bal256

        Yes, they’re doing whatever they can get away with while “Mr. Flexible” sits in the white housse.

        • valorius

          We also have to realize though, Article 5 of the NATO treaty trumps “Mr. Flexible.”

          If Putin is dumb enough to attack a NATO member, even if it’s an “oops” type of deal, it could spiral out of control to a major war really quick.

          F-22s can bomb mud huts as well as anything else, but KC-130s with bomb racks cannot fight the Russians.

          In a COIN war almost any weapons will ‘work’, because in reality, in a COIN fight, your actual weapons are of tertiary consideration.

          • buzzman1

            Unfortunately the socialist countries of europe decided to cash in the peace dividend and sold off all of their military equipment or junked it. I believe Germany has a grand total of 450ea 30 year old tanks. They also have no ammo. Maybe 2 days at most. Poland is more capable of defending themselves than Germany, Italy and France combined. You could probably add in England too.

          • valorius

            I do agree everyone, including the US, has ignored cut way back on defense.

            Some in Europe are doing a quick 180 it seems, based on the news reports ive been reading, the scandanavian countries especially are cranking up defense spending again.

            Germany doesnt have many tanks, but the leopard II is an excellent design, and they’re buying state of the art heavy IFV’s right now. Their heavy self propelled artillery is far superior to our Paladin system.

            England especially is but a mere shadow of itself.

      • buzzman1

        Problem with your argument is that we have been involved in war with 3 world countries exclusively since and including Korea. We will not be in a war with a 1st world country again. It will always be proxy wars. Nowadays there is to much to lose even if you win in a war between 1st world countries. Look at the engagement ranges our soldiers have had to deal with the last 14 years. Unless we plan to only go into cities we need a round that is effective at long range.

        • valorius

          That is not true at all. Iraq during Desert Storm was a very modern and capable opponent.

          • MichaelZWilliamson

            If they were so capable, why did they lose in days?

            Horrible logistics, no engineers to speak of, no GPS, no NVG, undertrained troops even by Arab standards, insufficient body armor.

            M193 would have served just fine, and still would.

          • valorius

            Iraq did not really lose in just days….the Allies bombed them for 39 days and nights before a single infantryman locked and loaded his M16 and went over the berms into Iraq.

            And in reality, most of the best Iraqi units escaped the left hook from the desert and were not destroyed.

            I will concede that M193 would have been fine in Iraq against personnel, as Iraqi infantry lacked body armor, however, M855A1 would have still performed far better vs light skinned vehicles and tactical barriers.

          • valorius

            BTW, most US units did not have GPS during desert storm either. Of the few that did, many of the troops bought commercial GPS receivers with their own money.

            Nowadays any force can use commercial GPS and use our own tech against us.

          • Uniform223

            They had an total f-ktard in charge of their military.

        • valorius

          China is a 3rd world military nation? Russia was a 3rd world military nation? We fought both in korea. And we faced many state of the art Russian weapons with russian “advisors” in Vietnam as well.

          I just do not agree with your assessment at all.

          • ostiariusalpha

            Those MiGs in Korea were a bit more than 3rd world. Half their pilots had blue eyes and couldn’t speak a lick of Chinese or Korean. They were pretty good at shooting down Sabres too.

          • valorius

            N. Vietnamese Migs gave our Phantoms a heck of a time until the UN started Top gun and 20mm cannons were installed in them.

            The US lost almost TEN THOUSAND aircraft during the vietnam war.

          • Uniform223

            Majority of aircraft US aircraft lost to enemy action was actually because of AAA and AD.

          • ostiariusalpha

            And 75% of them were Hueys.

          • valorius

            Yep…thousands and thousands of American aircraft were lost to SAMs and AAA.

            Not bad for a “third world power”, right?

          • Uniform223

            A third world supported by two heavy hitters, Russia and China. Some People believe (including myself) if it wasn’t so political (politicians getting involved) and the ROEs were up to commanders discretion things would have been very different.

          • valorius

            Well the Russians fought in A-stan with no restrictions on them at all, and still lost.

            Blaming ROE’s is just an obfuscatory excuse. The reason we lost there is the same reason we lost in Iraq and will soon lose in A-stan.

            Because we quit.

            The American people got bored, took their ball, and went home.

          • Uniform223

            “Because we quit.”

            That is very true. But ROEs does dictate on how well or effectively a military can effectively project and use its forces.

            I had a PL who got his enemy marksmenship badge in Iraq because they weren’t allowed to drop a bomb on a newly built school. So new it didn’t have desks, chairs, and other school essentials. Instead of playing it safe by dropping ordnance on it, they had to go in a clear it out.

            Early ROEs (as I understood it) seriously hamstrung US (particularly air units) forces. They had to visually ID “boogeys”. They weren’t allowed to fly over or engage certain areas so NV Migs had no problem in taking advantage of that. All in the stupid idea that politicians didn’t want to escalate things anymore then “necessary”.

          • valorius

            I see your point, believe me, no one wants to clear a room that can be more easily bombed.

            But bombing new schools wins no friends with the locals who must somehow be quelled.

            I think it’s important to remember that generally good and sound military thinking often has to take a back seat in counterinsurgency operations, due to the effect of certain operations on the local populace.

            We really should stop getting involved in COIN operations, because the American people simply do not have the patience for them, and the US govt is not set up to politically survive seemingly endless wars.

            We quit, and then all the blood of our troops is just pissed down the drain. 🙁

          • valorius

            I am sure you agree that it is highly likely we will have future wars with 3rd world nations “supported by heavy hitters”

          • buzzman1

            Vietnam was a test bed for the Soviet AAA systems <300 Plans of all types were shot down by ground fire.

          • valorius

            im including helicopters in the “thousands and thousands” statement i made.

            I think more than 300 fixed wing planes were lost during the war though….pretty much the entire F-105 fleet was lost over north vietnam, if my memory serves me correctly.

          • buzzman1

            The THUDs where pretty tough aircraft but they were removed from theater and replaced by Phantoms. The 105s were able to place boms on target more accurately but they couldnt carry the ordnance load.

          • valorius

            They apparently sucked hard at outmanuevering SA-2’s as well. I dont remember the exact number, but almost 300 F-105’s were lost in combat over Vietnam.

          • buzzman1

            It appears they sucked hard at outmaneuvering anything. They were to big and to heavy to do the job. Thats why they got the nickname “Thud’s”. It the sound they made when they first hit the ground while landing. When I was in grad school one instructor was a former 105 pilot in Vietnam. Just to jerk his chain I would refer to them as Thumpers referring to the rabbit on Bambi.

          • buzzman1

            Yeah our pilots were launching all of their AA missiles and not hitting anything because they kept forgetting to arm them.

            We lost well <9000 aircraft in vietnam. Of that about 5300 where helicopters and close to 1000 aircraft lost do to mechanical malfunctions.

          • buzzman1

            Read your history. The MIGs were faster but less maneuverable. Their 23mm canons were so inaccurate that they literally had to have their nose stuck up the other planes ass to hit it. Our planes were only armed with .50 cals that only put relatively small holes in the MIGs and generally did not do much damage.

          • buzzman1

            Yeah right. The chinese came in overwhelming human waves with something like only one in 3 had a rifle. Our guys just ran out of ammo or couldnt shoot fast enough. Thats why they started using the quad .50’s at AP weapons.
            Vietnam? Guess what they never defeated us with all of those so called hitech weapons. If the AF hadnt been sending all of our B-52’s in at the same heading and altitude they would not have had so much success in hitting them not to mention how Johnson screwed everything up by personally selecting targets instead of letting the military do it

            Ever see any of the piece of crap apc’s the chinese produce? They used to have Mercedes engines in them because the chinese couldnt build an engine that actually worked.

          • valorius

            once it has a mercedes engine in it, its hardly a piece of crap.

            Its like saying M1 abrams tanks have to use rheinmetal guns because we cant design a decent tank cannon.

            China has a highly advanced military.

          • buzzman1

            The engine was the only thing that worked on them. Actually we can’t build a decent tank cannon or artillery tube. We buy them From Bath Iron Works in England. I used to know a guy 20 some years ago that retired and was brought back because we couldnt design or build a new lightweight towed 155mm howitzer. Seems all of the new young engineers on the program didnt know very much about how to do it. Kind of like Nasa is so clueless now they couldnt even build a redstone rocket anymore.

            China is like many countries. It has a small professional army but largely populated by poorly trained conscripts.

          • valorius

            The original M1 had a 105mm M68 gun designed by UK Royal ordnance, but built by Chrysler. The 120mm gun is a german design.

            Bath Iron works is in Maine innit…?

          • buzzman1

            The europeans thought we were either crazy or stupid to stay with the 105 gun on the M-1. I lean heavily on stupid. We already knew that the 105 HEAT and SABOT rounds could not reliably take out a T-64 or T-80 with a frontal hit even with multiple rounds but the stupids came out and said they were not willing to reduce the ammo load by 1/2 for the rounds. Sadly that was because the M-60 and previous tanks were not able to reliably achieve 1st round hits because the act of firing the gun pushed the tank backwards. The second shot was more accurate because of the compression of the soil from the first shot. The idiots couldnt make the mental jump that 1/2 the number of rounds was better because not only was the M-1 capable of reliably hitting targets with one round but also the larger round was more than up to the task of taking out a soviet tank. Sadly this thinking also caused another problem. in 73 the army decided that because of all of the tanks we were facing that it would be prudent to load only HEAT and SABOTs into tanks and no long use HE. This was only changed after tanks proved to be useful in Iraq as mobile machine gun platforms. BTW I want to say it was about 2007ish when the army finally pulled the M-1’s with 105s out of S Korea and replaced them with Tanks with 120mm. For decades the tanks in SK were the only tanks issued canister rounds.

            BTW I reread what I wrote and I should have specified that the US is largely incapable of casting high quality barrels for tanks and howitzers. They are all tested at Aberdeen Provong Grounds before being accepted.

        • brainy37

          Modern army doesn’t necessarily mean 1st world country. In terms of small arms a 3rd world army only has to have enough money to buy 3rd rate body armor and helmets for these ammunition changes to be relevant. Kevlar helmets are already a thing in Africa. With the rise of AR500 armor it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that cheap armor can be made with local materials, only organization.

          Old fashioned 6B3 armor is still in use and can defeat basic 5.56/.223 all lead rounds but not M855. But just barely. During the later stages of OIF we started seeing more foreign fighters bringing body armor, better weapons, and even comms. A mix of old and new armors are showing up in the Ukraine conflict as well. What would happen if we had to fight a nation that could afford 6B3 or 6B5 armor since it’s so cheap? M855 can defeat both of those, XM193 cannot. And since SOST doesn’t have a penetrator it’s unlikely to have the ability to punch through itself.

          Yes, we’ve been fighting unarmored enemies for a while now. That might change overnight especially with the rise of proxy war.

          • valorius

            Agreed. If anyone wants to see just how cheap body armor has gotten, just look on ebay. If you browse often, you can find deals on IIIA used armor for $100 or less, and like you mentioned AR500 armor is really cheap too.

            And besides, the Army spent billions developing M855A1, it would be nuts to just cancel the round, throwing all that money down the toilet.

        • ostiariusalpha

          The Serbs are going to be so pissed that you didn’t count them.

          • valorius

            The serbs are still to date the only nation that has ever shot down a stealth aircraft in combat.

          • buzzman1

            They got lucky. They filled the sky with 23mm AAA rounds and made a lucky shot.

          • valorius

            they hit it with a SAM.

          • Uniform223

            That hit with the SAM was actually a proximity detonation.
            F-117s kept using the same ingress and egress routes. Serbia had spotters and used the predictability of where to set up. They used both low freq and high freq radars. Using Low freq radars to know something was out there and then blanketing the area with high freq radars hoping the F-117 would get close enough for positive track and engagement. F-117 was flying lower than normal because of bad weather and had bomb bay doors open. The amount of effort they had to put in to “effectively” engage the F-117 was disproportionate to the F-117 itself. So by all accounts it seems like a mix of clever tactics and luck.

          • valorius

            I concur that the strike planners were the primary cause for the loss of the 117, but the fact is, the Serbs still had to hit it, and they did.

            The used the electro-optical mode of the SAM in question, is what i had always read.

          • buzzman1

            Ever been to that part of the world? I have and communism did them no favors.

    • iksnilol

      That’s what the Russians want you to think.

    • Yellow Devil

      “Look at my hands. Farmer, no Taliban.” -Almost every detainee I talked to ever

    • n0truscotsman

      Well if we fight a military with modern body armor and helmets, well have bigger problems than figuring out how to defeat both systems…like dodging thermonuclear weapons.

      • buzzman1

        So when was the last time we fought a modern army?

        • n0truscotsman

          Exactly my point 😉

        • valorius

          Desert Storm, Iraq was at the time the 3rd largest Army, and 4th largest Airforce (And though its little known, Iraqi fighters damaged numerous US aircraft in ODS)

          At the time Iraq had the second most deadly air defense network on Earth around Baghdad.

  • Lance

    If there will be a BIG test for all services to adopt one of the many rounds in Military 5.56mm use then Id chose Mk-318. It has alot less high pressure and parts wear. More accurate and is a OT/HP bullet. M-855A1 is dirtier higher wear and pressure and has too many problems with it. For once the USMC has the better deal. But like the uniforms debate I doubt the Army or the Marines will go either way. This is congress flexing its muscles for nothing.

    • How is M855A1 dirtier? They both use the same propellant.

      • Ron

        Marine Corps testing has shown it produces significantly higher levels of jacket fouling. So much so that weapons that fired from fixed mounts and showed semi-precession capability at the beginning of tests by the time they reached higher round counts (1-2K rounds) were not able to meet accuracy requirements. Following thorough cleaning/decoppering the some weapons returned to near semi-precession capability

        • Has the Marine Corps conducted those tests with the current M855A1 round? As I recall, they bailed out of the program when the earlier production M855 improved round (which isn’t the same) ran into issues in initial fielding.

          They’ve since changed the round considerably.

  • aka_mythos

    Aren’t there going to be some issues with ammunition optimization between the use of M4 and M16 with their different barrel lengths? I thought stability and effectiveness out of the shorter M4 is what prompted the Army to REV their ammunition design. If I’m remembering correctly a compromise could reintroduce the problems that’s prompted the newer design or introduce over stabilization or other potential issues to the Marines.

    • Both Mk. 318 and M855A1 are optimized for the M4’s barrel length.

      • aka_mythos

        The Marines have apparently been using both rounds, so I’d be curious to see what their preference is.

      • buzzman1

        The EPR can penetrate a 3⁄8 in (9.5 mm) thick steel barrier from an M4 at 350 meters and from an M16 at 400 meters.The added pressure was needed to stabilize the bullet and give better terminal performance in short barreled weapons.

  • Rob

    I’ve always thought Marine Corps needs to drop 5.56 all together. Give them 7.62 or larger battle rifles, let them fill a different roll than regular army.

    • Agitator

      Ok Lance.

    • Uniform223

      I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you put about 50+ lbs of gear on you and have do a 10mi ruck march with 240 rounds of 7.62 and your rifle.

      • valorius

        I’ve done it with an M60.

        • iksnilol

          Isn’t 240 rounds a bit on the short side for a MG?

          • valorius

            Indeed it is, i was referring to his statement to hump a 7.62 rifle with ammo.

            I have….with an M60.

            I used to carry 300rds of 7.62mm on my person.

            If you think that’s tough, try it with a Dragon (or today’s equivalent, the Javelin)

            Or even better, an 81mm mortar segment.

            ANY infantryman should easily be able to hump a 7.62mm battle rifle and the standard load of ammo (which is not 240 rds at any rate).

          • Uniform223

            I was just making a comparison between the two. 240 rounds is “standard” load for M4/M16.

          • iksnilol

            I know, it is just that it sounds harder to carry 300-500 rounds of 7.62×51 than to carry 240 rounds of 5.56. Logical enough.

        • Uniform223

          its not fun is it? I liked the 240 but I hated the weight of it.

          • valorius

            It is definitely not fun, but it’s a rewarding accomplishment once it’s over. 🙂

            BTW, i’m only 5’7″ ….why do they always give the little guy the machine gun?

          • Uniform223

            I’m 5’10”… I never understood that. The shorter or smaller built guys always had the SAW or the 240. Being the AG isn’t much fun either.

      • n0truscotsman

        LOL that makes me smile thinking about it. It will give me butterflies too knowing that I could carry over 600 rounds of 5.56 for the same weight worth of 7.62 I would be carrying.

        Good times

    • Mako_Dragoon

      One of the main purposes of the Marine Corps infantry units deployed in an MEU(SOC) is to be able to carry out fast night time raids via helicopter, AMTRAC, and boat. The heavier rifles and ammunition counter that. The SOST round works great for the Marines and their mission. Why change it?

      • But *the* main purpose of the Marine Corps is to provide a forced entry capability that is forward deployed and heavier than airborne.

        If their primary purpose is small raids, we don’t need more than one undersized battalion per CVSG, and they don’t need armor or fixed wing aviation at all. Heck, they don’t really need aviation – Navy helos would be plenty. A single division sized (for administrative purposes) force doesn’t call for a seperate service branch or a seat at the JCS table, either.

        Fact is, the only reason the MEU(SOC) exists is so the Marines wouldn’t have to organize their Force Recon units under SOCOM.

  • Wolfgar

    The Russian 5.45 X39 is more aerodynamic, less pressure, will penetrate better and has more lethal reliability at a very low cost. Why cant we seem to be able to do this. How much money has the U.S. spent trying to fix the M-16 problems when the rifle and bolt were desighned for the pressures of the Remington 222 round. Just up grade the rifle, magazine, bolt around a good round and move on. No we have to now change millions of mags so the over presured round wont destroy the upper receiver and the military will just change the bolts and barrels twice as much as before. Brilliant! What happened to common sense in this country?

    • 7N6 does not solve the fleet yaw problem, and its more developed variants like 7N10 and 7N22 sacrifice terminal ability for penetration.

    • All the Raindrops

      I think there is basically zero chance that mags will be replaced. Perhaps they will want a new follower. Follower upgrades have been a continuing process.

    • valorius

      I think it is HIGHLY debatable that any 5.45mm round has more lethality than either M855A1 or Mk318.

      • iksnilol

        I don’t know, 5.45 depends on yawing while 5.56 depends on fragmentation.

        5.45 is more likely to yaw at farther distances than 5.56 is to fragment.

        But at the end of the day they are both small, lightweight, easy to use cartridges.

        • Mako_Dragoon

          Most service 5.56 ammunition will yaw, and then fragment upon yawing. There is very little difference in performance between the calibers of 5.45×39 and 5.56×45 other than increased energy on the 5.56.

          Bullet design, however, is a big difference.

        • valorius

          Even if a 5.56mm doesnt fragment….it still yaws. So basically a 5.56mm that fails to fragment behaves just a 5.45x39mm round does.

          • iksnilol

            How is the barrier penetration with rounds like 5.56 and 5.45?

            I don’t use those rounds much.

          • valorius

            It depends on the specific projectile. M855A1 should be an outstanding barrier round due to its hardened steel penetrator. Older M855 and M193 was not so good.

            I’m not as up to speed on the 5.45mm rounds, im sure someone else can answer there, but i assume that some rounds are much better than others at barrier penetration, depending on construction and materials.

          • Well, 5.45 yaws faster

          • valorius

            Which 5.45mm does…..and faster than what 5.56mm?

            There are so many issued rounds in each caliber it’d probably help to be specific.

    • Wolfgar

      My point wasn’t that the 5.56 round was so inferior, but that this country has a tendency to turn simple things into extremely expensive and complicated things. Putting funds into training would offset any minor differences in either rifle and cartridge. If they want a rifle and cartridge to do X then design it to do X. Instead they will change X into Y after the fact and away they go. Like I asked above, how much money, time and resources have been used for a rifle and cartridge that is comparative to the Russian equivalent with out any real world advantage? This country wont be able to create money out of no where for ever.

  • Robert Griffith

    Call me silly, and perhaps I’m just being naïve about byzantine
    federal bureaucracies, but would it not make more sense to appeal to the free
    market for a solution to this self-generated problem. Announce a competition
    and accept bids. I have no doubt that commercial ammunition makers will come up
    with a more effective round that is less expensive to produce than anything the
    bureaucracies will manage to produce.

    • Mk. 318 was designed by ATK, IIRC.

      • Robert Griffith

        OK. I’m not sure what your point is. The round has been determined to have flaws in its design. Does that mean that every round designed by a civilian maker will also be flawed and therefore they should be excluded from the process?

  • Avid Fan

    I have no comment. I think I’m speechless. It might be a stroke I don’t know.

  • RealitiCzech

    There’s some practical reasons, but a lot of it boils down to the different services wanting to be special snowflakes.

  • TangledThorns

    They wouldn’t have to worry about ammunition if they just used laser guns. Light is free!

    • Cal S.

      Too bad R&D isn’t, and would cost billions.

      • valorius

        20 years. We’ll be fielding prototype laser rifles.

        • iksnilol

          Doubt the batteries will be powerful enough to power them in 20 years.

          50 years, maybe.

          • valorius

            They’re already fielding humvee portable 30kw lasers.

            10 years ago it took a Boeing 747 to house a 30kw laser.

            I’m sticking with 20 years for workable prototypes. 😉

          • iksnilol

            How many shots can the humvee carry with it?

            That’s the problem with lasers. You need much power, especially if you intend to replace rifles with them.

          • valorius

            I’m not really sure what the new HUMVEE laser can do so far as rate of fire or total shots until recharge (or whatever).

            It is a USN weapon system if you want to google it and let us know. 😉

          • iksnilol

            I checked the HUMVEE laser. There seems to be two. One for detonating UXOs and mines called ZEUS-HLONS and another called FIRESTRIKE. I can’t find much info about FIRESTRIKE except that it’s 15kw and weighs 181 kg.

            Most likely the lasers used on HUMVEEs are the former type, since they are actually deployed/used (detonated more than 1600 explosives, with 98% success rate).

          • valorius

            The one im talking about is a USN program, i just read an article on yahoo about it the other day, but i dont remember the acronym.

            Googled it, its called “GBAD.” It’s a 30kw roof mounted laser.

            30kw is lethal vs thin skinned vehicles and personnel.

  • Sid

    Yet, among the 4 major services their are 7 camo patterns and none of the uniforms have common structures. We saved billions when all services wore BDUs, yet we wasting time trying to save pennies telling the 2 services that are the primary shooters which bullet to use?

    • Sid Collins


    • forrest1985

      Agreed! I imagine they would save more correcting the uniform situation and leaving the bullet choice to the guys using it!

    • valorius

      BDU’s were better than any of these new uniforms as far as i’m concerned.

      • Uniform223

        I like my old BDUs but I liked my ACU structure better. I never complained about the velcro.

        • buzzman1

          So you like that RRRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIPPPPPPPPPP sound when you open your pockets? Thats why velcro was banned for so long.

          • Uniform223

            nope never bothered me. if I wanted to get something out of my shoulder/arm pocket just one quick pull. besides if you want to “blame” anyone for velcro patches or pockets on uniforms “blame” SF because they’re the ones who started the trend. remember the ACU design was from soldiers modifying there DCUs on or before deployment.

          • buzzman1

            The reason velcro was banned is because the noise it makes can give you away.

    • Congress has already told the services to standardize camouflage uniforms.

      It’s really possible to work on more than one standardization area at once.

  • valorius

    M855A1 is a significantly better round for use against 1st tier opponents.

    It was nice knowing you Mk318, but time to go.

    • forrest1985

      Define 1st tier? Just checking were on same wave-length

      • valorius

        Russia, China, North Korea, etc, etc.

        • forrest1985

          Okay. Most recent mentionable opponets vs US are really taliban, iraqi’s, somali’s, VC and maybe even isis. None of those wore body armour and judging by the threat of terrorism as it stands, the need to defeat body armour just isn’t there imo

          • forrest1985

            Its these opponents that have really created the 5.56 vs 7.62 debate

          • valorius

            I dont know if youve been paying attention, but the cold war with Russia has heated up big time.

            In fact right now there is more military gamesmanship going on than any time during the cold war except the Cuban Missile crisis.

            You know what happens when you prepare to fight guerillas and all of a sudden you have to fight a Russia?

            You get the living snot kicked out of you.

            You know what we have to stop a Russian attack into Western Europe?

            2 divisions of Strykers. That’s it. NO M-1s. NO Bradleys….a bunch of Strykers with .50 caliber machine guns.

            Meanwhile Russia just fielded the most advanced tank in the world.

          • forrest1985

            Putin likes to posture so far nothing has happened and it will stay thay way! Russia has nukes, so does the US and its allies, both sides know the second one of them starts loosing a ground war the nuclear cards gets played. Its called deterrent for a reason and why its called a cold war. As a result War with russia is highly unlikely. War with a rogue nation or islamic extremists is more likely. As far military “gamesmanship” goes i dont feel TFB interviewing kalashnikov concern about the Ak12 counts!

          • valorius

            Seems to me that live ordnance has already been expended by the Swedes in the new cold war.

            I hope you’re right….but i am absolutely not going to bet the farm that you are.

            M855A1 and first tier defensive systems for me thanks!

  • nova3930

    In the end it will all depend on what cost and performance metrics are levied on the rounds as to which wins. Expect a knock down drag out fight between the USA and USMC over what those requirements are because it would be extremely easy to tailor the requirements in favor of one or the other….

  • Colin

    Can’t agree on one sniper rifle ,dmr ,lmg ,gpmg ,pistol ,etc USA multiple military forces too varied ,too big ,too many varied interests .just like a baby “I want ” new shinny toys .look you have so many versions just of Type m240. will the new lsat be adopted by army, navy ,marines , coast guard, airforce, sf, rangers, seals, recon, etc. Bollocks don’t think so.

    • Doom

      it has been that way since the inception of weaponry. Different types of weapons for different types of troops.

  • Just Sayin’

    So….just when they finally got the mags and feedramps figured out now they’re going to change them to work with the new wunder-round?

  • n0truscotsman

    As a matter of fact, yes, the socks and underwear, and cold weather gear, are different too. And for no good damn reason.
    If we had a SECDEF that made any sense, he would have squashed this nonsense a long time ago, told the marines to pound sand, and mass issue MARPAT to everyone.

  • buzzman1

    Improved Magazine? Yeah thats worked out well over the last 40 years. First for some unknown reason the army decided to go to aluminum mags and started having feeding problems and the #1 cause of rifle malfunctions and then in about 86 they discovered that M-249’s won’t work with Aluminum Mags so for about 5 years they went to steel. Then the army went back to Aluminum Mags and the same problems started again. During the war they did at least 3 improved mags with mixed results. The Army never leaves me with a warm and fuzzy feeling when they say they are going to give you an improved something. More often than not they screw it up.

    Go to the MK318 and be done with it. The round works and doesnt punish the rifle. The Army can afford to dump rifles but the Marines can’t. Besides remember what happened when the Marines allowed the army to take over the M16-A2 program? They screwed it up.

    • Try went to aluminum magazines because those are the magazines developed for the AR15, before the Army even bought one.

      As for the M16A2 program, you have it entirely backwards. The Marine Corps is responsible for *everything* changed from the M16A1 to the M16A2, except the handguards and pistol.grip (those were jammed through by the USAF program officer), and IIRC, the brass deflector and forward assist button (both *Colt* suggested changes, in response to *Army* ordnance suggestions, IIRC).

      When the Marines presented the M16A2 to the Army, the critiques the Army had in their official report includes the overly long stock (designed for USMC formal positional bullseye training, not combat), the changes to the sights (both the front post and the *entire* rear assembly), the barrel twist, the muzzle heavy barrel profile that adds *no* strength where it is actually needed, but does add weight, the barrel twist (the Army wanted 1:9″), and the 3 round burst (both the idea *and* the execution…but to be honest while the Corps insisted on the burst setting because they didn’t want to train automatic fire techniques, it was a Colt designed trigger group)

      IIRC, the Army evaluators were supportive of the handguard change (again, USAF) and neutral on the brass deflector and the flash hider. I don’t think they even mentioned the pistol grip…

      So, tell me again, how the *Army* screwed up a program they were not part of during its actual development?!? The M16A2 was almost a pure wish list by the USMC rifle match team guys out of Quantico!

  • buzzman1

    M855A1: During Army carbine testing, the round caused “accelerated bolt wear”
    from higher chamber pressure and increased bore temperatures. Special
    Operator testing saw cracks appear on locking lugs and bolts at cam pin
    holes on average at 6,000 rounds, but sometimes as few as 3,000 rounds
    during intense automatic firing. Firing several thousand rounds with
    such high chamber pressures can lead to degraded accuracy over time as
    parts wear out;

    • valorius

      The army should have never switched from the 20″ M16.

      The insane pressures of M855A1 are a desperate attempt to match the velocity of a standard M16 firing standard pressure ammo.

  • Diver6106

    Glad to hear it. We need to UNIFY our forces and reap economies of scale to cut the defense budget! DOD, et al., never saw a dollar that it didn’t NEED.

  • Ghost

    If agreeing on ammo is a problem, god help us.

  • Dave Buck

    I wish Congress would stay the heck out of procurement decisions! Their collective knowledge falls somewhat short of that of my pet cat! I would take the Mk 318 round any day over the M855A1.

    • valorius

      Not me. M855A1 has a hardened steel penetrator. It should be far superior than Mk318 vs tactical barriers and body armor.

      • Uniform223

        Also according to all the reports on testing it against soft targets, the M855A1 has more consistent performance at short and long ranges and is not (or isn’t as) yaw dependent. Because the US Army has released any footage of how it performs on ballistic gel blocks, I’m guess the EPR breaks away into two pieces because of its two part construction. The Steel tip penetrator continues to move forward to create an exit as the copper base break away and goes in another direction with a tumble. That what I guess it does.

      • Dave Buck

        I question seriously the rationale behind the ‘one size fits all’ ammunition idea. You should have a variety of rounds available, which can be tailored to the situation. In the unlikely event you find yourself fighting a first-world army equipped with body armour, then the M855A1 may be the right choice. Far more likely that you will be fighting insurgents, or third-world opponents. In that case the steel penetrator is completely unnecessary and Mk 318 will likely offer greater utility. If Congress really understood small arms ammunition they would understand the versatility that having both natures in production offers.

        • valorius

          The days of the bottomless DoD money pit ended with sequestration.

        • Uniform223

          the M855A1 is still being labeled as a general purpose. The A1 was designed to have better over all performance against barriers and soft targets.

    • Congress isn’t saying *which* round is to be selected. They are saying, standardize on one.

  • RPK

    How about just issuing everyone a damn wrist rocket with a ball bearing projectile. That would end the arguing, wouldn’t it?

  • valorius

    Velcro was banned prior to ACU’s i think he’s saying.

    Velcro does have 2 problems. It is very loud, and it wears out and stops working long before buttons, snaps or zippers do.

    • And, as for zippers on ACUs, there’s a *reason* BDUs didn’t have zippers (except for the field jacket).

      It’s because, when the BDUs were being adopted, they had plenty of NCOs who remembered how much fun it was to deal with broken or jammed zippers on multi day patrols in combat. See, the input of new privates and clerks wasn’t really solicited or favored over the opinions of experienced combat arms NCOs when the designed the BDUs.

      As for the zippers and Velcro (especially insignia) for the ACUs, those suggestions came overwhelmingly from the newbie privates and rear area types, whose opinions were given equalequal individual weight by the design team, onpared to the much smaller number of experienced combat arms NCOs.

      Admittedly, the SF guys were pretty much responsible for the arm and calf pockets. Which are actually useful.

      • valorius

        The only piece of uniform i can remember any velcro on from the BDU era was the BDU field Jacket. The sleeves had velcro. I still have mine, but rarely wear it because the velcro quit years ago, and ive never bothered to have it replaced.

        As long as you’re happy with your uniform that’s all that matters, it just seems like it was an ENORMOUS amount of money to spend on something that didn’t really need to be replaced.

        • Uniform223

          “As long as you’re happy with your uniform that’s all that matters”
          I liked my BDUs and I took pride in ironing my uniform and polishing my boots. The ACUs were more comfortable and some of the new pockets and features felt highspeed to me. In all honesty what they did to the cargo pockets was kinda dumb. The draw string just made it look dumb and no one used it. They should have just went the route of the Marines and used elastics.

          Back to the topic at hand though. Because the US Army is a larger branch wouldn’t that mean the industrial base for the M855A1 EPR be larger than the Mk.318? If so wouldn’t it be easier to field the EPR to more units faster?

        • Well, the collar closure has Velcro on the BDU field jacket as well, but I don’t remember *anyone* ever using it.

          However, even on the field jacket I was issued in 1987 (yes, I still have, and wear it, along with the one I got as a replacement because it faded somewhat) is still going strong with the sleeve Velcro.

          • valorius

            LOL, i forgot about the neck velcro. I never used it either. 🙂

            Mine was issued in 1987 as well.

  • ElderAmbassador

    Let the USMC choose what works for them and the Army, etc., can use whatever they want. The US Marine Corps is NOT part of the Army and does have a different job, at least when used properly, which has not happened under our little king CIC.

  • Power requirements for a rail fun are crazy. Better off with binary liquid propellants (especially if you can incorporate ETC firing in them) for tanks.

    And if you are only having to handle the projo, not the propellent (since that would be piped in, not loaded in the chamber), ammo storage and handling just got easier and faster, and autoloaders are even more practical.

  • jcitizen

    I say keep the *A1 round, put a plastic coating on it to cushion the ramp(or polypropylene insert on ramp), then join the modern world and use two part powder to get high velocity with less pressure spike. Hornady has been doing this by mixing powers with high a low pressure characteristics to optimize the pressure curve and make it flatter instead of spiking. The pressure at the muzzle drops off fast, so there is little waste of energy. This is getting popular with hunters that like short throw actions, and may even be willing to go wildcat on the handloads. The 5.56mm or .223 falls into this same category – no reason the military can’t adopt it.

    Rockchuck hunters were doing this years ago with 10″ bbl Thomson Center carbines and high shoulder angle cartridges similar to PPC configurations – but this is no longer necessary. They were getting impressive velocity, and accuracy out to 300 meters.

  • petru sova

    Many years ago pistol ammo was developed with a steel core wrapped in Teflon. A rifle bullet could be made with a combination of lead to make it heavy enough with a steel tip and covered in Teflon. But it usually takes the Military at least 100 years to discover any new innovations. The bullets weight could be increased to weigh 75 grains as well which would make it a better long range round with more penetration as well.

  • Jamie Clemons

    Maybe they will surplus all those loser rounds.

  • majorrod

    It seems the majority here fail to understand that M855A1 works well against soft tissue, soft barriers like windshields like Mk318 ModO AND against cinderblock, concrete and steel much better than Kn318 Mod0.

    Not only are you effective against those not wearing body armor, your more effective against those same bad guys hiding behind cover and other bad guys that might be wearing body armor someday.

    To put it in technical terms, if a round is effective over more varied and different situations compared to yours it makes darned good sense to change it unless your ego overpowers your common sense.