BREAKING: USMC Getting Closer To Officially Adopting M855A1 Ammo

Credit: U.S. Army

Speaking before the Senate Committee on Armed Forces, Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh indicated that the United States Marine Corps (USMC) is closing in on formally replacing the M855 round currently used in M16A4 and M4 rifles. The Corps will finish up testing on the M855A1 round next month, including the M27 rifle, which focuses on stopping power, flatter trajectory, weapons durability and overall performance. Also mentioned was the consideration of the SOCOM MK318 round.

I’m fully aware that I am out of my lane when it comes to ammunition selection by our Armed Forces, so TFB’s Nathaniel F. will be along shortly to offer deeper insight.

Armed Services Committee Testimony:

Military.com on USMC and M855A1

HOPE HODGE SECK JUNE 6, 2017
After repeated urgings from Congress to move to a common rifle round with the Army, Marine Corps officials told lawmakers Tuesday that they’re getting close to being able to do so.

The Marine Corps continues to use M855 ammo for their M16A4 and M4 5.56mm service rifles, instead of the M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round the Army uses for its rifles.

The problem, Marine officials have said, is that the newer round causes problems with the Marines’ M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle, with tests indicating use of the round with the IAR results in reliability and durability issues.

But the Marines recently took a step that indicates the service is becoming more comfortable with the Army round. Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, commander of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Corps had sent the Army round to Helmand province, Afghanistan with a 300-Marine advisory element that deployed in April.

“The good news with that round … specifically the Army 855A1, is much better at penetrating armor,” Walsh said. “So that’s a good reason to go with that.”

Walsh said the Marines are also looking at the possibility of going with a U.S. Special Operations Command round, the MK 318, which offers better accuracy than the M855 round. The Marine Corps has used the SOCOM round in various capacities since officials scrapped plans to field the M855A1 round in late 2009.

Testing of the M55A1 round at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland was expanded to include the M27 and M16A4 rifles last March, Military.com reported in December. And that testing effort is now expected to wrap up next month, Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader, commander of Marine Corps Systems Command, told the panel.

The testing examines performance, stopping power, effect on the durability of the weapons, and the impact of the flatter trajectory of the M855A1 round compared to the M855, which may require adjustments to Marine Corps range training and safety measures.

“Those four areas are what we’re looking at for testing to inform us to make a decision for how we go forward,” he said.

Maintaining separate caches of rifle ammunition for the Army and Marine Corps engenders waste and inefficiency, as lawmakers have repeatedly complained to the services. In the 2017 defense budget bill, Congress once again pushed for a common round, asking the secretary of defense to produce a report explaining why the different rounds were still being used.

But that may not be the case for much longer.

“We’re working through reliability things in testing, but we will make some adjustments from that, and I think in the end our Marines will have a much better capability when we’re done with it,” Walsh said.

M855A1



Pete

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  • James Kachman

    Given that the recent RFI for infantry rifles by the Marines included specific provisions for M855A1 compatibility, I think the writing is on the wall as to which path the Marines will take. I would’ve been extremely surprised if they managed to wrangle the Army, a larger service, into dropping M855A1, which they developed at considerable cost.

  • Some Rabbit

    Maybe it’s high time we stopped letting each branch of service decide for themselves which small arms and ammo they’ll use.

    • forrest1985

      SF community I can understand but Marines/Army/Navy/Air force should all be using same small arms. Or at the very least they should be using ammunition.

      • Major Tom

        They used to. Then the bungling and screwups of the post-ww2 era emerged and turned military procurement into what we have now.

        • Juggernaut

          Big money to be made in govt corruption

          • Ebby123

            and many bureaucrats to keep employed on the government dole.

        • john huscio

          Itself

      • john huscio

        Mexico has different rifles/ammo for each service branch and they seem to be doing swimmingly when not corrupted to the core 😅

        • David Christensen

          Who has Mexico gone to war with lately?

          • Zebra Dun

            Itself, drug cartel vs Drug Cartel.

      • Stuki Moi

        Fully agree with the last statement. Every service really should be using ammunition 🙂

        As for the same guns, why? Central planning has never really worked for anything anywhere ever, so why adopt it as a guiding principle for small arms selection? Some semblance of standardization is useful for logistics, but embracing a complete mono culture, come with a whole slew of dangers on its own.

        • Anonymoose

          Having the same guns doesn’t create a “mono-culture,” and when they do adopt their own stuff it tends to be stupid stuff like sticking with the M1903 through most of the Pacific and adopting the Reising and various .38 Specials just to be different. Sometimes weapons are adopted due to expediency, and I will admit that sometimes procurement can be really slow (we should have had a better replacement for the Thompson and the BAR, such as the Johnson LMG, long before WWII even started), but we should try to be as standardized as possible throughout the services.

          • Kivaari

            Revolver were used because there were not enough M1911A1s to go around. It was common to see substitute standard firearms issued to troops. Especially pilots. The .38 revolvers made excellent 6-shot flare guns when loaded with tracers. They had the added benefit of being self-draining if they went down in the water.

        • forrest1985

          If all four services picked same basic weapon systems and then looked to alter it to suit their needs where is the issue? Essentially the Marines should be able to place their magazines in the Army or Navy’s weapon and be able to use it without any modifications.

      • USMC03Vet

        Sounds pretty terrible TBH. The mission requirements of airfield personnel and a maritime expeditionary force are worlds apart. If you really want to be logical about it, SoF/SF being such a tiny entity compared to entire other branches it would actually be the other way around.

        • forrest1985

          What I am trying to say is Both units in your example need a rifle. One might have a longer barrel, different optics etc… but providing they can use same magazines, ammunition and reciever it is a small way to standardising services. Air force personnel need a basic package versus MEU say, but essentially the base weapon should be same. Same goes for pistol, DMR etc… having the Army and Marines use say a completely different DMR is ludicrous when both need it to perform same role/function.

    • n0truscotsman

      I say we stop letting them decide what uniforms, equipment, and boots to use. Its gone too far.

    • Zebra Dun

      Rifles for USMC and Army may not be the same requirements as those of say the Air Force and Navy.
      Flight line security and ship board usage as opposed to ground combat.

  • Major Tom

    And yet it’s going to be a moot point anyways because Big Army will (re-)adopt 7.62 or 6.5 CT from the LSAT/CTSAS program.

    • Younggun

      Highly doubtful. Big Army is all about saving a buck, and there is nothing more costly than throwing out nearly every small arm with virtually no compatible parts.

      • Major Tom

        I know of one thing that has been and always will be more expensive than re-equipping the entire military’s small arms. The F-35.

        • Joshua

          Different budgets.

          • Major Tom

            Same scrutiny when brought before Congress however.

        • Younggun

          Yes we all know the F-35 is a total class A screw up but another thing that Big Army and Big Gov love is flashy stuff. A new fighter with bells and whistles sells. Another rifle with a different caliber that still fires a copper/lead projectile at the enemy doesn’t sell. It took 80 years to replace the 1911, it is taking nearly as long or longer to replace the M16 class of rifle, I really do not see someone walking into a Congressional procurement meeting with the pitch being “So we are going to spend billions of tax dollars making new ammo, buying new guns, magazines, bolt carriers, training manuals, Oh… and we will no longer be compatible with any of our NATO allies that will still be using their 5.56 stockpiles.” They would get booted out so fast it would make their head spin.

          • Phil Hsueh

            The other thing to consider is that while the F-35 is, arguably, a piece of crap it does, on paper, offer a significant improvement over the legacy fighters it’s designed to replace. So, once again on paper, while we were spending a lot on the program we were supposed to get a superior product out of it. A new rifle, on the other hand, does not do the same as a new fighter or a new frigate, or whatever because there’s no rile out there right now that offers a significant improvement over the M4 & M16, at least not enough of a difference to warrant the cost of replacing a ton of M4s/M16s along with their mags and spare parts, possibly ammo, and not to mention the time spent re-training armorers and the troops on the new rifle. This is why we’re not likely to see a new service rifle any time soon, at least not one that’s radically different from the AR platform.

          • ostiariusalpha

            We’re already replacing the magazines because the “old” (2009) magazine doesn’t play nice with M855A1. As I told Younggun, it isn’t like the rifles or parts would just be tossed in the trash, they’ll be used and used up in service till they’re gone; the money spent on them won’t be wasted. The non-M855A1 compliant mags will probably be surplused, for example. As that happens, they’ll gradually be replace by the new weapon and its parts. These transitions aren’t really all that expensive outside of the R&D and tooling up. If the army likes something enough (M855A1) the cost of replacing an ecology of parts won’t put them off in the slightest.

          • Uniform223

            “F-35 is, arguably, a piece of crap it does, on paper, offer a significant improvement over the legacy fighters it’s designed to replace.”

            > that’s not what the pilots are saying…

            https://youtu.be/QTgDTC8_PM0

            http://www.sldinfo.com/the-moment-pilots-first-realized-the-f-35-was-something-extraordinary/

            https://youtu.be/Owhfokd5uOA

            http://www.heritage.org/defense/report/operational-assessment-the-f-35a-argues-full-program-procurement-and-concurrent

            I’ll defer to the opinions of the end users. I do completely and whole heartedly agree with the last parts of you comment. Nothing out there currently revolutionizes or is substantially better than the current M4/M16 in terms of service carbines/rifles. There have been incremental improvements but nothing that makes people stand up say, “wow that is soo much better”. The fact is that small arms technology has for the most part stayed the same since the 1940s. Unless we come up with something like the M41A pulse rifle, phased plasma rifle in the 40mega-watt range, or a rifle that used mass effect fields to fire shaved metal fragments at speeds over mach 3; we’re stuck. I hope the US Army continues with their research and path into CT Ammo.

          • Every once in a while, there comes along a weapon system which revolutionizes how certain kinds of combat are fought. The F22 and B2 are two such weapon systems. Aircraft like the F35 are refinements on those themes.

            The same can be said for infantry small arms. The invention of the modern “assault” rifle concept toward the end of WW2 revolutionized how the “average” infantryman uses long guns, and what he is expected to be able to accomplish with them. The fact that the Garand and other 7.62mm-8mm battle rifles of the WW2 era fired 1,000 meter capable cartridges was irrelevant to how the rifles were actually used in 99% of combat applications – where rifle fire typically took place over much shorter ranges. The M14 (which is a very good rifle), for all of its virtues, was still just a refinement on the idea of using a 1,000 meter capable cartridge in a big heavy rifle, for engagements that were typically well under that range. Really, if one stops to think about it, 1,000 meters is the reason we have mortars and other light artillery. You can’t even make an argument for standardizing infantry on a cartridge that is useful for snipers, because even they have been moving away from the venerable .308 to calibers like .300 win mag — which is even further removed from the needs of a basic infantryman.

            It seems to me that the adoption of a lightweight rifle/ammunition combination (when comparing the M14 to the M16) was an acknowledgement that the old battle rifle paradigm was simply no longer valid. My guess is that Big Army and USMC planners fought so bitterly to hang onto the .30 caliber cartridge for as long as they did either out of emotional attachment (which seems unlikely), or because they imagined that the next war would consist of trying to contain Soviet armor pouring through the Fulda Gap, and that, in an armored conflict, infantry engagements would necessarily be at longer ranges. But that is not how the world has turned out. In an age where the world’s heavy hitters are all nuclear powers, the next “world war” between alliances of powerful nation/states is not likely to be an infantryman’ war. It’s not even likely to be a tanker’s war.

            Thus, the nature of war has changed. As long as powerful nation/states continue to individually have enough nuclear firepower to eliminate a large portion of the planet’s population, rendering entire regions uninhabitable to man for thousands of years, it is far more likely that the kind of asymmetric warfare we’ve seen for the past 20 years is the new norm. In that kind of asymmetric warfare, does a basic infantryman need a 1,000 meter capable rifle/cartridge combination, when (A) all of his engagements are going to be at less than 500 meters or less, and (B) having a lighter rifle/ammo combination will enable him to carry much more ammunition into battle without sacrificing a weight penalty for it?

            Then there’s the issue of terminal ballistics for a given bullet design. It would seem that the M855A1 bullet is a not so subtle stab in the direction of barrier penetration, rather than seeking an improvement in terminal ballistics in the human body. One of the complaints in the WOT has been that Afghan goat herders are too skinny for the intended bullet upset to take place, causing the intended massive terminal ballistics, before the bullet exits the body. I don’t see how the M855A1 is any more or less capable in that regard than the M855 (or the M193, for that matter). Better barrier penetration is a worthy and legitimate goal, but the end-state is that there is NO “magic bullet”. ……….and yet…… this cartridge, in all of its various iterations, has killed an impressive number of people since its original introduction.

            Beyond trying to improve barrier penetration, at what point are we approaching the laws of diminishing returns for this cartridge, AND, will any other rifle/cartridge combination be immune to these limitations? I think the answer is obvious. Unless the very nature of warfare going forward changes, the only thing that makes real sense is to continue to rely primarily on the existing lightweight rifle/cartridge system we already have, with continuing refinements as long as they continue to improve either the barrier penetration or terminal performance of the cartridge, as well as the mechanical reliability and longevity of the rifle system itself. The first .308 caliber cartridge in service was the .30-40 Krag, introduced in 1892, before the age of tanks, when suppressive long-range volley-fire was still a common infantry practice, and the machine gun and lightweight man-portable mortars did not exist. The development of the machine gun and mortar squads obviated the need for that tactic. We continued to rely on various iterations of .308 caliber cartridges until the introduction of the M16 in 1964 — 72 years — despite the nature of warfare having changed in the interim……in accordance with the LONG military tradition of fighting current wars with the tactics and equipment of previous wars. With the adoption of the 5.56x45mm cartridge, 55 years ago, our military and those of our allies have finally conceded that the nature of warfare has changed, and that it is not likely to revert for the simple reason that global warfare between superpowers will spell the end of mankind.

            I like the .308 cartridge and I own several weapons in that chambering which I enjoy shooting very much, but if I had to go into infantry combat (thank God that I am too old and busted up to have to face the possibility of that trial any longer), give me an AR15 derivative in 5.56 NATO, whatever the bullet design used. My .308s would never be anything other than long-range standoff weapons, and probably not very effective ones at that. As far as the commonality of weapons systems between allies, I’d be a lot more concerned about caliber than rifle system. Almost anyone with a brain, raised on one system, can adapt him/herself to the ergonomics of another system, so long as they have some confidence in the consistent performance of their ammunition.

            Ah well….. I ramble on. Forgive an old man for it. Have a blessed day.

          • Uniform223

            “It would seem that the M855A1 bullet is a not so subtle stab in the direction of barrier penetration, rather than seeking an improvement in terminal ballistics in the human body. One of the complaints in the WOT has been that Afghan goat herders are too skinny for the intended bullet upset to take place, causing the intended massive terminal ballistics, before the bullet exits the body. I don’t see how the M855A1 is any more or less capable in that regard than the M855”

            https://youtu.be/d8IvDPuVuho

            https://youtu.be/9_epymWduYs

            https://youtu.be/e0gxeSpjdSk

            https://youtu.be/tMSNc3lZsYE

            https://youtu.be/QItA83cPpS4

          • James, never let it be said that I’m not a big enough man to admit when I’ve been schooled. Very interesting videos. I already knew that the A1 possessed superior barrier penetration to the green tip, but I didn’t know that it upset so early and dramatically in gel. I wonder if it performs the same way in flesh as it does in gel (which sometimes happens), but obviously you’ve made your point, and the cartridge is better.

            That said, this is still in line with what I was also saying…… that it is hard to imagine a small arms weapon system at this point which will completely revolutionize the way infantry soldiers fight, and that the focus ought to be on incremental improvements to the equipment, and to the ammunition. It would appear that they’ve succeeded with the ammunition. It’s a marked improvement over the older ammo, but it won’t revolutionize the way that soldiers fight. It will just make them a little more efficient at killing.

            As to improvements on the rifle itself, it’s hard to say how much improvement can be made without replacing parts that are expensive enough to justify simply replacing the entire rifle. I own both DI and GP examples of the AR platform, and like them both. But particularly under suppressed fire, the GP gun doesn’t seem to run that much cleaner than the GI gun. It is cleaner, but not tons cleaner. It would cost something to convert DI guns to GP, if that’s what the brass wanted, but that would be less costly than something like replacing entire receiver sets due to improvements in metallurgy or something like that. I don’t think that abandoning the rifle system entirely is justifiable. It’s already about as good as it gets. Like any mechanical system, it has its shortcomings, but it is a very good weapon system; so it doesn’t seem to me that there’s not a lot of room left for incremental improvements in it. And purely as a gun aficionado, it’s just plain hard not to like.

            Thanks for the videos.

        • And? Replacing one 5.56×45 rifle or ammo with another 5.56×45 rifle doesn’t compare to a completely new jet fighter.

          People need to understand that not every conflict is going to be Big Army/Big Marines fighting a bunch of goat herders running around shooting 30+ year old Soviet weapons.

          And even in those conflicts changing the rifle, or ammo ain’t going to change much. Proper training and application of existing weapons will have a greater impact than a new service pistol, rifle, or ammo. As most troops can’t even effectively use their M-4s and M-16s out to the 500 meters that it is rated for.

        • Uniform223

          NG Aircraft Carrier Gerald Ford. LRSB B-21 Raider. LCS. Those are just 3 high budget items that also cost more than re-equipping the US military with new small arms. So using the F-35 as an example is a poor one.

      • ostiariusalpha

        You apparently have no clue how arms are adopted into service in the military, they never just throw away the older weapons. There are no compatibility in either ammo or components between the M14 and M16, but they certainly didn’t throw away all those rifles when the M16 was adopted; they kept issuing them, and even reissued them decades later from storage. There were guys toting M1903 Springfields for years after the M1 Garand was adopted. The M1911 pistols in use by regular servicemen outnumbered the M9 for 8 years after the Beretta was adopted. The expense of a changeover would be nothing like you describe, there would be troops carrying M4s firing 5.56 NATO for a long while as they gradually transitioned to any new design.

        • Younggun

          Entirely incomparable situations. How long was the M14 being produced between the end of the M1 being the service rifle and the M16 being adopted? Anywhere close to our current situation with the Stoner design? How about ubiquity across services? No? How about nearly every other nation in NATO also fielding M14s? Nope.

          Not only is this a situation that has virtually nothing in common with what we would be looking at now, but we are talking about a situation where you would be switching a rifle platform AND a standardized cartridge with the largest military treaty in the history of the world. This isn’t a m14 to M16 switch where you barely had 10 years of service behind the M14. You have generations of small arms training behind the stoner platform and scores of nations invested into the platform with quite literally trillions of dollars at stake for what? What difference are you getting?

          It is going to be really hard for someone to justify that the difference between a 6.5 in practical terms on the battlefield is going to be substantial enough to cause the political problems associated with falling out of sync with NATO allies, funding the mass production of ammo that is currently only produced in small quantities, and has no compatible parts. It is not going to happen.

          • ostiariusalpha

            I’m sorry, but how does any of that nonsense you just spouted change the fact that you were completely wrong about the miltary throwing away the previous generation of service arms? I’m a generous guy though, so I’ll indulge some of your points here.

            “(Blathering)…, but we are talking about a situation where you would be switching a rifle platform AND a standardized cartridge with the largest military treaty in the history of the world.”
            We already don’t share common ammunition with NATO: the M855A1 is not considered legally acceptable for issue by any of the other NATO members. And other than a quasi-standardization on magazines (with many incompatibilities between different nations’ service weapons), there hasn’t actually been much commonality of weapon design for most of NATO’s history. The AR-70/90, the HK33, the FAMAS, the AUG, the L2A1, the Stg.90, the FNC, the AK-5, the G36, the Beryl, the F2000, the Bren, the ARX-160, etc.; no significant member used an AR-15 derivative except Canada, so your point is basically a total myth. Hell, the AUG and G36 didn’t even bother with STANAG 4179 compliance. Switching over to a new service rifle that has no compatibility with other NATO firearms would change very little about the current state of things.
            “You have generations of small arms training behind the stoner platform…”
            What of it? Other than some remedial action differences, there’s no reason the new rifle would have fundamentally different ergonomics. Even if for some bizarre reason they went with a bullpup layout, we have several NATO members with decades of training experience to draw on.
            “What difference are you getting?”
            Improved logistics. That’s the one and only justification that the new ammunition even needs (though it isn’t the only one it has). Orders of magnitude cheaper to produce, less costly to transport for distribution, and easier to carry for the individual service member; this fundamental logistics improvement is a game-changer.

          • Younggun

            “he M855A1 is not considered legally acceptable for issue by any of the other NATO members.”

            Yup I am sure no ammo gets crossed, traded, loaded in mags etc when in the sandbox. Im sure when the lead starts flying they are all checking if there are green tips or not on the ammo in case they are brought under suit for using the wrong ammo. It is the same chambering. We are talking about completely different chamberings. This is not even apples to oranges at this point it closer to apples and kangaroos.

            “The AR-70/90, the HK33, the FAMAS, the AUG, the L2A1, the Stg.90, the FNC, the AK-5, the G36, the Beryl, the F2000, the Bren, the ARX-160”

            Nearly all of which were chambered in 5.56 and at least half of which utilized STANAG mags. Those that didnt were found to be lacking are are being replaced as well speak. Why? For the very reason that producing all of these proprietary parts is entirely a useless expenditure when you have STANAGS laying around. Even more so now that they are making the switch to from things like the L85, AUG, and Famas to things like the 416 which (shocker) uses STANAG mags, m16 bolts, springs, trigger groups, lower and upper receivers etc and none of which would be compatible with a 6.5 gun.

            “Improved logistics. That’s the one and only justification that the new ammunition even needs (though it isn’t the only one it has). Orders of magnitude cheaper to produce, less costly to transport for distribution, and easier to carry for the individual service member; this fundamental logistics improvement is a game-changer.”

            So now the longer, heavier 6.5 or 7.62 NATO are easier to produce, less costly to transport and easier to carry? Have I misread this? I love the 6.5 as much as the next guy in terms of a pure performer but physics don’t lie. Heavier, fatter, more expensive does not equal more logistically efficient in any universe much less a Military one.

            Look: I am not attacking the 6.5 per se as a cartridge. I am simply being realistic. There is no information that suggests the United States is looking to rechamber all their small arms for a new caliber now especially with the investment into new 5.56 such as we see above. Overtime we might see the 6.5 creep its way into units in a DMR set up and then be modified for use in other areas and eventually start taking a more active role in militaries but if you are thinking that we are going to see the United States adopt a brand new caliber of standard issue rifle in the next 15 years you are sorely mistaken. And yes, I will bet on that.

          • AL

            How is going to be difficult to justify changing calibers? Hey Congress we use this to kill people with, we found that this caliber is better at doing so, which might help us shoot from a further distance and lowering our troops vulnerability…. depending on what caliber they go to by the way it could be something as simple as a barrel change.

        • idahoguy101

          By the end of WW2 there were millions of almost new serviceable M1911 pistols in inventory. And god knows how much stored ammo for them. The need for a replacement wasn’t there till about 1980. The military is currently still purchasing M4 carbines

          • ostiariusalpha

            And we had about a million brand new M1 Garands in storage when we adopted the M14 rifle, and several hundred thousand of that rifle when the M16 replaced it. The M4 will be dealt with the same way, through ordinary wear & retirement and through sale of surplus to interested nations. Service rifles see a lot more action than pistols and consequently have shorter lifespans and more frequent need of replacement units.

    • Joshua

      I will believe it when it happens.

      LSAT is promising on paper, theres a whole lot of variables on how polymer cases will perform in field settings under hard daily use.

  • John Hotchkiss

    As an FFL and seller of occasional MIL SURPLUS ammunition, I asked the ATF if they considered the new M855A1 as armor piercing (AP) ammunition. Their response was that at present, they do consider it as armor piercing, and so cannot be sold by FFL’s or ammunition resellers without following the current AP ammunition guidelines for record keeping. This does not apply to individual (non-FFL) sales.

    Looking forward to if / when M855A1 may replace M855, unless there is a reclassification of this ammo, it brings into question availability and resale of one of America’s best selling small arms calibers.

    • Slab Rankle

      They still produce M193 in vast quantities. I guess the same would hold true for M855. Why not?

      • Exactly, M855 has been on the market for years, but the 55gr ammo vastly outsells it.

        Besides there are rounds with better terminal performance while having acceptable barrier penetration.

        • Kivaari

          M193 is more accurate than M855.

      • Holdfast_II

        Because M193 is cheap training ammo. M855 isn’t – it’s higher-quality warshots, so I suspect that production will shift fully to M855A1 in fairly short order. Of course, there will still be large stocks of M855 floating around for quite a while.

        • Slab Rankle

          I believe that commercial availability of new M855 will continue for decades to come. There’s probably several billion green tip bullets sitting in MFR’s warehouses, and consumer demand for it will never subside.

          Don’t worry. No one wants to over $1 per round for this new stuff, except in very limited amounts.

          If anything, M855 will be more available, when armed forces worldwide stop using it.

          • James Kachman

            Other nations’ forces are unlikely to switch over quickly from their SS109 derived rounds to the EPR, especially since it requires a change of magazines and doesn’t play well with piston guns. Plus, iirc legislation was passed under Clinton saying military property ammo can’t be sold back to civilians. That’s why you see “XM193”. Companies can, of course, sell you identical ammo from the same production line, but that has never been government property.

  • James Wegman

    Let’s see, Congress is arguing over the cost of issuing 2 different rounds to the troops, when nobody paid any attention to the fact that the F-35 was BILLIONS over budget and YEARS behind schedule!!! That seems about up to par for those A-Holes!!!!

    • There has been a ton of Congressional gnashing of teeth over the F-35. Right now it is simply the time for gnashing of teeth over ammo.

      Like the 24 hour news networks Congress does a part time job with full time hours, so they have to find ways to fill their time. Gnashing of teeth over minor things is how they typically do it.

      • Ebby123

        “There has been a ton of Congressional gnashing of teeth over the F-35. Right now it is simply the time for gnashing of teeth over ammo.”

        That made me chuckle.

      • carlcasino

        Congress does a part time job with full time hours? I guess your saying they are over paid for not walking and chewing gum at the same time. If so I concur. Congress considering what ammo the military uses?? lawyers making military decisions is the ultimate Oxymoron.

    • Holdfast_II

      Ironically, a lot of the F-35 problems stem from trying to use a single basic air-frame to satisfy the different requirements of the different services.

      • The biggest issues with the F-35 is VSTOL systems of the F-35B and the systems integration to reduce pilot workload.

        The air frame itself, and adapting it to the three services hasn’t been a huge issue. At least not compared to the amount creeping up because of those two reasons.

        • XT6Wagon

          you forget that with 90 years of experience in carrier operations by the USN they managed to find clowns who couldn’t make an arrester hook work. 1911 was when this was invented FFS.

          The plane itself needed a fuselage redesign to take carrier landings, and in fact was suffering from cracking in normal flight testing off of conventional runways.

          • Like every program problems creep up and they fix it. There problem isn’t a single program where this hasn’t happened unless it was buying exclusively commercial off the shelf.

        • Uniform223

          STOVL (short take off vertical landing) of the F-35B has worked very well (Better then most people expected). You are correct that the integration program/software codes has been the most outstanding and constant issue. However most issues concerning the aircraft’s software codes (excluding ALIS ) has been resolved. Block 3F software is supposed to have testing completed by this year or early 2018.

      • Uniform223

        That is a common false assumption made all over the internet. The biggest and most constant problem for the F-35 Program has been it’s software codes. The F-35 features the most extensive and complex software for any current military fighter aircraft. Past issues (That have been resolved) like false contact from its DAS and “helmet jitter” stems from its software codes.

        • That’s the biggest *solvable* problem.

          Unfortunately, the basic airframe *shape* for all three variants is driven in large part by the requirements of the -B model’s lift fan, and that means an airframe that is suboptimal for the -A and -C variants in already “baked in the cake”.

          • Uniform223

            I keep hearing and reading about it all over the interwebs but NOWHERE do people actually offer an actual reason as to why or how the B model “compromised” the other variants. A TRUE explanation is sorely needed rather than more unsubstantiated rumor and hearsay.

      • Huge difference though…

        Marine riflemen and Army riflemen are trying to carry out the same missions – infantry ground combat.

        The F-35 variants are trying to do different missions, and so have compromises necessary for the -B model built into the -A and -C models that hinder their performance. The -A and -C models don’t adversely affect the -B model or each other quite so much, because despite one being land based and the other CATOBAR optimized, they’re both still fairly conventional airplanes, aerodynamically. Aside from a compromised shape to try and retain some semblance of being a variant of the STOVL version…

    • Phil Hsueh

      The issue, as I see it, with 2 different round types isn’t so much about cost as much about logistics.

      • Uniform223

        Logistics isn’t so much of a problem (perse) as the mk318 and m855a1 are both 5.56x45mm rounds. Yet the question is why do they (army and marines) need to separate supply chains for two “different” types of rounds. Having two separate supply chains does create additional cost when there really doesn’t need to be. I still think there should be a common uniform and camouflage for the services.

        • Dave Buck

          Except where one service has chosen a round the other thinks is inferior. So why should the Marines accept less than what they want just to make life easy? As far as what Congress thinks: politicians=pack of useless gits.

          • majorrod

            Because the Marines are wrong if they think Mk318 is superior. M855A! addresses penetrating windshields which is why Mk318 was adopted. It also has excellent soft tissue performance and finally exceeds Mk318’s ability to penetrate potential cover.

            The issue here isn’t one branch thinking the other round is better. It’s resistance to the new. The same resistance that caused the Marines to adopt optics and the M4 after the Army did.

          • There is also a HUGE cost difference between M855A1 and Mk318. And that matters.

            The cost difference between M855 and M855A1 is noticeable, but not that bad.

          • majorrod

            Mk318 is literally a penny cheaper. $.49 vs $.50. Google “Seize the moment – An Optimized Caliber and the IC Competition” brief by Schatz, slide 23.

          • Dave Buck

            “FWIW My info comes from the PEO representatives at the Maneuver Conference at Ft Benning and Major Glenn Dean’s book “In Search of Lethality: Green Ammo and the M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round”. He was an acquisition officer involved in M855A1 development.” If he was indeed involved in the project, then he could reasonably be expected to be a bit biased, yes? I have been to Picatinney Arsenal and seen their presentation, and they sure talk-up their round. That’s fair enough. However my contacts at NSW Crane tell me the Mk318 they developed is superior to the M855A1, in a number of respects. So who is right? Probably both.

            One of the things I have learned in 35 years as an ammunition technical officer is that there ain’t no such thing as a ‘do-everything’ round. It’s the ammunition equivalent of a unicorn. Every design is a compromise.

            Services select an ammunition based upon a user requirement, which lays out what they want it to do and the ‘must have’, ‘should have’ and ‘could have’ criteria. I have not seen the user requirements from either the US Army or the USMC, but it is possible that the user requirements for these two services have different criteria, or different weighting, which makes the Mk 318 more suitable for the USMC’s requirements. For example, in my own service’s user requirement for 5.56 mm ammunition, hard target penetration was not a ‘must have’ or even a ‘should have’, it was a ‘could have’. In our case therefore, a round like M855A1 would be the answer to a question we didn’t actually ask.

          • majorrod

            Everyone has a bias including Crane that developed the Mk318. I take that into account and try to get past that to the actual round’s performance. What are Mk318’s specific advantages over M855A1? From my sources it is a tad more effective against soft tissue but not to the point to give up the other advantages M855A1 offers (superior soft/hard barrier penetration and excellent lethality).

            As to service requirements, the Mk318 was developed and fielded for the Corps because of M855’s performance against soft targets (through and throughs) and against windshields of VBIEDs (M855 was sometimes deflected) was lacking. The same threats the Army faced. The Marines even used spec ops mk 262 ammo as a stop gap but found it cost prohibitive.

            Unlike the Army, the Marines didn’t want to wait (understandable). M855A1 addresses both of the M855 shortcomings and answers the original requirement. Note, the Marines kept their stocks of M855 during this whole period to address penetration needs should they face a different foe besides what both services were fighting in Iraq & Afghanistan.

            I can see some requirements differences with the special ops community (Crane’s primary customer) but the Army and Marines fight the same enemy. No one is making a case these services have different requirements when it come to ammo.

            If our special ops starts having to fight a near peer instead of goat herders they’ll be asking “the question”, quick. As it is, Army Special Ops has embraced M855A1. Maybe they want something that is going to tear through brick, cinderblock or other cover an insurgent may be using? (BTW, in that book I suggested reading Army SF was involved in the development so someone in the spec ops community was asking “the question”.)

            Keeping branch specific ammo to fight the same enemy is as silly as having different camo patterns to fight the same enemy. That’s not a symbol of efficiency. It’s a symbol of insecurity.

          • Dave Buck

            As I said, I have not seen either user requirement. If they are indeed fighting the same enemy, in the same battlespace, then you are correct – there is no justification for branch-specific ammo. It is possible though, for two groups to do the same trial and still come to different conclusions. I have seen it happen more than once.

            My issue is with Congress. While there are of course exceptions, most politicians know as much about things military as my pet cat. They should NOT be telling the services what equipment they need. There is nothing worse than politicians interfering in military procurement. Just ask the CF, when that idiot Prime Minister Cretien involved himself in the helicopter procurement. $500 million in penalties for cancelling a contract, and in the end, they ended up with a less-capable version of the same aircraft, two years late.

          • majorrod

            I agree Congress should avoid making material decisions but they didn’t in this case. They simply asked why the two largest ground branches use different 5.56 ammo. Seems no one can justify it hence the switch.

            While Congress doesn’t have a good record the military has run amuck. The camo wars is an excellent example as is the A10. It’s in these cases where even Congress can bring some common sense to issues.

          • Colonel K

            The only way to stop the services from fielding service-unique equipment and supplies is to take away ALL of their fund sites and replace them with joint fund sites. This will force standardization, but it best applies to those situations where commonality is reasonably expected, e.g., battle dress, small arms, ammunition, utility vehicles, medical, comm, etc. For larger programs that tend to be service unique, a joint approach should still be used, if only to ensure that any intersecting needs are met. For example, the USAF should remain the lead service for cargo aircraft acquisition, but the other services should be part of that process because it often is their equipment being carried, so their needs must be included throughout the acquisition life cycle. The insecurity you speak of reflects an underlying concern that a particular service mission may become redundant or obsolete, thus making that service of less value and possibly a candidate for elimination. One could argue today that the USMC duplicates the Army mission ad should be absorbed into it. A counterargument can be made that the Army duplicates the USMC mission and should be absorbed into it. Similarly, one can argue that all aviation missions should belong to single service, which then doles them out to other services based upon their needs. The common fear of each service is that technology will eventually drive us to the point where they all will be replaced someday by a single force that does everything. Imagine the pandemonium that would result if a company ever developed a flying submersible tank that can hover and disgorge infantry-bots. Who gets to operate it?

          • majorrod

            Much truth there. Sadly the solutions are fraught with as many pitfalls as the problems. Giving specific branches control over systems is often used as a way to keep them from other services.

            Classic example is the C27J. Army wanted an intratheatre cargo lifter. Air Force said, use our C130’s disregarding they are not as responsive as a small plane nor efficient for small high priority loads. Congress gives project to Army. USAF goes along on their own dime to “watch” the Army since Congress won’t fund them. Army develops plane. Air Force offers to fly plane. Army accepts. Air Force promptly mothballs all planes due to cost to operate. Army forced to fill C130 loads or use CH47’s at 4-6x the cost. USAF maintains fixed wing hegemony. USCG gets new cargo planes.

            Insecurity does drive a lot of BS though.

          • Colonel K

            Any system can be corrupted. Even within the USAF I saw incredible waste on a program to provide the Afghan Air Force with very expensive light cargo planes. At the time (around 2005) I inquired why we didn’t simply give them Basler BT-67 turboprops (highly modified C-47s/DC3s) at about $6 million a pop vs. the nearly half billion we eventually wasted on the failed C27A project for the Afghan AF. I never got an answer to that question, nor ever expected one. The level of waste I saw at the Pentagon was staggering, and even in these current “austere” times it does not appear to have abated. I’m afraid President Eisenhower’s warning about the military-industrial complex have gone unheeded.

    • Raptor Fred

      How many in Congress are looking to make money from the F-35? Or have financial interests in the companies making the F-35? Congress cares nothing of the warfighter on the ground. Career politicians looking to make emotions in the public sway to their bank roll advancement. Technically, The United States of America could have the most technologically advanced service rifle, ammunition, and all ancillary devices ever known to modern man. Probably 30 years ago. It’s all about the $$ and who makes (steals) it in the guise of legitimacy and “national security”. All of the money is there, every single year. It just happens to mysteriously vanish in the trillions.

    • Uniform223

      “nobody paid any attention to the fact that the F-35 was BILLIONS over budget and YEARS behind schedule!!! ”

      > that’s a lie.
      The JSF Program is often the most scrutinized program on the DoD budget. There are more congressional hearings and military staff having to report to the Congressional ASC concerning the F-35 then most any other program. After the program rebaseline in 2011, the JSF Program has been (for the most part) on time or slightly ahead of schedule. The price of the program is indeed a lofty one but has been steadily decreasing. However to constantly say, ” F-35 is over budget” is unfair. Most if not all major military programs have gone over budget at some point (its pretty much a norm now). Even the Super Hornet went over budget even though it was advertised to congress to be an affordable upgraded variation of the older legacy Hornet (which when looked at has nothing in common with the original Hornet except in name and appearance).

      • Max Glazer

        The only thing in common between classic Hornet and Super Hornet is the wing profile which also happened to be proportionately enlarged. So basically an all-new plane which ironically is what Hornet was ORIGINALLY envisaged as (F-15-sized), but political expediency demanded a smaller plane.

        • Actually, the Hornet was originally envisioned to be F-16 sized. Because it was the YF-17 flyoff candidate against the YF-16 for the Lightweight Fighter program.

          When the Navy decided they needed a new carrier fighter that could do attack roles (this was well prior to the “Bombcat” development) to replace A-7 (and everything else that started with “A” except the A-6) and a bunch of the F-4s, they upscaled the YF-17. Of course, they *forgot* to upscale the fuel fraction (and, being a demo bird, the original YF-17 had a small fuel fraction for a US bird).

          IIRC, the Navy rejected just buying a navalized F-16, because they were worried about single engine reliability… LOL

    • Daniel W

      Get congress off there dead asses(23) rifle rounds (1) for the Army (1) for the Marine Corps,WHAT ARE YOU CRAZY.KNOCK OFF THE BULL SH-T.PICK THE BEST RIFLE ROUND AND ISSUE IT TO OUR FIGHTING FORCE>>>

      • Dave Buck

        The problem, as always, is that opinions differ on just which round is ‘the best’.

        • majorrod

          Don’t use opinions. Use facts. M855A1 meets or exceeds all the performance parameters of Mk318 with very significant advantages.

    • There’s a lot to be frustrated over with the F-35 program. I remember seeing flying prototypes on display next to F-22 prototypes at an air show at Edwards AFB, back in 2004 or 2005. Here we are 12 years later, and the program still has problems. On a positive note, it has been very good for the local economy where I live (near Fort Worth).

  • Sully

    The article state there are reliability and durability issues when using the M855A1 with rifles that were designed around the M855. Does this mean most current rifles need to either be beefed up considerably or redesigned to handle the M855A1?

    • Joshua

      The M4/M16 does fine with it.

      The M27 has issues with it. Then again the 416 is incredibly over gassed and over spring already.

      • Sully

        Thanks. Can the M27 be improved to handle the M855A1, though? I wonder what H&K will have up their sleeve to solve this.

        • Joshua

          Not easily and not likely. Unless they wanted to move to a rifle length piston system.

          The issue is the pressure curves of the new SMP-842 powder.

          It was developed specifically for M855A1 in a M4A1, using a DI system. Which allows for longer travel distance for the gases to cool and longer time for the brass case to unstick from the chamber walls for the action begins to cycle.

          The 416 being a piston gun, and having the gas port around where a carbine gas port is means that the piston is pressurized faster and earlier, leading to increased ROF and harder extraction, as well as more strain on the bolt lugs.

          Theres only a few options here.

          1. Move the gas port another 5″ down the barrel and increase barrel length to 20″…which won’t happen.

          2. Greatly increase the internal volume of gas needed to move the piston…which is an impossible thing to do without redesigning the operating system.

          3. Move to a DI system to properly handle the pressure curves of the burning powder that SMP-842 was developed to have…which we know won’t happen.

          So really no, there’s no way to fix the 416 with M855A1.

          This is what happens when one service in a country decides to go against the grain and adopt a single gun that doesn’t match anything else the country uses, but then has to use the ammo the other services use that was developed for their gun.

          The Marine Corps attempt to backdoor in the 416 to become program manager of their own weapon is now biting them.

          • James Kachman

            “This is what happens when one service in a country decides to go against the grain and adopt a single gun that doesn’t match anything else the country uses”

            Not the first time, the Marines adopted the M16A2 completely on their own, and introduced an ammunition type that was incompatible with older rifles. (And deleted functions but w/ever)

          • Kivaari

            The Army had a great deal to say about the M16A2. They drove the project.

          • No, the M16 PIP was definitely a USMC-run project. The Army originally wanted to skip it in favor of the ACR, or at least, adopt an enhanced version of the M16A2 with a flattop upper instead.

            If you search DTIC, you can find a 1986-vintage hitpiece on the M16A2 written by the Army Research Institute and Litton Systems. Both outfits had been working hard on developing marksmanship training schemes for the M16A1, and the USMC’s modifications had upset their apple cart.

          • Kivaari

            Thanks. Most of what I read at the time was about the “new Army rifle”.

          • James Kachman

            The M16A2 project started as a Marine request, and they were the first to order it in 1982. The Army didn’t order any until 1986. The Director of the Program, Lt. Col. David Lutz, was a Marine. After the adoption of the A2, the Army released a paper listing off the reasons why it was inferior to the A1.

          • Kivaari

            After thinking back, I remember the sequence of events.
            I was issued the M16A1 and except for the weak stock furniture thought it was a great rifle. When we did FTX the biggest problem was broken furniture.
            I thought the new rear sight was a mistake, except for the two sizes of aperture, that was OK.
            When I built a few ARs for self and family I used the pencil barrels. I like them better than the A2.
            I did have an HBAR that was amazingly accurate.

          • James Kachman

            How often would ya’ll see broken furniture? And I’m a fan of pencil profile as well.

          • Kivaari

            It seems like when ever we went to the field and actually used the tracks. The people would throw the rifle around, pile gear on top of them and just generally not take reasonable care. Fore ends and buttstocks would get “holed” or cracked. Sight wings bent. All avoidable damage.

          • Pleaseee

            There is this thing they invented called an adjustable gas regulator. Perhaps they could toy with different designs of regulators to reduce the amount of gas? How about smaller gas ports? Or vents before the piston? There are many ways to bleed of excess gas that wouldn’t require a full redesign of Hk’s overpriced gear.

          • Joshua

            Tuning guns to work across a wide range of climates and conditions is difficult.

            An AGR is nice, but it won’t fix the issue piston guns are seeing with SMP-842.

            Actually the HK416A5 has an AGR and it still sees all the issues of the M27 with the SMP-842 powder M855A1 uses.

  • john huscio

    What becomes of MK318?

    • James Kachman

      Mk. 318 was developed by SOCOM originally. If they still want it, it’ll still get made.

      (Which is a good thing, as I’d argue Mk. 318 is better for a civilian shooter than M855A1, and I’ve every desire to purchase some.)

      • Joshua

        SOCOM is switching to M855A1 already.

  • Brett baker

    Note it is the UK uberrifle, not the “crappy” Colt or FN DI’s that is chocking on the new ammo.

    • Get over it Fanbois

      We’re America. We shouldn’t be held to the standards of them socialists. /sarc.

    • Joshua

      You are right. The M27 performs horribly with M855A1, partly due to being an already incredibly overgassed gun, second because it’s a piston and it unlocks earlier than DI does.

      The M4/M16 is having no problem running M855A1 and is still maintaining a 10,000 round bolt life.

      • Sermon 7.62

        And 7,000 barrel life 🙂

        • James Kachman

          In interviews with Primary and Secondary, the Master Gunner of the 82nd Airborne Division related that the lower barrel life figures are due to the previous method of gauging no longer accurately evaluating how accurate the barrel was. Barrels that were considered highly worn regularly produced accurate groups. This is a round very different in construction to M855, and maintenance on the barrels will have to reflect that.

          (The P&S interview was as part of the “modcast” series, not sure which one. They’re each 2-4 hours long…)

          • Sermon 7.62

            I hint at that fact that in the same test M27 lasted much longer than M4.

          • James Kachman

            Are you saying that the M27 has a higher barrel life with M855A1 than the M4 family? Color me completely unsurprised, not because the M27 has a piston, but because HK threw a lot of money at that barrel.

          • Joshua

            And? The barrel steel is of a higher quality than 11595E barrel steel the M4 uses.

            No one ever denied that HK makes good barrels.

          • Sermon 7.62

            Yet someone complained about HK’s performance

          • Joshua

            Man you’re dense and defensive.

            I never saw anyone say the barrel was bad.

          • Sermon 7.62
          • Joshua

            You should read more. I’ve gone over this before.

            TFB even had a post a few weeks ago about it.

          • Sermon 7.62

            Then tell me more about superior performance of M4 🙂

          • Kivaari

            The M4 was superior to the M27 when using M855A1.

          • Sermon 7.62

            No

          • Kivaari

            Look at the other posting showing the chamber defects caused by using M855A1 from the 2009 (standard aluminum) magazines. That issue was corrected with Gen 3 Pmags. The images posted clearly show the issue at hand.

          • Sermon 7.62

            I heard HK make mags, too 🙂

          • Which also had problems…

          • Sermon 7.62

            It’s the ammo

          • Yes, because, while the superior steel of the HK barrels (which could easily be installed on M4s) lasts slightly longer (although both barrels will last *safely* through to the end of the projected service life of the rifle), the HK bolt literally breaks in a manner that (if it doesn’t incapacitate the rifle altogether) renders it UNSAFE to fire, much sooner than the M4, when both are firing M855A1… And the very reason the HK bolt fails faster is INHERENT to the very thing that (according to HK fanbois) supposedly makes the HK superior – the piston operating system.

          • Sermon 7.62

            Or perhaps it just wasn’t made for these magnum rounds and it can be upgraded 🙂

          • n0truscotsman

            ^this

        • Joshua

          When measured by a loss of 200FPS velocity.

          M4A1 barrels still retain accuracy past 10,000 rounds.

          Stay in your lane.

          • Sermon 7.62

            M4 barrels retain and HK barrels don’t ː)

          • ostiariusalpha

            The HK barrel does fine; its piston operating system does not. Is that clear enough?

          • Sermon 7.62

            DI rules!

          • ostiariusalpha

            Until you overgas it with a bad design also. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
            Stamped receiver AKMs used in full-auto rental ranges have been shown to have a typical lifespan of 80,000-100,000 rounds before the receiver cracks around the trunion. How long would it last though if you fed it ammo with a longer pressure curve though?

          • Sermon 7.62

            No idea. How long?

  • Anonymoose

    Welp, better bring back those 20″ barrels if they’re still using them for ammo tests. Get someone (not Vltor, since they invented Keymod) to make a monolithic Mlok upper that can use normal clamp-on M203s and bring back the A5 program!

  • Realist

    I foresee the M855 availability getting ready to spike…let’s hope the PPR drops like in kind.

  • MeaCulpa

    The USMC, the army of the navy and the navy of the army that needs different ammo, different trucks, different helicopters and different uniforms than the army for some reason. Seriously you guys, just scale the USMC down to a security force for the navy and be done with all this redundant crap.

  • Gun Fu Guru

    I still have no idea why we are choosing to get away from NATO on our ammunition.

    • Kivaari

      The M855 (SS109) doesn’t perform as well as they like. The M855A1 performs better.

      • Gun Fu Guru

        Yes, M855A1 is better at much armor penetration and soft tissue damage. However, M855 wasn’t even standard within NATO. That being said, the new round has higher pressure than the old round and many NATO guns can’t handle it.

        • Joshua

          Sucks to be them then.

          It’s easily the best 5.56 round ever developed from a general purpose standpoint of having to do many things well.

          Luckily most NATO countries legally can’t use the round as it is designed to fragment violently, making it illegal for 99% of NATO.

          • Gun Fu Guru

            You are very misinformed on the Geneva Convention. It bans hollow points, not fragmenting ammo.

          • Joshua

            You appear to be right….sadly I guess my memory failed me on the Hague convention :/

            The rest of my post still remains at least.

          • Rnasser Rnasser

            …that would be the MK 318 round.

          • majorrod

            Actually the key concept is the round isn’t designed to expand, flatten or fragment. It’s how we can field open tip which is manufactured that way to increase uniformity and subsequently accuracy but not to flatten which it occasionally does like a hollow point.

          • Gun Fu Guru

            [1] M855A1 is designed to fragment when it hits a soft target. It is much better than M855 in that regard.

            [2] You are mistaken. What I wrote was a direct quote from the relevant Convention. “[B]ullets which expand or flatten easily in the human body” are forbidden. The whole document is only activated in a war between two or more States that have consented to the Convention with some small exemptions. Open tip match rounds do not “flatten easily” as they are not designed to do so; therefore, they are not the same as hollow points.

          • majorrod

            M855A1 was designed to do a lot of things (better penetration, inflict soft tissue damage independent of yaw, be eco friendly) fragmenting wasn’t one of them. If it were JAG would not have approved it’s use. The fact that it often does when it hits soft tissue is a plus but it’s not “designed” to do so. Look at round technology specifically designed to fragment and you’ll see a different approach.

            FWIW My info comes from the PEO representatives at the Maneuver Conference at Ft Benning and Major Glenn Dean’s book “In Search of Lethality: Green Ammo and the M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round”. He was an acquisition officer involved in M855A1 development.

            Open tip actually does on occasion “flatten”. It can also fragment yet it isn’t “designed” to do so. This blog actually did a really good story explaining the issue, “Why “Open Tip Match” ≠ “Jacketed Hollow Point”

            The language I shared is how JAG interprets the Hague. We can interpret the document a dozen different ways but war is waged war according to JAG’s interpretation not ours.

            BTW, there’s more to the quote than “flatten easily”. “[T]he use of bullets which expand or flatten easily in the human body, such as bullets with a hard envelope which does not entirely cover the core, or is pierced with incisions.”

        • James Kachman

          “However, M855 wasn’t even standard within NATO.”

          What? Look up STANAG 4172, the 62gr SS109 round was explicitly standardized on by NATO. They didn’t call it M855 because that’s not what it was called originally, and countries give it their own designation.

          • Gun Fu Guru

            I think there is a miscommunication: I said “standard” when you said “standardized.” “Standardization” in your usage refers to NATO setting up specific standards for cross-compatibility. “Standard” in my usage means that the round is not widely adopted for field use.

          • James Kachman

            “”Standard” in my usage means that the round is not widely adopted for field use.”

            Which is still incorrect. SS109 derivatives are in use by almost ever NATO country, and SS109 and M855 are roughly identical.

          • Gun Fu Guru

            SS109 =/= M855

          • CapeMorgan

            You are talking past each other. SS109 is the bullet. M855 is the US designation for the cartridge…the bullet and the loading. Not all NATO countries load cartridges using the SS109 bullet to the same M855 loadings. For example, the UK for some time used the SS109 bullet but not the same loading as the M855. They are equivalent in general.

          • Not even close. SS109 is actually a fairly wide range of performance. M855 was already near the high end of performance within SS109.

        • MSG1000

          If it still complies with the max pressure specs then that’s on other NATO members.

      • Gun Fu Guru

        And at that, NATO countries with AR-style rifles that choose to adopt M855A1 (or use during it an emergency) will need to purchase new magazines for it to function properly.

        • DW

          Not entirely true, if they already use better magazines.

        • Only if they bought HK416s…

  • Sense Offender

    Good now if only we can get the military to adopt an 18″ bullpup assault rifle.

    • No one

      Let’s not, considering that would be a terrible idea and nearly all the more modern holdouts still using bullpups are ditching them.

      • MSG1000

        I’m indifferent towards bullpups, but I can’t help but feel like the ditching of them is more due to the parent nations no longer having a firearms industry to support R&D of said bullpups.

        Add that most major manufacturers seem adverse to R&D spending, you just copy paste weapons we’ve been using for decades. I view the lack of trying more of a point towards tech stagnation than anything.

  • 22winmag

    Somebody on GB spent $230 for 60 rounds, so it must be good!

    • No one

      Hey, considering your employer tried and failed to sue over the design they didn’t actually invent in a patent troll case, I bet they think it’s good too!

      No reason to be bitter they lost though.

      • Joshua

        ouch.

  • valorius

    Just in time for the US Army to abandon 5.56mm for 7.62mm battle rifles.

  • Kivaari

    Are the issues with the M27 a result of it being piston operated?

    • Joshua

      Partly.

      It also receives damage to the chamber walls due to the over the beach additions.

      • Kivaari

        I don’t see how the added piston and associated parts would effect the chamber. I trust DI guns over piston guns as they are simple and more reliable.

        • Joshua

          The M27 uses a different chamber face chamfer. It’s flatter and doesn’t have nearly the same amount of chamfer as the M4 does.

          The bullet tip on A1 strikes the flatter chamber face and eventually rips chunks out of the chamber leading to KB’s.

        • Joshua

          Here is a publicly released image showing what I’m talking about.

        • The way the piston causes problems is the bolt gets beat up *specifically* because it doesn’t have the buffering effect of the gas pushing the bolt – and thus the lugs – forward.

          The bolt design in the AR15 family was specifically designed to be DI, and kit-bashing it to make it a piston gun puts stresses where it was never designed to take them (because they don’t *happen* when it’s running DI).

          You want a piston gun? Design it as such from the ground up. But trying to make an AR15 system into a piston gun is as stupid as trying to make a G3 into a piston gun, or an FAL or G3 into a DI gun.

          • Kivaari

            I was referring to the “chamber” issues. That is caused by the new bullet tip hitting the chamber mouth and no chamfer being present. I understand all the other negatives to piston guns, that’s why I like DI.

          • Kivaari

            I like DI guns. The AR should be a DI gun not converted to piston.

      • Kivaari

        I looked up an earlier article on military dot com, and it confirms the piston gun had more issues.

  • Raptor Fred
  • Andrew

    What about the composition of this round makes it different?

    • MSG1000

      Well, for starters it’s mostly made of a copper alloy with a mild steel core for penetration. Copper was to be eco friendly which I thought was stupid but don’t complain about it because they actually made it perform better than the M855.

      Since copper is less dense the round is longer so the powder had to be changed, which is why the chamber pressure is higher. However in theory the longer round should have a better ballistic coefficient so it can cut through the air better.

      The segmenting of the front portion and the back is supposed to help with yawing and fragmenting or so I’m told.

      Really the thing, as far as I know, started as an eco project that managed to produce an actually superior round.

      • majorrod

        Read “In Search of Lethality: Green Ammo and the M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round” by Dean. It wasn’t an accident that a more lethal round was created. There was a conscious decision to keep the “Green Round” image so that efforts to male the round more lethal weren’t derailed by PC warriors.

        • They also kept the “Green Round” image because they were using bunny-hugger designated “Green Round” ammo development money as well. No matter what any detractors trying to derail the program for more effective ammo might say, they could defiantly point at the project and funding line and say, “See? We *HAVE* to develop the ammo as lead free, safe for bunny rabbits! And it is! Increased lethality just looks like an unfortunate cost [snicker] of complying with this Very Important Directive to save Mother Gaia…”

  • Raptor Fred

    Makes no difference what ammo it is. TAKE THE SHACKLES OFF. UNLEASH THE TEUFEL HUNDEN. ROE is the biggest threat to lethality. NO WOMEN NO CHILDREN . Smash the skulls, evict isis from breathing. We have the technology to burn down anyone and anything related to these savages. The only ones that keep the game going are the ones making money off of it.

  • William M Durham

    When will the military [really the industrial complex ] give up on the idea that they can make a varmint round a great military round. Since we are not playing in the jungles of SE Asia any more where ranges were 10 to 20 meters at best but in the open expanses of the middle east and the Afghan region where the ranges are 200 to 700 meters it is time to either take the old M14 out of warehouse or develop a 6-6.5mm round that will do the job. No matter what you say or do there is only so much powder that you can stuff in a 5.56mm. In the warfare we are no engaged bigger is better and range is the boss. Train up the troops to shoot at the old rifle range set ups of 460 meters and increase this to 800 and we will have a winner

  • Terry Brachmanski

    I don’t want to be a total naysayer, so let’s talk about the advantages of this new round. It shoots flatter. Of course, the reason it shoots flatter is because they’ve juiced the round up so that it will fly at 3,100 fps. This would be a great achievement except for the fact that they did it by increasing the chamber pressure from 55,000 psi to 63,000 psi. That’s a number closely approaching proof-load pressures. So are new M4s being constructed using stronger materials to handle this hot round? No, of course not. The M4 is being manufactured to the same Technical Data Package (TDP) that they have always been. This means that not only are parts going to wear out at a much higher rate (which is already is an issue with the M4), but if, God forbid, there is any bullet set-back, the number of M4s reportedly going “high order” (i.e., blowing up) should increase exponentially.

    While on the subject of the effect of the M855A1 on service weapons, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the new round cuts barrel life by almost 50 percent.

    But no amount of tuning is going to alter the fact that the EPR has a 5.5 MOA accuracy standard. 5.5 MOA? Seriously? The Mk 318 SOST round that the USMC has fielded in Afghanistan is held to a 2 MOA standard, but the latest and greatest round that it’s being replaced by is held to a 5.5 MOA standard? Additionally, the Mk 318 has better terminal ballistics against soft targets, holds together better through intermediate barriers and costs half what the M855A1 costs. In this era of dramatic cost-cutting, it is absolutely mind-boggling as to why they are insisting on fielding a round so inferior in just about every aspect to one that’s already in theater — and pay twice as much for it!

    • majorrod

      There’s a lot of factual inaccuracies in your post.

      “but if, God forbid, there is any bullet set-back, the number of M4s reportedly going “high order” (i.e., blowing up) should increase exponentially.” Hasn’t happened in almost half a decade of use. Gen Ostrowski commented after its fielding “zero problems”. That’s far from an exponential increase.

      EPR’s MOA isn’t the same as the issued M855A1. Your citing the 2009 round that preceded issued M855A1. M855A1 came from the EPR program but exceeds the various prototypes that were called EPR. 1.6 MOA according to the American Rifleman article.

      “the Mk 318 has better terminal ballistics against soft targets, holds together better through intermediate barriers and costs half what the M855A1 costs.”

      No. Mk318 MIGHT be MARGINALLY better in soft tissue. (“Might & Marginally” are the operational words) Evidence that Mk318 holds together better and how does that increase lethality?

      You totally ignore M855A1’s superior penetration capability of brick, cinder block, steel and still being lethal.

      Mk318 isn’t half the price of M855A1. It is literally a penny cheaper. $.49 vs $.50. Google “Seize the moment – An Optimized Caliber and the IC Competition” brief by Schatz, slide 23.

      Worst case, M855A1 produces almost equal soft tissue performance and exceeds in every other category.

      Best case it exceeds in every category…

  • Hank Seiter

    Some years ago I was able to legally purchase 1000 M855A1 bullets at a gun show. There was some controversy at that time about its efficacy on the battlefield as well as the legality of private citizens owning this latest 5.56 incarnation. But it was legal even in our state at that time so I bought some and spent several sessions at my sportsman’s club which has 100, 200 and 300 meter berms and discovered my best load (I’m an ardent handloader with over 33 years experience) was simply pulling the 55 grain pill out of factory PMC boxer-primed loaded ammunition and stuffing the M855A1 bullet in its place. The primers flattened a bit more but I felt the load was well within safety margins even on the hot days I was testing. I also used a Lee collect neck crimper. I went through about 100 bullets.

    Let’s put it this way, 3/8 inch steel plate will consistently get a hole in it out to 200 meters where by my ballistic charts it is still traveling 2600+ fps, possibly even 2700 fps. out of a 20 inch barrel and probably 175 fps slower out of 16 inch carbine tube. At 300 meters it puts a pretty decent crater in the steel with a few showing a very tiny hole where the penetrator made it through maybe 10 to 15 percent of the time. However, the M855A1 couldn’t get through 1/4 inch AR500 armor plate even at 100 meters which is pretty tough stuff anyway.

    Accuracy was acceptable, mostly 2 to 2.5 inches five-shots at 100 meters. Certainly more effective in penetrating lightly armored vehicles and personal body armor than the regular M855 with the smaller, internal penetrator tip.

    • Steve_7

      M855A1 is a prohibited AP bullet. As would M855 be, but ATF gave it a sporting purpose exemption back in the 1980s (which they recently tried to remove and changed their minds under pressure).

      • Actually, M855 *DID NOT* meet the statutory definition of an armor piercing bullet. The exemption it was given in the 1990s (when the “cop killer” AP ban was passed) was not actually necessary. Something pointed out in comments to the ATF by ballisticians, ordnance experts, and lawyers, when ATF floated the trial balloon of listing it as AP ammo.

  • Thomas Acquinas

    “Maintaining separate caches of rifle ammunition for the Army and Marine Corps engenders waste and inefficiency, as lawmakers have repeatedly complained to the services.”

    Let me get this straight, Congress is complaining about waste and inefficiency? The same people who have given us enormous deficits and continuously growing government? Maybe the best and highest purpose for Congress is to convene at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds and serve as testing targets. These new rounds may penetrate armor, but can they penetrate stupid with a huge overlay of corruption?

  • Ced Truz

    “The good news with that round … specifically the Army 855A1, is much better at penetrating armor,” Walsh said.

    Which means the ATF probably won’t let us buy any.

    • By “ATF”, you misspelled “Congress”. M855 *undoubtably* meets the statutory definition of “armor piercing” ammunition in the law Congress passed. (M855 did *not* actually meet the statutory definition, but was given a specific exemption, just to clarify.)

      • Ced Truz

        I don’t know, I read some pretty compelling arguments as to why it’s not armor piercing according to the ATF’s definition back when they were considering reclassifying it. Mostly around the fact that the definition stipulates that it has a metal core, whereas the M855 just has a metal tip.

        Or did I misunderstand your post and that’s what you’re essentially saying? That it was written specifically to exclude M855?

        • Sorry, my typo – left the “A1” off one of the mentions. I meant to say M855A1 is statutorily AP (the core, while exposed, *is* wholly steel – the bullet consists of a copper jacket, albeit one with a really thick base, and a steel core that is exposed), while M855 is unquestionably *not* AP, using the statutory definition (the steel penetrator is *not* the primary component of the core – there’s lead there, too).

  • marcus johannes

    As a civilian and a member of the Militia , I would be interested in testing this round myself , I have more then one rifle that will eat , digest and eject anything from steel cased to 77grain razor core , How does one buy some M855A1 ??

  • Kivaari

    Thanks, that made for great reading.

  • Zebra Dun

    We are in discussion on the M-855 and the M-855A1
    The criteria is lethality and barrier body armor penetration.
    Both of which are 5.56 x 45 with the same or close FPS abilities.
    Kinda like a Brunette or Blonde, Ford or Chevy argument.
    Then someone comes along with a Redhead in a BMW and all hell breaks loose.
    I have NO experience with either bullet, so I will just say….Brunettes, Ford but a redhead in a BMW won’t be kicked out of bed.

  • bthomas

    Simple answer. Give them whatever the Army is using. They’ll do just fine. If there are any problems, they will deal with it the same as when the Army had the M-1 and used M-2 ball … and the Marines transitioned from the 03 to the M-1. It worked out just fine. There is simply no reason to screw around with supply by pretending that one service has a need for ammo that is different from ammo used by the other service. The Army by far uses more of everything. Whatever round they are using will more than meet any needs the Marines have. Same for the Navy, etc.