Grunts and Co. Tackles M855A1 & Mk. 318 Myths

Nathaniel F
by Nathaniel F

A while back, I received an email asking for my input on the M855A1 issue. It was from Will, a reader of mine who was working on an article trying to cut through a lot of the myths (on both sides) about the round. I assisted him as best I could, and now the product of his hard work has finally been published at Grunts and Co. A sample is below, but I highly recommend the reader follow the link and read the whole thing:

There have been a multitude of articles written where hyperbole and quasi emotional arguments have replaced objective analysis. That approach by respected publications like Stars and Stripes has had an exponential effect on the argument because they are often repeated in other media sources parroting a poorly written article instead of conducting independent reporting. Heck, the Army and Marine Times used the same slanted story word for word. The debate even becomes more slanted when the overwhelming majority of the media report only the counter M855A1 perspective and do not conduct the same level of analysis on Mk318.

Troops have criticized M855 because it “didn’t penetrate windshields predictably and did not consistently incapacitate the enemy”. TRUE, but we aren’t comparing M855 to Mk318! A common weakness of many of the afore mentioned articles is they spend more time discussing M855 than M855A1. That makes no sense since we are comparing M855A1 which doesn’t have a problem penetrating windshields (and much more) and very predictably incapacitates the enemy.

“The Marines didn’t adopt M855A1 in ’09 because it had accuracy problems”. True and the Marines made an arguably good decision to field Mk318 which was four times cheaper than Mk262 at a time when the Army had yet to provide a round after years of development. The problem is in these articles is they almost all fail to mention the Army fixed the problem a few months later and has been issuing the M855A1 since. Isn’t that relevant or is leaving an incorrect impression in the mind of the reader more sensational?

One of the silliest points I have seen mentioned for the Marines not wanting to switch to M855A1 is because some rifle ranges would have to be retrofitted due to M855A1’s increased penetration and ricochet effects. Said another way, we don’t want this new round because it’s more lethal! When we develop a grenade more effective than the current 40mm or hand grenade will we not adopt it because training ranges aren’t built for it?

Major Will Rodriguez’s treatment of the two rounds’ history, the ongoing controversy in Congress surrounding them, and their respective treatments in the media is aimed at the introductory, not expert reader, but is nonetheless exceptionally well-researched and cited. When Maj. Rodriguez mentions an article, presentation, or other source, a link is helpfully provided to the reader so that they do not have to simply take his word for it.

I’ve written about M855A1 a couple of times previously, but for those who want to understand the reality of the controversy surrounding the “green ammo”, Maj. Rodriguez’s easily understood and well-stocked article is a great place to start.

Nathaniel F
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. He can be reached via email at

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  • RPK RPK on Jul 18, 2015

    United States Marines are Uncle Sam's killing machine! You could give a Marine a toothpick, a dog terd and a disposable lighter, and he would come out the victor in a conflict. That is just the way God put the plan in motion. EVERY Marine is a rifleman first. Semper Fidelis!

    • See 3 previous
    • Phil Hsueh Phil Hsueh on Jul 20, 2015

      @BombSmallTownTraitors The reality is that way already, while all Marines are trained as riflemen it's really only the grunts who are truly riflemen first. Your average non-03 only goes to the range once a year and that's only for your annual rifle qual. Most non-line units probably don't even go to the field that often, much less practice at playing grunt. My unit was an exception, especially for a Wing unit, but was due more the nature of our job than anything else since our job required us to be in the field and not at an airbase or airfield. Even then we didn't practice at being grunts all that much outside of the occasional hump and practicing defense once in the 7 years I was in. That one time playing defense was great though since our OIC took the thing very seriously and was pissed when a bunch of our Os weren't and thought they could sleep while the enlisted were on the perimeter with every other man up on watch. IIRC he was part of the OPFOR and when he found out his fellow officers were asleep he threw a smoke grenade into their hooch(es) to wake them up. Good times.

  • Zebra Dun Zebra Dun on Jul 19, 2015

    I asked the nephew of Iraq and Afghanistan deployment fame which rounds he saw and used, He stated, " We liked the ones that were all shiny and brass and pointed on the end."
    He then said, "We used them a lot and they went bang." I would imagine the average Grunt doesn't care or even know about which rounds are which and only notices when someone he shoots runs off instead of fall down dead.
    I also expect when asked about their weapons performance most would say they want more, better and more lethal killing bullets and rifles.
    But, that's to be expected from Marine Grunts.