Data Dump: Army ‘Black Tip’ Ammo

This afternoon on I wrote a story about the Army’s new M855A1 ammo. As the story says, the Army found the new steel penetrator round can punch through steel, concrete, glass and even some foreign steel and ceramic rifle armor plates at pretty substantial distances (in the 300-400 meter range for most, and 40-80 meters for concrete).

Here’s some more data on the M855A1 round, including the attached briefing we received at the Aberdeen demo yesterday.

EPR Briefing

A couple thoughts…Officials say the EPR is optimized for the shorter-barrel M4 where the standard M855 was optimized for the M16. The powder burns faster and creates more pressure, and has the effect of reducing flash. I’ve also heard there were some pressure problems and other wear and tear issues with the rounds, but Army officials denied that and said the only problem they found was with the primer — and they designed a new one to address that.

Officials say the round yaws like the M855, but its yaw is more consistent and predictable, meaning its terminal effects “are not yaw dependant.” There are Kit Up! readers who will understand that more than I do, and that’s also why I included the attached slides.

One thing is for sure: this thing punches through hard targets a lot better than the M855. We saw it for our own eyes. We saw rounds fired out of a SAW punch through the engine compartment and into the engine┬áblock of an old truck at 500 yards. Woods and Newill actually regretted that they couldn’t show us the EPR’s performance on ballistic jelly, saying they had planned on it (it was even in our schedule for the event) but legal turned them down for fear of divulging SECRET info. I tend to think it was more out of a fear that journos would tie it to the bin Laden melon than anything else…but I’m s jaded skeptic.

One thing the Army folks wanted to drive home was that despite the prejudice against anything “environmental” (and I include myself in that group), the EPR is better than its lead-core predecessor and all Joes should make sure they’re loading in the new “black tips” over the “green tip” option.

  • Jeff the Baptist

    A lot of people were questioning why they were deploying an “environmental” round to theater first. It’s because the environmental round is also a much better performer and that performance matters in US lives. Besides, if you’re going to have to clean up a stateside rifle range, a few more months/years of vanilla M855 won’t hurt.

    I’m glad this thing has better soft target performance. Original M855 was designed around a helmet penetration spec and it showed. It would reliably poke a small hole in almost anything, but on soft targets it did not reliably tumble and fragment as is needed for a good killer. So we’ve had a round optimized exactly wrong for the fight we’re in against largely unarmored combatants.

  • FormerSFMedic

    As a medic in OEF, I can tell you that I have had to work on plenty of enemy insurgents. The M855 was largely ineffective at stopping threats with single shots. In most cases, enemy hit with a single round (and sometimes more than one) would survive, provided they were given proper first aid. Even good effective hits in vital areas of the body would take an hour or more to kill, giving that enemy insurgent plenty of time to return fire. It is because of this that we now train to “shoot till they’re down”. The problem with this is that in actual combat, shooting everyone till they’re down uses up a lot of ammo. It may not even be possible, given the movement of the threat and the distance, which makes it problematic to get hits at all.

    IMHO new bullet tech will help our soldiers tremendously. Many operators in the field have been asking for better ammo for years. I think ammo development is the future of small arms and will help our military in more ways than one. We can only hope this trend continues. I know a lot of sniper that would love a precision lathe turned solid copper bullet. Maybe someday we can put hollow points downrange, or maybe get rid of the case and powder completely!

  • Lance

    Looks like a good combo with a smaller M-4 to have a better round. All ground services are adopting ammo better made for the M-4 while other services who use M-16s still use M-855 or M-193 as standardized round each service is getting tailored for its own needs.

  • hamchuck

    I’m a big fan of the 7.62, but if this round really is all it’s cracked up to be and our guys are happy with it, then call me a convert.

  • Ryan

    Am I missing something here or what? This new ammo sounds like something you’d be using against a conventional military who wears body armor, travels in military vehicles, and doesn’t just mad rush your firmbase wearing rags and suicide vests.

    We need hollow points for this type of enemy, fight savages with savagery.

  • MSB

    Ditto Moondog and Ryan’s comments.
    A new and improved bullet from the same people that brought us the all purpose, all terrain, all climate cammoflage known as the ACU.

  • teabagger947

    There was a reference to a ‘hotter’ powder to work with the short M-4 barrel.What will be the result in an older M-16 with the longer barrel? If I recall,the first M-16’s in Vietnam were devastating on soft tissue due to the rifling and high pressure causing ‘tumbling’ on impact.

    • Stoner63A

      The first full auto AR15s sent to Southeast Asia had a 1/14 twist, which was the norm for small caliber varmint loads at the time. The slow twist barely stabilized the 55gr FMJ projo resulting in the extremely damaging permanent and temporary wound cavities.
      During tests before issuing it to US forces on a limited basis, the 1/14 was too slow to stabilize the projo in extreme cold artic conditions. This resulted in the 1/12 rate used from the start of the M16 series until the A2. It stabilizes the projo better, slightly reduced the permanent and temporary wound cavities, but still allowed for the fragmentive effect of the projo at optimum velocity.

      • Stoner63A

        The first 5.56mm SMG-series of M16s had 10.5″ then 11.5″ barrels. The shorter barrels reduced the muzzle velocity of the 55gr FMJ but with the average engagement ranges fighting in SE Asia, the reduced fragmentive effect wasn’t a factor.
        The Dutch made progress in weapon system and cartridge development in the early ’70s with the 1/8 twist Stoner Weapons System and a 77grain FMJ projo.
        Most of the wounding issues arose first with the M855 62gr penetrator round. AS stated above, the faster twist and bullet designed to penetrate Russian helmets and body armor resulted in a smaller temporary and permanent wound cavities. Most of the wounding effect comes from the 62gr projo breaking at the cannelure, that ring pressed into the projo for better case mouth crimping. The optimum velocity for the break to occur is about 2700fps.

        • Stoner63A

          With the 20″ M16A2, this range was about 190-200m for M193, 140-150m for M855. 14.5″ M4 or earlier carbines, 95-100m for M193 and only 45-50m for M855. This wasn’t too much of a problem in the first Gulf War due to the rather limited small arms casualties vs air support, artillery and other means which were the major killers of that war.
          It began to be noticed during Operation Gothic Serpent, the mission in Somalia, the M855 penetrating and exiting the bodies of “skinnies” before the projo even began to yaw prior to fragmenting.
          Mk262 77gr Open Tipped Match (remember the JAG non-issue over the open tip called hollow points by ignorant lawyers?), an off-shoot of the US Navy Marksmanship program, was introduced to improve effectivenes of the M4, Mk 12 SPR, and later Mk18 carbines. The Mk262 fragments at 2200fps, which out of the 18″ SPR, stretches out to 250m. The Mk262 has reduced penetration vs the M855 so there are considerations in chosing the ammunition to fit the mission.

          • Stoner63A

            Due to the whole “green” movement and politics inducing yaw in the current ammunition development, I just pray that terminal ballistics and the lives of our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen have not been sacrificed in order to be more environmentally sensitive.

            With The strides made in modern smokeless powder and bullet production there is not F-ing excuse why our rifles and carbines cannot wound or kill our enemies more efficiently. Powers that be seem to be more concerned with polluting the sterile worthless dirt of SW Asia with lead than with American blood.

  • The GOAT

    We don’t need as much penetration as we do need a bullet that will cause more trauma, we need to take a page out of the marines playbook and take the steel core out.
    and the tumble on the 5.56 round came from the 1/12 rifling which was not substantial enough to stabilize the bullet in flight we use a 1/7 now which will stabilize almost about anything you put through it no more tumble

  • Stormcharger

    Spot on. I’ve yet to see reports of insurgents and other hostile troops wearing 1/8″ armor. The 5.56mm is already able to penetrate enough to reach vitals in soft tissure and shatter bone, optimizing it for penetration of hard targets and reducing yaw makes it less leathal, not more. The only saving grace of the 5.56mm was it’s ability to yaw and fragment.

    It seems that the trend for armor penetration far outweighs any leathal concideration and exposes our troops to more danger. It’s not a departure from the original M855, it follows the same flawed assumtions and moves the opposite direction of what our soldiers on the ground really need. A bullet that can reliably incapacitate an enemy with less hits, on an enemy that by nature does not wear body armor.

  • William C.

    Don’t you mean green tip ammo? I think the black tip stuff is the M995 tungsten AP cartridge. I don’t know who has access to that.

  • Guest

    It all sounds a little too good to be true here. A caliber selected years ago that does not do the job. Shoot till they drop…. Now we have a great penetrator, way better than 7.62×51 , yeh right! The Germans knew back during late WWII and it still holds true today, the intermediate cartridge is the all round best for the Big Army. Go 6.8SPC!!!

  • Casey

    I want to know how this round performs in soft targets compared to the mk-262 round (boat tailed 77gr OTM).

  • Phridum

    If the military were fielding civilian spec weapons, they probably would have a concern for overpressure issues, but the specs have always been much more than are actually necessary. As an example, you can look at how the expended military brass (Lake City) is highly sought by reloaders due to it’s durability over standard civilian brass. Military weapons are built to withstand not just a combat scenario, but also years and years of repeated abusive training scenarios. There probably won’t be much issue there. It may increase wear and tear, but that’s inevitable and replaceable.

    It’ll help to understand that a rounds ability to penetrate has more to do with the composition and velocity of the round whereas it’s terminal effects in a body is attributed to it’s stability. What the article and slides state is that this new round doesn’t fully stabilize in flight yet it retains it’s accuracy and penetrative abilities. How they’ve managed to tune it this way is probably why the didn’t want to show the ballistic tests. Sounds like voodoo to me.

    Usually the stability enhances accuracy so they must have just managed to keep it within acceptable levels. I’m not entirely clear what constitutes “match grade like performance” in this context. But if you make a bullet hard and fast enough, it should penetrate decent enough, then find the balance between stability and accuracy and you have a round that’ll tumble regularly (as opposed to the old which was occasionally) which gives the best terminal effects.

    Just an aside. Ballistic jelly might accurately represent human flesh, but it doesn’t accurately represent a body. There’s a big difference between muscle, bone, and fluid depending on which part of the body is engaged. A tumbling round will shatter bone and tumble around creating havoc in the body. The old round zipped right through and only destroyed 5.56mm hole leaving plenty of pain, but not enough actual damage if you missed the important organs.

  • From the comments I can tell few people actually looked at the brief. I’m impressed so far and want to see more on this round. The fact that not a single soldier from the 101 complained of lack of knocked down power from their recent deployment and their snipers were hitting targets out to 700M effectively, yeah, more please!

  • Shaun

    I just hope this study wasn’t done by the same people who watched three other rifles outperform the M4 by light-years, and then said that the M4 is still the best weapon in the universe.

  • terry

    Hey what about the Le Mas Ltd. Blended Metal Technology (BMT) “smart” ammunition? , it’s so effective that they limit usage to feild it so they don’t end up on the streets of America. Rightnow even if they admit it or not M855A1 ammo is already in civilian hands.The Le Mas rounds are trickling into civilian hands since law enforcement gets some of the ammo. This stuff is great ammo and really does the job and smokes M855A1 ammo.

  • Mike

    Hollow points cannot be used in warfare for legal reasons… violates Geneva convention i believe… That being said, the CG uses hollowpoint in the .40 sig because the weapon is being used in a law enforcement capacity; if a unit were to deploy overseas they would still use the 9mm NATO round though

    • Stefan

      Asinine. I can’t shoot you with a hollow point, but I can drop a JDAM on you or have an A-10 strafe you with 30MM DU.

      • According to the the Geneva Conventions Hollow Point rounds “willfully cause great suffering” resulting in inhumane treatment,.

  • Stefan

    Amen brother!

  • coolhand77

    The Le Mas rounds have been somewhat proven to be snake oil.
    The improved penetration isn’t for body armor, its for barrier penetration. 5.56 generally is a poor barrier penetrator so improvement in this department is a big plus. They commented on this in the article [if anybody read it]. Theoretically a heavy tail preceded by a light tip [penetrator] in bullet design SHOULD tumble once it destabilizes [IE: hits something that slows the spin and causes it to yaw, like flesh], and the thin jacket holding it together should snap at the cannelature, OR peel back and allow the two halves of the projectile to tumble through separate paths.
    Till I see the gel tests, the jury is still out, but the increase in barrier penetration out to maximum effective range is definitely and improvement. I’ve seen m193 penetrate better than M885 on hard barriers [while the solid lead core retained the energy, the steel tip on the 885 stopped before the lead core when hitting hard steel, and caused it to spend its energy deforming against the penetrator and target. Same target, M193 went right through].

  • jim

    Casey i have several dozen boxes of blackhills MK-262 77grain OTM 5.56x45mm ammo and it makes a mess with flesh!!!!! and at long distance also. works good with 14inch barrels with 1×7 twist but works even better with old school 20″ 1×7 twist like i have. One shot drop that’s how well they work!. i agree with coolhand 77 that le mas stuff is cr@p and fake all the way! snake oil is being nice about it.

  • Zednik

    The whole 5.56mm system is crap. Snakeoil initially purchased for USAF perimeter guards then issued to the South Vietnamese who according to the gun salesmen couldn’t handle the long 7.62mm “elephant gun” then on standard NATO issue (though they appeared to have no problem with the short 7.62mm AK47). Then taken up by the US Army where it performed very badly and then jammed down NATOs neck. A good example of what goes wrong when beltway bandits and big business determine what a soldier needs.

    • crackedlenses

      And yet 5.56 mm. kills people, as thousands of Vietnamese, Iraqis, and Afghans would tell you…….

  • pete

    Apparently, no one has thought about the basics of combat. I saw shat shot group and had shivers thru my spine. I taught weapons in the US Army – that display was scary. Combat requires accuracy to the targe and all things being equal, Murphy’s Law. Regardless of which type of ammo you have, accuracy is important, but when it gets hairy – the best defense is a really strong offense…

  • kjatexas

    We are still making the same mistake we made when we first went to the 5.56, trying to make a varmint round work on human targets. We need to caliber up. I am still a fan of the 7.62NATO, but the 6.8 would do.

  • infantry blue

    Done a lot of shooting and reloading. Shot a lot of animals, and some humans (VN), and I can’t believe how much BS has been stuck in this article. An M4 at 3, 4, and 5 hundred yards, this doesn’t compute. There are only a few people in he military that could shoot 300 yds, and fewer that can shoot 500 yds, with an M4 even with a good scope, at the range. I shoot prairie dogs out to 400 with a custom rifle with custom loaded 223 ammo with a nice scope, tough shot, especially with a breeze. This is almost as bogus as the new AR 15 (1964) that doesn’t come with a cleaning kit, because it was self cleaning. Ever been in a fire fight with a fully automatic muzzle loader? If you get in a fire fight at these distances, you’re stupid.

  • Old Soldier

    YES, anyone who knows ballistics, and anything about bullet performance would prefer a good hollow point with some form of penetrator over the m855. That being said it is against the Geniva convention rules of engagement to use hollow points in combat. (If you have ever been in combat with the M16 or the M4 you know how it feels to hit a target center mass and have him stand there and continue to fire at you for several seconds before his body even realizes it is hit/hurt) Hence the desire for a round that will stop a enemy fighter in his tracks. I hope this new rnd the M855A1 will do that for me when I have to use it when I get it on my next tour.

    Developing effective rounds is much cheaper than dropping JDAMS, or calling in close air support. It would also cut down on resupply costs.

  • I never heard of wounded Chinese or North Koreans during the Korean War thanks to the 30.06 with weapons like the BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle which gave tight shot groups), the .30 cal water cooled MG and the M-1 Rifle. You hit someone with a 30.06 round and it is all over with the 180 grain bullet and 2800 fps velocity. You had the same results during WWI and WWII with the same round–not many wounded. Did we outgrow our pants or what?

  • David

    Okay, am I the only one that sees the cost per round going through the roof? The steel for lead trade off is not to bad. But cooper? Even if the science is good the cost is going to break us. And all at a time when we can least afford it…

  • Giaka

    Yeah the guys I personally know that are shooting people with their M4s have very little complaints. Either with the ammo of the M4 itself. I guess for those that dont use one the M4 is a POS? LOL

  • Bowhrad

    What is the underlying reason for “environmentally friendly” ammunition? Your ammunition is the outreach of a soldier’s ability to meet force with extreme prejudice. WHY would we be concerned with the environment? We are slinging depleted plutonium and uranium from 30MM cannon up to sabot rounds out of the M1 Abrams tanks. How’s that for the environment? Have the billions of lead bullets left scattered on WWI & WWII battlefields done anyone any harm? PS – In the hunting world, the .223 (AKA 5.56mm) is categorized as a “VARMINT” round. Good for gophers and fair at woodchucks. I am still a fan of the 7.62NATO round. And will always be. The 5.56 will always be a skunk thanks to McNamara and his Whiz Kids.

  • Bob

    Give me an M14, 25rd. magazine, 7.62NATO, or .308 WM, that’s all you need!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • crackedlenses

      Have fun clearing a house with that thing, unless you plan to use your handgun for that…..

  • chopperjumperABN

    im with you,wish we had them in our day,but don”t let the enemy get them,or there will be another serious problem and a loss of more US military lives. chopperjumperABN. 82nd ABN DIV. 65-69

  • Infantry Green

    Infantry Blue:

    I dont know what “military” you served in, but EVERY Marine must qualify with an M4 or M16 at 200, 300, and 500 yards, with iron sights.

    Also, contrary to your experience in “VN”, engagements at extended ranges are quite common in the mountains of Afghanistan.

  • crackedlenses

    They didn’t say that the M4 was the most awesome rifle in the universe, (how could they when the spec-ops were all buying SCARs and HK416s?), they just said it doesn’t need to be replaced…..

  • how to make a mortar great now the fucking camel jockey assholes can come over and make a motar from info on the web or some asshole scumbag who just wants to kill a bunch of innocent people, are you people sane or just whacked out putting this up on the web

  • joe

    The shift to what is basically, a standard issue full AP round, may be a sign of things to come.

  • michael

    agree 100%…..

  • michael

    as you know, the stan is the outlier and 98% of all combat ops will be in areas of less than 300 meters.

  • michael

    I think people need to read this report again and again cause there are numerous inconsistencies if you pay attention

  • The 7.62 is a bit more accurate and good for deer hunting but if you want heavier game the 30/06 has more knock down power. Some troops were complaining that the 7.62 wounds a lot of the enemy to the point where they keep firing back at you.

  • Accur81

    I still haven’t seen any photos of videos of the M855A1 vs. soft targets or ballistic gelatin. I’ve seen the M855A1 outperform M80 ball on metal plates, but how about 7.62 or 6.8 SPC Armory piercing ammo? The Marine Corps went with the Mk 318 because they wanted combat effectiveness, not political correctness. I’m skeptical of the M855A1 in close combat and soft targets, and I believe it will have the same problems as the M855 at close range – putting a .22 caliber needle hole through the bad guys and their gear will not cause fast incapacitation – and I’ve been putting hole in targets for a long time.

  • Christ Brosnahan

    I see the round is keyholing…I LIKE that!!! loks like it will be much closer in terminal effect to the ORIGINAL 55 grain projo used in the RVN in the first ARs sent there by Curtis LeMay (ARs with the ORIGINAL 1 in 14″ twist)…hopefully we’ll begin getting the ‘explosive’ kills first witnessed in the RVN, on Johnny Jihad…the fact that the new projo is made of frangible materials should ensure its total energy dump within the target rather than outside the target…can’t wait to get my hands on some of this good sh*t…

    CB in FL

  • Nate

    All of you are wrong. The US is not a signing party to ANY document that bans hollow point ammunition. As a matter of fact, Sierra MatchKing bullets which are a hollow point simply by design of manufacture have been in use since the early 90’s; I myself have personally fired M118LR downrange, which is loaded with a 175gr Sierra MatchKing Hollow point boat tail.

    Here is an excerpt from the JAG document concerning SMK’s… Also should be noted that the 230gr BlackTalon HP ammunition was also authorized for use in the .45cal HK pistols issued to USSOCM.

    “3. Legal Factors.

    The principal provision relating to the legality of weapons is contained in Art. 23e of the Annex to Hague Convention IV Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land of 18 October 1907, which prohibits the employment of “arms, projectiles, or material of a nature to cause superfluous injury”. In some law of war treatises, the term “unnecessary suffering” is used rather than “superfluous injury.” The terms are regarded as synonymous. To emphasize this, Art. 35, para. 2 of the 1977 Protocol I Additional to the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949, states in part that “It is prohibited to employ weapons [and] projectiles . . . of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering.” Although the U.S. has made the formal decision that for military, political, and humanitarian reasons it will not become a party to Protocol I, U.S. officials have taken the position that the language of Art. 35(2) of Protocol I as quoted is a codification of customary international law, and therefore binding upon all nations.

    The terms “unnecessary suffering” and “superfluous injury” have not been formally defined within international law. In determining whether a weapon or projectile causes unnecessary suffering, a balancing test is applied between the force dictated by military necessity to achieve a legitimate objective vis-à-vis suffering that may be considered superfluous to achievement of that intended objective.
    The test is not easily applied. For this reason, the degree of “superfluous” injury must be clearly disproportionate to the intended objectives for development and employment of the weapon, that is, it must outweigh substantially the military necessity for the weapon system or projectile.

    The fact that a weapon causes suffering does not lead to the conclusion that the weapon causes unnecessary suffering, or is illegal per se. Military necessity dictates that weapons of war lead to death, injury, and destruction; the act of combatants killing or wounding enemy combatants in combat is a legitimate act under the law of war. In this regard, there is an incongruity in the law of war in that while it is legally permissible to kill an enemy combatant, incapacitation must not result inevitably in unnecessary suffering. What is prohibited is the design (or modification) and employment of a weapon for the purpose of increasing or causing suffering beyond that required by military necessity. In conducting the balancing test necessary to determine a weapon’s legality, the effects of a weapon cannot be viewed in isolation. They must be examined against comparable weapons in use on the modern battlefield, and the military necessity for the weapon or projectile under consideration.

    In addition to the basic prohibition on unnecessary suffering contained in Art. 23e of the 1907 Hague IV, one other treaty is germane to this review. The Hague Declaration Concerning Expanding Bullets of 29 July 1899 prohibits the use in international armed conflict:

    “. . . 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.”

    The U.S. is not a party to this treaty, but U.S. officials over the years have taken the position that the armed forces of the U.S. will adhere to its terms to the extent that its application is consistent with the object and purpose of Art. 23e of the Annex to the Hague Convention IV, quoted above.

    It is within the context of these two treaties that questions regarding the legality of the employment of the MatchKing “open tip” bullet must be considered. ”

  • pdaddy

    For those people who are inaccurately quoting the Geneva convention as it applies to hollow points, it was actually the Hague convention that detailed this info; that the Geneva convention.

  • Chuck Haggard

    The Geneva Convention has NOTHING to do with ammo. NOTHING!!!!! This is BS that has been repeated over the years way too much.

    The Hague Accords addressed small arms ammunition, and the US never signed this treaty. Even staying within the Hague accords JAG has approved several HP rounds that are within compliance to that treaty.

  • rdsii64

    I find it stupid to the point of laughter that the same regulations that say certian small arms projectiles cause unnessissary suffering will allow all sorts of high tech bombs and drone launch exploding gadgets to be used on the same savages. If I shoot you with an expanding projectile from a sholder fired weapon, I have commited a war crime, but If I put half a belt of 40mm grenades from a Mk19 through the window you are shooting at me from that magically doesn’t cause unnessassary suffering. fuck it I’ll just leave call in an air strike and cluster bomb a city block and kill all the savages at once. pretty nasty but at least I didn’t use a hollow point

  • LA Lynch

    I was in Nam and used a M14;7.62 and loved the windage and elevation sites. Trees and branches never diverted the round as would happen wioth a .223. It was a bit heavy with a wood stock but it had a stewel butt plate with tools inside and it caused me gief with my rotor cuff – Army could care less. I now have a rEM 700P and a L scope 3.6-20 butneed yo get the trigger adjusted to 2 lbs. 26 inch barrel gives greater accuracy and greater velocity and heavy barrel

  • Bobby

    Shot a guy 16 times once…885 sucked

  • Bobby

    Damn I’m drunk…855 I mean LOL!