Ammunition Consistency Testing: Winchester M855 and Freedom Munitions

While there may not be any 5.56 ammunition on the shelves right now, the question when it does become available again (and it will) is which type to buy. What ammo will give you the best bang for your buck? And which brand of ammo will leave you trying to find the broad side of a barn? To answer that, we bring you a series of articles to try to find the most consistent ammunition out there . . .

Here’s a quick reminder of what’s going on: we run 20 rounds of each brand through a chronograph and look at the IQR or InterQuartile Range to get an idea of how tight the group is going to be downrange. There are plenty of other factors in accuracy, but velocity is the only one that’s “clean” enough to calculate and compare (as everything else can be influenced by the shooter, equipment, etc.). For the full methodology check out this article. Just remember LOW = GOOD and we’ll be on the same page.

We’ve changed guns since the series started, moving from a Rock River Arms National Match AR-15 to a Noveske 18″ SPR rifle, but the effect of that change seems negligible. Before running this current test I ran 10 rounds of XM193BK through the chronograph and (even despite the difference in pressure, altitude, temperature and barometric pressure) the interquartile range was within an acceptable margin from the original test. The velocity was a touch lower, but that’s what happens when you have 2 fewer inches of barrel.

First on the block today is Winchester’s (well, technically Odin Corp, but Win owns them) M855 ammunition. This green tipped, steel core ammunition is one of the standard loads for the U.S. armed forces (DODIC A059) and produced in staggering numbers. The steel core makes it persona non grata at many ranges and shooting competitions due to its penchant for punching through steel plates, but for self defense (/ SHTF) ammunition or punching holes in paper its nice to have a cheap and accurate option. But exactly how accurate is it?

Also up for testing is Freedom Munitions’ 55 grain 5.56 round. Freedom Munitions is a rather large sponsor of the local range, and produces ammunition (re-manufactured from parts) right here in Texas at a reasonable price. But does that reasonable price come at the expense of smaller groups?

As usual, the first boxplot is nearly useless.

Without normalizing the chrono data, its pretty hard to draw conclusions about the ammunition’s consistency. But what is of particular interest to me is that the M855 ammunition is a good 100 – 200 feet per second hotter than the 55 grain flavor, which means higher chamber pressures and increased barrel wear.

I guess there’s a reason the U.S. Army manual recommends using M855 ammo in the M16A2 platform only in emergencies. That stuff looks like it can wear your barrel out faster than my Dad can wolf down Chinese food.

This right here was damn surprising. So surprising that I’ve got 20 more rounds and I intend to double check the results (the fliers make me worried). From these results, the M855 ammunition is the most accurate ammo I’ve ever tested. Ever.

What makes me happy, though, is that you can see the bell curve developing. A couple good brands, a couple bad brands, and a whole lot in the middle. I’ll re-confirm the results and get back to you, but in the meantime these are the results.

Brand and Weight Caliber IQR $/round
Winchester / Odin M855
62gr Penetrator
.223 Rem 9 $0.50
Wilson Combat
77gr Sierra HPBT Match
.223 Rem 19 $1.52
Wilson Combat
65gr Sierra SP BT
.223 Rem 21 $1.52
Hornady Steel Match
75gr BTHP Match
.223 Rem 25 $0.44
Hornady
75gr BTHP Match
.223 Rem 29 $0.79
CorBon
69gr HPBT
.223 Rem 30 $1.18
Remington Premier Match
77gr BTHP
.223 Rem 36 $1.50
Winchester
64gr “Power Point” SP
.223 Rem 38 $0.82
Wolf
55gr FMJ
.223 Rem 40 $0.21
Federal XM193F
55gr FMJ
.223 Rem 40 $0.32
Pierce
55gr HP-BT
.223 Rem 42 $?.??
HPR
75gr BTHP Match
.223 Rem 43 $0.50
Nosler Varmint
40gr Ballistic Tip
.223 Rem 44 $0.86
Handloads – 20.8gr N-135
75gr Hornady HPBT Match
.223 Rem 49 $?.??
Handloads – 21gr IMR 3031
75gr Hornady HPBT Match
.223 Rem 52 $?.??
Winchester PDX-1
60gr SC-HP
.223 Rem 58 $1.45
Freedom Munitions
55gr FMJ-BT
.223 Rem 66 $0.42
American Eagle
55gr FMJ-BT
.223 Rem 68 $0.30
Brand and Weight Caliber IQR $/round
Remington UMC 115gr .300 BLK 20 $0.52
Remington AccuTip Premier 125gr .300 BLK 20 $1.39
CMMG 147gr .300 BLK 26 $0.78
Remington Subsonic 220gr .300 BLK 27 $0.92
PNW M 155gr .300 BLK 28 $0.90
PNW D 220gr .300 BLK 54 $1.08
Brand and Weight Caliber IQR $/round
Hornady Superformance Match
150gr SST
.308 Win 26 $1.21
Wilson Combat
168gr Sierra HPBT Match
.308 Win 28 $1.99
PMC Bronze
147gr FMJ BT
.308 Win 39 $0.50
SetPoint – 44gr Varget
150gr Hornady FMJ BT
.308 Win 52 $1.74
Prvi Partizan
150gr FMJ
.308 Win 54 $0.82
Remington “Managed Recoil”
125gr CORE-LOKT PSP
.308 Win 125 $1.40

comments

  1. avatar Wiebelhaus says:

    Man I had a horrible time with Freedom Munitions, Ordered 500 ct. first box I pulled and shot had three Squib loads and many FTF from a wheel gun that has always and still does with different ammo, perform flawlessly.

  2. avatar AlphaGeek says:

    That certainly explains why the ATF and the state of CA both gave M855 a sporting purposes exemption to the rules against armor piercing projectiles. That is amazingly consistent performance.

  3. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    I think you mean “Olin Corp” where you typed “Odin” above.

    Also, Olin used to own Winchester, not the other way ’round. Olin bought Winchester from the bankruptcy court in the 30’s for the (then) princely sum of over $8 million, and turned the company around. By the late 70’s, the economic writing was on the wall, and Olin sold off their holdings in Winchester in the early 80’s to a shell company “US Repeating Arms,” and after some more failures, FN now owns the remains of Winchester.

    The famous Winchester plant in New Haven, CT closed in 2006. The Winchester that armed American shooters since after the Civil War is no more. It’s now just another marketing scheme by the Belgians, just like Browning.

    1. avatar JT says:

      Olin still owns Winchester Ammunition.

    2. avatar Lucas says:

      Se voceas realmente prazem que o cliente fique satisfeito, teriam respondido alguma das minhas mensagens (deixei duas no site, uma no facebook e outra via e-mail, agora tento por aqui). Pedi uma camisa da se9rie Supernatural, mas enviaram outra totalmente diferente e ne3o tem nada a ver com a se9rie. Sf3 quero resolver esse problema. Me enviem a camisa que eu pedi e eu devolvo essa que veio. Simples assim, gente. Sf3 quero o que e9 meu de direito, eu paguei pela camisa. O nfamero do pedido e9 45353. Je1 faz alguns dias que tento me comunicar com voceas, mas ningue9m me de1 um retorno. Sere1 que terei de tomar medidas mais dre1sticas?

  4. avatar Accur81 says:

    At least you got the Freedom Munitions ammo to work. I’ve fired 4 boxes of re manufactured .40 Smith 180 grain JHP. Well, almost 4 boxes. I got 7-12 failures to fire per box despite solid primer hits. Some rounds fired with an additional primer strike, and some did not. The defective rounds are still in my garage. I have several boxes of Freedom 62 grain 5.56. I hope it works better, but I’m on a temporary moratorium of 5.56 shooting because I can’t replenish my ammo reserves.

    Anyone else have problems with Freedom ammo?

    1. avatar Hanover Fiste says:

      I ordered 500 rounds of their .380 acp Blaster ammo few months back. I have not shot any yet, but in going through the ammo I found one 380 bullet loaded in a 9mm Luger case and another loaded into a 32 NAA case that both had somehow made it though the resizer, and through QC.

      1. avatar AlphaGeek says:

        You’re assuming that they do QC. The evidence indicates otherwise.

        1. avatar Accur81 says:

          As you can imagine, their ammo has been relegated to “paper punching” status. I was hoping to hear a story about reliability of their products, but I’m still waiting.

        2. avatar AlphaGeek says:

          I’ve noticed that TTAG doesn’t really do surveys, which seems like a waste of the collective experience of the large readership.

          A survey would be the best way to get somewhat reliable data regarding issues like this, though you’d still have a self-selection bias towards folks who have had an issue with bad ammo and are motivated to say something about it.

    2. avatar JMS says:

      I’ve shot nearly a thousand rnds of their 9mm Blaster ammo, some of their .44 mag new ammo, and a couple hundred rounds of the 55 grn .223 tested in this article and I have not had a single failure. The Blaster is the “cosmetically challened” ammo but it looks as good as most factory new stuff I buy. The bullets tend to have dings or scuffs in the jacket, but most of these are too small to even be feelable w/ a fingernail. The new .44 mag, loaded in Starline brass, is beautiful. The 9mm Blaster has worked well for me for IPSC style competition, and it burns pretty cleanly. I certainly prefer it to shooting steel cased, dirty Russian stuff (in which I usually find 3-4 dud primers per thousand rnds) and the price is the same (plus the fired brass has value).

      Anyway I haven’t yet had a dud or a backwards bullet or torn brass or anything if this nature. YMMV

      1. avatar Jim says:

        I agree. I bought 500 rounds of their 9mm Blaster and after a couple hundred rounds haven’t had a single problem with it. I pulled the barrel on my Glock and used it to check every round for chamber fit. I found one round that wouldn’t chamber and that was due to the case neck being split about a quarter inch. The rest of them were fine. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy from them again.

    3. avatar Billy Wardlaw says:

      I’ve gone through about 400 rnds of thier 45 ACP with no problems whatsoever. My XD loves the stuff.
      I have also shot about 200 rounds of the 223, with a couple FTEs – I think this is mostly due to the Sig 516 not liking the lower pressures of the 223 round, particularly with a 55gr bullet.

    4. avatar FB Tester says:

      I have fired over 750 rounds of freedom reloads @ 180 grain 40 s&w through my high point pistol and carbine without one single hickup,fart, or otherwise. I am shooting the carbine 150+ yds.and the pistol 50,75,and 100 yds. The last order I placed was 167.00 after shipping to WV . (500 rds.)!

  5. avatar Accur81 says:

    For the record, I tried the defective ammo in a well maintained Glock 27 with a round count of about 6000-7000 and a Smith 4006 with about 10,000 rounds through it. I believe the rounds were loaded with the new mercury free primers.

  6. avatar Taurus609 says:

    Ammo, what’s ammo?????

  7. avatar RCK says:

    Velocity is not the key variable. Hitting the target is. M855 is 3-4 minute ammo and good 77s are sub minute. This true over many years and many lots of ammo in my personal observation and testing using rifles capable of showing the difference. I like them both, but I also use them appropiately.

    1. avatar rlc2 says:

      late comment on this old thread but I hope helpful to add that a Navy SEAL trainer sez same abt M885 in a long range rifle class.

  8. avatar Lance says:

    The M-16A2 was made to shoot M-855 and M-855A1 ammo that’s what most Army units use. I prefer when at qualification to use not M-193BK but regular M-193 ammo works just fine and is very accurate!

  9. avatar 2Savage says:

    Guys, was all that .223 actually .223 or was much of it 5.56? As you (should) well know, they are not interchangeable. Given the pseudo-scientific approach to inherent ammo accuracy, a little accuracy in ammo description would be appreciated.

    1. avatar Chuck says:

      M855 is 5.56.

      1. avatar Lance says:

        If its called M-193 or M-855 or M-855A1 then its mil 5.56mm. Which is higher pressure than .223 is.

  10. avatar Carl says:

    Odin, the big Kahuna of Norse mythology, makes war.
    Olin makes bullets.

    1. avatar Chuck says:

      This. :’)

      1. avatar AlphaGeek says:

        Let’s be honest, Odin is a much more appropriate and bad-ass name for an ammo company than Olin.

  11. avatar Greg says:

    I bought a case of 9 mm from Freedom Munitions. It was their “New” (not reloaded) product. Every round of it fired flawlessly. And I’ve kept the brass (Speer) and have reloaded about a half a case worth and had not one problem. So there’s the story of reliability and quality from this company that so many of you were looking for. If I couldn’t reload on my own cheaper, I’d buy their product again.

  12. avatar Chad says:

    M855 ammo is used by the Army in the M16A2 platform every day. I work for the Dept. of the Army at Fort Jackson. We burn up well over 100,000 rounds of M855 per day. There are almost no M4s here in basic training land, maybe one out of 200 weapons. The bulk of weapons used are FN manufactured M16A2s with a couple of M16A4s that have trickled into inventory. These weapons are usually taken down for rebuild after about 50,000 rounds. This is mostly due to abuse rather than worn out barrels. A Basic Combat Training soldier is harder on their weapon than just about anyone. Let’s just say that I can provide you with detailed illustrations of what happens when an M16 overpressures due to a barrel obstruction.
    Also, A059 is only one DODIC for the M855 round. It simply refers to the type of packaging. Along with A059, there is also AA33, AA44, AA45, AA48, AB03, A058, A062 and A064. There may be others that I don’t remember right off hand.

    1. avatar GoldiGlocks says:

      I think Nick mis-quoted the Army manual or simply made a typo. You are correct the M855 ammunition was designed to work in the M16A2 which has a heavy profile 1 in 7″ twist barrel. The manual states that M855 should only be used in an emergency in the M16A1 which has a lighter profile 1 in 12″ twist barrel.

  13. avatar JAR says:

    I use Freedom Munitions ammo, both new and remanufactured in .223 and 9mm. I have fired several thousand rounds of both calibers and I even use it in USPSA and 3 gun matches because I’ve found it to function flawlessly in my Glocks and all of my AR’s. My 3 gun BRO rifle has a bit of a problem grouping tightly with the 69 grain .223 but does much better with the 77 grain, although it wouldn’t be my choice for precision shooting. But I’ve never had any issues with reliability from their ammo whatsoever

  14. avatar Pete says:

    Same here. Buy from freedom all the time. Their 115gr 124gr both “new” and “remanufactured” not a problem with a one. Plus they have new brass loaded with hornaday xtp hollow points. Very cheap for SD to make sure your pistol runs it effectively. Try doing that with speer gold dot!

  15. avatar C. K. says:

    Is the Olin/Winchester M855 the same as Federal/American Eagle/Lake City M855? Because I have never bought any Olin/Winchester M855, but I have a ton of Federal/American Eagle/Lake City M855. The only time I have ever seen Olin/Winchester M855 was about a year ago, I think it was at one of our local Academy stores.

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