556

The White House has said recently that banning “armor piercing” ammunition like the wildly popular M855 round is “common sense” and would make our police officers safer, which is a bold claim. Given the quality of journalism on display among the major networks these days, its no surprise that the facts of the matter have been muddled and obfuscated to the point where the details being presented bear little to no resemblance to the actual facts. Some hyperbole is expected, but in an age when the talking heads on TV start claiming that common rifles can shoot down airplanes and blow up railroads you know that fact checking isn’t high on the priority list. I wanted to take a minute and discuss the truth about the M855 round, what it is, what it does, and why it is being targeted.

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When the M-16 was first fielded by the U.S. military, the ammunition that accompanied it was designated the M193 cartridge — a standard “ball” 5.56 round. The 55 grain projectile was of the same construction that had been used in similar projectiles for close to a century, namely a solid lead core surrounded by a copper jacket.

The original specifications for the M-16 rifle were that it needed to penetrate the steel helmet of an enemy soldier at a given distance, and while the lighter overall weight of the projectile reduced the penetration power of the projectile at long distance the designers of the ammunition compensated with increased velocity. Increased velocity meant increased muzzle energy, and provided the power to meet the specifications. That faster yet lighter bullet meant that the cartridges were lighter, and therefore the soldier on the field could carry more ammunition into battle than ever before. Even with the lighter projectile, that “armor piercing” capability was still maintained throughout the design process.

After the Vietnam war, there were some deficiencies that needed to be addressed. Soldiers in the field reported issues with the projectile when it penetrated glass or other intermediate barriers, and wanted a heavier projectile to aid in energy transfer to targets downrange (putting down enemy soldiers more efficiently). While the military did adopt a 77 grain lead projectile for long range shooting, they developed the M855 projectile specifically for hitting targets behind light barriers (like glass and tin and heavy clothing).

m855

The internal construction of an M855 round differs from the standard “ball” M193 cartridge in one very important way: there’s a steel core at the tip of the projectile. The solid steel tip added much needed stability to the projectile when traveling through barriers since there was no longer any soft lead to deform upon impact, and increased the stability and accuracy of the round when traveling over long distances due to the increased mass of the projectile.

There were still some major issues, though. As the barrel length of commonly used firearms continued to decrease, the velocity of the round when it exited the barrel decreased as well. The 5.56 NATO cartridge is highly dependent on velocity to generate the energy it transfers to targets, and lower velocity means a much lower muzzle energy. Some of the most recent studies indicate that with a common 16″ barrel, M855 ammunition has severely degraded performance past 150 yards and is only effective to about 500 meters (versus the 600 meters at which it was designed to penetrate a steel helmet with a standard M-16).

Another issue was the lack of expansion. The lead core in normal “ball” ammunition expands upon impact, which increases the diameter of the projectile and aids in transferring energy from the moving projectile to the target. The more energy is transferred, the greater the wound in the target and the more likely it is to stop that target. Using a steel tip meant that the bullets no longer deformed, and therefore the energy transferred to the target was less than with “ball” 5.56. In other words, the M855 ammunition is actually considered to be less effective against living targets than “ball” 55 grain 5.56 ammo. Or, put another way, standard lead ammunition is considered more deadly than M855.

Wile the Army has moved on to an improved version of the M855 projectile, the cartridge has become popular with long range shooters and hunters. Especially for those hunting hogs in the thick brush of the American south, the M855 cartridge has proven to be capable of accurately and effectively hitting a target even after passing through a couple layers of leaves and underbrush. Its also popular among helicopter hog depredation expeditions for the same reason: it punches through the trees and hits the target. And since the cartridge was developed and produced for the military, a massive quantity of the ammunition is produced every year which leads to low prices for recreational shooters looking for a cheap way to feed their firearms. In short, what was once a “military” round has transitioned very well to civilian life.

In recent days, the projectile has come under increased scrutiny as the ATF prepares to ban it based on the existing prohibition on “Armor Piercing” ammunition. As for what exactly constitutes “armor piercing” ammunition, there is a very specific legal definition that is being used. The following is directly from 18 U.S. Code § 921:

(17)
(A) The term “ammunition” means ammunition or cartridge cases, primers, bullets, or propellent powder designed for use in any firearm.
(B) The term “armor piercing ammunition” means—
(i) a projectile or projectile core which may be used in a handgun and which is constructed entirely (excluding the presence of traces of other substances) from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium; or
(ii) a full jacketed projectile larger than .22 caliber designed and intended for use in a handgun and whose jacket has a weight of more than 25 percent of the total weight of the projectile.
(C) The term “armor piercing ammunition” does not include shotgun shot required by Federal or State environmental or game regulations for hunting purposes, a frangible projectile designed for target shooting, a projectile which the Attorney General finds is primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes, or any other projectile or projectile core which the Attorney General finds is intended to be used for industrial purposes, including a charge used in an oil and gas well perforating device.

What is important to note is that the defining feature of “armor piercing” ammunition is not the actual function of the projectile, but instead the construction. It is possible to construct a cartridge using an “armor piercing” projectile that can’t even pierce skin, but if the construction meets the above criteria then it is illegal.

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What has made this change in regulation possible is the prevalence of the AR-15 pistol. Brought to astounding levels of popularity in recent years by the pistol stabilizing brace, the AR-15 pistol is legally a handgun as far as the U.S. government is concerned, and therefore 5.56 ammunition has become by default “projectile […] which may be used in a handgun.” As such, 5.56 NATO ammunition is now subject to regulation under 18 U.S. Code § 921(17)(B).

Technically, M855 ammunition fails to meet the criteria for an “armor piercing” projectile. The requirement of the law is that the projectile be comprised entirely of steel (with trace elements allowed) in order to be classified as “armor piercing,” but as you can see nearly 80% of the mass of the M855 projectile is comprised of standard lead — not steel. However, due to the imprecise wording of the statute it is possible for the ATF and the Attorney General to interpret the law in such a way that M855 meets the required criteria.

This kind of move has been made before. The government classified cheap and commonly available steel core 7.62×39 ammunition as “armor piercing” and banned it from the United States in 1992, as well as 7N6 5.45×39 ammunition only last year. The reasons were the same: with the increase in pistol versions of the AK-47 and AK-74 rifle being produced, the ammunition was now technically a handgun caliber and the broad interpretation of the statute allowed them to take action against those specific projectiles.

The current claim by the White House that M855 ammunition is especially and specifically dangerous due to its “armor piercing” capabilities is, in a word, laughable. The fact is that standard 5.56 ammunition — “ball” ammunition with a traditional lead core — can pierce a “bullet proof” vest just as easily as M855, a fact we have conclusively proven through our own testing. So can commonly available .308 Winchester ammunition, one of the most popular “hunting” cartridges in the world. So can .30-06 Springfield, the “traditional” hunting cartridge in the United States. In fact, almost every full-size and even every intermediate rifle caliber is perfectly capable of piercing the bullet proof vest worn by police officers. The idea that removing this one single projectile from circulation will reduce the lethality of firearms in the United States is quite literally insane.

Let’s look at this from another perspective. According to commonly accepted research, fewer than 2% of crimes are committed with “assault weapons,” including the AR-15 rifle (and pistol variants) that accept this caliber. Note that the most commonly available 5.56 ammunition is 55 grain “ball” ammo and not M855, so even if every single one of those crimes was committed with an AR-15 (which they were not) the probability of M855 ammunition being used in the gun is even smaller than 2%. Even if M855 ammunition was banned, standard “ball” M193 ammunition fails to meet the definition of an “armor piercing” round and therefore is exempt from any possible ban. M193 is plentiful, and available at almost every Wal-Mart in America. Removing M855 ammunition would require a vast amount of effort on the part of the government to implement the ban, impact less than 2% of crimes, and do exactly nothing to remove ammunition that is capable of piercing a “bullet proof” vest from the market. In short, you might as well call whoever is championing this ban “Sisyphus.”

The truth is that, despite the composition of the projectile, M855 ammunition is no greater a threat than any other standard “ball” projectile — traditional hunting rounds included. The 5.56 cartridge has been implicated in far fewer than 2% of crimes in the United States (and M855 in fewer still), and even if it were removed from circulation the remaining millions upon millions of 100% legal projectiles would be able to perform the same function nearly as well. In addition, the projectile has found a legitimate sporting purpose among hunters and sportsmen that the Attorney General has refused to acknowledge. However, due to the lack of any movement on any other front on the issue of gun control, it appears that M855 ammunition has become an unfortunate casualty of a political agenda hell-bent on doing as much damage to American gun owners as possible before leaving office.

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133 Responses to The Truth About M855 5.56 NATO Ammunition

  1. The ammo thing is just a minor symptom. Like tearing with “Pink Eye”. Except, this one can’t be prevented by just washing your hands more.

    Can’t we all just agree that (’cause if we can’t I don’t give a rats a_ _), If you live in a blue state, you may be part of the problem. If you have a (D) after your name, are a liberal, or a rino, the problem is PART-OF-YOU. it doesn’t matter how bad this president is, we blame him on all you idiots who voted for him, and that stink is on you permanent.

    This is Football-bat issue 4,947 with this prez, who, if he’s not playing for the other side, you better kneel down and pray that he doesn’t conveniently and perfectly screw-up in all our enemies favor any more than already accomplished because the b.s. flag has been thrown (besides, it’s after the election, we can only hope that he can’t be “more flexible”).

  2. They’re throwing rocks at the hornet nest, the problem is, they’re eventually going to hit it.

    • My thoughts exactly, I just hope when the line in the sand gets crossed I’m not alone in standing up for my rights the way our founding fathers did.

      • The overwhelming majority of people, myself included, hope it never gets that far. Nevertheless, it almost seems inevitable. This would be a good time to start organizing so that we will be ready to respond if necessary.

        We certainly cannot depend on our feckless Senators and Representatives in our state and Federal governments to stand up for us. That task, just like being able to respond effectively to an armed mugger, falls squarely on our shoulders.

        • Trust me, I never want it to get that far. As the provider for my family my line is further back than probably most, but who knows we might change things in the government with our votes and or organization.

    • Where is that tipping point for you where you begin to sting or bite or whatever it is that hornets do? You’re advocating a civil war. Who are you going to sting? When do you stop? Ukraine is in the middle of a civil war. Having a lot of family there, I can tell you it’s an absolute nightmare. You know not of which you speak. Fight against this under the framework of law; don’t make veiled threats from the pseudo anonymity that a keyboard provides.

      • David B.

        While I commend your words of caution and encouragement to use our legislatures and courts to maximum effect, the truth of the matter is that both are widely corrupt. Taking any case to the courts at this point is effectively a lottery and the outcome depends upon whether or not your judge adheres to the U.S. and State Constitutions and Common Law.

        • I’m not making a veiled threat, or advocating civil war, merely stating an opinion. People will eventually get fed up with the dictatorial government that has been running rampant, and something will happen. All one needs to do is look at the Bundy Ranch/BLM incident to see where things could be headed.

        • Red not saying anything about right wrong, just or unjust. Just look how nothing happened, I believe the show of unity of an armed presence kept things from escalating for the Bundy ranch. I fully believe if only 2-3 guys showed up in support of the Bundy family MRAPs full of thugs would have plowed them under.

      • Hey David B

        What would you say to us if you Were going to start a Civil War?

        It’s the same thing with the ammo argument.

        Sit tight in your warming pot froggy (I mean, stupid).

      • Ukraine is not in a civil war, it is being invaded by Russia. Facts. They are pesky little things, aren’t they?

        • It is both. Or rather, it is a civil war where one of the sides is directly supported by an outside party, a lot like Vietnam. But most of the leadership of the newly proclaimed “people’s republics”, and most of its ground troops, are actually locals.

        • Russia started what is going on in Ukraine, so it is not a civil war. They pulled the same sh*t in Afghanistan, and plenty of other neighbors since 1917. Its an old, tried and true tactic, and Moldova is probably next.

        • If you have citizens of the same country fighting each other, I dare say it’s a civil war regardless of who started it.

        • So, now you are claiming Ukraine belongs to Russia? Glad you sorted that out for us.

        • No id say the fact Ukraine was owned by Russia for centuries. And the fact the mostly ethnic Russian east wants not to be a US puppet in NATO is a reason why.

        • So, you are claiming Russia owns Ukraine and can do as it pleases. Too f*cking funny.

        • If we use your ideal for what a nation is. The US wont exist we be all Indian tribes now.

        • Prefer them owning Ukraine compared to you who want to start WW3 over expanding NATO past treaty boundary’s so France or German can attack Russia over oil resources.

          Your nuts!!!

        • Watch your language on this forum. Now go and make out with your NATO flag you NATO loving freak!!!

        • I could give a f**k less about NATO, it is a neutered dog dying in a ditch. Oh, and FLAME DELETED.

        • FLAME DELETED
          EXPLETIVES DELETED

          Commentator is banned for persistent flaming and obscenities.

        • It’s not the first time this 2hotel9 guy has degenerated into name calling and ultimately insults. This seems to be his general pattern for conversation on subjects he has strong opinions on: first he’ll read what he wants to see (rather than what you actually wrote), then he’ll attack that strawman that only exists in his brain, and if you try to point out the inconsistencies he’ll just start swearing at you, more and more so if you try to actually calmly respond. The guy has some serious paranoia and anger management issues and should go consult a doctor.

        • Why the fvck would France or Germany attack Russia over oil resources? Even assuming that they need them (which I doubt, especially with France which has the best nuclear power industry in the world), they can get more of it closer in Libya. And it’s a much easier opponent to defeat and control.

        • You keep saying it is a civil war, honey. Can only be a civil war if Russia “owns” Ukraine, ipso facto you are saying Russia “owns” Ukraine. Since Russia does NOT own Ukraine it is an invasion. Dress it up and slap lipstick on it and it is still a pig.

        • You are operating from a false premise that this war consists of Russian armed forces engaging Ukrainian armed forces. In practice, it’s a bunch of rebels with Ukrainian citizenship engaging Ukrainian armed forces. That makes it a civil war. The fact that rebels are aided by foreign fighters, and have weapons supplied by a foreign state, doesn’t change it. Spanish Civil War had both sides supplied by USSR and Germany, respectively, and there were thousands of foreign volunteers of both sides, and some units which were “volunteers” in name only; but it was still a civil war, because it was two Spanish factions fighting for who gets to control the country. In Ukraine, two Ukrainian factions are fighting for who gets to control a part of the country.

        • Russia invaded Ukraine. You can deny that till hell freezes over and all you will have is Russia invading Ukraine and frozen hell.

        • I did not deny that Russia invaded Ukraine. That is completely orthogonal to the fact that what’s going on in Ukraine is a civil war (and Russia invaded to aid one of the sides).

          BTW, if there were ever a perfect illustration of the strawman fallacy IRL, you’d be the perfect candidate to demonstrate it. Your aptitude at building strawmen and then vigorously attacking and demolishing them is unmatched.

        • Russia invaded Ukraine, created another “side” and is merrily killing civilians for fun and profit.

  3. Where’s the Police coalition requesting the ban of his ammo? Where is the police coalition lauding the president’s activity on its behalf with this issue.

    • IN ALL TRUTH, there are millions of people who want us to ban this (then other) ammo. The overwhelming, vastly outnumbering majority of which DON’T EVEN SHARE OUR HEMISPHERE [has anyone received foreign money for this campaign?].

      When and if they come to kick in your door, don’t ask for a spare mag stupid.

    • I’m sure they must have the statistics on how many police officers have been shot with XM855 ammo.

      I’d like to see those stats.

      • Without believable proof to the contrary, I assume zero. I haven’t even heard a claim of one, much less evidence. Even then, your question is too easy. It should be how many cops have been shot with 855 fired from a pistol.

        • How many AR pistols are even used in crime?

          If I was a criminal and I HAD to use an AR, I’d use an illegal SBR. AR pistols only exist because of the stupid 1934 NFA rules in the first place.

          Canada doesn’t care about rifle barrel length or what pistol or rifle you might put a stock on. So far as I know there aren’t any AR pistols there because there’s no point.

  4. You can publish the facts until hell freezes over. The facts do not matter to liberals. As soon as they hear cop killer bullets, the game is over.

  5. Someone can get the impression that 2% of crimes are done with M855. You need to stress that AFAIK that no cop has ever been killed with M855. (on second thought maybe one cop back 13 years ago if i read some comment in here on earlier thread).

    You need to stress that the only logical reason that the ATF wants to ban just M855 is that it is a stepping stone to ban all AR15 ammo because they all have the ability to go thru soft armor.

    Also need to bring up that now is a perfect time to revisit the earlier bans on 7.62×39 and 5.45 because they are equally unlawful. That’s how you fight to win, by making the ATF loose ground when they attempt an illegal move.

  6. And here I always thought it was a Teflon coating that was needed to make “Teflon-coated, cop-killer bullets”.

  7. We’re missing a key point in this entire mess: the only reason AR pistols exist is because of the 1934 NFA. No NFA, no sudden realization of “armor-piercing handgun ammunition”

  8. Missing the point again! this ammo is used for competition and hunting it also is used in the Armelite Rifle platform if it is banned only the police and military will have it there by making the AR unusable once you’re out of this ammo. They still get your gun which is the point! Gun control is only and always will be about CONTROL!

  9. It’s all part of the “nibble” tactic. Anything that makes ammunition scarce and more expensive is a win in their book. Just look at the attempts to ban lead-followed by this effort to ban a commonly available load. If they get away with it, they’ll keep working to broaden the ban.

    Which they will try even if we get them stopped on this one. Buggers.

  10. I hate watching the news channels–even Fox News–that have “experts” on the gun side that seem to know absolutely nothing on this topic. I keep hearing (supposedly) pro-gun people say, “This round isn’t armor-piercing at all.” But of course it can pierce soft body armor! The issue is that ALL 223/556 ammo is armor-piercing. But they don’t conform to the legal definition of AP handgun ammo and should absolutely NOT be banned.

    • Fox thinks they must play the “unbiased/nonpartisan/middle of the road”. Not the antidote to rampant libtard “mainstream” newsmedia. They likely have as many viewers as the entire libtard segment.

      They invite on as a guest any warm body with a passing interest/knowledge of the responsible/conservative side of an issue and a polished libtard to pontificate on the marxist side. So they part of the problem.

  11. “However, due to the imprecise wording of the statute it is possible for the ATF and the Attorney General to interpret the law in such a way that M855 meets the required criteria.” — Mr. Leghorn

    I don’t see how the ATF or the Attorney General could even make that claim. The statute clearly says the core must be made entirely of steel — which M855 is NOT — to qualify for a ban. Alternatively, the statute clearly says that the ammunition must be “designed and intended for use in a handgun” — which M855 is NOT — to qualify for a ban.

    There is no legal basis whatsoever under current law (18 U.S. Code § 921) for the ATF or the U.S. Attorney General to ban M855 5.56mm ammunition. And any ban would be unconstitutional anyway since it violates the Second Amendment. If the ATF goes ahead to ban this, the federal court of appropriate jurisdiction must immediately strike down the ban.

    • I haven’t read the ATF opinion and analysis, so I don’t know how it gets around the “entirely” language. It gets around the “intended for use” language the same way that they argue that an AR arm brace is illegal if put to your shoulder: it doesn’t matter what the intent was of the designer or manufacturer, only the intent of the user that determines whether something is “intended for use…” Thus M855 is “intended for use in a pistol” because the user loads an AR pistol, not because the manufacturer designed it for use in pistols. Never forget: War is peace.

      • You should read the proposal. It is only 17 pages. It gets around the “entirely” language by not addressing it. It just says M855 meets the definition. Uncommon_sense’s mention of intended use is irrelevant. The proposal specifically says that they are not using that portion of the statute which is 18 USC 921 (a)(17)(B)(ii). Instead they are justifying it being included under 18 USC 921 (a)(17)(B)(i) which uses the phrase “may be used in a handgun”.

        Then they make a long argument about how the sporting use exception is to be interpreted as the most likely use of the ammo by people firing it in a handgun. They are basically interpreting the statute and referenced case law in a way that is more restrictive than actually stated and that meets their intended goal. This is a common tactic of this administration, to take any gray area or wording and stretch or interpret it to meet their needs. What disgusts me is that they get away with it in so many cases when they have clearly stretched it past any common understanding of the wording or terms involved.

        • So what you are saying is that they ignore all of the statutory language after “may be used in a handgun…”? The next word after handgun is “and”, and this is a classically construed word that does not mean “or.” But that is what the ATF is purporting to do? I can’t see that getting past a federal judge, the law is abundantly clear on the subject.

        • If the ATF is justifying its ban based on:
          18 U.S. Code § 921
          (17)
          (B) The term “armor piercing ammunition” means—
          (i) a … projectile core which may be used in a handgun and which is constructed entirely … from … steel

          Then the ATF totally fails to meet that definition on 5.56 mm M855 steel penetrator ammunition because the projectile core is NOT entirely steel, rather the core is almost entirely lead.

          This is such an egregious act in defiance of law that anyone at the ATF who seeks to enact such a ban and enforce it should be prosecuted under 18 U.S. Code § 242 – Deprivation of [civil] rights under color of law.

        • They’re making a claim that the penetrator constitutes a “core” (not sure what that makes the rest of the lead in the bullet, unless they’re saying that it has two cores).

        • int19h,

          If that is the ATF claim, that 5.56 mm M855 bullets have “two cores” and one of them is made entirely of steel, then they are nuts because one bullet cannot have “two cores” any more than one apple can have “two cores”.

        • Footnote 7: “Projectiles of this caliber loaded into these cartridges made from other metals, e.g., lead or copper, is not armor piercing to begin with, and will not be effected by the withdrawal of this exemption.”

          This footnote appears to negate their entire framework. They are saying, “hey the M855 is banned because it is made entirely of steel, but if you come across one with lead or copper, you’re good to go because it doesn’t meet the definition.”

          I’m wondering if their counsel wrote this whole opinion and then someone from their Tech Division informed them that it is not made entirely steel. Upon realizing this, rather than scrapping the whole thing (and conflicting with the person at the top who insisted on this moving forward), they added this small footnote as a compromise.

          Seems idiotic, but I think this is why, in their letter to ATF, Congress asked how ATF determines whether or not a core is made “entirely of steel.” Would be interested to hear everyone’s thoughts.

        • I agree that it shouldn’t get past a federal judge and that it is an “egregious act in defiance of law “. But I am concerned that even if M855 is ruled to be non-AP that other portions of the proposal would be left to stand. The proposal’s purpose of determining if a projectile is primarily used for sporting purposes must also be challenged.

          As the NRA has pointed out, ‘BATFE’s framework does not clarify the “sporting purposes” exemption; it simply interprets it into irrelevance.’  The framework/proposal does this by defining sporting purposes of ammo as narrowly as possible. On pages 9, 10 and the first part of page 11 they explain that they will only look at the “likely use” of the projectile in the “general community” in a handgun. But that is not what the text of the sporting use exemption says.

          They have, through regulation and interpretation rewritten the sporting use exemption of 18 USC 921(a)(17)(C) from:

          “a projectile which the Attorney General finds is primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes.”

          to

          “a projectile which the Attorney General finds is primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes in a handgun.”

          This could have very negative effects. For example, a rifle hunting cartridge could meet the metal content portion of the AP definition and have been used for years. This is clearly sporting use. As soon as a handgun is made that can shoot that cartridge, it now becomes AP ammo, is banned and the years of previous sporting use are irrelevant simply because the ATF doesn’t think it will be used for hunting when used in a handgun.

          We need to make sure that all portions of the ATF proposal are challenged, not just the obvious ones that should easily keep M855 available.

  12. Since shooting a 5.56 in a pistol make the round a pistol caliber, does my Kriss Vector make 45acp now a rifle caliber? That is a question want the ATF to answer.

  13. Thanks for the education…I always like learning something new.

    the government will look at any way it can twist and contort laws and their powers to further the cause of civilian disarmament…especially under this administration. This is just another excuse to go the next step without congress.

  14. Just to clarify this only pertains to M855 5.56 ammo because of the specific bullet. I have read here, in comments, and in other places that all 5.56 ammo will be banned, but that does not appear to be the case at all. If there is 5.56 lead core/copper jacket in any other configuration it would still be legal if this absurd interpretation is enacted. Am I wrong?

    • It does not affect anything other than M855 and SS109, however fear and misinformation sparked a buying frenzy on all 5.56/.223.

  15. Pretty good history Nick.

    Overall M-193 did very well and is preferred by todays solder over M-855 for combat against un body armored Islamist killers. Its shoots good both in Carbines like the M-4 series and rifles like the M-16A2 and M-16A4. M-855 was made in the late 70s over fear of new Soviet body armor. The west gave into hype in reality combat in Afghanistan in the 80s showed Soviet body armor was heavy and even in best condition could barely stop a Chinese 7.62×39 round. test in Russia showed that Afghans armed with 5.45mm AKs and even in some rear cases M-16A1s given by the CIA easily defeated body armor. But in the 70s like hype over the inferior T-72 we gave in and wanted ball ammo to be better penetration. M-855 was made to shoot from the M-16A2 rifle which entered service in 1983 (USMC) and 1986 (Army and USAF). Problem was ten years later was the universal adoption by the army of the M-4 carbine and its shorter 14.5inch barrel. The XM-4 was first produced for special SOCOM units as far back as 1987 and was adopted in 1997 by the regular Army. In Iraq it was showed it like 9mm M-822 ball pistol ammo to over penetrate. Islamist killers unlike the Soviet Red Army had no body armor and often was drugged before combat so Islamist could take many wounds before death, so standard balls meant for solder didn’t work. Many troops who could get older M-193 ammo in Iraq used it but it was very hard to get. The USMC who only adopted the M-4 for support personnel and NCO, Officers etc. Updated there M-16A2 with only one upgrade (removable carry handle) also say M-855 had major issues and so bought commercial HP ammo from Federal Ammunition Inc. And so a 62gr HP (Known to use before as Bear Claw brand) entered Navy/USMC service as Mk-318 Ball. SOCOM also wanted a heavier bullet for there 5.56 SPR sniper rifle and adopted a 77gr FMJ bullet known as Mk-262. USAF and Army ignored this for a while and with political; pressure after rigged test in 2007 had address small arms. To M-855 defense it was not designed to work perfectly from a short M-4 it was made for the 20ich M-16A2 rifle, Army fault when it went to a all carbine policy for troops. This lead to a M-4 PIP program and the failed waste of millions ICC. All it was, is a attempt to adopt the inferior FN plastic SOCOM rifle. As part of M-4 PIP the Army began to look at ways improve ball ammo to avoided over penetration. With Obama’s election in 08 and liberal environmentalist taking over the Federal government the Army also looked into leadless bullets and primers. they came up with M-855A1 It was a all copper with a steel penetrator bullet with a new (None Toxic) powder and leadless primer. It had a movable steel penetrator and over given higher powder loads to give it more power its predecessor (M-855) lost when fired by a shorter M-4 Carbine. There are issues with the new ball. Powder may be more environmentally safe but is very dirty and fouls all weapons who use it frequently. Its higher pressure wears out weapons and known to break parts more than older M855 did. The Bullet did have much better combat performance than M-855. M-855 is and will be in use for many years to come state side to be used for training and weapons qualifications for a while. The USMC and Navy did not adopt M-855A1 (though it may have some for testing) and is using Mk-318 and older M-193 and M-855 ammo for armed personnel.

    Nick your on that Billy Clinton shortly before his 1994 AWB or bayonet lug ban did ban all Chinese 7.62×39 and .308 Win ammo from importation. Olympic Arms and Century did offer AK and AR pistols in that caliber. But the ban was more from moves to end Chinese arms import than was over any AP capabilities. Other NORINCO ammo was banned by Billy in 97. In Canada you still can buy all types of NORINCO ammo no problem. As for 7N6 5.45×39 ammo. The AP ban was only Obamas tool to end them he was mostly after Russian ammo makers. You can still buy Bulgarian and Romanian 5.45 7N6 ammo.

    Like I said call your reps and Senators. There is a bill to end the Democrats ATF ammo ban end run we must pass it.

  16. This is another backdoor attempt, and so far succeeding, to ban the the “evil black guns”. The point is, they are using this as a first step. They know that all .223/5.56 ammo can penetrate level II armor, the kind most LEO wear. If they can ban this ammo, they will use this as an example why it’s “legal” to ban other ammo in “evil black gun” calibers across the board.

  17. Good lord … the author repeated all of the nonsense about “energy transfer” as a wounding mechanism.

    Ruined an otherwise good article.

    • Energy transfer, fragmentation, tumbling, etc. The 5.56 only has about 1100-1250 FPE out of a 16″ barrel so it needs all the help it can get.

  18. So know we know what the left leaning media meant by Barry being a “wonk.” His his and his hired lying mouth pieces are functional idiots.

  19. M193 isn’t more effective on target because “lead flattens”. It’s more effective because it fragments easier due to the lack of that steel tip, and because, having a higher muzzle velocity, it fragments to a longer distance.

  20. “wildly popular M855 round”

    Really? I guess if you are hunting hogs with machine guns from helicopters. All 6 of you must be nervous.

    The round sucks, just like this blog post. Your information is all kinds of wrong. The round was invented for the SAW and the military wanted only one type of round at the time so it was used for all 5.56 weapons.

    http://www.ar15.com/archive/topic.html?b=3&f=16&t=145257

    The round sucks in a AR. I NEVER buy it. 55grain FMJ is so much better for defense. I would not care if they stopped making it.

    All that said the proposed law is BS and just a start to the banning process so I am against banning this lousy round.

  21. Exactly how many sworn law enforcement officers have been killed by M855 ammunition fired from the AR pistol platform weapon since the ammo has been available to the public? One? Lots of things can potentially penetrate body armor, some much more commonly available than AR weapons and M855 ammunition.

    Why the focus on this particular threat? What about blades, arrows, bolts, etc?

    Obviously, this proposal has nothing to do with officer safety if the ATF cannot point to any specific crime or crime trend statistic to validate the change. Not to mention the lack of performance variation between M193 and M855 in penetrating typical body armor (as tested by TTAG) when fired from AR platform weapons.

  22. Does anyone have the actual breakdown of steel, lead, and jacket in M855? I’ve heard 4.7gr for the steel mentioned in passing, but I haven’t seen a good reliable source for it.

  23. The Bible claims that Sampson slew the Phillistines with the jawbone of an ass. Unfortunately, with some of the “pro-gun” articles going around such as this one, firearms rights in the United States will die the same way. Instead of preventing a ban on 5.56 mm ammo, it gives the anti-gunners more “ammo” to try to get all firearms banned. Telling an anti-gunner how many calibers will penetrate body armor is sheer idiocy.

    • Yes, hiding the truth and silencing dissent. You fit right in with the Democrat Party and other leftards.

  24. Article today in the Washington Examiner: Bullet ban not a threat Not even the top police union supports this.

    The Executive Director of the FoP just went on record that M855 doesn’t represent a threat to police. Perhaps we should include this in our comments, if you haven’t sent them in yet.

  25. Rational discussion based on dissemination of truthful information from a variety of sources has certainly enlightened me to the fact that the M855 ban is in reality a major slippery slope issue since it will more likely than not be the first of many bans or restrictions on all varieties of affordable and popular sporting ammunition.

    The M855 ban is just the latest incarnation of the liberal long term strategy to achieve gun control through executive administrative actions intended to make all ammunition difficult if not impossible for law abiding citizens to obtain.

    So far the predictable calls for insurrection by the nutty fringe who frequent this site have been minimal and miraculously, our favorite Buckeye has so far opted to remain silent.

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the M855 ban is announced around the same time the Justice Department comes out with threat assessments attempting to mislead and convince the electorate of some huge looming threat of domestic terror from groups like the Sovereign Citizen Movement, which certainly are a potential threat, but miniscule when compared to the carnage of everyday violent criminal predators across the U.S. in cities like Chicago, Detroit, Oakland, and St. Louis; and the real threat of another big attack on U.S. soil by Islamic terrorist.

    You’re fooling yourself if you don’t believe various agencies in the executive branch have preserved every single incredibly stupid comment in this forum and others that propose armed insurrection as a reasonable response to whatever the latest gun control ploy of the week might be, and you can bet that this current radical liberal administration will use such idiotic threat speech to spin and distort reality in support of their anti-gun propaganda which stereotypes all gun owners as seditious wackos.

    Bull$#it bluster from nut-jobs pleading for insurrection as a response to the M855 ban equals or exceeds the idiocy of radical progressive liberals hell-bent on disrupting and dismantling our 2nd amendment rights.

  26. Will someone PLEASE do a test using the AR pistol firing an M855 into a Level II vest! Personally I don’t think it will penetrate and if it does the steel core will be nothing more than a ice pick wound which would be far from lethal.

    • Why would it not penetrate from a pistol? A “pistol” in this case is just a rifle without a stock. It can still have a 16″ barrel, it’ll still be a pistol. Though penetrating a soft vest only requires something along the lines of 1500 FPS, which can certainly be had even out of a 10″ barrel.

      The whole “it icepicks therefore it’s not lethal” argument is absurd. Most military ball ammo “icepicks”, but no-one has ever argued that it makes it non-lethal. It’ll still punch a hole that will bleed you to death if not treated, and if it hits a vital organ, you still die.

  27. im going to go and buy a 5.7mm pistol, oh wait nato spacificly contracted that bullet as a challenge to make a bullet that could go through light armor (ie vest) and fn produced a winner. yes the same cal and pistol as was used at fort hood by the devil to kill honorable men and women of our armed forces.. but hay its made just to do that. yet i can go to many sporting good stores and buy the pistol and the ammo readily. yeah the atf is just sucking obama’s limp donkey dick… democrats = jackasses its their logo after all.

  28. The m855 was designed, so that when it hits, the hollow under the bullet’s point flats the point. The lead core then expands against the steel core causing the bullet to burst in the middle around the cannalure. The purpose is to fragment the bullet into; the jacket, the lead core, and the steel core, all going in different directions.

    The m855 is a direct violation of the Geneva convention, but in this day and age , when the military has contracted to load hollow points in .223 ammunition for use against “terrorists”, who cares..

    I read now that the military is well on the pathway to dropping ball ammo in the 9mm and loading only hollow points in their pistols.

      • Agree. If any fragmentation, I think it was more an “unintended side effect” of the “penetrating glass” requirements.

  29. It is understandible and yet facenating how many of you have only half of the truth. It is obvious that some of you have enough knowledge about guns that u would not even participate in a blog so simple. But even the most knowledgeable of us still wonders exactly why the 5.56? This is where politics comes in. The 5.56 causes a deviating mortal wound and two solders have to remove the wounded in turn removing three solders off the battle feild. This cuts battle (red) time by over 50% and even better it ends the war faster because the opponent is now at financial lose to medical expenses. The 5.56 is perfect to cripple with little effort and kill with just a little extra effort. But for the most part it ends a battle faster and drains the enemies financially in turn the ods of Jr coming home from a battle feild is better then half of what is was in the civil war.

    • Edward Alosi,

      The primary purpose of the 2nd Amendment is not for the right to hunt. It’s not even self-defense.

      If you know the history of this nation, most particularly the Revolution, which I’m sure your Democrat-controlled public education failed to show you the reality of,

      the primary purpose of our 2nd Amendment is so that the people can fight back tyranny, a betrayal by their own government.

      The Founding Father’s believed that the tendency of government was to grow, and the power of the people was to shrink. They knew that this could one day result in a situation where our government attempted to overstep it’s authority to oppress and subjugate the people.

      That’s what the 2nd Amendment is for. When voting no longer works because the government has usurped the will of the people to be held accountable to them, the only thing is going to be able to reinstate freedom is a revolution . . . that will never happen if people do not see a chance at victory.

      That means that the liberal states are destined to inevitably be under an oppressive dictatorship if they don’t stop believing whatever they’re told and handing over every freedom their Democrats tell them to hand over.

      Whether or not that is indeed inevitable for the conservative states remains to be seen.

      • exactly: considering at the time: Hudson bay company was the defacto long arm of government for king George the 3rd. and in the name of king George the 3rd, did some serious atrocities. Causing people to die both directly from their abuses or to famine when they came for the goods the citizens produced and left too little for the citizens to survive on. .

        So it became a fight for independence or die by abuse by those in power. .

  30. You talk like they’re being stupid or something, that politicians are all a bunch of idiots.

    And by doing so, you lend them relevance, for ignorance is not the fault of the person, but simply that they don’t know.

    What these politicians are doing, primarily Democrats, especially higher Democrats like Obama, is taking steps towards and inevitable ban on all firearms.

    They are intentionally saying whatever they feel can be said in order to ban different things. They don’t care if it’s steel-core, AP, or standard ball, right now, they can only do AP and steel-core, and that’s they’re doing that.

    It doesn’t matter how stupid it is. It doesn’t matter if facts prove them wrong.

    All that matters is that they get to take a next step towards banning all ammunition and all firearms.

    It’s time people start calling out these politicians and stop just regarding as stupid. They aren’t stupid, they no doubt have come across the facts. They simply don’t care about the facts because they want to ban firearms.

    What do you all not get about that simple concept? It’s very simple.

    I don’t understand why you all just continue to believe that politicians are just innocently stupid. They know they are wrong, they know that standard ball ammo kills more police and everyone than any other type of ammo, they know that AP and steel-core will only be used in crimes 2% and less of the time. They already know all of this.

    But their goal is to get rid of firearms entirely. If that means they can only get rid of AP and steel-core right now, that’s what they’re going to do. It really IS just that simple.

    You all who do these things need to start calling them out on it, let people know that they are intentionally doing this, that this isn’t just a mere situation of stupidity so that we can all laugh in our superiority complexes. This is about getting rid of guns, getting rid of all firearms so that they can implement the oppressions that they need to implement so that we’re suffering enough to accept whatever they want us to accept.

    It really IS that simple. Some of them, I’m sure are simply innocently useful idiots, but people like Obama and Hillary, and probably most of the Democrats up there, and probably even a few Republicans are not the useful idiots. They have an agenda, and they will push that agenda however they can. If that means they can only convince us to allow AP and steel-core ammo right now with causing them to lose their jobs in the process, then that’s what they’re going to do. It IS really that simple.

  31. Shooting from a helicopter sounds like fun. Something you see on Top Gun.
    With automatic weapons even!

    But at live critters? It is not only unnecessary, a waste of ammo; it also goes against the whole idea of hunting. That is one or two well placed shots to humanely end the critters life. Did anyone go and recover the carcasses afterwards?

    On the other hand, could be a little more fun if the critters were armed and shooting back.

    Sorry.

    • you misunderstood the purpose of the shooting from helicopters. The animal they are shooting at, have no other natural predator to keep their numbers in check, we killed them off. As a result their population skyrockets and then causes a lot of diseases, which in turn, if goes unchecked, will lead to the extinction of the animal they are doing population control on, in this case Hogs. Which are at the top of their respective food chain, being they are omnivores. And if given the chance they would even eat you and I.

  32. I shoot the 855, and I like it,why? Because it’s the most accurate round in my AR. I found 900 rounds today on Cheaper Than Dirt. Not cheap but available, ordered today.

  33. @ mickell March 4, 2015 at 14:56

    The second link you provided sends you to FBI: “Expanded Homicide Data Table 8” In no way is this related to cops having their own guns used on them.

    based on that link firearms is just shy more than double the murder rate than other types combined……… OUCH
    For better context how many of the firearm ones, gang or drug related?? This is important to know because it would show that firearms are not the underlying problem here, its gangs and drugs that are the underlying problem If it can be shown that the vast majority of the firearm murders was caused by them. like in drive by, or turf war.

    But personally I find this second link to be a bit misleading. Due to way murder is reported. ESPECIALLY with other forms of murder, that does not involve a firearms.(since death by firearms is so obvious, it gets recorded for sure.) What I have issue with , in that table, is the “other forms of murder” . That can be mistakenly perceived as an accidental death. Like drowning. Suffocation, drug OD, Poisoning(increasing medication levels over time, to kill slowly a sick or disabled individual, the care taker no longer wants to care for and claim they did not know the higher dose was fatal over time.), (Kill by spoiled bad food) for example. same end result, perfect murder thus does not get reported on this table.

    What I wonder among the murder by projectile weapons, is how many of those were defensive gun use? The reason I ask this, is in some states, it may still be classed murder, if used in self defense, thus it would inflate the murder by weapon type the FBI is required to keep track of.

    Also what I see absent is the murder through “policy” withholding of medical care causing premature death for example: like limiting amount of insulin a person can get in a year causing their diabetes to kill them, its still murder.. This is primarily done by government and leadership and authority figures. My guess this number is in the millions per year, when considering all the ways policies murder people.(drone strikes policies)(limiting medical care policies)(denying starving people food policies)

    I guess the purpose of this post is to correct Mickell and expand the context of “murder” and just how truly rare it is to be killed by a M855 5.56 NATO or any projectile weapon for that matter. Since those statistics only fit a certain criteria, to which the leaders that be, want you to see. Actually distort the picture for political convenience.

    But I can see the context of why the Administration would “think” the M855 5.56 NATO needs to be banned. when taking into account that hand guns are 18.5 times more likely to be involved in murder than rifles using the M855 5.56 NATO. Using mickell’s second link to arrive at the 18.5 times higher. Disregarding the “type of hand gun used” by using the blanket statement “hand guns” and not breaking it down by “type” of hand guns. I in no way agree with the Administration. Just saying I can see their view and why they would do what they are or were doing. .

  34. Excuse me. Re: your text:

    “Another issue was the lack of expansion. The lead core in normal “ball” ammunition expands upon impact, which increases the diameter of the projectile and aids in transferring energy from the moving projectile to the target. The more energy is transferred, the greater the wound in the target and the more likely it is to stop that target. Using a steel tip meant that the bullets no longer deformed, and therefore the energy transferred to the target was less than with “ball” 5.56. In other words, the M855 ammunition is actually considered to be less effective against living targets than “ball” 55 grain 5.56 ammo. Or, put another way, standard lead ammunition is considered more deadly than M855.”

    and:

    “Wile the Army has moved on to an improved version of the M855 projectile, the cartridge has become popular with long range shooters and hunters. Especially for those hunting hogs in the thick brush of the American south, the M855 cartridge has proven to be capable of accurately and effectively hitting a target even after passing through a couple layers of leaves and underbrush. Its also popular among helicopter hog depredation expeditions for the same reason: it punches through the trees and hits the target. And since the cartridge was developed and produced for the military, a massive quantity of the ammunition is produced every year which leads to low prices for recreational shooters looking for a cheap way to feed their firearms. In short, what was once a “military” round has transitioned very well to civilian life.”

    Where did you get your information?

    I’ve long understoond that both M 193 and SS-109/M 855, along with ’06 Ball M2, 7.62 M80, and other similarly constructed bullets have a small airspace in the tip, which makes them want to yaw–swap ends–as they penetrate, and exit base first–what is actually what is meant by a “tumbling” bullet. While they are sideways to the target the increased blunt surface “transfers energy”–imparts velocity to the tissue it crushes, fling it out of its way hard enough to crush and tear the surrounding tissue, leaving a wound much larger than the bullet–the same way expanding and flat-point bullets do (it’s called cavitation). Most of them take on a bananna shape, and get a bit squished, and spew bits of lead out the base which can increase wounding power. And at close range, especially hitting bone, and especially M193, they may fragment, doing a lot of damage at that depth but limiting penetration. But they do not expand, like a soft-point hunting bullet–that would violate the Geneva Convention.

    SS109 is also supposed to yaw on impact with soft tissue; when it does, the tip is supposed to break off at the lead core-steel penetrator junction, and base, penetrator, and the tip of the jacket from over the penetrator describe three seperate wound channels, increasing lethality–though the lightweight jacket tip can’t penetrate far or do much damage. If it hits bone, or at close range, the base will probably fragment, too, at least a little making a devastating wound at the point of fragmentation and beyond, a litte ways, before the fragments cease to penetrate.

    Test after test have shown that no bullets pebetrate brush without deflecting; a lot of them break up in it, and I would be surprised if SS109 doesn’t, occasionally, too. Shooting through brush at any animal is irresponsible, as is shooting through brush when you can’t know that there isn’t another human being beyond your view.

  35. Something not mentioned is that a lot of the wounds created by the “ball” 55g. Ammo used in the early days of the M-16 were created by the tumbling action on impact. The creator of the M-16 (Stoner) experimented with pig carcasses an knew what to expect from a strike, the bullet would tumble uncontrollably, chewing up flesh like a buzzsaw, turning tissue to jello between entrance and exit wounds. Friends of mine who witnessed this in Vietnam say they have seen men shot in the thigh, and the bullet might exit the chest. Devastating wound channel! Stoner settled on a 1-14 barrel twist, putting the 55g. As stable enough in flight, but highly unstable on impact, causing this type of wound. The 62g. M-855 does not tumble, but plows straight through flesh, leaving much less of a wound

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