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Army Round Triggers Problems in Marine M27 Auto Rifle the punny headline at announces. “Preliminary results of an Army test to see how the service’s M855A1 5.56mm round performs in Marine Corps weapons show that the enhanced performance round causes reliability and durability problems in the Marine M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR), service officials say.” But there is a solution! Well, kinda. First, a little backstory . . .

In 2010, after more than a decade of development (surprise!), the Army deployed the M855A1 lead-free round to replace the Cold War-era M855 5.56mm round. Sensibly enough (or not), Congress mandated that the U.S. Marine Corps get with the program. Which brings us to the M27. As informs us, it’s . . .

(The M27) is intended to enhance an automatic rifleman’s maneuverability, based on the Heckler & Koch HK416. The U.S. Marine Corps is planning to purchase 6,500 M27s to replace a portion of the M249 light machine guns currently employed by automatic riflemen within Infantry and Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalions. Approximately 8,000–10,000 M249s will remain in service at the company level to be used at the discretion of company commanders. The United States Army does not plan to purchase the IAR.

The Army’s cold shoulder to the M27 no doubt accounts for the fact that no one in their lead-free ammunition development team bothered to test the M855A1 in the Marines’ light machine gun. Result?

“In testing the Army states there was a reliability issue; that is true,” Chris Woodburn, deputy branch chief for the Marine Corps’ Maneuver Branch that deals with requirements, told in a Dec. 20 telephone interview.

Reliability refers to mean rounds between stoppages, Woodburn said.

“In this case, it appears the stoppages that we were seeing were primarily magazine-related in terms of how the magazine was feeding the round into the weapon,” he said. “We don’t know that for sure, but it looks that way.”

And how, pray tell, did they reach this preliminary conclusion?

After further testing, Woodburn said the Marines have found a solution in the Magpul PMAG, a highly-reliable polymer magazine that has seen extensive combat use in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It appears we have found a magazine that takes care of the reliability issues,” Woodburn said.

Marine Corps Systems Command on Monday released a message which authorizes the PMAG magazine for use in the M27, the M16A4 and M4 carbines, Woodburn said.

“The reason they did that is because when Marines are deploying forward, they are sometimes receiving M855A1, and we need to ensure they have the ability to shoot that round,” Woodburn said.

“In terms of the cause analysis and failure analysis, that has not been done, but what we do know is that the PMAG works,” he said.

So, a happy ending for the Army, the Marine Corps and taxpayers? Um, not quite . . .

“Where it still appears that we still have an issue with it is it appears to degrade the durability,” Woodburn said. “Durability is mean rounds between essential function failures, so you are talking bolt-part failures, barrel failures and the like.

“It is a hotter round and we think, that may be contributing to it, but we won’t know for sure until the testing is complete,” he said.

Ya think? Anyway, it’s one gun. Well, one type of gun. And converting the entire U.S. military to a lead-free round is so worth it, right?

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  1. Sounds like the real problem is that h&k made a real snowflake of a gun and it can’t handle a slightly different round. If all the other guns except this one run fine, it ain’t the magazine or the round.

    • Yup. I have an LR-308 that I assembled into a definite snowflake and similarly, PMAGs are the only things it’ll feed reliably.

    • I read somewhere that the German government is going to sue H&K over reliability issues with their firearms used by their soldiers. Anybody confirm?

    • It’s not that. The reliability problem was the same as demonstrated by the Army M4s – exposed hardened steel tip of the round was sticking into, and wearing down, the aluminum feed ramp.

      The Army solved this problem by adopting the new aluminum magazine with a different feed angle, that makes the round no longer scrape the feed ramp.

      USMC didn’t like the Army mags tho (“approved for training use only”). So they went and looked for something better, and found it in PMAG (which always had that better feeding angle).

      The other failures, related to barrel and bolt, are also due to increased pressures, and have also been observed in Army M4s. They just hand-waved them away with, “well, if it breaks sooner, we’ll just replace it sooner”. But the round really is very harsh on the operating system (any system) due to its high pressure and sharp pressure spike.

      • Not Global Warming; lead toxicity. At first blush, it seems silly to make bullets – which in a military setting, have the job of killing people – less lethal. But the lethality being addressed is poisoning of battlefield-area ground water by lead leaching. I suppose it is inevitable – soon we’ll be etching “I’m sorry” on the bullets to apologize to the enemy KIA. Then giant magnets on M4s to catch steel cartridge cases so we don’t litter. Maybe we should just settle wars by ping-pong matches.

    • Because we’ve closed all our smelters and the only place we can get lead is buy it from China? And that even the Army has enough sense to figure that relying upon a potential enemy for the source material for your ammo is probably not the greatest of ideas? But yet not enough to realize that smelting your own lead is the real solution to this manufactured ‘problem’??

      • I’ve heard this argument before but it isn’t true. I’ll try to find the link, but all bullet lead is recycled from used car batteries.

      • Missouri alone has more than enough lead still in mines to supply us. We get over %90 of all of America’s lead needs from recycled car batteries.

    • I like casting my own muzzleloading bullets. Under my workbench is a .50 cal ammo can full of ingots I cast from 12″ sheets of lead I salvaged from the shielding covering the bed cover of a work truck that housed some sort of electromagnetic survey equipment. All pure lead- not that alloy crap wheel weights are made of. Damn lucky find for me.

  2. The creation and adoption of the M855A1 is a brilliant show of the spectacular failures of our current military acquisition policies. Research the history of the round and you will find failures of nearly every order and variety (even legal). The biggest failures of all have been in testing for compatibility and wear, like those in this article.

    How could someone with any understanding about how firearms work develop a cartridge without testing to see how the round chambers when you change the cartridgr OAL? Or throat erosion? Or how this new alloy affects feed ramp life with its new allow?

    Furthermore, why has there been ZERO push to update material standards to create more reliable rifles? Hell, a NiB coated ASTM 4150 feed ramp, and meloniting the barrel instead of chrome lining would have solved many of these material issues. And these are solutions developed YEARS ago in the civilian world.

    Unfettered bureaucracy is dulling the edge of our military technology and strength (not to mention what has already been done on the civil rights side of things).

    • Take a look at the multi-billion dollar mess the Navy’s LCS program turned into. Maddog Mattis has his work cut out for him.

      Maybe with real leaders at the top (instead of social juatice warriors) America can reclaim her rightful place in the world.

      • The issue in the LCS is mission and parameter bloat, not *just* ineptitude. To be fair, they suffer from different symptoms, but the problem is the same: a bloated, inefficient, and political acquisition staff that doesn’t know shit from Shinola.

    • I suspect there’s a malady common to manufacturers selling large amounts of product to the government at work here: engineering to “good enough” standards instead of to “imagine what could go wrong” standards (with family working engineering in a defense company or two, I get fed examples of this every now and then — indeed it almost crippled the stealth bomber program). They need to be required to design to the worst possible case (heck, I do that as a handyman and trail builder — it’s just common sense).

        • “Good enough” has just about become the bane of my existence -______-”

          Just for the record, Bill Gates is a multi-multi billionaire from building software that was/is “good enough”.

      • Government and military procurement staff (including the people to actually use the final product) are not trained in how to write specifications; all done OJT. Indeed, many contracting personnel do not even want to review user specs for fear of a mistake. Gov’t contracts are still heavily spec-driven, rather than results-driven. I used to terrorize procurement people by showing them the first military contract for an airplane; completely outcome/performance focused, and three pages. The government and military officially adopted the “performance based contracting” years ago, but the fear of allowing a contractor any “wiggle room” (how’s that working out?) overwhelms good requirements definition.

        • What’s that mean, spec-driven vs result-driven? And that whole thing actually sounds really interesting (I know very little about military procurement); could you elaborate a bit more?

          • The difference between the two is quite large. In a completely civilian way, it can be compared to car-buying.

            Customer tells the sales people he/she wants a car. Normal answer is something like, “What kind”? Open-ended question leading to indeciferable answer, “4-wheel”. Next question, “What kind”?. So the customer details every element of the vehicle from construction materials, to production process, to load capability, to interior, to seat construction (including quality control standards for making the seats), to wheelbase, to tire construction and testing….and so on. If the customer is not expert in every element being required, the result is going to be not good. If the dealer delivers the vehicle based on customer specification, and the vehicle does not work as wanted, the customer bears the burden. That is “specification-based” contracting.

            Second scenario, customer tells car salesperson, “I want a vehicle (car/truck not specified) that will….climb a 90degree slope, haul 10,000 pounds while pulling a 20,000 pound trailer, meet all US safety and environmental standards, achieves 30mpg, can withstand any weather event without deterioration for 10 years, will be maintenance free or have free maintenance as required by the manufacturer, will seat 16 in luxury, costs less than $4000. That is performance-based contracting. Tell the salesperson (contractor) how the vehicle is expected to perform, and let the dealer/manufacturer do whatever is needed to meet the performance objectives. Such a contract puts all the burden on the dealer/manufacturer (contractor) to deliver a vehicle that will do what the customer requires.

            Performance/objective based requirements are both easier and harder to develop. But whether the contracted item is spec’d or assigned performance criteria, there is little stomach for requirements development training in government or military. So many times, a “similar” contract is pulled-up, modified with current date and information, and put out for bid. The government and military have invested much time and effort into training people how to administer contracts. However, trying to properly administer a badly written contract mostly makes things worse.

        • Very impressed with the explanation. Now a lot of specs actually call out both specification requirements and performance requirements. Make some things easier but a lot of times the spec requirements end up making it harder and more expensive to meet the performance requirements.

          • Specifications are rarely based on knowledge of the subject matter, but rather are attempts to constrain the contractor from wiggling out of the requirements through tricks the government agents haven’t seen yet. In the commercial world, when a contractor fails, one can sue for contract breach, and/or decide to never use that contractor again. In government contracting, the intent is to make any contractor error a legal matter so the contractor can be financially punished (which rarely results in a contractor being banned from future contracts). Such constraints protect the bureaucrats from charges of carelessness when the contractor eventually outsmarts the government agency.

  3. Of course we would have to go with what the Army picked, smh. The Mk318 SOST is a superior round IMHO. But the tree huggers have to get their way I guess.

    • Non-lead ammunition is no joke; it’s a serious international issue. It is bad enough that our bombs and bullets are not accurate enough to avoid collateral damage and death, salting the ground with all those lead bullets that miss, or over-penetrate are a jihadi recruiter’s dream come true. Environmental pollution of the lands we fight in is the number one national security issue for the US military. We may not be able to avoid civilian casualties, but we can certainly take common sense steps to avoid defiling the bodies with lead.

      “Oh Bond, do come along.”

    • Eh, it serves a different role. While having multiple rounds complicates logistics, the old adage is *very* true: Jack of all trades;master of none.

      • What different role? Mk318 is a general purpose round adopted by USMC. M855A1 is a general purpose round adopted by the Army. They had different design parameters in some respects, but that’s because Army and Marines disagreed on what makes a general-purpose round, not because they wanted to have two different complementary rounds.

    • I think the issue is if the only ammunition available in a tac resupply situation are Army rounds – the Marines’ rifles still have to work.

  4. More importantly who the fuck set up that guy’s rifle?

    I get that you want to personalize your loadout but, except possibly the sling attachment everything front of your mag well is installed in ways that make no sense. Damn lefties.

    • They should teach every soldier and Marine to shoot right-handed. Those who can’t see out of their right eye should be assigned to something other than infantry.

      • I don’t care about the handedness. I’m just giving the lefties a hard time.

        It’s the mounting of that foregrip and that TPIAL/ATPIAL/whatever that bothers me.

      • “Those who can’t see out of their right eye should be assigned to something other than infantry.”

        Most ignorant statement of the day.

    • Poor guy. He doesn’t even have a BAD lever or an ambi magazine release. How is he supposed to operate in operations operationally if he can’t even one hand mag flip without taking his hand off the pistol grip?

      • Before going operational he needs the basics. That vertical foregrip is fucking useless where it is and the bipod that comes out of it is nearly useless. Push that shit forward on the rail. What if I have to clear a house!? Grip your mag well jackwagon.

        Same for his designator. It doesn’t have to be on the top rail but FFS God gave you a ton of rail space for a reason. Mount that fucker where it’s supposed to go. Up front. It goes up there for reasons, not the least of which is that it’s designed to.

    • The M855 is a hot round. I’m getting nearly 3,000 FPS with 16″ 416R stainless barrels and about 3060 FPS with 18″ 416R .223 Wylde-chambered barrels (Lake City 2015 mfg). The M855A1 is even hotter, and also uses a slightly longer bullet. I haven’t been able to shoot M855A1.

      I’d set up a 77 grain Mk262 improved round with an upgraded Sierra TMK type bullet and have an excellent 5.56 bullet with a high ballistic coefficient, possibly in a .223 Wylde chamber. The initial velocity wouldn’t need to be barrel-smoking hot because the high BC would increase long range velocity anyways.

      If I was Trump I’d hire Dyspeptic Gunsmith as a military arms advisor.

      • “The initial velocity wouldn’t need to be barrel-smoking hot…”

        Which is nice so you’re not burning through a barrel every 1500-2000 rounds fired like the serious competition guys do with 6mm.

        They get retarded muzzle velocities and really nice stability/accuracy out to long range with those longer, heavier high BC .243 rounds but damn do they run through barrels to do it.

  5. more worthless Democratic Party legislators action costing billions of dollars for worthless junk, F35, USS Zumwaldt, the new super carrier, green ammo, Spend money we don’t have so their buddies can get rich!

    • No government or military project officer ever got promoted by saving money. No congressman got re-elected by eliminating jobs in his/her district. When large weapons contracts take 30yrs to get to operational testing, the political party in charge changes too much to exclusively blame one or the other.

  6. The real reason the army went to lead free bullets, political correctness. Just what we need in an armed conflict.

  7. After hundreds of years of spreading lead projectiles all over Europe on industrial scale there must not be any unpoisoned soil or water source left there. Oh, wait – it’s all tree hugger bullshit! Never mind.

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