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Test Confirms Inferior Bullet

By Anthony F. Milavic

Recent U.S. Army laboratory tests have confirmed almost 40 years of demonstrated inferior lethality by the 5.56mm cartridge.

Since 1965, Americans have reported that enemy soldiers continued to fire their weapons after suffering multiple hits by 5.56mm bullets. Most recently, the Interim Report of these tests observes that “less than optimal” performance of the 62-grain 5.56mm M855 cartridge in Somalia and Afghanistan prompted many Special Operations Forces (SOF) units to switch to the heavier 77-grain 5.56mm MK262 ammunition.

Those events prompted the testing and comparison of the 5.56mm M855 against four other cartridges: 110-grain 6.8mm Special Purpose Cartridge (SPC), 149-grain NATO 7.62mm M80 ball cartridge, 77-grain 5.56mm MK262 MatchKing, and 5.56mm (unspecified projectile weight) Le Mas (AKA: RBCD).

U. S. Army ARDEC, AETC conducted ballistics gelatin tests of these cartridges and published the results in, “Interim Report, Engineering Study ES-1A-9001, Soft Target Terminal Ballistics Evaluation Of The M855 5.56mm Projectile,” dated Sept. 1, 2004. Summaries of some of the results and judgments contained in that Interim Report are presented below in their order of assessed relative performance:

Baseline: The 5.56mm M855 was the base cartridge against which the other four were compared and it was the best performer “when viewing steel plate penetration.” However, this bullet contains a steel penetrator and the others in this test do not.

* “The 6.8mm SPC is far and above, the best performing ammunition, in gelatin” in these tests. It was not tested for steel penetration.

* “The NATO 7.62mm M80 ball observed in this test had the highest impact energy of those tested. Additionally, the total quantity of damage done to the gelatin block was greater than any of the other systems in this test. However, the location of that damage was deeper than optimally desired …. The overall ranking of this system came in second only to the 6.8mm SPC system.” The report did not mention if this round was tested against steel plates.

* In general the 5,56mm MK262 “outperformed” the 5.56mm M855 in gelatin. Also, it performed “better than expected” in steel penetration tests but was “inferior” to the M855 in those same tests.

* The 5.56mm Le Mas (AKA: RBCD) ammunition “demonstrated inadequate penetration, small fracture diameter, and shorter fracture lengths at all tested ranges. It is noted, based upon their configuration, that these rounds would be very unlikely to pass the legal review necessary to allow usage by the U. S. Military.”

An Army Times article on Dec. 1, 2003 described the Le Mas by saying, “this 5.56mm round has all the stopping power you need.” That assertion was based, in great measure, on the report by a Mr. Ben Thomas who, while in Iraq, said he hit a man with one Le Mas bullet with explosive results: “It entered his butt and completely destroyed everything in the lower left section of his stomach ... everything was torn apart.” And, the “round appeared to kill the assailant instantly.” The above Interim Report reinforces the results of ballistics gelatin tests observed by Lt Cmdr. Gary Roberts USNR in March 2002 that performance claims by Le Mas, “were not shown to have merit.” Mr. Thomas’ reported explosive effects of the Le Mas bullet remain unconfirmed by laboratory tests.

All three 5.56mm bullets – 62-grain M855, 77-grain Mk262, and the Le Mas bullets – were inferior to the larger 110-grain 6.8mm and 149-grain 7.62mm bullets in gelatin performance tests. Although the 6.8mm round received the highest overall rating, it is the 7.62mm that “had the highest impact energy of those tested.”

This translates into, “knockdown power” and it is one-round knockdown power that is critical to the warrior’s survival. This is due to the fact that in combat, a warrior frequently gets only one shot; and in other situations, the time between the first and second shot is long enough for the enemy to kill him with one shot.

The demonstrated combat performance of even the largest 5.56mm bullet tested above is sorely inferior to this requirement; for example, on Sept. 12, 2003, after being hit by seven 77-grain 5.56mm bullets, an Iraqi insurgent killed both Master Sgt. Kevin N. Morehead and Sgt. 1st Class William M. Bennett with his 7.62mm Kalashnikov.

Then, Staff Sgt. Robert E Springer threw aside his 5.56mm M-4 carbine and knocked the insurgent down dead with one .45 cal. pistol bullet. If the 2004 Interim Report doesn’t prompt the replacement of the 5.56mm cartridge, it is time to ask the Department of Defense: How many tombstones will be added to those of Master Sgt. Morehead and Sgt. 1st Class Bennett before you provide our warriors with one-round knockdown power?

Guest Contributor Anthony F. Milavic is a retired Marine Corps major who writes frequently on military firearms and ammunition issues. He can be reached at [email protected]."
 

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It is definitely time for a new and superior 5.56mm bullet. Any idea of any progress in development?

RIKA
 

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If it's not a declared war, I really suggest they use HP or SP 5.56 till the 6.8mm comes out. I know the SPs won't be worth spit for penetration of hard targets, but the 5.56 isn't that much of a AP gun anyway.

Notice the .45, with FMJ, did fine. There's a lesson in that.
 

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"...All three 5.56mm bullets – 62-grain M855, 77-grain Mk262, and the Le Mas bullets..."


I realize that the 62 is the current military issue, but they fail to test the 55-grain bullet; the one that served for years, and is still the best apparent performer in sub-20-inch barrels, especially at short- to medium ranges. (With the possible exception of the relatively new 77-OTM; only time will tell on that.)

AFAIK, the switch to 62's was to increase penetration and range; which unfortunately came at the cost of terminal effectiveness.

Regardless, hopefully it doesn't come as a surprise that the 6.8 and 7.62 performed "superior" in the tests. Of course they did; they're bigger and more powerful. The .50BMG would be more effective still. Why on earth does the government insist on conducting studies that a 6-year-old can reliably predict the outcome on.

Did they really go, "Gasp! The bigger, more powerful guns do more damage after all!!!"...? :headbang:

I only carry a .223, and even I know (and acknowledge) that...
 

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I remember Jeff Cooper admonishing people not to try to overload a weak powered weapon. He said it was like trying to 'overcompress an air rifle. Even if you succeed you don't have much".

Yes the old 55gr FMJ is the answer, at least from longer barrels. And that is why I have over 500 rounds of Lake City military 5.56 55gr just sleeping there! I do have some IMI SS109, but that's just for test functioning to make sure any 5.56 I buy will stabalize the load. I prefer the 55gr load.
 

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why do idiots insist that they "have to" use ball ammo, anyway? they don't, so why not use one of the proven effective (on deer) hp or sp loads, hmm? Because they're STUPID, that's why.
 

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no, *****, it's NOT about the "geneva convention. It's about the HAGUE convention which the US did NOT sign, and which we violate all the TIME, and which only applies to "declared wars between signatory nations". Since we aint declared a war in 63 years, and never will again, it's pure bs.
 

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I think the Army is going rapidly to the XM8 rifle chambered for the 6.8X43mm cartridge as the replacement for the M15-M4 fqmily.
 

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The 55gr M193 round fired out of a barrel no less than 16" will scramble your average human when used at normal combat ranges (<100m).

A good choice would also be the Russian 5.45mm or the new 5.8mm Chinese that the Chinese military is converting to at break-neck speed. The Chinese round is essentially the Russian 5.45mm round with all of it's inherent nastiness, combined with the larger case capacity of the American 5.56mm.

The US military has millions of rifles and billions of rounds invested in the 5.56mm (a round which most of the world's militaries have converted to from Burma to Sweden). Don't hold your breath for them to go away from that caliber any time soon, especially when the money can be used for other things and they believe a fix can be deployed simply with a new bullet (which it probably can).
 

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The only one saying 'geneva convention' is you gunkid. What's wrong? You still in the twilight zone?

I bet they will rebarrel the M4s to the new 6.8mm as an interm measure or just issue the XM8 to SF for 10 years until all the M4s and M16s get worn out (not unlike waiting until all the 1911s got that way before they went to the M9.)
 

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It would not amaze me any if word leaked out that the 6.8 is being used by SOCOM in A-stan or even Iraq. They are after all the ones getting the priority for upper recievers and ammo.
 

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yep, most of the units aint even got M4's yet. No, the military is NOT "rapidly going to 6.8. :) Only ignorant fools "think" that. The M16 variant is going to still be GI in 2007, COUNT on it, and it and the 223 will still be the National Guard gun and load in 2010, count on that, too.

Clowns just wont ADMIT that thousands of rds are fired for every solid hit that's achieved to the neck, head or chest. 308 ball aint a LICK better than 223 ball, when it comes to the sort of peripheral hits that are the RULE in combat, rather than the exception.

Very funny when the SAME bozo who says 30 carbine BALL was enough, runs down the FAR more effective 223 softpoing, but that's senility for you, along with ignorance, and blowhardedness about how much wt you can carry, while being shot at.
 

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Todd, I think there is a test unit in Iraq using the XM8. The strategypage site had something on that a while ago.

What is more, 'spray-n-pray' strategy is going away in the army now. Most of their best troops use optical sights and get quite a high one shot hit rate in Iraq. Same goes for the Marines. The site, http://www.strategypage.com/default.asp
has lots of real good info on this from people that are actually there.
 

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Spray and pray was dumped years ago.

The only full auto fire I was trained to use was with the M-60 and thayt was in bursts.

The Mk-19 was technically full-auto but had a slow rate of fire.

The M-16A2 was of course 3-rd burst or semi but we hardly ever fired it in burst mode.
 

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The new M4A1 has gone back to full auto capability
 

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[

Very funny when the SAME bozo who says 30 carbine BALL was enough, runs down the FAR more effective 223 softpoing, but that's senility for you, along with ignorance, and blowhardedness about how much wt you can carry, while being shot at.[/QUOTE]



i posted a 'LOADING' a ways back for the .30cal carbine THAT RIVALS

tissue damage of a 52gr.h.p. .224 from a 22-250 !

although, test medium was only jackrabbits, the tissue devastation was equal!


post on, DAVIS! grenades are my friend at night!





thanks.
 

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I'd rather they went back to the 7.62X51(I know,won't happen..),but what was it that took the 6.5 grendel out of consideration?It can handle a heavier (sectional density,anyone?),and throw it out faster AFAIK.Whose got the comparative specs on the 6.5 Grendel vs. the 6.8?
 

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Hogwash! Ever heard of the 6.8 SPC ? HUGE improvement at close range house-to-house! The "current issue" is, and will remain the 11" bbl. M-4. Some have reported poor accuracy with the stubby 110 gr. 270 cal. bullet at longer ranges, and the cartridge tends to beat-up the gun. The better choice seems to be the "jonnycumlately" 6.5 Grendel cartridge. Les Baer is going with it after dropping the 6.8SPC. More power-heavier, longer bullet-Very accurate at ALL practical ranges-and more "effective".
 

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Alexander Arms developed the .50 Boewolf and the 6.5 Grendel. The latter is a better choice than the Remington 6.8 SPC to fix what's wrong with the 5.56 in an M-4 with the 11" barrel. You don't want a 7.62 NATO in an eleven inch tube! Trust me. As far as the .30 carbine round goes... It may have been somewhat effective on tiny Japanese soldiers in the tropics at close range, but in Korea where the enemy wore a quilted parka on top of all the other layers of clothing, and fridged temperatures typically reduced the bullet velocity, IT SUCKED!
 
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