556 Ammo Test | Green Tip VS M855A1 | Tactical Rifleman


This week on Tactical Rifleman I wanted to talk about the semi-new rifle round that the US Army is fielding. For decades, the US military has been issuing the M855 “Green Tip” as the standard military rifle round.
While NOT an “Armor Piercing” round, it does very well against barriers, such as car doors, windshields, and thin walls. However, that is not what it was designed for.
Back in the 70s, the military was using the 55 grain M193. This was a bullet built around the M-16 and was a great success. It was designed to yaw & tumble as soon as it hit a soft target; which resulted in great wound tracks and lots of damage. Good for us; bad for the bad guys.
Fast forward to the 80s, and the US Army was adopting the M-249 SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon), which allowed infantry squads to have an organic weapon capable of delivering effect fire well beyond 300 meters. The problem, however, was they were not getting the accuracy at distance that the SAW contract required. Fix? They needed a longer bullet, but without adding much weight. Answer… design a longer bullet; by removing the lead in the front half of the jacket and replacing it with steel (steel is lighter than lead), they were able to keep the weight down to a slight increase to 62 grains. Hence, the birth of the “Green Tip.” Future M-16A2s would be built around this “new” round.
However, the M855 “Green Tip” does not yaw/tumble as well as the old M193, and often would just “ice pick” through bad guys, depending on range to target. It also wasn’t the most accurate bullet available.
Back during one of my last deployments, in Mosul, the Varsity Team was issuing us “Brown Tip” bullets, that had a solid copper/brass slug, similar to Barnes Triple Shock. This stuff was supposed to have awesome terminal performance with the human body and was very accurate. If you fired a 5 shot group; four would be touching and one would be wat two inches out. Crazy right? Well, our snipers figured out, by using a bottle of Witch Hassel from the PX, that if you removed the brown paint they all group perfect. It was the random paint thickness throwing off the random bullet. Back to our story.
Fast forward to 2010ish, and there was a lot of pressure to find a “new” bullet that was “Lead Free.” Bitch if you want, but many military installations are having firing ranges shut down due to too much lead in the berms (leaking into ground water). The current political environment, like them or not, was pushing for cleaner performance. Well, thought the guys at the ammo test lab, let’s check the block and ALSO find a round that performed better in the Human Body. They immediately started looking at the same type of bullets that we were running overseas.
The problem with Expanding bullets is the little Geneva Convention and “Rules of Land Warfare” thing. While we could shoot “terrorists” or a “non-uniformed” enemy with hollow points, in modern warfare you are not supposed to use expanding bullets.
The solution is adding a steel Arrow point to the open cavity. No hollow point, and we still get better barrier penetration. Hence, the birth of the M855A1.
I like this round. It is more accurate. It has a better gun powder, with a flash suppressant (less fire ball). It is built to match the trajectory of the M855, but with the shorter M4s. It penetrates barriers much better. However, the best part and my favorite part… this puppy performs AWESOME inside the human body throughout it’s whole usable trajectory. When it hits tissue, the drag separates the steel tip from the copper tail. The steel arrow point continues straight through (not good for home defense). However, once the steel tip has left, the copper tail now has its open tip exposed, and that puppy expands with massive force, fragmenting in the process. It’s a beautiful thing.

Thanks for watching, TR

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