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MASTER PO'S

RANGE REPORT

M193/M855/SS109 5.56mm

 


The Story Begins

 

Your Humble Master Po (YHMP) has been researching 5.56mm NATO loads out of pure curiosity for the last few months or so. I took on this project to answer some of the questions I had after buying my AR 15 clone, a PreBan Eagle Arms EA-15.

YHMP will not delve into the checkered past of the 5.56 X 45 mm NATO cartridge other than to say that the U.S government has 2 different ball loads, one NATO spec and one not. The 55 grain M193 ball round was designed for use in the M16 and M16A1 rifles before NATO standardized this round. The 62 grain M855 and its tracer sister M856 duplicates the NATO SS109 specification and is to be used in the M16A2, M4 carbine and M249E1 SAW. M193 can be used in the M16A2 and M4 carbines however is designated as emergency use only (more on this later).

Click here for more information on 5.56mm rounds.

YHMP obtained several samples of SS109 and M855 ball off the surplus market, picked up his AR and made off to wander the range in search for the truth, in himself and his rifle.

Master Po's rifle is an Eagle Arms EA 15, Pre Ban AR15 clone. It has a standard, 20 inch government style (heavy on ends, thin in middle for mounting grenade launcher) chrome lined barrel. The twist in the rifling is 1 turn in 7 inches. It has been internally modified with an Armalite float tube, 1/4 minute sights and Bushmaster CLE competition trigger. This rifle, in this configuration, can shoot 10 shot .75 M.O.A. groups with 69, 75 and 77 grain match bullets, scoped, off the bench. We decided to scope the rifle again and shoot for groups and velocities our various makes of ammunition.

The Ammunition

 

YHMP procured the following NATO ball for testing:

British Aerospace ( Radway Green ) SS109
manufactured 1997. This ammunition had no green tip as all U.S M855 has, however the Brits have never used M193, so no designator between one round or another is needed.
Israeli Military Industries ( TZZ headstamp ) M855
manufactured 1998. Green tip. No surprise, the Israelis have used both 55 grain and Nato rounds and have filled U.S. contracts for ammunition. Bright and shiny in the 30 round boxes.
Selliet and Bellot ( ZV headstamp ) SS109
manufactured 1993. Green tip.
Winchester ( WCC ) M855
manufactured 1988.Green Tip. This stuff was manufactured for the United Arab Emirates and linked for that country's H&K belt-fed MG's. The ammunition was delinked, the 1 in 4 tracers removed and sold on the surplus market by Lew Horton and others.
Lake City ( LC ) M855
manufactured 1994. Green tip. This came in a bandolier of 120 rounds, 30 rounds, on 10 shot stripper clips, in 4 pouches. A speed stripper came included to load ammunition in 30 round magazines.

YHMP also included in this test some M193:

Lake City ( LC ) M193
manufactured 1992. Although 55 grain it sported a NATO "circle cross" on the headstamp. Purchased on 10 shot stripper clips.
Lake City ( LC ) M193
manufactured 1970. Vietnam wartime production, this came with the 1992 M193.
UMC ( R-P ) 55 grain FMJ.
Not military ammo, but used as a control round.

At The Range...

 

YHMP gathered his range bag full of rifle, ammo, targets, stapler, incense and gongs and drove humbly to the range. Due to logistics, accuracy and velocity tests were done on separate days. Reliability was watched at all times.

Both shooting days were nearly identical weatherwise, 40 degrees, no wind and sunny. All shooting was done off a bench at NRA reduced SR-1 repair centers at 100 yards. YHMP wasn't at his best either day, but was able to hold his handload groups within 1 inch at 100 yards with the scoped test rifle. the Chronograph used was a CHRONY F2 with shots measured 10 feet from muzzle.

The Results

Radway Green ( RG 97 ) ss109

Accuracy ( 10 shot groups )
Smallest group was 4.058 inches with 1 called flyer. 2.606 inches with flyer removed. 5 shots in group went into .926 inches.

Performance ( 10 shot strings )
Low Velocity - 3086fps
High Velocity - 3165 fps
Average - 3122 fps
Extreme Spread - 79.12 fps
Standard Deviation - 28.67

Reliability
20 percent of test rounds during accuracy testing short cycled. During velocity tests had numerous failures to feed with 2 separate 20 round magazines. Rifle and magazines functioned flawlessly with all other loads during testing.

Comments
YHMP once heard that the British Army was the best disciplined and worst equiped of the NATO armies. Their SS109 represents that remark. None of the examined RG had much of a crimp holding the bullets into their cases. Primers were flush to the case head, flattened with outlines of the primer anvil crushed into the cup. The RG SS109 was the fastest of all the NATO loads sampled but the most unreliable. I hope this was a bad lot that made it to the states because the thought of British servicemen carrying this in L85's in a hotspot like Northern Ireland or Bosnia is scary.

IMI ( TZZ 98 )

Accuracy ( 10 shot groups )
Smallest group was 3.989 inches. It took 5 tries to get this small of a group.

Performance ( 10 shot strings )
Low Velocity - 3025fps
High Velocity - 3107 fps
Average - 3070 fps
Extreme Spread - 82.35 fps
Standard Deviation - 22.89

Reliability 100% feed, fire and function.

Comments Ammunition came in brown 30 round boxes loose. Bullets well crimped, primers nickel plated and crimped into pocket. While the cleanest M855 we had, it quickly reminded us that all that glitters is not gold. Most of our groups ran 4.5 to 5 inches at 100 yards with this ammo. The IMI M855 was the worst shooting, accuracy wise, of all the loads (NATO and M193) tested.

Selliet and Bellot ( ZV 93 ) ss109

Accuracy ( 10 shot groups )
Smallest group was 2.060 inches. 5 shots in group went into .661 inches.

Performance ( 10 shot strings )
Low Velocity - 3070fps
High Velocity - 3127 fps
Average - 3090 fps
Extreme Spread - 57.12 fps
Standard Deviation - 19.02

Reliability 100% feed, fire and function.

Comments Despite it's Warsaw Pact history and nonmembership in the NATO alliance this Czech ammuniton outshot all SS109/M855 tested. The primers were flattened in the crimped pockets but didn't appear to affect performance or accuracy.

Winchester ( WCC 88 ) M855

Accuracy ( 10 shot groups )
Smallest group was 2.338 inches. 5 shots in group went into 1.134 inches.

Performance ( 10 shot strings )
Low Velocity - 3027fps
High Velocity - 3097 fps
Average - 3053 fps
Extreme Spread - 69.74 fps
Standard Deviation - 21.54

Reliability While 100% feed, fire and function during testing YHMP had about 3 pr 4 fail to fire in the 500 rounds he bought and used for reduced course matches. All showed good primer hits and evidence that the primer did ignite.

CommentsAll rounds showed a good crimp on the bullet and primer. No circle Cross on the headstamp.Although packed loose and in multiple lots this ammo shot well. This was the only bulk purchase of M855 made and failure rate was less than 1 percent.

Lake City AAP ( LC 94 ) M855

Accuracy ( 10 shot groups )
Smallest group was 2.529 inches. 5 shots in group went into .771 inches.

Performance ( 10 shot strings )
Low Velocity - 2978 fps
High Velocity - 3067 fps
Average - 3028 fps
Extreme Spread - 89 fps
Standard Deviation - 29.98

Reliability
100% feed, fire and function.

Comments
YHMP would rate this about middle of the road in performance overall. While groups were okay, Extreme spread and SD were below that of IMI and RG.

M193 Tests

These tests were more informal. Only 3 samples were used. No formal velocity tests were done on any 55 grain loads. The M193 loads were basically used as a " then and now " comparison of Wartime vs. Peacetime production. The UMC was used as a control to compare civilian production to military.

Lake City AAP ( LC 92 ) M193

Accuracy ( 10 shot groups )
Smallest group 2.246 inches. All shots evenly spaced within the group.

Lake City AAP ( LC 70 ) M193

Accuracy ( 10 shot groups )
Smallest group 4.236 inches.

UMC ( R- P ) 55 grain FMJ

Accuracy ( 10 shot groups )
Smallest group 1.833 inches. 5 shots going into .676 inches.

Comments
The M193 and 55 grain FMJ samples shot well through an A2 configuration rifle, with newer production M193 grouping better on paper than many of the NATO loads. Both the LC 70 and UMC were made by Remington and the LC 92 made by Olin, who has had the operating contract for Lake City AAP since 1986. Tests clearly show that M193 production has come a long way in nearly 30 years.

 

Wrapping up

 

While these tests weren't of lab science quality, they are offered as the work of a humble monk in the search for knowledge. On a better day, YHMP could probably reduce the groups by 25 percent. A good match rifle may reduce the groups by half or more.

All M855 and SS109 shot to the same point of impact. All M193 shot 5 inches higher than the M855/SS109 tested. The UMC shot to the same point of impact as the M855/SS109. With the exception of the RG 97 samples, all average velocities were within 60 fps of all other NATO samples. Accuracy was good with all samples except the IMI.

The loads that stand out surprised me. Overall best shooting was the UMC 55 grain FMJ. Second place goes to the Selliet and Bellot SS109. I wouldn't rely on Radway Green to save my life, literally. If I was shooting at Palestinians at rock-throwing distances, the Israeli IMI would work.

YHMP has heard several rumors that Lake City AAP has had problems with M855 quality control and is continuing M193 production for use in the M16A2 until QC problems are resolved. While YHMP cannot vouch for this, M193 is still in production to my knowledge at Lake City AAP, presumably for the numerous M16A1's that are still in use. It has been issued for use in M16A2's at the Small Arms Firing School ( SAFS ) at Camp Perry for the last 2 years. Recent production M193 show a NATO circle cross on the headstamp despite it not being NATO spec.

One of the common beliefs is that 55 grain bullets overspin in the A2 barrel due to the faster rifling twist and increased velocity of the M193 load. This overspin is supposed to destabilize the bullet in flight. While YHMP has seen match and varmint bullets come apart at fast speeds in 1X7 barrels the 55 grain FMJ proves to work well in the A2. At the SAFS in 1997 and 1998, M16A2's were used at 200 and 300 yards shooting M193 ball. In the pits, all holes were nice and round, without any destabilization noted. The targets used for the SAFS were Army silhouette targets, but some groups were shot on these that would have cleaned an NRA target at each respective distance, All this with stock M16's and 'substandard' ball ammunition. While heavier bullets do work better in faster twist barrels I cannot say that YHMP cannot take his classification with 55 grain ball at the short distances.

While the bulk of my work is done, YHMP is still working on this project, with ammunition 'autopsies' and photos coming soon coming soon. Also, YHMP is looking for more samples of S109/M855 ammuniton for testing. Any information not included in this page can be obtained by dropping a line to Master Po and I'll answer anything you want to know. Also, anyone who can confirm/deny the QC problems at Lake City please drop me a line so I can set the record straight. Same goes for anyone who can ship me a small quantity of any manufacture M855/SS109 I have given a thumb's down on. Like I said, this is an ongoing project and the more knowledge Master Po can learn the better.

 

UPDATE:In mid 1999 it was announced that Alliant Techsystems had been awarded the contract to operate the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant. Details of cutbacks and/or layoffs weren't available. Rumors of a possible shutdown of LCAAP have been running rampant and at this time cannot be confirmed. Alliant Techsystems was awarded the contract to operate the Sunflower Army ammuntion plant in Desoto, Kansas and was instrumental in it's shutdown. This plant in its last days made propellants for artillery.

Master Po has secured a source of SS109 ammunition manufactured by FN. At this time YHMP's rifle is having work performed to it and will test said ammo when it returns.

 

5.56mm loads

from U.S. Army Small Arms Ammunition Data Sheets

 

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