The M855A1 has seen a lot of scuttlebutt get kicked around since its inception.
The Army has spent millions of dollars to create a round that can penetrate steel at 300 meters.
Seems like the M855A1 failed to do so.
The M855A1 failed to penetrate the ceramic body armor that was tested against the new cartridge. The new cartridge was supposed to be a great advancement to soldiers and Marines on the ground, however cost versus benefit does not seem to boost this enhanced performance round’s appeal. The new bullet is made of a steel tip followed by a copper core. The cartridge also comes with a new lead-free primer and an enhanced burning powder that allows for a cleaner bore after firing.
In this test, the M855A1 enhanced penetrator round failed to penetrate the ceramic body armor and failed to do so even after two attempts with two different barrels. A 16 and 20 inch barrel were tested. Marines and soldiers both the saw great success with M855 Green tip cartridge out of the 16 inch and 24 inch barrels. The M855 proved that copper jacketed and lead core 556 rounds were still effective, however the government feels that the lead poses an environmental risk to ground soil and water.
According to American Rifleman, they did some extensive testing and noted that while the cartridge did penetrate some steel barriers, it did not greatly impact the numbers for armor penetrating capabilities. SS109/M855 NATO ball can penetrate up to 0.12 in of steel at roughly 650 yards. According to Nammo, a Norwegian ammunition producer, the 5.56×45mm NATO M995 armor piercing cartridge can penetrate up to 12 mm (0.47 in) of RHA steel at 100 meters.
Since now we have seen the M855A1 fail to penetrate body armor, we can gather that the bullet might not be favorable by the troops on the ground. Perhaps the Army will continue to test and refine the round while still trying to meet the government’s environmental strategies.
Stay vigilant, keep training, and save your M855 green tips if you have them.