Defense Media Network

U.S. Army Touts M855A1 Round Performance

'Close to' a 7.62

U.S. Army representatives have credited the new 5.56mm M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round with combat performance capabilities “close to” those of a 7.62mm.

5.56mm M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round

Hard Target Performance, M855 versus M855A1. U.S. Army graphic

The characterization came during an April 26th hearing on “FY 2014 Army Modernization Programs” before the House Armed Services Committee Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee. During questioning by Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.), a retired U.S. Army colonel with multiple combat tours, the topic shifted to the Army’s Individual Carbine (IC) program and related ammunition.

Gibson sought assurances that Army non commissioned officers were engaged in the current IC evaluations, as well as “a commitment to ‘match ammo’ [for] whatever Individual Carbine that we decide.”

“Sir, I can assure you that our soldiers are absolutely involved in the process,” replied Lt. Gen. William Phillips, Military Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. “And through our PEO Soldier, and our PM within that organization who is running this, they are making sure that they have a holistic review of all the potential weapons that could be the next Individual Carbine. We take that competition very seriously. The Army is still considering ‘the way forward’ with the Individual Carbine as we look and analyze what industry could potentially provide. So, sir, there’s more to come on the final decision.”

5.56mm M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round

Comparison Chart: M855 and M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round. U.S. Army graphic

Asked for any additional comments on ‘the match ammunition that would go with whatever decision is made,” Phillips responded, “I’m not exactly sure what you mean by that, but I could add this comment: We have the M855A1 – essentially a brand new 5.56 [mm] ammunition that we currently use. It is ‘in the fight’ today in Afghanistan. It provides incredible increased lethality over the normal [M]855 round. And the amount of lethality that it provides gets it very close to 7.62 in terms of capability.”

“Since the early days of the Iraq War, when you used to hear about ‘through and throughs’ and they would pull the trigger and someone would fall down, or not fall down and keep coming – with this round that essentially stops. When you hit someone with this round they essentially go down. And the feedback we get from our soldiers, time and time again in combat, using this new round, is exactly that. It’s providing great lethality for our soldiers and our squads on the ground.”


Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...

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    li class="comment odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-180565">
    Bob Coleman

    Very vague. No max effective range info, which is the main criticism of 5.56. The Taliban have learned to engage beyond 750 meters to stay outside the 5.56 envelope. That’s why we are reissuing 7.62 M14’s to non-school trained “designated snipers” in units.

    Not a lot of useful info here… so we’ll just have to see. Personally, I don’t buy it.

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-205121">
    John Patterson

    Is this ballistic powder the kind that fouls the gun? Army get smart retool the M14 production line send rounds down range over 1,000 yards accurate fire powder. I wept when they took away our M14’s the M16’s all malfunctioned and people died cursing their gun. This carbine replacement test is skewed to fail all, they want to save $$ due to cutback limits. Is there a honest man in the Kingdom?

    li class="comment byuser comment-author-chuck-oldham odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-205239">

    The individual replacement program is a dead duck. It was canceled this month. With the budget cuts, it was part of the low-hanging fruit, easy to cancel. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the M14 is back in a couple of different variants, as the M21 and M25, needed for some of the longer range engagements in Afghanistan.

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-205304">

    DoD couldn’t produce new M14s if they wanted to. All of the production equipment was MAPed to Taiwan when the Springfield Armory closed. It is just as well. Although it has performed admirably as a stop-gap DMR over the last few years, the fact is that the M14 is woefully obsolete. I wonder if Joe will ever see a replacement (i.e. the M110C) standardized in the rifle platoon MTOE.
    PS. Congressman Gibson was my company commander when I was a young trooper. He’s a stand up guy. I still don’t quite understand how he can stomach working with his colleagues on The Hill.

    li class="comment byuser comment-author-chuck-oldham odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-205371">

    The reason the Army isn’t touting the maximum effective range is because it hasn’t changed. It’s the same as the previous round.

    li class="comment byuser comment-author-chuck-oldham even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-205372">

    I’m afraid we’re not going to see a new round, or a new service rifle, for a while.

    li class="comment odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-207119">

    Of course you will NEVER see a replacement for the M16/M4 series weapons. Unfortunately, politics play a HUGE part with the colt lobby crying against a replacement. Look what they had done with the SCAR-L….its sad really, when the AK47 series weapons out perform our much touted weapons. And its really sad when we equip countries like Iraq and Afghanistan with our pathetic excuses for weapons and ammo.

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    Bob Coleman

    The M16/4 and the AK-47 are not really competitors. They are totally different animals. The M16/4 is made of machined parts. The spec has very low toerances. That is why the M16/4 requires more TLC. The precision parts are less forgiving of dirt, sand, and slow burning propellents which result in various types of “gunk”. But their accuracy is much better than an AK as a result.

    The AK is made from less precise stamped parts. As a result, they fit with less precision and are more forgiving of dirt, dust, and incomplete combustion of powder. They accept “gunk” more easily. But, as a result, they are less accurate.

    Look at the selector switches on both weapons. The M16/4 goes SAFE-SEMI-AUTO… it is a precision fire weapon that has a full auto capability. The AK selector switch goes SAFE-AUTO-SEMI. It is a “spray and pray” weapon that has the ability to fire semi-auto.

    They are as different as night and day. They were designed with different missions in mind.

    li class="comment byuser comment-author-chuck-oldham odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-207728">

    They were designed with different users in mind as well, and reflect a Russian design philosophy that leans toward the…agricultural. From massively powerful radars using tubes (valves) instead of transistors, to the exposed rivets on the MiG-25 that so shocked Western aerospace experts, to their early tank designs, things were made as simple and unbreakable as possible, with the knowledge that their weapons were going to be employed by conscripts with the barest level of training acceptable as well as “soldiers” of client states that would be completely untrained in the care and employment of an assault rifle.

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-209527">
    Rodney Thilliampalam

    I find both Bob Coleman’s comments, and the Editor’s somewhat naive. As far as I know, the AK was designed to be used by a Soldier for use against an enemy force. That’s pretty much the same as what a M4/M16 is designed to do. How are they not competitors?
    As for the M4/M16 being more accurate, that is only true when the gun is working. Any grunt will tell you that a rifle/carbine that is firing has a much greater probability of hitting a target than one that is down due to a jam. Low tech and low tolerances aren’t necessarily bad things if they keep you in the fight.
    The fact is the M4/M16 has an inherent flaw in their design that many manufacturers, like H&K in their HK416, have provided similar solutons. It is to change the gas operating system to one that is closer to the AK in design.
    As to the level of training required to operate the weapons, I remember watching a video on YouTube of highly trained US Marines coming under attack by the Taliban in Afghanistan. It was from a helmet mounted camera. In the brief firefight, the Marine’s M4 jammed twice. He spent practically half the time trying to clear the jams instead of returning fire. And guess what? He sprayed and prayed between jams on the M4.

    li class="comment byuser comment-author-chuck-oldham odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-209654">


    Thank you. I haven’t been called naive in a while. It’s like being pleasantly surprised upon getting carded. All military weapons are designed to be used by a soldier against an enemy. The M16 family and the AK-47 are both iconic weapons, and as expressions of two widely divergent design and employment philosophies, could certainly be considered competitors. As I wrote before, the AK-47, while a response to the German MP 43/44, was built to looser tolerances quite deliberately. It was meant to be robust and reliable, and was built at a time when a soldier of the USSR had by our standards very minimal training. Even after the war, a conscript’s term of service was so short that every technology was dumbed down to the extent that was humanly possible. The philosophy in the U.S. military, even before the all-volunteer armed forces, was that our training is superior and therefore everyone thought the meticulous cleaning that would be required for the direct gas impingement system on the M16 would not be a problem. The fact is that there were so many separate issues, from the powder used in the cartridges to having unchromed chambers and bores, and it seems that issues remain.

    You’re far from alone in thinking that direct gas impingement is not as good a gas operating system as a gas piston system. People have been criticizing the M16/M4 on this issue for decades, with especially fierce criticism returning after Wanat.

    But as you can read from Scott Gourley’s recent stories on this site, it’s a moot point, because the Individual Carbine replacement program is dead as a doornail. The Army says none of the eight competitors passed Phase Two of the testing, which focused in part on reliability and price. The details of that testing haven’t yet been released.