View Full Version : M16 Rifle Green Tip Bullet Ammunition

Hard Ball
January 26, 2000, 11:56 AM
Does anyone have any information or data on US military 5.56mm (.223) ammunition with green bullet tips? In the context where I heard about it it is supposed to be designed for greatly increased penetration. Green tip bullets in US small arms ammunition used to mean multiple projectile rounds but that would not be consistent with greatly increased penetration.

Jeff White
January 26, 2000, 12:34 PM
Hard Ball,
The ammuntion you are referring to is known as M855 ball ammuntion. The projectile weighs 62 grains and has a steel penetrator that enables it to penetrate the old US steel helmet at ranges out to 600 meters. The round was developed by FN where it was known as SS109. It has been adopted as the NATO standard rifle cartridge. It has a green tip so the troops can tell it from M193 ball which only has a 55 grain projectile. This is important because the projectile in M855 is significantly longer then the M93 projectile. This longer projectile requires a faster twist to stabilize it enough for accurate shooting. The US military still has large quantities of M16A1 rifles in service. These rifles have a 1/12 inch twist rate. This is great for the M193 ammunition but is not a fast enough rate for M855. M855 shoots fine out of 1/9 or faster twist barrels. The M16A2 and the M4 have 1/7 inch twist barrels. This twist was adopted to give acceptable accuracy out of the M856 tracer round.

The M855 will chamber and fire in the M16A1 safely but accuracy is seriously degraded. It is approved for use in the M16A1 only in a combat emergency and it is only accurate to about 100 meters. This is combat accuracy not, benchrest accuracy.

If the US military ever gets all of the M16s and M16A1s out of service they will probably do away with the green tip on the M855 ammo. No other NATO country uses M855 or SS109 with green tips as they changed from 7.62x51 to 5.56x45 and never had large numbers of rifles with the slower twist rate in service.

The BATF has ruled that M855/SS109 ammuntion is not armor piercing and thus legal for civilians to possess.


January 26, 2000, 12:47 PM
Just as a historical note, this is also the ammo that the soldiers complained about during the Somalia fiasco. Unless they scored a heart or head shot, it would take way too many rounds to put the bad guys down. They likened it to shooting someone with an ice pick.

(Info from Mark Bowden's Blackhawk Down)

Gopher a 45
January 26, 2000, 05:42 PM

Is it legal for us civilians because the majority of the bullet is not steel, but still lead/copper? I forget the wording of the BATF rule on the AP subject. Oh, and weren't the complaints in Somalia simply due to the fact that the M855 tends not to upset as much on impact as the old M193? (Trying not to start a "tumbling bullet" thread here)

Jeff White
January 26, 2000, 06:18 PM
I believe that the steel core does not constitute enough of the bullet mass to make "armor piercing" in the eyes of the BATF.

From what I've read about the wound ballistics the M855 is very similar in performance to the old M193. I think the stories related in "Blackhawk Down" (very good book BTW a lot of lessons there) are more the reaction of soldiers seeing their first combat and discovering that there are no "magic bullets" and that people who are shot don't always immediately crumple to the ground like in the movies or on TV. These same type of instances can be found in almost every war since the invention of gunpowder. Many acts of heroism have been performed by soldiers who haven't even realised they are wounded until it's over with. This has been true of soldiers wounded by the "full size" cartridges of WWII (.30, .303, 8mm) and even the devastating 5.45x39 round of the AK74. The plain and simple truth is that there are no magic bullets.


Hard Ball
January 26, 2000, 09:12 PM
I read Tango27s reply just before going to the local library. I picked up a copy of "Black Hawk Down" and read the sections in which the Rangers used this ammunition in street fighting in Somalia. Several of them had extensive combat experience. The rangers repeatedly describe getting 5 or 6 body hits on hostile Somalians with little observable effect and got return fire from the men thay had just shot. If this is now our standard combat rifle cartridge we are in a hell of a lot of trouble!

Gopher a 45
January 26, 2000, 09:25 PM
Now, I don't want to cross over into urban legend here about the "biker on PCP who took a full magazine of 9mm and didn't go down" kind of thing, but is it possibly significant that most of the Somali militiamen were hopped up on khat, the local version of speed, and so might be less prone to go into shock from a hit?

Good book, by the way. Makes you glad they never sent in the ground troops in Kosovo. Probably would have made Mogadishu seem like a gnat bite, though I'm not real happy about we DID do there, mind you.

January 26, 2000, 09:30 PM
I have tried the Isreali green tip ammo which I believe they call M855 and the penetration was incredible. At 100 yrds it went thru 3/4"s solid aluminum block. It also penetrated 3/8"s of cold rolled steel (seperate test). I was even able to recover the little penetrator steel part that did all the work. It just looks like a little cone shaped pellet. Very light too. Amazing what it can do. BTW the accuracy out of my 16" 1in9 twist was great, about one to two inches in total. Funny how when I shoot 68 grainers (only 6 more grns.) I can't even find the bullet holes because they are so unstable due to the twist and barrel length.

Daniel Watters
January 26, 2000, 10:20 PM
The description of the ammo Sgt Howe curses in Blackhawk Down is not quite consistent with the M855. Howe's ammo is described as a 'new' type, yet M855 was standardized in the early '80s and has been used in combat before. It is also said to have a tungsten penetrator while the M855 has a steel penetrator ahead of a lead core. All of this leads me to wonder if Howe and the other Delta troopers were issued trial quantities of what is now type-classified as the M995 AP cartridge.

Jeff White
January 27, 2000, 12:05 AM
That is possible. M995 was type classified in 1986 and the only DODAC for it is for linked rounds to be fired out of the M249 SAW. However Delta could have had anything they wanted. BTW M995 is made in Europe.

I believe M855 was standardized in '82 or '83 when the Marines began receiving the M16A2. The Army didn't begin fielding the M16A2 until '85. The Rangers were one of the first units to receive them so M855 wouldn't have been new to them at all. For most of the Rangers 9average age, early 20s) M16A2s and M855 would have been the only rifle/ammo combo they had ever used. I don't remember Bowden mentioning that a lot of the Rangers had extensive combat experience. With most of them in their early 20's and the last significant engagement the Rangers were involved in being Panama almost four years earlier, I don't think that's likely. Delta on the other hand, had some Vietnam vets plus a lot of experience in the Persian Gulf and many ops that no on talks about.

January 27, 2000, 12:51 AM
i got sum of the green tips and shoot rock with it it's grat.

Sea Bass
January 27, 2000, 01:19 AM
The M855 has an 10 grain tungsten penetrator.
It is legal to own.

January 27, 2000, 12:42 PM
Sorry to get off the subject here.. but this sounds to me like a re-hash of the OLD 223 vs 7.62 discussions in the early 60's

And feel free to correct me if i'm wrong but isn't m855 a 55 grain BALL cartridge.. or is my box of surplus ammo mis-marked???? (or from another country)


PS I'm posting my observations of blackhawk down on the general discussion forum.

Jeff White
January 27, 2000, 02:00 PM
M855 is 62 grain ball ammo. M193 is 55 grain ball ammo. If you have a box of ammo that is marked M855 55 grain it is either mismarked or being sold by someone who is trying to confuse the public and get higher prices for the 55 grain stuff. This is not as uncommon as it might seem. I caught a dealer at a local gun show advertising South African surplus 55 grain ammo as 5.56 NATO. I politely told him that the NATO standard was the 62 grain M855/SS109 and reminded him that South Africa was never a member of NATO and that the ammunition was produced for use in their Galil copy, the R4 which has a 1/12 twist barrel. With IMI M855 going for $299-$310 for 1200 rounds and South African surplus M193 going for $189 for 1200 rounds the price difference is great enough to make a little fraud on the unknowing shooting public a very profitable deal.

As for the wounding debate; 5.56mm ammo violently fragments and the bullet breaks apart when it hits flesh at velocities of 2700 feet per second or higher. M855 out of a 20" M16A2 barrel will only be at that muzzle velocity for about 160 yards. I think in Blackhawk Down the soldier was firing a carbine of some type, probably an early M4 with a 14.5 inch barrel. M855 would have a lot shorter effective range where velocities of 2700 fps or higher were maintained out of that short barrel. This also may have contributed to the soldiers perception that his bullets were not having the desired effect.

Sea Bass
January 27, 2000, 02:02 PM
Dr. Rob...M855 is 62 gr. light armor piercing
M193 is 55 fmj ball. See top post by Jeff, seems to cover the differences well.

January 27, 2000, 03:05 PM

seems i have a mystery box of 223 ammo (no green tip) Nato headstamp and 55 gr. fmj.. (plain jain cardboard, stamped "cartridges cal 5.56mm m855 ball 55g" I'm guessing its m193 in the wrong box.. or the 55g means something else?? Or some DUDE in his basement is cranking out fake cardboards?? Any way I paid like $3 for it so its not like I got ripped off.

Thanks for the info.

SS109 has been hard to find and expensive when its available, (even as component bullets) for less $$ I can get winchester 55 gr sp which is better for coyotes and such anyway.

Futo Inu
January 28, 2000, 10:56 AM
Can one buy just the bullets? If so, where?

January 28, 2000, 11:53 AM
I've seen the component bullets for sale in the shotgun news , in an ad for an outfit that sells a lot of IMI/isreali brass and bullets.Green tipped ss109, when its available is thrice (3x) as expensive (if not more) than 55 grain ball.


January 30, 2000, 10:51 PM
You can buy SS109/M855 62 gr. FMJSCBT bullets from Wideners in Tenn. (www.wideners.com). $40/500 or $68/1000. I was impressed with it's accuracy from my 1:8 twist Armalite (about 1.5" at 100 yards). I didn't do penetration testing.

Wideners also has loaded M855 ammo from IMI, $315 for 1200 rounds, free shipping.


Hard Ball
February 5, 2000, 07:06 PM
It seems that the green bullet tip code has been used to identify two different types of 5.56mm(.223) ammunition, the M885 Ball and the ammunition used by the Rangers in Somalia, This ammunition seems to have been developed by the Army's SLAPS program which was aimed at developing bullets with exteremely high penetration. The two different bullets might demonstrate different effects when used in the anti-personnel role.

Jeff White
February 5, 2000, 09:46 PM
There is only one green tipped 5.56mm ammo in the U.S> inventory...M855 ball. On AR15.com there is an online copy of the Technical Bulletin on small arms ammunition in the book session. It requires adobe acrobat to read. The date on it is the early '90s but it's been updated. In there you will find all of the 5.56 ammo that's been type classified, to include M995 AP (black tip) which wasn't type classified until '96.

What makes you think there are two types in general use?

Hard Ball
February 11, 2000, 10:51 PM
The book "Black Hawk Down" refers to the rangersin Somalia firing "green tip" ammunition whose bullets contain a tungsten penetrator. This does not sound like M855 ball. I am trying to find out whay it might have been.
I have heard it refered to as "M993 type ammunition" and as "SLAPS" projectiles.

Hard Ball

[This message has been edited by Hard Ball (edited February 11, 2000).]

February 12, 2000, 10:02 PM
There are no 5.56mm SLAP rounds, and M995 (the new full tungsten-core 5.56 AP round) was still in development at FN during the hostilities in Somalia.

The Rangers and Delta operators were carrying 10" and 11" XM-177s (CAR-15s), with was their standard rifle until very recently (they now carry M4s). The barrels of these rifles aren't long enough to impart enough velocity to cause either M193 or M855 to fragment. They also are 1:12 twist, which won't stabilize the long SS-109 bullet found in M855 ammuntion at ranges beyond 90m or so.

You might be surprised at how few operators have any understanding of the importance of velocity with regards to their rifles. Too many are still teaching the "tumbling bullet, stabilization is bad" theory of 5.56 ballistics. Those short-barreled XM-177s were sexy, and so the "elite" units carried them, to their peril in some cases.

And now, the OCIW will have a 10" barrel? Yak!


Jeff White
February 13, 2000, 05:31 PM
You're right about M995, but it wasn't even type classified until 1996 I have to correct the date in my earlier post. :) and is only available linked for use in the M249 SAW. M995 has a black tip to ID it. There is a lot of confusion in the military about what the core of M855 consists of. I think Mark Bowden just heard someone say tungsten and jumped on that for the book. I think the confusion is brought about more by a technical inaccuracy in the book then by actual prototype ammo being used.

I wouldn't worry about the OCIW. A prototype blew up a couple of months ago, severely injuring two civilan testers. At $10000 + a copy I don't think we have to worry about turning in our M16s and M4s for them anytime soon. The "big" defense budget increase for 2001 still keeps defense spending 1.6% behind inflation so it's a net loss. The OCIW is nothing more then a rehash of the SPIW program of the '60s. I think until big breakthrough is made in technology we've reached the zenith of military small arms development.

Sea Bass
February 13, 2000, 10:14 PM
Jeff, I read an really good article on the M855 in an older issue of International Defense Review. They did a cutaway of one and examined. It was composed in the middle, a small 10 grain tungsten core.

Hard Ball
February 13, 2000, 10:56 PM
Penetration of hard targrts is effected by projectile velocity and the density and thickness of the target material and the density of the penetrator.
Steel has a density of approximately 9 grams per cc. The tungsten alloy used in high velocity penetrators has a density of approximately 14-15 grams per cc (pure tungsten is denser but it is too brittle). A bullet containing a tungsten alloy penetrator will penetrate more steel than a bullet with a steel core at the same impact velocity.
Depleted uranium (DU) pentrators would work better, but it is hard to imagine a more politjcally incorrect small arms bullet!

[This message has been edited by Hard Ball (edited February 14, 2000).]