M855A1: Beyond the Hype And the Hate

M855A1 (one)

Many articles have been written about M855A1 since the US Army first announced plans to adopt a new “green” 5.56x45mm cartridge to replace M855. Often, those articles have been highly speculative or have referenced results from earlier versions of the M855A1 cartridge, before it was fielded widely. There has been a reflexive tendency to look poorly on the new cartridge because of its supposedly environmentally friendly design. It is popular to denigrate anything labeled “green” as being inferior to the original flavor, non-filter, leaded, trans fat version, but that is not always accurate. “Electric car” sounds like some sort of weak, hippie nonsense, but a Tesla Model S can do 0-60 mph in 2.8 seconds. As the ammunition filters out into the public, and independent testers get hold of it, some remarkable results are coming to light.

This test used a chrome lined, 14.5”, 1:7” twist barrel to match the M4 barrel that this round will be fired through most commonly in combat. The most immediately apparent result is the almost complete absence of a neck. Typically, when a projectile enters tissue, it travels some distance before it begins to yaw, expand, or fragment. This leaves a relatively narrow wound channel visible in the gel before the upset begins and this narrow portion is referred to as the “neck”. M855 is notorious for having erratic performance in this regard, with the neck sometimes being somewhat reasonable (4”-5”) and sometimes being so long that the projectile is likely to exit a target before beginning to upset. This erratic performance is due to a variety of factors including muzzle velocity and in-flight projectile yaw, but the end result is that it can sometimes produce the ice pick wounds that we often hear of anecdotally. The extremely short neck exhibited by M855A1 in this test is very encouraging in that it seems to indicate M855A1 is more able to reliably produce incapacitating wounds than M855.

The question that remains is how M855A1 performs out of short barrels or at longer range. Does it continue to produce an extremely short neck at lower velocity?

The answer appears to be “yes”. It retains the practically nonexistent neck seen in the longer barrel test. This gives us a peek into what the performance could be at about 100 yards. It is important to remember that it is a sample size of one, so it is by no means conclusive. It does present a rough idea of what we could expect, though. As mentioned above, M855 can perform adequately at close range, but as distance increases and velocity decreases, fragmentation occurs deeper in the target, if at all. As velocity decreases beyond 2,700 fps or so, fragmentation may not occur at all. The fact that M855A1 was able to fragment almost instantly, even when fired from a short barrel is very encouraging.

M855A1 (two)

As good as the performance in tissue looks, it is irrelevant if the projectile cannot even make it to the tissue because of intervening obstacles. M855 was adopted in part for its ability to penetrate Warsaw Pact steel helmets at 800 meters. M193, which was replaced by M855 can penetrate level III steel body armor, when fired from a 20” barrel at 50 feet or less, due to its relatively high velocity. M855 typically cannot penetrate that same armor. M855A1 has an exposed steel penetrator that is pointier and about twice the weight of M855’s penetrator, so it looks as though it was designed with penetration in mind, but how does it actually perform?

The test does show that M855A1 can penetrate steel armor, but it isn’t quite that simple. The armor used in this test is not just level III, but an improved version the manufacturer refers to as level III+. The plate used in the test stopped M193 in a previous test so M855A1 is seen here penetrating a plate that neither M855 nor M193 could penetrate. This does not mean that this armor is inferior in any way, it simply means that M855A1 is significantly better at penetrating hard barriers than its predecessor.

M855A1 might be considered “green” because of its lead free design, but it appears to be a dramatic performance improvement over M855. Rather than compromise performance for the sake of environmentalism, as some critics have claimed, it seems very likely that the Army used the political desire for environmentally friendly ammunition to develop and field a more effective replacement for M855. Time will tell, but it appears that American soldiers finally have a better small arms cartridge.

L-3 Eotech Settlement over Fraud.

SoldierSystems.net posted up details on the settlement between L-3 and the US Government over problems with Eotech optics.

Read SoldierSystems article here.

Some of the important notes are that Eotech knew about issues back even in 2006.  Various issues include changing zeros in temperature shifts, parallax error in cold temperatures, moisture entering sights and dimming them.  Also that Eotech knew of these issues and did not disclose them to the government.

What Does “DRT” Stand For?


According to the manufacturer, it stands for “Dynamic Research Technologies” but the acronym more popularly stands for “Dead Right There”. Of course, this is no accident, the makers obviously want people to make that connection, but testing indicates that perhaps “Don’t Rightly Trust” or “Didn’t Really Test” may be more accurate names for this snake oil. Like many other gimmick ammo makers, DRT seems to be either unaware of the currently accepted and FBI recommended 12” minimum penetration standard or they just arrogantly ignore it.

As with previous tests of DRT, this 10mm version of their fragmenting pistol ammunition performed exactly as advertised. Unfortunately, the penetration is far too shallow to reliably reach vital organs. Invariably, the response to this criticism is that an average chest is only 8”-10” thick and the heart is less than 6” deep, even in a very large person, so 7” of penetration should be more than enough to reach the heart. The problem is that if you shoot a person in the middle of the chest who is standing motionless with their arms at their sides, that’s called “murder”. It may surprise some people to find that bad guys actually prefer not to be shot and they tend to move and shoot back at you when presented with the option. In doing so, that puts their arms out in front of their torso and that means that a bullet is very likely to strike a limb before impacting the torso. The fact that both parties to a gun fight are likely to me moving, ducking, perhaps even kneeling or prone on the floor also means that bullets tend to hit the torso at odd angles. If a bullet has to traverse diagonally through 6” of arm before even reaching the torso and on top of that, strikes the torso at an oblique angle, 12” of penetration might not even be enough, but it usually is enough, which is why that is the minimum standard. DRT can make an ugly wound, but it should not be trusted for defense.

Inland MFG 1911A1 Review Part 1


By now you  have probably seen my part one review of the Inland MFG  M1 carbine and know that the new Inland is making a niche for itself in the market for making WW2 reproductions or “re-issues.”  A few weeks ago I  got another gun from them. This time a 1911A1. It, like the M1, is aimed at the WW2 look and it does it very good and very close with one exception that no doubt will probably cause some panty twisting among people who think they know a lot about 1911s. But we will get to that in a bit.

The Inland  ‘A1 is obvious as to what it is and what it is meant to appeal to.  As soon as  it came in me and my friend,the FFL to which it was shipped for me,  were impressed.  The FFL immediately asking me if it was possible to buy the writers demo.  As the pictures show, it is a nice representation of the originals.

Continue reading Inland MFG 1911A1 Review Part 1

A Look At Buying Military Bolt Action Rifles PART 1

Many of the military rifles that end of in shooters hands are a little bit above  wall hangers said to be good shooters, but often  come with defects that make them inaccurate at best or dangerous to use at the worst. Others can be functional and fine as well as perfectly safe but have features that make them a real pain to use and feel terrible with hard to use sights or controls.

Beyond the rifles basic condition of looks some military rifles have problems that make them a lot less than desirable from a practical shooting stand point. Even though the rifles came from the world’s leading military powers at the time, the rifles can often have metallurgical or design flaws in rifles from certain time ranges of their production runs.   Low number M1903s and certain Krags being an example. Not to mention some are just bad ideas that came misguided military thinking. On top of that are rifles that can not be fired for lack of the now very rare ammo it takes to feed them.

When buying a surplus military rifle from a FFL or gun show the first thing you  should do is look at the bore. If possible by pulling the bolt and pointing the muzzle at a bright light. Do not let the fact that the bore is nice and shiny trick you. Do to the magic of abrasives, many pitted bores have been brought to fool the unknowing.   Look at the lands. It is the appearance of the lands that tells the tale when it comes to the  condition of the bore. They will be flat on top and nice and sharp at their upper and lower corners. Other than that, slugging a bore will tell you of the barrel is within spec or has been polished with abrasives to hone its appearance for casual inspection from possible buyers.

A shot out barrel with make the gun inaccurate and near useless though very rarely make the gun unsafe to shoot. head-space on the other hand is another matter,  Usually the result of a large chamber from wear or sloppy manufacture. Military rifles often have large chambers for reasons of function, but a rifle that will swallow a No-Go or filed gauge is not normal and is something you are risking harm with.  Another issue are triggers.  Usually military rifle triggers and very heavy but reliable. They can be effectively used with practice.   Some however had sear let off that was all over the board and could not be counted on to work the same way twice. Miss matched parts, worn  sear interface or problems with the cocking piece  or bolt.

Following are some of the more common military rifles found on the market popular with shooters and some of the issues to watch out for.


The springfield M1903 has a history of manufacture that is recounted in enough places and books to make the head swim so I am not going to go into it here. High on the list is the well known issue with heat treatment on the early production of the M1903.  The poorly done heat treatment left the receivers brittle  and failures of the parts when in use.  Sometimes shattering or breaking when tapped slightly by a metal rod.  The problem is encountered in rifles numbered below  800,000. these rifles are very suspect and it is not worth the risk of shooting, Some may have been treated in a way to make them safe, but there is no way to tell and best to not be fired.  The same problem exists with the rifles produced by Rock Island below 285,507. Most of these low numbered springfields were taken out of service a long time ago but they do show up at gun stores and gun shows, I have seen one turn up and a large show and a guns show in the past 10 years with both sellers having no idea ( or pretending not to know) the guns are unsafe to shoot no matter how good they looked. There is also a largish number of these rifles that were turned into “sporters” during years past and they should not be fired no matter how lucky the owner of the rifle may have been with it.

Another problem with the M1903 is the two piece firing pin which tends to break in a way that the tip protrudes from the bolt face. This condition can cause a primer to fire before the bolt lugs have engaged and lock the bolt into battery. An after market one piece firing pin can be bought to cure this issue easily.  One design issue I have rarely hear mentioned is the knurled bolt knob.  It should never be used to lower  by hand to decock the gun on a loaded chamber  This allows the firing pin to rest against the primer creating the risk of a discharge, Most custom gunsmith would remove this when making a custom sporter rifle from the ’03.


the M1917 Enfield rifle another popular rifle based on the British 1914 originally in .303 caliber, the rifle was chambered in 30.06 and issued to US troops to supplement and ended up being the rifle more widely issued during WW1.  While it is ugly in some eyes. The large rear sight protecting hoods and the dog legged bolt being the biggest eye sore to some, the rifle is very tough and strong with some being chambered in large dangerous game cartridges. Many found in modern times will show very heavy use with badly worn bores.  Usually the rifles with gun bores will out shoot the over rated M1903. The rear peep sight is much easier to use and is faster to use in fast combat conditions.  The rear peep is a great aid to those whose eye sight is less than perfect.


the Type 99 Arisaka is the most under appreciate military bolt action rifle out there.   Very strong and tough, PO Ackley’s destructive testing found the Type 99 to be the strongest military bolt action of them all. The 99 features a very strange but effective safety that requires you to press and turn with the palm to engage and disengage. While it sounds strange, with a few tries it very easy to get the hang of and is faster than some other safeties from the time.  The stock looks like a reject 2×4 from the local drunken saw mill operator with what appears to be a crack in the stock.  The “crack” was done one purpose and make the butt stock two piece and very strong in a clever design.  Many like to joke about the rear sight that folds and has wings that fold out for hitting moving aircraft.  The rear is very good in my opinion other than the  useless anti aircraft side folding features.   While it is further forward than a good rear peep, it does have a aperture rear sight that is large and fast to use, For further shots, you can fold it up in the ladder style like the M1903 with a smaller peep and markings for range.   The 7.7 Jap rounds is in the same power range as the 303 Brit round and can give fine results when hand-loaded with match .311 bullets,.   Price for factory ammo can run extreme or hand-loading.  Original ammo is pretty much collector stuff and very pricey.   One great feature on the Type 99 is the chrome lined bore. The finish is often rough with tool marks  but it can be very well done and beautiful.   In this case looks can fool you because if the Arisaka is in good condition , it is one of the best shooting military rifles.