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When did the military start using M855?

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I was chatting with an Army verteran of Desert Storm at a dinner party tonight.

I mentioned what I had read about M193 "exploding" upon transitioning to a different medium (from air to human body, for example).

He sort of smirked and said "you don't REALLY think that's what happens, do you"....?

Turns out he had retrieved some bullets from bodies in Iraq, and they were pretty much wholly intact.

I was a little taken aback, before I considered he might be talking about M855 (steel core) as opposed to M193 (lead).

Does anyone happen to know what was in general use during the first war in Iraq?


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The M855 round came into play with the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (the FN Minimi). It was later adopted for use in the M16A2 with the new 1-7 twist (the M16A1 was 1-12 twist).

The M193 has better wounding potential under almost all circumstances, but it's not perfect. Neither M193 nor M855 fragment reliably when the velocity drops below 2700 fps, and even at close range there will be cases where they just don't fragment. It happens. No projectile will function the same way under all circumstances all the time.

Fragmentation is not an "explosion" and it does not occur because of any change in medium directly. What happens is when the bullet hits tissue and slows rapidly, the heavier rear portion has enough momentum to "overtake" the lighter front end. This is called "yaw," and sometimes referred to as "tumbling." If it happens at high enough speed to cause enough stress, the bullet will break as it turns sideways and fragment into multiple pieces. When this happens, it creates a much bigger permament wound than even an expanded hollowpoint, assuming it still retains enough momentum to continue penetrating for a while.

If the bullet is going too slowly when it hits, it tends to pass through leaving a .22 caliber hole.

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Fragmentation is not an "explosion" and it does not occur because of any change in medium directly.

Nicely clarified.

I put in quotes, to indicate I didn't mean explosion as in dynamite.

I knew what I meant, but I should have said it differently.

Thanks for the reply.


P.S. Anyone happen to know the exact date of M855's adoption, or have anecdotal evidence? Like "we had them in '87 when I was in".

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v 1: cause to explode; "We exploded the nuclear bomb" [syn: detonate, blow up, set off] 2: burst outward, usually with noise; "The champagne bottle exploded" [syn: burst] [ant: implode] 3: show a violent emotional reaction; "The boss exploded when he heard of the resignation of the secretary" 4: be unleashed; burst forth with violence or noise; "His anger exploded" [syn: burst forth, break loose] 5: destroy by exploding; "The enemy exploded the bridge" 6: cause to burst as a result of air pressure; of stop consonants like /p/, /t/, and /k/ 7: drive from the stage by noisy disapproval 8: show (a theory or claim) to be baseless, or refute and make obsolete 9: increase rapidly and in an uncontrolled manner; "The population of India is exploding"; "The island's rodent population irrupted" [syn: irrupt]

Source: WordNet ® 2.0, © 2003 Princeton University

Entry:  explode

Part of Speech:  verb

Definition:  blow up

Synonyms:  backfire, blast, blaze, blooey, blow out, break out, burst, collapse, convulse, detonate, discharge, erupt, flame up, flare up, fracture, go blooey, go off, jet, kablooey, let go, mushroom, rupture, set off, shatter, shiver, split, thunder, va-voom

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heh ... I wasn't trying to be harsh on the nomenclature! Sorry about that!

Now ... I will get testy on the use of "detonation." Detonation is an explosion where the pressure wave is supersonic. A non-supersonic explosion is a "deflagration." You may thank my former life as a combustion nerd for that bit of irritating trivia.

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SS109 was standardized by NATO in October 1980 and the U.S. designated it the XM855. I don't know when the dropped the X and type classified it was M855.

The M249 SAW was officially adopted by the U.S. in February 1982, and it was to be used with M855 ammo. M855 was in use in Iraq I, at least in SAWs.

As to when M855 was first issued for use in rifles, good luck. It probably was only issued to units with M16A2s.

And as for somebody retrieving bullets from bodies, well, I'll assume he was a surgeon. :(

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As a member of 1st Ranger Bn., we were one of the first units in the Army to change over from M16A1s tp A2s (the USMC already had them). This was late'86. I was assigned to carry a carbine(we refered to them as CAR-15's then). The A2 versions hadn't arrived yet so we still had the old ones while still being issued the ammo for the A2, M855. Out of a 14.5" barrel with 1/12 rifling, the M855 would often keyhole a target at only 25m.

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i think the new ss109 is not designed to tumble much. using a 1/12 rifling, the round cant be stablilized thus the keyholing and miserable accuracy.

for the 55 grain round to be stabilized you need a 1/12 twist.

for higher weight rounds like ss109 you need a 1/7 twist which th m4 and the a2 have. this twist will also not stabilize the old 55 grain round.

but if you want to shoot both get a 1/9 twist

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