.40 S&W for USCG


#1

Some years ago the US Coast Guard selected the .40 Smith & Wesson calibre to replace 9mm in their handguns. Up to now they have used commercial ammo, but they have now established their own specifications.

Federal has been awarded the contract to supply the MK309 Mod 0 Ball and MK308 Mod 0 JHP (both 155 grains). They are currently looking for suppliers of a frangible loading with a bullet of 115 grains.


#2

USCG works on small arms and ammunition projects at NSWC-Crane IN. At one time they had several people there, I don’t know if they still do. I’m not sure why they didn’t continue using .40 S&W COTS ammunition, as it’s fairly complicated and expensive to type-classify a new round.

Regarding the hollow-point version, the Coast Guard is considered as being more of a law enforcement branch than military, as it operates mainly in domestic waters, thus the Hague Convention protocols on expanding bullets do not apply. Numerous more recent actions of the military seem to be rendering Hague less of a restriction on military ammunition than it once was.


#3

The US military lawyers have tended to take the line “if the military really needs this, how can we justify it?” whereas the British and Europeans stick to the letter of Hague. Damn silly IMO but that’s the way it is.


#4

The JAG opinion I read was pretty specific. Irregulars (Terrorists, pirates, etc. - those that form armies large or small that do not wear uniforms, basically) are not soldiers, and therefore do not come under the restrictions of the Haque convention as to the use of HP projectiles. (I haven’t read this for years, so I am not even paraphrasing here - simply giving the content as I remember it). Military personnel fighting such groups are exercising a police function more than a military one. For US troops, Hague Convention rules still apply when fighting uniformed soldiers of an enemy nation. With the exception of some sniper rifle cartridges, hollow-points are not used.

In the case of some sniper rounds, primarily in 7.62 mm, HPs that were not designed for expansion, but rather simply to have an complete closed, flat bullet base for accuracy, leaving a HP simply incidental to design, can be used in warfare even against uniformed troops. The Sierra 168 grain Matchking bullet is a good example. Expansion is from poor to non-existent, as it was never designed for expansion at all.


#5

The US military lawyers have tended to take the line “if the military really needs this, how can we justify it?” whereas the British and Europeans stick to the letter of Hague. Damn silly IMO but that’s the way it is.[/quote]
Considering all of the much more destructive weapons on the modern battlefield, the Hague restrictions on small arms projectiles can certainly be viewed as silly. However, that the Brits and Europeans are sticking to their agreement, I think is quite admirable.

The US JAG acting like a lawyer arguing for his client, on the other hand…


#6

There’s the USMC’s 5.56mm MK318 Mod 0 SOST…


#7

The restrictions of Hague Declaration III have always applied only to war between signatories. Even the UK and Europe are legally free to use expanding bullets against groups like the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

That used to be true. Rounds like the 5.56mm Mk318 and 7.62mm Mk319 are true hollowpoints that expand in soft tissue. Not surprising, since they were derived from a hunting bullet. AFAIK, the JAG ruling on these rounds does not restrict them from being used against soldiers of other nation states.

Besides, the US refused to sign Declaration III (The only country to do so!), so it can legally use expanding bullets against other national armies.

It’s true that the MatchKing was not designed to expand, but at close ranges (under 300 yards) it actually does expand and/or fragment. That’s one reason US troops have been using 5.56mm Mk262, because the fragmentation causes more severe wound trauma than Ball ammo.


#8

Lots of good information that came after my service or interest in the subject. Thanks for posting. However, regarding the Sierra 168 grain HP bullet in particular (can’t speak for other brands), at least at the time of testing, either did not expand at all or expanding poorly in properly-calibrated ballistic gelatin at test conduct by the Lair Army Institute of Research, Letterman Army Hospital, Presidio of San Francisco, California. Whether they fragmented or not, I do not recall. Some FMJ bullets are known to fragment, so that is somewhat outside of the question. I suppose expansion would be subject to what the bullets were shot at, of course. Even FMJ bullets will expand if shot at heavy steel plates, for example. The Sierra did not expand well, or at all in many cases, in proper body-tissue simulant.


#9

I once talked to someone who said he’d shot a deer with a 168gr MatchKing, and that it produced a classic “mushroom.” IIRC, Gary Roberts – who currently performs gel tests for different government agencies – has said he’s had MatchKings expand in gelatin. I personally fired a 168gr SMK into uncooked beef, and it broke into many fragments. (The bullet, not the meat.)

According to Roberts, whether a SMK expands, fragments, or remains intact, is due to the size of the opening in the tip. Apparently the amount of tip closure can vary from lot to lot.


#10

[quote]Apparently the amount of tip closure can vary from lot to lot.[/quote]That’s why accuracy hounds like benchresters use meplat uniformers to close, make pointier and, well, make them uniform.
I’ve been down that road, but shooting surplus military rifles sort of negates the whole exersize…
(Correct use of a sling is another matter, that helps! :-)
Soren


#11

Gary Roberts is very knowledgable and was one of the crew at LAIR, along with Marty Fackler.
Both were not only quite expert, but also just good, nice people and a pleasure to know and to speak with. I knew Gary very well but have, regretably, lost contact with him since both LAIR and the gun shop I worked at closed many years ago. I have many of Gary’s articles, and those from other members of the now-defunct IWBA (International Wound Ballistics Association) of which I was an associate member.

Your description points precisely to why the Sierra Matchking could not be counted on to expand at all. Basically, it was not designed to expand.

For match shooting, I don’t know why anyone would spend much time “uniforming” the bullet tips. I can’t think of his name, which is crazy since I own a case-neck uniformer that he actually made for himself, but one of the great benchrest shooters, and a fine tool and die maker in his own right, proved years ago that the bullet tip was much, much less important to accuracy than the base of the bullet was. I suppose if you are good enough to aspire to shooting that .000 group, you do everything you can, but some things that shooters do to try to achieve better accurace come under the definition of the law of diminishing returns. Not all things, of course.

The Sierra bullet, for a factory bullet, by the way, is a supreme projectile, and nothing anyone has said here diminishes the fact of its wonderful quality and performance for the purpose for which it is intended - target shooting. It is not a hunting bullet, nor sold as one.

Interesting stuff. I suppose a little off-topic for the IAA Forum, although I don’t see why since the subject is simply ammunition beyond the pretty painted tips and often confusing case types and definitions. I, myself, am mainly into the historical aspects of ammunition, but the tech side is just as important and interesting, and a real study of ammunition is pretty-much short-changed without it. Wish I had a place and the equipment to do my own testing.

Thanks for this discussion. I learned some things, of course. Always do. The combined expertise from you guys on this Forum is awesome, to say the least.


#12

I’ve either fired, or witnessed the firing into ballistic gel, of the Sierra Match King loads of the military, 77 gr 556, 168 & 173 gr 7.62 rounds, as well as the 190 gr of the 300 WinMag. over the space of nearly 15 years now. I’ve never seen, nor recovered a single example of a projectile that “expanded” like the Talon and silver tips of Winchester (for example) in rifle calibers for hunting. What happens is the the projectile travels like a ball round to a certain distance (depnding on the caliber), then breaks up/fragments. The M193 and M855 also fragment similarly in the same medium. When these military projectiles pass thru an intermediate barrier, such as glass or wood, the front of the gel is heavily fragmented, with some residual core penetration if the caliber is large enough.

When the rifle hunting bullets are fired into similar media, they mushroom quite nicely, just as advertised, usually with very little “fragmentation,” retaining 95%+ of their mass. Quite obviously the opposite end of the spectrum when compared with the SMK series.

I have also read several of the JAG rulings on those military rounds and they acknowledge the lack of mushrooming and, with the tip opening not being a production goal, like a mushrooming hollow point, but a residual of the jacket formation process instead (base forward draw, rather than tip rearward draw), they were deemed to comply with the international accords.

The only difference between those military projectiles and the new Mk318/319 are that the bullet stem is solid, separate from the “core,” allowing the typical fragmentation that occurs in tissue or intermediate barrier, but with a residual bullet stem remaining intact to allow for penetration in tissue IF it first passes through an intermediate barrier. (As opposed to just fragging the material behind the barrier like the earlier designs.)

The JAG argument is that it’s not what the bullet LOOKS like that is the determining factor regarding legality, but how the bullet PERFORMS that is subject to legal review. As “mushrooming” is a function generally accepted by every nation as prohibited, a bullet that doesn’ mushroom could be a legal design (if it doesn’t violate any of the other, stated, prohibitions). Now whether fragmentation should be considered in that argument or not, that’s another discussion.


#13

[quote=“50m2hb”]I’ve either fired, or witnessed the firing into ballistic gel, of the Sierra Match King loads of the military, 77 gr 556, 168 & 173 gr 7.62 rounds… What happens is the the projectile travels like a ball round to a certain distance (depnding on the caliber), then breaks up/fragments…

The only difference between those military projectiles and the new Mk318/319 are that the bullet stem is solid, separate from the “core,” allowing the typical fragmentation that occurs in tissue…[/quote]
That’s not the only difference. After impacting tissue simulant, MatchKings yaw like an FMJ and fragment.

In contrast, the Mk318 and Mk319 bullets do not behave like an FMJ; they do not yaw, they track straight and expand like a Barnes TSX, except the “petals” break off, and – together with the lead core – produce several fragments that increase wound trauma. These are clearly expanding bullets, restricted by Hague Declaration III.


#14

I disagree. There’s a difference between fragmenting and mushrooming/expanding.


#15

Getting back to Tony Williams’ topic:

dtic.mil/ndia/2011smallarms/ … 07Ream.pdf


#16

I have a .PDF file of a presentation about the .40 S&W done by NSWC-Crane at the NDIA Small Arms conference this year. It provides considerable detail about the Coast Guard’s .40 S&W ammunition. Can anyone tell me how to make it visible to all? Or I could send it as an e-mail attachment to someone who knows how to post it.


#17

It’s the one Leon posted a link to in the previous message.