5,56mm M855A1


The Army began shipping this ammo for field use in June 2010. Has any shown up on the collector market?

DK, With your research, what do you think would be the restrictions on this ammo.




Since it more or less has the same designation as the previous type used except for being lead-free, I would assume (hope) that nothing about it would change. If its official title is still “ball penetrator” or “nontox ball penetrator” or something like that it will at least have the potential of appearing on the open market. If it has the words “armor piercing” in its title then it would presumably find itself restricted by this law: U.S. CODE: TITLE 10 > Subtitle B > PART IV > CHAPTER 443 > § 4688 which restricts the military from sending munitions which have an armor piercing designation in their title to the market for resale to civilians.

Assuming that it does not have the words “armor piercing” in its title, then it all depends on how the political winds blow. For the foreseeable future there should probably be nothing known about it, or spoken about it by anyone in politics. If mass quantities of it show up on the resale market however, and especially if there is a high-profile shooting with it, then there might be some action. Of course there would almost certainly need to be a democrat-controlled congress / presidency for that to happen. One might think that since these are “environmentally friendly” that those same anti-gun voices would be torn about restricting these and not the previous lead-containing M855 version.

The BATFE can act on its own in interpreting whether the cartridges fit the existing description of the pistol AP ban and just add these new 5.56 loads to the list at any time (the original M855 is specifically exempted at present). They did that in 1994 with the .308 and 7.62x39 steel-core projectiles… which was ridiculous. That was the Clinton administration’s back-door move though, after they could not get any momentum going on a new & broader “cop-killer bullet” ban.

One would hope that since 99% of all weapons chambered in .223 / 5.56 are classified as “rifles”, that they (ATF) would not make the leap they did in 1994 and add these new rds to the pistol-AP ban list! Ultimately, if they do a ban it would probably be the same sort of importation & manufacture restrictions that they have done before, and the cartridges & projectiles will continue to float around the resale market for a few decades at least and still be legal for civilian possession, just as the .308 & 7.62x39 steel-core types are today.


I can’t imagine there is much need for this round for it to ever hit the commercial market, as its only purpose is to eliminate lead in the projectile. Performance-wise, it is incapable of ballistic performance beyond that of the ordinary M855, and it was not intended to be armor-piercing any more than the ordinary M855 bullet. The original lead-free projectile envisioned by the Army simply replaced the lead base slug behind the penetrator with something else (there were several candidate materials, including one containing tungsten), but none of those worked out. In fact, there was actually a large production lot made at Lake City using the tungsten-containing base slug (I don’t remember the number produced, but way up in the Millions) that was never released for general use because the bullets were later found to have a disturbing tendency to yaw when fired in M16s with somewhat worn barrels. The original plan was to keep the same M855 designation for this newer round, with no difference in the round’s appearance or packaging markings. As the A1’s bullet looks different from the standard M855, I imagine that the Army felt compelled to change the nomenclature. At least in my opinion (I was peripherally involved, so I have some basis for an opinion), the 5.56mm lead-free bullet development project was not well-handled by the Picatinny Arsenal staff, and there was plenty of embarrassment all around as a result of all of the problems encountered. And there were many other problems I have not mentioned.

As the A1 bullet is considerably more expensive than the conventional bullet (as it uses Bismuth), there would be a premium price for it if sold commercially, with no gain in performance. The A1 round does not use a lead-free primer, as the current state-of-the-art primer composition is erratic in ignition at temperatures below -30 deg. F. Therefore, the M855A1 is not truly a lead-free round.

I am sure some of those rounds will find their way into collector’s hands one way or the other.


A few comments:

The bismuth plug did not work out. The production M855A1 uses a copper plug behind the steel penetrator.

The penetration is stated to be significantly improved over the M855, due to the larger (and exposed) hardened steel penetrator.

For those who want to know more about the M855A1:

This is the Army’s official presentation: aschq.army.mil/ac/aais/ioc/L … 343750.pdf

This is a more general one on lead-free ammo (including the proposed 7.62mm) : dtic.mil/ndia/2010armament/T … yWoods.pdf

And this is an official article on the subject: asc.army.mil/docs/pubs/alt/2010/ … 201004.pdf


DennisK, I was looking for M855A1 specifically for collectors. I’d heard about the batch at LC that were not released for service and was hoping some quantity got out into the collector market. I regularly do the meetings in Europe-will be at the German meeting this Spring, and would like to lay hands on a couple of boxes as trade items. Frankly the more variations the better.

I can’t imagine the M855A1 being a commercial success, but i wouldn’t have thougth the SS109 (another purely military design) would be a commercial success, but it sure looks like it is.

Has anyone seen any of the M855A1 in the collector market? It is bound to be out eventually but apparently not yet.



Not yet…

…but the 5.56mm 62gr Barrier Blind round has been in the LEO distributor circle for a while. ATK advises it is rejected-lot stuff FYI.

I’ll keep an eye out.