5.56mm M856A1 LF + SMQ Lot Numbers

Here is a recent 5.56mm load that I had not seen on the commercial market before. I assume that this could be yet another LC/Federal product using the “SMQ” manufacturers code. Source: weaponsworld.com/federal-m85 … -pack.html

Here’s a little technical info I found:

ThursdayLandmarkBJeffreyWoods.pdf (630.8 KB)

can you tell me what the headstamp would be please. Or is it “SMQ”…paul.

Here is a better section of the M856A1, although unfinished. Will take a better picture when done. Head stamp LC/14

“SMQ” is not a headstamp. It is a manufacturer’s identification symbol, as part of the lot number. SMQ indicates ammunition from a special contract or order.

Since LCAAP is operating at 100% capacity just to keep the U.S. Army supplied, I thought that most private contracts and commercial orders have been stopped, for now, but maybe not.

Was this ammunition manufactured by FC with an FC headstamp??


My understanding of this"SMQ" prefix is it notes Federal “2nd quality”, for lack of a better name. I’m sure it is great ammo.

Again my understanding is that Federal has a clause in their contract which allows them to sell “over run, 2nd quality” or what ever you want to call it.

I’ve not seen any contract but this is what I hear from reliable sources.

I’d bet it has a FC headstamp, but it just might have a SCAMP style marking.

Federal is not any part of LCAAP. It is a subsidiary of ATK, the operator of LCAAP, but that is their only connection. They are completely seperate manufacturing facilities.

LCAAP does have authority to dispose of production overruns and/or inspector rejects. It’s obvious that Federal has a leg up when it comes to bidding on this ammunition but they are not a sole source.

The designation for the overruns/rejects is XM. The end seller has the option to market it that way or they can use their own designation. Sometimes the carton will have an overlabel, sometimes not.

There are many codes in the lot number that modify or clarify the contents. C, CL, PD, are just a few. Most shooters are familiar with the codes and, in general, know what they mean and what they are buying.

SMQ lot numbers are different. They indicate special contracts or orders. I have not seen any SMQ lots for a few years.

Here are a couple of typical cartons of overruns, and special order 7.62mm from LCAAP. And a box of re-packaged M80. The “C” means it was re-packed by Federal.




Pete - your mention of Federal having a clause in their government contracts to sell overrun or seconds reminds me of what I had presumed the whole ATF blow-up a few months ago was about with regard to the M855 stuff. I knew that the ammo was not “illegal” as far as being classed as"pistol-caliber AP" due to the partial hardened core, and that the House would not modify the 1986 pistol-cal AP law’s definitions, but I suspect any executive order via Treasury / ATF might have been geared at preventing any new contracts from allowing for domestically manufactured overrun or seconds from being sold commercially to retail distributors (they sell millions of rds this way). They could have also put in some very harsh safety delays or restrictions on imports of that type making it all but unprofitable / nonviable to import it, effectively ruining the retail supply of that ammo since the priority for the domestic manufacturers would always be on supplying military / police first, with little production if any left for retail market.

What are these Federal “government contracts” ??

Many government agencies contract with Federal to produce ammunition outside the regular LC supply - such as the Mk316 Mod 0 - but how would those contracts deal in any way with Federal selling overruns from LC?

There are large quantities of the M855 (green tip) overruns and/or rejects on the open market right now. Many of them have nothing to do with Federal.


In my opinion an ammunition package bearing a SMQ lot number can’t be defined for what it may be (first run, overrrun, reject, 2nd quality, commercial, special order, etc.) but for the manufacturer who made it, as according to standard practice this is a manufacturer’s identification symbol. Any of the other characteristics would not be identified by the first three letters of a given lot number.

Here is more information that may be useful:

It has been used uninterruptedly since 2001. The latest lots I have seen so far were made on March 2015 and are found in American Eagle brand products using codes XM80CS and XM855CSNP.

It can be found in packages for the following cartridges: M17, M33, M62, M80, M118, M193, M855 and M856. Also, a few American Eagle products not bearing any of those designations.

All M193 and XM193 headstamps are LC without NATO mark (some “American Eagle” products are also headstamped FC).

All M855/856 and XM855/856 headstamps are LC with NATO mark.

Federal brand packages bearing product codes XM193A, XM193AF, XM193BK and XM855F3 boxes are the only ones labeled “LCAAP Rifle Cartridges”, instead of “Federal Rifle Cartridges” or “American Eagle Rifle Cartridges”.

Packages labeled M33, M33+M17, M80, M80+M62, M118, M855 and M856 are not identified as Federal products.

The lot number found in M855, XM193, XM193F, XM193LC1 AC1, XM855CS, XM855CSNP, XM855F3, XM855LC AC1, XM855LC AC2, XM855LC AC3, XM855LC1 AC1 and XM855LC1 AC6 is identified as “Special Lot”.

The lot number found in M33+M17 and M80+M62 is identified as “Linked Lot”.

So far I have found this code used in 35 different package styles.

For those interested, I have a .xls spreadsheet with all the product codes bearing SMQ lot numbers that I have found so far. I’m sure that there are many more missing, but its a good start.




With all due respect, there is a difference between LC lot numbers, XM lot numbers, and SMQ lot numbers. All of those that you listed are XM numbers which is the LCAAP designation for overruns and inspector rejects. SMQ simply means “. . . the lot was produced for a commercial order, as opposed . . .to lots produced for the U.S.Government.” This quote is directly from an email I received from LCAAP 4 years ago.

One thing that makes lot number identification especially hard is the similarity of official numbers with many commercial numbers. I can understand why a commercial seller, such as Federal, would use designations that look and sound like official US Government designations because it certainly cannot hurt sales.

And, LCAAP did not do us any favors when they decided to use the XM designation, because it is also the Model designation for test and developmental cartridges. So you will find XM855 cartridges that are both experimental and LCAAP overruns.

Since one of my collecting interests is lot numbers, I have tried hard to clarify the meaning of the different numbers and modifers. I thought I had a good handle on it but I sometimes wonder if I do.


Ray, I understand what you mean and I agree that in practice everything indicates that you are right, as the SMQ lots are only found in the commercial marketplace, but what I was trying to say is that its intended market is not what a manufacturer’s identification symbol is supposed to indicate.

Sorry if I my post wasn’t clear, but the packages identified with SMQ lot numbers are not only used for XM commercial product numbers, but also for some M numbers (M33, M33+M17, M80, M80+M62, M118, M855 and M856). These are the ones I mentioned above that are not identified in the label as Federal products.



I’m trying not to make this any more complicated than it already is, but cartons of SMQ ammunition are usually one of the standard Model types, such as 7.62mm NATO Ball M80, that may have been made on contract for a government agency such as a State police force. But, that contract could also have had production overruns which could have been marketed as XM. In those instances, the seller could have applied his own over-label or simply left the carton exactly as it came from LCAAP.

Do you have any SMQ cartons with recent dates? My understanding is that LCAAP has had to focus all of it’s production on supplying the US armed forces and does not manufacture special orders.


Ray, this is one of the latest lots I have seen on an American Eagle brand XM80CS.

And here is an early package of M80:




Thanks Fede.

That lot from 2013 (bottom photo) is like most all of the SMQ cartons that I have seen.

The SMQ numbers on the upper photo are a mystery to me. Ordinarily I would say it’s 2015 production but, for who?? Maybe someone can tell us who “PWA” is?

Also, I’ve not been able to find the meaning of the “CS”. A “C” usually means packaged by Federal. Some have suggested that “CS” means copper plated steel jackets but I have a hard time accepting that. Do you have any ideas??


Ray, I missed your question but the answer is yes, some of the “American Eagle” brand cartridges found in packages with SMQ lots are headstamped FC 223 REM. These were made using a bunter with dots in five different positions (this is the SCAMP style mentioned above by Pete). In this case it would be hard to argue that these cartridges are not 100% Federal products.



Thanks for the clarification & education on this. I was just trying to say that SMQ is a Federal over run, 2nd quality or for some reason or other (marketing??) sold to the public. At least when this SMQ prefix first came out that was the explanation of it.

As to a contract, ATK owns Federal as Ray notes & as such Federal & ATK would not have problems in full filling any contract given/taken either name. Transfer a few personnel, or have this bit made at Lewiston & that bit made in MN. So I had used the names interchangeably. Sorry for any confusion.

Has anyone noticed the Federal Aluminum cased rounds look quite like those made & pioneered by CCI?

Ray, in this caliber the “CS” is only used for XM80 bulk packages of 500 rounds and the “C” for XM80 20 round boxes. I don’t think that there are any other differences besides the package configuration.



FWIW, from: ar15.com/forums/t_3_16/53483 … tml&page=6

Quote: "… lot number that starts with “SMQ” and per inside sources at the Lake City “SMQ” prefix lot numbers imply commercial contract production. None of the commercial contract lots marked with a SMQ prefix lot number are performance tested to mil-spec and there for “none of the SMQ prefix lot numbers are certified For Duty Use”.


Interesting link Brian.

Although I generally am suspicious of anything posted on an Internet Forum, including the IAA Forum, my own posts included, it does seem to reinforce my understanding that SMQ lot numbers indicate commercial contract ammunition.

I thought the “not for duty use” marking to be odd and somewhat unnecessary until I read the last post. I guess nothing is really foolproof.