ATK's Production of the new 855A1


News Release Issued: October 25, 2010 8:00 AM EDT

ATK Begins Full Rate Production of the U.S. Army’s New Enhanced Performance

Current Orders Total Nearly 300 Million Rounds

EPR is Significant Breakthrough in 5.56mm Ammunition Performance

MINNEAPOLIS, Oct. 25 /PRNewswire/ – ATK (NYSE: ATK) has received orders from the U.S. Army’s Program Manager for Maneuver Ammunition Systems (PM-MAS) for nearly 300 million rounds of the new M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round (EPR).

The EPR is an enhanced version of the M855 5.56mm cartridge, used by U.S.
troops since the early 1980s. ATK is producing the new cartridge at the Lake
City Army Ammunition Plant in Independence, Mo. ATK produced the initial 20
million rounds of M855A1, which were delivered to the troops in Afghanistan
earlier this year.

“This is a significant breakthrough in ammunition performance for America’s
warfighters,” said Mark Hissong, ATK Small Caliber Systems Vice President and
General Manager. “To ensure optimal performance, ATK and the Army put the EPR through the most rigorous and thorough test regime of any round we have everproduced. The result is the successful fielding of a high-performance round that is in theater today, and capable of providing superior firepower in any combat condition.”

ATK partnered with the Army to develop a flexible manufacturing plan to
rapidly transition the EPR program into high-volume production. The new round
offers a higher velocity for more energy on target, improved hard-target
capability, and greater accuracy and consistency for effectiveness at long
range. The round’s technological advancements, coupled with ATK’s innovative
approach to ammunition engineering, have delivered what the Army calls “the
most significant advancement in general purpose small caliber ammunition in

ATK is a premier aerospace and defense company with operations in 24 states,
Puerto Rico and internationally, and revenues of approximately $4.8 billion.
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Certain information discussed in this press release constitutes
forward-looking statements as defined in the Private Securities Litigation
Reform Act of 1995. Although ATK believes that the expectations reflected in
such forward-looking statements are based on reasonable assumptions, it can
give no assurance that its expectations will be achieved. Forward-looking
information is subject to certain risks, trends and uncertainties that could
cause actual results to differ materially from those projected. Among those
factors are: changes in governmental spending, budgetary policies and product
sourcing strategies; the company’s competitive environment; the terms and
timing of awards and contracts; and economic conditions. ATK undertakes no
obligation to update any forward-looking statements. For further information
on factors that could impact ATK, and statements contained herein, please
refer to ATK’s most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K and any subsequent
quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and current reports on Form 8-K filed with the
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.




Post Script

I’m glad they cleared that one up.


Jason Gillis, a former Army staff sergeant, first witnessed the M855’s shortcomings in 2004 on the streets of Baghdad. He was a squad leader with 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, on patrol when a vehicle began speeding toward his unit.

After several warnings, “both of our M249s opened up instantly, forming a crisscross pattern of tracer that met at the vehicles engine compartment and windshield. Within seconds, riflemen and grenadiers were executing magazine changes while the vehicle kept rolling and finally stopped 10 meters from my lead troops,” Gillis recalled in an e-mail to Army Times.

“Assuming the driver was most likely riddled beyond recognition, we were all astounded to see the driver emerge from the vehicle completely unscathed,” Gillis wrote. “Closer inspection revealed that the M855 ammunition had failed to effectively penetrate the vehicle’s windshield despite the fact over 400 rounds were expended at extremely close range and on target.”.



A Paul Smith section on the left (with the “tin” like bismuth bullet base) and the Pepper “hack job” on the right to show the copper bullet base

Would appear to me that the dark bullet “tip” has the bismuth base and the cadmium coated “greenish” bullet is the copper base plug…and current production


I just met with Frank N. from our Forum, who also does fantastic cutaways. He showed me several variations of this new cartridge in cutaway. There are different cores besides simply “bismuth” and “copper.”

I hope he sees this and posts a picture of his beautiful cutaways with explanations of the cores.
The difference might not be seen in a photo - it was hard to see them holding the rounds - but the explanation will be worth the posting.

You there, Frank?


John, I suspect that the variations in the plug were all development models as they tried to reach the best solution. As far as I know, the copper plug is the final solution and the only one which has entered production.


Tony - in the main, you are absolutely correct. I seem to remember Frank mentioning, though, that the Army had adopted one form and the U.S. Marine Corps another form of this cartridge, so there may be two “issue” forms of it. I hope Frank will chime in this and verify or repudiate that. He seems to have all the information on these rounds.


The USMC have not yet adopted any version of the M855A1 AFAIK - the last I heard they were planning to evaluate it.

The USMC adopted at the beginning of this year the MK318 Mod 0 SOST, which is an open-point lead-cored bullet based on a commercial hunting round design. Not surprisingly, it’s said to be good on terminal effectiveness and also on barrier penetration, but of course no good against armour. Somewhat questionable in terms of the Hague Convention, too…

Incidentally, the M855A1 will not immediately be replacing the M855 in production, since it was initially only qualified for use in the M4, not the M249 LMG.