Historical Research Question Re: M59, M80 Ball and M62 Tracer Ammo


I am new to the forum. I am a high school teacher and historian who is currently working on a book on infantry weapons and small unit tactics (oriented primarily toward reenactors and “living historians”) during the Vietnam War and I am currently in the research phase of this project, which brings me to my question(s):

  1. What is the primary difference between M59 and M80 ball ammunition? Also, when were they introduced, respectively?

Based on my current research, it appears that the M80 cartridge replaced the M59 as the standard round of ball ammunition used with the M14 rifle, but cannot confirm. I am simply a historian and a researcher trying to be extremely thorough.

  1. Fired from the M14 rifle, were M59/M80 ball and M62 tracer rounds capable of penetrating unarmored Soviet Army/Chinese Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) 6x6 trucks, such as the ZIL-157 and 130, and the CA-30?

I understand that the M60 machine gun, which apparently fired the same ball and tracer cartridges, was intended for use against light-skinned vehicles, and some of the Army archival information I am currently piecing together seems to suggest that the rounds could inflict damage on these types of vehicles, regardless of the small arm from which they were fired (M14, M14A1, or M60).

Any assistance that the members of this forum can provide would be most appreciated and all replies will receive mention in my book (when it is published) if they wish.

The M59 bullet had a core made mostly of unhardened steel and only a tiny portion of lead. This was to save lead for other purposes. On the other hand, the bullet had more parts and was more difficult and expensive to manufacture.
At some time it was decided to return to a normal, lead-only core. This resulted in the M80, which has about the same weight and shape of the M59 bullet, but is a little shorter.

Because of very similar barrel length, ammunition fired from the M14 rifle or the M60 machine gun have practically identical properties regarding target effect. A typical truck offers no protection against fire from these weapons. Even much less powerful rounds, like the 7.62 mm from the Kalashnikow assault rifle, penetrate the skin easily. The M59/M80 were designed to be able to penetrate a U.S. steel helmet at 1000 yards, if I remember correctly. Effective range and accuracy of the M62 was less but not important, because it only served to show approximately where the bullets were going.


And just not to let it go unmentioned, the M62 tracer (or any other) would also pierce an unarmored truck/vehicle.
While kinetic damage might be a bit inferior to ball loads (ball with soft steel core doing the most damage) the tracer compound may also serve as an incendiary, in particular when combustible material is hit.

They’re certainly good for setting fires down range.