M118 mexican match


#1

Yes, such cartridges do exist. You may have had one without knowing it. But, before you start digging through those cigar boxes, read this.

The 7.62MM M118 was the first National Match cartridge using the new NATO case. It was officially adopted in 1965 after a two year trial period as the XM118. The accuracy of the M118 exceeded even the M72 NM(Cal .30), the average of 600 yard mean radius groups for the first four years of NM production being a remarkable 1.82". But, as good as it was there was no way to stop shooters from trying to make it even better. Breaking the waterproofing seal was one modification tried, but replacing the 173 grain FMJ M1 Type bullet with a Sierra 168 grain MatchKing was a favorite improvement of many competitors. These cartridges came to be known as Mexican Match. I’ll leave it to you to figure out why.

Most often encountered as individual loose cartridges, an occasional full box turns up now and then. The one shown here is one of several boxes made by the Arizona State Rifle Association team for the 1983 National Matches at Camp Perry. All cartridges are headstamped LC 82 MATCH.

One unusual thing about this box is that, by 1982, the newer M852 Match ammunition with the same Sierra bullet was being produced by Lake City. But many shooters still preferred to use the cheaper Mexican Match for practice and for matches where the M852 was not available.

So, now there’s another Match cartridge for you to keep a lookout for.


#2

Yea Ray I have several boxes of this stuff that I bought from my good friend the late Lt. Col. Joe Smith. He ran the ammo end of Camp Perry for years and worked for DCM for years as well before he retired and moved to Prescott Az.
Now I am scratching some cob webs of my memory here but he told me he was the one that had to go to I think the State Dept. and get permission to do this with military ammo (because of the hollow point bullet) and this work with the State Dept. is what led to the cases with the knurled ring at the base of the case showing that it was for match use only.
Before he died I begged him to write some kind of article for cart collectors just on his inside work and story on this, he had all the original paper work still too. I told him I would do all the leg work or any work to make it happen.
He would just say “that it was a waste of time that nobody was interested”.
I told him I was not interested in selling it to a big magazine just get the info out to the collecters, I could not change his mind no matter how hard I tried, its a shame.


#3

Steve

That’s interesting. I’ve never heard of DCM or any other government affiliated agency doing the changes. It was always individual competitors. I can see where there would be some major concerns if the govt swapped the bullets.

All of this became moot when the JAG finally determined that the hollow point bullets did not violate any of the Conventions.

1982 was an unusual year at Lake City. They were producing 3 different match type cartridges. The M118, M852, and M118 SB. Toss in the M118MM and you had 4.

Ray


#4

I am almost sure that as well as some individual shooters, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning, Georgia, used to do this conversion - pull the 173 grain bullet, clean the sealant out of the neck (sealing in the bullet is not the best idea if you want really good, even bullet pull), and replacing it with a Sierra 168 grain match bullet. I think it was covered in an article in the American Rifleman, or one of the other magazines. Now, I guess that unit just outright loads a lot of the match ammunition used by Army shooters and snipers. One of the History Channel shows covering the shop there showed that.


#5


Both of these boxes came from Joe and from what I can remember his work with the State Dept. allowed the lay over sticker to be used on the box on the right. Otherwise Lake City ammo plant could not do this period.
And what I remember him to say was each markmanship shooter was given however many rounds of this and that much fired cases had to be given back and the ID was the knureled ring on the case.
But of course all the details as I know of them were lost when Joe died.


#6

Steve

Interesting that your M118 MM is the same lot number as what I have. I suppose Arizona is the common denominator.

Most MM that you see was from years before 1980. It was the MM from the 1970s that led to the PXR-6803 in 1980 and the adoption of the XM852 in 1981.

I think your M852 box is the standard issue of 1982 and is not MM. I have boxes of that same lot (82F180-001) and the cartridges are all M852. Using an M118 box with a paper over-label was SOP in the first years of production. There were actually three different boxes. Two with an over-label (one with blue and one with black printing) and the third had the printing directly on the white box. Interestingly, all three were used in 1982.

Since competitors at the National Matches had to pay for their ammo, it became their property, including the fired cases. Military individuals and teams may have had a requirement to return fired cases, but the hot cases barely had time to hit the ground before the civilians were scooping them up.

Ray


#7

steve

Here are the three 1982 boxes of M852.

left top - June, over-label blue printing
left bottom - December over-label black printing
right - October dark blue printing on box


#8

I also have a January 83 box that goes back to the over-label with light blue printing.

LC either had a lot of extra labels on hand or they were experimenting with something or other.

I’ve never heard of any State Department involvement with Match ammunition labeling or boxing.

Ray


#9

Ray,
I couldn’t help but look over the list of 7.62s that have managed to accumulate in my collection in spite of my utter disdain for anything ‘modern’, and found only one with a hollow point, that one headstamped L C 80 SP. Why the ‘SP’??


#10

Guy

That’s a good cartridge. It’s the transition from the M118 to the M852. It was issued just one time, at the 1980 National Matches. The PXR-6803 that I mentioned a few posts back. I’ve never seen anything that said exactly what the “SP” stood for but I have always assumed it meant Special. If you ever need a good home for it . . .

If you had read my article in the JOURNAL you would have known this. (Insert deep sigh here) ;) ;)

Ray


#11

Surely you must have at least considered the slim possibility that my question might have for the benefit of the other readers :-(


#12

Alright I give up. Why Mexican Match?


#13

Sorry I did’nt get back to you but I was at a cartridge show in the pouring rain (somebody ought to make that a song title)

We probably will not know the whole story at least from Joe Smith’s point. Joe died in I think 2002 and I made contact with him now and then to drop off packages to him and we would talk and I was on the job so I picked up some info and forgot other stuff. That’s why I tried to get him to write the info down, in hind site I should have done the writing.
The more I try and think back on these conversations it seems that “maybe” when he said “nobody would be interested” that he was in a kind way stating that nobody could know the whole story.
Steve

My feeling is that some company/contractor/arsenal whatever was making alot of this Mexican Match (Joe had cases of this stuff and I know he did’nt load it himself) to supply the U.S. Army Marksmanship Units or whatever shooters. (this is what I think, I remember) and doing so was not maybe on the up and up until this State Dept. stuff that went on.
And "maybe " the story was not planned to go any more than Joe’s brief case.
And “maybe” somebody from the State Dept. might come and knock on my door and I will have to say Joe who? Ray who? IAA whats that?


#14

Steve

In all my years of shooting, and in all of my conversations with other shooters, I have never heard of any wide-scale manufacture of MM. It was always something done by the competitors themselves, maybe a few boxes by an individual, or many boxes by a team or State organization such as the AZ State Rifle Association.

Since the MM violated the National Match rules I cannot imagine any arsenal being involved in altering their own standardized ammunition. That simply isn’t done.

As far as the USAMU, they produced their own ammunition, either by contract with W or R, or by purchasing components and loading it themselves. They did have at least one 168 grain load and it’s possible that Joe Smith had this confused with MM??

If someone “contracted” to produce large quantities of MM, who would that have been and why would competitors not be aware of it’s availibility? As I said before, most MM was made in the 1970s when I and most of my friends were actively shooting and I would think we would have heard of it. And where would surviving boxes of it be?

As to any State Department involvement in any of this, I am at a loss to understand what it may have been. When the M118 was discontinued in 1982 and the M852 began production it suddenly dawned on everyone that it left the Army without a sniper round due to the JAG’s ill advised decision. Lake City immediately responded with the M118 SB which served until the JAG decision was finally reversed. Could it be that Joe Smith knew something that others did not - that the State Department was involved in the JAG decisions? Or could he simply have confused the facts?

The M852 was always manufactured with the distinctive case cannelure, as was the PXR-6803 before it. It was simply a way to quickly identify the new cartridges and had nothing to do with MM. I would not be surprised if M118 cases were used in the initial tests but starting with the PXR-6803 an entirely new case was used.

There is no doubt in my military mind that the box of M852 that you showed is nothing more than plain vanilla M852 cartridges headstamped LC 82 NM. I have boxes of the same identical lot number and that is what they all are.

I have a feeling that much of the confusion goes back to Lake City’s use of M118 boxes with an over-label for the M852. The same is true for the first M118 SB. It also was in M118 boxes with an over-label. Some shooters today still think that M118 SB was nothing more than M118 that had been re-boxed. But, no one has ever been able to produce such a box.

Steve, I am an old guy and I forget more things than where I put my car keys. Others my age are no different. When I wrote my article on NM ammunition I talked to a lot of old friends who were competitors in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Some of their memories were very good and some not so good. By sorting through them all I think I was able to re-construct the events of those days fairly well.

I went through quite a few boxes of ammunition, actually opening sealed boxes and pulling bullets to see what was inside. I discovered some interesting things along the way. For example, one shooter friend insisted that he had shot M118 loaded with ball powder. All of us thought he was hallucinating. He kept saying that “he remembered the smell” of the ball powder. Well, I started pulling bullets and, you guessed it, at least one lot of LC 68 MATCH was loaded with ball powder!

None of this is meant to disparage your friend’s memory. I still have a lot to learn and am always interested in different versions of history. I’ll turn on a dime if facts prove me to be wrong. Just don’t tell my wife that.

Anyway, keep dry in that AZ dry-wet weather. We got another foot last night and are probably snowed in until the weekend, minimum.

Ray


#15

I’m glad you asked, I don’t know either. ;)


#16

It’s an American thing. Not politically correct today so I’m not going there. I’ve been censured by our moderators for lesser comments.

Ray


#17

deleted


#18

One explanation given for the term “Mexican Match” is that the first use of the cartridges was by the winning competitor who used the cartridge (normal U.S. M118 Match Ball but with the bullet replaced with the Sierra 168 gr Match bullet) at the Pan-American Games of 1959 held in Mexico City. This is reported in what appears to be a scholarly source, but may simply be an invented PC answer to the question. I am not qualified with any “inside information” either way to determine its validity.

Regarding my comments that I thought that the U.S. Army Marksmanship unit had produced Mexican Match ammo by simply removing the standard bullet, cleaning out the sealant from the neck, and replacing the projectile with the Sierra one, and Ray’s comment that he knew of no
wide-scale production of MM ammo; “it was ALWAYS something done by the competitors themselves…”, I offer the following quote:

“Because the U.S. Army’s Marksmanship Training Units had been using Sierra International Match Bullets for some time by informally producing Mexican Match ammunition, the military decided that the initial evaluation run of over 13,000 rounds would use Sierra bullets.”

Reference: “Military Match Cartridges and their use in Combat: A Brief History, Part II,” Tactical Shooter Magazine, November 1998 Issue, by Hugo Teufel, pages 69, 72-75, 77-80.

This squares with information I have heard anecdotally many times, and also, I am positive, read in other sources, although this was the only source in my U.S. Military Match Ammunition file. I did not search my 7.62 NATO/.308 File because frankly, it is so large, I didn’t think it was worth the time for this particular point.

The attribution of the term “Mexican Match” comes from the same source. By the way, for anyone interested in tracking it down, Part I of the article appeared in the August 1998 Tactical Shooter, pages 65-70. It appears to be a very scholarly article, but being out of my field, I cannot judge every aspect of it, of course.

John Moss


#19

[quote=“JohnMoss”]One explanation given for the term “Mexican Match” is that the first use of the cartridges was by the winning competitor who used the cartridge (normal U.S. M118 Match Ball but with the bullet replaced with the Sierra 168 gr Match bullet) at the Pan-American Games of 1959 held in Mexico City.

The M118 was not introduced until 1963 as the XM118. If that story is true it would have been the T275 International Match cartridge and the bullet would have been the Sierra 168 grain International bullet.

Regarding my comments that I thought that the U.S. Army Marksmanship unit had produced Mexican Match ammo by simply removing the standard bullet, cleaning out the sealant from the neck, and replacing the projectile with the Sierra one, and Ray’s comment that he knew of no
wide-scale production of MM ammo; “it was ALWAYS something done by the competitors themselves…”, I offer the following quote:

“Because the U.S. Army’s Marksmanship Training Units had been using Sierra International Match Bullets for some time by informally producing Mexican Match ammunition, the military decided that the initial evaluation run of over 13,000 rounds would use Sierra bullets.”

[b][i]If you’ll look at my photo of the 4 AMU boxes, the lower right box is from 1962 and is loaded with the 168 grain International bullet. The AMU was producing it’s own ammo as early as 1956 and much of it was hand-loaded. The headstamp is RA 62. I’ve never seen AMU ammunition from that period that used anything but new Winchester or Remington contract cases. Pulling bullets from existing cartridges and replacing them with commercial components would have been out of character for AMU.

None of the AMU ammunition could have been used in the National Trophy or EIC matches. They never produced any National Match ammunition as far as I know. Most of their efforts were, and still are, directed toward International type competition rather than the National Matches.

I’ve no doubt that the AMU played a role in selecting the Sierra International bullet for the new M852. I think it was they who convinced Sierra to slightly modify the bullet to it’s present MatchKing profile. But, shooters were also twisting arms at DCM and they probably had more influence in the final decision to change the National Match ammunition.[/i][/b]

Reference: “Military Match Cartridges and their use in Combat: A Brief History, Part II,” Tactical Shooter Magazine, November 1998 Issue, by Hugo Teufel, pages 69, 72-75, 77-80.

This squares with information I have heard anecdotally many times, and also, I am positive, read in other sources, although this was the only source in my U.S. Military Match Ammunition file. I did not search my 7.62 NATO/.308 File because frankly, it is so large, I didn’t think it was worth the time for this particular point.

The attribution of the term “Mexican Match” comes from the same source. By the way, for anyone interested in tracking it down, Part I of the article appeared in the August 1998 Tactical Shooter, pages 65-70. It appears to be a very scholarly article, but being out of my field, I cannot judge every aspect of it, of course.

John Moss[/quote]


#20

Your comments sound reasonable. I guess the article is not as scholarly as I thought. However, it still remains that I heard several times that AMU Ft. Benning was converting March ammo, of whatever model designation, to Sierra bullets. Anecdotal information is always dangerous, although sometimes all we have to go by. Perhaps what they were doing, if it is true, was not providing shooters with the ammunition, but experimenting on their own with the hopes of getting the authorities at Lake City to produce national match ammunition that could not routinely be out-shot by foreign military ball rounds, which is my own experience, in a 40XB-BR Heavy Varmint Class .308 Remington and an L & H Gun Company Match Grade M1A. Portuguese ball ammunition, for example, made the M118 ammo I had go hide in a corner. Real crap as far as I am concerned. Regarding being “out of character” for the AMU to perform such an operation, “necessity is the mother of invention.” I was in the Army just long enough to know that when push comes to shove, not much is “out of character” for any unit that needs to get a job done.

The article also says “The 168-grain MatchKing, no. 2200, made its debut in the late 1950s and was intended for 300-meter International Match Shooting. In 1959, the bullet was used by the first-place competitor at the Pan American Games.” If the MatchKing bullet was intended for 300meter International Shooting, why would it have had to be a Sierra International Match bullet at those games in Mexico City? Not a challenge to your statement, Ray, but a sincere question. I am out of my league here, and just trying to learn. I never shot enough rifle match, either bench-rest or position, to get to talk to the most knowledgeable shooters, as I was only a “Local” competitor. Any match more than about 30 miles away was out of the question for me to go to - I wasn’t good enough to even think of big, National matches.

John Moss