M2 Ball vs. M2 AP

Taking a side trip from the excellent discussion of the M1906/M1/M2 Ball that Ray started and not wanting to hijack the thread, a question came to mind. Does anyone have the production totals of the M2 Ball/Ball Alternative ammo versus the M2 Armor Piercing? It would seem to me that there was a LOT of AP specifically produced for (charger and clip) and shot through the M1903 and the M1 Service Rifles. It would also seem that the M2 AP pretty much took the place of the M1 Ball, if not officially, then de-facto with it’s 168gr bullet and it’s longer bearing surface. Any thoughts? Cheers, Bruce.

My observation is that seemingly many millions of AP M2 bullets are still in the U.S. inventory, because the M2, not the 7.62 NATO AP bullets are used in everyday penetration tests (acceptance etc.)

I have often seen comments to the effect that in the latter part of WWII, M2 AP pretty much replaced M2 ball for combat use as it was more effective in punching through obstacles. True or not I don’t know.

Back when DCM was supplying .30 ammunition cheaply, I got thousands of rounds of M2 AP ammunition, and still have a few boxes. Allegedly its grouping capability was somewhat better than M2 Ball so target shooters preferred it. Some information about the M2 AP specs:

Bullet weight: 166 grains -7.5 (or 158.5 to 166 grains)
Propellant: 50 grains of IMR 4895 or WC852 (approximately)
Velocity: 2715 ft/sec +/- 30 ft/sec @ 78 feet
Accuracy: Mean Radius <= 10" @ 600 yards
Penetration: => 0.42" in 7/8" armor plate at 100 yards
Penetrator Core: 81 grains -2.5, steel, MIL-C-13743 (for most of WWII and beyond it was a Manganese-Molybdenum steel alloy). The penetrator part number specification drawing is 5049044, but I do not have that.

I chuckle whenever I see bidders on the auction sites paying big money for M2AP bullets loaded into .308 cases being sold as “.308 AP”. The bearing surface is wrong and will usually not work out well with the rifle twists in .308 barrels from what I understand.

I wish it did because I have a boatload of FN API which would do me better in .308 than .30-06

The accuracy specification for AP M2 is indeed 10 inch mean radius, but for ball M2 it is 7.5 in.
I do not quite believe that AP M2 had better accuracy in shooting competitions than ball M2. Of course you can encounter a particularly good lot of AP and a very bad lot of ball. But basically, the more components a bullet is made of, the more weight variation it will have. This is opposite to what you desire for accuracy.

I believe where the “better accuracy” of the AP M2 comes in when it is used for “substitute match” ammunition is at the longer ranges. The heavier bullet than ball M3 serves better at longer ranges. Aside from thousand yard matches, the normal maximum distance for bullseye match shooting was 600 yards, if a club had the much range available.

There is a myth that it wears out barrels quicker than ball M2. Tests made years ago by the NRA did not bear that out at all. In fact, as I recall, the AP gave better barrel life than ball, although not by an awful lot.

I have never done any dedicated testing as to the accuracy of the M2 AP vs. M2 ball. The closest I came was about a year ago. I bought a new .30-'06 rifle and was doing some load development to find what shot best, and also to break in the barrel. I did fire a couple of groups using M2 AP rounds which were about as good as any of my better loads, running 1.5" (approximately) 5-shot groups at 100 yards. Most of the DCM M2 AP ammunition I had years ago was blasted away in my M1 Garand at miscellaneous targets, mainly just noise making. Somewhere, I still have several hundred loose M2 AP bullets, and If I can find them I will do a more methodical test of their grouping capability.

Most of the stories about AP shooting better than M2 are anecdotal at best. A service shooter is issued a beat up Garand and some AP, he shoots a fair score and then proclaims how great the AP was. If the AP really was better you’d see civilian Match shooters using it, but that never happens.

I’ve heard this “anectdotal” evidence from more than a few service rifle shooters and USMC range coaches that were active in the 1950’s and 1960’s. They all seem to agree that M-2 AP was more accurate than M-2 ball, but no comparison was made to match grade ammunition, nor should there be in my opinion…


Speaking anecdotally, I have a round of TM-produced APM2 in which the core can be heard rattling inside the jacket when the cartridge is shaken. Jack

I agree with jpeelen - there may be lots of AP that are more accurate than Ball, and vice-versa.

I didn’t mean to imply that you can compare AP or Ball with Match. Although, I have heard from several shooters who will swear that AP is more accurate than either Ball or Match. But, if you quiz them, you’ll find their opinion is probably based on a match where they shot AP and it was the best they ever shot. Usually, casual shooters like that probably could not tell the difference between an accurate cartridge and one that is only average. I don’t mean this as a put-down, just a fact.