The Next NATO Cartridge?


From author David Fortier (“gunwritr” on

From what I am hearing the Europeans are tired of getting ----ed by the US. They are currently looking at new intermediate cartridges and, from what I have heard, are saying the next NATO cartridge will be European designed.”

Link: … 794&page=2

Has anybody heard anything in this regard? Any cartridges currently being developed in Europe that might be candidates to replace 5.56 NATO?



They could just cut to the chase and copy the Chinese 5.8x42 if they wanted, and give it a new name like the “5.79x42 Europa”. Re-inventing the wheel at this point would be financially counterproductive, a-la Airbus A400M.


As long as it’s between 6.5 and 8mm and the AR platform can’t be adapted to it


Might be referring to this:


Anything as long as the ballistics of the thing make it worthwhile teaching marksmanship and the rifle has a bit of wood on it. Preferably to replace both 5,56 and 7,62 so that there will be lots of surplus stock released onto the market at very low prices.

Happy collecting, Peter


I don’t see any problem with going back to the 7.62. Its everything that the 5.56 is not and its already in place. Its almost perfect for a combat round. If it ain’t broke don’t try to fix it.
The 5.56 is good for giving cover and general duties. The British are deploying teams with a mix of 5.56 and one or two “snipers” with H&K 7.62s and that seems to be working out fine. Most of our casualties seem to be victims of road side bombs and that needs to be addressed by bettter armour on the vehicles.
In a fire fight we are winning. Since the days of the Vietnam war there has always been criticism of the 5.56 cartridge but going to another calibre just because certaain European forces want to stamp their name on it must not be an option we should consider. I go with the US/ British view that we have the calibres that do the job.

If we moved away from the 5.56 mm I wouldn’t be sorry but a M16 varient in 7.62X39 would be progressive thinking. Providing it is fully tested and de-bugged before it goes into theatre.

Don’t let these European non -combs dictate.


[quote=“VinceGreen”]Since the days of the Vietnam war there has always been criticism of the 5.56 cartridge but going to another calibre just because certaain European forces want to stamp their name on it must not be an option we should consider. I go with the US/ British view that we have the calibres that do the job.

If we moved away from the 5.56 mm I wouldn’t be sorry but a M16 varient in 7.62X39 would be progressive thinking. Providing it is fully tested and de-bugged before it goes into theatre.[/quote]
The official position of the leadership is that 5.56 is adequate, but there are complaints from the guys doing the fighting. US troops fault 5.56 for poor stopping power, and UK soldiers want longer range.

Of those dissatisfied with 5.56x45, few wish to revert to 7.62x51 for rifles and carbines. That means going to a more capable intermediate round. 7.62x39 is a non-starter, if only because its case taper is incompatible with the straight mag well on the M4/M16.

As Tony Williams has noted in his writings, of the currently available 5.56 alternatives, 6.5 Grendel best answers the desires for greater range and stopping power. However, David Fortier sounded like he was talking about a completely new cartridge.


One can beat a dead horse on the merits of the 5.56mm cartridge and it’s stopping power or lack of. There are good arguements both ways. Although there have been complaints about the 5.56, they seem to take on a greater weight because you always hear the few “bad” stories. Not enough attention is paid to the “good” stories, where the cartridge did the job… Personally, I know two people with first hand combat experience (Somalia and Iraq) that have nothing bad to say about the 5.56 or the M-16 platform.
A friend of mine is just getting started into the 6.5 Grendle world, so I am looking forward to seeing how it performs on the M-16 platform…

I’m afraid that whatever happens will be tainted by politics, and the soldiers on the ground will get the short end of the stick again…



BRING BACK .280/30!!!
lol :)

Dad recently got a reamer made for 280/30 and chambered a customers bolt action rifle with it.
This was done at the customers request (showing excellent taste) and the rifle has proved to be very accurate.


There’s no such thing as a “magic bullet” which drops people first time every time (not even the .50 BMG - although that probably does the job 99.99% of the time). And lots of people have been killed instantly by .22LR rimfire bullets. So you can always find anecdotal evidence to “prove” that any round is either very effective or completely useless.

Having said that…the 5.56mm suffers from a number of problems which have not only been reported from the field but have been confirmed by laboratory testing:

  1. Erratic terminal effectiveness: the 5.56mm bullet needs to be yawing before it hits the target, otherwise it just zips through point-first without the bullet upset (popularly but inaccurately known as “tumbling”) which does most of the damage. Again, this can happen to any pointed bullet but it is a more common problem with 5.56mm M855, and more serious in its consequences because the small bullet really needs to upset to do much damage.

  2. Poor barrier penetration: the 5.56mm finds it difficult to get through intermediate barriers like car windscreens unless it hits dead-on, and is usually deflected from the point of aim even if it does get through.

  3. Poor suppressive effect: minaly due to the small bullet making only a small sonic bang.

  4. Lack of effective range: this has really only become an issue with the long-range fighting in much of Afghanistan. Studies from both the UK and US armies indicate that the round is only really effective within 300m (200m for short-barrelled guns like the M4) and, guess what, the Taliban prefer to open fire from within the 300-900m range bracket, using PKM LMGs and SVD (Dragunovs) chambered in 7.62x54R.

So both armies are getting new 7.62mm weapons in the hands of the troops as fast as they can, to enable them to respond to these long-range attacks. This is the best that can be done in the short term, but 7.62mm is not the ideal answer; the ammo is heavy and develops too much recoil for use in assault rifles.

I have spent a lot of time looking at all the various arguments around this and feel that we could quite easily develop and field one cartridge, in the 6.5-7mm calibre bracket, which is far more effective than 5.56mm and matches the long-range performance of 7.62mm with a lot less weight and recoil. As I’ve said in various articles, something like the 6.5mm Grendel at the bottom end of the size/power range, the 7x43 (.280/30) British at the top.

There is no technical reason why this could not be done, the problem is political and institutional inertia. The Europeans don’t want to adopt anything the US Army doesn’t choose, having been shafted too often before over this (resulting in NATO ending up with the 7.62x51 - inferior to the .280/30 - and the 5.56mm). But that doesn’t mean that Europe as well as the USA shouldn’t keep having the ammo problems and potential solutions pointed out to them - which is what some of us are trying to do, in the hope that eventually the message might begin to trickle through…


What a good post Tony.


Interesting post. The fact is the current 5.56 (SS109/M855) IS A EUROPEAN DESIGNED CARTRIDGE!

In the mid to late 1970s, NATO was deeply involved in the “Weapon System of the 80s” trials. At that time the US 5.56mm cartridge was the M193 which was not perfect but at the time was seen as having pretty good terminal effects. It was exclusively used in the various versions of the M-16.

Because of the politics associated with the selection of the US designed 7.62x51mm over the British 280/30 (the British wrote an excellent history of the entire process which I had a chance to read 35 or so years ago - wish I still had a copy of it). The US eventually decided not to submit anything to the trials. The SS109 with the 62gr bullet instead of the 55gr bullet of the M193 was the Belgian submission and won the trials. I believe the heavier bullet was intended to make the projectile more stable and more suitable for a Squad Automatic Weapon in 5.56 for use in place of the M60 and similar NATO SAW weapons in 7.62 NATO.

Both the British and Germans had submissions. I know that the US was looking at a shortened version of the 5.56x45mm cartridge during this time frame but decided not to submit it (or so I’m told). I seem to remember that there may have been other things considered by the US. I have also heard rumbles at the time from the US Army that they were not entirely pleased with the redesign of the M193 into the 5.56mm NATO.

In this time frame I was serving with the British Forces and had an opportunity to visit the NATO test center at Cold Meece (near ROF Swynnerton) and spent the day with the Major commanding and we had extensive discussions about the trials since Cold Meece was deeply involved and the Major had strong feelings on the subject. I also visited the British Ordnance Board during this time and had a couple of opportunities to discuss the trials with the head of the Ordnance Board (a Royal Navy Captain for the first time) and some of his staff. The above is from my memory so may be off in some details.

Over the past 5+ years I have heard some opinions in the US military circle (mostly from old guys like me) that some of the “stopping power” problems in Afganistan and Iraq are the result of trying to do too many things with the 5.56 NATO which led to the M855, and that the M193 had considerably more stopping power. This may just be old guys talking (although some very knowledgable old guys). Clearly the longer ranges, particularly in Afganistan has something to do with it.

The bullet tip design of the Soviet 5.45mm seems to give it considerable stopping power from what I have heard.

Retaining the 7.62x51 as a rifle cartridge is not the answer. I carried an AR-15 in Vietnam in 1966. I also had lots of opportunity to fire an M-14. On fully automatic, the M-14 was essentially useless compared to the AR-15 based on my experience. Weight was and still is a big issue. I have always thougth the M-16 in 5.56mm paired with a SAW like the M-60 in 7.62 was a pretty good combination, but then I was never an infantry guy but many of my peers seem to have considered them a pretty good combination-once the initial M-16 problems were solved.

Still, it is amusing that we are talking about a European designed NATO cartridge this time since that is what we have had for 30 years.




Lew, I think you’re being unduly generous in attributing design of the 5.56 NATO cartridge to Europeans. The Belgians did not actually create a new cartridge, they just put a different bullet into the American-designed 5.56x45 cartridge case.

M193 might have slightly better fragmentation than M855, but IIRC neither fragments beyond ~300 meters. Also, M193 loses velocity more quickly than M855, so is not a better choice for long range. Wound profiles of 5.56 M193 and M855 (and 5.45x39) can be seen at: … hp?t=67668

You’re right, the 5.56 M16 and 7.62 M60 were a good combination for the majority of scenarios encountered in past conflicts. Historically, about 98% of combat occurred at <300 meters, which is why the assault rifle was born. The problem is, Afghan fighting is outside of this historical norm, with 50% of combat taking place at 300-900 meters. For that, a short-barreled 5.56mm carbine is considerably less than ideal.



stanc, I believe that the SS109 and the M193 are in fact different cartridges that use basically the same case design. In fact, if I remember correctly they use a different barrel twist—but could be wrong.

The 9mm Glisenti cartridge is a 9x19mm case but I don’t believe anyone would consider it the same cartridge as the 9mm Parabellum.

The M193 was never a NATO cartridge, only the Belgian designed SS109 was ever submitted for NATO qualification. It sure does not qualify as a US design just because it is based on the US 5.56x45mm case anymore than the 9mm Glisenti is a German design cartridge just because it uses a 9x19mm case.

I don’t believe that the US would have offered a 5.56x45mm case had they had a contender in the trials that led to the SS109. In fact, I seem to remember that both the British and the German entries would have probably been less effective at the Afgan ranges than the SS109, as would the shortened case 5.56x45 type round I saw the US working. Given the decisions made in the late 1970s, we probably got the best cartridge from the ones offered for consideration.

Interesting information on 5.56 Wound information, particularly the last posting in the thread (Jawper). Thanks! Lots of half truths going around. I have been told repeatedly that the 5.45mm tumbled sooner and more consistantly with the sir pocket nose. I am told that the steel core has a slight angle on the front to help initiate the tumble and not as illustrated by Kernal. I have been shown this angled core on rounds that came back from the Soviet days in Afganistan. As the last contributor to the thread indicates, there are lots of factors and the wound effects are very range and situation dependent.

It is interesting that the ballistics of the cartridges that the SOF guys began looking at 5 years or so ago were pretty close to the old 280/30, but I have no idea what the 280/30 wound effects were and whether they will be any better at 300+ yards.




As far the best choice out there to meet the supposed needs of those who don’t find the 5.56x45 adequate, I think the 6.5x47 Lapua is the best choice for range, accuracy, magazine capacity, knockdown power, and carrying weight. The new 6.5 Lapua rd uses a 124gr bullet and has a smaller case and powder load than .308, so carrying weight would be better than .308, and maybe magazine capacity. This is based on the supposed notion that range and knockdown power are of greater importance than high magazine capacity or carrying weight. If lighter carrying weight were needed for more rds per soldier, or if higher magazine capacity was needed but you still wanted to be more powerful than the 5.56, then the Chinese 5.8x42 or something close to it would be a good alternative to the 6.5x47 Lapua.

Visual comparison (credit -


We’ll probably be in the deserts and mountains of the “Stans” until hell freezes over, so long range capability is important. For now. I can almost bet you for damn certain that if we, or NATO, adopts a cartridge bigger than the 5.56x45, we’ll find ouselves back in jungle warfare where long range is 30 yards, spray and pray is the MO, and cartridges like the 12 gauge Beehive will be in demand. It’s a vicious circle.




Why do you say “basically the same” case? Is not the case used in M193 identical to that of SS109? Other than bullet weight and powder charge, is there any difference between the two?

Yes, 1:9 rifling twist is necessary to stabilize the SS109, compared to 1:12 for M193. But, that’s a difference in the weapons. Except for the bullets, the cartridges themselves are identical. Unlike the situation with 9mm Glisenti and 9mm Parabellum, any weapon chambered for M193 can safely fire SS109, and vice versa.

BTW, do you consider 5.56 Mk262, which has a 77-grain MatchKing bullet, to be a different cartridge than 5.56 M193, or just a different 5.56x45 loading?

I couldn’t tell you for certain, as I’ve never seen any gel tests for ranges beyond 100 meters. However, I think it’s a safe bet that 280/30 wounding would be more severe than any 5.56 bullet at >300 yards.


Unfortunately, magazine capacity for 6.5x47 would be exactly the same as that of 7.62x51, because both rounds have cases of the same diameter. There’d be a small reduction in ammo weight, but negligible (if any) difference in weapon weight.


That’s quite possible. Unless one is the aggressor, the geographic location of future wars cannot be known in advance. It seems to me that calls for choosing the most flexible option.

You can effectively fight a short-range war with a long-range cartridge, but you’re badly handicapping yourself in trying to fight a long-range war with a short-range cartridge.


The impression I’ve always had is that the US didn’t mind which cartridge was chosen as long as it was a 5.56x45…they were somewhat disconcerted when the NATO selection of the SS109 forced them to change the rifling twist to stabilise it, because the improved loadings being worked on in the US were compatible with the rifling of the existing weapons.

What about the 5.56x45 XM777 ball and XM778 tracer Lew?

Daniel Watters has written a detailed history of the 5.56mm weapons and ammunition (on the web here: and I found the following comment by him on a discussion forum on 5.56x45 developments:

“The M855 was effectively thrust upon the US with NATO’s 1980 standardization of the FN SS109. Prior to this, the US Army’s 5.56mm SAW candidates were tested with other ammo types. As early as 1969, these experiments were conducted with the 68gr XM287 Ball and XM288 Tracer produced by Industries Valcartier Inc. (IVI) of Canada. In 1976, the XM287 Ball and XM288 Tracer were redesignated XM779 and XM780 respectively. However, by this point, the IVI cartridges were effectively replaced by ‘in-house’ designs, the XM777 Ball and XM778 Tracer. The latter pair could be used in standard 1-12” twist barrels. XM777 Ball and XM778 Tracer were submitted by the US to the late '70s NATO trials."