Picatinny ammo goes from regular to unleaded

By Audra Calloway, AMCJuly 2, 2013

The 5.56mm M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round, shown here, is sometimes called a "green round" due to its copper-only core. The switch to the new 5.56 mm green bullet, the M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round, in 2010, has eliminated nearly 2 thousand to... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. (July 1, 2013) -- If you use the expression "get the lead out" around members of a special technical team here working on the Army's 5.56mm and 7.62mm enhanced performance ammunition programs, don't expect them to move more quickly.

That's because the expression has an entirely different meaning to this select group of scientists and engineers who make up the base's enhanced performance round teams.

The switch to the new 5.56 mm green bullet, the M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round, or EPR, in 2010 has eliminated nearly two thousand tons of lead from the waste stream, according to the latest Picatinny figures.

Now Picatinny's EPR team is applying the same technology to improve M80A1 7.62 mm ammunition that troops are scheduled to receive in 2014.

Thirty-two grains of lead are eliminated per M855A1 projectile, and 114.5 grains of lead will be eliminated per M80A1 projectile.

The M855A1 EPR, a lead-free version of the M855 cartridge fired from the 5.56 mm family of weapons (M4, M16 and M249), allows for training exercises on ranges that prohibit lead projectiles.

"The EPR replaces the lead slug with a copper slug," said Lt. Col. Phil Clark, Product Manager Small Caliber Ammunition in the Program Executive Officer Ammunition.

"This makes the projectile environmentally friendly, while still giving Soldiers the performance capabilities they need on the battlefield. So far we have eliminated 1,994 metric tons of lead from 5.56 ammunition production."

The round's new bullet design features a copper jacket and exposed hardened steel penetrator. The switch has prompted a number of significant performance enhancements over the M855A1's predecessor which was fielded in the early 1980s.

Similar improvements are expected from the 7.62 version.

Improvements include better hard-target penetration, more consistent performance against soft targets and significantly increased distances of these effects, Clark said.

Based on fiscal year 2013-2018 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm projected ammunition procurements, an additional 3,683 metric tons of lead could be eliminated from ammunition production.

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