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Infantry Weapons

Update: US Marine Corps exploring new 5.56 mm bullets

07 June 2017

The US Marine Corps (USMC) is exploring new bullets fielded by the US Army and Special Operations Command (SOCOM) as potential replacements for the corps' 5.56 mm M855 rounds.

The M855A1 round, first introduced in 2010, is designed for use with the M4 carbine but can also be employed by the M16 and M249 families of weapons. (US Army)The M855A1 round, first introduced in 2010, is designed for use with the M4 carbine but can also be employed by the M16 and M249 families of weapons. (US Army)

During a 6 June hearing, US senators voiced concern that the proliferation of advanced body armour in battlefields across the world is potentially making the US Army's and US Marine Corps' 5.56 mm ammunition obsolete.

"We've been after this for quite a while with the army … [and] we're seeing more body armour wherever our marines and soldiers deploy," Lieutenant General Robert Walsh, deputy commandant for combat development and integration, told the Senate Armed Services' seapower subcommittee in response to lawmakers' questions.

The USMC fields the M855 round, but Lt Gen Walsh said the corps is now looking at SOCOM's MK 318 MOD 1 round and the US Army's M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round (EPR).

Lt Gen Walsh suggested the USMC may be leaning towards the M855A1. He noted that marines in Afghanistan are now using those army rounds. So far the corps is finding the M855A1 to be "much more capable, much better at penetrating armour, and personal armour protection" than the M855.

However, Brigadier General Joseph Shrader, head of US Marine Corps Systems Command, said the M855A1 round "causes some durability issues" for the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. The M27 is being fielded as a partial replacement for the USMC's M249 light machine guns.

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