The Green Bullet: Good for the environment, bad for the enemy

30 Jul 2010 | Lance Cpl. Jacob D. Osborne

The Army has developed a deadlier and more effective round of ammunition, which is lead-free and environmentally friendly.

The M855-A1 cartridge, also known as the green bullet, uses a 24.3 gram copper projectile instead of lead, said Jerry Mazza, the program manager for ammunition, Marine Corps Systems Command, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

The U.S. military upgraded the 5.56mm round before and it was a huge improvement, said Army Lt. Col. Jeffrey K. Woods, products program manager for the Product Executive Office of Ammunition in Picatinny Arsenal, N.J. This is a chance for another big improvement.

“You get one guy saying that the round we use now is the best thing since sliced bread and another saying ‘I hit the guy but nothing happened,’” Woods said.

While testing the new ammunition, Army officials fired more than one million rounds to ensure it met all expectations.

“Test data has shown that the new enhanced performance round is more effective than the current ammunition against both personal targets as well as intermediate barriers, like windshields, light armored vehicles and concrete masonry,” Mazza said.

Results also verified the green bullet out-performed various types of 7.62mm ammunition against certain targets, he said.

“If you are a (service member) and you have to fill your magazine with a round, this would be it,” Woods said. “Nothing is better for a general purpose round.”

The Corps expends around 100 million 5.56mm cartridges during live-fire training each year. The current 5.56mm round has been used by Marines since the 1980s. If the Corps adopts the green bullet, “the conversion would be done over a period of several years,” Mazza said. “As the Marine Corps expends its current M855 stockpile it would begin ramping up our buys as a one-for-one replacement.”

Mazza added the round would be more expensive to produce the first few years due to costs associated with acquiring new components and machinery.

 “It will cost a nickel more per round for the new bullet, but the cost will be offset by the cost to clean up ranges,” Woods said.

Headquarters Marine Corps