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M80 pulls in reloading

This is a discussion on M80 pulls in reloading within the Ammunition forums, part of the M14 M1A Forum category; Well.. Loaded a few hundred rounds, and gotta tell you, I think I'm gonna pull it all down again. For a couple of weeks, I ...

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Old June 24th, 2012, 11:32 AM   #1
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M80 pulls in reloading

Well.. Loaded a few hundred rounds, and gotta tell you, I think I'm gonna pull it all down again. For a couple of weeks, I was using various Varget loads behind M80 pulls, and have nothing but open groups.
Blaming the USGI barrel.
Blaming the stock.
Blaming the crappy shooter.

So, broke out some Hornady 150gn loads I made up a few months back.
Wow. Now I have 1 - 2" groups without trying.

No more M80 pulls for me. No wonder they're so cheap.

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Old June 24th, 2012, 11:38 AM   #2
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I think it depends on who or where you buy them. The problem I think is if you get pulls that have pull marks on them. I think the shape if the bullet gets distorted some what and that's why they aren't accurate. I have some that have no pull marks on them what so ever and they shoot good.

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Old June 24th, 2012, 11:56 AM   #3
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Surplus M80, or M193 for that matter, or any FMJ milspec bullets, are sloppy because of the way they are manufactured and the "just good enough" milspec.

the FMJ production method starts with a gilding metal jacket and a lead slug. they shove the lead slug into the open base of the jacket and then squish the whole thing into the rough shape of a bullet. Not very precise. if you have some FMJ bullets sitting around, grab a handful and look at the bases of the bullets. Some will have lead squished out of the base of the jacket, some will be below the base, many will have lead lopsided at the base. it's just not a precision way to make bullets.

Ed Harris did a test years ago for American Rifleman magazine where he tested M193 55 gr bullets for accuracy (bad) then went through the pile and hand picked bullets that looked consistent at the base, lead core not lopsided, and tested those... improved groups.

Milspec FMJ ammo like LC has a minimum accuracy standard to meet, and it's not very tight. As long as the ammo meets that standard, it gets issued. Then again, if you are buying "surplus" like XM ammo, or surplus pulldown bullets... um, why are they "surplus"? maybe they didn't meet the minimum standard, and that's why they were pulled down.

Those bullets may be fine for plinking, if you buy them cheap.

if you want FMJ bullets, but also want accuracy, look to the commercial manufacturers like Sierra or Speer. They make FMJ bullets but have a name to protect and have a much higher QC standard for the bullets.

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Old June 24th, 2012, 12:50 PM   #4
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Sometimes, you can improve the accuracy of pulls by running them through a Lee push-thru .308" (or .224", depending on caliber) sizing die. The operative word in that sentence is sometimes. Like 2336USMC said, they're not incredibly accurate bullets to begin with. Add to that the fact that they've already been loaded once and then pulled down, and you've got a recipe for 3-4 MOA bullets, or worse.

Even relatively inexpensive bullets like Privi or bulk Remington or Winchester hunting bullets are going to be more accurate than M80/M2/M193 pulls. The bulk Winchester FMJ bullets are comparable to new LC FMJ bullets in my experience, so they're nothing to write home about either.

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Old June 24th, 2012, 01:09 PM   #5
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As far as I know, all jacketed bullets are swagged together. So what I'm assuming 2336USMC is describing that method above. I've watched a video from Sierra and they showed the process of making SMK bullets. Now granted Sierra's method of swagging is going to be more precise than what they use for military FMJ bullets.
I'm shooting with iron sights and not as good as they use to be eyes, so if my M1A can keep a 8" or so group at 200 yards, I'm thrilled. I struggle to even see a 8" target at 200 yards without optics.
In my scoped bolt rifle, I expect sub MOA accuracy.

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Old June 24th, 2012, 02:35 PM   #6
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The operant words for military FMJ projectiles are "speed and low cost".
In my opinion, for a long time in the recent past, FMJ was made to be shot through machine guns and thus a pattern was desirable rather than a tight group. Anything that comes from a belted-anything I think is suspect for being made to this standard.
With this in mind it makes good sense that the military purchases sniper/DM ammo and issues it separately as the typical FMJ will NOT meet tight standards for groups sizes.
Running projectiles through a resizing (not swaging) die may help with circular out-of-roundness but will do nothing to correct jacket asymmetry and or major core weight differences. You can also use wet sandpaper to correct lead smears and flaws on the bases but again this is not going to do a thing to help poor jacket symmetry or major core weight differences.
Of course if the projectiles have been loaded/handled roughly during demilling then being just plain asymmetrical is going to hurt group sizes.
I agree that if "good FMJ" ammo is sought..and I can think of good reasons why some might be useful...then it makes sense to purchase some in the "100 per box" packages which are made to normal commercial retail sale reloading market standards and that will be leaps and bounds better quality product than any bulk packaged probably mil spec type FMJ ammo.
I'm working right now on some measurement studies of FMJ ammo and am frankly amazed that with the readings I'm getting it shoots as good as it does. If ANY of my own hand-loaded ammo exhibited this level of TIR, etc., I would KNOW my process was somehow broken.

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Old June 24th, 2012, 02:45 PM   #7
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This is a long answer to your problem.

"7.62 NATO Long Range Match Cartridges
By Frederick Salberta

This article seeks to briefly detail the 7.62 NATO history as a long-range U.S. military match cartridge and the nominal load details. Adopted in 1955, it was not until well after the 1963 NM M14 rifle adoption that the 7.62 NATO began to compete against the .30-06 as the primary US military long range service rifle match cartridge. With the resurgence of the Palma matches in the late 1960s it began to supersede the .30-06, a status it enjoys to the present day. As recently as 2009, a new variant of the 7.62 NATO intended for long range sniper and match use was adopted; followed in 2010 with a new Army Marksmanship Unit load suitable for 1000 yards match use with the AR-10 NRA legal “service rifle.”

The original 7.62 NATO M80 ball cartridge adopted in 1955 featured a 148 gr. bullet with a muzzle velocity of 2,750 fps measured at 78 feet, which corresponded to an actual muzzle velocity of 2,805 fps out of a 22 inch M14 barrel. This was achieved with a nominal load of 46 grains of WC846 for Winchester-Western loads, or 44.1 grains of IMR 4475 in loads assembled by Remington. The M80 ball cartridge was essentially a mildly improved ballistic match to the old M2 .30-06 ball load of the WWII era. The bullet design was superior to the M2 for long range shooting due to the M80’s boat-tail design. However, M80 was by no means an ideal match cartridge due to the relatively low level of test accuracy: between 3.7″ and 5″ measured mean radius (MR) at 600 yards being the norm. This load would typically go subsonic at around 850 yards, and was not an ideal cartridge for use at distances in excess of 750 yards out of an M14 due to bullet turbulence when making the transition from super-sonic to sub-sonic speeds, an event that occurs at 1117 fps at sea level in standard conditions.

As a comparative reference, the 1962 LC Match M72 cartridge (.30-06) had a 2.1″ MR at 600 yards and was supersonic past the 1000 yard mark; its 173 gr. boat-tail bullet at 2685 fps muzzle velocity retained 1294 fps (1.164 Mach) at that distance. A useful rule of thumb is that total group size tends to be roughly three times the MR; although MR is a more useful measurement it is less frequently used by individual testers as group size is simpler to measure.

Although not well understood by many, at around 100 fps above the speed of sound, there is sufficient turbulence that some bullet designs have their subsonic accuracy seriously compromised when they fall to below this speed. Many well designed bullets fired from an appropriate twist barrel will have minimal transonic perturbations, though there is generally some degradation associated with making the transition from the sonic to subsonic region. Through many years of testing, the US Army has decided that the threshold above which this effect can be ignored is 1226 fps in standard atmosphere conditions. Ideally any load will be above this speed at the terminal target distance.

In the case of the M80 ball and European equivalent loads, maintaining this velocity past 780 yards is difficult when fired from a service rifle with its relatively short barrel. M80 ball does not generally make the transition to subsonic velocities gracefully and it typically shows a fan pattern beyond 800 yards out of US service rifles. The design of the L1A2 and SS77 projectiles (M80 equivalents) when fired out of a 1:12″ twist barrel generally are well behaved in the transitional region, as long as high cross winds are not present (high winds complicate the stability of the bullet as it passes the transonic region). While not the ideal long range cartridge, the L1A2 or equivalent was used by the Commonwealth shooters (UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia) between 1963 and 1995 as the long range target cartridge out to 1000 yards, only being replaced by a 155 gr. projectile in 1996. Because the US teams had to use this cartridge in the Palma match when that match was held abroad, it was used by the US shooters in Palma competition in 1967, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1974, 1979, 1982, 1985 and last in 1988.

Because this was the cartridge for LR competition in the commonwealth, certain efforts were made to assure that the performance of the normal ball cartridge was superior to its US counterpart. The Canadian version for example, used an extruded powder close to IMR 8208M, which gave more consistent muzzle velocity variations and hence better long range vertical dispersion. Australian projectiles were known for their consistent 0.308″ to 0.3082″ bullet diameter, while Canadian and British projectiles tended to run a bit smaller, between 0.3075″ and 0.3079″. As the 7.62 target rifle prior to 1968 was the Lee Enfield No.4 with a 25.2″ barrel and after 1969 the L39/Envoy variant with a 27.6″ barrel and a very tight bore, the velocities achieved on the British version of the M80 (L1A2) cartridge were a bit higher, on the order of 2,850 fps. As time went along and match barrel lengths approached 29″, muzzle velocities approached 2,900 fps.

Few specific true match loading of this cartridge were produced; the Commonwealth approach being to designate a series of the first production from cartridge lines after a die refit as “green spot”, suitable for match use, if the test accuracy merited it. When the lines were refitted, the first few hundred thousand cartridges loaded gave superior accuracy. By this method very consistent ammunition was available, though in general the best accuracy one could expect with British ammunition was MR of 2.9″ to 3.3″ at 600 yards, which corresponded to an expected 10 shot group at that distance of just under 2 MOA. Some lots of Canadian and Australian ammunition grouped better, though few lots would provide 15 shot groups of consistently better than 1.5 to 1.7 MOA past 600 yards, even in the best match rifles optimized for the L1A2 and equivalent Commonwealth ball of the era. Some lots used at the club level were far worse.

In the United States with the adoption of the M14 as a national match rifle in 1963, there arose a need for a longer range version of the 7.62 NATO, which would allow for greater accuracy up to 1000 yards. M80 ball proved to not be suitable due to the bullet construction. The US chose to adopt a new cartridge for sniper and long range match use. The obvious solution was to place a 174 grain M72 projectile on top of a suitable quantity of WC846 powder. This was first tested in 1963 and designated as XM118 cartridge. In testing during 1963, it became apparent that the accuracy of this load was less than desired, which resulted in a change of the powder to IMR4895, the same powder as used by the M72 .30-06 match cartridge adopted in 1957. Target group results over 500 yards were much better with the IMR powder.

The final M118 7.62 NATO cartridge, adopted in 1964, utilized a 174gr FMJ Lake City projectile over approximately 42 grains of IMR4895 in a Lake City case and primer. This load gave a nominal velocity of 2,550 fps at 78 ft, which correlates to approximately 2,600 fps at the muzzle of the 22 inch M14 barrel. This load showed better accuracy then the best lots of M80 ball, with considerably less wind drift. Such a load will be supersonic to just over 990 yards under adverse conditions. Under ideal conditions (high temp, low humidity and low atmospheric pressure) the load was supersonic to 1000 yards when fired out of an M14. In either case this bullet, if from a good lot, handled the transition from supersonic to subsonic flight well in either 1:12″ twist or 1:10″ twist barrels, even under high wind conditions.

Between 1964 and 1967 when the National Matches were receiving full federal support, the National Match M118 lots were considered some of the very best long range loads available. This was due to the high care used in assembly and selection of bullets out of the many lots manufactured for match and sniper use. Bullets for the national match yearly production were selected from those that showed superior accuracy during normal acceptance test firing. In addition the cases were specially selected, either by being from a single case line, or from multiple machines that had recently had the forming dies replaced. Those lots intended for national match use were headstamped “NM”, while those lots fielded for regular matches and sniper use were headstamped “Match”. The 1966 and 1967 NM loads showed 600 yard MR of 1.76″ and 1.73″ respectively, which corresponds to expected equivalent 1 MOA 10-shot groups at 600 yards. The 1967 NM ammunition was so good it was utilized for the 1966 and 1971 US Palma matches, by which time most of this excellent ammunition was expended.

After the final fully government supported National Matches of 1967, no further NM lots of M118 were produced. Because the cartridge was now only loaded to the nominal match specification (MR of under 3.5″ at 600 yards), the powder was changed back to WC846 after 1968, between lots # 12074 and 12078. The nominal load for the M118 loaded with WC 846 was 44.0 grains. In addition the cases were no longer specially selected; cases used from 1968 through 1979 were taken from the regular production line, the only difference being the lack of a primer crimp and the different headstamp. After 1968 the quality of the lots gradually dipped close to the 3.5″ MR at 600 yard requirement, which would result in expected 10 shot groups of between 9.5″ and 11″ at 600 yards.

Such ammunition was not particularly suitable for use on the post 1966 10X target at 600 yards with its 2 MOA 10 ring. Service teams could make suitable across the course ammunition by substituting Sierra 168 gr. HPBT bullets for the 174 gr. arsenal bullet over the standard M118 powder charge. This load would effectively cut the groups in half, although because of the 13 degree boat tail bullet on the Sierra 168 gr. bullet, such a load was not suitable for use past 800 yards. All of the service teams sought additional long range advantages. The result was the development of a series of 1000 yard service team hand loads in the post 1967 era.

Click here to return to Part 1

The first long range load for the M14 that that saw wide scale issue was based on the Western 180 gr. FMJ match projectile. First utilized by the AMU before 1967, the typical load was simply a substitution of the Western projectile for the LC M118 bullet. The average peak pressures in the M118 was around 44,000 cup; with a slight increase in the amount of IMR 4895, the velocity could be pushed up closer to 2630~2640 fps without exceeding the safety margin of the M14. The exact load was never standardized, but added no more than 0.5 gr. to 0.7 gr. of IMR 4895 to get the effective muzzle velocity of the load up to around 2,630~2640 fps. Sometime in the 1960s the 180 gr. Sierra HPBT (old 9 degree boat tail bullet) was substituted for the western FMJ projectile. With the slightly better ballistic coefficient of this bullet and the slightly higher muzzle velocity, these loads would remain above 1220 fps at 1000 yards under most match conditions. This became the preferred solution of the Army, National Guard and Army Reserve teams in the pre 1975 era.

The Marine Corp does not seem to have done anything other than utilize M118 with some form of 180 gr. bullet substitution for long range until 1968 or 1969, when two new loads seem to have come out of the Marine Corps shooting team. The first load was a Sierra 168 gr. HPBT on top of 39.0 grains of IMR3031 for short range. This load was found to be very successful for matches where it was allowed. It would eventually be loaded by Federal in the mid 1970s for the Marine Corp team; becoming the Federal Gold match load in 1990 (though bumped up to 41 grains of IMR 3031, with a subsequent shift to IMR 4064). The second load used the same powder charge with a Sierra 190 gr. HPBT bullet, which was used for 600 through 1000 yards in the M14. With a muzzle velocity of approximately 2,450 fps, it remained supersonic to 1000 yards. This load was very accurate with the light barrel Marine match M14 of pre 1975 vintage; though it was considered hot enough to make the brass one-time use. The pressure with this load was well above any accepted pressure level, being closer to the blue pill proof cartridges. The load was very hard on the rifles, and not all rifles would shoot it well. Nonetheless under typical summer temperatures this load was the over 600 yard to 1000 yard match load.

The Navy continued to use the 7.62 M1 Garand after 1967. The Air Force closed down the Air Force M1 rifle build program in 1969 while still retaining the 7.62 APG (Air Force Premium Grade) Garand. Both teams continued to use these rifles through 1975. Both had access to IMR4475 loaded lots of M80 ball, loaded and clipped especially for use in the M1 7.62 conversions. The Navy found that by pulling the 148 gr. bullets and substituting a Sierra 168 gr. HPBT over 42 grains of IMR 4475 that such a load shot very well out of the M1 barrel up to 600 yards. Shooters from the period credit this load as being part of the reason the Navy 7.62 conversions were quite competitive with the Army and Marine Corps M14 match rifles at 600 yards. It was not suitable for longer ranges.

The Air Force developed a load suitable for the 7.62 APG M1 which featured the use of the Sierra 190 grain projectile over top approximately 43.6 gr. to 44 gr. of IMR 4320. This load achieved something close to 2,500 fps out of a 7.62 M1 and remained supersonic out to 1000 yards. It was an accurate but very stout load that placed severe stress on the op-rod design of the M1. Bent op-rods were not an entirely unexpected outcome when shooting this load in an M1. Given the use of the slower IMR 4320 powder, the load was not suitable for an M14 rifle with its gas port location closer to the chamber than that of the M1.

If special loads were not available, the 7.62 M1 rifles would shoot good lots of M118 well out to 1000 yards; the 1:12″ twist 24 inch M1 barrels keeping the load above the transonic region due to the extra length. However by the middle 1970s most of the lots of M118 issued at non-national match events were loaded with ball powder; these lots did not group well at either 600 or 1000 yards.

1975 saw the old 5-V target (36 inch 5 ring) give way to the LR 10X target (20 inch 10 ring). In the same year the M14 was allowed to utilize a heavier barrel, which had different harmonics than the older light weight barrels, along with epoxy impregnated stocks. M14 accuracy went from struggling to hold 1.6 to 1.7 MOA at long range to approaching 1 MOA or even less on a consistent basis. M118 loaded with ball powder was very much the limiting factor in scores with these rifles. While the post 1972 lots of WC846 had much of the calcium carbonate eliminated and hence showed much less tendency to foul the middle of the bore with persistent carbon, the long range accuracy was not even close to acceptable for use on the post 1975 10-X MR (600 yard) and LR (1000 yard) target. In response, from 1975 on the preferred powder to be used in M118 intended for match use was IMR 4895, though some lots were still loaded with WC846. It would appear that M118 used in the National Matches (with one exception) from 1975 to 1979 was loaded with IMR4895. Even these lots showed accuracy far less impressive than the pre-1968 lots, as the bullets utilized were right off of the production line, instead of being carefully selected as was the pre-1968 practice. Scores suffered.

In response in 1980 Lake City began developing a more accurate 7.62 NATO cartridge for match use. The primary focus was on bullet quality with examples from Lapua, Nosler and Sierra being tested. The result after two test NM lots was the M852 match cartridge, which utilized a Sierra 168 gr. match projectile and 42.0 gr. of IMR4895. This load showed a nominal velocity of 2,550 fps at 78 feet, which corresponds to an actual muzzle velocity of approximately 2,600 fps at the muzzle of the M14. The new load was very successful, as the accuracy variability between lots diminished. While the new load showed accuracy similar to the old pre-1968 M118 NM lots, the load was not suitable for long range use, that is at distances over 800 yards, as it went subsonic around 860 yards. This was primarily due to the lower BC of the Sierra 168 gr. (~.441G1) vs. the 174 gr. Lake City projectile (~.514G1); therefore, for Palma or events past 800 yards, M118 or service team developed handloads remained the only solution available.

After the adoption of the M852 match cartridge in 1981, the last lots of M118 Match were loaded in 1982. After 1982, the M118 was referred to as M118 Special Ball denoting that it was no longer intended for match use, but rather for use by snipers. Lots loaded in 1982 and 1983 were still loaded with a nominal charge of 42 grains of IMR 4895. In 1984 the powder type was changed to WC846, the regular ball powder used to load M80 ball, all lots loaded after this date use WC846. Shooters forced to use this ammunition were very disappointed in the special ball characteristics and felt that the accuracy of all lots of this ammunition left something to be desired.

The Army teams continued to use the “old model” (9 degree boat tail) Sierra 180 gr. projectiles. This load gave both supersonic performance at 1000 yards with accuracy similar to the Sierra 168 gr. bullet. This load could be easily made through bullet substitution on M852 cartridges, though in most all cases the rounds were hand-loaded using new components by the respective service teams. The powder used in these loads was typically IMR 4895 or IMR 4064. In the post 1975 M14 rifles, the team loads tended to shift to the use of IMR4064 for bullets weighing over168 gr., based on the respective team experiences. There was no standard load but the reported loads were typically a low of 42.8 to a high of 43.2 grains of IMR4064 (180 gr. Sierra). These loads produced nominal MV of around 2,620 fps to 2,650 fps in an M14 with an un-eroded throat. In order to avoid damage to the gas system on the latter load, a small gas relief hole was typically drilled in the M14 gas cylinder lock screw. These loads continued in use until 1988 or 1989 when Sierra changed the 180 gr., bullet to a 13 degree boat tail, which effectively lowered the BC of this bullet and made this bullet uncompetitive at long range. Special lots of the old 180 gr. Sierra bullet remained in Army long range match use past the year 2000. The 185 gr. Berger saw use once supplies of the old Sierra 180 gr. dried up after 1998.

The old 190 gr. Marine Corp load was not as successful with the new stiffer barrels post-1975, so the Marines began to experiment with hot 168 gr. loads. They developed a special load utilizing the 168 gr. Sierra bullet, but with a heavier charge of powder in order to get the velocity to approximately 2,800 fps. Several different loads were developed, but the most successful load was the famous “G-4” load. This utilized a virgin Lake City case, with crimped-in Lake City primer and 44.2 gr. to 44.5 gr. of IMR4895 under a Sierra 168 gr. Matchking. This load was strictly a fire once and discard the case proposition as the pressure of this load was far above the peak pressure allowed for 7.62 NATO ammunition. Additionally, rifles set up for this load had the gas cylinder lock screw drilled with a different size gas hole and special attention to the rear of the chamber to ensure ideal support of the case in the head/web area. These loads were not suitable for use in any rifle not specifically set up to shoot them. Nonetheless with a muzzle velocity of 2,800 fps this load could keep the 168 gr. Sierra bullet supersonic at 1000 yards with acceptable accuracy.

Neither the Army nor the Marine loads were ideal, but in the pre-1995 world that was what was available. In 1995 Sierra developed a new .30 caliber match projectile, the 175 gr. Matchking. This bullet was simply nothing more than an improved version of the old Lake City 174 gr. projectile with a slightly improved ballistic shape resulting in an advertised BC (G1) of .496. One of the features on this bullet was smooth transition from supersonic to subsonic velocity, so that the typical “fan pattern” seen with the 13 degree Sierra 168 gr. boat tails when entering the subsonic realm was largely eliminated if the bullet was fired from a high quality barrel and the side winds were not excessive.

A 1991 US Army Judge Advocate General (JAG, the Army’s legal arm) decision held that certain hollow point projectiles were not subject to the Hague Convention’s prohibition of such projectiles for use in warfare, as long as the purpose of the “open tip” was to provide better accuracy or ballistic shape, instead of to enhance bullet expansion. Following that ruling, the US military saw the new Sierra bullet as an ideal candidate for an updated M118 load for match and sniper use.

The result was the 1995 adoption of the M118LR cartridge. Due to the arsenal’s preference for ball powders for uniformity of loading on high-speed machinery, the new cartridge utilized WC750 ball powder. The first published powder charge for this load was nominally 42.8 gr. of WC750. The load used a Lake City case and the Sierra 175 gr. Matchking projectile. The nominal velocity was 2,600 fps at 78 feet, from a 22″ barrel, which correlates to a velocity of 2,660 fps at the muzzle of the M24 bolt action rifle with a 24″ barrel.

The powder charge was increased to a nominal 43.3 gr. of WC750 in 1996. This load gave a higher muzzle velocity, on the order of 2,700 fps at 78 feet from the 24 inch barrel of the M24/M40 sniper rifles. This correlates to an approximate muzzle velocity of 2,750 fps from a 24 inch barrel. The higher velocity gave better performance and less wind deflection. By the middle to late 1990s, the Army, Marines and Coast Guard were using bolt action sniper rifles based on the Remington 700 design, which eliminated some of the restrictions on the cartridge that the M14 design had imposed. As the M14 was seen as largely obsolete, the new updated cartridge did not have to meet the gas port pressure requirements of the M14. The last lot of M118LR known to be loaded with theWC750 powder was LC-99C173-013 in 1999.

In 1999 the powder type was changed to Alliant Reloder 15. The new nominal charge was 44.3 gr. of RE-15 powder, which produced a muzzle velocity of approximately 2,750 fps from the 24 inch barrel of the M24/M40 with a velocity at 78 feet of approximately 2,700 fps. The reason for the change has not been definitely published, but seems to have to do with some improvement in either temperature stability or accuracy. In any case neither of these cartridges variants was intended for use in the M14, though the early lots of M118LR (those loaded with 42.8 gr. instead of 43.3 gr. of WC750) were suitable for the M14, although hard on the rifles due to the high gas port pressure. Indeed the Marine Corp prohibited the use of the M118LR cartridge in the M14 DMR rifle until 2002

Between 2001 and 2003 several events occurred which lead to a reassessment of the M118LR cartridge. First with the start of the war on terror in 2001 the Marine Corp and Army began to issue the M14 in a Designated Marksman Rifle (DMR) role. The lack of sufficient M852 ammunition in the supply system (last lots were loaded in 1994 or 1995) and the lack of long range accuracy of the M118 special ball cartridge meant that these troops were looking for a substitute cartridge. The Navy had already tried using the M118LR cartridge in their match M14 rifles in the all-Navy matches in the spring of 2001 due to the lack of remaining M852 stocks (last issue of Navy M852 occurred in 2000). Though the lots of M118LR they issued were from 1995 and presumably some of the earlier lower pressure lots, the Navy found the M14 rifles not to be damaged and the accuracy was very good. As a result, it appears that in 2002 both the Army and Marines began using M1118LR in their M14 rifles for the DMR/SDM role.

With the start of the Gulf War II in 2003 the high temperatures encountered in Iraq (in excess of 115 degrees F) began to produce some M14 op-rod failures due to excessive pressure at the gas port. Both the Army and Marines found the range marking on their scopes to be off of calibration with the higher velocity M118LR loads in such desert conditions. The result was a decision to reduce the load to a more moderate level.

This was done in late 2003 or early 2004, when the M118LR nominal change was lowered to 43.1 gr. of RE-15 from 44.3 gr. of that powder. This is the nominal load, assuming use of canister grade powder; however, most lots disassembled show an actual powder charge of about 42.8 grains of RE-15. The result was a 40 fps reduction in the velocity at 78 feet to around 2659 fps, which correlates to a 2,709 fps velocity from the 24″ barrel of the M24 or M40 rifle. Out of an M14, the muzzle velocity will be around 2685 fps. This load, though slower than the earlier lots of M118LR, can be used in the M14 with minimal risk to the rifle or gas system and it is this cartridge that is intended to be used with both the Army and Marines new M14 based EBR/EMR and M110 rifles.

Although this cartridge remains the current M118LR standard, it apparently still suffers from excessive velocity variation as the temperature changes and less accuracy than might be desired for truly precise shots at mid-range to long-range distances. The specification for M118LR requires 14 shots in less than 8 inches at 600 yards. To correct that difficulty, in 2008 the SOCOM/Navy sponsored a new developmental project to enhance the accuracy of the M118LR cartridge while maintaining its suitability for use in the M14, SR25 and M700 Remington rifle designs. As such port pressure consistency was a primary concern. The contract was given the Federal Cartridge Company, which for a long time has made a series of match cartridges under the “Gold Medal” brand. These were developed from the custom loads designed for the Marine Corp MTU in the 1970s (the IMR 3031 39 gr. match load). By this time IMR 4064 was the powder of preference for the Gold Medal match cartridge line. One of the areas considered by Federal Cartridge Co. was the case itself, with a more uniform neck concentricity tolerance than Lake City brass and beefed up web to cartridge case head interface being part of the finished cartridge design.

The result, when it was standardized as the MK316 Mod 0 cartridge, was a Federal modified case (Drawing number 8347636), Federal match primer, Sierra 175 grain Matchking and 41.75 grains of IMR 4064 powder. According to the published sources this load will produce a muzzle velocity of 2640 fps out of a 24 inch barrel. The load as produced by Federal is claimed to produce under 1 MOA out to 1000 yards from an appropriate rifle. With the IMR powder the shift in velocity is only 20 fps from 0 to 100 Deg C, with the Standard deviation in velocity over 40 rounds being 15 fps or less. In contrast the M118LR loaded with RE-15 powder will see a 50 fps rise in velocity for a 50 deg rise in temperature.

The MK316 ammunition is essentially the finest possible mass produced match ammunition, comparable to the hand loads utilized by the various service MTUs. The cost is higher than M118LR, with a government cost of 78 cents per round for the MK 316 Mod 0 rather than 55 cents for the M118LR (2009 prices).

In 2009 the NRA allowed the AR-10/SR-25 to be used as a service rifle for NRA competitions, which includes the Palma and 1000 yard matches. While the AR-10 was capable of exceedingly high accuracy, the 20 inch barrel put a further constraint on achievable velocities so crucial to 1000 yard performance. By this time the less than ideal transonic performance of the Sierra 175 gr. Match King had been shown by the performance of the M118LR cartridge fired from the AR10 rifle when these rifles were utilized in 1000 yard matches. In high winds the M118 LR cartridges show poor performance once the velocity drops below 1226 fps; therefore, performance on the 900 and 1000 yard lines can be problematic in high winds as the 20″ barrel of the AR10 simply does not generate the muzzle velocity needed to keep the 175 gr. Sierra above that threshold. Something new was needed to make the AR-10 with its 20″ barrel competitive in 1000 yard matches.

Initial attempts to achieve supersonic performance at 1000 yards revolved around the Berger 155 gr. match bullet on top of a load of Varget above 45 grains in a 1:11″ twist barrel. This load seems to have not achieved all that the AMU expected in terms of velocity at 1000 yards. Recent information indicates that approximately 45 gr. of Varget is being used with the Berger 185 LR gr. bullets out of a 1:10″ twist barrel. Recent match results indicate this load is very accurate and remains supersonic at 1000 yards out of AMU prepared AR 10 rifles. While suitable for limited military match use this load is far too hot for general service adoption. There is no doubt continued development on this cartridge for match use, just as the AMU has continued to develop loads for the 5.56 M16 match rifles."

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Old June 24th, 2012, 02:53 PM   #8
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A little more on this.


Getting a 7.62 NATO or really any other round is a matter of trial and error.

The M80 can be an issue.

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Old June 24th, 2012, 02:55 PM   #9
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Pretty early in my time in the Service Rifle game, circa 30 years ago, we got spoiled by real U.S. surplus M2 ball ammo and M80 ball ammo being issued at matches and otherwise easy and cheap to scrounge. Most lots of M2 ball (150 gr. flat base FMJ) are pretty good, some exceptional. Most of the M80 ball (147 gr. boat tail FMJ) was OK to shoot for practice but you needed to load something else to get through a match with your M1A. It's the crappy bullets, which probably explains why the pulls are a waste of money.

BTW, the preceding post is a helpful run-down about what went on before now. If the 175 gr. SMK hadn't come along we'd still be doing what the Army and Marine Corps shooters were doing in the '80's. If you have some GOOD milsurp ball ammo (probably foreign), you can shoot it at 200 - 300.

Last edited by bd111; June 24th, 2012 at 03:11 PM.
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Old August 3rd, 2013, 01:47 PM   #10
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That will teach you private.

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Old August 3rd, 2013, 02:24 PM   #11
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Learned my lesson a few years ago.

Miserable performance.


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Old August 3rd, 2013, 04:28 PM   #12
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I picked up some 147 fmjbt at the knob creek machine gun shoot last Fall and loaded some up with IMR4064. I was "slung up" in the prone, open sights, and put 3 shots in a quarter at 100 yards.

That's all I shot that day because it was at the end of an already lond day of shooting and I hadn't had a chance to try then again. But, the bullets have no pull marks and I was very happy with the performance, even though it was only three shots. For fighting off the Boogie Man I think they'll work just fine.

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Old August 4th, 2013, 02:22 PM   #13
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I was lucky once with pulled M80...

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Old August 4th, 2013, 02:49 PM   #14
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I just purchased 1500 of the m80 pulls. I better not expect too much from them.

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Old August 4th, 2013, 03:15 PM   #15
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Ball projectiles are not that good. Seems pulls are even worse. Jacket and overall mass consistency are required for optimal accuracy. Neither of these are found in M80 pulls.

You get what you pay for. Nosler CCs can be had for $230/k. Well worth it.

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