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History of m118 match ammunition

This is a discussion on History of m118 match ammunition within the Ammunition forums, part of the M14 M1A Forum category; On another thread, we got off topic with a discussion of the M118 cartridge. Rather than continue to hijack that thread I decided to post ...


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Old March 12th, 2013, 07:05 PM   #1
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History of m118 match ammunition

On another thread, we got off topic with a discussion of the M118 cartridge. Rather than continue to hijack that thread I decided to post one of my short articles on the M118. It's very brief with no photos. If there is an interest I can also post information on the M118 SB and the M852.

When the 7.62MM NATO cartridge was adopted in 1954, the M1 Rifle and the Cal .30 (30-06) ammunition ruled the roost at the National Matches. But, the adoption of the M14 Rifle in 1957 made it clear that National Match ammunition in 7.62mm would be required to eventually replace the Garand rifle and the Cal .30 ammunition

On 21 January, 1960, the Ordnance Technical Committee (OTCM) designated the XM118 for development as a new Match cartridge. Based on the older T275E4 International Match, the original specifications called for HP-6 or IMR 4895 powder, the FA #26 primer (corrosive), and the M1 Type 173 grain FMJ match bullet at 2700 fps. Initial tests showed the HP-6 powder gave higher than desired chamber pressures and it was replaced with WC 846, the standard service cartridge powder at the time. The primer was changed to the #34 or #36 (later the 36M). Velocity was reduced to 2550 fps.

Production of the XM118 began in December 1960. The first headstamp was FA 61 MATCH. For unknown reasons, the 1962 production used the standard Ball case with an un-crimped primer and a FA (+) 62 headstamp. All production from 1963 until 1982 used the FA MATCH and LC MATCH headstamps. By 1964, IMR 4895 became the preferred powder. Frankford Arsenal produced its last M118 in 1965. From 1966 on, all production took place at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant.

By 1965 the National Matches were dominated by the new M14 NM rifles and the M118 Match ammunition. Accuracy of the new ammunition exceeded even the best Cal .30 M72. The 600 yard average mean radius fell to a remarkable 1.85". Even though the M118 was a good match cartridge, there was no way to stop shooters from trying to improve it. The most common alteration was to pull the GI bullet and replace it with the Sierra 168 grain International. This became known as Mexican Match and such improvements were often reported to consistently outperform the issued M118. Bowing to calls for a better match cartridge, Lake City stopped production of M118 in 1973 and initiated a program of process controls and tolerance tightening in an effort to improve accuracy. When production resumed in 1977, comparing the new cartridges with the past showed little improvement. Faced with the cost of a complete modernization of tooling and production, the decision was made to simply use commercial bullets with minimal production changes.

In 1979 and 1980, four commercial match grade bullets were tested against a control lot of M118. They were the Sierra 168 grain International, the Hornady 168 grain Match, the Nosler 168 grain Match, and the Lapua 170 grain D46. The Sierra bullet was selected for further development and in May 1980 the Special Match cartridge, PXR-6308, was classified for limited manufacture and was used at Camp Perry for the first time. Headstamp was LC 80 SP. In 1981 it became the XM852 and the M852 the following year.

The last M118 Match was manufactured by Lake City in 1982.

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Old March 12th, 2013, 07:07 PM   #2
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Thanks for the research!

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Old March 12th, 2013, 07:29 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by raymeketa View Post
On another thread, we got off topic with a discussion of the M118 cartridge. Rather than continue to hijack that thread I decided to post one of my short articles on the M118. It's very brief with no photos. If there is an interest I can also post information on the M118 SB and the M852.

When the 7.62MM NATO cartridge was adopted in 1954, the M1 Rifle and the Cal .30 (30-06) ammunition ruled the roost at the National Matches. But, the adoption of the M14 Rifle in 1957 made it clear that National Match ammunition in 7.62mm would be required to eventually replace the Garand rifle and the Cal .30 ammunition

On 21 January, 1960, the Ordnance Technical Committee (OTCM) designated the XM118 for development as a new Match cartridge. Based on the older T275E4 International Match, the original specifications called for HP-6 or IMR 4895 powder, the FA #26 primer (corrosive), and the M1 Type 173 grain FMJ match bullet at 2700 fps. Initial tests showed the HP-6 powder gave higher than desired chamber pressures and it was replaced with WC 846, the standard service cartridge powder at the time. The primer was changed to the #34 or #36 (later the 36M). Velocity was reduced to 2550 fps.

Production of the XM118 began in December 1960. The first headstamp was FA 61 MATCH. For unknown reasons, the 1962 production used the standard Ball case with an un-crimped primer and a FA (+) 62 headstamp. All production from 1963 until 1982 used the FA MATCH and LC MATCH headstamps. By 1964, IMR 4895 became the preferred powder. Frankford Arsenal produced its last M118 in 1965. From 1966 on, all production took place at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant.

By 1965 the National Matches were dominated by the new M14 NM rifles and the M118 Match ammunition. Accuracy of the new ammunition exceeded even the best Cal .30 M72. The 600 yard average mean radius fell to a remarkable 1.85". Even though the M118 was a good match cartridge, there was no way to stop shooters from trying to improve it. The most common alteration was to pull the GI bullet and replace it with the Sierra 168 grain International. This became known as Mexican Match and such improvements were often reported to consistently outperform the issued M118. Bowing to calls for a better match cartridge, Lake City stopped production of M118 in 1973 and initiated a program of process controls and tolerance tightening in an effort to improve accuracy. When production resumed in 1977, comparing the new cartridges with the past showed little improvement. Faced with the cost of a complete modernization of tooling and production, the decision was made to simply use commercial bullets with minimal production changes.

In 1979 and 1980, four commercial match grade bullets were tested against a control lot of M118. They were the Sierra 168 grain International, the Hornady 168 grain Match, the Nosler 168 grain Match, and the Lapua 170 grain D46. The Sierra bullet was selected for further development and in May 1980 the Special Match cartridge, PXR-6308, was classified for limited manufacture and was used at Camp Perry for the first time. Headstamp was LC 80 SP. In 1981 it became the XM852 and the M852 the following year.

The last M118 Match was manufactured by Lake City in 1982.
Ray,

What is the common opinion on the precision of the M118 LC 82 Match?

Nez

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Old March 12th, 2013, 08:01 PM   #4
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That's a tough one for me to try to answer because I never shot the '82 stuff. I was like most others, shooting Mexican Match whenever possible. As far as I know there was no difference between '82 (the last year) and any others. In fact, many boxes of 1982 lot numbers actually contain '80 and '81 headstamps. I'd guess that Lake City was simply using up left-over cases but there may also have been some older ammo in stock they wanted to get rid of. I know that the '82 was being given out by the old DCM at very cheap prices. Many individuals and teams took advantage of the cheap ammo by turning it into Mexican Match for not much more than the cost of Sierra bullets. I still have boxes of AZ State Team Mexican Match made from '82 ammo.

Maybe other old shooters can add comments?

Ray

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Old March 12th, 2013, 09:31 PM   #5
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Great info. Thanks!

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Old March 13th, 2013, 05:06 AM   #6
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Ray... Thanks for the Article. I have a few questions. So was there no M118 produced at all from 1973 to 1977? I have a buddy that is an older gentleman and fellow shooter (35yrs in Match Competition). He told me a similar history of the M118 cartridge. He said that LC rebuilt their dies and equipment...late 70's...1977 or so. After this rebuild the quality of the rounds greatly improved. I have a bunch of M118 that was mfg late 1978....supposedly after the equipment rebuild. After comparing different lots of ammunition before and after the supposed rebuild, I have to agree with his thoughts on this. The rounds from after the new tooling verses before the new tooling do group better in my rifles. Now, my stash of M852 is lights out to 600yds.....but, about 800yds is the max for the 168 bullet before she runs out of gas (goes sub sonic and starts to drift).

I am definitly interested in hearding from you about how the History of M118SB and M852.

Matt

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Old March 13th, 2013, 10:24 AM   #7
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Ray....I have more questions....mostly M852 questions. I have been reading the link you posted in the other thread...The Rifleman's Journal... Was the M852 the only case with the knurled case body? What was the reason for this? I have M852 with head stamps of MATCH and NM. Do you know when this changed occurred?

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Old March 13th, 2013, 11:51 AM   #8
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Matt

There was no production of M118 from 1973 to 1976. If there was, I have never seen any. Much of my information comes from TR 81018, 7.62mm MATCH CARTRIDGE ACCURACY IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM, July 1981. The report indicates that, during those 4 years, emphasis was placed on improving the manufacturing process and the only equipment changes would have been replacing worn-out bullet making dies. But, replacing bullet dies was something that was done periodically as the old ones wore out so that was not their main focus. New bullet dies would obviously result in a temporary improvement in accuracy but it was small compared with simply changing to a commercial bullet.

The M852 Match case was the only one with the knurled ring for identification. That was done because of the hollow point bullet being used. At that time, HP bullets were still forbidden in combat. The knurl was first located .500" up from the base. That was changed to .300" because of a concern that it would weaken the case and result in head seperations.

M852 for 1981, 1982, and 1983 had the "NM" headstamp. That was a throwback to the days of the M118 when ammunition set aside for Camp Perry had the "NM" while all others had "MATCH". But, the practice had lost most of it's meaning with the M852 since it was all very good ammunition and so the headstamp was changed to "MATCH" in 1985. There were no 1984 headstamps.

The 168 grain bullet starts to go wobbly at the transonic speeds but it may still be supersonic at 1000 yards. Depending on a lot of environmental factors, some shooters have used it at 1000 with acceptable results.

Ray


Last edited by raymeketa; March 13th, 2013 at 12:20 PM.
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Old March 13th, 2013, 12:31 PM   #9
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Ray, Thanks for the History lesson. I did read the article that discussed "transonic" issues with 168 SMK past 850 yds. That has been my experice trying to shoot 1000yds with the 168....erratic flight....sometimes OK....sometimes all over the place. I have since gone to the 173 FMJ and the 175 SMK for 1000 yds.

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