US Army scientists and engineers are currently working on improvements for M80A1 7.62mm ammunition to make the projectile more eco-friendly.
Work is being carried out by a special technical team from the Picatinny Arsenal using the enhanced performance round (EPR) technology that has resulted in removing approximately 2,000t of lead from the waste stream from the legacy M855 cartridge in 2010.
The M855A1 EPR uses a copper core instead of lead, and exerts the same level of impact on soft targets or enemies as its predecessor.
The EPR technology has removed 32 grains of lead from each M855A1 projectile, while around 114.5 lead grains are expected to be eliminated per M80A1 projectile.
Program Executive Officer Ammunition Small Caliber Ammunition product manager lieutenant colonel Phil Clark said: "This makes the projectile environmentally friendly, while still giving soldiers the performance capabilities they need on the battlefield. So far, we have eliminated 1,994mt of lead from 5.56 ammunition production."
Launched from the 5.56mm family of weapons comprising M4, M16 and M249, the M855A1 EPR enables training exercises on ranges that prohibit lead projectiles.
In addition to a copper jacket and exposed hardened steel penetrator, the round's new bullet design also features several significant performance improvements over the regular M855 round, which entered operational service in the early 1980s.
Enhancements include increased hard-target penetration, more consistent performance against soft targets, as well as significantly increased distances of these effects, according to Clark, who noted that similar improvements are expected to be incorporated in the 7.62 version.
An additional 3,683t of lead is expected to be eliminated from ammunition production, based on 5.56mm and 7.62mm projected ammunition procurements from 2013-2018.
The improved M80A1 rounds are scheduled to be delivered to troops in 2014.
Image: The 5.56mm M855A1 enhanced performance round of the US Army. Photo: courtesy of Todd Mozes.