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Old 04-17-2019, 07:54 PM   #1
Icelander
 
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Default Iron Content of Rifle Ammo (SS109/M855, M59, M61, M80, M855A1, etc.)

Many common military rifle rounds contain iron in the form of steel of various hardness. This can be present in the jacket (e.g. several types of 7.62x51mm ammo) and/or as a steel penetrator in a lead or copper bullet (the SS109/M855 NATO 5.56x45mm round, the newer M855A1, etc.). Older or less expensive AP bullets may be mostly constructed from hardened steel, as opposed to the more expensive and harder metals used for APHC rounds.

In a Monster Hunting campaign where fey, manifested spirits and various other types of foes are suspectible to iron, it matters to me how much of the bullet is composed of iron and how much of mystically irrelevant substances like lead, as I plan to make such projectiles proportionally less effective (in terms of Weakness and Vulnerability) the less iron they contain.

As far as I could find, lead-free M80A1 rounds in 7.62x51mm weigh 130 grains to the 144-147 grains of the standard M80 FMJ (with lead projectiles). They are noted as saving 114.5 grains of lead per round, implying that about 15-20% of the weight of a typical M80 FMJ round is something other than lead, i.e. the jacket. The M855A1 in 5.56x45mm weighs 62 grains and the steel penetrator seems to be 19 grains of that.

Does anyone have an idea how much of the projectile weight in the following rounds consists of iron?

5.56x45mm

SS109/M855: 61-62 grains. A Semi-Armor-Piercing round, with a penetrating steel core, but presumably most of the weight consisting of lead. The steel penetrator weighs about 10 grains and the standard jacket in US-made M885 seems to weight 19.8 grains. The lead core of M885 rounds weighs 32 grains.

M855A1: 62 grains. A lead-free replacement for the standard US ball ammo, replacing lead with copper (increasing bullet length to keep weight the same). Has a different steel penetrator than the M855, which seems to increase AP performance. Wikipedia tells me the steel penetrator is 19 grains of the total projectile.

M318: 62 grains. Developed for US Special Operations Forces, optimized for shorter barrels, barrier-blind. Open tip, lead core, solid brass rear. As far as I can tell, no iron.

5,6mm Gw Pat 90: 63 grains. Swiss issue round.Tombac jacketed lead alloy projectile. AFAIK, no iron.

DM11: 63 grains. German issue round. Dual core ball cartridge with steel core.

7.62x51mm

M59: 150.5 grains. Semi-Armor-Piercing iron or mild steel core and a gilded steel jacket. Seems to have at least 60% iron content.

M61: 150.5 grains. Black-tip, AP rounds. As far as I can tell, largely made from hardened steel. Similar ammunition, like P80 or CBC NATO AP often sold as 'M61 equivalent', with variations in penetrator design being the rule more than the exception. Penetrator weights I've found are 58-71 grains, so iron content will range from 38-67%, depending on whether there is any lead in the bullet, whether the jacket is gilded metal or copper-washed steel and whether it's the same thickness as ball ammunition or thicker.

M80: 147 grains. Standard US FMJ. About half such ammo bought as military surplus will have bimetallic jackets containing some measure of steel, but given that the jackets weigh 32-34 grains or so and some of that will be copper or other softer material, it's unlikely that this will push it much above 10% iron content. This also applies fairly generally to 7.62x51mm military ammunition, in that if there is no steel core, the iron content is probably below 15%.

M80A1: 130 grains. Lead-free FMJ, copper.

MK319 MOD 0: 130 grains. Enhanced performance, barrier blind, etc.

Patrone AB22, 7.62mm 51, DM41, Weichkern: . 146-147 grains. Early German M80 equivalent. Copper-washed steel jacket.

Patrone AB22, 7.62mm 51, DM111, Weichkern: 147 grains. Later German M80 equivalent. Cupronickel-coated steel jacket.

Patrone, 7.62mm 51, DM111A1: 144-147? grains. Development of DM111. Different metal jacket. Copper base.

Patrone, 7.62mm 51, DM111A2: 144-147? grains. Further development of DM111.

Patrone , 7.62mm 51, DM151, AP/Hartkern: 151 grains.Tungsten carbide core, cupronickel-coated steel jacket.

SalTech FMJ: 150 grains. Swiss military ball ammo.

If an organization or, say, a Latin American country, wanted to have weapons with high iron content projectiles, which type of common military ammunition should they try to get licensing to manufacture locally?
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Old 04-17-2019, 08:58 PM   #2
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Default Re: Iron Content of Rifle Ammo (SS109/M855, M59, M61, M80, M855A1, etc.)

Well, they could just buy in (or make without licence) 7.62x39mm. The ball round has a soft steel core that makes up most of the volume (and as there's little lead, probably most of the mass too).
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Old 04-17-2019, 09:09 PM   #3
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Default Re: Iron Content of Rifle Ammo (SS109/M855, M59, M61, M80, M855A1, etc.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rupert View Post
Well, they could just buy in (or make without licence) 7.62x39mm. The ball round has a soft steel core that makes up most of the volume (and as there's little lead, probably most of the mass too).
That's true and it is the solution many public and private monster hunters adopt.

It is, however, probably unsuitable for my Brazilian hunters (7.62x39mm is not made locally and neither popular with soldiers, cops or criminals; most Brazilian tactical shooters seem to favour 7.62x51mm when given a choice) and I had planned to have the security contractors secretly backed by the Vatican using SIG SG 550/552/553 rifles, given that the leadership there is mostly former Swiss Guard.
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Old 04-18-2019, 05:35 AM   #4
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Default Re: Iron Content of Rifle Ammo (SS109/M855, M59, M61, M80, M855A1, etc.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rupert View Post
Well, they could just buy in (or make without licence) 7.62x39mm. The ball round has a soft steel core
So does the M855 round. In fact, it's pretty common to have some steel, whether cores or jackets, in the different ammo types.

(I found some specs and cutaway diagrams of the bullets last night. Unfortunately, no percentage or metal composition numbers to directly answer Icelander's question, though the diagrams were to scale, so I suppose if you did enough math on the ogive curves you could figure out how much volume that steel core took up. The grain weights might do for an approximation, if we can assume all the bullets are the same size, and there's only two metals involved.)
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Old 04-18-2019, 07:48 AM   #5
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Default 7.62x39mm M43 and Similar Steel Core Rounds

A very common and reasonably effective military issue round with a high iron content is, as Rupert noted, the 7.62x39mm. Most types of military ball rounds in that chambering, at least those based on the Soviet M43 round, consist of a soft steel core, copper or steel jacket and some quantity of lead between them.

M43 rounds or equivalents generally weigh 122-124 grains, with 123 grains being the most typical weight for Russian ammo or close copies of the M43. Unfortunately, I have not found any source that can tell me how much of the total projectile weight is jacket (sometimes steel, sometimes copper), how much is lead and how much is the actual soft steel core.

Are there ca 100 grains of iron/steel in a typical M43 projectile? 90 grains?

Less than that?

As I expect military 7.62x39mm M43, either made in Venezuela along with the licensed AK-103 (and a few AK-104 carbines) or imported from sources like China and Russia, to be a major monster hunting armament, it's vital I define the iron content, both in absolute tems (grains of iron) and relative terms (percentage of iron).

Iron works like a poison against some supernatural creatures, which means that I would like to define a 'dose' in some way. Iron's effectiveness as a mundane countermeasure, as well as in terms of Dread, Vulnerability and Weakness, might depend on the total amount of iron delivered, but for situations where iron weapons are Achilles' Heel or Bane against supernatural defences, the proportion of iron in the weapon or projectile is what matters.
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Old 04-18-2019, 12:08 PM   #6
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Default Re: Iron Content of Rifle Ammo (SS109/M855, M59, M61, M80, M855A1, etc.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anaraxes View Post
So does the M855 round. In fact, it's pretty common to have some steel, whether cores or jackets, in the different ammo types.

(I found some specs and cutaway diagrams of the bullets last night. Unfortunately, no percentage or metal composition numbers to directly answer Icelander's question, though the diagrams were to scale, so I suppose if you did enough math on the ogive curves you could figure out how much volume that steel core took up. The grain weights might do for an approximation, if we can assume all the bullets are the same size, and there's only two metals involved.)
Looking at the pictures, it seems that the steel penetrator of the M885 is similar in size to the steel penetrator of the M855A1. It seems likely that if one of them is 19 grains out of 62 grains, the other would be similar in weight and proportion.

I've not had any luck discovering how much of the listed bullet weight is the jacket, whther that is copper, steel or something else.

And I still haven't found anything useful about the exact composition of 7.62x51mm FMJ rounds like M59, M80, M80A1 or the various European NATO rounds.

Nor have I yet discovered the manufacturers, headstamps and bullet composition of the largest stockpiles of FN FAL 7.62x51mm ammo in Latin America, as it seems that monster hunters equipped through black or grey market, or covered as employees of PMCs/PSCs, in the Caribbean or Latin America would find such ammo convenient to acquire. If any South American country produced large stockpiles of 7.62x51mm ammo with a significant iron content (e.g. similar to older M59 ball with soft steel or maybe simply M61 AP rounds), it might be the ammo of choice for some groups my PCs could encounter.
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Old 04-18-2019, 12:38 PM   #7
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Default Re: Iron Content of Rifle Ammo (SS109/M855, M59, M61, M80, M855A1, etc.)

You might try researching environmental clearance documents (environmental assessments or environmental impact statements) for small arms ranges. They have to address potential contamination of soils and ground water. Look at the listed references and see if there is a source for the data you want. To get you started, here are two "best management practices" manuals:

Best Management Practices for Lead at Outdoor Shooting Ranges

Army Small Arms Training Range Environmental Best Management Practice (BMP) Manual

The first (EPA) manual talks about alternatives to lead shot, starting on p. 67.
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Old 04-18-2019, 04:49 PM   #8
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Default Re: Iron Content of Rifle Ammo (SS109/M855, M59, M61, M80, M855A1, etc.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by thrash View Post
You might try researching environmental clearance documents (environmental assessments or environmental impact statements) for small arms ranges. They have to address potential contamination of soils and ground water. Look at the listed references and see if there is a source for the data you want. To get you started, here are two "best management practices" manuals:

Best Management Practices for Lead at Outdoor Shooting Ranges

Army Small Arms Training Range Environmental Best Management Practice (BMP) Manual

The first (EPA) manual talks about alternatives to lead shot, starting on p. 67.
Thanks.

It was a good thought, but though I now know far more about watershed delineation, sediment barriers, backstop berm design and riparian buffers than I ever thought I would, there was no data on specific small arm loads or composition.

The only mention of alternatives to lead was in the context of lead-free shot for shotguns and a reference to an Army program developing lead-free tungsten 5.56x45mm rounds (which I presume were abandoned in favour of the copper M855A1), neither of which made any mention of specific bullet designs or grain weights.

So, far, only the unsourced assertions on Wikipedia about the 19 grain steel penetrator of the M855A1 and the 114.5 grains of lead that each M80A1 saves have provided me with any data of the sort I need.

So far, leading candidates for useful high-iron content projectiles appear to be:

M855A1 EPR (or the equivalent CBC SAT Improved Performance) in 5.56x45mm. Seems to contain about 19 grains steel out of 62 grains total, which translates into about 25-30% iron.

M43 or 57-N-231 in 7.62x39mm (or an equivalent steel core made somewhere like China or Venezuela). 121-124-grain boattail bullet, ideally for my purposes a copper-washed steel jacket, lead and antimony sleeve and a mild steel core (originally Soviet Type PS). It don't know how much iron content these projectiles have, but they seem likely to contain mostly mild steel, at least judging from what pictures I can find.

For the 7.62x51mm, I still haven't identified the leading candidate. Frankly, I can't even find what kind of ammunition types Latin American countries were buying or making for their FN FAL rifles, back when most of them had such rifles in service.

If getting ammo like the steel-cored ball M59 is relatively easy in the modern day, that might be a good choice. If anyone knows of a military issue round like that which was made in Latin America or sold there in large amounts, that would be lovely. Also, any kind of information on how much the steel core weighted.

The M80 ball contains only the steel jacket, which I'm guessing is not a huge percentage of the total projectile weight. The M80A1 EPR has a hardened steel penetrator and a gilding metal jacket, but is mostly made of copper. I'd love to find some data on the weight of the steel penetrator alone.

In a way, I suppose that the most promising 7.62x51mm round is the M61 AP (equivalent made by CBC as the NATO AP). As far as I can tell, apart from a thick copper jacket, the 150.5 grain projectile is otherwise made of steel.
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Old 04-18-2019, 08:50 PM   #9
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Default Lead-Free, Soft Steel Ammunition for 5.56x45mm or 7.62x51mm

Soviet Bloc ammo like the 7.62x39mm and 7.62x54R is often made partially or almost wholly of soft steel, even though it is standard ball ammo and exhibits no particular AP performance.

Are there any technical reasons some munition company could not manufacture lead-free ammunition in 5.56x45mm and 7.62x51mm from similar soft steel?

It should be cheaper than solid copper and while it would have inferior terminal performance to complex copper slug, reversed jacket and steel penetrator ammunition like the M855A1 or the M80A1, there seems no particular reason why it could not be as capable as TL6 FMJ designs.

I'm thinking about a 50-53 grain 5.56x45mm soft steel round that would be about as long as the Sierra or Nosler 77 grain bullets used for Mk262 rounds and a 100-105 grain 7.62x51mm soft steel round that would roughly match the dimensions of typical M80 or NATO Ball bullets.

As steel-jacketed bullets exist in these calibers, I expect that making the bullets copper-washed or nickel-coated would prevent damage to the barrels or rifling. Granted, the increased velocity and harder bullets would probably have negative impact on barrel life, but then again, so do a lot of ammo options that PCs love.

In GURPS terms, I'm looking for more or less the same Damage as Ball/FMJ lead core bullets, but with the added mystical benefit of being made mostly of steel, for monster hunting goodness.

Does anyone have thoughts?

Words of warning?

Suggestions?

Edit: I am aware that at least one reason why no one in the largest firearm market in the world, the US, does this is that 'armor-piercing' ammunition in 'pistol calibers' is specifically prohibited by law and due to imprecise wording, any caliber where a 'pistol' exists (with very narrow exceptions) counts as a pistol caliber and due to the wording of the statue, ammunition made out of steel, no matter how soft, counts as 'armor-piercing', even if it penetrates much worse than copper or even lead bullets.

However, that's a US specific concern and doesn't affect the theoretical purchase of lead-free steel-core ammo by monster hunters in the Caribbean, Latin America or Europe.
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Old 04-18-2019, 09:16 PM   #10
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Default Re: Iron Content of Rifle Ammo (SS109/M855, M59, M61, M80, M855A1, etc.)

Something to consider, are there enough supernatural hunting groups so that iron/steel ammunition might be manufactured? It seems there are at least 3 to 4 well funded groups of monster hunters, in the world and probably more smaller groups that have yet been described. These groups then create a market for iron ammunition which some manufacturer might discover. As some of the monster hunting groups are connected to national governments, they might be able to influence a manufacture to make iron rounds. The manufacturer doesn't need to know why people want iron rounds, and the rounds could be marketed as rounds for reducing toxicity at shooting ranges.

From my very limited understanding of ballistics, I don't see any obvious problems with iron/steel rounds. As mentioned, you'd probably want to coat them with a softer round to prevent damage to the barrel. The other issue that might come up is iron is harder to work with than lead, so iron rounds could be more expensive.
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