Green Tip Ammo

If you own an AR-15 rifles, you’ve likely heard the term “green tip ammo” before. This type of 5.56x45mm round is popular among many shooters because it is known as an armor piercing round. However, there are some misconceptions about green tip ammo’s armor piercing capabilities.

Today we’re looking at what exactly green tip ammo is, what it is best used for, and whether or not it is truly armor piercing.

Green Tip Ammo: The Basics

a round of m855 green tip ammo laying on its side

If you’re here just for the quick facts, here is what you need to know about green tip ammo:

  • Green tip ammo refers to a 5.56x45mm load that uses a 62-grain FMJ bullet with a partial steel core, painted green at the tip to differentiate it from other rounds
  • Its military designation is M855, but it was originally named SS109 by the round’s creator, FN Hertsal
  • M855 green tip ammo will penetrate some light steel, but is not designed to penetrate body armor
  • It is a popular round for civilian AR-15 shooters because it is relatively cheap and easy to find
  • Several different ammo manufacturers produce green tip ammo, giving shooters many options when shopping for the round

What is Green Tip Ammo?

an ar-15 magazine filled with green tip ammo

Green tip ammo is a special load of 5.56x45mm ammo known as M855 ammo. M855 is one of the most common military surplus rounds available to AR-15 owners. The M855 uses a 62-grain FMJ bullet with a partial steel core. The tip of the bullet is painted green to indicate that the front half of its core is made of steel.

This differs from the 5.56 round in service before it, the M193, which uses a 55-grain boat tail bullet with a full copper jacket and lead core. 

What is Green Tip Ammo Used For?

a woman shooting an ar-15 rifle

FN Herstal developed the M855 green tip ammo, originally named SS109, in the 1970s. The purpose of M855 ammo was to create a standardized NATO cartridge that could be used in multiple service rifles. These rifles included the M16 family, FAMAS, CETME-L, Steyr AUG, and FN Minimi light machine gun. 

The round needed to meet certain performance standards like stable flight and penetration potential at longer distances. In order to meet these standards, the round’s designers added a 7-grain steel tip insert to the bullet, moving the round’s center of gravity back and changing the bullet weight from the standard 55-grain to 62-grain. 

In order to be used by the military, the new round also needed to be able to penetrate a .135” steel plate (similar to the steel helmets from World War II) at 800 yards. The steel insert gave the bullet the ability to pass these penetration tests which eventually led to its adoption by the US Military.

For civilian shooters, green tip ammo is often an affordable choice for high round count range days. Several different ammo manufacturers produce M855 ammo, so it is easy to find. However, the round can be hard on steel targets and range backstops, so many ranges do not allow the round.

Is Green Tip Ammo Legal?

Despite attempts to ban the M855 round, it is still legal for civilians to purchase. Some states may have restrictions as to who may buy it, so be sure to check your local laws.

Will 5.56 Green Tip Penetrate Body Armor?

three rounds and a box of american eagle green tip m855 ammo

M855 ammo can technically penetrate some light body armor. As we mentioned above, in order to be adopted by the US Military, it needed to be able to penetrate a .135” steel plate at 800 yards. That’s why it is banned from many ranges. So while M855 will likely punch through some armor, it does not have the same armor piercing abilities as M995 “black tip” 5.56 ammo which has a tungsten core. 

It is also worth noting that the ATF does not classify M855 as armor piercing. That’s because the projectile contains lead. The ATF says in order to be classified as armor piercing, the projectile must be entirely made of or a combination of the following: tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper or depleted uranium.

M855 Ballistics

Muzzle Velocity (FPS)500-yard Velocity (FPS)Muzzle Energy (ft-lbs)
PMC X-TAC 62gr. FMJ310016371323
Winchester 62gr. FMJ M855306018091289

The green tip M855’s 62-grain bullet has muzzle velocities around 3,000 fps. However, when it comes to terminal ballistics, the green tip M855 round does not have the best reputation. The round reliably tumbles upon impact of targets within 100 yards. However, at greater distances, the M855 often passes right through soft targets without inflicting much damage. That’s why if you’re looking for a defensive or hunting round for greater distances, green tip ammo might not be the best choice.

Final Thoughts

an ammo can filled with green tip ammo

If you’re in the market for an affordable and reliable round for your AR-15, it’s hard to go wrong with green tip ammo like the PMC X-TAC 5.56 62gr. FMJ or Winchester 5.56 62gr. M855. While there are better rounds out there for hunting or self defense, green tip M855 is still a great choice for the range or if you like to keep a stockpile for a SHTF situation.

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