M855 Ban, and Ammo Hunting Strategy

Screenshot 2015-02-17 12.36.55OK, so now you’re on the hunt: not for Wile E. Coyote, or anything like that, but for available M855 ammunition. The sudden shock has taken up most of the slack in America’s just-in-time ammo-distribution system.

Where did all the ammo go? Into other guys’ stockpiles, if not into yours, that’s where it went. How do you get some, and why aren’t many retailers accepting backorders? Read on.

Three Possible Reasons for the Proposed Rule

Reason #1 (Stated) The ATF says they must do this to stop a plague of cops being whacked with ARs. As a way to protect cops, this is pretty minor compared to investigating career-felons-in-possession (which many SACs won’t do). On the other hand, as a way to protect cops, this is definitely not as bad as giving rifles to Mexican drug cartels, which has led directly to the murder of two and the wounding of an unknown number of American law officers, not to mention the deaths of hundreds and hundreds of Mexicans, a mixture of cops, criminals and bystanders it would take God Himself to sort out.

a-pallet-of-ammunitionReason #2 (Pretty Far Out): Conversely, it’s been suggested to us by money guys that this move really has nothing to do with its ostensible purpose, but is happening because the sporting branch of the former ATK just went public as VSTO (Vista Outdoors), started trading last week, and ATF insiders shorted the stock and did this to drive the stock down. Someone in Congress ought to ask Byron Todd Jones to certify than neither he nor any SES, manager or supervisor in his agency is playing in VSTO, former ATK, or ATK/Orbital stock. (We’d bet he won’t).

VSTO benefits in several ways from 855 sales:

  1. M855 sales to civilians take up slack in its variable Lake City Ammunition Plant demand;
  2. M855 sales to civilians let them dispose of ammo that fails ultra-strict military acceptance testing (or is just extra) as profit-center civilian sales, rather than cost-center scrap;
  3. M855 sales to civilians permits lower bids for Government contracts, benefiting VSTO and its stockholders, the military, and the public.

Reason #3 (the Most Probable): this is a strike against the civilian firearms community, reminding them that the ATF wants to be seen as an enemy, wants to be known as the law-enforcement arm of the Democrat Party, and that the ATF’s ultimate end goal is a ban and unlimited power to enforce it. \

But you don’t really care about that, do you? You want cartridges. Read on.

Ammo Stockpile

Where to Find Ammo

You can try the online aggregators, but we’ll warn you that everyone else is doing the same thing, and these will soon come up dry.

  1. Gun-Deals.com. http://gun-deals.com/ Gun-Deals seems to be the exception that proves the rule, they have several SS109 type rounds (mostly remanufactured) as featured deals right now. Here’s their 5.56 specific page: http://gun-deals.com/list/ammo/.223%252F5.56. Enter your zip code to get prices with shipping.
  2. AmmoSeek.com. http://ammoseek.com/ammo/5.56x45mm-nato This online aggregator still has a few instances of 62 grain M855 equivalent. Note that the Federal XM855 is actually Lake City ammo that failed some aspect of military inspection, but meets commercial standards; this is the nearest one can get to “issue” ammo (not the same thing as saying that this is the best ammo, best for what?
  3. The WikiArms Ammo Engine has one link for all 5.56:  http://www.wikiarms.com/search?&caliber=2&source and one specifically for XM855: http://www.wikiarms.com/search?q=m855&caliber=2&source. A little play with their search engine finds you all the 62 grain ammo including other-than-M855: http://www.wikiarms.com/search?q=62&caliber=2&source
  4. Reddit’s gun deals has always been worthless, IMHO, with a submeasurable signal to noise ratio (imagine ARFcom GD with autism spectrum disorder) but it’s here for completeness’s sake. http://www.reddit.com/r/gundeals

Ditto online sellers.

  1. http://www.luckygunner.com/rifle/5.56×45-ammo (LuckyGunner has been stripped bare of all 5.56 except 77 grain OTM at this writing).
  2. http://www.ammosupplywarehouse.com/product/133/Armscor-USA-223-REM-62-grn-FMJ-1000-rdcase.html <-this one deal comes up at that site. Not sure if the Armscor (Filipino?) is M885 equivalent, or lead-core. Anyone know? The price is very attractive.
  3. Brownell’s seems to gave one SKU. As the image above hints, the others are sold out with no backorder: http://www.brownells.com/ammunition/rifle-ammo/xm855-5-56x45mm-62gr-fmjbt-steel-core-case-600-rnds-sku100013917-44665-126654.aspx
  4. http://www.ammunitiontogo.com/index.php?cPath=24_83_850&sort=8a. Another one stripped bare.

Local retailers were quickly tapped out, just because their inventory is shallow.

So your best bet is large chain retailers, who may have ammo in stock in warehouses that they must push out to retail in the next month or lose.

One weird trick (we always wanted to use that line): We’d suggest you hit Dick’s, which is not only a chain retailer that has stocked M855 in the past, but also a vendor that has been shunned by many AR owners due to the management’s opposition to the 2nd Amendment. Go buy your ammo, then go back to boycotting the dicks at Dick’s.

Why no Backorders?

Backorders are a pain in the neck at the best of times, but accepting a backorder now will put a retailer in the rough position of owing you ammo it can never transfer to you, if it doesn’t get it to you by 16 March. They’d be stuck with inventory that can never be transferred to citizens, only to government agencies who might want to shoot it at citizens. If you were a retailer, you probably wouldn’t take that risk, either.

Price Increases

Price increases on the dwindling stock of M855 are inevitable as the market floats. This is going to be bewailed as gouging but it’s hard to incentivize manufacturers to make, and dealers to stock, product that will be unsalable contraband in a matter of weeks. Only money (demand) can produce product (supply). Every attempt in recorded history to legislate or regulate this fact away has failed, producing either a black market with rising prices, or a currency collapse.

Prices are important in most cases as signaling devices to induce suppliers to produce. In this case, where suppliers cannot produce beyond a date certain without being caught with contraband, suppliers can’t meet the demand, and prices will rise in an asymptotic version towards infinity.


The best alternative right now is probably quality M193 style, 55 grain ammunition. Its terminal effects are only marginally different from M855 (and its variants), especially at home- and self-defense ranges. contrary to some of the nonsense on the Net, this ammo works perfectly well in M16A2s, M4s and other fast-twist rifles and carbines.

Right now, people are panic-buying M193 and equivalents as well, and the ATF’s thinly supported and broadly-applicable ban justification for M855 means they may not be wrong in doing so.

77-grain open tip match is superior for accuracy at range in weapons with a fast twist. (It really needs 1:7 for best performance and may disappoint in compromise barrels like 1:9 or 1:8). Unfortunately this ammunition will be more expensive than surplus or overrun M855.

In the Long Term

In the long term, we expect vendors to produce ammunition that is a ballistic equivalent of M855 but that does not use a steel penetrator. Of course, the ATF’s leaders have once again proven themselves partisan and untrustworthy, and the framework described in the current proposed rule allows them to arbitrarily and capriciously classify any rifle ammunition as pistol ammunition. But the prices will inevitably be higher.

In the long term, the ATF probably must be destroyed as an agency, but every supervisory special agent, SAC, manager, or headquarters person will become a metastatic cancer cell spreading ATF’s partisan mindset and un-american nature to other agencies.

For those actually seeking an AP capability, we expect to see information on how to roll your own being traded shortly or provided in the irrepressible open-source format and methodology. You can’t stop the signal. We will note that one can make a better AP than M855 with tungsten rod or wire, and a penetrator is equally or more effective with a squared-off end inside the lead core, inside the copper jacket, than the pointy-nosed penetrator of 855.

Deep penetration is a common characteristic sought in hunting rounds, as most game animals have considerably tougher hides than one needs to penetrate in a defensive shooting. The ATF is unaware of this. Or pretends to be.

27 thoughts on “M855 Ban, and Ammo Hunting Strategy

  1. Ken

    Another alternative is to simply load your own. A quick search shows that projectiles, powder and primers are readily available. Rifle powders have not been nearly as scarce as pistol powders.

  2. Oberndorfer

    And you could swage yer own bullets and stuff them into .22lr cases…
    For the Doomsday Preppers this is apparently one more step towards TEOTWAWKI.

    I’m almost glad to be in Europe with a good ole war on just a few hundred miles away and growing armies of islamic immigrants around me.

    1. DSM

      I picked up the tools and dies to swage 22LR cases into bullets some time back. I can’t say I was motivated by any sort of prepper mentality but thought it would be a fun thing to do in the winter months when I try not to venture outside. It works fairly well. Accuracy has been good enough and the paper/cardboard/tin can/berm/whatever the bullets punches through at the range doesn’t seem to know it was a homebrewed bullet. The jacket is ultra thin. Velocities have to be kept under 3000fps but in most carbine length barrels that’s not an issue, and, keeps powder loads down for a few more rounds per jug.
      That said, there is a definite time penalty. Annealing, swaging the rim off the case, swaging the core, seating, point forming, canneluring. Haven’t messed around with it in awhile but since it looks like Panic Mode has been engaged (again) it might make sense to start pressing out some.

  3. weldonhunter

    Gun-deals does have a few listings for SS109 that are reman but those are the minority of what’s available. They listed that way, as SS109, because usually manufacturers that make an M855 type cartridge don’t use the SS109 green painted tip bullet. M855 is the military designation for the cartridge and SS019 is the bullet, IE steel core. Reman ammo is not M855 technically so it’s listed by the type of bullet it’s made with most times. It has other designations such as F1 in Australia. Same cartridge as the M855 with an unpainted SS109 bullet. The green tip is a USGI standard and the green paint is only an identifier so it’s not used incorrectly. Most of what’s available on gun-deals is not remanufactured though. Whether it be made with SS109 or classified as M855 or F1 along with others. Most newly made are identified as M855, SS109, F1 or a combination depending on the country of origin. This deal http://www.ammosupplywarehouse.com/product/133/Armscor-USA-223-REM-62-grn-FMJ-1000-rdcase.html .223 not mil-spec 5.56×45 and is not M855. It’s simply .223 with a lead core 62gr bullet. Armscor is based in the Philippines but as far as I know also manufacturers ammo in the USA. I’ve spoken to a few vendors and more of this will come and go over the next few months. They haven’t actually banned it yet as far as I know but I’m not sure. It’s in the comment period and there’s still a bunch in warehouses and may even still be being made until the ban is final. It’s in the discussion phase on how to implement it at this point. One problem is the price is going through the roof making this round not so attractrive. The reality is this round is mostly made for distance penetration and the M193 is just as effective for most needs and is not banned and won’t be. Don’t forget when you go to gun-deals.com you can type M855 or SS109 or F1 into the search window to look for these rounds a lot quicker. You also need to remember to hit the “Show All” button at the top of the chart to get past the first 80 results which are usually steel cased Russian ammo mixed with some cheaper .223. http://gun-deals.com/list/ammo/.223%252F5.56/showall

    1. Hognose Post author

      Interesting thread. Lots of noise, of course, but there was also an insightful commenter that noted that ATF did not ask for comments on withdrawing the exemption. It asked for comments on how to withdraw the exemption.

      It reminds me of the messages Hans Biebow used to send to Chaim Rumkowski, demanding he do Biebow’s dirty work for him. Who wants to be Chaim Rumkowski, down in the ninth circle with Judas and Brutus?

      1. weldonhunter

        Arfcom is usually a zoo but there’s some on their that have common sense. The comments are a riot to read sometimes. They’re totally unchained for the most part.

    1. weldonhunter

      I wish you guys were legally armed. I have a lot of friends on a collector forum that are in Germany and like a lot of other countries with similar laws I hate to see the hoops you guys have to jump through just to own a firearm.

      1. Oberndorfer

        Thanks, but don’t worry too much.
        7 mio registered guns to 2 mio registered owners in a pop of 80 mio doesn’t seem much, but there are about 10 to 30 mio unregistered guns around; thanks to ww2 drops or caches, the CIA Gladio programme, the russian withdrawal and smuggling across the open borders to eastern europe and the balkans.
        Naturally we regret the scrap of around 14 mio western G3 and eastern AK or their transfer or alleged sale to Turkey or other ‘befriended states’.

      2. Oberndorfer

        There is SIG/Sauer, HK and the Walthers plus many small ones. Look what Albert Speer achieved during ww2 despite being surrounded by a conspiracy of dounces.
        And we have Swiss neighbours.

        1. Hognose Post author

          It’s kind of amazing. German War Production kept going up until the factories were physically overrun by Allied forces, despite all the bombing, despite the fighter-bombers rocketing trains, despite the loss of skilled personnel to draft after draft.

  4. MtTopPatriot

    I don’t want to get shot by any 5.56 round. It is a bitter little pill no matter its configuration. On another perspective, a well made M4orgery, with a quality barrel and a decent optic like an Aimpoint, is a minute of head or hip rifle within a reasonably competent shooters ability. I think it doesn’t matter all that much whether you use a lead core FMJ, a penetrator or a varmint bullet. One of those rounds in the femoral artery, a hip joint, head shot or even a foot is a bad day for the guy on the receiving end.

    But all that doesn’t excuse anybody, and I mean anybody, from denying me the ammunition of my choice in the rifle of my choice to begin with.

    It is kind of funny, these clowns at the ATF, like everything they deny law respecting people, is not good for us but certainly is ok for them and their pals. Funny how that always seems to work.
    One might be led to the unspeakable thought that those who make such rules for others but not for them might just be the criminals and lawless individuals who should be denied unfettered access to such arms and material.
    Must have missed my testosterone therapy.

  5. Tom Stone

    ATF has been a corrupt organization for decades under both Dem and Republican administrations.
    Obama has worked hard and successfully to become the most corrupt and abusive ( Of the Constitution) President our nation has seen, but the competition has been fierce.

    1. DAN III

      “Obama has worked hard and successfully to become the most corrupt and abusive….”

      Yes, and the 535 ruling elites within the Congress have allowed his abuses to continue. What does that say for that body of elites ?

  6. Pingback: WeaponsMan: Hunting The Elusive M855 | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  7. listen to this

    DO SOMETHING THAT MATTERS. 2 senators want to eliminate the BATF and with good reasons. There are enough angry progun owners to do it if we do not give up. Anything else is futile because there are no checks and balances for the batf. Calling senators should be every progun owners number 1 agenda. Ask them to defund them for now as well. Start making shirts for sell at the gun shows instructing people to do this with links, etc. We have to get organized and make the thoughts spread like a virus.

  8. DJ

    As of closing time last night (Tue), the gun shops in my area were dry (they didn’t have that much M855 in stock to begin with), but I still found some in a local farm store (Mills Fleet Farm) in 120- and 150-round bulk boxes, and 90-round boxes on stripper clips. The local Gander Mountain also had quite a pile in several container sizes, at the usual Gander price-point (normal retail price plus 30%, which might be a deal in a couple of days, IF it doesn’t go up). I snapped up a few boxes at Walmart on Monday, but I hear they were cleaned-out by Monday afternoon.

    There is still quite a bit of M193 around at this point, even large (500 or more) bulk boxes.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Walmart is where neckbeards go when online doesn’t pan out, I think, so it’s one of the first to zero out. You can actually see them if you go early in the morning, and quite a few of them actually have neckbeards!

  9. Greg

    I visited a local gs that also has a reloading business. Almost nothing in the .223/5.56 category, just some target and hunting sp. The interesting part was that on Friday they had a fair amount of .50 ammo and components, not so yesterday.

  10. listen to this

    DO SOMETHING THAT MATTERS. 2 senators want to eliminate the BATF and with good reasons. There are enough angry progun owners to do it if we do not give up. Anything else is futile because there are no checks and balances for the batf. Calling senators should be every progun owners number 1 agenda. Ask congress to defund them for now as well. Start making shirts for sell at the gun shows instructing people to do this with links, etc. We have to get organized and make the thoughts spread like a virus.

  11. Boat Guy

    Having read your recommendation to investigate Dickhead Sports and then not ten minutes later driving by one of our local branches (and being about fifteen minutes ahead of sked), I went in to see what might be available. No M885 t’all. Five or so 420-rd cans of XM193 on clips in cardboard for $209 per. I argued with myself briefly and then grabbed a can on General Principle.
    Since I have been acquiring “M885” all along (when encountering it for “reasonable” prices) I don’t feel particularly pressed but I am once more annoyed at our presumed masters efforts and duplicity. I expect I’ll go ahead and comment (again in line with your recommendations) but I expect nothing but bad to come of any of this unless and until we bring those who presume to dictate to us to heel.

    1. GenEarly

      The “comfort” of already being “stocked”, even before the last “ammo shortage”. Two weeks ago “all was well” plenty of 5.56 green tip at usual prices…..then gone. This applies to FOOD also, but by incalculable times the magnitude. Sleep at your own peril, hunger is a existential threat, cya.

  12. Geoff

    I tried the M855 once when I bought my first AR. Not impressed with the accuracy at 100 yards. Never bought any since. I reload 55gr .FMJ for 30 cents a round, so no reason to buy commercial ammo. And Match ammo for a few cents more. Walmart had M193 out the wazoo today, but at 50 cents a round, uh, uh.
    I know this is obama’s backdoor gun control, and I wrote both my Republican Senators about it. Hopefully Congress will put a stop to the dictator wanabe soon, but I’m not holding my breath.

    1. McThag

      Something to remember about M855 is that it’s made with the intention of selling it to the gov/mil. It’s not made with commercial sales in mind so what we’re seeing is rejects, surplus and overruns.

      That can make the quality a little erratic in the case of rejected ammunition. Cosmetic defect is the most common reject reason, but failing velocity and accuracy specs are next.

      M855 and XM855’s main allure is that it’s CHEAP, not that it’s better ammo.

  13. Duke

    Manufacturers , like obnoxious retailers , need to know a pissed-off consumer will impact their bottom line.
    Sell to some but not others , or fail to push back against BS readings of so called – rules – ( not actual law ) guess what ? ………
    I will buy ammo elsewhere. So will many others.

  14. John Smith

    Why do we do this to ourselves? Better question yet… why do we allow them to do this to us?

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