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Bullets Photo by George Frey/Getty Images Bullets Photo by George Frey/Getty Images  

Getting the lead out, literally: US Army plans switch to ‘green’ bullets

The U.S. Army is taking the expression “get the lead out” quite literally and switching to lead-free, environmentally-friendly bullets.

The Army’s Picatinny Arsenal is working on a “green” version of the M80A1 7.62 mm bullet, which troops are supposed to start being issued in 2014, according to an Army press release.

The Army has been looking to “green” small caliber ammo for some time now. In 2010, the Army switched to the greener 5.56 mm M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round.

“The EPR replaces the lead slug with a copper slug,” said Lt. Col. Phil Clark, product manager for small caliber ammunition in the Program Executive Officer Ammunition. “This makes the projectile environmentally-friendly, while still giving soldiers the performance capabilities they need on the battlefield. So far we have eliminated 1,994 metric tons of lead from 5.56 ammunition production.”

“Thirty-two grains of lead are eliminated per M855A1 projectile, and 114.5 grains of lead will be eliminated per M80A1 projectile,” according to the Army.

The Army projects that the use of green 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm ammunition could eliminate the purchase of 3,683 metric tons of lead between 2013 and 2018.

Green bullets, like the M855A1, have been touted for their enhanced performance standards, such as  better hard-target penetration, more consistent performance against soft targets and significantly increased distances of these effects.

Officials also expect a similar “greening” to occur with the 7.62 mm version. However, reports from after the M855A1 ammo came out cast some doubts on green bullet performance.

Fox News reported that Army officials conceded that the M855A1 “has not been providing the ‘stopping power’ the user would like at engagement ranges less than 150 yards” in a 2005 briefing.

Ballistic experts also noted that the green M855A1 would not be substantially more deadly than its lead predecessor.

“There is not a bullet in this world that will do that,” said Dr. Martin Fackler, former director of the Wound Ballistics Laboratory at the Letterman Army Institute of Research. “Even if you take the guy’s heart apart, he can still shoot back at you for 15 seconds because he’s still got enough oxygen in the blood in his brain to do it.”

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