The Army set out to make a more environmentally friendly bullet, and wound up with something to really brag about.
Why the EPR
There was nothing fundamentally wrong with the M855 "Green Tip" ammo that the United States has been using since 1982, except that it has a lot of lead in it. With the adoption of the Montreal Protocols, Executive Order (1993), EPA 17 List, and AEC Study into lead contamination, the Army began looking for an unleaded solution to their 5.56mm rounds. With the use of a lead free projectile the Army could eliminate 2,000 tons of lead from production, gain access to formerly closed training ranges, and removes the future lead hazard from the environment.
According to the Army's releases, the M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round (EPR) is superior to the old school green tip round. The new round has a copper core, rather than a lead core. Like the green tip, the EPR has a steel penetrator. The EPR is billed as having consistent penetration performance, not being dependent on yaw. It has significantly improved performance at extended ranges. The improved propellant has a reduced perceived muzzle flash, which for five centuries has been important on the battlefield. All this with the same ballistic trajectory match as the greentip round, so that the Joe in the field doesn't notice a difference in their ammunition's point of aim. Best yet is that the slug is billed as getting near 7.62x51mm NATO performance. In head-to-head tests, the EPR penetrated 24-layer Kevlar body armor that was proofed to withstand the M80 7.62 ball as well as penetrating 3/8-inch steel plate--, which the 7.62 couldn't. It also offers better performance in masonry and automobile windows. The full 11-page comparison in PDF format is here.
It is one of the most tested rounds ever, with more than 1-million test cartridges fired in the developmental process. (Where do I get that job?)
According to an article from Aerotech News, Rob Harbison, a contractor supporting small caliber ammunition capability development at Fort Benning, Ga., competed in the competition at Camp Perry while firing the EPR. He used a AR15A2 with stock Mil-std components, as close as firing a regular M16A2 rifle as you can get without the three-round burst. The results: Not too bad.
"Harbison finished 86th of 385 competitors, and 46th (17th civilian) of 200 marksmen competing with an M16-Series weapon. Throughout the competition, Harbison had several noteworthy performances, including firing a perfect 200 points in the Coast Guard Trophy Match, which is 20 shots fired from the sitting position at 200 yards. He also finished 17th overall in that match (of 385 competitors), finishing in the top five percent. Also of note, Harbison scored a perfect 100 on the final string of ten shots during the Air Force Cup Trophy Match, fired at 600 yards from the prone position. That is 10 shots in a row within the 12-inch, 10-point ring at 600 yards with combat ammunition. "
Besides showing up at Camp Perry, the new round is in full production since June 2010, and is in-theater already with the hands of shooters in real-life real-time red on blue (and hopefully not too many green on blue) engagements in Afghanistan. Not saying that the green tip is not quality ammo, but the EPR is the next step and is even better.
I'd hate to be a terrorist in the sandbox.