16 Feb 2010

Marine Corps Using New Rounds in Afghanistan

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Speer TBBC bullet

The Navy Times reports that the Marine Corps will be issuing 5.56mm ammunition loaded with 62 gr. “SOST” (Special Operations Science and Technology) bullets, a version of the Trophy Bonded Bear Claw bullet invented by Jack Carter in 1985.

The Marine Corps is dropping its conventional 5.56mm ammunition in Afghanistan in favor of new deadlier, more accurate rifle rounds, and could field them at any time.

The open-tipped rounds until now have been available only to Special Operations Command troops. The first 200,000 5.56mm Special Operations Science and Technology rounds are already downrange with Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan, said Brig. Gen. Michael Brogan, commander of Marine Corps Systems Command. Commonly known as “SOST” rounds, they were legally cleared for Marine use by the Pentagon in late January, according to Navy Department documents obtained by Marine Corps Times.

SOCom developed the new rounds for use with the Special Operations Force Combat Assault Rifle, or SCAR, which needed a more accurate bullet because its short barrel, at 13.8 inches, is less than an inch shorter than the M4 carbine’s. Using an open-tip match round design common with some sniper ammunition, SOST rounds are designed to be “barrier blind,” meaning they stay on target better than existing M855 rounds after penetrating windshields, car doors and other objects.

Compared to the M855, SOST rounds also stay on target longer in open air and have increased stopping power through “consistent, rapid fragmentation which shortens the time required to cause incapacitation of enemy combatants,” according to Navy Department documents. At 62 grains, they weigh about the same as most NATO rounds, have a typical lead core with a solid copper shank and are considered a variation of Federal Cartridge Co.’s Federal Trophy Bonded Bear Claw round, which was developed for big-game hunting and is touted in a company news release for its ability to crush bone.

The Corps purchased a “couple million” SOST rounds as part of a joint $6 million, 10.4-million-round buy in September — enough to last the service several months in Afghanistan, Brogan said. Navy Department documents say the Pentagon will launch a competition worth up to $400 million this spring for more SOST ammunition.

Since al Qaeda and the Taliban are not signatories to the Geneva Convention and because the United States never ratified Protocols I and II of 1977, a non-expansive interpretation of US obligations would permit the use of hollow point projectiles, but TBBC bullets are not actually hollow points.

As Bartholomew Roberts explains here:

It isn’t a hollow point. It is an Open-Tip Match round much like the M118LR. The jacket is drawn from the base (instead of the cheaper method of jacket drawn from the nose and an exposed lead base) to the tip of the bullet. The tiny little hole there is just a remnant from jacketing the bullet that way. It isn’t designed for expansion or calculated to cause unnecessary suffering, so it doesn’t violate the Hague conventions.

In fact, though TBBC bullets do expand, they expand and fragment less than partition bullets commonly used in hunting.

4 Feedbacks on "Marine Corps Using New Rounds in Afghanistan"


That’s going to require some mighty fast-talking to Mirandize those “suspects”. Bullets like that will still be supersonic at 500+ yards. The revised ROE will require that defense attorneys (a) be in the target zone with the “suspects”, and (b) they be notified in advance of every pull of the trigger. That should take care of the civil liberties problem.


Even if the Taliban were particpants in the Geneva (which they aren’t), it wouldn’t matter anyway because they use mines – which would nullify their protections in the Geneva, and because they don’t wear uniforms – which again, would nullify their protection.

As a result, these are civilians from a non-member country engaging in hostilities towards troops.

They don’t get protections. Our use of this sort of ammunition in this situation doesn’t violate Geneva pacts.

Brett Hill

This “new” round violates nothing in the legal realm overseas as it is not a hallow point. Even if it were, we did not take part in that agreement not to use it. This same bullet has been used by many Police agencies in the form of Federal Tactical Bonded LE223T3. I’ve tested this round and find it to be outstanding in barrier penetration. I’m a cop and carry it everyday on the street for such purposes. M855 does not do well when short barrels, long distance and barriers are combined because it is a fragmentation round dependant on velocity. This simply is a controlled expansion round that should serve our troops well in most cases. I hope the Military adopts it in earnest so the cost of my rounds will eventually go down.


I love to disseminate understanding that I have built up with the 12 months to assist improve group functionality.


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