US CALIBER .30 M2 AP ACCURACY

The .30-06 Government , or  US Caliber .30  is a a classic round everyone knows. I think it has probably been used for everything you can use a rifle for at one time or another.  It was the US service round for a million years before being phased out.    It had several different martial loadings over those years one of them being M2 Armor Piercing.  Unlike the M2 ball which was a FMJ bullet of about 150 grains, the A.P. load was a 165 to 168 ish grain  bullet constructed to defeat light armor.  The M2 ball round was not very accurate and because of the lack of accuracy even in match rifles,  military personnel during war times developed a tendency to just us AP ammo for everything.

The odd part of this is that during WW1, the AEF in France was unhappy with  effective range of their machine guns and ammo.  The lighter bullet   of the then service round did not give them the same range as the heavier German service round.   So the Army developed the heavier 174gr  M1 ball round.  This gave the machine guns a longer effective range and same with the service rifle.     The M1 load was also very accurate.   It was so accurate at longer ranges that the Army griped about the new round causing safety issues on firing ranges.   So the decision was made to make up ammo that was for use on the ranges set up for the older M1906  original load for use on the various ranges.     Shooters liked the lessened recoil of the lighter ammo made up for the restricted range distances, soldiers could carry more for the same weight etc etc. So a suggestion was made and implemented that the new round be substituted for the M1 service round and after some tinkering it was finalized as the M2 ball round at 152 grains.  By that time all of the experienced machine gunners and rifleman who  had been in WW1 and witnessed how poor the lighter load performed were gone from the service.     Once again when WW2 started  the M2 load showed its limits  and the tendency to just use M2 A.P. for everything became widespread.

So how accurate was the M2 AP service round? Having a large amount of US M2AP on hand and realizing most shooters do not have a place or range that would allow use of AP ammo, I decided to do some testing.   I  fired the ammo mostly in the M1 Garand which is the rifle most associate with the round and fired it the most. I also used a M1903A3 and to try to really get to brass tacks I pulled some off the bullets and reloaded them into federal gold medal 3006 brass and 308 brass and shot it for group.

First I fired 16 rounds through an M1 Garand  at 100 yards from a bench with bags.  Very good group considering the accuracy requirements of the ammo and the  “experience”  this M1 has.  The heavier load did produce slightly more recoil compared to the M2 ball 152gr load but not much. I have always thought the M1 Garand was comfortable and pleasant to shoot  anyway.

Next at 100 yards I shot the  M1903A3  using the AP bullets I pulled and carefully loaded into Federal Gold Medal brass. I used all the same care and procedure I would use  had I been loading match ammo.  I fired 8 rounds instead of 10  for no reason other than I pulled 8 bullets from  M1 clip and I did not have much match ’06 brass anyway.

Lastly at 100 yards I fired 10 rounds of   308 I handloaded using the M2 AP bullet loaded into Federal gold metal match.    I didn’t even play with the powder or do more than pull the bullets of the M2AP, then pulled the federal 168 grain GMM and then re seated the AP rounds into the gold metal brass using the factory powder and primer and virgin brass. I guess you could call it a reverse “Mexican Match” round.     And hey! it did pretty good!   Some times being lazy pays off!      I was glad this worked because I had loaded 100 rounds of my reverse Mexican match already.

Now I debated a long time at what longer ranges to try the M2AP at. I finally decided to restrict it to 200 and 300 yards. At least for the time being and  how popular this post is.   The reasons being that the M1 garand used for this does not have a new or  nearly new barrel, I can’t see tiny aiming points much beyond a few hundred yards well enough to shoot the iron sights on the M1 because of my eyes and the size of the rear peep and I had no idea how accurate it may be. I also used a man shaped qualification target since  the gun an ammo were made to shoot  men, who are conveniently enough, the same size and shape of man sized qual targets.   The results pleased me and if it is asked for by readers  I will repeat the test at 500 and maybe 600.

So there are the groups at 200 and 300 yards.      You did not count wrong, one round at 300 yards did not hit the target.   I found that the M1 Garand is like some  other semi autos and sometimes the first round chambered by hand does not always shoot to the same point of as the rest of the group cycled by the guns action during recoil etc.   Not too bad I think for an old Garand with a well used barrel and military ammo from the 40s.

 

5 thoughts on “US CALIBER .30 M2 AP ACCURACY

  1. Interesting article. I would say those are good groups with all variables considered. Shooting at 400+ might be kind of pointless. I would imagine your groups would open a lot. But hell, I guess you could shoot at 400+ and validate or prove my theory false.

    • I just kinda feel like, if I use a Garand that doesnt at least have a new, barely worn barrel or at least one still in damn good shape, then we arent really learning much from it. most of what we see from my shooting may be, a worn old barrel. bad ammo or a combination of both. I could have loaded the bullets all into match 30-06 brass and fired it though a new target rifle., but that wouldnt tell us anything about how the military ammo actually shot in the war. and if I shot it in an m1 is till wouldnt tell much. I think I need a like mew M1 and M1903 for us to really get an idea what a WW2 GI could have expected from it. guess all I did was write a hopefully some what entertaining post and didnt really prove much of anything other than if you load the bullets into match 308 brass and shoot them from a modern target rifle they are at least combat accurate for whatever that is worth

  2. Always wondered if the choice to go with the 173gr slug on the Match M72 and later M118 was just some bullet engineer’s SWAG. The older M72 bullets I used to get in bulk as pulldowns shot great but the newer slugs from the M118 Match and Special Ball were so-so. I’d always sort them out by weight and ogive length.

    • That bullet weight for match ammo was around for a long time. I think it must have been determined at some distant point in time that it was optimal for a 30 caliber cartridge within that velocity. the M118 original load at one time was not bad. then quality fell off and it became famously dreadful. thus the M852 coming to be, which for those who don’t know, was the 7.62MM NATO load using the sierra 168 gr HPBT bullet. it was used for matches then approved by the JAG for use in combat. the MM18LR is the sniper load with a sierra 175grain HPBT bullet. and there are a very more versions that had the powder variants. But yeah I never had any m118 that was worth a squat. the brass in that ammo was top notch though, the bullets..ugh. the old National MATCH M118 7.62nato was good stuff made with pride. I still have some of it in original boxes from the 1960s

  3. I’ve got a 1965 box of Frankford Arsenal M118 and a 1966 box of Lake City set aside for whenever I finally assemble my M40 build. Still have a bunch of old LC72 and 77 Match brass when it was more common and the DCM/CMP used to sell it. Got a can of Garand clipped M72 too because “why not” though I don’t think I’ll ever shoot any of it if I’m honest.

    Going back to the article though, I’d almost think in that era and with that rifle just issuing straight AP rounds as general issue would’ve been the way to go. An AP round will poke a hole in a person just as well and still create a casualty. It also has more power to turn some additional cover into concealment instead.

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