M855A1 EPR: The Armor Piercing Round That Wasn’t

The Army does not actually consider M855A1 to be armor piercing ammunition, but it is capable of some really impressive penetration. Standard M855 is stopped easily by ¼” AR500 level III body armor, but M855A1 can penetrate even level III+ steel armor.

Bear in mind that the plate in that test was able to stop 5.56mm M193 and 50 gr TSX, .450 Marlin 405 gr JSP, and even a round of 7.62x51mm M61 AP. This plate is seriously tough.

Let that sink in a bit: a standard 5.56mm “ball” round was able to penetrate a target that 7.62x51mm armor piercing ammunition could not get through. Of course the old farts will complain about how their beloved “thuty cal” will carry more energy down range and that is absolutely correct. 7.62x51mm will likely be better at getting through thicker, heavier obstacles like trees and possibly better at multiple layers of light barrier like car bodies. It will definitely be better at chewing up concrete barriers with multiple rounds. Still, at close range, in this narrow use case, a 5.56mm “ball” cartridge outperformed 7.62x51mm AP and that is really saying something. How far away does M855A1 EPR keep that performance edge though?

It is not particularly surprising that it loses some steam and is unable to penetrate at 50 meters, given the light weight of the projectile, but the fact that it can still get through the plate at 25 meters is notable in its own right. There is some limit to the capability of this new round, but it is nevertheless impressive. It is not simply some icepick penetrator, either.

Even when fired from a short barrel, M855A1 shows immediate upset and dramatic tissue disruption. In comparison, M855 shows a much longer “neck,” about four to five inches, actually. The “neck” is the portion of tissue that is relatively undamaged by a projectile’s passing before the bullet begins to yaw, fragment, or expand.

Even when fired from a 16” barrel, the M855 showed a longer neck and less tissue disruption than the M855A1 did from an 11.5” barrel. In other words, the M855A1 is more terminally effective at a lower velocity than M855. There is every reason to believe that it should continue to demonstrate excellent down range performance too, based on the light, three part construction of the bullet. It is refreshing to finally see an effective loading fielded for our soldiers’ 5.56mm rifles. For decades, civilians have enjoyed high performance loads that take full advantage of the 5.56mm cartridge’s potential but our service men and women have made do with an obsolete answer to a question no one cared to ask. The M855 was not particularly good at anything. It was not terrible, of course, but it was far from ideal. At long last, it looks as though the Army has a load that is actually better at penetrating cover than M855 but also produces better tissue damage.

RTF2, the Pinnacle of Glock Production?

Recently Lipsey’s released another Vickers / Glock collaboration,  with the Grey Gen3 RTF2 Glocks, much like the previously released Vickers RTF2 FDE Glocks. While the Vickers Glocks have a lot of  Vickers Glock accessories, these Glocks are mainly focused around the 2009 RTF2 frame and are desired for this frame.  The RTF2 frame  was in production for a very short time and  was not really wanted when it first came out.  Now people pay a premium for the RTF2 framed Glocks. So, is the RTF2 frame the pinnacle of Glock production? I would say yes, for a pure Glock fighting handgun.

Glock 17 RTF2
Glock 17 RTF2

The initial release of the Glock Gen3 RTF2’s in 2009, with the G17 and G22, where met with a lot of visual/cosmetic speculation.  Not so much with the RTF2 frame but with the so called “Fish Gill” scalloped slide serrations. Many hated the Fish Gill look and this cosmetic look was the main focus of dislike on the RTF2’s back then. In reality the Fish Gill slide serrations have never been a functional issue/problem. They worked just as well as the standard slide serrations. Glock quickly stopped production of the Fish Gill slides and continued G17, G22, G19, G23 and G21 RTF2 frame production. This makes the Fish Gill Glock slides the least produced RTF2 combination. Then people started to complain the RTF2 texture was to rough for their delicate hands.  Some time in 2010 the RTF2 line was halted and was limited to large orders (over 2500) or LE agency production only.

"Fish Gill" Scalloped Slide Serrations
“Fish Gill” Scalloped Slide Serrations

In recent years Lipsey’s has release exclusive Vickers RTF2 Glocks in FDE and now in Grey. These Glocks have sold out very quickly and in some cases for extremely large amounts of money. Most RTF2 frames now sell for premium values since they were discontinued.  Why was the RTF2 frame chosen for the Vickers Glock and why are they so desirable now? I do not think the Vickers accessories that are sold with the Vickers Glocks are the main attractive point of these Glock’s.  Also, the FDE and Grey colors are not the main focus of the Vickers Glock’s. You can get these accessories and these colors for your standard Gen3 and Gen4 Glock’s.  The main selling point of the Vickers Glock’s are the RTF2 frames.

Vickers FDE Glocks
Vickers FDE Glocks
Vickers Grey Glocks
Vickers Grey Glocks

In my opinion the RTF2 frame is the pinnacle of the Glock line for a duty, home defense and training firearm.  It is also the best feeling and handling Glock made frame.

Grip/Texture:

The texture of the RTF2 frame is exactly what you want in a fighting handgun. The RTF2 frame has more than 4,000 tiny raised “Pyramids” around the grip. I actually tried to count/calculate one of my personal RTF2 framed Glock’s pyramids and it came out just over 5600 pyramids. The RTF2 frame is not too rough for your hands and it does not beat up or hurt your hands under longs strings of fire.  You can feel the slight bite of the RTF2 pyramid texturing but it’s just enough to let you know it is there for you. I have taken the RTF2 to several multi-day training courses and other than a super positive grip, I have had no issues with the grip texture being too rough. When handling the RTF2 Glock in wet and oily environments, it has vastly superior grip-ability over the Gen3 and Gen4 frames.

RTF2 "Pyramids"
RTF2 “Pyramids”

Now, if you are looking for a daily conceal carry handgun, The RTF2 framed Glocks are not ideal. If you are trying to conceal an RTF2 Glock, having it right next to your skin is not going to feel great.  You will have to wear a layer of protective clothing. Also, the RTF2 frames are extremely rough on all clothing, gloves and even your seatbelt. For a training course, duty carry or home defense firearm, the RTF2 is the best of the Glock offerings, for a very positive grip.

RTF2 Training
RTF2 Training

Gen3 Frame:

The RTF2 frame is built on Glocks arguably most reliable and longest serving Glock frame, the Gen3. I really can’t explain what it is, but the overall grip circumference of the RTF2 frame seems to feel smaller than the standard Gen3 frame.  The finger grooves also look and feel smaller than on the standard Gen3 frame.  I’m not sure if this is due to the RTF2 texture but the size of the grip feels just right.  You feel like you have more hand on the firearm with a maximum hand purchase, 360 degrees around the frame.

Glock 17 RTF2 / X300 / 33rd Magazine
Glock 17 RTF2 / X300 / 33rd Magazine

Availability Today:

The RTF2 Glock general production was stopped in 2010. With some of the Vickers Glocks you may be able to find one  here and there, but you are going to pay for it. There are older RTF’s popping up here and there and you will be paying a high price for them as well. I would suggest looking out for Police Trade-In G22 and G23 RTF2’s when they are available. I recently saw some in the mid 300 dollar range. Since G17/22 and G19/23 frames are identical, picking up a cheaper .40 cal trade in model might be the way to go, to get the RTF2 frame.

Final Thoughts:

If you are someone who likes Glocks, once you have an RTF2 framed Glock in your hands, you will probably never let it go. It is the ultimate in positive grip, in the Glock line. I mainly use the RTF2 Glocks for home defense and training classes. The RTF2’s are also great for your load-bearing, armor carrier, chest rig, or SHTF go gear. You will find yourself wanting to carry it for your conceal firearm, but remember it just chews your clothing up to fast. For a pure fighting handgun, the RTF2’s are the best Glock frames you can get. They do perform better than Gen3 and Gen4 Glocks in the grip feel and function area.

Duncan

Is Ceramic Armor Really "Better" Than Steel?

Some things really are better. Cold beer is better than warm beer. Empire Strikes Back is better than Return of the Jedi. But in most cases, one thing is not really better than another thing, just different. As much as it pains me to admit, PCs are not better than Macs, just different. Depending on your priorities, one or the other may be a better fit. This concept applies to body armor as well. There is a perception that level IIIA soft armor is “better” than level IIA because it is rated for higher energy threats. Level IIIA armor also tends to be heavier, stiffer, hotter, and generally less comfortable than level IIA. Anyone who has worn armor for a living knows that comfort isn’t nearly as superficial as it might sound to someone who has not worn armor for long periods of time. There are a number of other factors that should be considered when selecting armor such as weight, thickness, threat rating, and of course, price. There are some other factors that may be overlooked, though.

One factor is the fact that different types of body armor might perform differently with specific threats, even if they have the same threat rating. By way of example, this level III steel plate was able to stop a round of M61 7.62x51mm AP.

When shot with the same ammunition from the same barrel length, a ceramic level III plate was perforated, though.

How can this be? Every internet operator worth his keyboard will tell you straight up that ceramic armor is “better” than steel, so how is it that the steel can stop a round that gets through the ceramic? The fact is that the real world is not a video game. Ceramic armor is not a +10 damage resistance over steel armor. Different armor types perform differently across a spectrum of velocities, bullet weights, and types of projectile construction. The materials used in each plate work differently to stop bullets. That does not mean that the steel plate is superior, either, though. The same plates had opposite performance when tested against the Army’s new M855A1 62 gr EPR.

In this case, the ceramic plate stopped the round but the steel plate was perforated.

Both plates carry the NIJ level III rating. Shouldn’t that mean that they will stop the same ammunition? In a way, that is precisely what that means, but we have to put a very fine point on that statement. It means that they will both protect the wearer from 7.62x51mm M80 at 2,780 fps by preventing the round from reaching the wearer but without deforming more that 1.7″. This last bit is often overlooked as well. Soft body armor and composite rifle plates deform when struck by a projectile. Often, that deformation is substantial, as seen in the video below:

The NIJ specifies that the degree of back face deformation should be measured by measuring the depression left in a clay block placed behind the test article. In this informal test, the clay used is not exactly the same type and consistency of the clay specified by the NIJ, but it gives a general picture of the difference between the back face signature produced by these two plates when struck with the same projectile.

Although they are the same threat level and were struck with exactly the same ammunition, the degree of back face deformation on the ceramic composite plate was profound, while the steel plate showed virtually zero deformation.

Please understand that this series of tests should not be taken to indicate that steel is “better,” either, just that steel and ceramic work differently. The two plates shown here vary substantially in price, thickness, and weight as well as the factors discussed in this article. They perform differently, but one is not necessarily “better” than the other. Both plates will still protect the wearer against the vast majority of small arms munitions, though.

As always, it is your responsibility to do extensive research before purchasing any personal protective equipment. Also remember that training is far more important than equipment. There is no amount of gear that can make up for a training deficiency.

US&S M1911A1

The  M1911A1 pictured below is special.  it is an all matching US&S  M1911A1.  It is in beautiful shape.  Finding one like this would take a very long time and cost a small fortune.   In this case, it was restored.   The gun was a effort of love by the owner of Moore Militaria  ( www.mooremilitaria.com )  It was restored over time and  when all parts had be found, sent to George Rhogar for that beautiful finish and  going over all the stamping and cartouches, giving them a more defined look and bringing them back after years of arsenal refinishing had worn them  down.

uss191111

No the piece is not original.  Since it is not factory new and argument could be made it has much if it s value hurt by this restoration project.   But not to me.  I think it was a worthy effort and the results speak for themselves.  It would take a very keen and astute eye to determine this gun to be a restoration.   I personally do not have a problem with this kind of thing.   Where else would you be able to have one of these with all the matching parts and not feel bad about shooting it?      Below are more pictures of this M1911 courtesy of Trey Moore.   He kindly sent me these pictures after telling me about it yesterday. So thanks to him for these.  If you like Vietnam era gear and uniforms, check out his website. Everyone could use a set of vietnam tiger strips made in the proper pattern and in the correct cut.

FN M249S

Last weekend I was at the range zeroing an ACOG that I put a LaRue mount on and I learned that one of the regulars bought the new FN M249S.

FN M249S

I was amazed by the trigger on it.  Smooth and light.  I was also surprised to see that the barrels came with KAC NT4 suppressor mounts.

It’s owner really liked it, and it was running great.  While I think the M249S is ridiculously expensive, it is cool that they are available for sale.