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.