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M193 - The perfect 5.56x45mm general purpose round? YMMV

Updated: Jun 28, 2023

Richard de Veas


What is the perfect 5.56 general purpose round? M193 55gr is my go to round. It’s almost perfect for home defense, urban defense and LE use.

It's reasonably accurate, well made reliable, affordable and commonly found 5.56 ammunition.


I do have M196 Tracer that is strictly for specialized use on the water when I've done maritime operations. In that scenario I was required to hail intruder vessels with some form of authorized visible signal. Under international maritime law, a volley of tracer fire over the bow of a vessel was not considered a display of force but a hail. If they failed to respond to the hail one could easily direct fire on the intruding vessel without having to switch magazines or if a flare gun was used, drop the flare gun and pick up the said rifle.


Hunting ammo is designed to hold together and penetrate deep into game. That means over penetration of almost any home structure. Not ideal in home defense. MILSPEC 5.56 have primer or case crimps. Hunting rounds don’t. They often blow primers and have bullet set back. LE purpose made rounds suffer from the same problem. They’re just repurposed varmint rounds. Green penetrator M885 does poorly at close range. They don’t have enough terminal yaw to breakup the jacket on the target. They instead display excessive penetration in targets. Not what you want for home defense in an urban environment.



The Army originally didnt want the heavier round found in M855. But when they adopted the M249SAW they wanted a longer range tracer round. That round unfortunately didn’t have the same ballistic flight path as M193. So they decided to go with a ball round that Europeans developed and adopted as NATO spec. SS109 62gr. The Army by that time was concerned about 5.56 being able to penetrate Russian titanium helmets at 300 meters so they added a steel penetrator this also gave the round same profile as the M856 tracer round. The downside is as mentioned poor short range terminal ballistics and excessive barrier penetration in the urban environment and associated structures like the average American constructed home!



M193 is my go to round followed by it’s tracer round for reasons explained earlier. But if I didn’t have tracer so what. I got M193. That’s is it. I got M855 don’t know where it is don’t care. It's not suitable in the urban environment. I don’t even allow it in my classes because if even one green tip round is fired it will destroy my very expensive steel targets. It's bad enough the damage M193 does. M855 is not allowed at many ranges for the same reason. M855 is largely relegated to long range target shooters that think M855 is the end all be all. Even the cops don’t use it, preferring Federal or Winchester made M193 unless told by administrators not run MILSPEC ammo and instead buy FBI approved LE (repurposed hunting) ammo.


The new M855a1 shows promise. But, is expensive, and still not allowed at alot of ranges for same reasons why M855 is not allowed. 77gr OTM is cool. So cool it’s expensive most can’t afford to zero and train with it. Simply put current INFANTRY rounds are essentially designed for infantry combat using infantry tactics may not be suitable for most LE or home defense situations. The new super infantry rounds need not apply. Similarly LE rounds suffer the same issues. The M193 may well be the last U.S. military round perfectly suitable for home defense? YMMV



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