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7.62 mm NATO Ammo

The first standard NATO cartridge, the 7.62 x 51mm NATO, was developed by the United States as a successor to the .30 Caliber M2 round (30-06), which had served as the standard U. S. rifle cartridge since 1906.

The standard .30 Caliber M2 cartridge propelled a 150 grain projectile at a muzzle velocity of 2,800 fps (848 mps). It served the U. S. very effectively in the 1903 Springfield and M1 Garand service rifles, the Browning automatic rifle, and the heavy and light models of the Browning machine guns.

Gunner with M-60 machine gun and belts of 7.62mm ammo during hte assault on Hill 875, Dak To, Vietnam. 173rd Abn Brig, 4th Bn, 503 Inf, November 19, 1967.
Gunner with M-60 machine gun and belts of 7.62mm ammo during hte assault on Hill 875, Dak To, Vietnam. 173rd Abn Brig, 4th Bn, 503 Inf, November 19, 1967.

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7.62mm NATO Ammunition History

7.62mm Round

Although the M1 Garand was very effective and highly praised during its service as the standard U. S. rifle in World War II and Korea, many infantrymen desired a lighter weapon with greater ammunition capacity and a select-fire capability. Many soldiers attemped to use the M1 Carbine as a replacement for the M1 Garand, but this proved unsatisfactory due to the inadequate power of the .30 Carbine ammuniton.

In September 1945, after conducting preliminary tests to improve the M1 rifle, the U. S. Ordnance Technical Committee turned its attention to the development of a new and lighter rifle cartridge that would replace the .30 Caliber M2 round. This interest in a new cartridge was influenced by the battlefield success of the German 7.9mm Kurz, and Soviet adoption of their Kalashnikov light assault rifles using the new 7.62 x 39mm Model 43 intermediate power ammunition. As the development of the new U. S. service rifle cartidge progressed, however, traditionalism took hold as U. S. Army participants began to feel that the intermediate power ammuniton, used by the Soviets and the Germans, were too limited in their effective combat ranges and power to satisfy U. S. infantry requirements. The result was a compromise. The Ordnance Technical Committee came up with a shortened version of the old .30 caliber M2 cartidge.

The new cartridge, designated the 7.62 x 51mm T65, was not an intermediate power round. Although shorter by a half inch than the old Caliber .30 M2 round, it still propelled a 147 grain bullet at a muzzle velocity of 2,800 fps (848 mps) -- essentially identical to the old .30 Caliber M2 round. Newly developed ball powder allowed the use of smaller cartridge case to produce pressures and velocities identical to the old full power .30 Caliber M2 round.

Final U. S. adoption of the new 7.62 x 51mm T65 cartridge depended upon the acceptance of the new round by members of the NATO alliance. During the early 1950's, the British conducted their own tests to determine the optimum rifle ammunition for their troops. They concluded that a .280 Caliber (7 mm) cartridge was the ideal rifle caliber. The proposed British cartridge was a true intermediate power cartridge based on German experience and Soviet developments. In 1953, after much political debate, the U. S. 7.62 x 51mm T65 round was finally adopted by the NATO Alliance as its standard rifle caliber cartidge. In 1957, after numerous trials, the U. S. finally adopted the M14 rifle as its new standard 7.62mm NATO caliber service rifle. The other members of NATO adopted either the German G3 or the Belgian FN FAL as their standard 7.62mm NATO caliber service rifles. In addition to the M14, the U.S. military M-60 machine gun used the 7.62mm round (see top photo).

7.62mm NATO Ammunition Description

Military 7.62mm ammunition is also known as .308 or 7.62x51mm for some non-miliary cartridges. The M80 or M59 Ball cartridges are intended for use against personnel and unarmored targets. 7.62-mm ammunition is percussion-primed generating chamber pressure of 50,000 psi for both the ball and the tracer. Bullet weight varies from 142 grains (.32 ounces) for the tracer to 150 grains (.34 ounces) for the Ball. Average muzzle velocity is 2,750 feet per second measured 78 feet from the muzzle. The following table summarize the ballistic data for the M59 Ball cartridge.

TypeM59 Ball
Cartridge Weight393 gr (25.47 gm)
Cartridge Length2.8 in (71.1 mm)
Propellant46 gr (2.98 gm) WC 846
Bullet Weight150.5 gr (9.75 gm)
Chamber Pressure50,000 psi (3,515 kg/cm2)
Muzzle Velocity @ 78ft2,750 fps (838 mps)

7.62mm Cartridges Packaging

7.62mm Cartridge Clips

Cartridges for M-14 rifle use are inserted into five round stripper clips. Two stripper clips (10 rounds) are inserted into a cardboard tip-protector sleeve. Six sleeves are packed into each cloth bandoleer, a total of 60 rounds. Each bandoleer is also packed with a metal stripper clip guide, which helps speed load M-14 magazines.

7.62mm ammunition for use in machine guns is issued in metallic link belts using the M13 link. The standard ammunition mix for machine gun use (M-60) is four ball (M80) cartridges followed by one tracer (M62). The M13s have partially open loops with a positioning prong on one side that snaps into the extractor grooves of the cartridge to set the proper feed alignment. In operation, part of the bolt rides through the open loop of the link to force the cartridge out of the link and into the chamber for firing.

Standard ammunition cans are used to hold belts or bandoleers of 7.62mm ammunition, usually the .30 Cal. M19 / M19A1 Ammo Box.

U.S. Military 7.62mm Ammunition Types

  • Cartridge, 7.62mm, Ball, M59
  • Cartridge, 7.62mm, High Pressure Test, M60 (silvered case)
  • Cartridge, 7.62mm, Armor Piercing, M61 (black bullet tip)
  • Cartridge, 7.62mm, Tracer, M62 (orange bullet tip)
  • Cartridge, Dummy, 7.62mm, M63 (fluted case)
  • Cartridge, 7.62mm, Grenade, M64 (crimped closed, red marked)
  • Cartridge, 7.62mm, Ball, M80
  • Cartridge, 7.62mm, Blank, M82 (wad end)
  • Cartridge, 7.62mm, Ball, Special, M118
  • Cartridge, 7.62mm, Frangible, M160 (green bullet tip/white ring)
  • Cartridge, Dummy, 7.62mm, M172 (black finish)
  • Cartridge, 7.62mm, Dim Tracer, M276 (green bullet tip/pink ring)
  • Cartridge, 7.62nmm, Match, M852
  • Cartridge, 7.62mm: Armor Piercing (AP), M993

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