|Place of origin||United States|
|Used by||United States, NATO, others.|
|Wars||Vietnam War, Falklands Conflict, The Troubles, Gulf War, War in Afghanistan, Iraq War, Libyan civil war, among other conflicts|
|Parent case||.308 Winchester (derived from the .300 Savage)|
|Case type||Rimless, Bottleneck|
|Bullet diameter||0.308 in (7.82 mm)|
|Neck diameter||0.345 in (8.8 mm)|
|Shoulder diameter||0.454 in (11.5 mm)|
|Base diameter||0.470 in (11.9 mm)|
|Rim diameter||0.473 in (12.0 mm)|
|Rim thickness||0.050 in (1.3 mm)|
|Case length||2.015 in (51.2 mm)|
|Overall length||2.750 in (69.9 mm)|
|Rifling twist||1 in 12 in (30 cm)|
|Primer type||Large Rifle|
|Maximum pressure||60,191 psi (415.00 MPa)|
|Test barrel length: 24 inches (61 cm)
Source(s): M80: Slickguns, M118 Long Range: U.S. Armorment
The 7.62×51mm NATO (official NATO nomenclature 7.62 NATO) is a rifle cartridge developed in the 1950s as a standard for small arms among NATO countries. It should not be confused with the similarly named Russian 7.62×54mmR cartridge; a slightly more powerful round.
It was introduced in U.S. service in the M14 rifle and M60 machine gun in the late 1950s. The M14 was superseded in U.S. service as the infantry adopted the 5.56×45mm NATO M16. However, the M14 and many other firearms that use the 7.62×51 round remain in service, especially in the case of sniper rifles, machine guns, and as the service weapon chosen by special operations forces. The cartridge is used both by infantry and on mounted and crew-served weapons mounted to vehicles, aircraft and ships.
Although not identical, the 7.62×51mm NATO and the commercial .308 Winchester cartridges are similar enough that they can be loaded into rifles chambered for the other round, but .308 cartridges are typically loaded to higher pressures than 7.62x51mm cartridges for use in long-distance hunting of big-game animals. Even though the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute (SAAMI) does not consider it unsafe to fire the commercial round in weapons chambered for the NATO round, there is significant discussion about compatible chamber and muzzle pressures between the two cartridges based on powder loads and wall thicknesses on the military vs. commercial rounds. While the debate goes both ways, the ATF recommends checking the stamping on the barrel; if you're unsure, consult the maker of the firearm.
The cartridge itself offers similar ballistic performance in most firearms to the .30-06 Springfield that it replaced in U.S. service. Though shorter, standard loadings fire similar bullet weights with only a slight reduction in velocity. Modern propellants allowed for similar performance from a case with less capacity. The smaller case requires less brass and yields a shorter cartridge. This shorter cartridge allows a slight reduction in the size and weight of firearms that chamber it, and somewhat better cycling in automatic and semi-automatic rifles.
Work that would eventually develop the 7.62×51mm NATO started just after World War I when the large, powerful .30-06 cartridge proved difficult to adapt to semi-automatic rifles. A less-powerful cartridge would allow a lighter firing mechanism. At the time the most promising design was the .276 Pedersen. When it was eventually demonstrated that the .30-06 was suitable for semi-automatic rifles, the .276 was dropped.
Thus when war appeared to be looming again only a few decades later, the .30-06 was the only round available and the M1 Garand provided U.S. troops with greater firepower than their bolt action-armed opponents. The Garand performed so well that the U.S. saw little need to replace it during World War II and the .30-06 served well beyond the Korean War and into the mid-1960s.
During the 1940s and early 1950s several experiments were carried out to improve the Garand. One of the most common complaints was the limited capacity 8-round en-bloc clip and many experimental designs modified the weapon with a detachable box magazine. Springfield Armory's T20 rifle was a fully automatic version. Though not adopted, experience with a fully automatic Garand laid the groundwork for its replacement.
The test program continued for several years, including both the original .30-06 round and a modified .300 Savage (then known as the T65). In the end, the T65 cartridge demonstrated power roughly equal to the original .30-06, firing a 147-grain (9.5 g) bullet at 2,750 feet per second (840 m/s) but was approximately 1⁄2 inch (13 mm) shorter. The eventual result of this competition was the T44 rifle.
When the United States developed the T65 cartridge, the British military took a different route. They had spent considerable time and effort developing the intermediate-power .280 British (7 mm) cartridge with an eye towards controllable fully automatic fire. The U.S. held to its desire not to reduce the effectiveness of individual aimed shots. The American philosophy was to use automatic fire for emergencies only and continue to use semi-automatic fire the majority of the time. After considerable debate, the Canadian Army announced they would be happy to use the .280 but only if the U.S. did as well. It was clear the U.S. was not going to use the .280. The British did start introducing the .280 along with the "bull-pup" Rifle No. 9, but the process was stopped in the interests of harmonization across NATO. The T65 was chosen as the NATO standard cartridge in 1954.
Winchester Ammunition (a division of the Olin Corporation) saw the market for a civilian model of the T65 cartridge and released it commercially in 1952 as the .308 Winchester, two years prior to adoption of the cartridge by NATO.
The T44 was adopted as the M14 in 1957. Britain and Canada adopted the Belgian FN FAL around the same time followed by West German army as the G1. The Germans soon transitioned to a modified version of the Spanish CETME rifle, Heckler & Koch G3. With all three of these firearms, it was clear that the 7.62 mm NATO could not be fired controllably in fully automatic because of recoil. Both the M14s and FAL would later go through several variations intended to either limit fully automatic selection through semi-auto version or selector locks or to improve control with bipods or heavier barrels.
While this was going on, the U.S. Project SALVO concluded that a burst of four rounds into a 20-inch (51 cm) circle would cause twice the number of casualties as a fully automatic burst by one of these rifles, regardless of the size of the round. They suggested using a much smaller .22 caliber cartridge with two bullets per cartridge (a duplex load), while other researchers investigated the promising flechette rounds that were lighter but offered better penetration than even the .30-06. These studies were kept secret to prevent the British from using them as evidence in favour of their smaller rounds.
When the M14 arrived in Vietnam, it was found to have a few disadvantages. The rifle's overall length was not well suited for jungle warfare. Also, the weight of 7.62×51mm cartridges limited the total amount of ammunition that could be carried in comparison with the 7.62×39mm cartridge of the Type 56 and AK-47 assault rifles, which the Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army soldiers were equipped with. In addition, the originally issued wooden stocked versions of the M14 were susceptible to warping from moisture in tropical environments, producing "wandering zeroes" and other accuracy problems, which caused the adoption of fiberglass stocks.
Fighting between the big-round and small-round groups reached a peak in the early 1960s, when test after test showed the .223 Remington cartridge fired from the AR-15 allowed an 8-soldier unit to outgun an 11-soldier unit armed with M14s. U.S. troops were able to carry more than twice as much 5.56×45mm ammunition as 7.62×51mm for the same weight, which allowed them an advantage against a typical N.V.A. unit armed with Type 56-1s.
|Rifle||Cartridge||Cartridge weight||Weight of loaded magazine||10 kg (22#) ammo load|
|M14||7.62×51mm||393 grains (25.5 g)||20 rds @ 0.68 kg||14 mags / 280 rds|
|M16||5.56×45mm||183 grains (11.9 g)||20 rds @ 0.3 kg||33 mags / 660 rds|
|AK-47||7.62×39mm||281 grains (18.2 g)||30 rds @ 1.2 kg*||8 mags / 240 rds|
(*AK-47 magazines are much heavier than M14 and M16 magazines)
In 1964, the U.S. Army started replacing their M14s with the M16, incurring another series of complaints from the British. Regardless of the M14 having disadvantages in jungle warfare, 7.62×51mm NATO rifles stayed in military service around the world due to several factors. The 7.62×51mm NATO has proved much more effective than 5.56×45mm at long ranges, and has since found popularity as a sniping round. For instance, M14 variants such as the Mk 14 Enhanced Battle Rifle and M25 Sniper Rifle were utilized in the United States military as designated marksman and sniper rifles. Shorter, easier to handle 7.62mm rifles like the Heckler & Koch G3 stayed in service due to their accuracy, range, cartridge effectiveness and reliability.
Specialized loadings were created for 7.62×51mm NATO-chambered sniper rifles. They used heavier and more streamlined bullets that had a higher ballistic coefficient than standard ball rounds, meaning they shed velocity at longer ranges more gradually. Loss of velocity is important for accurate long-range shots because dropping from supersonic to transonic speeds disturbs the flight of the bullet and adversely affects accuracy. The standard M80 ball round weighs 147 gr and has a muzzle velocity 200 ft/s (61 m/s) faster than the M118LR 175 gr sniping round. However, the M80 drops to subsonic velocity around 875 m (957 yd), while the initially slower M118LR is supersonic out to 950 m (1,040 yd) due to its low-drag bullet.
The 7.62×51mm NATO round nevertheless met the designer's demands for fully automatic reliability with a full-power round. It remained the main machine gun round for almost all NATO forces well into the 1990s, even being used in adapted versions of older .30-06 machine guns such as the Browning M1919A4 from the WWII era. These have been replaced to a considerable extent in the light machine gun role by 5.56×45mm NATO weapons, such as the widespread use of the M249 SAW, but the 7.62 round is still the standard chambering for most general-purpose machine guns such as the M60E4, the M240 and the German HK21 and MG3, and flexible mountings such as helicopters, jeeps, and tanks.
The U.S. Army is developing an improved version of the M80 ball 7.62 mm round, called the M80A1. The M80A1 incorporates changes found in the M855A1 5.56 mm round. Like the M855A1, the M80A1 is expected to have better hard-target penetration, more consistent performance against soft targets, and significantly increased distances of these effects over the M80. The bullet is redesigned with a copper jacket and exposed hardened steel penetrator, eliminating 114.5 grains (7.4 g) of lead with production of each M80A1 projectile. Fielding is expected for 2014.
Military cartridge types
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, Ball, M59 (United States): 150.5-grain (9.8 g) 7.62×51mm NATO ball cartridge. A further development of the initial T65 cartridge.
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, High Pressure Test, M60 (United States): 7.62×51mm NATO test cartridge. The cartridge is not for field issue, but is used for proof firing of weapons during manufacture, test, or repair. The cartridge is identified by a stannic-stained (silvered) case.
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, Armor Piercing, M61 (United States): 150.5-grain (9.8 g) 7.62×51mm NATO armor-piercing round, black cartridge tip.
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, Tracer, M62 (United States): 142-grain (9.2 g) tracer cartridge, orange cartridge tip.
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, Dummy, M63 (United States): The cartridge is used for practice in loading 7.62mm weapons for simulated firing to detect flinching of personnel during firing and for inspecting and testing the weapon mechanism. The cartridge is identified by six longitudinal corrugations (flutings) on the cartridge case. There is no primer and no vent hole in the primer pocket.
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, Grenade, M64 (United States): 7.62×51mm NATO grenade launching blank. The cartridge is identified by a rose-petal (rosette-crimp) closure of the cartridge case mouth and sealed with red lacquer. The cartridge provides pressure upon functioning to project rifle grenade to a desired target when using a grenade projectile adapter and dragon missile launch effect trainer (LET).
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, Ball, M80 (United States): 147-grain (9.5 g) 7.62×51mm NATO ball cartridge. The U.S. Army's Ballistic Research Laboratory measured a ballistic coefficient (G7 BC) of 0.200 and form factor (G7 i) of 1.105 for the M80 ball projectile.
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, Ball, M80A1 (United States): M80 Lead Free (LF) 7.62×51mm NATO ball cartridge. 114.5-grain (7.4 g) of lead eliminated per M80A1 projectile. To be issued in 2014.
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, Blank, M82 (United States): 7.62×51mm NATO cartridge is used in rifles and machine guns equipped with blank firing attachments to simulate firing in training exercises and for saluting purposes. The cartridge is identified by its double tapered (bottle nose) neck and absence of a bullet.
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, Ball, Silent, XM115 (United States): Little is known of this round, but it was an attempt to quiet the round. Never adopted.
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, Match, M118 (United States): 173-grain (11.2 g) 7.62×51mm NATO Full Metal Jacket Boat Tail round specifically designed for Match purposes. The round was introduced as the XM118 match in 1963 and was produced at both Frankford Arsenal and Lake City Army Ammunition Plant. It was standardized as M118 match in mid-1965. It used the same bullet as the .30-06 Springfield M72 Match Ball round, match-grade brass cartridges, and used fitted No. 43 primers. Production ceased at Frankford in 1965 but continued at Lake City until the early 1980s. Lake City used dedicated equipment to produce the ammo up until the mid-1970s and during that time the quality of the ammunition was quite good. When they ceased using dedicated machinery the quality of the ammo had a very noticeable decline.
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, Ball, Special, M118 (United States): 173-grain (11.2 g) 7.62×51mm NATO Full Metal Jacket Boat Tail round specifically designed for match purposes. Produced by Lake City Army Ammunition Plant. This is an interim match round which utilized standard M80 ball brass cartridges with the 173-grain (11.2 g) Full-Metal Jacketed Ball Boat Tailed (FMJBT) bullet and staked No. 34 or No. 36 primers. During this period in the early to late 1980s the performance of the round declined. Powder, primer, and brass were the same as standard ball rounds; bullets and powder charges varied in weight due to worn machinery and poor quality control. Since it couldn't be called "Match" due to its erratic trajectory, it was renamed "Special Ball". Snipers used to test shoot batches of ammo, find a batch that shot well (or at least consistently), then zeroed their weapon to that batch and tried to procure as much of that ammo as possible.
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, Ball, Special, M118LR (United States): 175-grain (11.3 g) 7.62×51mm NATO Match-grade round specifically designed for long-range sniping. It uses a 175-grain (11.3 g) Sierra Match King Hollow Point Boat Tail bullet. Produced at Lake City Army Ammunition Plant. The propellant's noticeable muzzle flash and temperature sensitivity led to the development of the MK 316 MOD 0 for Special Operations use.
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, Frangible, M160 (United States): 108.5-grain (7.0 g) 7.62×51mm NATO frangible bullet, upon striking a target, disintegrates, leaving a mark at the point of impact.
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, Dummy, M172 (United States): 7.62×51mm NATO cartridge is inert and is used to test the mechanism and metallic link belts of 7.62mm weapons. The cartridge is identified by a black oxide finish over the entire round and has no primer. There is no vent hole in the primer pocket.
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, Ball, Overhead Fire, XM178 (United States): 7.62×51mm NATO Overhead Fire Application (OFA) cartridge using a solid, turned, GM bullet. These were developed to supposedly make the OFA cartridges safer since there would be no small pieces of bullet that could separate and fall on the troops. Never Adopted.
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, Tracer, Overhead Fire, XM179 (United States): 7.62×51mm NATO Overhead Fire Application (OFA) cartridge using a solid, turned, GM bullet. These were developed to supposedly make the OFA cartridges safer since there would be no small pieces of bullet that could separate and fall on the troops. XM179/XM180 difference is the amount of trace mixture. Never Adopted.
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, Tracer, Overhead Fire, XM180 (United States): 7.62×51mm NATO Overhead Fire Application (OFA) cartridge using a solid, turned, GM bullet. These were developed to supposedly make the OFA cartridges safer since there would be no small pieces of bullet that could separate and fall on the troops. XM179/XM180 difference is the amount of trace mixture. Never Adopted.
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, Blank, XM192 (United States): 7.62×51mm Short case rose crimped dummy. Never adopted.
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, Duplex, M198 (United States): 7.62×51mm NATO duplex round with two 84-grain (5.4 g) bullets. The developmental designation was T314E3.
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, Ball, Low Recoil, XM256 (United States): 7.62×51mm NATO Single 82-grain (5.3 g) bullet from M198 round. Another attempt to control the M14 in full auto mode or for small stature troops. Never adopted.
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, Tracer, M276 (United States): 7.62×51mm NATO so-called "Dim Tracer" with reduced effect primarily for use with night vision devices, green cartridge tip with pink ring.
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, Match, M852 (United States): 168-grain (10.9 g) 7.62×51mm NATO Hollow-Point Boat-Tail cartridge, specifically designed for use in National Match competitions. It was dubbed "Mexican Match" because it was based on the International Match loading used at the Pan-Am Games in Mexico. It used standard brass, primer, and propellant, but used a match-grade bullet. It was later approved by U.S. Army JAG in the 1990s for combat use by snipers. It replaced the M118SB as the standard Match round. The bullet was very accurate at around 300 meters (competition match ranges) but suffered at longer ranges.
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, Saboted Light Armor Penetrator, M948 (United States): 7.62×51mm NATO Saboted Light Armor Penetrator cartridge.
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, Saboted Light Armor Penetrator Tracer, M959 (United States): 7.62×51mm NATO Saboted Light Armor Penetrator cartridge with tracer element.
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, Ball, Training, M973 (United States): 7.62×51mm NATO SRTA ball training round. Has air brake to reduce the range the bullet will fly
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, Tracer, Training, M974 (United States): 7.62×51mm NATO SRTA tracer training round. Has air brake to reduce the range the bullet will fly
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, Armor Piercing, M993 (United States): 126.6 grains (8.2 g) 7.62×51mm NATO armor-piercing round, black cartridge tip.
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm Special Ball, Long Range, MK 316 MOD 0 (United States): A 175-grain (11.3 g) round specifically designed for long-range sniping consisting of Sierra MatchKing Hollow Point Boat Tail projectiles, Federal Cartridge Company match cartridge cases and Gold Medal Match primers. The Propellant has been verified as IMR 4064 (per NSN 1305-01-567-6944 and Federal Cartridge Company Contract/Order Number N0016408DJN28 and has a charge weight per the specs of 41.745-grain (2.7 g).
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, Ball, Barrier, T762TNB1 MK319 MOD 0 (United States): 7.62×51mm NATO Enhance Behind barrier performance Enhance Function & casualty and muzzle flash requirements in short barrel carbines, 130 grains (8.4 g).
- Cartridge, Grenade, L1A1 (United Kingdom): 7.62×51mm grenade-launching cartridge with one subvariant (L1A2).
- Cartridge, Ball, L2A1 (United Kingdom): 7.62×51mm ball cartridge, with three subvariants (A2-A4).
- Cartridge, Tracer, L5A1 (United Kingdom): 7.62×51mm tracer cartridge, designed to last out to 1,000 metres (1,100 yd). Four subvariants exist, with brighter ignition (A2), tracer reduced to 750 metres (820 yd) (A3), with a pistol powder charge (A4), and with improved ballistics (A5).
- Cartridge, Ball, L42A1 (United Kingdom): 7.62×51mm ball cartridge, 155-grain (10.0 g) round
- Cartridge, Ball, L44A1 (United Kingdom): 7.62×51mm ball cartridge, 144-grain (9.3 g) round
- Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm, NATO, Ball, F4 (Australia): 144-grain (9.3 g) 7.62×51mm NATO ball cartridge. Australian equivalent to U.S. M80 round. In service with the Australian Defence Force.
- Patrone AB22, 7.62mm x 51, DM111, Weichkern, (Germany): 147-grain (9.5 g) 7.62×51mm NATO ball cartridge, cupronickel-coated steel jacket. German equivalent to U.S. M80 round. In service with the German military. Known for heavy fragmentation in tissue due to thin steel jacket.
- Patrone, 7.62mm x 51, DM111A1, (Germany): Further development of the DM111. Retained "green" primer in place of lead acid primer and lead core capped with closure disc. Instead of steel jacket with gilding metal plating, the DM111A1 has a gilding metal jacket. Fragments in soft tissue, sometimes including the closure disc separating from the projectile base.
- Patrone AM31, 7.62mm x 51, DM28A2, Manöver, (Germany): Blanks, olive colored Plastic with a brass base.
- Patrone AM32, 7.62mm x 51, DM18A1B1, Übung, (Germany): 10-grain (0.6 g) 7.62×51mm NATO plastic training cartridge, plastic case cartridge colored light blue with an extraordinary light 10-grain plastic bullet which is fired with a high initial velocity. Extremely accurate (Spot-on up to 300 meters or 330 yards), non-corrosive, steel base with lead free primer. NON-RELOADABLE AMMUNITION
- 7.62 mm caliber
- .276 Pedersen
- Caliber conversion sleeve
- NATO EPVAT testing
- STANAG (Standardization Agreements of NATO)
- List of rifle cartridges
- Slickguns.com M80 data
- Long range sniper ammunition, U.S. Armor.
- Miller, David (2003), Illustrated Directory of 20th Century Guns, Zenith Press, ISBN 978-0-7603-1560-6
- Cartridges for Long-Range Sniping Rifles by Anthony G Williams
- Picatinny ammo goes from regular to unleaded - Army.mil, 1 July 2013
- The Case for a General-Purpose Rifle and Machine Gun Cartridge (GPC) by Anthony G Williams
- SniperCentral.com History of the M118 Ammunition
- http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/munitions/images/srta.jpg 7.62MM M973 SRTA and M973 SRTA-T
- U.S. Navy Small Arms Ammunition Advancements - 7.62MM Special Ball, Long Range, NAVSEA Warfare Centers Crane.
- Martin L. Fackler (1989). "Wounding patterns of military rifle bullets". International Defense Review (1/1989): 59–64.
- A Way Forward in Contemporary Understanding of the 1899 Hague Declaration on Expanding Bullets - SAdefensejournal.com, 7 October 2013
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