Scot’s Product Review: Federal Ammunition

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I have always had good results with Federal ammunition, in handguns, rifles, and shotguns. It is what I carry in my primary self-defense pistol, and it’s what resides in my home defense shotgun. I’m torn between one of their loads and a competitor’s for the AR platform. Federal offers a pretty complete line; while it doesn’t satisfy every niche of my needs, it gets most of them and does so with reliable, high quality, and consistent products. They have some lines that I think should be of interest to SurvivalBlog readers, for self-defense, hunting, and training.

Federal American Eagle Fresh Fire 5.56mm M855

The Fresh Fire line was introduced in 2013 and 2014 and includes .22 Long Rifle and two 5.56mm loads. What makes this ammunition of special note to preppers is how it is supplied– in pop top aluminum cans that resemble Vienna sausage containers on steroids. The packaging is sturdy, durable, and airtight, which has tremendous advantages for a prepper who is thinking of long-term storage under less than ideal circumstances. Adding to the appeal is that the cans are filled with nitrogen to further protect the contents. I was very happy to see pop tops that you can open without a tool and that they include a plastic lid to protect any ammo left in the can after opening it. Another nice touch is the Styrofoam donut inside the can to protect the bullet tips from clumsy handling. Federal isn’t the only company using this sort of packing, but I expect it to win a lot of the market, thanks to its name and wide distribution.

It’s the 5.56mm rounds I’m writing about today. Both are from the American Eagle line that is primarily intended for practice and volume shooting. The first is the XM193 with a 55 grain full metal jacket bullet. This was the original standard load for the M16 and M16A1 rifles of the Vietnam era. Federal rates it at 3,240 feet per second (FPS) at the muzzle. The next is the XM855 which has a 62 grain projectile with a steel penetrator designed to improve the penetration of hard targets, specifically a NATO specification 3/8 inch mild steel plate. Note that mild steel is not armor plate, so this is not considered an armor piercing round. It was adopted for use in the M16A2 rifle which featured a 1/7 twist rate barrel. The earlier M16 variants had a slower twist rate and do not shoot these bullets well, though the newer rifles work fine with the M193 loads. The XM855 is rated at 3,020 FPS at the muzzle. There are some drawbacks to the design. Some military users have complained that it lacks stopping power (see the book Blackhawk Down along with countless Internet posts) compared to the M193 round. This has led to other designs being adopted by the military, particularly special operations units. A further issue is that accuracy tends to be less consistent. I’ve shot IMI and Privi Partizan as well as these Federal M855 loads, and I haven’t found any of them to group as well as loads without the penetrators, although these Federals were the best of the lot and quite acceptable for practice or service use, short of sniping. Some sources say the accuracy issues are due to the difficulty of positioning the steel penetrator in the same place in each bullet. Having every bullet be a little different can cause major problems. The M855A1 round– the new Army standard– addresses this with a new design that locks the penetrator more precisely and repeatably in the bullet. It is also a hotter load, which helps make it more lethal, but that might decrease the life of the carbines. Initial reports say it performs better in flesh, penetrates more, and handles intermediate barriers better than either of the earlier rounds. I made myself popular at the range where I volunteer as an RSO, by distributing 180 rounds of the XM855 to three knowledgeable shooters who ran it through an assortment of weapons. including two Tavors, a couple of AR-15’s, and a SCAR-L. All of them were intrigued with the packaging. The first shooter is a long-range bench rest competitor, who carefully shot some groups using his 16-inch barreled AR-15 and a 10 power scope. His best group was 1.75 inches and the worst was 3.25 with an average of 2.3 inches, which is quite acceptable for service grade ammunition. He says he can normally get one inch groups with his carbine with its favorite loads. He noted that the cases ejected into a neat pile to his rear, which indicates that they are loaded consistently. He measured overall length and found they were +/- .002 inches, which is pretty good. He had no malfunctions. The second shooter decided to test the packaging and suspended it from a dock into salt water for a week. He reported some slight corrosion on the can and thought that a month or so would have been enough to eat through it. Salt water is pretty hard on aluminum, so I wasn’t surprised he got it to corrode a bit. I didn’t get to see the can, but I thought it was a pretty good test, and I was impressed that it had no issues afterwards. He ran 30 rounds through an AR and 30 more through a Tavor with no problems and said he liked the ammunition. The third shooter put 30 of them through a SCAR-L and 30 more through a Tavor. He had no functioning issues but felt the accuracy wasn’t that good, particularly from the SCAR. He was using dot sights. Continue Reading>>>

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