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What Does Green Tip Ammo Mean & What’s It Good For?

Dakota Potts | Updated February 23, 2024 | Why You Should Trust Us | How We Earn Money
Green tip bullet and normal bullet

Green tip ammunition is a popular choice for many firearms enthusiasts, but its distinct characteristics are not as widely known.

Is it even that good?

Well, I’ll be covering its unique properties and everything you need to know about this ammo so you can make sure whether it’s the best choice for your needs.

For similar reading see our post on the best AR lower receivers.

Key Takeaways

  • Green tip ammo offers better penetration than traditional full metal jacket bullets.
  • This ammunition type is a popular choice for a variety of shooting applications.
  • Be sure to check whether using green tip ammo is legal in your area, as it varies by jurisdiction.

What is Green Tip Ammo Used for?

Green tip ammo, or green tip 5.56, is used by military and civilian shooters. It’s mainly compatible with AR-15 firearms and popular among gun enthusiasts, hunters, and self-defense gun users.

This is a type of small caliber ammunition specifically designed to penetrate targets more effectively than traditional full metal jacket (FMJ) bullets. In fact, it’s this feature that makes it such a favored choice for professional and recreational shooters seeking an advantage on the range or in the field.

While green tip ammo has drawbacks, it gives a balance of performance features to accommodate various firearms and shooting situations. As a result, many shooters turn to green tip ammo to achieve the best performances in their specific applications.

Green tip bullet and separated bullet tip

Now let’s dive into how it performs in the main four applications.

  • In military use, a green tip ammo’s steel penetrator tip provides superior penetration, ideal for combat situations involving diverse obstacles and light armor targets.
  • For range shooters, it’s a versatile option for training and target practice with AR-15 rifles, good for improving their skills and readiness for self-defense or hunting.
  • Hunters use green tip ammo for small to medium game, appreciating its penetration, stopping power, and long-range accuracy for efficient and ethical hunting.
  • For home defense, its penetration performance is useful for shooting through barriers. That said, care must be taken due to over-penetration risks in residential settings.

In short, green tip ammo is a versatile choice appreciated in many fields and valued for its penetration, accuracy, and AR-15 compatibility.

What is the Difference Between Green Tip Ammo and Regular Ammo?

Green tip bullet and normal bullet in a hand

Materials and Construction

Green tip ammo, namely the M855 5.56 NATO, boasts a steel penetrator tip with a green paint mark, differing from regular full metal jacket (FMJ) ammo.

In a green tip vs FMJ comparison, the main divergence lies in the bullet construction: green tip has a steel penetrator and lead core, while regular FMJ mainly consists of lead.

Performance and Ballistics

Green tip ammo’s steel penetrator allows piercing through certain body armor and hard targets. Regular FMJ ammo, like the M193 5.56 NATO, often deforms upon hitting hard targets and isn’t as penetrative. 

Although both ammo types may display similar muzzle velocities, the heavier green tip can transfer more kinetic energy, possibly inflicting more damage. However, the main purpose of the steel tip is to improve the bullet’s ability to penetrate barriers and retain a stable flight path.

“It’s not about infringing upon the rights of people to own guns as gun enthusiasts or hunters, but what it is, is it is getting people to understand that we have to put in place common-sense measures. Just basic measures to keep guns out of the hands of individuals that should not have them.”

Lucy McBath

Legality and Regulations

The legality of green tip ammo varies by jurisdiction and regulations regarding armor-piercing ammo. 

In the U.S., the ATF doesn’t categorize M855 green tip as armor-piercing under the federal definition, as its core doesn’t solely consist of prohibited materials. Nevertheless, some states like California may restrict green tip or armor-piercing ammo.

You see, green tip ammo was mainly designed for military and law enforcement. That’s why it’s less relevant for civilian use.

M855 Green Tip

Winchester M855 green tip ammo box and bullets in front

M855 green tip bullets, designed for the AR platform in the popular 5.56 caliber, are mostly favored by military users. That said, law enforcement and certain civilian shooters also find them quite beneficial.

Green tip vs black tip ammo, another armor-piercing variant, is a common comparison. And despite both offering superior armor penetration, there are key differences that exist. 

Black tip ammo, containing a tungsten or tungsten-alloy core, delivers even higher penetration but at a steeper price, restricting its accessibility for the average shooter.

Three black tip bullets stood up

In essence, M855 green tip ammo balances enhanced penetration and cost-effectiveness compared to other armor-piercing alternatives, suiting military personnel, law enforcement, and certain civilian shooters who use 5.56x45mm rifles.

Is Green Tip Ammo Worth It?

So, is green tip ammo, or M855/SS109 rounds, worth it? 

To answer that, we should look at what is green tip ammo used for most often.

For tactical scenarios demanding hard target penetration, this ammo provides significant benefits. It’s especially effective against armored adversaries or shooting through vehicle doors or windows.

Fun Fact

Hunting has helped generate over 680,000 jobs across the United States.
Source: littlbug.com

On the other hand, for civilian shooters, hunters, or home defense, green tip ammo’s benefits might not outweigh its higher cost compared to traditional ball ammo. What’s more, some indoor ranges ban green tips because of the potential risk of ricochet or backstop damage.

As for the popular ‘is green tip ammo legal’ question, the ATF proposed a ban on M855/SS109 sales in the U.S. in 2015, citing its armor-piercing capabilities. However, following the shooting community’s backlash, the proposal was withdrawn. 

While legal in most states, local laws may vary, so checking local regulations is crucial before buying or using green tip ammo.

In a nutshell, green tip ammo’s worth depends on your specific needs. It’s advantageous for military or law enforcement personnel, but for civilian shooters, the higher costs and potential range restrictions might negate its benefits. 

Is Green Tip Ammo Legal?

As we’ve touched on, green tip ammo is predominantly used by the military, and its legality has sparked some debate. But either way, it can fluctuate based on location and circumstance.

Green tip steel penetrator and a centerfire bullet

In the U.S., green tip ammo is generally legal for civilian ownership and use, though exceptions and restrictions exist. Some states prohibit armor-piercing ammunition, potentially including green tip ammo, so you should always check local laws.

Now, is black tip ammo legal, then?

Well, it’s classified as armor-piercing and largely illegal for civilian use. 

Black tip ammo is primarily for military and law enforcement due to its superior penetration capabilities. Green tip 5.56 is seen as a less potent alternative. 

“Background checks will never stop every criminal from getting their hands on a gun and every single act of gun violence – but the evidence is clear that it’s the single most effective policy to help keep guns out of dangerous hands and save lives.”

Lucy McBath

There’s some controversy around green tip 5.56 due to misunderstandings about its armor-piercing properties. While the M855 bullet does offer improved penetration against certain targets, it’s not universally considered armor-piercing and doesn’t possess the same penetrative power as actual armor-piercing ammo.

To summarize, green tip ammo is generally legal for civilian use in the U.S., but possible local restrictions must be considered. Its increased penetration over other 5.56x45mm rounds doesn’t mean it matches the capabilities of armor-piercing ammo like black tip ammunition.

Four black tip bullets side by side

Green Tip vs FMJ

Design and Function

What is the difference between green tip ammo and regular ammo, aka FMJ, in this case?

Well, green tip ammo has a steel tip that gives it superior penetration, ideal for hard targets like steel helmets or body armor.

On the other hand, full metal jacket (FMJ) ammunition encases a lead core within a harder metal, typically copper. This design promotes stability and accuracy and limits over-penetration. In fact, FMJ bullets see extensive use in military and civilian sectors.

Application and Use

Green tip ammo’s primary role is in military settings, where armor-piercing capabilities are crucial. Its potential for over-penetrating soft targets renders it less suitable for hunting or self-defense. 

The 5.56 green tip performs exceptionally against reinforced targets, offering advantages in certain combat scenarios. So, in a 5.56 green tip vs body armor battle, it does a decent job.

Meanwhile, FMJ ammunition offers versatility for purposes like target shooting, hunting, and self-defense. Its design curbs over-penetration, reducing collateral damage or injury risks. Though FMJ bullets may underperform against hardened targets, they provide balanced performance for most uses.

In essence, green tip and FMJ differ in design and intended use. Green tip ammo is used for its ‘armor-piercing’ qualities, while FMJ ammo’s versatility suits various civilian and military applications.

Green Tip 5.56 Meaning

The name green tip 5.56, also known as M855 green tip ammo, refers to the fact it’s specifically designed for the 5.56 caliber, while M855 is its official U.S. military designation. It’s notably optimized for rifle-length barrels, particularly those with a 1:7 twist rate.

It’s often compared to the M995 black tip ammo, known for its armor-piercing capabilities attributed to a tungsten carbide core.

In a 5.56 green tip vs black tip M995 comparison, the latter is the less common, pricier option, while the green tip offers similar capabilities at a more accessible level.

For more see our guide to the different types of bullet sizes and calibers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are green tip ammo armor-piercing?

Green tip ammo is often considered armor-piercing due to the steel penetrator tip in its design. However, it’s not classified as armor-piercing ammunition by the ATF in the United States.

What is green tip ammo good for?

Green tip ammo is good for various applications, including target practice, self-defense, and hunting. The added steel penetrator tip provides improved penetration through barriers at longer distances, making it suitable for engaging targets in adverse conditions.

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