Military Ammunition (MIL-SPEC) vs. Civilian Ammunition

Ever wondered what’s the difference between military ammunition and civilian or sporting ammunition? Well, it comes down to numerous situational factors, spanning from manufacture, to shooting capacity, and your specific application. Shockingly enough, Military-grade ammo is not any more powerful than the regular ammo that is created for the civilian market, but it exhibits different characteristics impacting reliability, ease of use, accuracy of shot, and cost.

Understanding Metal Jackets

Military ammunition almost always comes in a full metal jacket (FMJ), and although total metal jacket (TMJ) is strongly regarded as a safer alternative, it is more common to see FMJ military-grade ammunition. Bliss Equipment, in regards to the Bliss 3015 and 3020, are capable of TMJ production, however it is important to note that not all military grade offerings globally are TMJ.

FMJ bullets have an exposed lead base – this base breaks down upon fire, which can be good and bad, but most notably, the bullet doesn’t expand upon impact. TMJ bullets on the other hand, enclose the base fully, which means there is no lead exposed to be harmful to you or your firearm, but the nature of the jacket enclosing leaves potential for it to be sheared down within the barrel of your firearm. That is why FMJ is more commonly used with military applications as it can operate at higher pressures, whereas TMJ is safer for more recreational shooters, and it usually offered in smaller calibers.

Structural Differences

Military grade ammunition generally operated at higher pressure because it usually has more freebore — the piece of the bullet between its neck and throat. Because of this, there is a pressure difference created most suitable for military firearms. Military firearms can fire civilian rounds with little to no issues and a slight loss of velocity, but on the flip side, it is recommended to avoid usage of, or exercise heavy caution when using military-grade ammunition with a civilian firearm.

Another notable difference is the way in which primers are placed within the bullet itself. With military ammunition, the primers are generally sealed via being pressed against the edges of the primer’s pocket and there is usually heavier crimping, leading to a better shelf life, higher water resistance, and a lesser risk of the primer slipping out of its pocket once it is fired.

These factors also influence the reloading process, because of the crimping, military-grade bullets are generally considered harder to reload, but they can be reloaded more times than civilian ammunition.

Overall, military ammunition performs best in defense applications and should stay limited to firearms designed to fire it because of its unique properties.