maximum, but tests showed that accuracy improved as overall length increased, so 2.855 inches became the new load's final length, which still allowed feeding from magazines into semiauto weapons. Interestingly, it had been found that lengthening the cartridge improved accuracy because it reduced the distance the bullet had to "jump" from the chamber to the rifling (across the leade), enabling a truer, straighter entry into the bore.
With the bullet, the brass case and the load now refined, extensive live-fire tests followed, pitting the new Ml 18 Long Range against the two rounds it was intended to replace, the 168-gram M852 and the original Ml 18 Special Ball. Above are some of those comparative results, fired by Marine and Army sniper instructors, in which 1.0 equals a 100 percent hit probability.
Reviewing this data, it's clear that the superior accuracy of the 175-grain load does not emerge until after 600 yards, becoming very noticeable at 800, then decisively superior at 1,000 yards. In a Lake City Army Ammunition Plant test using machine rest barrels, the Ml 18 Long Range's extreme spread at 1,000 yards was only 12.09 inches, compared to 15.32 inches for the M852 and 18.25 inches for the Ml 18 Special Ball.
Part of this superior performance is drawn from the 175's higher retained velocity, cited in an accompanying box. Note how at 900 and 1,000 meters, the 175-grain bullet is more than 100 fps faster than the M852 and how it remains supersonic beyond 1,000 meters.
Unsurprisingly, the entire U.S. military has switched to the 175-grain Ml 18 Long Range, and no longer even procures the M852 or Ml 18 Special Ball. To distinguish the Ml 18 Long Range from other 7.62 NATO loads, an "LR" code is stamped on the cartridge base.
The primary government contractor for Ml 18 Long Range ammo is Federal Cartridge, which also offers a civilian match version. Black Hills Ammunition, too, loads the 175-grain Match round, using both uncoated and moly-coated MatchKings, while Israeli Military Industries (IMI) markets a 175-grain load in America. I'm not sure about the IMI load— which I've fired but not tested—-but the Black Hills 175-grain performs superbly, giving me consistent sub-MOA groups in a variety of rifles. The Federal load, too, has shot to the highest of accuracy and is, in fact, a challenge to shoot to the edge of its envelope.
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