Why 556 Green Tip Winchester Rounds Aren’t Armor-Piercing 

If you’ve looked online and researched 556 green tip Winchester rounds, then it can’t have escaped your notice that some refer to them as being armor-piercing. However, as we’ll be seeing, to refer to them as such is a mistake, as they’re ‘penetrators’ not armor-piercers.

Easily identifiable by the green paint on the top, 556 rounds can be distinguished from actual armor-piercing rounds used by the military – which have a black tip. 

556 Green Tip Winchester Rounds Have a Steel bar Inside

Break open a green tip round and you’ll see that it’s primarily filled with lead, with a small steel bar inside – the part that continues on after the lead has peeled away. Real black-tip rounds that CAN make it through armor have much more in the way of steel inside. 

Having a penetrator tip made from steel is a long way from what’s required for a round to be called armor piercing – which is why the ATF doesn’t have it on their list of banned rounds. If this wasn’t the case, you can bet your house that the ATF would have it banned in a heartbeat. 

To reinforce the point about green tip ammo, let’s take a look at the ATF guidelines say on the subject:

In order to be classed as armor-piercing, a round’s core needs to contain a combination of bronze, brass, iron, steel, depleted uranium or tungsten alloys”.


“Have an FMJ bigger than a .22 caliber that contains steel that has more than 25% of the projectile’s total weight”. 

The Evidence Is as Clear as Day! 

556 Winchester green tip rounds meet neither of these criteria, so there shouldn’t be any debate on the subject from a logical standpoint. However, the debate continues to rage – even with this info out there. It’s just a matter of educating yourself using the vast amount of information found online. 

What this essentially means is that green tips are legal to buy in the US and for anyone needing the extra penetration that they offer, they’re a good purchase. What you shouldn’t do, however, is buy them thinking that they’ll do something they don’t!

You should remember that the term ‘armor-piercing’ is one that relates to the bullets, rather than the whole cartridge. And to be called such, it needs to contain at least one of the metals shown and form a large part of the round’s total weight. It’s what’s required to be able to penetrate through steel. 

Settling the 556 Green Tip Winchester Round Debate

So, if you find yourself in the middle of an online argument about the merits of buying green tip ammo from the popular manufacturer that is Winchester, you’re now armed with the definitive truth.

Green tips have their ideal use case, but it’s not for bashing through body armor, as it’s simply not able to do so. Black tips, on the other hand, are designed for this purpose, which is why the ATF bans them for use, as they can end up in the wrong hands and be used against the police.

Don’t listen to any advice to the contrary, as it’s just not true. We truly appreciate you taking the time out of your day to read our blog and we hope that it’s cleared up this point of contention.

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