More often than not, when the military comes up with something worth having, civilians have to wait 20 or 30 years before it hits the surplus pipeline and ends up in their hands. All those wonderful CMP M1 Garands, M1 carbines, and 1903 rifles come immediately to mind, as do the Korea-era packs and canteens I hunted and camped with as a kid. Occasionally, a unique or utilitarian product ends up on shelves and in catalogs at the same time it rolls out of supply depots.
And that is the case with some of the best 5.56x45mm NATO ammo ever to come in a battle pack. Black Hills Ammunition worked for years, with first the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU) and later the U.S. Navy, on a long-term project that resulted in MK 262 Mod 1. The project started out to develop ammo for competitors initially and morphed its way into the magazines of operators. Civilian shooters can buy that exact same round—it just comes in a much prettier box—for improved downrange performance, accuracy, and lethality.
Black Hills President Jeff Hoffman has long described the company as either “a big little company or a little big company” that started with and specializes in .223 and 5.56x45mm NATO ammunition. At last count Black Hills cataloged 15 different new-manufacture .223 loads, three new-manufacture 5.56mm loads, 12 remanufactured loads, and several military-only 5.56 loads. The round count is in the tens of millions annually and includes everything from very frangible varmint ammo to heavy-for-caliber, long-range ammo.
In 1996 a retired Army officer approached Hoffman about pursuing a newly announced AMU ammo contract.
“I told him we didn’t know a thing about Army contracts,” Hoffman said. However, the colonel did, and combined with the company’s extensive .223 experience, Black Hills won the contract to produce 80-grain .223 ammo for 600-yard target work. The AMU wanted a certain velocity at a pressure that was within SAAMI specifications.