AR Ammo Showdown: 55-grain Hornady Frontier vs. Sig Sauer Elite

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The Hornady and Sig Sauer loads face off to see which comes out on top for AR shooting. (Photo: Josh Wayner/

The AR-15 platform, chambered in .223 Rem./5.56 NATO, is the most popular of all modern rifles in America. While there are a plethora of options out there for advanced hunting ammo, superior match-grade loads and lethal self-defense rounds, most people opt to practice with inexpensive full metal jacket rounds.

These are classic, reliable loads that are designed to give good general performance on a budget. Today the Sig Sauer 55-grain Elite Ball FMJ goes up against the Hornady Frontier 55-grain FMJ M193 to see who comes out on top.


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Hornady, left, Sig Sauer right. (Photo: Josh Wayner/

Practice ammo of the 55-grain variant has been the training standard for the AR-15 platform for the last half-century. This ammunition offers decent velocity and accuracy while keeping material cost down – a bonus for penny-pinching shooters.

The M193 load by Hornady is essentially a duplicate of the original M193 round that was adopted for military service in the 1960s. Sig Sauer’s 55-grain full metal jacket is not so much a duplicate of any military load but is instead a modern commercial grade practice option for bulk shooting. It is billed as among the top quality available in this category of ammunition.

General Accuracy

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For the general accuracy portion of this test, we utilized several AR-15 rifles. All the rifles and their components were built from off-the-shelf products. The rifles tested include four different barrel lengths: 14.5-, 16-, 18-, and 20-inches with each featuring iron sights, a TA31 ACOG, a Sightron 6-24x50mm scope and a SIG TANGO6T 1-6x scope, respectively. The on-paper accuracy was recorded at a distance of 100-yards. Five, five-shot groups were fired with each load in each rifle.

While the accuracy was not spectacular with any of the guns, the ammunition did very well considering both of these are lower cost and meant to be purchased in volume. Sig edged past Hornady ever so slightly in the accuracy department, although it was close.

Winner: Sig Sauer


Field Performance

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Hornady, left, and Sig Sauer, right. (Photo: Josh Wayner/

Sig and Hornady loads were tested on unknown distance targets, both paper, and steel, out to 300-yards. In addition to combat style shooting and offhand shooting, they were tested on varmint size targets such as coyotes.

After 200-yards, the M193 began to edge out Sig’s load. Hit probability was much higher with the M193 on all targets.

Winner: Hornady

Velocity and recoil

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Velocity was measured with 10 rounds at 10-feet from the muzzle over an Oehler 35P chronograph.
The Sig load was quite slow by comparison, suffering greatly in the wind with a relatively poor trajectory.

In our testing, we saw a pretty distinct 200-feet-per-second average advantage going to Hornady. The slowest speed generated by the Hornady M193 was functionally as fast as the fastest velocity average for Sig’s 55gr FMJ.

There was no real discernable difference between these two rounds in terms of recoil.

Velocity Winner: Hornady
Recoil Winner: Tie

Handling Characteristics

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Mags loaded and ready for testing. (Photo: Josh Wayner/

The cycling pressure appeared to be quite similar between these two loads, but the M193 had a smoother cycling impulse and more aggressive bolt cycling speed. In short, this meant that it fed very well and kicked brass a good 20-feet away. When firing at close distance, the M193 allowed for faster follow-up shots and reduced split times.

The Sig load performed very well in the handling category, but the bolt cycling speed on all four rifles was somewhat slower, although reliability was not affected. The brass did not eject as far, but it did eject neatly into a pile about 5-feet from the ejection port.

Both of these loads would be perfectly fine for practice at pretty much any distance. While there were some differences here, they weren’t enough to make one better than the other in terms of use in 3-Gun or practical matches.

Winner: Hornady


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Hornady, left, Sig Sauer, right. (Photo: Josh Wayner/

At the end of the day, rifles are very dependent on velocity to be effective. While Sig has repeatedly proven that they can make accurate ammunition, it does come at the price of speed and thus effectiveness at longer distances.

Hornady has done very well with their Frontier line in making a solid replica of the original M193. This ammunition is excellent for both stockpiling and general-purpose use. The competition here was stiff but the Sig load, while more accurate, just couldn’t keep up with the Frontier M193 in a literal sense.


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