Reclassification of .223, 6.5 Grendel and 6.8 SPC?

SayUncle is reporting ATF is reclassifying these rounds as handgun ammunition, which means they need to meet the federal definition of not being armor piercing. This would mean a round made of 100% copper would be so classified. This is coming from one company, who was apparently raided, so it’s hard to assess its validity. I believe classification of ammunition as handgun or rifle is a matter of policy, rather than being part of the Code of Federal regulations, but I still believe a policy change has to be printed in the Federal Register, and I can’t find such a policy change being published. Here’s the federal definition of armor piercing ammunition:

Projectiles or projectile cores which may be used in a handgun and which are constructed entirely (excluding the presence of traces of other substances) from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium; or full jacketed projectiles larger than .22 caliber designed and intended for use in a handgun and whose jacket has a weight of more than 25 percent of the total weight of the projectile. The term does not include shotgun shot required by Federal or State environmental or game regulations for hunting purposes, frangible projectiles designed for target shooting, projectiles which the Director finds are primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes, or any other projectiles or projectile cores which the Director finds are intended to be used for industrial purposes, including charges used in oil and gas well perforating devices.

So the standard is “may be used in a handgun,” not primarily used in a handgun. I’ve always wondered under this definition why Corbon DPX is legal, but I always figured they had a determination that said it did not fall under the definition, since the AG can issue exceptions. It’s possible that Barnes, Corbon and other manufacturers got exception to manufacture their product, and Elite Tactical did not.

UPDATE: I missed the lack of comma between beryllium, and copper. Beryllium copper is a specific alloy.

UPDATE: Looking more at the actual bullets, it would appear they are turned brass. Brass is a no-no alloy. Barnes makes these bullets too, but they are marketed by Barnes as hunting rounds. Possibly Barnes received an OK from ATF to sell these under the sporting purposes exception. ET seems to be marketing them differently. It’s also possible Barnes doesn’t use enough Zinc to be considered brass. Also possible ATF is being completely arbitrary, which would not be the first time.

18 thoughts on “Reclassification of .223, 6.5 Grendel and 6.8 SPC?”

  1. My understanding was BATFE has deemed .223 to be a “handgun cartridge” for quite a long time. After all, what else is an AR pistol but a .223 handgun?

    6.5 Grendel and 6.8 SPC, on the other hand, might be just now getting classified as “handgun cartridges.” Clearly you could use currently available parts to assemble an AR pistol chambered in either of those cartridges.

    Concerning DPX, notice that “copper” is NOT listed as a restricted metal for handgun ammo; only “beryllium copper” is. (Not “beryllium, copper”. That absent comma makes a big difference.) Beryllium copper is a distinctive material that’s used for various industrial applications.

    Isn’t DPX just plain old solid copper? It is often described as “solid copper” by commercial sellers. If so, then DPX would be legal to manufacture and sell in any caliber, including ones deemed handgun ammunition.

    M855/SS109 green tip, on the other hand, has a tungsten penetrator (“projectile core”) so the only reason it is legal to manufacture and sell to private citizens is because BATFE has specifically exempted it from the prohibition, using its authority to declare that a particular ammo is “primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes.” See the statute text, quoted by Sebastian, above.

    Both M2 AP surplus .30-06 (black tip) and M855/SS109 have been exempted by BATFE using that authority.

    So what happened with Elite Ammunition? I don’t know. Utter speculation, but perhaps BATFE concluded Elite was making bullets with a somewhat different metallic construction from DPX, and that the Elite metallurgy fell under the definition of AP ammo.

    However, in the arfcom thread that Uncle links, the head of Elite says that their product was “solid copper” as well. If so, then it would be legally identical to DPX. Maybe BATFE has newly decided that a pure copper bullet falls under the definition of AP ammo? The problem is, that would be clearly incorrect, from the plain text of the definition. Bullets can’t be made primarily of “beryllium copper”, “brass” (= copper-zinc alloy), or “bronze” (= copper-tin alloy). That doesn’t say anything about plain old unalloyed copper.

    Happy to be corrected about any of the above. Just trying to untangle the threads.

  2. It would probably be expecting too much for an agency to actually understand what it is doing.

    As stated, a tungsten core projectile in 308 is forbidden, because the Contender has been chambered in that round. But it’s perfectly OK in the 7.62x54R, which is nominally the same size and power.

    Proof again that actual knowledge of a subject is not prerequisite for writing and passing laws about it.

  3. IIRC, M855 etc are exempt because the congress said they are exempt in the law.

    The rounds of the company in question are said to be most popular for hog hunting, but I’ve never heard of the company before today.

  4. From a technical standpoint, this should be able to be challenged on the basis that .223 is exempted because it is not “larger than .22 caliber”. I have brought this up regarding ATF’s boarding state reporting of long arms, and this seems to be the same case. If they wanted the thousandth digit to be significant, they would have had to say “larger than .220 caliber”, otherwise .223 Rem equals .22 inches. Regardless .22LR and .223 Rem measure the same diameter, so either they are both in or they are both out.

    Aside from that, isn’t federal AP handgun ammo strictly a ban on importing and manufacturing, and not possession? Not that it isn’t a problem, but CA takes it a step further and bans possession with no grandfather clause of anything classified as AP handgun ammo. Sebastian, have you ever taken a look at CA SB124? It is a current bill which changes existing “primarily used in” language to “may be used in a handgun”. CA law also goes beyond material composition- look at (b) in this excerpt. I can’t see how this doesn’t turn millions of California residents into felons and ban all center-fire rifle ammunition without a grandfather clause.

    (a) Has projectile or projectile core constructed entirely,
    excluding the presence of traces of other substances, from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium, or any equivalent material of similar density or hardness.
    (b) Is primarily manufactured or designed, by
    virtue of its shape, cross-sectional density, or any coating applied thereto, including, but not limited to, ammunition commonly known as “KTW ammunition,” to breach or penetrate a body vest or body shield
    when fired from a pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person.

    To alleviate gun owner concerns they have changed the “is capable of penetrating…” language to “is designed to penetrate…” during committee. I don’t see how that changes anything.

  5. 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(17)(B) says:

    (B) The term “armor piercing ammunition” means—
    (i) a projectile or projectile core which may be used in a handgun and which is constructed entirely (excluding the presence of traces of other substances) from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium; or
    (ii) a full jacketed projectile larger than .22 caliber designed and intended for use in a handgun and whose jacket has a weight of more than 25 percent of the total weight of the projectile.

    I think he’s in trouble under the first prong and not the second. The .22 doesn’t matter.

  6. Contacted my Congressmen and Senators about this .
    After Fast and Furious what little trust I had for any Government agency is completely gone!
    Those are rifle rounds. Used by competitive shooters and hunters and also for self defense.
    Is this an end run?
    Get rid of Copper rounds and then EPA goes after lead in Bullets?
    Look most rifle rounds will defeat soft body armor and always has been able to.
    Reclassifying these rounds changes nothing in the real world.

  7. Cant Barnes, Nosler or any Ammo co.that uses these premium bullets also be called on the carpet?
    Congress has to grow a backbone and stand up to Obama and company!

  8. The only thing it changes, is potentially makes a bunch of us criminals depending on a random interpretation of the laws… sigh.

  9. Actually “old NFO” this is anything but random interpretation. It is a sort of “thought police” approach. I could buy the Barnes for coyote hunting with my Savage .223 and be OK. But call it tactical and BATF shows up. They are raiding this company based only upon perception of the market for the bullet type.

    While I am primarily interested in sporting rifles, the sporting purposes test leads to this nonsense of trying to deduce the intent of the use of a piece of metal solely by how it is advertised.

    Maybe some other Fudds will wake up?

  10. They won’t let us have steel core while our troops use depleted uranium ammo. Go figure that logic.

    As to the “Sporting Purposes Test” it is completely un-Constitutional, since the 2nd not only protects the right to both keep (own) arms and to bear (carry) arms but also ties it to the need for a Militia that can be called to protect the State in time of need Military arms should be protected even more than sporting arms!

    And as every sporting arm is, has, or could be used in time of war there should be NO Prohibited weapons. Period.

  11. I would hazard a guess that this would be the first step in further tightening the supply of cheaper ammo from surplus / overseas, with the administration trying to wind down involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    We saw the same sort of thing in the 90’s with cheap Chinese steel core 7.62×39.

    Cant ban the guns? Then make the ammo harder to get and afford, a slice at a time.

  12. As I said at Uncle’s, this might be a lever to use to get the difference between handguns and longarms voided for vagueness.

  13. Note that Barnes, Nosler, and Hornady all also make brass/gilding metal monometal bullets.

    If Elite is guilty because of that construction, so are the above companies. However, Elite is tiny in comparison, so will have much fewer legal resources to throw at the BATFE.

    I’m wondering if this is a “canary in the coal mine” test to see how the shooting community responds.

  14. This is a canary moment. What is that Remington bolt-action single-shot pistol that is or was available in virtually every non-magnum rifle caliber ever made? There isn’t, therefore, a commonly used rifle cartridge that doesn’t run afoul of this regulation.

  15. I was under the impression that Barnes, at least, was using copper that didn’t qualify as bronze or any of the forbidden alloys. If that is what they were, in fact, using, then they were stupid since this would catch up to them eventually.

    It’s no real threat to the end user, since possession isn’t forbidden, just making the bullet (and, IIRC, selling it outside the trade). For the feds anyway, states can do all kinds of crazy shit.

  16. Keep in mind that the agents had a hours old warrant based on a 1 day old ‘ruling’.

    So whatever we think the old interpretation was, it could be radically different.

    You would think that a judge would not issue a search warrant based on a day old administrative ‘reinterpretation’ of the law.


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