ATF Looking to Regulate Ammunition?

NRA has attended some meetings, and it would seem ATF is poised. This must be what Wayne has meant by “It’s going to come fast, and hard.” They are taking public comments until December 31st. I’d suggest sending something, even if it’s not remarkably thoughtful. Let them hear from us.

21 Responses to “ATF Looking to Regulate Ammunition?”

  1. Andy B. says:

    As a former engineer, my first reaction was to start thinking in terms of how penetrators should be defined in terms of Rockwell (or other) hardness and mass. Then, returning to reality and the realization that all of this is political, I thought the more appropriate comment to the BATF would be, that banning ammunition is unconstitutional — period. To participate in their charade is to signal our willingness to live with it. The political message should be that we are not.

    That said — Wayne’s “Fast and Hard” comment was probably born from the hope that that’s how member donations will come in, in response.

  2. MattW says:

    Can they restrict ammunition further unless it meets the following criteria outlined in the law?

    (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.

    So if the bullet isn’t completely made of: tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium; or the FMJ isn’t 25% or more of the bullet weight, I don’t see what else could be restricted.

    *Disclaimer: I don’t think there should be ANY restrictions on ammunition, but I don’t see where the law gives the ATF any room to INCLUDE more ammo in the “armor piercing” classification. I am looking to be educated on the interpretation of the law.

    • Sigivald says:

      I believe the question is “what about ammo mostly used in rifles that CAN BE used in pistols”, which is “most of it”, given the availability of e.g. T/C pistols in any rifle caliber you want.

      So the increasing number of solid-brass rifle projectiles previously interpreted as not counting as “may be used in a handgun” could be strictly interpreted as “may be” used in a handgun – even if nobody’s ever done it – and thus banned.

      (My impression from other sources is that Congress’ discussions and comments make it quite clear that they had no such intention at all [note that the .22 provision speaks of “designed and intended”, not just “may be used” – IIRC that provision was a later amendment], but Congressional Intent doesn’t always override plain language, when the plain language is not vague.

      And for how stupid it is, it’s at least not vague.)

  3. Erin Palette says:

    I’d love to participate but am woefully ignorant about such matters. I’ve no idea what I should say. Can someone make some suggestions?

    • J says:

      I can’t swear that this is perfect but I imagine a government drone, maybe a contractor, monitoring the inbox on this and reporting back at the end of the month how many people liked the language and how many didn’t. So, best to make things simple. This is what I sent:

      With regards to the ATF Question of the month posted here:

      I completely disagree with the inclusion of any new language pertaining to the restriction of any type of ammunition commonly used for sporting purposes. The regulations in question are onerous enough as is.


      I think that makes my displeasure clear without making me sound like a raving Threeper.

    • SPQR says:

      Erin, I would suggest that an important point to make would be that this would make it difficult to impossible to construct ammunition legal for hunting in much of California where there is a lead-bullet ban for hunting. (To protect condors of all silly things)

  4. Anon R.D. says:

    This seems to be directed at the Barnes Banded solid brass hunting bullets in big game rifle calibers.

    BATFE ruled in 2011 that solid brass bullets in military “crossover” calibers like .223 and 6.8SPC (which were being sold by Barnes and Elite Ammo as components or loaded rounds) are AP ammo, even if the manufacturer markets them for hunting. This, I believe, was a reversal of an earlier BATFE ruling from 2008.

    To be AP ammo, a projectile must (1) be made of one of the prohibited materials (including “brass”) AND (2) not fall under the exception for “projectile[s] which the Attorney General finds [are] primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes.” See 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(17)(B), (C).

    What has been changing under Obama is how BATFE is administering the exception. The agency is apparently now thinking about making a finding that even the Barnes bullets in big game hunting calibers (.375, .416 Rem, .470 NE, etc.) are NOT “primarily intended for sporting purposes,” as bizarre as that sounds. Thus, since they are made of brass, the bullets would be reclassified as AP.

  5. Countertop says:

    All I see is a short notice up there. This doesn’t seem to show up at And the NRA doesn’t have a link to the actual notice (was this published in the federal register?) or to any of the supporting materials that ATF is looking at? What kind of regulatory action is this precisely? When was it first noticed? And do E.O. 13563 or 12866 apply?

  6. Anon R.D. says:

    To stave off one source of potential confusion: Even if BATFE’s (very strained and unreasonable) narrow interpretation of the “sporting purposes” exception were allowed to stand, I don’t think this would affect solid copper rounds like the Barnes X-bullet, Cor Bon DPX, etc., even in “crossover” sporting/defense calibers like .223 or handgun rounds.

    Copper is not brass (a copper/zinc alloy), and copper bullets are not prohibited under 921(a)(17)(B), so the “sporting purposes” exception is irrelevant to them. The Barnes bullets are extremely pure copper (not an alloy).

  7. Anon R.D. says:

    My last sentence above refers to the all-copper Barnes bullets such as the X-bullets, obviously.

  8. Countertop says:

    Who submitted these petitions? Was it the NRA and/or ammo manufactures? Or gun ban groups?

  9. SPQR says:

    By the way, do not forget to consider that your comments will be public, including your name and address.

  10. Reading the NRA post it seems concerning that ATF was looking to move well beyond the strict language of the law:

    “First, BATFE suggested that it believes that the “armor piercing ammunition” law was intended to affect all ammunition capable of penetrating soft body armor worn by law enforcement officers”

    If you assume that:
    1) You can find a handgun of some sort chambered in almost any rifle caliber one can imagine (I saw someone with a 45-70 revolver recently — OUCH) and
    2) Sporting purposes means whatever Eric Holder wants it to mean, i.e., nothing

    Then would not the worst case possibility be that ATF throws out the clear statutory language (“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”) in exchange for what congress “really meant?”

    I mean, yeah, such an interpretation would be blatantly against the letter of the law… But the plain language of the law means whatever regulatory agencies and a judge says it means.

    I could also see ATF removing protected status for 30-06 and 5.56 rounds. Good bye, cheap surplus ammo.

    • Harold says:

      No, we would take that to the courts and we would almost certainly win, the language of the law is very clear.

      If we can’t win such a case with the current makeup of the court (not guaranteed by the time it hit), then all the fuss about Supreme Court nominations and Obama’s reelection was a waste of time.

      Note it would also outlaw pretty much all hunting ammo (remember Teddy’s bloviations about the ultra-deadly .30-30, which presumably due to its ubiquity had killed one or more police wearing normal concealable < Level III body armor), except of course for the monstrous rounds that I assume would break someone's arm/wrist/hand/all three if shot from a hangun, i.e. the big "dangerous, thick skinned game" rounds that the Barnes brass solids were originally intended for (e.g. 9.3 mm/375 H&H on up).

  11. Zermoid says:

    When you factor in that there are many single shot pistols and revolvers that shoot rifle rounds, and that they are trying to ban lead in ammo, and now evidently non lead bullets as “armor piercing”, what does that leave if they succeed?

    Scary thought, ain’t it?

    • Andy B. says:

      “what does that leave if they succeed?”

      One sweet underground market for those with umpteen bullet moulds and some skill at using them?

  12. Porter says:

    “I’d suggest sending something”, where? Do you have a link?

  13. Pat says:

    They’re coming at M855, this is the 62gr 5.56mm round currently in use as one of the cartridges in our military’s small arms, and prevalent on the consumer market. It’s a copper clad lead slug with a steel penetrator inside. You can buy it made by Federal (real Lake City stuff), PMC, or Winchester. Much like any other rifle round, it’ll penetrate soft armor panels with it being stopped by Level IV plates.

    IMHO With so many “AR-type” pistols now available, and so easy to construct….this type of regulation was only a matter of time. I’m frankly surprised they haven’t tried coming for it before. .30-06 AP hasn’t been readily available on the surplus market for quite some time, and I’m unaware of any current commercial offerings being available. The current .30-06 surplus out there (Greek, lesser amounts of Korean and Iranian) is copper clad (or dual guilded) lead only, no penetrator.

    Tin foil hats on….someone else mentioned environmentalists coming after lead, hence the move to all copper, and now copper would be banned as well as “armor piercing”. Copper is still a soft metal…I don’t think that’s the case. Plus, if they REALLY have an agenda…it’s far easier to just make it ridiculously expensive to shoot….that’ll reduce the number of shooters out there far more than any legislation could.

    • Harold says:

      Rather than ignore the letter and spirit of the law and get a lot of us possessing such rounds as the M855 very upset, why don’t they just redo the contract with ATK so that they can’t sell rounds to us civilians?

      It would be a twofer, decreasing the supply to us and significantly increasing the cost to the military, since right now the contract goes way beyond the normal of an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity one. Not only can ATK sell us lots of ammo that are safe but fail the testing for the military (I hear most often due to sealant issues; get e.g. Black Hills ammo if you’re concerned about that), the military can make big orders and then cancel them, as was conveniently done with 120 million rounds of 55gr Original Formula M193 in the months before Obama was first elected. Right now it’s a win-win-win for the military, ATK and us….


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