More on M855 Ban: Going Green to Get Rid of AP Restrictions

With an impending rule change on M855, it got me thinking way may be able to use the pressure traditional lead-based ammunition has been put under to either get rid of the federal armor piercing ammunition law. Some of you might remember the hysteria in the 1980s surrounding “cop killer” bullets. This culminated in Public Law 99-408 of August 28, 1986, and signed by Ronald Reagan. The hysteria was further hyped up in the film Lethal Weapon III when gun control was getting its second wind in the early 1990s. Most of the hysteria was over the introduction of KTW bullets, which, and I know this will shock you, were never armor piercing.

Getting through soft body armor is a pretty simple equation; it takes velocity, which any rifle caliber bullet will easily deliver. The antis tried very hard to get most traditional ammunition banned through people’s confusion about the properties of ammunition and soft body armor. The bill that actually came out was one of those false compromises, where they only get a slice of the cake, instead of the whole thing. This was some of the most ridiculous hysteria about guns ever whipped up by the anti-gun crowd and a compliant media, and we ought to demand it be repealed.

Fast forward to today, and the greens want us to get the lead out. Well, what are you going to do when you can’t substitute certain suitable and cheap metals without it running afoul of this poorly considered law? There is absolutely no danger with the public having ammunition that falls under this classification. Even very inexpensive Level IV plates are rated to stop 30.06 AP M2 (black tip) ammunition, and without the plate, any rifle round, whether “armor piercing” or not, and even some very powerful handgun rounds, will go through the kind of soft armor that police wear. Also, as Bob Owens points out, the 55-grain round that the market is likely to fall back on is even more deadly than the M855 round, and will also easily penetrate the type of soft armor worn by police. M855 was mostly sought after by shooters as an inexpensive target round, and that is precisely why, in my opinion, it was targeted. They are cutting off the supply because they can, and because it will price more people out of the hobby.

The entire “armor piercing” ammo law was based on a lie, and if the left really wants to see the shooting sports get greener, shouldn’t they agree to let us make, sell, and acquire ammunition with steel cores and other materials that make good and reasonable substitutes for lead? We can call it the “Green Ammunition Act of 2016.”

15 thoughts on “More on M855 Ban: Going Green to Get Rid of AP Restrictions”

  1. I like it. There are so many avenues available to challenge this. I will be very interested. Personally I would want to scrap the entire sporting purposes crap language. It’s a poor method of assessing what should be legal, and one that is unprecedented in my view. It’s also arbitrary and capricious and completely up to bureaucratic interpretation. How many laws are that plainly offensive? Of course I also recognize more and more how we are in this for the long run and must remain vigilant when I see this.

    I was not a gun guy when the 1994 AWB was the law of the land, but if I had been that would have been a LONG 10 years to wait for stuff that was commonly owned at one time, and with no idea of what would happen on the other end of the ban. Thankfully, its re-authorization awaited a jubilant Republican congress, and there was no re-authorization.

    The GOP needs to be plain spoken on how they will work to restore our rights in the face of an unwilling Obama/ATF. We should remind them that we had to sit for 10 years while the AWB was a direct and OBSCENE attack on our rights and we will not tolerate that kind of thing happening again. We demand answers.

    1. Don’t forget the new Missouri Constitutional Amendment on applying Strict Scrutiny to all Second Amendment challenges. If someone was to find a good candidate to have standing, and get someone like Alan Gura behind them, we could at least throw a monkey wrench in their plans, to make them rethink their goals.

      1. I don’t think that’s been passed yet in Missouri. Even if it was, it doesn’t apply to the federal courts or federal law. That only binds the courts in Missouri.

  2. If I market a plain ol’ t-shirt as body armor would it, by default, make all cartridges illegal?

    While at the same time, they are trying to make body armor illegal.

    There appears to be a logical discombobulation in the administration.

    1. Not really – they don’t want you to have guns or the ability to defend yourself from guns. They only want the Government and it’s representatives to have guns and body armor. Much easier to control people keep the peace that way.

  3. This sound like a good law to repeal. Can someone contact Corwyn and get a bill proposed? How about If Alec writes the language and get a Senator and Representative propose a bill?
    In the meantime people should comment against this rule change

  4. This is why legislating is too important to leave up to legislators…

    The definition at hand is this:
    (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

    So if I read this correctly, a Barnes or COP projectile fired from a 460 or 500 S&W is armor piercing under the law. The 500 will drive hollow points through soft armor and even that fancy armor-wall board.

  5. I just want some .223 bullets in depleted uranium. Why? Just because.

    That said, one thing I plan to stress in my comments is that this move will increase the cost to the military for ammunition. Currently, excess production can be sold by Orbital ATK (formerly ATK and Federal) either as cartridges or components. That helps keep down the bid price on the contract. I just bought a box of American Eagle XM855 at Dick’s and the brass has the Lake City plant stamp on it. It was the evil green tip stuff.

    1. John,
      Those comments, while probably accurate and impactful, are non-responsive to the ATF request for public comments. There are 2 actions being taken.
      1) atf is rescinding the sporting purposes exemption for the affected .223 m855 & ss109 ammo

      2) atf is forwarding an evaluation standard that for any ammunition that could be affected there can only be a single shot, break open handgun that chambers it, or it is not sporting purpose qualified.

      number 2 is probably the more dangerous holding. if that’s the standard now, it will be even more stringent with the next ruling, when they go for .30 ap. or .30 steel core.

      In my opinion, we need to focus our comments on both the rescinding of the sporting purposes exemption for m855 / ss109 and the creeping expansion of firearms that are NOT ‘suitable for sporting purposes’

      1. Dave – you make a good point about it being unresponsive. I haven’t written up my comments yet but will. I’ll also be writing both Senators and my Congressman. One of my Senators, Thom Tillis, is on the Judiciary Committee so it might get some traction with him.

        Reading the ATF definition of AP ammo, one could make a sound argument that M855/SS109 is NOT AP ammo as it is a combination of steel and lead. Their definition says it must be composed “entirely” of steel or one of the other stated materials or a combination thereof. Lead is not mentioned as one of those other materials.

        I’ll have to read their file again regarding point 2.

        1. John – the definition of AP ammo:

          (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;


          (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.

          (emphasis mine)

          It seems to me they are using the second definition (whether appropriate or not) as it is clearly not entirely made of steel. My guess is that if you add up the steel penetrator and the copper jacket – you get more than 25% of the total weight and they would argue that the two components make up the jacket.


    Under federal law, armor-piercing ammunition is defined as any projectile or projectile core that may be used in a handgun and that is constructed entirely from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium

    M855 is NOT ap ammo under the law and does NOT need a sporting
    purpose exemption because LEAD is the major component

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