ATF Bans More Ammo

By Jeff Knox

Mini Radom-Sport semi-automatic pistol
This is the Mini Radom-Sport semi-automatic pistol. With the stock attached, it is considered a short-barreled rifle, but without the stock and fore-grip, it is technically a pistol, making the rifle ammo it shoots technically pistol ammo according to ATF. (Photo courtesy of

Buckeye, AZ –-( The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has declared that Russian 7N6, 5.45×39 rifle ammunition is “armor piercing handgun ammunition,” and therefore illegal for importation into the US.

The ammunition has been widely available in the US for decades and was originally designed for the AK74 service rifle, a smaller, lighter adaptation of the AK47.

The “handgun ammunition” label arises from an obscure Polish company importing a short-barreled, removable-stock model of the AK74 that is technically labeled as a pistol. Since this “pistol” is chambered in 5.45×39, that cartridge has been ruled to be included under the definition “may be used in a handgun,” resulting in the 7N6 ammo, with its steel core, being forbidden for importation, sale, or manufacture in the US under provisions added to the Gun Control Act in 1986.

5.45×39 Polish Onyks rifle
The elusive 5.45×39 Polish Onyks rifle, of which only 200 were produced.

This ruling is particularly significant to us because the law it is based on was at the heart of the creation of our organization, The Firearms Coalition. Back in 1982, a report on NBC News Magazine stirred up a huge controversy over a steel, Teflon-coated, pistol bullet called the KTW. The bullet was designed primarily for police use in special circumstances such as dealing with assailants wearing body armor or hiding behind barricades, and had been on the market since the 1960s. Though the ammunition was expensive, typically sold only to law enforcement, and had never been used to kill a police officer by penetrating his vest, it was nonetheless labeled as “Cop Killer Bullets.” The hype grew and was even incorporated into popular movies like the absurd “Lethal Weapon 3.”

By 1984, pressure was on in Washington to ban these bullets, which had almost never been used in crime, and wouldn’t have been even known about by most criminals had it not been for the exaggerations in the media. Various proposals were introduced in Congress and the momentum for passage of one of them was very strong. While the NRA was reporting to their members that they were strongly opposed to all of this legislation – and calling for donations to help them fight it – they were in fact working with elements in Congress to develop language that they believed gun owners “could live with.”

My father, Neal Knox, was adamantly opposed to any legislation suggesting that some bullets are too dangerous for responsible Americans to possess. He was also outraged at the duplicity of NRA leadership for the way they were misleading their members about their position. Dad had been fired as NRA’s chief lobbyist just two years earlier and the tensions between him and his former employer were high.

In these pre-Internet days, keeping gun owners informed about pending legislation was much more difficult. Then, as now, the primary source for firearm-related legislative news was the NRA, but their main outlet the American Rifleman magazine, had an almost 3-month lead time; much too long to keep concerned citizens abreast of fast-moving congressional actions. The weekly newspaper that my father helped to create in 1966, Gun Week, was timelier, but had limited circulation.

Through friends in the industry and other connections, Dad put together a list of gun rights leaders and activists around the country, and on July 4, 1984 he put out the first edition of his newsletter, the Hard Corps Report, informing people of what was really going on and inviting them to join his new organization, The Firearms Coalition. The mission of the new organization was to publish what NRA and Congress were really up to, and encourage people to contact their elected representatives – and the NRA – to urge them to stand by the principles of freedom. For the next two years, he led the fight to stop the banning of hard metal bullets; pointing out that we had previously fought against attempts to ban bullets that opponents said were too soft – causing too much damage on impact – and that any ban would have no effect on criminals or police safety, but would interfere with, and potentially make criminals of, regular gun owners.

In the end a ban on the manufacture, sale, and importation of handgun ammunition made from several specific, harder metals, was passed with the NRA’s blessing, and signed into law by President Reagan. The NRA assured its members that their definition had so watered-down the law that it would make no difference to regular gun owners.

But Dad warned that the language adopted left the door open for future expansion of the ban, potentially covering military surplus and certain types of hunting and target ammo.

That prediction has proven accurate. Today, even as anti-hunting and “environmental” groups are howling for bans on traditional lead bullets for hunting and target shooting, ATF is redefining rifle ammunition as handgun ammo based on a few chopped-down or built up firearms that are handguns only through the most tortured reading of the law. Specialized, solid brass hunting bullets have been banned along with inexpensive, military surplus products like 7N6. The fact that armor-piercing ammunition has never been a significant factor in crime makes little difference to the anti-gunners. Neither does the fact that virtually any rifle round will easily penetrate standard police body armor, regardless of bullet construction. But those facts don’t fit the narrative and have no place in the rulemaking exercise.

Legislation based on little knowledge and lots of hype results in bad laws, infringement of rights, and criminalization of non-criminal behavior.

As we at The Firearms Coalition prepare our 30th anniversary edition of the Hard Corps Report, we look back and acknowledge once again that, as usual, Dad was right.

©2014 The Firearms Coalition, all rights reserved. Reprinting, posting, and distributing permitted with inclusion of this copyright statement.

  • 9 thoughts on “ATF Bans More Ammo

    1. Stupid BS. The bullets mentioned ARE NOT armor piercing by any technical definition. This is another move by the POS in the white house to ban guns. He is afraid of guns because he knows there are those that will come after him later. When he is out of office he realizes his protection from the SS is just a fraction of what it is while he is potus. Any top notch military special forces could take him and his SS protection out in a matter of minutes.

    2. Looks like a Short Barreled Rifle to me, Yup under 16 inch barrel has a shoulder stock , what idiot said thats a pistol? Must have been Special Agent Kelvin Crenshaw , you know him airsoft full auto rifles after you machine this that , modify this add all these controlled full auto parts , you have a machine gun.

    3. I’m just as cheesed at the jerks that make (novelty) pistols for shooting rifle ammunition as I am at the ATF for taking advantage.

    4. The VA is now trying to make criminals of vets who have done nothing to break the law. In a little known and secret move they are placing many vets on list to have their guns taken away and their 2nd amendment rights revoked. It is not that they have done anything but a way of disarming vets who get 100% disability.

    5. I the late 80s and early 90s 30-30 was defined as handgun ammo since the tc contender had a barrel for it. We won a victory defining handgun ammo as used in semi autos or revolvers. Before that win nj police said any caliber that anyone makes handgun for which was many because of tc and other single shots that 80% of ammo would have been handgun ammo.

    6. I have said before and I will say it again we have a DICTATOR in the house and he has said that people have no right to own guns and he is doing all he can to make that happen. Last year they shut down the last lead smelter and now they are going after all the ammo they can. the next thing they will do is go after everything that we have. The government has been going after certain types of ammo for the last 20 to 30 years and with this dictator it is going to get even worse than it is now just watch.

    7. “Old School” socialists ruled with guns. Kinder, gentler “New Age” socialists rule via fiat. How long before they go “Old School”?

      1. The ammo they are talking about is NOT armor piercing. Just because someone says it is does not change reality. Ignore the ATF ass wipes. If anyone is charged with use of this ammo, for a non crime use, hope to get on the jury and vote not guilty. Tell everyone you know this and hope more and more people will stop their ability to get a conviction on BS charges. Like I said “just because someone says it is does not change reality” if that were true we could change obama from a pos to a human being just by decree

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