ATF Framework Logic Would Ban Additional Ammo, Beyond M855, As ‘Armor Piercing Ammo’

.223 M855 Ammo
.223 M855 Ammo
Reeves & Dola, LLP
Reeves & Dola, LLP

USA –-( On February 13, 2015, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) released its proposed framework for determining whether a particular projectile may be exempted from the definition of “armor piercing ammunition.”

The complete text of the document, which we will refer to as simply “the framework,” can be accessed at ATF’s website at here.

I. Background

In 1986, the Congress amended the Gun Control Act by adding certain provisions to prohibit the manufacture and import of armor piercing ammunition, and prohibit licensed manufacturers and importers from selling or delivering armor piercing ammunition. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(a)(7) and (a)(8).

The only exceptions are for government agencies, exports, and for testing or experimentation authorized by the Attorney General.

.30-06 M2AP Ammo
.30-06 M2AP Ammo

The term “armor piercing ammunition” is defined, in pertinent part, as a projectile or projectile core which may be used in a handgun and which is constructed entirely from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper or depleted uranium. The statute gives the Attorney General the authority to exempt from the definition any projectile which he finds is “primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes.” See 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(17)(C). In 1986, ATF used this authority to exempt 5.56 mm (.223) SS109 and M855 “green tip” ammunition containing a steel core. In 1992 ATF used the sporting purposes exemption again for .30-06M2AP cartridges.

From 2011 to the present, ATF has received approximately 30 exemption requests for various ammunition containing steel or other specified metal cores. The reasons for the influx of exemption requests include pressure on the ammunition industry to produce alternatives to lead ammunition, as well as increased production of handguns designed to use conventional rifle ammunition. Even though the ammunition was originally produced for rifles, the fact the rounds can be used in a handgun brings the ammunition within the language of the statutory definition. Manufacturers of the ammunition have requested exemptions so they may lawfully manufacture and distribute the ammunition in commercial channels.

II. Summary of ATF’s Proposed Framework

The framework emphasizes the importance of interpreting the statute in a manner that carries out ATF’s goal of protecting law enforcement officers from death or injury from criminal use of handgun ammunition capable of penetrating soft body armor. Accordingly, ATF states it must determine that a specific projectile does not pose a significant threat to law enforcement officers because the projectile is “primarily intended” for use in shooting sports and is unlikely to be encountered by law enforcement officers on the streets.

In interpreting the “primarily intended” language, ATF believes the most relevant intent is that of a criminal who seeks to use armor piercing ammunition. ATF notes that the manufacturer’s intent that the ammunition be used for hunting or target shooting is irrelevant if it can potentially be diverted to criminals to defeat soft body armor worn by police officers. For this reason ATF rejects adopting an interpretation that allows the manufacturer’s intent to be dispositive, but that it is appropriate to consider the likely use of a particular type of ammunition in the general community, which leads to consideration of the types of handguns readily available to accept that ammunition.

In other words, the characteristics of the handguns in which a specific projectile may be used will determine that projectile’s likely use in the community.

The framework sets forth two categories of projectiles which would be eligible for exemption under the “primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes” language. Those projectiles are the following:

1. Category I: .22 Caliber Projectiles

A .22 caliber projectile that otherwise would be classified as armor piercing ammunition under 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(17)(B) will be considered to be “primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes” under section 921(a)(17)(C) if the projectile weighs 40 grains or less AND is loaded into a rimfire cartridge.

2. Category II: All Other Caliber Projectiles

Except as provided in Category I (.22 caliber rimfire), projectiles that otherwise would be classified as armor piercing ammunition will be presumed to be “primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes” under section 921(a)(17)(C) if the projectile is loaded into a cartridge for which the only handgun that is readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade is a single shot handgun. ATF retains the discretion to deny any application for a “sporting purposes” exemption if substantial evidence exists that the ammunition is not primarily intended for such purposes.

The term “single shot handgun” means a break-open or bolt action handgun that can accept only a single cartridge manually, and does not accept or use a magazine or other ammunition feeding device. The term does not include a pocket pistol or derringer-type firearm.

III. Impact of Framework – Previous Exemptions

It is important to note that in applying the sporting purposes categories set forth above, the 5.56mm projectile ATF exempted in 1986 will NOT qualify for an exemption because cartridges containing this projectile may be used in handguns that are not single-shot. These cartridges are commonly used in AR-type handguns that utilize magazines. Accordingly, for purposes of consistency, ATF states that it will withdraw the exemptions for the 5.56mm “green tip” ammunition, including both the SS109 and M85 cartridges.

The exemption for the 30-06 M2AP cartridges would continue because there are no multi-shot handguns that currently accept such ammunition.

A significant number of cartridges originally manufactured for rifles would NOT be eligible for the exemption under the criteria proposed in the framework. For example, .224 and .308 cartridges would NOT be exempted due to the availability in commercial channels of AR and AK-type pistols, clearly not single-shot firearms. Projectiles in .430 caliber would also NOT be exempted due to the availability of .44 magnum handguns which will chamber this ammunition. Finally, .458 bullets, very popular for big game hunting, would NOT be exempted due to the availability of multi-shot handguns in 45-70 caliber.

All of this ammunition would continue to be subject to the restrictions on manufacture, importation, and distribution of armor piercing ammunition.

IV. Public Comment

ATF is soliciting comments on the proposed framework from all interested parties. ATF specifically requests comments on how best to implement the withdrawal of the exemption for 5.56 mm ammunition to minimize disruption to the industry.

All comments must be received by ATF on or before March 16, 2015. Comments may be submitted through ATF’s website at [email protected] Comments may also be faxed to (202)648-9741 or mailed to the following address:

Denise Brown
Mailstop 6N-02
Office of Regulatory Affairs
Enforcement Programs and Services
99 New York Avenue, NE
Washington, DC 20226
ATTN: AP Ammo Comments

Industry members and others who will be affected by the proposals are strongly encouraged to submit meaningful comments to ATF by the closing date. Comments with alternative interpretations of the exemption language would be particularly helpful.

The above analysis is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be construed or used as legal advice. Receipt of this alert does not establish, in and of itself, an attorney-client relationship.

Questions about this alert can be directed to:

About Reeves & Dola
Reeves & Dola is a Washington, DC law firm that specializes in helping clients navigate the highly regulated and complex world of manufacturing, sales and international trade of defense and commercial products. We have a deep understanding of the Federal regulatory process, and use our expertise in working with a variety of Federal agencies to assist our clients with their transactional and regulatory needs.

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I hope President Obama tries to go as far as his wildest dreams. If the American people get a taste of Bolshevism I don’t think they’ll like it.


The idiots already had a taste and reelected him (with help from the ideologically pure on our Right).

And the further he moves to the Left, eventually we wind up in the position where we are outnumbered and facing forced disarmament.

Not unsolvable, but not the preferred method for keeping this Country on the Right path, imho.


I hope Obama drops dead!

Melvin King JR

They are just trying to call control the ammo. Which means no ammo no guns.

Center Field

How many police officers have been shot with M855 in the last 5 years? Damn few if any at all. This is Obie and Holder at work for sure. Where are you brave Republicans when we need you? You had better start protecting our rights or you WILL lose the Congress again.

Lawrence A.

Doesn’t Al Sharpton owe $4.5 million in back taxes? Maybe an ammo producer can make projectiles from green beans and box mac and cheese from the first ladies eat healthy school lunch program. The green beans can be retrieved from the cafeteria trash cans.

Ken Cates

Let me say as a former ATF Special Agent and subsequently a long time other Agency Fed that this stuff doesn’t come out of the Bureau of ATF of its own volition. Most ATF agents and employees are damn good law enforcement officers and great American citizens. Many, many are sporting and gun enthusiasts and many others really have no interest in firearms or ammo since they work around it all the time. NO…regulation like this come from the ADMINISTRATION in power, through the powerful lobbyists that corrupt the intent of the 2nd Amendment. Actions like this Green Tip ban… Read more »

Richard Patton

I was given my first rifle at five by mother who also taught me how to read. I don’t know how you tea-party types can consider these pimped-out AKs a sporting rifle. There is a well regulated maltia in your state that will let you shoot all the 5.56 you want to, for free! Or is serving in one of these constitutionly protected units too resticted for you? More conspirecies? I doubt if the president is even aware of this bill. Aloha Richard Patton


You’re either naive, a shill for Obama, or maybe a Hawaiian coconut fell on your head while you were sharing some wackee tobacci with Barack…. Here’s how unaware Obama is gun control: “The Obama administration’s Spring 2015 “Unified Agenda”–published May 22–shows that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) are pushing a number of new gun control rules for implementation by executive fiat. Breitbart News previously reported that these rules will further limit the number of people who can legally buy or possess a gun and will heave even more record-keeping requirements/reporting… Read more »


Gave guns and ammo to Mexican criminasl (drug dealers ) they should not be aloud to make any rules about ammo or firearms only congress should have that power. Obama is using the BATFE and the bureau of Home land defense as Hitler used the S.S. ; congress should install safe guards to stop any administration from have this power. Obama is the biggest threat to American Freedom and liberty.


Be cautious in promoting a constitutional convention justryit, you may get what you aask for. I used to be an advocate of calling for one, but my head cleared and I realized that 90% it would be usurped by the left and we would close the convention with a gaggle of amendments that would alter this nation forever, and not in a good way.


A States’ Convention to overthrow a dick-tater’ (slang for dictator); Constitutionally authorized courtesy of our Founding Fathers! They knew what kind of slime would eventually be given the opportunity to ruin what God deemed “A Damned Good Thing”.


If circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude, that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little if at all inferior to them in discipline and the use in arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow-citizens. This appears to me the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it, if it should exist….. Hamilton, federalist papers No. 29


Few of you probably remember Thomas J. Dodd(may he rot in Hell with Ted Kennedy)the Senator from Conn. He was the principle architect of the GCA of 68. What he did was, was to have the Library of Congress translate the Nazi Weapons Control Act of 1938. Then he used it as the framework of the GCA of 68. So in essence, we are living under Nazi rule. Don’t believe me? Check with The JPFO. By the way. At the time, the the NRA rolled over like a neutered dog.


This is what you get when “Law EnFORCEment” is constantly put on a pedestal.
The BATFags have no jurisdiction OUTSIDE the Territory’s – Like Puerto Rico, Etc.


you need to remember this is the government agency that help engineer ruby ridge and the waco siege


There’s no ‘sporting purpose’ to the Second Amendment. It’s about hunting and killing the trash that tells you “You don’t ‘need’ that.” The RINOs’ failure to shut down the BATF Nazis, try them for treason and execute them and distribute their retirement funds amongst their victims is partly the reason for this evil. The other part is the cowardice of ‘conservatives’ and ‘pro-gunners’ and ‘pro-gun’ groups such as the ‘No Rights that aren’t’ Allowed’ group who should’ve put together a national militia force do what will be required to fix this mess if it can be fixed. We need a… Read more »


WayPastHadEnough’s ‘attitude’ is completely understandable to most red-blooded Americans, as we realize America so far remains the only truly ‘free’ constitutional republic, and the establishment proxies of corrupt, treasonous useful idiot cronies in the government are doing everything in their power to destroy that, by removing the remaining obstacles… patriots, the Bill of Rights and the rule of law. Chipping away at the fringes, like these unlawful AFT rulings, are just one of the many tactics treasonous, despotic politicians utilize to gradually usurp your Constitutional rights. We’ve witnessed this for the last 100 years or so, ever since the socialist… Read more »


So give the police better body armor, they’re worried about their current armor being penetrated by these rounds so upgrade the protection level. Don’t institute bans on certain types of ammunition just because they can go through lower level armor.

james karalis

Just ban the police from using the body armor !


News flash…223/5.56 ammo of any kind will go through 99% of soft body armor like a hot knife through butter. Their reason for this regulation (it’s not a law) is BS.

Underground Empire

Manufacturers should stop sales to LAWLESS government. Just like Barrett did.
Lobbyists and trade assoc. pay attention. My money will not go to two-faced companies.


Perhaps i am confused but I wonder how many crimes have been committed with single-shot pistols. I would bet that it is an insignificant number, or perhaps, non-existant. To be sure, I am concerned with the police being worried that their bullet resistant equipment will not protect them, but I believe this worry should be more in line with long guns.
Additionally, how often have armor-piercing bullets been used by criminals? I believe this is more in line with gun control than with truth. The government is again posing a false front!


Probably a lot of crimes were committed with a single shot pistol…

200 years ago…..

Wasn’t Lincoln killed with a single shot pistol?


They are coming for your ammo on two fronts. It started in California with the banning of lead ammunition, this will be coming to a state near you soon. The EPA has already been explore this as well, the banning of lead in ammunition. Now ATF is trying to say that anything other than lead as the core will be considered armor piercing and be banned as well. 2A may save your firearms but you’ll have nothing to shoot.


“ATF used this authority to exempt 5.56 mm (.223) SS109 and M855 “green tip” ammunition containing a steel core.”

M855/SS109 does not have a steel core! It has a steel TIP. Huge difference. It’s patently FALSE to even remotely qualify it as “armor piercing” by their own definition!

Blasted Cap

Jason 2A, The Military designation for the SS109 is a “steel core penetrator round”. It’s primary military use is to penetrate light obstacles and then penetrate the intended target. Light obstacles include, vehicle doors and windows, some building materials, and guess what?, soft body armor. Some of the other projectiles already banned were the Barnes banded solids that are smaller than the .458. I used the .257’s in my 25-06 for predator hunting. No pelt damage, just a straight through .257″ hole. But since they were shown to penetrate SBA the same way, Barnes’s claim to the sporting use exemption… Read more »


not sure what all that means…22 caliber rounds will now be considered armor piercing rounds? in what world would that be true? tin foil armor? this looks like an end around of the law and avoiding congressional oversight to continue the attempt to disarm us. Who will stand up and challenge this in a court of law? The BATFE has already arbitrarily changed the rules regarding the private building of ARs from an 80% lower to eliminate the ability of CNC machines hops from offering a machine dedicated to the finishing of an 80% lower to be used by the… Read more »

Dr Dave

Bill, Reread the exemptions if the ammunition is rim fired it is automatically exempt. If the core of any OTHER type of ammunition is made up of bronze, steel “depleted uranium” etc.. it COULD be included in the list of illegal ammo. The 556 Greenie meets the definition of outlaw able. The civilian version of lead only 223 is not classified as piercing. The whole issue is CAN it fire in a handgun AND is the components of the actual bullet made up of or weighs above the limited categories. Expect that in the next 60 days that 50% of… Read more »


How about we ban ATF funding for firearm laws and enforcement . Make any ATF rulings require Congressional approval.
WHY is Obama’s admin enforcing Constitutionally questionable laws while not enforcing drug and money laundering laws as written . If they don’t like the laws change it in Congress , not tell agents to disregard or ignore federal laws.

Dr Dave

That part is EASY. Obama has an agenda that only HE knows. He selectively chooses what he will do based on that agenda and since he has nothing to lose (he can’t be re-elected) and he knows that even if he is terrible he will still be paid $400 to 750K per speech why not operate your agenda and make all the trouble you want when so far no one has even started to stop him. There was TALK about suing him over his first Executive Order back early last year but so far it is only talk. By the… Read more »

Dave S.

Dr Dave; You just said: “If I were him (obama) with relatively no opposition and an agenda I would exercise my agenda as well” Does that mean you don’t give a damn about America either? Just because someone can do something, (even something illegal or immoral) doesn’t mean they should. After reading your posts, I’d say you admire obomination and the ATF. I’d go so far as to think you are one of them or, anti-gun or a liberal here to convince people to give-up, give-in and go along to get along. No Patriotic American Civilian Citizen, I’ve ever talked… Read more »

Dr Dave

BTW an Executive Order unless countermanded by the SCOTUS is as good as a Congressional law so BATFE is not breaking any law they are in fact following exactly what the President and Chief has ordered them to do. He said outlaw 556 greenies they are in the process. If he says to take out 30-30 and 223 along the way guess what they go as well. As long as the ammo CAN be fired from a commercially handgun regardless of whether the handgun is commonly sold or not it can be outlawed. ONLY exception is if it is rim… Read more »