Congress Proposes Gun Control Legislation Broadening Meaning of Armor Piercing

By Dave Dolbee published on in News

So many platitudes come to mind, “How do you know a politician is lying?” “If you like your doctor…” Pro Second Amendment forces took a quick, but deserving, victory lap when the ATF admitted it had never encountered such a response to a call for open comment regarding a proposed action. Cheaper Than Dirt!’s readers as well as many of those from other pro-gun organizations rallied forces and our collective voice made a difference—to the ATF. However, there are others we need to be concerned with.

.223 NATO Lake City M855 FMJ 62-Grain Steel Penetrator Ammo

Two decades ago the ATF issued a report stating M855 ammunition was not more dangerous than other types of ammunition and did not need additional regulation.

During the comment period, The White House had its spokespeople out lobbying, spreading half-truths and misdirecting the public. This leaves little doubt that the President was likely behind the ATF’s action. Regardless of your political affiliation, a quick history check will show the current administration does not take a loss lightly. In fact, rather than listening to the voice of the people, the administration has shown a preference to double down by increasing the depth of legislation, harden its’ resolve and find an alternate channel to advance its agenda.

Recently, the Director of the ATF stepped down amidst the controversy generated by the attempt to ban M855 (Green Tip) ammunition. Whether it was due to the pressure of the people or the displeasure of the administration… Either way, within a week, U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) announced he intends to introduce legislation to “extend the definition of armor-piercing ammunition to include all bullets that can pierce body armor and be used in handguns.” This is not a surprise or something the antis have not tried in the past.

In fact, the Shooter’s Log predicted this weeks ago. The gun control crowd will not stop. With each defeat, they up the rhetoric and demand legislation that is more egregious in an effort to chisel away at our rights. This latest effort follows a pattern stretching back to at least the early 1980s. In the early ’80s, the anti gunners seized on new technology and mislabeled Teflon-coated ammo as “cop killers” to appeal to the uninformed public and pull at their emotions. Legislation quickly followed proposing a ban on any bullet capable of penetrating soft body armor.

This was during the Regan years and the Secretary of the Treasury and Justice Department weighed in. (Although it was the Secretary of the Treasury, in reality determinations are delegated to the Technology Branch of ATF). Gun rights organizations such as the NRA made the voice of the people heard as well. The truth came out—virtually all centerfire rifle ammunition will defeat soft body armor. The same is true of a significant amount of centerfire pistol ammunition.

The compromise was to pass legislation outlining the design and the materials used as the determining factors. The M855 ammunition was added to the list of banned ammunition, even though it did not actually fit the ATF’s own definition of “armor-piercing” based on its construction (That will be explained later in this article.) The matter was challenged and reviewed. The ATF compromised and made a sporting exemption, which made the M855 ammunition legal again. While the exemption was not a perfect compromise, and many did not want a compromise at all, the “Sporting Exemption” made allowances for future designs that an all out ruling on M855 alone would not.

British Soldier Wearing Osprey MK4 Armor Carrier

Body armor is rated to identify the caliber it would normally defeat. However, most all centerfire rifle ammunition will defeat soft body armor.

1994 brought us the Crime Bill also known as the Assault Weapons Ban. President Clinton (D) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) did not plan to stop there. Within the anti-terrorism legislation was a proposed performance-based bullet ban, and our rights were once again threatened. Interestingly enough, in this case it was the BATFE that came to the rescue of gun owners. The BATFE issued a report concluding, “…existing laws are working, no additional legislation regarding such laws is necessary.” The original definition from the 1980s, 18 USC 921(a)(17)(B), “The term ‘armor piercing ammunition’ means 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.” The definition was changed as part of the 1994 Crime Bill, primarily by the addition of “bullets intended to be used in a handgun whose jacket is more than 25% of their weight.”

Incidentally, for those who may not know, the M855 ammunition in question uses a lead core with a steel cone. By definition, this means M855 ammunition never should have been subject to 18 USC 921(a)(17)(B). Lead is not on the list of metals.

This begs the question why, even though not a single incident of M855 ammunition being used unlawfully against law enforcement could be cited, would the ATF suddenly find it necessary to propose a ban against green tip ammunition? The excuse is the ability to fire M855 green tip ammunition from an AR-15 pistol—even though in nearly four decades the FBI statistics do not show a single crime being committed with a pistol capable of firing M855 or any other .223/5.56 ammunition!

As earlier stated, politicians, particularly under the current administration, are not persuaded by facts or the will of the people. Instead of realizing a mistake and letting it quietly die, they would rather double down and encroach on our rights even further. Instead of M855 ammunition, which would have only set precedent and been a steppingstone anyway, legislators are introducing legislation that would effectively ban most, if not all, centerfire ammunition—there is the double down!

Do Civilians Have a Need?

What about our Second Amendment freedoms? Anyone can order body armor off the Internet. While the FBI has not documented a single use of M855 against law enforcement for nefarious purposes, it has documented criminals owning and using body armor unlawfully. Law-abiding citizens still have a right to self-defense against such threats. If those law-abiding citizens choose M855 for self-defense or sporting purposes, no one should be stopping them in a backhanded attempt at gun control.


What’s Next?

It is hard to determine the chances of the proposed legislation gaining any traction in Congress. If history is an indicator, it will not go far. However, that is not a risk gun owners can tolerate. Even more concerning in that case, if the pattern holds true and the President’s agenda is not passed by the legislature, the President has promised to “go it alone and do it through executive order” with his pen and his phone. This is not going to go away.

That is an ominous threat to the future of the Second Amendment, but we can only respond to legislation as it materializes. Until then, we need to support pro Second Amendment organizations and remain vigilant.

Will M855 or all centerfire ammunition be banned? Share your thoughts or suggestions in the comment section.

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The mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, "The Shooter's Log," is to provide information-not opinions-to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (214)

  • Sweet Marmie


    If the Republicans are as pro-gun as they say, then there is nothing to worry about since they control both houses. If this bill or something like it passes, then you know where the “so-called” pro-gun party REALLY stands.


    • KR


      Couldn’t agree more! Wish people would realize this. Worst thing is, they will just blame the president and re elect their same state reps.


  • dprato


    It is only a nation with no free speech when people like yourself run away because you are intimidated. The liberal media has abrogated their first amendment rights and I believe you are doing the same. If you don’t stand solid for what you believe in it will only make matters worse. If you saw some of the stuff that I send to the Politicians you would think I was writing you from a Gulag somewhere. I never threaten except to tell them I will not vote or donate to them but I tell them exactly how I feel and most of the time its not good. If they don’t like it, tuff.




    I quit writing for different conservative/ Constitutionalist news and message magazines because of the gradual takeover by elements of anti- Jew/Israel and racist organizations. I admit mostly from fear of Gov Listing me as being affiliated with not yet then hate groups.
    Having seen publications attacked for even the minutest criticism’s of anything Israel or of its peoples interest as well; I would hope that even this commercial would not have to be Federalized Any more than it already is.
    Lets remember this is no longer a land of free


  • dprato


    Oh and for the record, I grew up on Long Island NY in a predominantly Italian/Jewish area and quite frankly I stand by my Jewish friends in all things.
    Good people with good values.


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