In 1993, Olympic Arms created what they claim was only a prototype of an AR-15 pistol chambered in 7.62x39mm, the model OA-93. When word got out they were developing the pistol, the gun community was quick to tell them to stop. While at the 1994 SHOT Show, Olympic Arms unveiled the pistol. Olympic Arms was quick to claim the company was not “in the ammunition business and unaware of a problem.” Very shortly after, the ATF banned the importation of steel core 7.62x39mm ammunition. Another controversial company came under fire in July of 2011—Elite Ammunition. The ATF paid a visit to this ammunitions company, the only other company—at the time—producing 5.7x28mm ammo. The company’s products, machines and computers were confiscated. Elite Ammunition, making bullets very similar to Barnes’ solid copper bullets, told by the ATF its .223 Remington, 6.5 Grendel and 6.8 SPC bullets classified as armor piercing. Because of this raid, the Barnes .223 caliber non-hollow point Banded Solid bullet is still unavailable. While Barnes is currently still awaiting approval for exemptions on many of its caliber bullets, they are not seeking an exemption for the .223—clearly marked an armor piercing round by the ATF because of its construction.
Since 1986, the ATF has defined armor piercing ammunition as “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 “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.” This is where the rules regarding armor piercing ammunition gets very convoluted. Six months after the raid on Elite Ammunition, the Bureau started accepting public comments regarding the possibility of relaxing the agency’s definition of armor piercing ammunition. If the attorney general finds bullets mainly used for sporting purposes, that round may be exempt from the ban, such as the case of certain 5.56 NATO rounds.
Further, regular folks can purchase, sell, own and shoot armor piercing ammo, but an FFL holder may not. Nor may armor-piercing ammunition be imported. PA Gun blog writer “Sebastian,” wrote in 2007, “The regulation on armor piercing ammo are among the strangest of the federal firearms regulations.” Around March 25, 2014, an unconfirmed story broke that the BATFE had banned any further imports on steel core 5.45×39 ammo, not because of the politics and sanctions surrounding Russia, but because someone made a handgun for the round, automatically qualifying 5.45x39mm 7N6 as “armor piercing.” If the ban actually happens, for those of you who love your Krink or AK-74 because of the availability of super cheap Russian ammo, we can now expect prices on U.S. made non-steel core 5.45x39mm to match or even exceed 5.56mm.
Apparently, there is no official word yet—that I can find—from BATFE that there is a ban. The gun blogger who broke the story, received information from an ammunition importer who’s Form 6 went unapproved. After inquiring about the delay, the importer reportedly got back a letter from the ATF stating the ammo had been banned. A photo of the letter posted on The Bang Switch, the Military Arms Channel’s blog reads, “A handgun has now been manufactured that chambers the 5.45×39 round. That now makes steel core 5.45×39 armor piercing under our definition.” Rumor has it since there is no official ruling yet, an exemption is still possible for the 5.45×39. Allegedly, even Arizona Congressman Matt Salmon is demanding answers from the ATF.
We might be able to save 7N6! I am joining the Bang Switch’s fight and asking you, the firearms community to do the same. Contact your representatives and tell them how 7N6 5.45 is a sporting cartridge and the ban needs reversing.
What do you think about the ban? Share your thoughts in the comment section.
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