BATFE to Accept Comments on Armor Piercing Ammo Through End of Year

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has posted a notification on their website soliciting comments regarding requests to exempt certain projectiles from regulation as “armor piercing ammunition.”

The posting states that ATF is “seeking public comments on specific projectiles or projectile cores which may be used in a handgun and which are constructed entirely from one or a combination of tungsten, alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium, copper, or depleted uranium, and whether these projectiles or projectile cores pose a threat to public safety and law enforcement, or are, ‘primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes” and therefore may be exempted from classification as “armor piercing ammunition.’

Under 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(17) of the Gun Control Act of 1968:

(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
(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.

(C) The term “armor piercing ammunition” does not include shotgun shot required by Federal or State environmental or game regulations for hunting purposes, a frangible projectile designed for target shooting, a projectile which the Attorney General finds is primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes…

AmmunitionThe BATFE has applied a broad brush when classifying ammunition as handgun ammunition.  Even a single “one off” sample of a handgun capable of firing a given caliber could be enough to classify ammunition as “handgun ammo” despite being designed for use in rifles (take, for instance, the 5.56NATO/.223 and 7.62×39 “handgun” calibers).  Such classification not only quickly dried up the supply of inexpensive surplus steel-cored ammo that is great for “plinking” but also limits the production of high-end hunting rounds.

The solicitation is noted as being in response to multiple requests for review of exemptions to the AP law.  You may recall a bit of a fuss back around summer of 2011 when Elite Ammunition was forced to cease production and sale of copper .223 and 6.8 Grendel projectiles after they were determined to be armor piercing handgun ammo.  Elite pointed out that other manufacturers were producing similar projectiles and questioned why they were being targeted and other companies were not.  One has to wonder if this new solicitation for comments is the result of comments from “the peanut gallery” or from industry players like Elite, Barnes and Magtech with some skin in the game.

While we at GunLink agree with the idea behind the requests, we have mixed feelings on whether or not this is the correct route to take in order to reach that goal.  It would be great to be able to buy cheap surplus ammo again or be able to purchase high-speed low-drag solid hunting rounds.  However, we’re not sure that reinforcing the BATFE’s mentality of a “sporting purpose test” is the right way to move toward that end.  Unless and until the “sporting purpose test” is removed, we’re stuck playing ball by their rules.  The question is, given that the right to keep and bear arms with which we were endowed by our creator has nothing to do with any sporting purpose, is the right move to keep playing by those rules or to try to get the rules changed?

Persons interested in commenting may do so by submitting comments to by December 31, 2012. Comments not received by or before December 31, 2012 will not be considered. All comments must include your name and mailing address. Comments are subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

NRA-ILA has released some analysis and commentary, which is reproduced in the GunLink Forum discussion thread on the topic.


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