ATF Sued for Records Classifying AR-15 Ammunition as ‘Armor-Piercing’

Judicial Watch

Judicial Watch, the Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group, has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) seeking records of communications inside the agency when it was considering reclassifying certain types of AR-15 ammunition as armor-piercing—and effectively banning it from civilian use.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:17-cv-00600)).

Members who want to understand the precise statutory definition of ‘armor-piercing ammunition’ can find it in 18 U.S.C §921(a)(17)

In March 2015, more than 200 members of Congress wrote to former ATF director B. Todd Jones expressing their “serious concern” that the proposal might violate the Second Amendment by restricting ammunition that had been primarily used for “sporting purposes.”  The letter asserted the ATF’s move “does not comport with the letter or spirit of the law and will interfere with Second Amendment rights by disrupting the market for ammunition that law-abiding Americans use for sporting and other legitimate purposes.”

Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit after the agency failed to respond to a March 9, 2015, FOIA request seeking information on the ammo ban effort:

All records of communications, including emails, to or from employees or officials of the ATF related to the decision to revise the ATF 2014 Regulation Guide to no longer exempt 5.56 mm. SS109 and M855 (i.e., “green tip” AR-15) ammunition from the definition of “armor-piercing” ammunition.

“This is yet another example of how Obama’s wanton use of the ‘pen and the phone’ attempted to undermine the constitutional rights of all Americans, as opposed to upholding the rule of law,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The Obama ATF simply ignored our request on their ammo ban. Let’s hope the Trump administration finally brings transparency to this out-of-control agency.”

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45 Comments On This Article

  1. Michael Eugene Thornton

    The ‘bama White House wasn’t anything but liars and cheaters and criminals. Therefore, most EVERYTHING they did will, eventually, be undone to be in comportment with the law.

  2. There is also need to address the 7N6 ammo importation ban -and- the ban on re-importation of U.S. supplied military surplus-ed firearms from such partners as S.Korea.
    Obama defacto gun control -MUST- be overurned !

  3. As a sportsman and gun owner, I disagree with the effort to fight this ammo designation. You hurt your cause to pursue blanket opposition to any reasonable legislation. This is military developed ammo, and is not for use by sportsman or recreational shooters.

    • Richard, you are wrong. Give an inch and they take a yard!
      All firearms and ammo could be described as military in some way.
      Twenty two rimfire is used in the armed forces!
      That is the red herring!
      Fight this madness and keep your freedom!

      • Jim said: “Give an inch and they take a yard!” and “Twenty two rimfire is used in the armed forces!” While I agree with the first statement, the second is not on point.

        The point is that the green tips are “armor piercing” rounds. SIGH. Depending on the “current” definition of the term armor piercing, all rifle ammunition could be banned for civilian use. Your garden variety .223/5.56 rifle will zip right through most soft body armor worn by police in the U.S.A. That makes it armor piercing by virtue of the simple fact that it will pierce armor. A .308/7.62 NATO will punch through both sides of an officer’s vest. You don’t even want to think about what some high powered rounds will go through. This is one of those things you have to nip in the bud.

        I’ve been a cop since 1979, and we, as a group, really aren’t worried too much about rifle rounds. We are worried about pistol rounds because that is the huge, over whelming, vast majority of what we deal with. Don’t let them use misdirection to get this type of rule started. Cops wear pistol bullet resistant soft body armor on a day to day basis because it is relatively speaking, light, easy to wear, and will stop the most common, day to day threats to their lives. It just isn’t very rifle resistant.

        Heck, I had a few rounds of WWII German steel core 9mn ammo at one time. It wouldn’t even slow down going through a vest. Those were imported by the boat load back in the sixties, and they scare me more than rifle rounds. For that matter, there are videos on YouTube to teach you how to Teflon coat your bullets to make them squirt through Kevlar.

      • Greg Schwarzentraub

        Is your paranoia real or just an attempt to fan the flames and get more support for your co.mer Kal efforts?

    • Richard! It’s a supply of cheap plinking ammo and these “military characteristics” are not intended to make the round armor piercing. Real tungsten core AP is already restricted heavily and this was nothing more than an attempt to further box in our right and how you can’t see that is beyond me. They are eroding our rights bite by bite and you sit there like an Internet hero saying you are a sports man and don’t need this ammo and feel it’s restriction is legitimate. Wait until they tell you that your bonded core hunting ammo is AP because it will penetrate level IIIA body armor. News flash Internet hero it all penetrates level IIIA. People that know what the fuck they are talking about will tell you this has nothing to do with protecting police! It’s all about removing the most abundant, cheap, reliable plinking ammo on the market minus xm193. And I want my 7n6 back to. Your judgment is scewed based on well it doesn’t effect me or what I do so you don’t care. The 2nd A isn’t your right to hunt it’s about something totally different and just like artificial ittelgence models, the government will continue to take and box us in for “our own good” until we are just all total subjects again….xm855 also has terrible terminal ballistics so like I said it’s AR15 fun time ammo. If you are a hunter stick to the hunting stuff and leave the future of the 2nd A to the people that care and understand. Obviously if they are will to sue there is more to it

    • I need the ap because the bad guys are wearing bullet prof vest HELLOOO and I agree with Jim below give them an inch and they will take a yard

    • You are wrong sir, the ss109 & m855, 5.56mm ammunition is excellent ammunition for range use. The addition of the steel core was implemented to stabilize the projectile and not to give it any type of “armor piercing” capabilities. I have personally shot several thousand rounds of 5.56mm ammo and these are both great rounds and at one time were more reasonably priced than name brand commercial ammo.
      Jim is right….. if you give up anything the government willl try to take more & more. This was obama’s ‘backdoor’ policy. IMHO.

      • By the way, Tom Fitton and JUDICIAL WATCH are a great group of attorneys. For the $35 a year it costs to join . They have a monthly newsletter and approximately 100 current investigations into some of our governments ‘questionable practices’ !

    • Jim is right, Richard. “Reasonable legislation” is what the gun-grabbers call it every time they come up with some new restrictive law. If you “let the camel stick its nose into your tent,” pretty soon you’ll have the whole dang camel in there with you.

    • You are an idiot, it’s mass produced ammo, which as a range master i see used by 65-75% of Ar rifle owners on the range, hence the use by sportsman

  4. Mr. Brewer, your blanket statement is utterly & entirely FALSE. I use green tips for both hunting and recreational use. Despite that, the Second Amendment guarantees my right to use it. Just because you’re a member of the Moms Gun Grabbers Group definitely doesn’t make you an authority on reasonable gun regulations. What part of “Shall Not Be Infringed” don’t you gun grabbers get? Tell you what, why don’t you stay off the gun web sites and go back to Former Mayor McCheese’s gun grabbing site. There’s nothing reasonable about you morons!!!

  5. If I can buy this ammo cheap then why wouldn’t I shoot it recreationaly? Why would I sit down while the Government tries to take/infringe on any part of my 2nd amendment rights. U might be a gun owner now, but from the sounds of it not for long.

  6. All attempts to “INFRINGE” on our second amendment rights must be fought hard against. Fight for your rights or you don’t deserve to have them.

  7. Richard: You are wrong. The 2A protects military rifles and ammunition that are suitable for militia use. Green tip SS109 and M855 are suitable for every lawful purpose including militia use. The ATF cannot lawfully ban any such ammunition from civilian use without being in direct opposition to our Constitutional Rights. Under the Constitution, the militia is certainly empowered to put a stop to this if the government refuses to do so. Remember: The only Rights you have are the ones you will stand up to defend.

  8. Sporting use has no connection to the 2nd Amendment. It is a smoke screen used prior to the Heller decision. Sorting use is not the standard. Self defense is.

  9. I’d like to know the truth about that too. That isn’t the only rifle round that will pierce a handgun vest. Calling it a pistol round because of AR & AK pistols could potentially lead to outlawing many calibers. I noticed that when 5.45×39, (AK74) military surplus ammo was made illegal there wasn’t much fuss. Maybe that was a test?
    All that said, I don’t want ANY law enforcement officers injured or killed. If outlawing green tip/855 would make a difference, I can shoot targets just fine with cheaper ammo.

  10. The federal government does not like having an armed citizenry. the armed citizen, we do represent the very last rung in check and balance system to stop tyranny. If the government can successfully destroy the 2nd amendment then there is nothing stopping them from destroying all the others. This could happen over night. I don’t even own a Armilite Rifle (AR) 15 or knock off rifle, nor do I use the type of ammo under question. But, I wrote letters, call my Senators and Representative expressing how this was a violation of our second amendment rights. I did it because I recognized the threat and I was not going to give them one inch of my rights. When you say, “Well I don’t care if they limit magazine size”, or “If it will appease them they can outlaw Assault Rifles , I don’t own one” then you in effect are saying I really don’t care if you take away my Second, First , third Fourth, Fifth and etc… Amendment Rights and believe me if they can get rid of the second the others will fall like a house of cards. The second and an armed citizenry holds the rest together like glue! Keep your powder dry, watch the sky line and what ever else you do never, never turn your back on a politician!

    • I use it all the time, you obviously don’t live in a state with a wild hog problem. I’ve found that shooting the 62 Penetrator silenced works great out of my ar-15 with a 24 inch barrel. It’s cheap and stabilizes nicely over long distance with enough energy and penatratiin into their skulls to scramble thier brains.

  11. Maybe we all should go back to cast lead ammunition. Black powder guns yeah. Oh!! wait a minute that’s illegal too. The use of lead ammunition is a crime in California and soon to a state near you. Let me think a minute, plastic projectiles could be OK to use. Nope that’s bad for the environment too. If all you law bidding citizens just would turn in you weapons for a $50 gift card we will no longer need ammunition.
    Help us Trump!!!!

  12. The laws need to change. There should be no such thing as a sporting or recreational exemption on ammo. If the military can use it and the police can use it, then every American should be able to use it, period. The government is supposed to be an extension of the people, not a higher level or ruling class.

  13. I have to agree Richard that you may be incorrect on this one. I live in a highly government regulated and costly state known as Connecticut. A law was passed that anyone owning an AR15 must register it. Not only the rifle but any magazine for ANY gun that could hold more than ten rounds. Not only that but you had to substantiate your possession with a receipt that shows you purchased them. Now, Richard, to me that sounds like a set-up. A set-up for the government to come and take your AR-15’s and your magazines. My AR-15 was set up to shoot 6.8SPC Caliber so I could legally use the AR-15 format for deer. The AR format was great for me because I could use it with the disability that I have. Well, low and behold our state passed a law that you could remove the AR-15 from the state BUT YOU COULD NOT BRING IT BACK IN. I believe they made that one a FELONY. Richard, you can make all the excuses you want, but pretty soon, if we are not careful we will loose ALL of our second amendment rights. Since I have registered my AR-15 I have legally moved it and my magazines to another state. This is one time that I highly regret obeying a foolish state mandate. This is simply a political knee jerk reaction to what some NUT did in Sandy Hook, CT.

    • Many of the states are making up their own “RULES” to regulate firearms. Illinois now has a bill that has made it to the senate targeting legally Licensed gun dealers. If this bill passes the majority of the small Licensed Dealers will be forced to close……there will be an additional TAX of $200-$300 per firearm, limit the number of firearms you can buy/sell in a year and create more liabilities and restrictions for all parties involved.

  14. Like CONnecticut, Californication & New Jerk state, those Liberals in office will pass laws truly countering the U.S. Constitution. BUT if Federal Liberal judges don’t say a word against the obvious Wrong going on, the ‘wrong’ becomes law without a fight. Obama wanted a ‘One World Government’ with the US becoming a lap-dog servant to a EU scam in progress. These Liberals don’t want ANYONE to have firearms except for THEIR bodyguards. What a crock.

  15. I wish all the most talented pro2nd. Amendment and freedom-loving attorneys in our great nation would team up and file the ultimate lawsuit that will finally overturn the unconstitutional Hughes Amendment of 1986 once and for all. I know if all of you put your minds together you would win and win soon enough.

  16. First, I personally don’t understand how the government has any right to regulate firearms or ammunition. The Constitution did not give this right to the government.
    As we know, the Constitution grants no rights, but was supposed to put the brakes on governments’ attempts to wrest control from the people. When you start agreeing with this thinking you are simply giving up your rights.

    Second, green tip is a great round especially in a 20″ barrel with 1:8 or 1:7 twist. Get some great long range accurate shots with that. Whenever we say this or that only belong on a battle field we are playing into the anti gunner’s hands. As virtually all calibers have been tried and or used on the battlefield at one time or another.

    My point in saying that is once you give in to a “reasonable'” “gun safety” regulation, you simply open the door for more….ammo bans, rifle bans, hand gun bans…Look at England.

    The gun control crowd are not really about guns, but about control.

    Tread carefully!

  17. Richard Brewer, in addition to the other very accurate comments here, I’ll add the clarification that you seem to forget that the 2nd Amendment is not in any way about “sportsman or recreational shooters”. It is about the people putting down tyranny. And the modern world has not made that an out-of-date idea either.


  19. Would be nice to see 5.45×39 7N6 be imported back to the United States. 7N6 is the
    almost the same as M855 but it was reclassified by ATF as armor piercing and banned
    from import. If my info is correct this is some of the types of 5.45×39 ammunition.
    7N6 – penetrator
    7N6M – boat tail penetrator
    7N10 – improved penetrator
    7N22 – armor piercing
    7N24 – improved armor piercing

  20. It isn’t the ammo they were after nor the possibility of it’s use. It was only done to try to “take a little more” from the law abiding gun owners of the U.S. The lawsuit is a good one we can only hope that someone looses there job and government pension over it.

  21. Pro Ammo Richard Brewer

    I have to chime in on this one if for nothing else as I don’t want my friends who follow Defender outdoors Blog thinking I am the Richard Brewer who thinks this ammo should be banned. When I saw the post, I thought aliens might have invaded my body and made me post something I didn’t believe in, then I realized I have never posted on this blog.

    I interpret the Constitution just as the late Justice Scalia did. The 2nd Amendment has nothing to do with hunting, recreational shooting, etc. It is all about our right to keep and bear arms, and if I may go so far, to be ready when called upon to serve as part of a well regulated militia. I realize the last part has fallen out of practice in most states due to our standing military forces, national guard and reserves, but your individual right to keep and bear arms stands regardless.

    As others have aptly pointed out, you start classifying ammunition and/or specific types of firearms as not appropriate for civilians to own, you open the door to more controls and restrictions of your freedoms.

  22. The Clinton Administration got their Federal Assault Weapon Ban by exploiting divisions in the gun community. “Of course all we want is the weapons of war outlawed.” Luckily the AWB sunset. Anytime a politician uses the terms; reasonable, compromise or common sense you can bet you are going to lose some freedoms. Don’t give an inch!

  23. The biggest problem is both the M885/SS109 and the N76 DO NOT meet the qualifications/requirements in the law to be classified as “Armor Piercing (AP)”. Read the law: these projectiles DO NOT meet the standard called forth by the LAW! So they CANNOT be classifies as AP just be because someone thinks it is; the law says IT IS NOT “AP”.