How To Beat The ATF's M855 Ammunition Ban

While M855 has fallen out of favor with both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Marine Corps for a perceived lack of stopping power, a petulant Obama administration is attempting to claim that this same ammunition is suddenly too great of a threat to police officers to be sold to the public.


This would be the same public that has fired tens to hundreds of millions of rounds of this same ammunition since the 1970s, when Barack Obama had yet to step foot on the American mainland.

Obama’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has announced it’s plan to reclassify common M855 ammunition commonly used by AR-15 shooters for target practice as “armor-piercing.”

The ATF is of course blatantly lying when they claim it meets the legal definition of being armor piercing, and M855 doesn’t come close to being something that they have the power to ban… lawfully. That lack of authority doesn’t mean that they won’t try to enforce a ban unlawfully.

The NRA-ILA knows what the Obama ATF is attempting:

While the most visible and immediate effect of the framework is BATFE’s revocation of the “sporting purposes” exemption for M855 ammunition, its long-term consequences could be even more severe. Once an “AP” projectile designed and intended by the manufacturer to be used in a rifle (for hunting, for example) “may be” shot from any commercially available multi-shot handgun, it could never be exempt under the framework (unless loaded in a .22 caliber rimfire cartridge). Basically, this means the virtual banning of non-lead centerfire rifle bullets, even as gun control activists and states are targeting lead bullets for separate bans. This collision of bans on both lead and non-lead bullets could eventually lead to a drastic reduction in lawfully-available ammunition offerings.


Obama’s ATF is attempting to ban bullets that aren’t made of lead, at the same time Obama’s environmentalist allies are battling to ban lead bullets. It is a two-pronged assault on gun rights that must not go unchallenged.

The NRA-ILA also has a list of sample points that can be brought to bear against the policy.

While emotions are running high in response to this latest attempt by BATFE to undercut the Second Amendment by administrative fiat, submissions should refrain from inappropriate language and calmly explain the framework’s errors. The following are just a few suggested points that can be addressed in comments to the proposed framework. This list is merely a sampling of the many points that could be raised against it.

  • M855 ammunition should not even be categorized as “armor piercing” in the first place, given that lead is the primary material beneath its copper jacket.
  • BATFE’s framework does not clarify the “sporting purposes” exemption; it simply interprets it into irrelevance.
  • The framework overturns nearly 30 years of settled law and the good faith expectations of gun owners and industry members.
  • The framework is totally at odds with the intent of the law to ensure that restrictions on armor piercing handgun ammunition do not unduly restrict common rifle ammunition, most of which is capable of penetrating police body armor when used in a rifle as intended.
  • BATFE incorrectly insists that it is required to establish an “objective” standard based on handgun design, yet it fails even to do that with the very broad “discretion” it retains to deny the exemption to projectiles that meet its “objective” test.
  • The framework will suppress the development of non-lead rifle projectiles that offer increased performance for hunters, decreased lead exposure, and solutions for hunters in states that restrict the use of lead in hunting.
  • The framework will likewise deter handgun development, as new designs could trigger bans.
  • Coupled with increasing attempts to ban lead projectiles, the framework could drastically reduce the availability of lawful ammunition for sporting and other legitimate purposes.
  • M855 ammunition in AR pistols is not a common threat faced by law enforcement officers.

Letters about the ban can be sent to your Senators, your Representatives, and the ATF via this NRA-ILA form.

Of course, the greatest impact won’t come by merely attempting to reason with the ATF, an organization steeped in corruption and still attempting to stonewall Congressional oversight into the criminal gun-smuggling that took place in Operation Fast and Furious.

The greatest impact can be had by contacting your Senators and Representatives and asking them to work together to write and support legislation that changes the definition of “armor-piercing” ammunition to permanently exclude all rifle ammunition.

The men who wrote the original definition in 1986 as part of the Law Enforcement Officer Protection Act (LEOPA) were quite clear that they never wanted ATF to be able to reclassify rifle ammunition as “armor-piercing” pistol ammunition in order to manufacture ammo bans.

It’s time to put pressure on your Senators and Representatives to let them know that protecting our supply of common and affordable ammunition is an essential part of our right to bear arms, and that they will be held accountable if the ban on M855 ammunition for 5.56 NATO rifles isn’t defeated, and the April 2014 on 5.45×39 7N6 ammunition isn’t reversed.

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