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The Skinny on the Proposed M855 Bullet Ban

M855 5.56x45mm NATO 62-grain ammunition
M855 5.56x45mm NATO 62-grain ammunition

While at my local gun range a couple days ago I was in the process of picking up a few boxes of my CZ’s favorite food when a couple old farts with their shorts and tube socks pulled up way too high came sauntering in, headed straight for the counter, and asked for a thousand rounds of “green-tip” ammo. That may be nonsense to you, but what they were asking for is one of the more common types of ammunition for the AR-15, the nation’s most popular sporting rifle (what gun haters ignorantly call an “assault rifle”). This also happens to be the target of the Obama administration’s Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (BATFE)’s recently proposed bullet ban, which is why they were there…I thought, “great, more prepper/hoarders screwing with the ammo supply, again”.

Here’s what you need to know about the ban. The purported issue is the defeat of soft body armor commonly worn by law enforcement officers to counter pistol ammunition commonly used on the street. Years ago a law was written (Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act of 1986, itself an amendment to the Gun Control Acts of 1968) to regulate ammunition that could pierce such armor, hence the development of the “armor piercing” label for ammo (also called “cop-killer bullets” by idiots). But when the NRA fought it based on that it would also ban nearly all rifle bullets (which easily pass through soft body armor) they had to more specifically define the armor-piercing classification. This came to be any bullet that could be fired from a pistol containing a core entirely made from “one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium” and “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”.

AR-15 Pistol
A common example of an AR-15 “Pistol”

So, because manufacturers are now building guns that fire this ammunition from AR variants that are classed as pistols (which is funny if you’ve ever handled one of these “pistols”), BATFE in its recently released framework is now saying that the steel-cored M855 bullet should be banned from the civilian market by authority of the Attorney General granted in the GCA of ’68 (in case you were still wondering who pulled BATFE’s strings).

However, there are issues with this, as well. M855 is a 62-grain NATO loading which utilizes a lead core with a steel penetrator…a non-homogenous core. You’ll notice on the definition in the previous paragraph that lead is not included in the list of armor-piercing core components. While there is a new M855A1 that has a solid copper core with a steel penetrator that would fall under this ban, M855 simply does not meet the criteria with its lead core. Additionally, despite it being capable of being fired by an AR “pistol”, anecdotal evidence cited by commentators indicates that this form factor has played no role in any known criminal activity since their advent. Even so, M855 was adopted over the original 55-grain bullet for the specific reason that it was more humane and less destructive than the earlier bullet!

So why are they doing this? That’s conjectural, but I’d say it’s partially due of ignorance. First, it does have  steel penetrator on it, so that makes it sound armor-piercing, but by definition it is not. But most people hear “steel core” and think “armor-piercing”, whether they work in a government agency, law office, or watch on TV. Those who do know  (as those working in BATFE should) but do it anyway are being disingenuous.

However, I doubt that the BATFE really cares about it either way…they work better with people not being openly antagonistic to them and not taking on more work-load. I’m convinced it’s coming from the top, as evidenced by the Attorney General recently giving BATFE permanent authority to seize and administratively forfeit (which means no judicial process) property involved in drug offenses. You don’t even have to be guilty: if you’re SWATted by your friendly local drug task force and they take your gun safe and cache of ammo with them while they sift for dope, like the Duck Dynasty people say, “they gone,” whether they find drugs or find you guilty of anything but sleeping while being raided. If you don’t think our government can’t just confiscate stuff as they please and never give it back, think again.

ATF Convenience Store
ATF Convenience Store

Knowing the Obama administration’s stance on gun control, the president’s past statements of using a pen and a phone to get his way, and his consistent use over the past few years of said pen and phone, only a fool should think this has anything to do with protecting cops. What it will do, however, is remove a popular target and sporting round from the pool of available ammunition for spurious reasons and artificially inflate demand and, therefore, cost of shooting purely to inconvenience and annoy gun enthusiasts, not to mention lighten their pocket books.

It will also help drive up the increasingly growing resistance to further gun control…so at least it won’t be all bad news.


This on-again, off-again, would-be commentator proves that attitudes are contagious, and that some can even kill. To this end, every written word is weighed carefully to ensure the precise delivery of the author's intent while inflicting blunt force trauma to the psyche of the reader.

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