Kermit the Frog thought he had trouble. The iconic song sung by the beloved Sesame Street character then emcee for the Muppet Show, characterized Kermit’s struggle on being different..and green. A struggle which a certain type of rifle ammunition is facing, but for a vastly different reason. According to the B.A.T.F. (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms), the commonly used M855/SS109 .223 (5.56mm Nato) ammunition, which is the round utilized in the very popular AR 15 rifle platform (or “Black Rifle if you prefer) is now subject to abolition via Executive Order from President Obama. Why you ask? The President wants ”Green Tip” ammunition to be re-classified by our “friends” at the B.A.T.F. as “Armor Piercing”.
Firstly, let us look at a definition of “Armor Piercing” ammunition:
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.
My apology for the metallurgical digression, but it is necessary. Let me explain: The M855/SS109 round has a steel penetrator tip (this is where the Progressives get ancy). The steel tip/lead core/copper jacketed ammo was designed in the 1970’s by Fabrique Nationale of Belgium (firearms manufacturer) for their new “Minimi” belt-fed machine gun. This newer weapon was chambered in .223 (5.56 Nato) and was to replace the venerable M60 machine gun chambered in .308 (7.62 Nato). The new steel tipped round was created so as to have more effective long range capabilities that the standard .223 (5.56 Nato) projectile at that time. In addition, it was meant to be able to penetrate the standard issue Soviet/Warsaw Pact metal helmets at long distances.
So now you ask…is this particular projectile armor piercing or isn’t it? If you look at the basic construction of the round, which is a steel tip, LEAD core and copper jacket…then the answer is an incontrovertible NO. This conclusion is based upon the above definition of how an “armor piercing” projectile is constructed. It is not “entirely constructed” of any of the aforementioned alloys or exotic metals nor does it have any components thereof.
So why the rush by the President to ban it? I believe the reason behind this potential ban is that the AR rifle platform has given birth to a “handgun” version of the popular weapon. The handgun version has a barrel that is shorter than 16 inches and does not have a shoulder stock...in fact it has no stock at all. It does however have a “Buffer Tube” to the rear of the firearm and is a part of the recoil system which, soaks up a lot of the kick (through accelerating its mass) and slows down the fast-moving parts of the action so that they don't damage either themselves or the frame of the rifle in which they are working. The firearms manufacturer Sig-Sauer created an add-on to the popular handgun. This add-on came in the form of a “stabilizing-brace”. The brace slides over the buffer tube and has a spot to slide your hand and forearm through so you can better control the firearm as it recoils. The B.A.T.F. had tried, and subsequently failed, to stop the addition of this brace as they sought to restrict people from using it as an ad-hoc stock, rendering the handgun into an S.B.R. or Short Barreled Rifle. Altering the design of the “handgun” would be illegal. Sig-Sauer fought this and won, as this is not considered a true alteration but an item to enhance control and make the firearm more accurate. This however, did not sit well with the administration.
It is my opinion that the Obama Administration, after being somewhat embarrassed by their “mishandling” of the handgun-brace issue, has decided to try banning the cheap and popular M855/SS109 Green Tip ammunition as it can be fired from the AR handgun platform, by reclassifying the ammo as “Armor Piercing”. I bolded and underlined the word handgun for a reason. By law, handguns are restricted from firing armor-piercing ammunition so as not to be able to penetrate the body armor utilized by law enforcement. However, up till 2015, this ammunition was NOT considered to be armor-piercing. Not until AFTER the handgun brace issue arose was this made a potential issue by President Obama.
Since my original writing of this piece (only 3 days ago), the B.A.T.F. has made a Mea Culpa of sorts. In what seems to be a stunning reversal, according to the 2015 B.A.T.F. Regulation Guide, it seems that a “mistake” has been made regarding the M855 ammunition. According to the Washington Times; “The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is apologizing for a “publishing error” in its regulations that suggested the agency had already banned AR-15 “green tip” ammo well before officials publicly announced a proposal to outlaw the armor-piercing bullets last month.” The ATF also added this statement; “ATF has not rescinded any armor piercing ammunition exemption, and the fact they are not listed in the 2014 online edition of the regulations was an error which has no legal impact,” the agency said in a statement. “ATF apologizes for any confusion caused by this publishing error."
Regarding the M855/SS109 ammunition issue, The B.A.T.F. has also said “The issues raised (so far) in the comments ATF has received to date will require further consideration, and fully processing all of the comments will take time. Given the overwhelming interest in this issue, and the issues raised in the comments received so far, ATF will not at this time issue a final framework.” (Link)
So now, we are left with two possibilities: #1. The B.A.T.F. made an honest mistake in the inclusion of the M855/SS109 ammunition as “Armor Piercing” (before it was announced by officials). OR #2. The 238 House members and 52 Senators who joined together in direct opposition of this potential ban, as well as the voices of the law-abiding American gun owners may have smashed-to-bits the attempt by the Obama Administration to circumvent the Second Amendment.
I try VERY hard not to be a fatalist…but the idea that the B.A.T.F. made a mistake on the exact type of ammunition that President Obama sought to ban is rather hard to believe. Despite this, I will instead laud the 52 Senators and 238 House members who chose to stand up for the Constitution and the Rule of Law! I will vociferously applaud all Americans who sent their comments to the B.A.T.F., excoriating them for this potential action. Finally, I will view this as a victory for the American people, the law-abiding American gun owner and for the Constitution. Molon Labe!
~Stephen R. Mauriello