Monday, February 16, 2015

The Proposed M855/SS109 Ban

By now many in the firearms community are well aware of the proposed ATF ban on M855/SS109 5.56x45mm NATO (Green Tips). Three days ago the ATF announced the proposed ban on this common & commercially available cartridge, because of the Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act of 1986 (LEOPA), of which the primary goal is to protect police officers from death/injury from handgun ammunition capable of penetrating protective vests. As AR pistols have grown in popularity, the ATF has been given the justification they deem necessary to continue to rule against ammunition like the M855 cartridge. More recently, 5.45x39mm 7N6 was banned for importation per LEOPA. In the past, the infamous Olympic Arms OA-93 AR pistol was attributed as the catalyst for the 1994 importation ban of 7.62x39mm Chinese steel core when the firearm was simply exhibited at SHOT Show in early 1994, yet AK47 pistols were already being constructed & sold by Mars Imports* TGZ.

However, let's get right to the point, M855 is currently not classified as AP ammo by the ATF, because they, the ATF, originally determined that it was not AP ammunition based on the metals used in the bullet/projectile. In fact, the ATF has specifically stated that the M855/SS109 bullets are exempt from AP status!

Following is an excellent write up on M855/SS109 from It's Tactical back in 2011: LINK

Key notes from the It's Tactical article:

"In order to be classified as an AP round, the projectile must have a core made entirely out of the following metals per the Federal Government's definition of AP ammunition in 18 USC sec. 921(a)(17):

(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.

Or the cartridge must have a full jacketed bullet with a jacket weighing more than 25% of its overall weight.

This means that the M855/SS109 bullets wouldn’t be covered, as their cores are partly steel, and partly lead. Lead isn’t listed in the metals above." - It's Tactical

In summary, M855/SS109 does not meet the AP ammunition classification based on the language in section (i) because of the metals used within the bullet. 

Another point of exemption under LEOPA is ammunition that is primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes. "The ATF has consistently interpreted sporting purposes to include the traditional sports of hunting, competitive target shooting, and skeet and trap shooting." Additionally, the Army has been phasing out M855 and replacing it with M855A1 (then there's the controversy that surrounds that cartridge!) so it has been widely available to the civilian market for years without issue. It could also be argued that it is now primarily used for competitive shooting, target shooting, or sporting purposes, but that determination is left to the Attorney General to make and that decision was made back in 1986. Yet, this is the basis of the ATF's current argument, that because AR pistols were not prevalent in 1986, but are now as common as M855, the ammunition used should be reevaluated and possibly reclassified and controlled. The ATF's stance is that they are following their guidelines in order to remain consistent with past rulings on ammunition, specifically 7N6 and 7.62x39mm (which are very questionable to say the least), yet they completely ignore the construction materials outline in section (i)!

M855/SS109, as with 7N6, was never designed or intended to be fired from a handgun/AR pistol. This is key as the language of LEOPA stipulates handgun ammunition capable of penetrating protective vests, but, unfortunately, does not have any bearing on the decision making within the ATF. In 1980 the US military decided to adopt the Belgian SS109 cartridge, which was developed in the 1970s for the FN FNC rifle and the FN Minimi MG. The SS109 cartridge was redesignated the M855 cartridge and was first used in the M16A2 rifle.

"To increase the range of the (FN) Minimi, the round was created to penetrate 3.5 mm of steel at 600 meters. The SS109 had a steel tip and lead rear and was not required to penetrate body armor. The 62-grain round was heavier than the previous 55-grain M193. While the M855 had better armor penetrating ability, it is less likely to fragment after hitting a soft target." - Wikipedia

So what's really going on if M855/SS109 doesn't meet the classification of an AP round, was once & still is designated under sporting purposes, was never designed for handgun use, and the fact AR pistols are simply being used as the launching point to further the ATFs agenda, simply put, scapegoated?

Per the Snipers Hide post on the ATFs recent announcement: LINK

"This very well can speak to velocity, so anything with enough velocity to defeat soft body armor can be at risk if this is allowed to move forward. It has a lot of bearing when it comes to precision rifle shooters, so please do your part to defeat this."

"This" is the language of LEOPA, which, to reiterate, is to protect officers from ammunition used in pistols that can defeat and penetrate protective vests. Yet, almost every popular or common rifle caliber is now available in a pistol/AR pistol and many have the potential to defeat a protective vest. Therefore, knowing that M855/SS109 does not meet the Federal classifications for AP ammo, that it is actually not an AP round, and is in fact "exempted" by the very organization that is now seeking to ban it, we can conclude this is not simply a matter of AP ammo being used in pistols and penetrating vests, it is a grab at common use ammo.  If M855 goes down, no commercially available rifle ammunition will be safe. 

On a side note, how many rounds of commercially available M855 does it take to penetrate AR500 steel body armor? The nutters at Demolition Ranch had to fire close to 90 rounds at one plate to defeat it. Granted, most LEO are not wearing steel plates and LEOPA discusses "soft" body armor, but the video does reinforce the fact M855 is not an efficient armor penetrator.

Final notes. If you have a moment, make your voice heard, and tell the government that it's not acceptable to ban this "common use" ammunition. As of tonite, 23:45hrs February 16 2015, there are 22,557 signatures and we need 100,000 total.

You will have to put in some personal information and respond to an email confirmation to the email account you enter to make it count. Please share on all forums you frequent, your FB page, anywhere & everywhere.

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