Armor Piecing and other Federal laws

I was just talking to a supplier and was told the following on Armor Piecing and other Federal laws. and it maybe a good time to review what is true and what is not true.
I have no idea if all are true, and input is welcome.

  1. All ammunition over 50 Cal. in Military cartridges must be inert, Including 14.5x144mm
    Russian. What about .55 Boyes ? Lot’s of live ammunition out there? Is there a grandfathered approval on older ammunition?
  2. Armor Piecing in .308 Winchester or 7.62x 51 NATO in prohibitive, ever if before the law
    was started. True or Not ? Older collectible ammunition OK ?
  3. Armor piecing in 30-06 is allowed, ( go figure, .308 Not., 30-06 OK))

Again I have no idea if all are true, and will be checking, maybe good to know what is what, as we all can forget. This is Federal Law, states have other laws.

I think your supplier may be confused on the definition of inert. Unless US Federal laws have recently been changed, large-caliber ammunition (i.e. larger than .50 BMG) needs to have an inert projectile or else it is considered a destructive device. Live rounds with inert projectiles (TP, AP, etc.) are perfectly fine.

I’m going off of memory here so it would be good to double-check, but I believe that the legal threshold for a projectile to be considered a destructive device is if it contains 1/4 oz or more of explosive or incendiary composition. Many 20mm API rounds have less incendiary composition than that, so those are also not considered DDs.

As far as the AP 7.62x51mm, I believe that those are legal to possess but not to sell since they are categorized as pistol ammunition (probably due to a Thompson Center pistol being chambered in .308). If I recall correctly, .30-06 AP ammunition has an exemption for sporting purposes.

Most everything you hear from people regarding pistol caliber AP laws (including and sometimes especially the ATF) is erroneous. It is not illegal for anyone to own live cartridges over .50 cal, it is just illegal for anyone to possess more than 1/4 oz of “explosives” if they do not have the right licensing - which almost all people do not. As long as the rd in question is not an H.E. or large incendiary rd of some sort, then people are fine. I have live .55 Boys, and there are live 20mm rds for sale online. I also have live 25mm and 30mm TP and TP-T rds purchased from retailers who are FFL’s. The whole .50 cal thing is just a manufacturing & distribution issue which gets into ITAR and CPSC stuff. The individual oddballs we all have are fine.

The .30 caliber AP rule is just referencing how 7.62x39 and 7.62x51 AP designated cartridges, or cartridges of that caliber having a steel core were added to the 1986 federal law about pistol-caliber AP due to some guns being manufactured as “pistols” in that caliber. That law is ONLY in regard to the commercial manufacture and/or commercial importation of such ammunition, and has nothing to do with sale or possession.

So basically any & all armor piercing rifle calibers are fine to own and transact in any state, except in CT where they have an obscure law regarding .50BMG rds which are AP, API, APIT, or SLAP, but standard ball rds are fine (even though they will blow through anything which one might think a state-level law would be trying to address). Nobody in law enforcement in CT even knows about the law though - like most obscure nonsensical laws regarding ammo. Even in California, Illinois, and NY you can possess standard armor piercing rifle rds (as long as not AP-T in CA).

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So if a manufacture is producing 14.5x144mm Russian, he can or can not sell the general public. The maker, I talked to, said he can not, no matter what the projectile would be.?
Your saying if not H.E. is if large incendiary it is OK ?

The laws are a little confusing (to the manufacturers), and so it’s not that they can’t sell to civilians or civilian retailers, but the issues with ITAR make transferring such large-caliber munitions sort of a headache for anything other than military or federal agency sales of the really big stuff. It’s the same with otherwise unremarkable less-lethal or door-breaching 12ga rds of many types. Many manufacturers will sell only to government buyers or law enforcement to avoid any liability issues. As far as collectors in the U.S., we can basically safely own anything that has no explosive charge, or less than 1/4oz of explosive charge. This is where the secondary busting-charges in large ordnance can cause problems for some people if they are not aware of looking for them. Not that any law enforcement outside of a few elite EOD types like Jeff Osborne know anything about this or are checking for it anyway. Usually, by the time anyone like ATF gets involved it is in regard to a much larger criminal situation of some sort. They never go after random individual collectors for the odd cartridge here & there - they simply don’t have the time or resources, and they know these types of people are not criminals in general.

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State laws can be more strict, and a lot of people confuse state laws for federal laws. Word of mouth sucks.

Federal law around AP says if the caliber has been chambered in a pistol, and it’s made of a list of specific materials, it’s AP and can’t be sold to civilians. Possession under Federal law is murky, especially “pre-ban” ammo. Some(most) states have banned AP ammo possession outright, so that adds to the murk of where and what is legal.

30-06 AP and M855 have both been determined to NOT be AP in terms of this law, for Federal purposes. States may or may not vary, I don’t know.

Regarding Destrutive Devices:

Federal definition of a DD says bomb (any weight explosive), grenade (any weight explosive), Rocket 1/4 LB of rocket propellant or projectile/missle > 1/4 oz explosive in the missle (projectile), or mine (any weight explosive component).

This is how BATFE classifies live grenade fuses as both explosive (the fuse, blasting cap) and DD (grenade body). You can’t have ANY explosive component in your fake grenade.

Some take the rocket propellant 1/4lb rule to mean artillery shells shouldn’t have more than that. The definition of cannon powders being explosives also implies some of this, but I’m not sure of case law.

Manufacturers and distributors will say things like “it’s illegal” to justify their liability averse policies of not selling to non-LEO/gov. Remember, a lot of this hearsay gets around as word of mouth (kind of like this topic).

The actual Federal wording around Destructive Devices : Section “a” pertaining to ammunition/ordnance:

“(a) Any explosive, incendiary, or poison gas (1) bomb, (2) grenade, (3) rocket having a propellant charge of more than 4 ounces, (4) missile having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one-quarter ounce, (5) mine, or (6) device similar to any of the devices described in the preceding paragraphs of this definition; (b) any type of weapon (other than a shotgun or a shotgun shell which the Director finds is generally recognized as particularly suitable for sporting purposes) by whatever name known which will, or which may be readily converted to, expel a projectile by the action of an explosive or other propellant, and which has any barrel with a bore of more than one-half inch in diameter; and © any combination of parts either designed or intended for use in converting any device into any destructive device described in paragraph (a) or (b) of this section and from which a destructive device may be readily assembled. The term shall not include any device which is neither designed nor redesigned for use as a weapon; any device, although originally designed for use as a weapon, which is redesigned for use as a signalling, pyrotechnic, line throwing, safety, or similar device; surplus ordnance sold, loaned, or given by the Secretary of the Army pursuant to the provisions of section 4684(2), 4685, or 4686 of title 10, United States Code; or any other device which the Director finds is not likely to be used as a weapon, is an antique, or is a rifle which the owner intends to use solely for sporting, recreational, or cultural purposes.”

Reply from my supplier, him , not me.
Start quote:
"Well, my ATF title 10 inspector and ATF technical branch sees otherwise. Best you call them if you have any items in questions. Let them direct you what you can do and not do. They were very clear what title 10 ammo was and what has to be logged in (bound book). In April, loading some 20mm for a guy, solid projectiles, inert. Both my ATF rep and the ATF on his end classified the 20mm as DD since over 0.50 cal. Had to get that DOT EX # and special Clearance to ship 100 rds.
Then the next beast in all of this is DOT. “any ammunition (live) above 50 cal requires a DOT EX #”
I would get a letter from ATF stating what you have described to me and not just reply of the “forums”. Write ATF Tech branch. " end quote.

This wouldn’t the first time, and certainly wont be the last time that an ATF rep has been wrong regarding the law on something. It’s the manufacturing of, importing of, and commercial distribution of such sized calibers / munitions which are regulated. Not a small run of custom loads for an individual buyer (who I presume already had a D.D. for the weapon in question?) They just tend to err on the side of caution and tell people that things are illegal if they aren’t sure, but they should know better since they are paid to. That’s not to suggest that people are wrong to be cautious since ATF has a reputation of seize / arrest first and ask questions later. In the era of foreign & domestic terrorism with explosives I can see ATF’s point to an extent, but getting picky on obscure cartridges should be beneath them. Right now on Gunbroker there is a seller offering 101 rds of 20mm Solothurn APT ammo and there are no restrictions on purchase or shipping, but I can understand how a manufacturer would be stingy about selling / shipping since their business is on the line. The same thing happens with 5.7x28 black tip “AP” cartridges which technically aren’t actually “Armor Piercing” pistol cartridges according to the federal law. FN would never sell these direct to non law enforcement retail consumers, but once they get into the hands of certain distributors or vendors, they will then turn around and sell it on Gunbroker for exorbitant amounts straight to civilian buyers anywhere. That is 100% legal by the way.

Case in point: I called the ATF field office in Portland recently to ask them about the legality of selling ammunition (from my store in Maine) to Canadians in-person, and he told me it was not legal. I already knew that the answer was that it is 100% legal, and this is based largely on an ATF letter which they published regarding visa-waived foreigners who are in the U.S. being able to purchase ammunition and firearms legally, but I didn’t argue the point with him. I mostly just wanted to confirm my suspicion that they would presume it to be illegal - and they did.

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In regard to pistol caliber AP - the federal law very specifically and only, states 4 main points -

  1. Commercial manufacture is restricted (to those with an FFL-10),

  2. Commercial importation is restricted (to those with an FFL-11),

  3. Commercial transfer of pistol-caliber AP by an FFL must have information recorded by the FFL

  4. Possession by a person committing a violent crime or drug-trafficking will result in a mandatory minimum federal sentence of 5 years (in addition to whatever other crime they are convicted of).

When you dig deep into the nooks & crannies of the 1986 law and all of the subsection definitions, they actually get surprisingly specific with everything as far as what the restrictions are limited to. For instance, it is 100% legal for a non-FFL person to, say - build 100 or so (or any smaller non-commercial quantity) AP pistol projectiles, load them, use them, or sell a few to another person (on the federal level). This is because they are not “engaged in the business of” manufacturing them “for pecuniary gain” as described in the 1986 law.

As for the state laws, most all states have no relevant restrictions at all. Only CA, IL, TX, and Washington D.C. have what amount to a “ban”, but the laws are virtually unknown - especially in gun-friendly Texas. Four other states have near-bans, or partial bans which are even less known laws, they are: FL, RI, KY, and NJ. In all of these states, the state laws are worded in a way which respects Ex-post-facto, meaning anyone who possessed the ammunition in question before the laws went into effect may continue to possess the ammunition. Also, in Florida or Rhode Island, the ammunition must be “truncated” to qualify as being restricted, which sort of limits the laws’ usefulness to restricting only KTW or maybe a few other random loads. Any round-nose FMJ steel-core penetrator would apparently be fine, and this illustrates just how little the anti-gun type politicians who pass these laws know about guns & ammo.

Aside from those 7 states and the D.o.C., there are 7 other states which have restrictive laws geared very specifically to “Teflon-coated” pistol AP ammo only, which obviously only targets KTW ammo, and which even fewer police or anyone at all knows about. These anti-Teflon laws are a result of the hysteria of the NBC farce of a Nighttime News segment called “The Killer Bullet” which aired in 1982 and set a bunch of anti-gun politicians up to look like fools as they raced to restrict this dangerous new “cop-killer”… which nobody outside of the industry had ever heard of until NBC tripped over itself to produce the garbage with a fraudulent liar named Arthur Kassel (impersonated a federal agent and lied about his qualifications), producer Beth Polson (conspired with Kassel to entrap Paul Kopsch - an effort which failed and which Kopsch later described in Congressional testimony), and the rambling NBC reporter Jack Perkins - who plain didn’t know what he was talking about in the report as he alerted scores of potential criminals to the fact that the ammo existed (which they could never acquire anyway), but more importantly that many officers were starting to wear body armor - a little known fact at the time. The first politician to race to the podium and champion the bill was a democrat NY Rep named Mario Biaggi… who would later be convicted on unrelated federal conspiracy racket charges - a real all-star team there.

The anti-Teflon states are: HI, AL, IN, KS, NC, SC, and OK, but you wouldn’t know even if you asked all the police, D.A.'s, and politicians you could find since none of them knows the law exists.

Aside from that nonsense, you have Louisiana which requires that a person obtain what amounts to a permit from the state police to possess or transact pistol caliber AP ammo, in sort of a “shall-issue” licensing type of way, but I dare you to call them and see if they have any idea what you are talking about - they likely wont, and you shouldn’t bother. Meanwhile in Nevada their peculiar law only restricts the sale of such ammo, but not possession.

There are a handful of other states which might appear to have a law restricting pistol caliber AP ammo, but when you read those laws closely, you find that they are sort of non-laws in that they only apply to when a criminal uses such ammo during the course of a crime, and thus they are only prosecution multipliers, and do not apply to normal people possessing or transacting the ammo.

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Type 06 - Manufacturer of Ammunition for Firearms Other Than Ammunition for Destructive Devices or Armor Piercing Ammunition

Type 10 - Manufacturer of Destructive Devices, Ammunition for Destructive Devices or Armor Piercing Ammunition.

Reloading for non-commercial purposes is permitted.

Law says to manufacture ammo, you have to have a 06FFL license. Also, by the wording of the law, it requires a 10 FFL to “manufacture” ammunition for DD’s (i.e. anything > .50. Ok fine. It’s required to have an FFL to “manufacture” ammo for non-DD.

Neither of those say anything about possession. It’s still perfectly legal to possess ammunition FOR destructive devices, as long as they don’t run afoul of the NFA or explosive limits.

Confused ? I am. God forbid laws can’t be made simple. Even the ATF Agents don’t know them. How can we?

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It’s very hard. Even if you exclude state interpretations, Federal is hard.

Only until recently did a majority of police officers understand in TX that machineguns and suppressors are legal. Hell, the legalese even says “it’s a defense to prosecution” for them to be NFA registered. It was niche until mid 2000’s when internet understanding of NFA exploded. With the suppressor hunting law in 2012, it finally got mostly straightened out.

In the late 90’s, I had a buddy arrested in a school parking lot for having a handgun in his motorcycle’s storage compartment. The officer didn’t distinguish between school premises/parking and on person vs stored in the vehicle. He let his Lt sort it out at the station. Officers are people too, and there there are so many laws that even people dedicated to study of the law don’t know them all.

Seems to me that this whole kit-and-kabottle over what is armor piercing and what isn’t would go away if the court system in this country would just enforce the laws we have now on the books and put the criminals who violate them get thrown in prison for a long time. No early release, no presidential pardon, no good behavior shaving time off the original sentence. And did I mention no plea bargaining! Do people realize what a hodge podge this has turned into?

I dabble a little bit into armor piercing, here is my take on the subject.

Importation requires a type 11 FFL for sales to military and law enforcement, and approved form 6 must accompany, register to ITAR (at $3500 per year for 3 years) and all this will come with a letter of restriction.
You need both FFL 6 and FFL 10 to manufacture AP ammo, one to make it and the other for the DD part.
If you have any FFL, except for 03 Curious and Relic, you are not allowed to sell AP ammo to civilians. This includes ammo dealers who have an FFL.
However, under the 03 C&R FFL, you can buy and sell AP ammo for collecting purposes (some states excluded). It must be logged into your Bound Book and any sales recorded. (I use drivers license). Even from other FFL’s, with all the paper work.
The only other way to obtain AP ammo is for Research and testing, but still need all the license and FFL’s
There has been long argument over what’s AP. Soft and hardened steel cores, ceramic tungsten, solid brass… They are all penetrators that pierce through any given hardened target.
Both M855 and 30.06 AP are EXEMPT from that AP rule by the ATF, this means it is AP, just not in the eyes of the ATF. They are still both penetrators (M855 is actually called that) of which, has a higher penetration value due to its hardened core over normal lead core conventional ammo.
(heard the 30.06 was exempt due to CMP sales during the 60’s)
What I tell people is not to use AP ammo during their crime, than they should be safe from AP laws.

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That’s the point.

Wow - it is so much clearer in Australia - we have a simple “no fun” policy!

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Working in more than one gun store over the past 30+ years, I can vouch for the diffuse numbers of non-answers that come from ATF- just like any LEO, there is absolutely NO way that can now all the laws that the print.
Most agents will only be familiar with what THEY are tasked with.
We had training meetings with ATF and State police at least twice a year, or more often if there were changes in background check laws, and it was remarkable how little the ATF agents actually KNEW, or even would give us a Yes/No answer to. More often just a “grey"answer!
In one case, he had no knowledge of the new State Dept ID numbers- when they got rid of the “A” prefix on “green cards”, and we had to show him a copy of the brochure State Dept sent out, nearly SEVEN months before that meeting!
I suspect that some of the bad info working its’ way around had to do with .500” bore FIREARMS rather than ammo, and the lines between has been “merged”…

I see AP .308/.30-06/8x57/7.62x54, and any number of Pistol ammo, for sale at gun shows by all manner of “dealer”, some of which are C&R, others are 01 FFL. I have never been asked to produce any form of ID, but then again, I am an old, grizzled, grey haired, non-leaping gnome.

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