Commonly available "green tip" M855 and SS109 rifle ammunition has been exempt from federal law banning armor-piercing ammunition for decades. It is readily available at a reasonable cost, and is widely used for sporting, practice and training purposes.
With the increasing prevalence of handgun versions of rifle platforms, the ATF apparently sees an opening to restrict the widely used ammo, according to pro-firearms and Second Amendment advocacy groups.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the primary trade association representing the firearms and ammunition industry, depicted the proposed ban as "a solution in search of a problem... that raises serious questions about executive agency attitude and overreach."
On Feb. 25, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, produced a letter to BATFE demanding it explain the abrupt announcement. The National Rifle Association is working with Goodlatte to gather co-signers to the letter.
"The Obama administration was unable to ban America's most popular sporting rifle through the legislative process, so now it's trying to ban commonly owned and used ammunition through regulation," said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA-Institute for Legislation Action "The NRA and our tens of millions of supporters across the country will fight to stop President Obama's latest attack on our Second Amendment freedoms."
Federal law imposed in 1986 prohibits the manufacture, importation and sale by licensed manufacturers or importers, but not possession, of "a projectile or projectile core which may be used in a handgun and which is constructed entirely (our italics)…from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium."
Though there are now handguns capable of firing M855 green-tip ammo, its core does not consist of the metals listed in the law. Rather, it is traditional lead core ammunition with a steel tip, and therefore not "armor piercing" as defined by federal law.