A Pre-Valentines Day Massacre

Friday the 13th, the day before Valentines Day 2015, ATF ended close to a three decade old relationship with SS109 and M855. In its lengthy breakup note ATF noted that “in 1986, ATF held that 5.56mm projectiles in SS109 and M855 cartridges were exempt,” from being classified as armor piercing under the “primarily intended for sporting purposes” exemption found in 18 USC § 921(a)(17)(C). ATF had previously asked the industry, members of law enforcement and the public in 2012, for input as to how they should determine whether certain projectiles would fit under the exemption.

This document which was released Friday was the result of that process. It would appear that ATF is looking for some feedback as to their proposed framework for determining whether a projectile should be granted an exemption. ATF in the same breath has ruffled the firearms community’s feathers with its illogical reclassification of SS109 and M855. But is it armor piercing? By my reading of the statute, it is most certainly not. Which begs the question: why did it receive an exemption in the first place?


18 USC § 921(a)(17)(B) reads:

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.

From my research, SS109 and M855 do not fit into EITHER subsection (i) or (ii)! I am working to obtain figures direct from a manufacturer for an exhibit but subsection (i) has no bearing on the classification because the core is made of a steel penetrator weighing about +/- 10 grains with the rest being lead! A far cry from the “constructed entirely….from one of a combination of….steel,” requirement. Subsection (ii) would be eliminated because the jacket weight is about 17% of the projectile weight, not withstanding the fact that the projectile is .22 caliber AND was neither designed nor intended for use in a handgun. 

SS109 Cross Section, 2nd from R, M855 Green Tip Lake City Photo Credit: AR15.com Ammo Project

I currently have some requests out to members of the industry for more information about other points that I’d like to make in the comment, including why was SS109 and M855 ever given an exemption when it did not and still does not meet the statutory definition of “armor piercing”.

Firearms Industry Consulting Group (FICG), a division of Prince Law Offices, P.C., is currently preparing a comment to ATF in opposition of their proposed framework for determining whether certain projectiles are “primarily intended for sporting purposes” within the meaning of 18 USC § 921(a)(17)(C) and the removal of the exemption of SS109 and M855. For those of you who are not familiar, FICG was instrumental in organizing opposition to ATF 41P. FICG was retained to file a comment on behalf of David M. Goldman of GunTrustLawyer.com and the Apple Law Firm, PLLC. FICG also filed its own comment in excess of over 500 pages with exhibits and a supplemental comment of over 65 pages with exhibits.

Anyone wishing to donate to our time in drafting a comment in opposition of ATF’s proposed framework for determining whether certain projectiles are “primarily intended for sporting purposes” can either mail donations to Prince Law Offices, P.C., 646 Lenape Rd, Bechtelsville, PA 19505 or call our office at 888-313-0416. Simply include a note or inform that staff that you are donating in relation to the armor piercing ammunition comment. Also, if you wish to donate using Paypal, you can use our Paypal address of paypal@princelaw.attymatter.com.

DISCLOSURE: Submission of a donation does not create an attorney-client relationship. By submitting any donation, you understand and agree that no attorney-client relationship is formed and that neither Prince Law Offices, P.C. nor any of its attorneys have agreed or are obligated to represent you.

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4 thoughts on “A Pre-Valentines Day Massacre

  1. All I can say is you guys are awesome. Thank you for holding their feet to the fire. Not with empty rhetoric, but facts and common sense. This change is dumb, but if nobody challenges it, it could happen.


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