The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (and Really Big Fires) is in serious trouble. The scandal surrounding Operation Fast and Furious has revealed a federal law enforcement agency actively engaged in a criminal conspiracy. Instead of sheltering in harbor, the ATF is adopting a damn the torpedos full-speed ahead strategy. Exhibit A: the Agency’s decision to ram through an unconstitutional long gun registry for 8500 border-dwelling American firearms dealers. Exhibit B: a recent raid on Elite Ammunition for manufacturing “armor piercing” pistol caliber ammo. Elite’s CEO Jay Wolf takes up the tale . . .
“It started with a visit by an ATF IOI (Industry Operations Investigator) on July 3. They asked for bullet samples. I gave them samples and showed them a 2008 FTB [Firearms Technology Bureau] ruling stating that using the Barnes 45gr Banded Solid bullet in .223 and 5.7×28 was not a 1968 GCA [Gun Control Act] violation.
[Our bullets are modifications of the solid brass Barnes bullet. I re-shaped the Barnes boat tail and made the bands in the Barnes bullets deeper. That’s it. I made a lighter version of their bullet that would break up on impact for hunting. These rounds have proven very popular with feral hog hunters out west.]
On July 9, an ATF team showed up at our door: eight agents in body armor with a search warrant dated July 8th 4 pm. The ATF would not let me copy the warrant or provide a copy. They took all of our bullets in .223, 6.5 Grendel and 6.8SPC, loaded ammo and computers. The ammo’s total retail value was approximately $15,000.
The agent in charge stated that .223, 6.5 Grendel and 6.8SPC were now handgun cartridges. Since our bullets were made of brass they were AP [Armor Piercing] and prohibited. The agent told me I could no longer sell or manufacture these bullets or loaded rounds. They produced an FTB [Firearms Technology Branch] order dated the day before stating the above change in cartridge classification. They would not provide a copy and they would not let me make a copy.
The ATF confiscated our computers. According to the agent, they were going to copy our database and then move to recover ALL the bullets and ammo we’d sold. When the ATF returned our computers on July 13th, I asked about the hearing and what charges I would be facing for selling AP ammo. I was told there would be NONE. There would be no charges, fines or issues with me keeping my FFL or staying in business. This was not stated in writing.
The ATF provided me with nothing in writing save the search warrant. They confiscated 15 grand worth of product (I’d just finished making a run of bullets). They copied all the information on our customers from our computers.
We’re a small company. This was a hobby until I got laid off about a year ago. Now it’s our sole source of income. Even though we just don’t have the money and are struggling to keep the doors open I have contacted Mike Danforth of Shaw Law to represent us in a lawsuit against the ATF.”
According to our source at the 2011 Firearms Industry Importer, Exporter and Manufacturer Conference, the ATF confirmed that it now considers brass bullets in .223. 6.5 and 6.8 calibers armor piercing handgun ammunition. They are officially verboten.
The industry lobby group known as the NSSF (National Shooting Sports Federation) “aggressively questioned” the Agency’s stance. The ATF conceded that they may need to look at the policy, develop variance policies, and draw up a FAQ on it.
Meanwhile, here’s the official (i.e. public) ATF definition of Armor Piercing ammo, as per 18 USC 921(a)(17)(B):
(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
Rifle-wielding hunters and marksmen buy Elite’s (and Barnes’) brass bullets for increased accuracy and consistency (less wobble baby wobble baby). Our man Foghorn points out that the U.S. government sells surplus ammo that’s more AP-enabling than Elite’s products. In specific, the SS109 and XM855 [below].
The latter’s a 62gr lead bullet with a steel cone in the tip designed to penetrate material like . . . body armor. The Lake City armory manufactures the round; Federal sells surplus them on the civilian market.
UPDATE: Mr. Wolf has received a copy of the new ATF regulation. I’m hoping to persuade him to share it with TTAG’s readers.