ATF Bans Importation of Russian-Made 5.45×39 “Armor Piercing” Ammo

Model Onyks 89S pistol (courtesy

The ATF has released this special advisory:


On March 5, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) received a  request from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP) to conduct a test, examination and classification of Russian-made 7N6 5.45×39 ammunition for purposes of determining whether it is considered  “armor piercing ammunition” as defined by the Gun Control Act (GCA), as amended. Since 1986, the GCA has prohibited the importation of armor piercing ammunition unless it is destined for government use or testing.  The imported ammunition about which CBP was inquiring was not destined for either excepted purpose. The Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), as amended, defines the term “armor piercing ammunition” as . . .

“(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.”  (emphasis added)

When ATF tested the 7N6 samples provided by CBP, they were found to contain a steel core.  ATF’s analysis also concluded that the ammunition could be used in a commercially available handgun, the Fabryka Bronie Radom, Model Onyks 89S, 5.45×39 caliber semi-automatic pistol, which was approved for importation into the United States in November 2011.

Accordingly, the ammunition is “armor piercing” under the section 921(a)(17)(B)(i) and is therefore not importable.  ATF’s determination applies only to the Russian-made 7N6 ammunition analyzed, not to all 5.45×39 ammunition.  Ammunition of that caliber using projectiles without a steel core would have to be independently examined to determine their importability. [h/t LF]


  1. avatar A-Rod says:

    I think the ATF put out a memo that banned the production of US made .22lr ammo. I ain’t seen any in over a year.

    1. avatar Buzzy243 says:

      Gander Mountain has it, at least in the midwest area. I’ve been selling it to folks all day. Over-priced CCI standard velocity mostly. Over-priced, but still not as bad as Gun Broker, et al.

      1. avatar neiowa says:

        Gander Mt hasn’t had anything except overpriced shotgun ammo and empty steel ammo cans for the last 1-1/2. Makes DIcks look good.

    2. avatar rustybx says:

      Heh. This weekend Larry’s in Huntsville, AL was *giving* away 50rd boxes of 22LR for every box of 9mm,.40, or 45ACP bought.

      $14.99 for 50rd 9mm Federal brass FMJ + 50 Rd 22LR.

    3. avatar WI Patriot says:

      .22lr is available more than you think, the trick is, you have to get off of your ass and look for, it isn’t going to drop into your lap…

      1. avatar Buzzy243 says:

        I’ll have to disagree with you here, WI Patriot. In my experience it’s impossible to find unless you have unlimited free time to wait in line at Walmart, Cabela’s, Bass Pro, Gander Mtn, Dick’s, etc. and good intel on when they get their shipments.

        1. avatar Cogline says:

          Just sign up for notifications from slickguns and keep your phone handy.

        2. avatar Daniel S. says:

 <<use it.

        3. avatar A-Rod says:

          +1 with Buzzy. Yeah, I have a 7am-4pm day job and a 14month old son to raise so my free time off my ass to go look for ammo is about 5 minutes if I happen to be in Wal-Mart buying other stuff. So every now and then when I am off my ass and can go to the range I would like to be able to buy some ammo.

      2. avatar Mark N. says:

        I happened to be in a
        WalMart superstore in my area a few days ago, and the ONLY handgun ammo they had in stock was four value packs (100 round) boxes of Federal 9 mm FMJ. [$25.77 each plus tax, not too bad all things considered.] I don’t look often, but I can’t recall the last time I’ve seen a box of .22LR except on the internet. Makes me wonder what the three boxes of Mini-Mags I have left is worth. Is it like gold–if you hoard it log enough it goes up in value?

        1. avatar JT says:

          I got three boxes of CCI Stingers at my local Walmart a few weeks ago. They had about 6 boxes total but have been limiting .22 to 3 boxes per customer.

    4. avatar fuque says:

      Thats because I have it all…

    5. avatar Frodo says:

      Considering I just purchased 6 – 555 rd bulk packs at Walmart last Saturday it is still being produced. There was plenty to go around.

    6. avatar buzz over says:

      no shortage of 22lr here…u must be in dc.

  2. avatar Buzzy243 says:

    Which genius decided to start importing a “pistol” in 5.45×39? Hmm?

    1. avatar Rokurota says:

      Don’t blame the pistolsmith. Blame this random, moronic law.

      1. avatar Steve in MD says:

        Knowing this moronic law exists, whoever built a 5.45 pistol chose to screw over everyone buying cheap imported ammo.

        And I have no idea who would want a 5.45 pistol to begin with. One almost wonders if a smith was paid off by the ATF to make one.

        1. avatar Danny Griffin says:

          What about the Draco and similar 7.62 “pistols?” Will 7.62 x 39 be next?

        2. avatar Steve in MD says:

          Steel core 7.62×39 was already banned. What we get now is bi-metal jacket.

        3. avatar Jeff says:

          Danny, this same sequence of events happened over a decade ago with regards to 7.62×39 – before Olympic Arms created a 7.62×39 AK pistol, cheap steel-core Chinese ammo was the standard of plinking for 7.62×39. As soon as Olympic released their product for sale, ATF immediatelly banned all of the cheap 7.62×39 steel-core imports.

          Just as with 5.45×39, the 7.62×39 being sold was not really armor-piercing. It simply had a copper-jacketed mild steel core, NOT a hardened penetrator as REAL AP ammo would have.

        4. avatar Mark N. says:

          How is this pistol any different than one in .223 or 5.56? Silly is as silly does. Consumers demand “fun” toys that have no known utility, and the market responds.

        5. avatar Danny Griffin says:

          Mark, I take exception to your “no known utility” comment on rifle-caliber pistols such as the AR pistol. It’s the only way to legally carry a loaded rifle in your car in some states (like Michigan where I live).

      2. avatar Buzzy243 says:

        Yeah, I suppose most of the blame should fall on the politicians who passed the 1968 GCA. It’s hard to believe that such a severe infringement of the 2nd Amendment actually passed.

        1. avatar beanfield says:

          It’s really the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 that added the quoted AP text to the GCA. The 94 AWB was a subsection of that legislation and sunset in 04, the rest remained.


          I’m not saying that the GCA was OK or anything…

      3. avatar doesky2 says:

        Oh no, they BOTH deserve our scorn. The importer knew this would happen but he preferred a quick short buck. Deserves to be hung from nearest bridge. No matter what you get involved with in life there is ALWAYS that one azzhole that fvcks things up.

        1. avatar beanfield says:

          It might be a bit early to blame them for making a quick buck. Has anyone actually seen said pistol available for purchase?

  3. avatar Texheim says:

    Heck, 7.62 x 25 is hot enough to penetrate body armor…

    1. avatar Heretical Politik says:


    2. avatar Stinkeye says:

      Note, however, that the rules do not say anything about whether the ammunition can actually penetrate armor. It’s just about how the bullet is constructed. So this mild-steel 5.45 isn’t actually armor-piercing, but something that can pierce armor but doesn’t meet this random set of specifications is okay.

      Government regulations rarely have any bearing on reality.

      1. avatar beanfield says:

        I would assume if they banned ammo based on real world tests for penetrating armor/steel, they’d have to ban common hunting rounds. [Most] politicians are smart enough to understand that’s a career ending position.

  4. avatar CA.Ben says:

    Why is it that not a single import law has been taken to court? How does “sporting purposes” possibly square with the 2A? And this junk is rediculous, there is no exception in the 2A for banning certain constructions of ammunition. Not to mention the stupidity that is 922R.

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      The way the 2A cases have come down in most of the circuit courts of appeal, this is not an “infringement” since there is still a right and ability to use the pistols designed for this ammo; instead it is merely a “manner” restriction, similar to a ban on Black Talons that pass the “sniff” test under intermediate or even rational basis scrutiny.

  5. avatar sacorey says:

    As opposed to the commercially available .308 and .30-06 that can shred body armor and are totally kosher? Trying to think of some other things that tear up level iii armor but i just woke up

    1. avatar lolinski says:

      You can also just take a knife+broom+liberal amount of duct tape. Don’t know about level 3 but level 2 is a goner.

    2. avatar Hannibal says:

      Just don’t go making a freakin’ .308 pistol…

      1. avatar Rainhaven says:

        Ummm….they do. It’s called PTR PDW.

      2. avatar Defens says:

        Check the DS Arms website – there are a few models of .308 handgun available. If BATF would declassify SBRs as an NFA weapon, you’d see a lot of rifle-caliber pistols go away.

    3. avatar DJ says:

      A broadhead will do a number on soft armor.

  6. avatar Sixpack70 says:

    So for decades this ammo has caused no problems. Now the ATF decides to ban the ammo. Usually when you make a law or ruling it is to solve a problem. This ammo is not causing a problem whatsoever, so why ban now? Not that I think that there should be any rules on armor piercing ammo, just walking the dog on why this is an idiotic decision.

    1. avatar Roscoe says:

      “Russian Imported”; think of current events.

      I believe Ukraine is the relevent factor.

      1. avatar Roscoe says:

        For what tiny impact any ammo ban might have on Russia. More evidence of the impotence of the flaccid Obama Administration when it comes to foreign policy.

      2. avatar Jeff says:

        Most of the surplus 5.45 comes out of Bulgaria and Ukraine, not Russia.

    2. avatar adam r says:

      The first thing a counter-insurgency/guerilla operation does is cuts off the insurgencies supply lines.

  7. avatar Bigred2989 says:

    Please tell me someone is going to sue.

  8. avatar Tim Freeman says:

    More unconstitutional backdoor gun control to get rid of inexpensive ammo. The ultimate goal is to make all firearms and ammo so expensive that only the rich can keep and bear arms. Machine guns are already there.

  9. avatar ropingdown says:

    This clearly is just the first salvo in the administration’s attack on the pistol format of firearms using 5.45 x 39 ammunition. I expect a similar opinion to come down on M855 and similar ammunition shortly. This can only help the sales of Black Hills 5.56 77-grain OTM and similar, improving everyone’s accuracy if not their savings rate.

  10. avatar WI Patriot says:

    Hmmm, what about M855 5.56 62gr w/mild steel penetrator core, isn’t at the same thing…???

    1. avatar Tim says:

      …. and 7.62×39

    2. avatar Heretical Politik says:

      I think M855 has a sporting purposes exemption for hi-power competition.

      1. avatar TX says:

        Yes, M855 and M2 A/P (used in the M1 Garand) are domestically produced and exempted AFAIK.

    3. avatar B says:

      All centerfire rifle ammo is armor piercing. The whole law is ridiculous. The fact that pistols in these calibers exist should have no bearing on rifles using this ammo. They could just put a stupid sticker saying not to use it in pistols.

    4. avatar Mark N. says:

      May I assume that it is not being imported? If made here, the import ban does not apply.

  11. avatar David P says:

    M855 is not the same thing because it is not imported, I think that is the loop hole

  12. avatar Patrick Hayes says:

    Main tactic of gun grabbers….
    Can’t get the guns…take the bullets……
    The Brady group wanted to tax ammo out of existence….

    This needs to be taken to court.

  13. avatar B says:

    5.45 is .21 caliber. Just throwing that out there, don’t know about the rest.

    1. avatar Marc says:

      Doesn’t matter. This ammunition (according to the ATF) falls under the first (i) part,where caliber is irrelevant (as the projectile core is steel) rather than the second (ii) part where its a relative jacket mass limit for projectiles larger than 22 caliber.

  14. avatar David P says:

    Kind of shows the impotence of the president. We all know he wants almost everything banned when it comes to firearms but even with all the media attention on shootings during his terms, even after threatening excecutive orders, this is all they can muster up. A single round, from a single country, for a surplus gun. Keep the pressure on both houses.

  15. avatar Jeff says:

    I’m going to lay this out very clearly.

    The ATF claims that this decision is based on a pistol that is “now commercially available” – that is, the Radom Fabriki Broni (Poland) “Onyks” 5.45×39 pistol, a non-existant variant of the Onyks 5.45×39 carbine, which itself was a PDW version of the Tantal.

    The Radom Onyks has NEVER been sold in the US. It has never been exported to the US. No importer has ever made it available for sale.

    That’s right – the ATF’s decision is based on a product that DOES NOT EXIST ON THE US MARKET.

    All we have is the ATF’s word that an importer provided samples in 2011. Well, it’s nearly three years later, and THIS PRODUCT DOES NOT EXIST. You can’t buy it. It simply is not “commercially available” as the ATF claims.

    The ONLY Onkys pistol you’ll ever see in the US, is one built from a parts kit, or from mixed Tantal/Beryl parts as part of a custom build.

    1. avatar DisThunder says:

      Bingo. For all the talk, and the shouting that you would get for even bringing the subject up in most AK forums, the 5.45 pistol is vaporware. I don’t even think there’s a demo gun in the entire country. Sure, you could BUILD one, but you can build all kinds of stuff, it doesn’t make it commercially available.
      I loved my 5.45 Saiga, one of the best plinking/hunting rifles I’ve ever owned, but I saw this coming back at the first of last year and sold it.
      But, maybe now I can sell the ammo and get some goddamn .22!

  16. avatar Nick D says:

    If I really need a “sporting purpose” for ammunition, I always say “hog hunting”. Those things are tough, numerous and ridiculously dangerous if you get them mad, or hungry. So, if somebody asks why I need a “semi-automatic, high capacity, rapid fire, armor piercing assault weapon” I just mention that all mature male hogs have hide built like kevlar, and a 1″ thick bone plate covering their major vital organs, and if you cannot take them down, they will be back, and if they can knock you down, they WILL eat you. Bones and all. Even children. Especially children.

  17. avatar Danny Griffin says:

    What about the Draco and similar 7.62 “pistols?” Will 7.62 x 39 be next?

    1. avatar Jeremy S says:

      See previous comments. Steel core 7.62×39 has been banned from import for over a decade.

  18. avatar Ryan Browning says:

    “a full jacketed projectile larger than .22 caliber” 5.45mm is equal to .214 inches??

    1. avatar Marc says:

      Doesn’t matter. This ammunition (according to the ATF) falls under the first (i) part,where caliber is irrelevant (as the projectile core is steel) rather than the second (ii) part where its a relative jacket mass limit for projectiles larger than 22 caliber.

  19. avatar Puyallup devil doc says:

    What the hell is an “Onyks”?

    1. avatar Jeff says:

      The Onyks is Poland’s short-barrel PDW version of both the Tantal (5.45) and Beryl (5.56).

      See my post above – the ATF’s claim that Radom of Poland tried to export a pistol version of the Onyks is extremely dodgy, since no importer has ever even talked about offering it as a product.

  20. avatar Hal J. says:

    Well, I was looking for an excuse to order another spam can…guess this is it.

    1. avatar Jeff says:

      you missed the buying frenzy by about a week and a half when this rumor first started popping up, as imports on 7n6 mysteriously halted

      1. avatar doesky2 says:

        And the commercial 5.45 non-corrosive has been holding steady at 25c/rd this past week plus. Hopefully this doesn’t cause a run with the unknowing that don’t understand its only 7N6. OTOH, I’m stocked up to the point that I’m sure I would be picked off by the time I was able to shoot it all.

    2. avatar Jeremy S says:

      I have a sealed wood crate with 2,160 rounds (in two spam cans) of the good stuff inside. Now accepting exorbitant offers. Inquire within.

  21. avatar Hannibal says:

    Oh good, border protection is making us all safer and doing their jobs by… asking the ATF to make sure we can’t buy ammo. Good thing they already completely secured the border, stopped the drug trade and equally unlikely third thing I can’t think of!

    Wait, they did none of those things?

  22. avatar Gruney says:

    Why is the steel core ammo OK in a rifle, but not in a pistol?

    Does the lower velocity from the shorter pistol barrel make it penetrate armor better?

    It’s not like an AK pattern pistol is all that easy to conceal. The stupidity of our gun laws is matched only by our politicians. I am starting to think we shouldn’t let the pols make laws about something they know F All about, especially guns. You have to pass a test first to make sure you are “smarter than a 5th grader” on the subject of the law. That should pretty well prevent Congress from doing any more damage.

    They are mostly lawyers, so let them come up with some laws for “lawyer control”. Sorry Ralph, it had to be said.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      They are mostly lawyers, yes, but they are completely politicians. What we really need is politician control. I thought we had it in something called the Constitution, but I was mistaken.

    2. avatar Jeff says:

      Because the ATF sells it to the public as being “cop killer” ammo.

      Concealed guns + “cop killer” bullets = SUPER SCARY

  23. avatar Jay Wolf says:

    I remember years ago when the ATF came after Me/Elite Ammunition for making AP bullets since pistol had been created that could fire rifle cartridges. Myself and a few peolpe (Rob) declared this was the nose in the door of future banning.

    Other then a hand full of people most called me a liar, a criminal who must have done something wrong to be raided and that I was fear mongering to drive up ammo sales, even though at that time as now I am now constantly sold out of ammo, and all other form of nefarious accusations.

    Well now I was right, they where testing the water and even though I won a settlement they learned and moved forward.

    I wonder if I am going to get a single apology from the fuck sticks at or

    1. avatar Danny Griffin says:

      Hi Jay. I’m glad I bought some EA ammo when I could! 🙂

  24. avatar A. Nuran says:

    Lay some of the blame where it lies – at the NRA’s doorstep.

    The NRA helped write the 1968 GCA. They were consulted extensively on it. If the “armor piercing” provisions were so horrible they should have spoken up at the time.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      The armor piercing provision meant exactly squat at the time. 45 years later and it’s a loophole for the ATF to wiggle through like the rats they are.

  25. avatar benny says:

    Sadly I fear nothing will be done about this. No one short of the SAF or NRA has the money to challenge it, and they’re frying bigger fish all around the country.

    We seem to be kinda stuck with this BS.

  26. avatar doesky2 says:

    Just wait a cotton-picking minute…..

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but 7N6….

    does not meet (i) requirement of constructed entirely because along with the steel core there is a lead inlay that one could easily argue is much heavier than a “trace”

    does not meet (ii) since 7N6 certainly was not intended for use in a handgun. The 7N6 round was intended to be used in a rifle

    1. avatar Steve Truffer says:

      They got b*tch-slapped recently, they might be trying to make up for it, but this might be a good way to further bust up the ATF’s rulings. This may actually be good.

  27. avatar Jim Jones says:

    Aren’t all those Russian ammo made with steel cores? My local range specifically prohibits one from using Herter’s handgun ammo for this very reason. What is the difference between that ammo and the ammo the ATF has just banned?

    1. avatar Jeremy S says:

      That ammo has a “bi-metal” jacket. The core itself is lead. But the steel in the jacket can damage some range backstops, cause sparking, etc. Also, some ranges simply ban steel-cased ammo because they don’t want to deal with the cases. The brass stuff has value; the steel is basically trash.

      1. avatar Jim Jones says:

        Thanks for the education!

  28. avatar Lurker_of_lurkiness says:

    So does this thing have more than a trace of lead?

    1. avatar doesky2 says:

      See my post up just a bit….there is a lead inlay on top of the steel core that I would certainly consider more than a “trace”.

  29. avatar William Burke says:

    War has been declared against the American citizenry. If you can’t see it, you’re in denial.

  30. avatar Dermott says:

    A plug for the Civilian Marksman Program. You have to join a group for $25.00 per year, after that, order a case of 22lr. Takes 6 months or longer to get but it’s good stuff, no driving around, no wasting time and gas and getting frustrated.
    How long will 5,000 rounds last you?

  31. avatar Ing says:

    First it was a backpack, now it’s the Fabryka Bronie Radom, Model Onyks 89S.

    They’re trying to round up the bronies!

    When the MLP revolution starts, just say the passphrase “20% cooler” and me’n all my brony relatives will be there, armed & ready.

  32. avatar Karl Johnson says:

    Interestingly I can not find a “Pistol”, only a Carbine, Kbk wz/89s, which is a Polish Carbine Submachine Gun ripoff/copy of the Russian AKS-74U with some modifications.
    Wouldn’t be the first time BATFE came up with a total BS excuse/lie to further the agenda of disarming the public.

    1. avatar beanfield says:

      They say the pistol was approved for importation, but never explicitly state it was actually imported.

  33. avatar Ardent says:

    Current price for the cheapest 7.62×39 just arrived at LGS: $5.99 for 20. This doesn’t seem to affect price or availability of that round. As for the other, I have no experience with it and haven’t ever seen it stocked locally.

  34. avatar doesky2 says:

    NRA response to my query last week about their plans….

    Thank you for contacting the NRA-ILA. Please see the link below for information regarding BATFE’s recent actions to restrict importation of 5.45 x 39 ammunition. You can rest assured that the NRA will keep on top of this issue. We appreciate your support.

  35. avatar Michael Stratton says:

    Ok where is the Onyks 89S pistol actually sold here in the US? I only read of this.

  36. avatar Rusty Chains says:

    There is a fix for this, by redefining the “armor piercing” ammunition as that which fits in a pistol having an ammunition feeding device located inside the grip of the pistol. That would fix the issue for both the 4.45×39 and the 7.62×39. This will only take the dumping of six or eight Democrat Senators and some heavy duty arm twisting of the the cowardly Republicans in both houses.
    On second thought that whole bunch is almost completely spineless, otherwise we would already have 50 state reciprocity.

  37. avatar Bill says:

    I thought use in a pistol had to be the intended use for the ammo to deem it not importable, not that you could use it in a pistol?

  38. avatar Sam says:

    Im really hoping that this triggers more commercially made 5.45×39, maybe even, dare I say, in brass casings!

  39. avatar jose says:

    5.45 is .214 diameter so it is not armor piercing according to the law. just the ATF screwing us over.

  40. avatar Jake says:

    So, the ATF permitted a short barreled rifle with the stock removed calling it a ‘pistol’ in order to ban a whole caliber of ammunition?!

    I’m still steamed about those jerks claiming that 308 Winchester is pistol ammunition. I think this is why Winchester’s ‘Fail Safe’ ammunition is off the market.

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