BREAKING: Judge Upholds Ban on 5.45×39 AK-74 Ammunition

SLR-106UR pistol courtesy

Roughly a year ago the ATF reclassified certain kinds of 5.45x39mm ammunition as “armor piercing” and banned them from importation. This has only been possible with the explosion in “pistol” versions of magazine fed firearms like the AK-74 and AR-15, giving the ATF the legal foothold they need to meet the regulatory requirements for the existing “armor piercing” ammunition ban on the books. One importation company in Redmond, Washington had been given permission to import millions of these rounds from Russia but with the ATF’s change of heart they suddenly found themselves in possession of a metric buttload of ammunition that could not legally be imported into the United States. They did what any red blooded American would do: they sued the Federal Government. A judge in Seattle ruled today, and it isn’t good for those hoping to have their cheap ammo back.

From KGMI:

P.W. Arms sued saying the bureau misinterpreted the definition of armor piercing bullets under federal law.

U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour disagreed he ruled they contain a steel core and can be fired from a handgun.

The judge noted P.W. Arms never disputed the bullets can pierce body armor and called the company’s arguments disingenuous.

While the judge is technically correct that (A) the ammunition can be fired from a handgun and (B) it can pierce body armor, so can a wide array of other projectiles. Standard lead core 5.56mm NATO ball ammunition is capable of piercing the type of body armor commonly used by law enforcement, and that ammo is also capable of being fired from a handgun. The issue in this case which P. W. Arms is trying to point out is that the law as written is ineffective, allowing some “armor piercing” ammunition to enter the country while prohibiting other “armor piercing” ammunition simply because the projectile isn’t made out of lead.

To the firearms proficient the law seems arbitrary and capricious. But then again, that seems to be the case with a number of gun control regulations which have passed judicial muster recently.


  1. avatar Kyle (in Upstate New York) says:

    Is domestic-made 5.45x39mm AK-74 ammunition legal?

    1. avatar anonymoose says:

      Companies are only banned from importing 7N6 (the milsurp stuff). A lot of foreign commercial ammo is not steel-cored, so it’s okay. Hornady V-Max (the only 5.45 I know of with a non-magnetic bullet, but still uses a steel case) is okay. Handloads (using reformed .222 or .223 brass) are okay.

  2. avatar Nate says:

    As the law is written it does seem illegal to import. So I think effort is better spent in the legislative side of things, rather than the judicial.

    1. avatar anonymoose says:

      If you read the law, you would know the ban is BS. The old ban on Chinese steel-core 7.62×39 from the 1990s might also BS if you actually apply the law to it.

    2. avatar cawpin says:

      The law is written to ban armor piercing HANDGUN ammunition. It was written for calibers that were originally designed for, AND mainly used in, handguns. It is NOT for any ammunition that could possibly be used in a handgun. This judge is wrong.

      1. avatar Sunshine_Shooter says:

        If there is an AK-74 ‘pistol’ being sold that qualifies as a handgun, and can shoot 5.45, then non-lead-core 5.45 projectiles can be banned from import. It’s BS that the law was written in the way it is, and it’s BS that the ATF waited for a decade after the first AK74 pistol was sold to ban the ammo from importation, but they are following the law as written.

        1. avatar Evan says:

          7N6 is rifle ammunition, was designed and has been marketed as such, and additionally was never marketed or designated by the USSR/Russia or Eastern Bloc nations.

          There are such a thing as bolt action .50BMG pistols. Does that make .50BMG a handgun round suddenly?

          And since when are laws, as written, subject to arbitrary tests judges-feel-should-have-been-performed yanked out of their ass?

      2. avatar Kalani says:

        The law as written also states it has to be greater than .22 cal. Why the m885 round was legal. 5.45 is 20 cal..

  3. avatar Badgerman says:

    Dear Sara Tipton,

    Presidents matter, because they appoint judges that matter.


    1. avatar Michael says:

      +1000! She concocted a pathetic attempt to rationalize a childish argument.

    2. avatar Accur81 says:

      Amen to that. Elections have consequences.

    3. avatar CarlosT says:

      1) Wyoming is going to go for Trump overwhelmingly, so it doesn’t matter what Sara does,

      2) Trump is going to get absurdly blown out because he’s the worst candidate in history. It’s like he was built in a lab to a spec that read “bad at running for President.”

      1. avatar 10mm says:

        You are one of the few people on these boards who understands how elections work. MOST peoples votes don’t matter. Wyoming is as red as a state can get. And though some polls might show Trump “catching up to Hillary”, all Vegas odds-makers are in favor of HRC. All of them. These are casinos, multi billion dollar corporations with teams of statisticians paid to predict outcomes.
        All of them say HRC will be taking the oath in January.

        1. avatar Badgerman says:

          I understand that, but I think advertising is what needs to be understood. Sara Tipton has the ear of many in battleground states through this site. So, her advertising not to vote does have consequences, just not in Wyomying.

        2. avatar Max says:

          500-some-odd people decided the entire Presidency in 2000 in Florida.

        3. avatar Mr. 308 says:

          “These are casinos, multi billion dollar corporations with teams of statisticians paid to predict outcomes”

          Based on polls implemented by who? Media outlets? Candidates? Universities? Polling companies?

          They will also use previous election results and other inputs.

          This election is nothing like any before it. The polls are almost total bullshit numbers made up for various reasons, none of them being released to the public will be honest in the slightest.

          I predict nothing, however to state that the outcome is predetermined now is absurd.

          I’m not in Vegas but I tell you if I was I would put a good chunk of change on that bet, for Trump that is.

        4. avatar Steve says:

          IIRC, they also predicted Rubio would win the nomination.

      2. avatar CarlosT says:

        Yes, exactly.

        There are states where your vote may be crucial. These things are not secrets. If you don’t already know if your state is one of these states, look into it. If you are in one of those states, then yes, you do have a weighty decision to make. Those of us in states that are foregone conclusions by vast margins are always voting on what makes us feel better, no matter what.

      3. avatar jjimmyjonga says:

        yup…Dump, his childish doings, his nepotisim and his ego are going to get the 2A fleeced because he will lose. He should man up, admit he’s not the one for the job, and let somebody who is intellegent, knows how to work with people to get things done and be civil step in. “The art of the deal”? – no…the art of the spoiled nyc brat.

        1. avatar Mr. 308 says:

          That’s it! That’s the spirit, right there. That’s how we won the war of independence, exactly.

          Or wait, no, that’s wrong. That’s *not* how we won the war of independence, exactly.

          Gwan though, tell us more about how we are going to lose everything. Look buddy, how about you put your money where your mouth is, send it all to me that is. Because all you have is ‘whine whine complain sky is falling we can only lose we are ALL GOING TO DIE!!!’.

          Screw you, loser.

      4. avatar neiowa says:

        CarlosT doesn’t know diddly about American history.

        Trump isn’t even the worst major presidential candidate on the ballot in Nov.

      5. avatar Erik says:

        How do you figure he’s the worse candidate in history? Obviously 16 other Republicans were worse than Trump. I really don’t think your right about this and have fallen victim to the media and elite GOP.

    4. avatar Chadwick says:

      Yeah that and the demonrats are in bed with the atf and the atf hates freedom. But hey don’t let that come between someone and their soft grasp on their emotions. I’m upset so I’m not going vote for the candidate that says he’ll support the 2nd amendment. Boo hooo to all the glen beck loving idiots that won’t vote for the lesser of two evils because they are just too special even by special snowflake standards.

    5. avatar Charlie says:

      Please don’t go after Sara. She expressed her feelings, and I respect them. I disagree with her, and I said so politely, but this is not the place to air your differences with her.


      1. avatar Badgerman says:

        I was very polite. They authors of the articles have their opinion, and they give us the same discretion through commenting. I stand by my statements.

    6. avatar Jared says:

      Exactly, I can’t believe these NeverTrump people.

      You have two realistic choices

      1. Vote trump

      2. Physically remove democrats

      I think option 1 is much easier and more humane.

      If enough pro rights people pout and give up their rights, then I should just focus on LEOSA and exemptions for retired LEO’s…. In other words, screw everyone else and be sure I keep and expand mine.

      1. avatar int19h says:

        Do we take it to mean that, when Trump loses bad in November (which looks more and more likely with every day), you’ll grab your gun and start “physically removing the Democrats”?

    7. avatar Indiana Tom says:

      …and the people said Amen!
      I really sort of wonder about dear Sara sometimes.
      I just have problems with people thinking Trump is so terrible that Hitlery will be better.
      Just for the record, I supported Ted most of the primary election until I figured out he was not going to win, and we might wind up with Mittens if Trump did not get the amount of delegates for nomination..

    8. avatar Publius says:

      Prepare for angry emails from TTAG staff!

  4. avatar Anonymous says:

    P.W. Arms sued saying the bureau misinterpreted the definition of armor piercing bullets under federal law.

    Typical government response: “We fxxked up – but you can pay the price.”

    U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour disagreed he ruled they contain a steel core and can be fired from a handgun.

    A law in much need of reform. Any pistol can chamber any rifle round – if it is designed to do so. There is no magical barrier between pistol and rifle.

    The judge noted P.W. Arms never disputed the bullets can pierce body armor and called the company’s arguments disingenuous.

    Most rifle bullets can pierce body armor – even those without a steel core.

    More government arbitrary nonsense in search of a boundary that doesn’t exist and where one can’t be drawn.

    1. avatar barnbwt says:

      “U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour disagreed he ruled they contain a steel core and can be fired from a handgun.”

      There is literally no logical argument for treating the steel portion as the “core” as opposed to the lead portion, other than the fact that this way the ammo can be banned. We call that an arbitrary and capricious enforcement where I come from. Multi-part cores existed at the time the law was written & were in common use militarily, yet the law forbids mono-metallic cores consisting “completely” of the list of banned materials.

    2. avatar strych9 says:

      “There is no magical barrier between pistol and rifle.”


      *wiping tears from my eyes*

      Of course there is! It’s called an ATF decree. DEA, ATF, FDA, EPA etc. All they have to do is write a letter and whatever the letter says is the law.

      Here, this guy explains it pretty much perfectly. Screw the Bundy ranch incident, just replace “BLM” with “ATF” and listen to his explaination.

      Then there’s this too.

      Guy’s actually a lawyer too, not some internet retard.

      1. avatar Old Ben turning in grave says:

        “Guy’s actually a lawyer too, not some internet retard.”

        You say that like the two are mutually exclusive.

        Not to impugn the videos you linked. I haven’t viewed them yet.

  5. avatar Tom says:

    The point being missed is that government agencies can legislate without consent of Congress. And the courts are affirming bureaucratic power.

    1. avatar 10mm says:

      Big picture.

    2. Taxation without representation is for pussies.
      They’ll do any damn thing they please disregarding representation.

  6. avatar barnbwt says:

    “While the judge is technically correct that (A) the ammunition can be fired from a handgun and (B) it can pierce body armor”
    Neither A) nor B) have anything at all to do with the letter of the law as written. The round must be “designed” for use in a handgun (it was not, nor was it even produced for handguns, but for select-fire AK74 assault rifles), and must meet the criteria laid out in the law to be considered subject to a ban. It meets neither, since it’s multi-part core by definition cannot be composed entirely of the banned core substances (like steel), and it otherwise contains none of the trace-bannable elements (like uranium).

    Hell, the projectile diameter at .215-.22005″ has tolerance that straddles the line of what is applicable under the law (and largely limbos under it) –does this mean that once the bullet squeezes down the still-narrower rifle bore (.212) that it is now legal to go flying out the muzzle?

    1. avatar barnbwt says:

      If the ATF wishes to justify banning this ammo based upon a .00005″ margin in high-end tolerance ammo, I say let them get their calipers and measure each bullet before rejecting it for importation.

  7. avatar js says:

    Pointless law, written interpreted and enforced by idiots.

    But that’s how they’re slicing the salami, till there are no guns left.

  8. avatar RJ says:

    Doesn’t that law only apply to imported ammunition? And not necessarily to the same exact ammunition if it is manufactured inside. Of the country? Or am I incorrect? If I’m right, then the easy fix is for some company here to begin manufacturering it and I think some already do don’t they?

    1. avatar barnbwt says:

      Or just pull & reseat the bullets…

  9. avatar Vhyrus says:

    This is why you can’t compromise on gun laws. The anti AP law was bi partisan supported and they GUARANTEED us that they would not go after rifle ammo. Less than 20 years after they passed it they went back on their word. There is no such thing as a good gun law because it will eventually be misinterpreted and used as a weapon against us in any way possible, if not by the original drafters then by their successors.

    1. avatar Accur81 says:


    2. avatar Andrew Lias says:

      This is why a lot of both do not want to give an inch.

    3. avatar Mr A Max says:

      Yep. Couldn’t say it better myself.

  10. avatar Nanashi says:

    As you’re outraged about this I hope you remember that the NRA did not just support but WRITE the LEOPA that allowed this to happen.

    Why haven’t you joined GoA and left the anti-second amendment forces behind?

  11. avatar Tom W. says:

    Guess my old stock of spam can Moisin Nagant Ammo would also qualify.
    Oh wait, lost it all in the great flood of 2012.
    My bad, never mind.

    By hook or by crook. It’s like whack a mole with these folks.


  12. avatar Red in CO says:

    Jesus Christ… you guys realize the NFA is directly responsible of this? So, AR and AK pistols are obviously not pistols. But, because of the awful wording of the NFA, they can be legally classified as pistols and thus give folks a work-around, effectively allowing us to own SBRs without the tax stamp, wait time, registration, etc.

    However, classifying rifles as pistols opens the door to these kinds of asinine attempts to go after certain kinds of ammunition (see the ATF’s attempted ban on M855 .223 a while ago for another example of a similar argument). It’s admittedly a clever new angle of attack. But if we can get the NFA repealed, or at least get SBR’s removed from it, we can call these rifles just fine, which eliminates these kinds of arguments.

    1. avatar cawpin says:

      Red in CO – “However, classifying rifles as pistols opens the door to these kinds of asinine attempts to go after certain kinds of ammunition”

      No, actually, it doesn’t. The law is written for ammo originally designed for, and mainly used in, handguns. They are misusing the law.

    2. avatar Binder says:

      Yes, but the whole SBR and SBS is left over from when they tried to ban handguns. Suppressors are to stop poachers and “machine” guns are to stop gangsters.

  13. avatar More Dead Soldiers says:

    Any word from the law-and-order fetishists?

  14. avatar AnOregonian says:

    Unfortunately the judge’s comments have little-to-nothing to do with the law. 7n6 does not meet the standards laid down by the law, as the lead present in the core of the bullet is not present in merely trace quantities.

  15. avatar leo says:

    on phioto 5.56 Arsenal slr106

  16. avatar Brianflys says:

    Sara is a “thought leader” in this community and it is highly irresponsible to state she will not vote for president, for Trump. Any other action is squarely against the Second Amendment. Period. Doesn’t matter the color of your state. This is a ONE ISSUE election and the travesty of this court decision highlights what will happen if we do not ALL pull for Trump. Tell everyone, all the time, everywhere, Trump is the only choice. Otherwise this country will descend into more tyrany and worse. This is not a time for thought provoking contrarian articles. Lead or disappear!

    1. avatar Kyle (in Upstate New York) says:

      The problem is that Trump is so thin-skinned and says so many stupid things that it gets hard to pull for him. One gets the impression that if he somehow won the election, he’d spent every waking moment battling with critics as opposed to actually doing his job as President. He can barely run his campaign as he is constantly getting into fights with people. It almost is comical. All the Clinton campaign has to do is put out a fish hook with the right bait, and Trump bites. Such as the Gold Star Muslim parents, which was a strategic move that worked brilliantly.

      1. And he has the worst hairdo.

    2. avatar former water walker says:

      Ah…no she’s NOT. Dozens of other commenters are. Thought leader-LOL 🙂

    3. avatar JJ48 says:

      Don’t blame those of us who recognize that there is no good candidate, or even a “lesser evil” candidate. Blame the imbeciles who decided to nominate the one guy who could possibly look to be as bad a choice as Clinton.

      1. You mean these imbeciles?
        Trump received 13,406,108 votes.
        As a result Trump has more votes than any candidate in Republican history.
        Trump shattered the previous record by 1.4 million votes — and that was with 17 candidates in the race

    4. avatar neiowa says:

      Juvenile yapping does not equal thought or influence.

  17. avatar Indiana Tom says:

    More reasonable and sensible court rulings by all knowledgeable judges applying the new living constitution throughout the land. Makes Gunsense and Gunsafety for the children….

  18. avatar HellofromIllinois says:

    “Standard lead core 5.56mm NATO ball ammunition is capable of piercing the type of body armor commonly used by law enforcement, and that ammo is also capable of being fired from a handgun.”

    SHUT UP!

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