Submitted to the BATFE as part of the continuing public informal comment period, closing Monday, 16 March:
While it is my understanding BATFE “will not at this time seek to issue a final framework” to ban the importation, manufacture, or sale of M855 ammunition as an exempted armor piercing round, in order to further determine whether it is “primarily intended for sporting purposes,” this last criteria significantly misses the relevant point. The M855 round, due to its compositional makeup and the legal plain language involved, does not require an exemption at all as an armor piercing round, as it does not meet the cited criteria to qualify as such to begin with.
As the agency referenced in its framework memorandum published in February, the armor piercing designation derives from 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 projectile (emphasis added).
In the referenced memorandum, BATFE repeatedly cited subsection (i) as the qualifying portion of the law which defines M855 as an armor piercing round. While the M855 munition is arguably “a projectile which may be used in a handgun,” it is clearly not “constructed entirely from one or a combination of” the enumerated materials (emphasis added), thus failing to satisfy both criteria of subsection (i) (as required by the plain language use of the conjunction “and’ in the subsection). Thus, the exemption itself is not legally founded, and any such proposals going forward with respect to possible revocation of such an exemption (or the classification as armor piercing itself for that matter) are legally invalid.