Why the Armor-Piercing Green Tip Story is Full of Holes

The White House Blatantly Lied to Press Corps About M855 Ammunition. Here’s Why It Matters.

The Obama Administration has take the incredibly brazen completely normal tact of blatantly lying to the White House Press Corps about the M855 cartridge, and the Administration’s goal in banning the most common bullet made for the most popular rifle sold in the United States:

The White House said Monday that President Obama believes a ban on bullets commonly used with the AR-15 rifle will save police officers’ lives.

“We are looking at additional ways to protect our brave men and women in law enforcement, and believe that this process is valuable for that reason alone,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives [accepted] public comment on an administration proposal to ban .223 M855 “green tip” ammunition most often used with AR-15 rifles. House lawmakers from both parties, as well as sportsmen and some law enforcement officials, are objecting the move.

Mr. Earnest called it a “common-sense step.”

“The president has long believed that there are some common-sense steps that we can take … to ensure that we’re protecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans while also taking some common-sense steps to prevent people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them,” he said.

Mr. Earnest added, “This seems to be an area where everyone should agree that if there are armor-piercing bullets available that can fit into easily concealed weapons, that it puts our law enforcement at considerably more risk.”

Let us list the fabrications told by the White House Press Secretary about M855 ammunition and AR-15 pistols, and then explain the magnitude of these clear and intentional falsehoods:

  • M855 is not “armor-piercing bullet” by either military definition or by U.S. federal law definition in LEOPA (Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act of 1986)
  • M855 is actually common “ball” ammunition that does less damage than almost any other 5.56 NATO or .223 Remington cartridge made
  • AR-15 pistols are anything but “easily concealed weapons”

Background

Barack Obama’s goal of banning modern semi-automatic firearms and standard capacity magazines after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 failed in Congress, and so he has apparently tasked the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and firearms with the “the next best thing,” which is heavily restricting ammunition for those firearms.

The ATF’s first target was inexpensive and obsolete Russian 7N6 military ammunition common in 5.45×39 AKM-pattern rifles, which was banned from import in April of 2014. This was the single largest source of 7N6 ammunition, which is the most common and inexpensive load used by American shooters of the 5.45×39 cartridge.

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A cutaway view of M855 ammunition. 80% of the weight of the bullet is the darker lead core of the projectile, and the thin jacket is nearly irrelevant. The mild steel insert keeps the bullet from deforming and causing serious injuries, unlike prior and more recent designs. It is not considered armor-piercing by either federal law nor by the military forces of the world.

The Obama Administration has now set its sights on a much larger target, the M855 ball ammunition that is among the most common ammunition made for the best-selling rifle year in and year out in the United States, the AR-15. The administration’s attack is on all AR-15 rifles, using the tiny number of AR-15 pistols and a perversion of law as an excuse.

A cutaway view of M855 ammunition. 80% of the weight of the bullet is the darker lead core of the projectile, and the thin jacket is nearly irrelevant. The mild steel insert keeps the bullet from deforming and causing serious injuries, unlike prior and more recent designs. It is not considered armor-piercing by either federal law nor by the military forces of the world.

Not Armor-Piercing By Any Definition

M855 is not considered armor-piercing by either federal law, nor by the military forces of the world.

The armor-piercing ammunition used by the U.S. military is M995, which uses a solid tungsten core to pierce the armor of enemy fighting vehicles and modern military body armor.

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Unlike the standard ball M855 round, the M995 is actually armor-piercing in function and under federal law, with a solid tungsten penetrator for use against lightly-armored vehicles. It is not sold to civilians.

Under federal law, M855 ball ammunition doesn’t meet either part of the two-part definition of “armor piercing” in the Law Enforcement Officers Protection Action (LEOPA) of 1986 that the Obama Administration is attempting to pervert.

18 U.S.C. 921(a)(17)(B) provides:

(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.

Far from being a “projectile or projectile core,” “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,” the core of the M855 is soft lead, like the vast majority of bullets. 80-percent of the M855’s total weight is the bullet’s lead core.

The projectile is also neither “designed nor intended for use” in a handgun, but was designed in the 1970s for rifles with 20″ barrels, when AR-15 pistols didn’t even exist. Further, the jacket of the projectile is far less than, “25 percent of the total weight of the projectile.” Try about 5-percent.

The M855 isn’t “armor-piercing” by military definition, and isn’t close to meeting any part of the definition for being classified as “armor-piercing” under U.S. federal law.

The Obama Administration is blatantly lying, and the worst part of that lie is that they are actually increasing the risk to law enforcement officers, but essentially forcing everyone to acquire more deadly bullets.
M855 is LESS damaging than almost any other common 5.56 NATO bullet

The M855 is considered to be standard ball ammunition which causes less damage to human beings than virtually every other kind of 5.56 ammunition, including the all-lead 55-grain M193 round that it replaced.

NATO actually pushed the United States to adopt the Belgian-designed SS109 cartridge as the M855 because they felt that the American-made 55-grain M193’s tendency to yaw and then fragment was “inhumane” and possibly illegal under the Hague Convention of 1899, Declaration 4 against “bullets which expand or flatten easily in the human body.”

80% of the weight of the M855 bullet is the darker lead core of the projectile, and the thin jacket is nearly irrelevant. The mild steel insert keeps the bullet from deforming and causing serious injuries, unlike prior and more recent designs.

Yes, you read that correctly: the M855 was pushed on the U.S. military as a less deadly bullet.

American forces complained regularly about the spectacular failure of the M855 to stop enemy combatants, at least since the 1993 raid turned rescue mission in Mogadishu, Somalia, that became famous in the movie, “Black Hawk Down.”

The failure of the M855 in short-barrel rifles like the CAR-15, the M4 carbine, and in M16s (when the bullet dropped below 2,500 FPS velocity) led the U.S. Army, SOCOM, and the Marines to develop different and more effective bullets, which have now almost completely replaced the M855 in combat.

The failure of the M855 to generate fight-stopping wounds is even more pronounced in AR-15 pistols with 7.5″ barrels that the Obama Administration is attempting to portray as such a significant threat to law enforcement. At the low velocities of a pistol, the M855 creates narrow “icepick” type wounds which do not incapacitate attackers, and which are far easier to heal from than almost any other 5.56 or .223 Remington bullet.

Put another way, the M855 is is high demand for punching paper targets, but stinks at stopping people.

By forcing this ammunition off the market with it’s false and spiteful reclassification of M855 as “armor-piercing,” the Obama Administration is ensuring the widespread adoption of more deadly bullets for law-abiding citizens and criminals alike.   

AR-15 pistols are not “easily concealed weapons” by any definition

An AR-15 is, at its core, always a rifle. The upper and lower receivers, buffer tubes and magazines of AR-15s are always the same size as that of an AR-15 rifle, regardless of whether the barrel is shortened, or the stock is removed.

Here is a screen capture of YouTube Gun enthusiast Hank Strange shooting an AR-15 pistol from one of his videos. Does this look “easily concealable?”

No reasonable person can call a large, bulky firearm that weighs 5 lbs “easily concealable.”

The footprint of an AR-15 “pistol” is massive, no matter how it is defined.

In that regard, it has a lot in common with the lies of Josh Earnest and the Obama Administration.

Conclusion: It’s not about saving police, but hurting gun owners

To date, there are precisely ZERO recorded incidents of American law enforcement officers being fatally shot through their body armor with M855 ammunition out of an AR-15 pistol.

None.

So why would the Obama Administration put so much time and energy in attempting to ban M855 ammunition?

The AR-15 is the most popular rifle sold every year in the United States since Barack Obama was elected President, and the M855 ammunition is the most common and economical form of that ammunition. In manufacturing an excuse to ban M855, Obama is attempting to hurt all those Americans who have purchased AR-15-style rifles, as he’s already punished those shooters who own 5.45×39 rifles and who once enjoyed shooting economical 7N6 surplus ammunition.

Put bluntly, this is nothing more or less than a big “foxtrot uniform” (NSFW) to gun owners from a petty and vindictive President who has a long and storied history of spiteful attacks against those he does not like.

In the end, we’re being charitable when we chalk up Obama’s attempt to ban M855 as a scornful and clearly unconstitutional attack on the Second Amendment.

Others are viewing it as a prelude of an attempt to ban all rifle ammunition, as all centerfire rifle ammunition commonly used for hunting and target shooting will penetrate police body armor designed to stop pistol bullets.

We’ve fought wars in this nation for less, starting with a little attempt to confiscate ammunition in the towns of Lexington and Concord on a chilly April morning in 1775.

Tread carefully, Mr. President.

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