ATF Calls Stripping Ban Exemption for AR-15 Green Tip Ammunition a "Publishing Mistake"

Posted: Mar 07, 2015 1:25 PM

Yesterday I exclusively reported that common AR-15 "green tip" ammunition has already been banned in the new 2014 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Regulation Guide, which was published in January. After the story received wide public attention, which you can read in full here,  ATF released a response Friday night at 9:12 p.m. blaming a publishing error for stripping out the "armor piercing" and ban exemption for AR-15 "green tip" ammunition.

Here is the full statement, emphasis is mine. 

On Feb. 13, 2015, ATF released for public comment a proposed framework, including legal and technical analysis, to guide its determination on what ammunition is "primarily intended for sporting purposes" for purposes of granting exemptions to the Gun Control Act’s prohibition on Armor Piecing Ammunition.This proposed framework is posted for public comment only; no final decisions have been made as to its adoption.

Media reports have noted that the 2014 ATF Regulation Guide published online does not contain a listing of the exemptions for Armor Piercing Ammunition, and concluding that the absence of this listing indicates these exemptions have been rescinded.

Please be advised that ATF has not rescinded any Armor Piercing Ammunition exemption, and the fact they are not listed in the 20 14 online edition of the regulations, was an error, which has no legal impact on the validity of the exemptions. The existing exemptions for armor piercing ammunition, which apply to 5.56 mm (.223) SS 109 and M855 projectiles (identified by a green coating on the projectile tip), and the U.S .30-06 M2AP projectile (identified by a black coating on the projectile tip), remain in effect.

The listing of Armor Piercing Ammunition exemptions can be found in the 2005 ATF Regulation Guide on page 166, which is posted here. The 2014 Regulation Guide will be corrected in PDF format to include the listing of Armor Piercing Ammunition exemptions and posted shortly. The e-book/iBook version of the Regulation Guide will be corrected in the near future. ATF apologizes for any confusion caused by this publishing error.

Most importantly, if you're in possession of AR-15 "green tip" ammunition, legally you're good to go in most states and not in possession of "armor piercing" ammunition. Because of the "publishing error" in the 2014 Regulation Guide, ATF has advised FFL's and others to reference the 2005 Regulation Guidebook, where the ammunition is still exempted.

Despite ATF saying there's "nothing to analyze here folks," this simple "publishing mistake" deserves scrutiny. Considering the Office of Management and Budget must approve new Regulation Guides, which come out approximately every 10 years, are difficult to change and take months to review, that's quite the "publishing mistake." As ATF references, the exemption for AR-15 "green tip" ammunition is in the 2005 ATF Regulation Guide. For this "publishing mistake" to occur, someone would have had to delete an entire section from the guide, which just happens to be the section about ammunition the Obama administration is currently trying to ban.

2005 Regulation Guide with the exemption for AR-15 "green tip" ammunition: 

2014 Regulation Guide, which was published in January, without the exemption for AR-15 "green tip" ammunition:

Somehow this "publishing mistake" looks a lot like "deleting" ammunition ATF is trying to ban without the consent of Congress or a proper public comment period as required by law. Also, keep in mind what ATF Director B. Todd Jones says about the 2014 Regulation Guide, that it "contains new and amended statutes enacted since publication of the 2005 edition, as well as updated regulations and rulings issued by ATF." Was this a "publishing mistake," or an updated regulation or ruling issued by ATF to quietly and unilaterally ban AR-15 "green tip" ammunition? It certainly looks like the latter.

According to ATF, the ban on AR-15 "green tip" ammunition is "a proposed framework posted for public comment only; no final decisions have been made as to its adoption." You can send your thoughts to ATF about the proposal until March 16, 2015 using the channels below: 


-Fax: (202) 648-9741

-Mail: Denise Brown, Mailstop 6N-602, Office of Regulatory Affairs, Enforcement Programs and Services, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, 99 New York Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20226: ATTN: AP Ammo Comments

The National Shooting Sports Foundation has requested ATF extend the commenting period for an additional 60 days.

This post has been updated with additional information.