As many people have already heard (thanks to groups such as the NRA widely circulating news about this), the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) has proposed a ban on the popular M855 rifle cartridge (often called "Green Tips" due to the green paint on the tip of the bullet) for firearms that are designed to shoot the popular .223 Remington/5.56x45mm NATO caliber bullet (such as AR-15 rifles, and many others). For those who want more information about the ban and why it has been imposed, but do not want to read the NRA's article, then here's a link to an article from Forbes about the proposed ammunition ban.
It is, of course, important to understand that this ban has merely been proposed, and that it has not been made an official regulation yet and will not be enforced until it makes the change from being proposed to actually becoming a regulation. It is also important to note that the change to the way M855 ammunition is being handled by the ATF is not an actual change in law, but simply a change in whether or not the ATF considers the M855 ammunition to be considered an "armor piercing" ammunition "which may be used in a handgun", which would make it illegal under the Gun Control Act of 1968 (as mentioned in the article from Forbes).
For the purposes of understanding what the Gun Control Act of 1968 does define as "armor piercing", here are the two criteria listed on the ATF website:
- 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;
- 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.
For those who don't already know, the .223/5.56 bullets are ".22 caliber", and thus the second criteria does not apply. Therefore, we have to establish whether the first one can apply. Forbes already discusses whether or not .223/5.56 ammunition can be used in a handgun, and while they do briefly mention whether or not the core of the bullet is made of the metals listed in the first criteria, I thought it might be a good idea to have a firearms expert show exactly what is inside the M855 "green tip" bullet. Here's a video from Jerry Miculek where, after 2 minutes and 30 seconds of satire (you can feel free to skip that part) he shows a few examples of bullets that have been cut in half so that you can see the inside, and explains what makes up the M855 bullet:
For those who are opposed to the proposed ban, the NRA has a form to contact your legislators and the ATF about it at this link.