My friend Ryan Peterson and I were having a discussion about civil rights recently, and some Second Amendment issues came up. Ryan mentioned that he could not understand why the NRA would be against banning armor-piercing bullets. I wasn't surprised by this as liberals have generally been in favor of various gun control schemes, including assault weapons bans and bans on armor-piercing ammunition in the past. This anti-gun sentiment was especially prevalent in the mid-1990s during the Clinton administration, which is the setting for our armor-piercing ammo dilemma.

In 1995, President Bill Clinton said "[if] a bullet can rip through a bulletproof vest like a knife through hot butter, then ... we should ban it." This kicked off a campaign by the Democrats to have any bullet that can pass through a police officer's vest banned. On the argument's face, this sounds reasonable, but the problem arises from misconceptions about what bulletproof vests and bullets can and can't do. As always, a little knowledge can help us figure out this issue.

First, the term "bulletproof vest" is pure Hollywood and political b.s. No vest is bulletproof. Police and military personnel typically refer to it as "body armor," which is more accurate. Like a knight's armor in the Middle Ages, which could deflect a sword blow yet was vulnerable to arrows or a spear thrust, today's body armor is also resistant to certain types of attacks but vulnerable to others.

The body armor police officers wear is made up of Kevlar or a similar material. Kevlar is a type of thread with a high tensile strength, woven into a sheet of fabric with an extremely tight weave. To make a vest, layers of the fabric are stacked on top of each other and each vest contains at least a couple dozen layers. The Kevlar stops bullets essentially by acting as a really tough net, catching the bullet as it passes through.

Being merely fabric and not magic, Kevlar is vulnerable to projectiles of certain velocities and shapes. Logically, high velocity bullets with a more pointed design will penetrate Kevlar easier than slower bullets with blunted noses. Herein lies the problem: Pretty much any common rifle round intended for hunting or target shooting will punch through soft body armor like Clinton's "knife through hot butter." Handgun bullets, on the other hand, are typically stopped cold by soft body armor.

Democrats call bullets that defeat body armor "cop killer bullets." Sounds terrible and scary, right? But that's the problem. Democrats replaced reason with fear and asserted in fact and reality that every hunting and target rifle, including grandpappy's rusty old gun collecting dust in dad's closet, is a cop-killing machine. Now, arguments against hunting aside, if that sounds absolutely absurd to you, that's because it is.

The NRA opposed Democrats' cries to ban armor-piercing ammo because darn near every rifle cartridge in existence would have fallen under the proposed ban. If Democrats had gotten their way, they would have made essentially all ammo used for legitimate, non-cop killing, purposes illegal. Even the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agreed that the Democrats' definition was far too vague and encompassing.

Liberals always allege the other side won't compromise, but that's precisely what the NRA did. The NRA worked with Democrats to refine their definition of armor-piercing ammo, resulting in a portion of the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 that outlawed the sale of ammo specifically designed for barrier penetration, which is standing law today. Therefore the NRA's opposition wasn't aimed at defending any and all types of ammo as liberals claim, but rather ensuring that law-abiding citizens weren't turned into outlaws by an ignorant, gun hating, fear-fueled stroke of Bill Clinton's pen.

This is the sort of thing conservatives get mad at liberals for. This is a case of Democrats creating a horrible-sounding label ("cop-killer bullets"), falsely applying it to a legitimate thing to get it banned out of fear, then demonizing anyone who opposes the scam as horrible people because they must want cops to get killed. What's worse is the media that eats it up and regurgitates it back to an ignorant public who depends on said media for information to form reasoned opinions. Regardless of one's political ideology or position on guns, everyone should be upset that our legislators and media treat us like idiots and try to purposely manipulate us.


(8) comments

James Sampica

"Pretty much any common rifle round intended for hunting or target shooting will punch through soft body armor like Clinton's "knife through hot butter.""

I'm not sure I understood this correctly. It's the bullet doing all the puncturing right? And it's the bullet that democrats want to outlaw?

I don't understand how the rifles have to do with this. Do rifles shoot every bullet, no matter blunted or pointed, fast enough to puncture kevlar?

Maybe a hunter could explain.

Steve Gregg

This all started when one manufacturer made bullets coated with teflon to reduce wear inside the barrel of handguns. Liberals, being dumb as dirt about guns and things in general, fantasized that teflon bullets could slide through body armor and kill cops. In fact, the teflon has no such effect.

The hard facts are that body armor can stop most handgun bullets because they are powered by a smaller charge of gunpowder and fly at subsonic speeds. Body armore can not stop most rifle bullets which are powered by a larger charge of gunpowder which propels them at supersonic speeds. This is why handgun bullets pop and rifle bullets crack. That crack is a sonic boom.

It is the kinetic energy of the round which determines whether it will penetrate body armor, not its coating. Simply put, no handgun round is a cop killer bullet. Every rifle round is a cop killer bullet. To stop a rifle bullet, you need to wear a ballistic plate under your body armor.

David Jackson

Rifles inherently fire more streamlined projectiles faster while pistols fire more blunt projectiles slower. This is because they have two different jobs. Simply put; a rifle is to engage targets long range while a pistol is to engage targets at short range.

Most rifle rounds will penetrate the vests worn by most cops because the protection provided by the undershirt vests worn by most patrol and plain clothes officers is of a medium to low level protection. Most cops, even in large metropolitan areas, are not engaged in firefights on a day to day basis and thus must weigh protection against mobility. They are more likely to have to sprint after some teenager stealing condoms from a 7-11 than take a direct hit from a rifle round to the chest. Thus, instead of wearing 35lbs of armor capable of stopping high velocity rifle ammo they wear medium to light armor coming in at 5-10lbs only capable of stopping most semi-auto handgun rounds. Conversely, a US Soldier in Afghanistan wears armor that will stop shrapnel all around and has ceramic plates that will stop most high velocity rifle rounds if hit in the chest or back. They are more likely to get into a gun fight than have to chase down a kid shoplifting. Their assessment of protection vs. mobility is prioritized differently due to the environment they work in.

Where politics comes into play is certain politicians, mostly from the left, want to legislate based on the penetrating ability of certain vests. If your aim is to severely cripple private firearms ownership you pick the standard police vest and state anything that can go through it is a “cop killer” round. Even if this includes a plethora of ammo that is not manufactured to defeat body armor, like rifle rounds designed to defeat elk hide at 600 yards which inadvertently will defeat most light weight body armor at closer ranges. In reality bullets designed to defeat personal and vehicle armor; Armor Piercing (AP) rounds, have been illegal for civilian purchase and possession for most of their existence and are not something readily available on the black market let alone the legal market. These bullets have hardened steal or tungsten carbide cores in order to better penetrate armor. Hunting rounds, regardless of high velocity and streamlined designed, are designed mostly with copper and lead, with some more expensive combinations of metals, mostly with soft points, or even expanding hollow or ballistic points designed to penetrate only unarmored targets (game animals) for maximum terminal performance in hunting. Even full metal jacket rounds (where the copper fully encases the lead core) are not designed to be armor piercing.

Bottom line, if someone proposes a law that limits the sale of steel or tungsten core armor piercing ammo, they have somewhat of a point. If you have someone who wants to limit the sale of ammo “capable of piercing police body armor” you have an extremist politician using semantics to undermine our constitutional rights.

Jerrif R.

If the guns are banned, then it is normal to ban also the bullets. They can explode, if they aren't manufactured correctly injuring the person who is near a bullet. This is why the bullets as weapons as well are dangerous. A quality gun manufactured using quality firearm coating should be bought only by the Police and Army and use it only when it is necessary.

Ezra Steinbach

Making sure that police has quality equipment and is safe on the field is absolutely mandatory. A concealable body armor although it is so much safer and more comfortable than the alternatives, it's difficult to carry around, since a police officer has to stay on the field for long hours. Where you are in the armor-piercing rounds debate is a delicate issue that deserves a serious public debate.

junior ionut

The interesting thing is that deer hunting in Europe has been mainly a upper class activity, relatively only available to land owners and club members. In the US, it is an activity (necessity) in which any socioeconomic class can (must) partake. The King of England could kill you for hunting deer, if you were not of noble line. You can check out the deer hunting south carolina for more information about hunting in the US.

Mult umesc

Armor-piercing rifle and pistol cartridges are usually built around a penetrator of hardened steel, tungsten, or tungsten carbide, and such cartridges are often called 'hard-core bullets'. Aircraft and tank rounds sometimes use a core of depleted uranium. So any ammunition that meets those construction requirements and can be fired from a handgun is legally considered armor piercing. It is legal to buy and possess armor piercing ammunition in an ammo storage safe, but it is illegal to sell armor piercing ammunition. That means you can have it, but nobody can sell it to you.

Maverick Birkland

A news was published yesterday on a newspaper where they said that they found hunting bullets from the body of a black deer. This news made a big topic in the social media and sites like where they said it is prohibited theu the hunting of the black deer and it is illegal.

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