ATF Offically Pulls plug on surplus 5.45x39mm 7N6 ammo

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Throughout March, there were rumblings in the online gun community about 5.45x39mm ammo being banned for importation for one reason or another.

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The ammo, used in the Soviet AK-74 then widely imported as a cheap plinking and low-cost hunting round (comparable to the .223 Remington), was around at bargain prices after the end of the Cold War. The price was so low in fact, that many wound up buying guns chambered in that round just because the cost of feeding it would be on the cheap.

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At first, no one really had the lowdown on the situation. It was rumor, it was conjecture, and it was legend. Then, as retailers, then wholesalers, then importers started to run low or out of stock of the more common green military surplus (so-called 7N6 rounds due to their head stamps) ammo, some started to call their Congressmen and the NRA to see what the deal was.

Arizona Congressman Matt Salmon (R-AZ) wrote a letter to the ATF Director on March 31 asking what the holdup was with the ammo. In the letter, he asked:

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"I respectfully request that the BATFE provide my office with an answer to the question of whether or not the "7N6" offering of the 5.45x39mm cartridge has been or will be banned or otherwise restricted from import to the United States. Should you confirm that the "7N6" offering of the 5.45x39mm cartridge has banned or otherwise restricted from import to the United States, I ask that you provide my office with a detailed statement as to why the BATFE has elected to do so and under what authority it has elected to take such action."

Well, the ATF fired back on Monday, April 7; they did so in a public announcement on the ammo in question. It seemed that on March 5, Customs agents supplied ATF with a stock of "7N6" for testing against the Gun Control Act of 1968's classification of armor piercing rounds.

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They did indeed test it with the following announcement after the conclusion of the examination from the Technical Bureau:

"When ATF tested the 7N6 samples provided by CBP, they were found to contain a steel core. ATF's analysis also concluded that the ammunition could be used in a commercially available handgun, the Fabryka Bronie Radom, Model Onyks 89S, 5.45x39 caliber semi-automatic pistol, which was approved for importation into the United States in November 2011. Accordingly, the ammunition is "armor piercing" under the section 921(a)(17)(B)(i) and is therefore not importable. ATF's determination applies only to the Russian-made 7N6 ammunition analyzed, not to all 5.45x39 ammunition. Ammunition of that caliber using projectiles without a steel core would have to be independently examined to determine their importability."

Now the thing is, this ammo has always been the same ammo since Day 1 and nothing has changed about it. It does have a steel core, at least by the ATFs definition of reading the GCA of 1968. Now there isn't anything wrong with this as long as there isn't a pistol that shoots it, which would somehow be the end of the world.
However, since there is now the Polish-made Radom Onyks 89S pistol out there, chambered in 5.45x39, and it can fire 7N6, the stuff now has to go.

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Here is the Onyks 89S, and as far as we can tell, it isn't even imported by anyone in the US.

Therefore, it would seem that, at least for now, one of the most commonly imported 5.45x39mm rounds on the market...isn't.

Of course, as the ATF themselves stated, it's not all 5.45x39, just the evil steel core 7N6 blend, so do not immediately freak out if you have an AK-74 model. Nevertheless, you may want to get involved.

If you have feelings about this one way or another, you may want to talk to your local reps in Congress about it.

Watch this space for more news as we get it.

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April 10, 2014  •  12:35 PM
Sorry but the so-called Onyks 89S "pistol" which you pictured is in fact a Short-Barreled Rifle (SBR)....hence the folding stock.

If having a platform available as a pistol redefines the classification of "armor-piercing" ammunition, then what is the rationalization for other rifle calibers ammunition in legitimate AP configuration (ie;5.56 & 7.62x39) not being similarly classified? There are definitely "pistols" manufacturered in each of those calibers.
April 11, 2014  •  07:54 PM
Great article Christopher, and excellent point Armor-Hyde.

This whole thing is fishier than a dolphin's digestive tract. Plain and simple.
April 13, 2014  •  02:08 PM

The same thing happened to 7.62x39, 'pistols' were imported and they shut down the surplus steel core stuff.

I also don't think that's a wise question...

"If we can't have this, why haven't you taken this away too?

"ok, you can't have that either"