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Bullet Control: What Types of Ammunition Are Illegal?

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

Gun control laws are a controversial topic that generally focus on the possession and sale of the guns themselves. But what about the bullets the guns fire? Proponents for stricter gun control laws also support regulating the types of ammunition available to the public, as well as who can sell and purchase ammunition. The idea of bullet control has been around since at least Chris Rock explained his solution to the gun violence problem (WARNING: linked video contains Adult Language).

Across the United States, each state is free to regulate guns and ammunition, as long as they don't run afoul of federal laws and the Second Amendment. Certain types of ammunition have been made illegal by several states as these types are seen as having no "sporting" value.

What Bullets Are Actually Illegal?

One type of bullet that over 20 states have outright prohibitions against are "armor piercing" bullets. These are even illegal in Texas. The states that have banned these types of bullets recognize that no "sport" hunter or marksmen needs to pierce armor. The only people that need bullets that pierce armor are members of the military. Armor piercing bullets are commonly regarded as only having the purpose of killing police officers.

Certain states, such as California and Connecticut, also ban the sale, purchase, or possession of "large caliber" ammunition. Even more states have a ban on "exploding" ammunition. While some types of bullets are self explanatory based on their names, other prohibited types of ammunition require some explanation. Apart from regulating bullets, states are taking aggressive measures to control things like magazine size.

A Bullet by Any Other Name...

Besides the armor piercing bullets mentioned above, the following types are also illegal:

  • Flechette bullets, illegal in California, Florida, and Illinois, shoot two or more metal wires or dart-style bullets.
  • Dragon's breath, illegal in Florida, Illinois, and Iowa, is a type of ammunition for shot guns that shoots out sparks and flames up to about 100 feet or further.
  • Bolo ammunition, illegal in Florida and Illinois, consists of two or more projectiles connected by a wire, which when fired can wrap around the target.
  • Hollow nose or dum-dum ammunition, illegal in New Jersey, is designed to expand on impact.

While this list is not exhaustive, you should be aware that local ordinances may also prohibit these or other types of ammunition from being possessed, sold, bought, or used. Additionally, local ordinances can also require vendors to keep records of all bullet sales.

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