Well, that’s going to make conducting our planned M203 class hard impossible. The ATF, pushing the limits of what can be done with a stroke of the pen, is declaring previously approved illumination and training-practice rounds (the orange chalk marking rounds) to be “explosives”. They’re following this up with trips out to individuals to confiscate the ammunition for their approved, stamped Destructive Device 40mm launchers, unless the owner happens to have an explosives license and an ATF-approved bunker.

M992 IR round

Ammunition they have confirmed they are confiscating is M992 infrared illumination and the M781 training practice round (seen below on the range, as featured in a WeaponsMan.com story last year).

m203 Firing

The practice round has a plastic shell and contains a day-glow orange (and naturally degradable, environmentally friendly, even) chalk filling. It’s supposed to be a ballistic match for the HEDP round.

Here are some comments from an Arfcom thread on the subject. The original post:

Apparently the 40mm M992 IR flares are considered to be a explosive round. This is news to me. They got my name from the dealer I purchased them from, apparently they didn’t know either. Any one have any info on this. I’ve been googling it for a couple of hours now and can’t find anything.

He left his card on my front door. He said he was going to bring a copy of the explosives tech branch ruling.

The follow-up after the ATF visit, emphasis ours:

Ok so a update. The agent that showed up was an actual bomb tech. I surrendered the rounds under protest per the advice of a attorney. The bomb tech was a really cool guy. He agreed that it was pretty stupid and he hated to do it but he was being forced to help out with the case. He did also tell me that they had sent him out to take 40mm chalk rounds under the same case. I walked out to the truck with him and watched him place the rounds in the explosive magazine in his truck. When I told him I was surrendering the rounds under protest he looked at me and said “good I hope you can fight it and get them back because this whole situation is stupid.” I’m not sure if I will go to court over it or not. I’m not out enough money for it to be a big deal but it’s an issue that has me concerned. I know there are not enough people out there with registered DD M203’s for this case to ever become a big deal but it is really shitty that as far as I can tell all 40mm rounds are considered to be Low Explosives and can not be owned unless you have a explosive licence.

Note that the “explosives tech branch ruling” has not been furnished, although this letter is circulating. It was addressed to the original Arfcom poster’s dealer, the one that had sold him the rounds.

40mm M992 Confiscation Letter.pdf

And, a comment in the same Arfcom thread by a different user:

I just contacted my Senator and OMB concerning this. My Senator is very concerned and OMB’s response was interesting in that they say ATF is citing one section of law while ignoring others that define what makes a DD. OMB believes that ATF may be outside of the law on this and will be contacting my Senator tomorrow. After a nice discussion with an investigator there, it appears ATF is fudging the language of the applied section of code to make a determination to allow them to confiscate. The investigator with OMB believes that this may warrant action against FTB in BATFE. We shall see what happens if anything. But there is absolutely no doubt that BATFE is deliberately incorrectly interpreting the section of code and is pursuing illegal action.

Meanwhile, another user’s comments show that ATF’s capricious volte face on this ammo is having the desired chilling effect:

This is some terrible news. I just got my 40mm LMT launcher approved last month and have been looking forward to getting chalk rounds and illumination. I guess I will have to wait and see what happens next. Total bummer.

Our friends inside ATF say that the initiative was conceived and planned in the Chief Counsel’s Office. That way, managers have explained to the rank and file, they won’t have to answer questions to the public, press or Congress “because everything is under lawyer-client privilege.” They seemed to split on whether Acting Director Thomas Brandon initiated this policy or merely signed off on it. “It wasn’t his idea,” one told us flatly. “He’s not that bright. It came from the lawyers, or from DOJ through the lawyers.”

The Chief Counsel’s Office is in an unusual position in the ATF org chart, coequal on the chart (but more powerful in practice) than the Chief of Staff, and superior to the Deputy Director/Chief Operating Officer.

This entry was posted in Ammunition, Lord Love a Duck, Support Weapons on by Hognose.

About Hognose

Former Special Forces 11B2S, later 18B, weapons man. (Also served in intelligence and operations jobs in SF).

15 thoughts on “ATF Shadow-Bans 40mm Practice Ammunition


Slice by slice, until you’re as disarmed as everyone else on the planet. Say, that illumination round looks kind of long…is that the upper limit of the M203, or is it designed for those funky HK launchers that swing out sideways? Ah well, some clever dog somewhere will develop a workaround and make their own GL, for launching cans, entertainment, for the purpose of.

Hognose Post author

Already done. X Products Can Cannon. It’s an upper for an AR and works on M200 blank (5.56).

Mr. AR10

Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.


Nobody except Congress can make law in America. Feel free to completely disregard any non-Congressional Laws.

Hognose Post author

Feel free to completely disregard legal advice from anyone who is not only not A lawyer, but specifically not YOUR lawyer.

How do you know if he’s your lawyer? He charges you money.

While we’d probably love to have a Nondelegation Clause that was not a dead letter, the world is built on case law, and that says that Congress can (and happily does) delegate its powers to agencies, and the Courts can (and merrily do) give near-absolute deference to the supposed expertise of those agencies.

You don’t have to LIKE the real world, but you DO have to live in it.


I will disregard the law then:) Just like Congress and POTUS. Done:)


For anyone to pass an illegal law and then have other people turn around and claim they are obeying the law is disingenuous at best. Let’s try it out:

Congress passes a law stating that they can walk into anyone’s home at any time and take anything they want and nobody can do anything about. The next day a member of Congress does just that. Your side screams the Congressperson obeyed the law.

If I have to point out how incredibly stupid you now are. It is people like you that got us into this position with the government.

An illegal law is an illegal law. This is our world and people like you have done everything you could to bring it about. We DONT have to live in it and we can change it. But with people like you around…or Boehner or McConnel…you do your best to keep the status quo dont you?:)

Mr. AR10

U mad bro?


Thanks for stopping by!


This’ll be a hard fight in that John Q. Public will hear only “grenade”, freak out and agree. This sounds like a nose thumbing at their failed M855 push though.


I know there has been some talk of abolishing the ATF and reassigning many of its duties to the FBI.

In your opinion would such a reorganization help or hurt with the kind of bureaucratic B.S. we see from the ATF?


They do not fear you. Just like WM’s loser governor who continues to seek disarment. Aunti mags doesn’t want .mil to be able to defend themselves and still no right to carry. The local NE batfag office was/is in Portland Maine, in the same building as AAA -68 marginal way.


We’d better hurry up and develop modular fuses for those can-cannons; emphasising safety and reliability. Nothing worse than having biodegradable orange chalk all over your tux. Piezoelectric with setback & timer?