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Can My Choice of Ammo Land Me in a Pennsylvania Jail Cell?

One of the cool things about coming to our U.S. LawShield seminars is we do a series of what we call Myth Busters, and that has to do with commonly held notions that are just quite frankly ridiculous and have no basis in the law. A lot of that has to do with ammunition. There are so many whack-a-do ideas about ammunition and their possession when it comes to Pennsylvania law that I’m just going to make it really simple in this video.

Civil Liability

One of the questions that we get all the time is, “What happens if I’m in a critical incident and I use hollow point ammunition? Can the prosecutor make an argument with that?” Well, yeah, of course, they can. They can make any argument that they want, with some restriction, but it’s going to be a pretty silly one, right? The idea of hollow point is expansion and controlled chaos, meaning that you’re not going to over-penetrate like a Full Metal Jacket round so it’s actually safer. In Pennsylvania, there is no law against carrying hollow points.


And the other question that we get is about handloading. It doesn’t matter. You can supercharge +P your rounds. Instead of your three grain of Titegroup, you can make it 3.5. Under Pennsylvania law they can make an argument, but first off, that would be very difficult for them to prove and that comes from an uneducated point of view. A lot of prosecutors have never held a gun—never fired a gun. Or if they have, it’s like one time ever.

Armor Piercing Rounds

Under federal law, it’s illegal to manufacture, import or sell armor-piercing rounds, unless it’s for the Department of State or for testing by the Attorney General, or for exporting (of course, with a license).

State Restrictions

Under Pennsylvania law it’s illegal to use what is called KTW Teflon-coated or other armor-piercing rounds when committing a crime of violence. Committing a crime of violence would be like robbing a bank, or murdering. It basically gets in a world of additional trouble.

The Bottom Line

The type of ammo does not change your justification analysis whatsoever. It still falls back to the totality of the circumstances. Is it reasonable for you to believe, at the time that you make the decision to use lethal force that you’re in imminent fear of serious bodily injury, death, kidnapping, or sexual assault? If you are and the answer is yes, then the types of rounds you use and the caliber—then you can use a 50 BMG—lethal deadly force is lethal deadly force. That doesn’t go into the analysis in terms of justification.

And yet prosecutors can make, and I’ve heard them make all sorts of silly arguments, but that’s why having an experienced criminal defense attorney can make all the difference in the world.

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