Hello, and thank you for asking a very interesting question.
I have addressed, below, the three parts to your question:
--when were armor piercing bullets first made
--what company made them
--why did the government ban the manufacture of this type of ammunition
I hope the answer completely meets your needs. However, if you find
anything here is unclear -- or if your would like additional
information -- don't hesitate to post a Request for Clarification, and
I'll be happy to assist you further.
As is the case with many technological developments, there is no
clear-cut "first" armor-piercing bullet. Ammunition manufacturers
have always been altering the design of bullets to adjust the speed,
penetrating ability and type of damage the bullet can cause. However,
armor-piercing bullets began being referred to as ?cop killers? in the
late 1970's, due to their ability to pierce most types of soft body
armor, and by the early 1980's numerous attempts to legislate such
ammunition were already being drafted.
According to an article on ?cop killer? bullets that ran in the May
11, 1982 Christian Science Monitor newspaper, and titled ?Legislation
sought to curtail use of armor-piercing bullets?, the Winchester
International Corporation had been manufacturing armor-piercing
bullets at least as far back as the Prohibition days of Al Capone and
?Winchester International in late February stopped manufacturing
armor-piercing bullets which it had produced since the days of
gangland warfare in the 1930s.?
However, the bullet ? and manufacturer ? that garnered the most
attention and infamy during the political controversy that ensued was
the KTW bullet made by North American Ordinance, and also described in
the Christian Science Monitor article:
?The most powerful of...armor-piercing bullets is the KTW, which is
coated with Teflon. North American Ordnance of Pontiac, Mich., bought
exclusive rights to KTW in 1980 from its three Lorain, Ohio,
inventors. In recent tests the apple-green bullet went through 72
layers of Kevlar, the material in most bulletproof vests. The most
popular weight in police vests is 18 layers of Kevlar.?
An online discussion group focused on guns has a bit of history of KTW:
?KTW stands for the initials of the last names of the three men who
came up with the round, Dr. Paul J. Kopsch, Dan Turcus, and Don Ward.
All three were from Lorain, OH, and in the late 1960's saw a need for
pistol ammunition that would enable police to engage suspects inside
motor vehicles; much conventional handgun ammunition, especially at
that time, would not penetrate the car's steel body. In 1968, they
created KTW, Inc., and began marketing the ammo, and by 1979 had sold
over 232,000 rounds. In 1980 they entered into a marketing agreement
with North American Ordnance Corp. (NAOC) to make and sell their
ammunition. At all times KTW (and NAOC) had a policy of only selling
the ammo to police officers, or departments, or overseas.?
The text of one of the Congressional Hearings held in 1983 to address
the issues of armor-piercing ammunition is posted on a website that
focuses on gun-related issues:
Congressman Biaggi, the Chair of the hearing, and himself a former
polic officer, had this to say by way of introduction:
?...These bullets, which are specially made to retain their shape on
impact, come in various calibers, including the .38 special, 9mm and
.357 magnum. Let me emphasize that these armor-piercing bullets are
significantly different from most handgun ammunition. Generally, the
armor-piercing ammunition is made of hard metals, usually brass or an
iron compound, and they travel at exceptionally high speeds. The more
conventional handgun bullets are slower and they flatten out on impact
due to their hollow point and/or soft metal composition, most notably
?Let me add that the Teflon coating is unique to the KTW bullet, which
is manufactured and sold by North American Ordnance Corporation, a
Pontiac, Michigan-based company. According to various test data, the
Teflon coating, which is apple green in color, increases the bullet's
penetration equability by approximately 20 percent.?
The Congressman also elaborated on why he felt ammunition of this type
needed to be regulated:
?Ironically, the KTW and other metal-piercing handgun ammunition was
originally designed to help police. However, police departments have
determined these bullets are too powerful for any type of "safe" law
enforcement use. According to James P. Damos, President of the
International Association of Chiefs of Police, "We can find no
legitimate use for such (armor-piercing) ammunition, either in or out
of law enforcement."
?...Another added danger posed by these armor-piercing bullets is
their increased ricochet effect. Although designed for maximum
penetration, when striking an object at certain angles, these bullets
have been found to pose greater ricochet hazards than the more
conventional ammunition that flattens out on impact. Further, these
metal-piercing bullets have a relatively low "stopping power," which
simply refers to a bullet's ability to disable or literally knock down
the person they strike. As a former police officer, I can state from
first-hand experience that no officer in a life-threatening situation
wants to be armed with metal-piercing ammunition. It simply does not
have the ability to "stop" a criminal.?
?...How readily available are these "cop killer bullets?" Shockingly,
there is no law of any type restricting the manufacture, importation,
or the sale of KTW bullets, or other armor-piercing ammunition. To
make matters worse, this ammunition is distributed through local gun
dealers, which makes it virtually impossible to monitor who is buying
?...Some have wondered why there is such an urgent need for a
prohibition on armor-piercing handgun ammunition now, rather than when
it was first invented many years ago. The answer is really quite
simple. The soft body armor that is worn today by more than 50 percent
of all law enforcement personnel was not even invented until the
mid-1970's, and was not used in any significant numbers until the last
few years. As a result, the idea of criminals having access to
armor-piercing handgun ammunition did not concern police any more than
criminals having access to other more conventional types of
ammunition. No longer is that the case. Now the law enforcement
community is leading the effort to outlaw handgun ammunition being
specially made to pierce body armor...? They recognize that soft body
armor was designed specifically to stop the handgun bullets that
killed 792 police officers between 1971 and 1980.?
Paul Kopsch, one of the developers of the KTW ammunition, also spoke
at the hearing and offered some background on the development of the
?I am Dr. Paul J. Kopsch of Lorain, Ohio, and am the "K" in KTW....You
have been told that our armor-piercing ammunition is recent origin and
represents a mortal hazard to honest people. The truth is somewhat
different, and I would like to summarize the first 10 years of KTW. We
began marketing our ammunition in 1968... From the inception, we have
limited sales to police and military users. The first report on the
startling efficiency of our ammunition appeared in the ARA Bulletin
for July 1968. Up until 1979, 24 articles about our ammunition
appeared in such journals of police interest as Law & Order, Police
Chief, Police Product News, and the American Journal of Clinical
Pathology. Our policy has been inflexible from the beginning, that
there are to be no sales to civilians....?
The President of North American Ordinance also testified, and added to
the history of KTW:
?In early 1980, North American Ordnance Corp. executed an agreement
with KTW, Inc., for the exclusive, worldwide rights to manufacture and
distribute KTW ammunition. Part of that agreement limits the sale of
KTW ammunition to police, military, and U.S. State Department approved
governments, hence the "Police Use Only" designation. Since taking
over KTW, North American Ordnance Corp. has consistently made every
effort to maintain the distribution of KTW ammunition within this
He also sheds some light on the origin of the media controversy
surrounding this ammunition:
?...In November of 1981, I received a telephone call from the Los
Angeles Times. A gentleman identified himself as a reporter by the
name of Bilitter, who was writing a story regarding KTW ammunition. He
indicated he was investigating the complaints of a Mr. Arthur Kassel,
director of the California Narcotics Authority. Mr. Billiter informed
me that Mr. Kassel was an ex-FBI agent, and that he was working
closely with the DEA in California...?
So, to summarize:
?When were armor-piercing bullets first made?
They have been in use at least as far back as the 1930's. The modern
version of the bullet that became surrounded in controversy was first
marketed in 1968.
?What company made them?
Winchester International made the bullets in the 1930's. KTW Inc,
developed the high-impact, Teflon-coated bullets in 1968, and later
sold their business to North American Ordinance in 1980.
?Why were they banned?
They were deemed to be particularly useful to criminals for shooting
through recently-made-available police body armor, without providing
any compensating benefits for more legitimate uses. Both law
enforcement agencies and hunters found the bullets to be of very
limited use, as their penetration power prevented effective control of
where the bullet went after it passed through its target.
Again, I hope this is the information you need, but let me know if I
can be of further assistance.
search strategy: searched Google and newspaper databases for ?armor
piercing bullets? OR ?armour piercing bullets? OR ?cop killers?