As the Teflon-coated test bullet fired by a state police captain ripped easily through a Kevlar protective vest, Eleanor M. Carey formally launched her campaign today for Maryland attorney general, vowing to fight for laws to ban from the state armor-piercing ammunition and handguns known as Saturday night specials.

Speaking from a firing range here a few miles north of Baltimore, Carey said firearms restrictions will be a cornerstone of a broad-based campaign including tougher enforcement of drug laws, combating toxic pollution and assuring "health care, safe and livable housing, and mortgage-secured credit" for consumers.

She pledged to fight the National Rifle Association, an influential gun lobbying group that succeeded this year in getting Congress to weaken gun control legislation.

A deputy attorney general currently on unpaid leave and a longtime political ally of state Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs, the 44-year-old Carey is one of three candidates seeking the state's top law enforcement position in the Democratic primary Sept. 9. The other contenders are Lt. Gov. J. Joseph Curran Jr., 53, and former federal prosecutor Russell (Tim) Baker, 43. Former attorney general Francis (Bill) Burch, 67, dropped out of the race last week.

As television camera crews scrambled today for a better view of the battered yellow Kevlar protective vest, similar to ones worn by Maryland state troopers and other police, Carey said armor-piercing bullets and cheap handguns "have one purpose: to kill and maim."

She said the gun lobby, especially the NRA, is "unreasonable in its opposition to ridding Maryland of Saturday night specials and cop-killer bullets. It's time somebody took them on. I will."

An NRA spokesman in Washington said the organization is opposed to banning Saturday night specials because "there are no objective standards defining what they are." Also, he said, contrary to popular notions, "There is no proof that guns generally described as Saturday night specials are the preferred weapon of criminals."

As for armor-piercing ammunition, the spokesman said the NRA has taken no position on similar bills that have passed the House and Senate in Washington banning "willful" manufacture, sale or possession of such ammunition. It had opposed measures to make "unknowing" possession of the ammunition illegal.

As part of her drug program, Carey said, she would bring tax evasion cases against major drug dealers, advocate a statewide computer network to monitor suspected dealers and seek legislation to create a trust fund of assets seized from dealers. Half of the money from the trust fund, she said, would be used to expand drug enforcement training, and the other half would go to drug education programs.