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ATF Ruling on Airsoft Replicas

John Richardson points to a copy of an ATF ruling on Airsoft replicas, which has since disappeared. The end result may be kind of absurd, but the fact is, if you can pop out the Airsoft bits, pop in an AR-15 or M16 trigger group, throw on a real AR-15 upper and bolt assembly, and get the thing to go bang, the Airsoft receiver is by law a firearm, and if it goes full auto, then the receiver is also a machinegun. The law regulates firearms or receivers of firearms. An AR-15 lower does not undergo all that much mechanical stress. Most of that is in the upper receiver. It would be perfectly safe to fire an AR-15 with a pot metal lower receiver. Might not stand up to abuse, but you’ll be able to use it.

So I don’t think this is really something ATF deserved to be mocked over. It sounds as if some of these Airsoft replicas are indeed close enough to AR-15/M16 receivers to function as such. The law might be absurd, but that’s Congress’ fault, not ATFs.

24 Responses to “ATF Ruling on Airsoft Replicas”

  1. Skullz says:

    “if you can pop out the Airsoft bits, pop in an AR-15 or M16 trigger group, throw on a real AR-15 upper and bolt assembly, and get the thing to go bang, the Airsoft receiver is by law a firearm, ”

    So if I can pop out the guts of my Cross pen, replace it with a few parts and a spring loaded pin I could make an AOW – by your logic, many pens should be regulated by the ATF.

    If I add certain things to the schedule 40 pipe I have, it becomes a DD – by your logic, plumbing supplies should be regulated by the ATF.

    “It would be perfectly safe to fire an AR-15 with a pot metal lower receiver.”

    Maybe so – but if you truly believe that you can replace the parts in an Airsoft replica M4 and safely fire it, I’ll lend you mine if you’re willing to absolve me of any and all injuries that may happen and let me video the event.

    Yes – the ATF should be mocked, at every opportunity, for overstepping their bounds and doing stupid things.

  2. Mobo says:

    No, congress should be mocked in this case.

  3. divemedic says:

    If adding and replacing a dozen or more parts makes an object into a regulatable machine gun, then almost any object is illegal. Which is why we get stupid rulings like the famous declaration by the ATF that a shoestring is a machine gun.

    Let’s face it: gun laws do not work to control crime, and result in silly prosecutions that do nothing to control criminals and infringe upon the rights of honest citizens. If this ruling stands, then everyone who owns one of these toys is now a felon who is facing 5 years in club fed.

  4. Sebastian says:

    Well, technically speaking, the receiver is the only regulated part. Each firearm has one part that ATF considers “the gun” for the purposes of regulation. It’s the lower for an AR-15/M16. So if someone is making lowers that take AR-15/M16 parts and make a functioning firearm, then they are manufacturing without a license.

    Not saying I don’t agree about all this being ridiculous, but it’s the making of Congress.

  5. Mike Vanderboegh says:

    I’m just curious, Sebastian. Is there ANYTHING you won’t apologize for?

  6. karrde says:

    Mike:

    is he apologizing, or explaining?

  7. Ian Argent says:

    Blame here goes primarily to congress; for writing a stupid law. BATFE is the ones following the law. Of course it isn’t a machine gun in any way but the way the law was contrived. BATFE was being overzealous, but not (quite) illegal.

    OTOH, the idiots in Customs who handed it off to BATFE in the first place are worth a fair amount of scorn as well.

  8. Reed says:

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I was under the impression that you had to do more than just “pop out the airsoft bits, pop in an AR-15 or M16 trigger group, throw on a real AR-15 upper and bolt assembly” and that you had to do some machining operations of some sort to get to that point. If so, the person making the modifications is the one manufacturing without a license. Otherwise one could make all sorts of arguments that people shouldn’t be allowed to make/sell almost anything.

  9. Sebastian says:

    I won’t apologize for your welfare check. How about that?

  10. Ian Argent says:

    Well, the BATFE can be blamed for their “flexible” definition of “readily” convertible…

  11. Jon says:

    Well done Sebastian – since you logically can’t address the question of your apologia instincts, instead you retort with inaccurate ad hominem attacks. Ego check man, use some independent reasoning before responding, I know it’s hard but if you started actually thinking before responding (or even reasoning before posting) maybe you wouldn’t be junked so easily.

    “Welfare check” – lies, distortions and smears are your special forte aren’t they?

  12. Sebastian says:

    Jon:

    Pot… meet kettle.

  13. Some Texan says:

    The thing the ATF should be mocked over is regulating AR lowers.

    I’ve got a PILE of parts kit LOWERS of many other kinds of animals that could be made to run automagical that are slowly turning into semi-conversions (with ATF letters), they regulate the UPPERS. See MG-42, BREN, Suomi, etc. Fire control groups and their mount points, in the case of MOST FIREARMS, are not considered firearms. They consider the part the bolt rides in the firearm…Except stoner rifles, and then sears are regulated items.

    ATF has been and always will be capricious.

    The ONLY straight answer I ever have gotten from FTB in over 20 years is “Some things we don’t like to write down because people find loopholes, so we leave that up to compliance officers to exercise their individual discretion.

  14. Sebastian says:

    I think the point you’re brining up, Texan, is a legitimate beef with ATF. My point was that a lot of the silliness they deal with is a creation of Congress rather than the agency charged with enforcing the silliness. Much of the machine gun nonsense is based on how Congress has stupidly chosen to regulate them. But I did not mean to imply that ATF is a sound regulator in all regards. As regulatory agencies go, they suck pretty hard.

  15. hypnagogue says:

    Sebastian, you’ve sadly missed the whole point of this issue: the ATF admitted that they had to 1) remove material, 2) install a trigger group in those new holes, and 3) get it to marry with the upper. ATF performed all of the critical steps of manufacturing, and in doing so violated due process: the government doesn’t get to construct evidence.

    If that is the definition of a firearm, then any foot long length of 2×4 is also a firearm, since anyone with a drill press could follow those same steps to install an AR-15 trigger group in a block of wood and attach it to an AR-15 upper.

    This wasn’t Congress’ fault (amazingly enough), it was 100% ATF. You want to carry their water? Fine. But they were wrong, and now so are you.

  16. Ian Argent says:

    Ball is still in congress’s court, since they didn’t define “readily convertible”; with a lot of blame slopping over to BATFE for not having a definable standard.

    Also; the whole concept of the “serial numbered” part *is* the firearm for the purposes of the law is a bad one. It runs up against a philosophical problem that I forget the name of. I usually think of it as the axe of my grandfathers problem from how it is described in one of the Discworld novels.

    Law has not kept up with technology, basically. In the sense that this needs to be fixed, that’s congress’s lookout.

  17. Some Texan says:

    The main reason they regulate AR/M lowers, instead of uppers, is because the originals were all serial numbered on the lowers…so it was easier, but it was contradictory to their definition of a firearm. People HAVE made AR/M lowers out of both wood and plastic, just for the hell of it. because it’s not a structural part, therefore it’s not a “frame or receiver”…

    MG conversion I just finished, by ATF letter is serial numbered on the UPPER. The part the controls the actual bits that go bang. And that’s ATF’s fault and the above quote, honestly, is the ONLY straight answer I ever got from an agent, and my jaw almost fell to the floor when she basically admitted “we like to be able to make stuff up as they go along.”

  18. Mike Vanderboegh says:

    So, Sebastian, how much “welfare” do you get from the NRA for carrying their Internet water?

    PS I don’t get “welfare,” although I qualify. I do get SSD, which is my tax dollars of 40 years back to me. Jealous because you’ll never see a dime of yours?

  19. AM says:

    Cav arms (RIP) lowers were polymer. Not a whole lot of stress on the lower receiver.

    However, given that the ATF had to drill to put in the AR-15 trigger group, that brings up the need to define “readily convertible”.

    Because anyone with a milling machine can “readily convert” a block of aluminum (or plastic) into an AR lower receiver.

    I think that “readily converted” means “without using power tools”. Because if you need power tools to do the “conversion”, what you are really doing is “manufacturing”.

  20. Sebastian says:

    ATF’s big problem is they like to do everything by rulings, rather than by regulation. The reason they do that is because you can change rulings at a whim, whereas regulations are controlled by the Administrative Procedures Act, and are subject to considerably more scrutiny should the agency decide to change them.

    What constitutes “readily restorable” is one of those things ATF is completely arbitrary on. I don’t even think they have a ruling. My understanding is that if you want to sell an 80% receiver, you have to send it to them and they’ll make a determination as to whether it’s an evil firearms receiver, or an inert hunk of metal.

  21. Sebastian says:

    MV:

    It was a cheap shot, admittedly. This is an area I’ll gladly yield to your superior expertise and experience.

  22. 1894C says:

    Sebastian,

    I’m a bit surprised you defended such a ridiculous ruling. That you chose to ignore the fact that the ruling was so absurd that even the ATF was embarrassed by it enough to rescind it.

    Then you made fun of someone that is disabled…. shame on you Sir! Shame on you! Very disappointing that we get such bile coming out of someone who should be defending our rights in a public forum.

    “hypnagogue November 12th, 2010 at 1:50 pm” was spot on in my opinion.
    No 2nd Amendment supporter should concede such outrageous arguments made by abusers of our rights like the BATFE. And we must never excuse and apologize for those that trample our inalienable rights.

    I’m at a loss for what Sebastian was trying to accomplish here other than damaging his credibility in the pro 2nd Amendment community.

  23. Some Texan says:

    AM:

    Friend has a Mauser copy that was blacksmithed in Turkey around the 20s, by the best anybody can figure. Don’t reckon “requires machine tools” is a valid consideration on “readily restorable firearm”. I wouldn’t shoot it, just like I don’t shoot Damascus shotguns, but he didn’t have a machine shop. Tool marks on it show it to be the work of somebody without a machine shop that was a pretty good blacksmith.

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