I’m shocked, SHOCKED, that the ATF made this determination

(With my best Capt. Renault impression).

So, the ATF went and sent a letter (PDF link) to the manufacturer of Can Cannons that said their product was not a firearm, but that attaching it to a rifle receiver made the rifle a Short-Barreled-Rifle, or attaching it to a pistol receiver made the pistol an AOW. Cue Internet Rage(TM).

As you might have gathered, I’m not at all surprised by this determination. This device does not, after all, stop the receiver from being a “firearm,” being basically a variation on a blank-firing-adapter. And it’s shorter than 16″ (short-barreled), and a smoothbore (AOW for pistol). This is a consequence of the Can Cannon being a accessory to what is legally a firearm. If they had instead built it as a complete unit, completely unable to fire conventional ammo, things might be different. As it is, though, an AR-15 doesn’t stop being a firearm when you mount a Can Cannon on it.

This is just another reminder of how mind-numbingly stupid the patch to NFA’34 to allow handguns, but still effectively ban anything that could be considered a handgun but isn’t actually a handgun. (That sentence hurt just as much to write as it does to read, I assure you, but was the only way I could express how I understand the history of the Act.)

On the other hand, I am a little surprised they didn’t just rule the assembled weapon as a Destructive Device (that bore is way bigger that 0.50″)


EDIT: The ATF Determination Letter

11 Responses to “I’m shocked, SHOCKED, that the ATF made this determination”

  1. Alpheus says:

    And let’s not forget (if I recall correctly) the difference between a pistol and a rifle: if you put a pistol barrel on the receiver first, the receiver is forever a pistol; if you put a rifle barrel on it, it is forever a rifle. Any time after that, if you accidentally mix up barrels, it is a conversion, and you are a felon, and obviously have a black heart and only want to do evil.

    Admittedly, I may be off on what the law currently is, but this is my understanding of it.

    (Oh, and you don’t really have to do that accidentally. You could do it on purpose, too, but that isn’t any less evil, either way.)

    • Ian Argent says:

      It’s even more confusing than that. There’s a niche market in “carbine uppers” for pistols, where you replace the slide assembly with one that has a longer barrel and a shoulder stock. For the one-piece units, it is apparently perfectly legal to remove the pistol-sized slide assembly and then replace it with the single-unit barrel/stock assembly. If, instead, you have a 2-piece kit, where the stick is attached separately, you have to remove the pistol-length barrel, attach the rifle-length barrel, and THEN attach the stock. If you do it the other way you pass through SBR territory on the way, and there are ATF agents there.

      Not to mention all the ways to get crossways of the law with an AR-15 receiver.

      • Weer'd Beard says:

        And there’s the “Constructive Possession” if you in fact have a pistol that has both attachment for a longer barrel AND for a shoulder stock, and possess the pistol-length barrel AND the shoulder stock. Even if you have never placed the two together, and never intend to, you technically have an SBR.

        Of course this does NOT apply to the fact that I own long guns AND a hacksaw.

        NFA just needs to go.

        • Ian Argent says:

          I thought they actually lost that case – where some guy had 2 pistols, one of which was registered as an SBR, one shoulder stock and one longer barrel. Out in Seattle, I want to say, around 10-15 years ago?

  2. lucusloc says:

    I thought the issue was not the can barrel, but the vent barrel. The can barrel is effectively an oversize muzzle device on a 2 or 3 inch barrel. Never mind that the real barrel has a built in obstruction and would disassemble itself in a rather spectacular way if real ammo were used.

    Anyone know what the actual ATF argument is?

  3. AnOregonian says:

    “On the other hand, I am a little surprised they didn’t just rule the assembled weapon as a Destructive Device (that bore is way bigger that 0.50″)”

    That’s taken a me a little while to figure out as well, until I realized that the tube isn’t the barrel. Additionally it can’t count towards the barrel length as it’s not permanently attached.

    The barrel is the part with the special gas ports. From what I understand the letter to be saying is that they need to at a minimum modify it so that there isn’t a removable set screw which when removed allows live ammo to be chambered. Presumably that would mollify the ATF enough that they’ll let us have it under the same mind-set as how they let us have powder actuated tools.

  4. Ian Argent says:

    And, now that I’ve read the thing, it sounds like they can avoid the AoW-on-a-pistol issue by rifling the actual barrel (which would be a cosmetic change, since there is no bullet to engage the rifling); or avoid both issues by ensuring there is no possibility of being able to chamber or fire a live round. Though I’m not entirely sure the second part (avoiding SBR) is actually spelled out so much as implied.

    It’s still not the AFT being independently capricious so much as the ATF interpreting a capricious statute as best they can. It looks like the ATF saw the unit as a really short smooth-bore barrel with the world’s biggest small-arms flash suppressor attached to the front end. I’d say that’s not an unreasonable determination, given the law itself is unreasonable.

    • AnOregonian says:

      The thing is that unreasonable law allows them to make ‘reasonable’ determinations about things such as powder-actuated tools, yet they have chosen not to. They could have easily applied that same thinking in this case, instead they chose to be malicious.

  5. Ygolonac says:

    I’m not all that surprised at it getting bagged, but that it didn’t receive a DD classification. Someone on one forum I read has a 37mm Federal “gas gun”, and he was informed by ATF that launching baton rounds (or the “marital aids” he was planning to use – yes, we’re stupidly immature sometimes) would catch an “unregistered DD” charge.