How is an M14 legal?


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Father Knows Best
December 8, 2005, 07:30 AM
A local shop near me has an M14 for sale. It was supposedly used in high power competition by some guy whose name they expected me to recognize (obviously, I didn't). I looked at the receiver, and it indeed said M14, not M1A. There was a hole on the right rear and a cutout in the stock that I assume is for missing selector switch parts.

My question is -- how is this legal for civvies? Isn't the rule, "once a machine gun, always a machine gun", even if the full auto bits are removed?

Yes, I know that civvies can own full autos in most states with an NFA check, registration and tax stamp, but I asked -- this rifle is being sold as a plain old semi-auto. This shop is not a Class III SOT dealer, and the rifle is not NFA registered.

So can someone explain to me how this can be?

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grimlock
December 8, 2005, 08:17 AM
Maybe the dealer knows something we don't, but it sounds to me like a nice government-paid vacation waiting to happen.

3 gun
December 8, 2005, 08:28 AM
If I remember correctly "M1A" is trademarked by SA. It is possible that the rifle you saw is a semi auto rifle only. I know Fulton Armory marks their receivers M14, others may too.

Swampy
December 8, 2005, 08:30 AM
Father,

I'm betting that this is a true M14 rifle that was on "Loan Out" from some state rifle association to an NRA Highpower competitor. This was once very common practice and still goes on to some extent today (at least I know it's still possible to get a loan on one here where I live). I see state owned M14's on the line occasionally at Highpower events.

If the person who had the rifle died unexpectedly and the decedents relatives sold all his firearms, not knowing the true status of the State owned M14, I could see this rifle getting out into the marketplace. That does NOT however, change the fact that it is a State owned unregistered NFA weapon and can get whoever is caught with it in their posession a VERY long stay at "Striped Sunlight Hilton".

This is just a guess...... It could have been stolen or gotten away from it's true legally responsible "owner" in another fashion.

Just my thoughts

Best regards,
Swampy

Garands forever

Kaylee
December 8, 2005, 08:47 AM
There were also some torched M14s rewelded (by MKS, I think?) once upon a time. They removed the auto bits, but the ATF shut 'em down on the premise "once a machine gun, always a machine gun". I don't know how many they made, but there's certainly a few floating around.

Another possibility is as 3 gun said, it's just how that maker chooses to mark their receivers. What does the rest of it say?

ScottsGT
December 8, 2005, 09:57 AM
There were actually a few M14 that were given away to officials by the mfgrs. back in the '60's. BUT, each one came with a letter from the ATF declaring it legal.

And I know this is a fact, because I read it on the internet :D

Ares
December 8, 2005, 10:15 AM
I've seen older M1A's with holes in the stock that were plugged as well. Anyway the short answer of how it can be is that the rifle IS semi-auto. As others have mentioned many companies have made semi-auto "M14"'s in the past and currently that look exactly like the real deal. I seriously doubt the dealer would put a full auto up he couldn't legally sell, especially in plain view, and risk his livelihood not to mention his freedom.

Chipperman
December 8, 2005, 10:20 AM
"I seriously doubt the dealer would put a full auto up he couldn't legally sell, especially in plain view, and risk his livelihood not to mention his freedom."

Unfortunately, Ares, some dealers will do just that. Sometimes it is out of ignorance, and other times they know full well what they are doing is illegal. I'm not sure which is worse.

I've seen some scary things in shops.

spartacus2002
December 8, 2005, 10:20 AM
there are several M1A-clone manufacturers that labeled the receiver M14. I think they were LRB Arms, Federal Ordnance, and Smith Enterprises.

Take another look at the receiver and see who the manufacturer is. If it is TRW, H&R, Winchester, or Springfield Armory, it is most likely a real M14 or a reweld. In either case, I offer the following advice :

http://www.ids.org.au/~mdmsmith/images/notmine/run_forrest.jpg

Father Knows Best
December 8, 2005, 10:33 AM
This is a legitimate dealer whom I have known for years. He deals primarily in high quality and collectible firearms, and has a very nice business going. He buys a lot of great stuff at estate sales, and gets a lot more from the collections of deceased collectors through his contacts with attorneys, financial advisers, etc. He has an incredible collection of Colt SAA revolvers, many with unusual provenance and extensive documentation. It seems like whenever I'm hanging out and express an interest in something somewhat rare, he disappears into the back and comes out with a beautiful and often unfired example.

I don't believe for a minute that he would intentionally break the law, and I know that he is familiar with the law. He is not a Class III SOT dealer. It's just that he wasn't in the shop the day that I stopped by (an employee was), and it wasn't until I was out of the shop and driving home that I got to thinking about it. After all, I don't think I've ever seen a real M14 before. I intend to call him and ask him about it today.

I don't recall the manufacturer, but I know I looked and it was one of the military contractors. I think it was H&R, but it may also have said Springfield Armory on it. I just can't remember at this point.

Incidentally, the employee said that it had been marked $2500, but they were trying to sell off a lot of stuff by the end of the year and so had marked it down to $1800. It seemed to be in nice shape. I don't know much about M14's, but everything looked right. It was wearing a scope that I think was an older Bushnell Elite (an 8x, I think). Assuming it's legal, does it sound like a reasonable buy? I'd kind of like to have an M14 in my collection.

Ares
December 8, 2005, 10:39 AM
Did it actually say "M14" AND Springfield Armory? In which case it would likely be a real M14, which are NFA BTW even IF they have been converted to Semi-Auto. As far as the ATF is concerned once an auto always an auto. Unless they have been demilled (reciever cut etc so they are rendered unfirable) . Now if it looked like and M14 and it said "Springfield Armory Inc." on it then it's an M1A. Springfield Armory (in Mass.) isn't the same as the company "Springfield Armory Inc." in Illinois. As a side note I have often wondered how they get away with using both the name and the crossed cannon symbol of the real armory for their company. I know they make decent stuff but it just seems a little "wrong" to me.

TexasRifleman
December 8, 2005, 11:02 AM
I suppose with an 80% receiver you could make it say about anything you'd like. I see places selling unfinished "M14" receivers, so who knows.

As mentioned, Fulton Armory has M14 stamped on all of theirs, some even include the selector switch (it's just not connected to anything).

Father Knows Best
December 8, 2005, 11:04 AM
Did it actually say "M14" AND Springfield Armory? In which case it would likely be a real M14, which are NFA BTW even IF they have been converted to Semi-Auto. As far as the ATF is concerned once an auto always an auto. Unless they have been demilled (reciever cut etc so they are rendered unfirable) . Now if it looked like and M14 and it said "Springfield Armory Inc." on it then it's an M1A. Springfield Armory (in Mass.) isn't the same as the company "Springfield Armory Inc." in Illinois. As a side note I have often wondered how they get away with using both the name and the crossed cannon symbol of the real armory for their company. I know they make decent stuff but it just seems a little "wrong" to me.

I'm familiar with the difference between the U.S. Springfield Armory of Springfield, Mass., and the company in Illinois that makes "Springfield Armory" brand firearms. They can do it because they bought the rights to the Springfield Armory trademark. Many other companies have done the same thing. "Armalite" brand rifles being produced today are made by a company that has nothing to do with the original Armalite -- they just bought the rights to the brand name. The same goes for the "Winchester" brand name, which has been sold or licensed to numerous companies over the years.

The receiver was clearly marked M14, and there was clearly a hole in the receiver and a cutout in the stock for what I assume must be the selector switch. It was either a real M14 or a semiauto clone made to closely resemble one. I'll find out more in an hour or so.

Ares
December 8, 2005, 11:20 AM
I'd definately be interested in knowing what ya find out.

As for the trademark thing. I can see companies buying and selling trademarks, it happens all the time but the original Springfield Armory wasn't a company it was a real government owned armory. I suppose that's why it doesn't seem right to me. Seems just different... although obviously it isn't. Sometimes they use things that are similar without even buying the trademark. Like H&R sounds a lot like the old Harrington and Richardson, and how many people assume "Henry" has something to do with the original Henry rifles? Anyway I digress and this is off topic so I'll shut my trap now :)

Big Daddy
December 8, 2005, 12:46 PM
Norinco, Polytech & Federal Arms all made "M14"s that were marked that way and had the stock cut-out but were always semi-auto. Could be one of the Chinese imports.

30Cal
December 8, 2005, 01:00 PM
Norinco, Polytech & Federal Arms all made "M14"s that were marked that way and had the stock cut-out but were always semi-auto. Could be one of the Chinese imports.

That's Fed Ord and that's my guess as well. Probably just a commercial clone.

Jim K
December 8, 2005, 01:48 PM
If the rifle is marked "M14" and made by Springfield Armory, H&R, TRW (triangle), or Winchester, it is a Class 3 weapon. If it belonged to a target shooter, it may be one loaned to a state association by the Army, and remains the property of the Army (not of the state).

In any case, if it did not come with a Form 4 (and it probably did not), it is illegal to possess. The only legal option is to surrender (abandon) it to BATFE. No ifs, ands, or buts; and no ranting about the law, no quoting the Second Amendment, no legalistic game playing, no word weaseling will change that.

As far as other makers go, BATFE takes the totality of the marking into consideration, not just the "M14" part. Fulton and others may use "M14" but they did not make selective fire rifles on contract for the Army. One of the reasons SA, Inc. marked their rifles "M1A" was specifically to prevent any possible confusion with M14 rifles made by the government Springfield Armory.

ScottsGT, those rifles had more than just a letter; they were registered at that time and can be transferred on a Form 4 just like any other registered machinegun.

Jim

Father Knows Best
December 8, 2005, 01:50 PM
It is an original US Springfield Armory M14 National Match rifle. According to my research and a couple of collectors I talked to, Springfield Armory built a small number of semi-auto M14's for competition use in 1961 and 1962. They never had the full auto parts installed, and so are not considered machine guns by BATFE. This is one of the earliest ones, with a serial number that places it in first quarter of '61. It had two stocks with it (wood and fiberglass) and is in excellent condition.

I now own two USGI M1 Garands (both Springfields -- a 1945 and a 1952), a USGI M1 carbine, and an authentic M14 National Match(without da switch). Next I guess I need a 1903 Springfield and an M4.... :evil:

Ares
December 8, 2005, 02:13 PM
Interesting... And a fairly unique find...

Don't forget the 1917 Enfield and the 03A3 too ;-)

30Cal
December 8, 2005, 02:23 PM
"M14 M" and "M14 NM" marked rifles were built by welding the selector lock in place. I don't think any M14 M's were released for sale to the public. Two M14 NM rifles are legally owned by civilians but only after the ATF had seized them and a lengthy court battle (and they're both owned by the same guy as of last I heard). The court ruling applies only to those two rifles.

Three semi-automatic receivers were made at SA. The disposition of two of them (serial numbers "X501" and "X502") is unknown.

Check your receiver with a straight edge. Edges should be well defined and straight. Make sure the wear patterns on the front of the receiver match those on the rear. Check for weld inclusions, odd coloring and stray grinding marks forward of the receiver legs. I'd put money on it being a reweld--there are a lot of them out there. Here's an example (M1 Garand reweld)--look carefully at the tooling marks in the raceway for the oprod.
http://webpages.charter.net/tyoberg/upload/51972838.jpeg

Ty

Jim K
December 8, 2005, 02:26 PM
Hi, Best,

"They never had the full auto parts installed, and so are not considered machine guns by BATFE." That is the story told by everyone trying to unload a hot gun, and also by BATFE trying to entrap buyers.

Sorry to rain on your parade, and you can do whatever you want. It is your gun and your life, but that story is not in accordance with my understanding or with previous statements and rulings by BATFE.

First, those SA match rifles were marked "M14 NM", not "M14" alone. Secondly, AFAIK there has been only one court case, involving one rifle and one owner*, with the ruling that the rifle in question (a TRW M14 NM) was not a machinegun. But that ruling applied only to that one rifle, and as the law stands does not prevent BATFE from proceeding against other "M14 NM" rifles.

The best advice I can give you is to make damned sure that what you were told is correct, which means consulting an attorney, and having him write (no telephone or e-mail) BATFE and ask them directly. If the answer is not what you want to hear, you will have to surrender the gun. But if you are caught with it later, you face not only loss of the rifle but prosecution and possibly a fine and prison term as well. That means loss of ALL your firearms.

*Some reports say two, and that may be correct, but either way, the ruling affected only specific rifle(s) by serial number; it was not a blanket removal of M14NM rifles from the purview of the NFA.

Jim

30Cal
December 8, 2005, 02:42 PM
There were also some torched M14s rewelded (by MKS, I think?) once upon a time. They removed the auto bits, but the ATF shut 'em down on the premise "once a machine gun, always a machine gun". I don't know how many they made, but there's certainly a few floating around.

Hahn Machine Co rewelded some per a letter from the ATF, but they are marked with their name, city and state. There are probably about a hundred of those. There's probably many of the MKS rewelds still floating around that the ATF hasn't seized yet as well as ones made up in people's garages from scrapped M14 halves.

Jim K
December 8, 2005, 02:53 PM
"There were also some torched M14s rewelded (by MKS, I think?) once upon a time. They removed the auto bits, but the ATF shut 'em down on the premise "once a machine gun, always a machine gun". I don't know how many they made, but there's certainly a few floating around."

Yep, and BATFE considers them contraband and illegal to possess. The owners should consider surrendering them.

Remember guys, that if you are caught with an illegal weapon, it is not just the possibility of a fine or jail term. The crime is a felony, and if convicted, you lose all your guns and can never legally own one again. Plus, if you have a security clearance, you lose it. And ever afterwards, you bear the stigma of "felon." If you keep the gun and anything happens to you, you leave your heirs holding an illegal gun and not even knowing it, a very bad situation for them.

Jim

Father Knows Best
December 8, 2005, 04:14 PM
Well, this is getting more complicated. I called a friend of mine earlier today who is a Class III dealer. He said there were legal semiauto M14 national match rifles for sale, and he knew of one for sale right now for $2900. I then called the shop with the M14 and told him to put my name on it, which he agreed to. I figured I would pick it up on my way home today.

After hearing more about this from you guys, though, I called BATFE's NFA division. The first guy I talked to didn't know the answer. Another guy from Firearms Technology Branch called me back about a half hour later and told me not to buy the rifle, as it's probably an illegal reweld of a demilitarized M14 receiver.

I then did a little more snooping on the 'net. I found a copy of a letter from the Chief, Firearms Technology Branch, BATF, dated August 21, 1980. It's addressed to a Mr. Martin Pearl, and says that the "manufacture of rifle receivers from demilitarized M14 rifle receivers ... is an acceptable practice." It also states that "removal of the selector pivot housing ... will remove the new receivers from the provisions of the National Firearms Act." Finally, it notes that to do this, you would need to be a licensed manufacturer, and the resulting rifle would need to be identified with a serial number and the manufacturer's name and location.

To make it even more complicated, I then found some stuff about the MKS rewelds mentioned above. The scuttlebutt is that two companies (Hahn and one other) did correctly and legally remanufacture semiauto M14s using demilitatized M14 receivers. The reports are that MKS got in trouble because it was doing the same thing as Hahn, but did it too late. Between the time that Hahn manufactured several hundred guns from demilitarized M14 receivers, and the time MKS did it, the rules changed on what constitutes acceptable demilitarization. At the time Hahn did it, a single cut was enough. By the time MKS did it, demil required a lot more. Because the receivers made by MKS were never fully demilitarized, they were illegal despite the fact that they had the selector pivot housings removed.

Note that the MKS and Hahn info above is all unverified -- it's internet chatter.

I don't know yet whether this rifle is a reweld, and if so who did the reweld. I'm going to go inspect it tonight. If it's a Hahn, then it may be a legal semiauto built on a demilitarized M14 receiver. I may or may not buy it, if I can get confirmation from BATFE that it's o.k. If it isn't, I'm not gonna touch it.

bearmgc
December 8, 2005, 04:23 PM
It is an original US Springfield Armory M14 National Match rifle. According to my research and a couple of collectors I talked to, Springfield Armory built a small number of semi-auto M14's for competition use in 1961 and 1962. They never had the full auto parts installed, and so are not considered machine guns by BATFE. This is one of the earliest ones, with a serial number that places it in first quarter of '61. It had two stocks with it (wood and fiberglass) and is in excellent condition.

I now own two USGI M1 Garands (both Springfields -- a 1945 and a 1952), a USGI M1 carbine, and an authentic M14 National Match(without da switch). Next I guess I need a 1903 Springfield and an M4.... :evil:

You are one lucky booger! Santa was supposed to send to me, ARGGG...:what:

Jim K
December 8, 2005, 11:16 PM
It is an unfortunate situation, but BATFE has treated that de-milled receiver question differently at different times. This is what they call working on a "case-by-case" basis, which means that any decision applies only to that case and to no other. Note that this is also done by IRS, of which BATFE used to be part. So, a letter essentially means nothing unless it is addressed to YOU, is in response to YOUR request, and cites the serial number of YOUR rifle. It could be used to aid a defense in court, but that has not worked in the past, since BATFE need only say that their rules have changed since the letter was written.

That court case aside, the only M14 National Match (M14 NM or M14 M) rifles that are "out there" are on loan from the Army, and the Army will testify that none have been sold or released. So someone who possesses one (he can't "own" it) without authorization is not only in violation of the the NFA, but also in possession of stolen government property.

Quite a few members of state rifle teams got the idea that they had been "given" those loaner rifles and sold them. Some got in very deep trouble. Other match rifles were made up by Army armorers from regular M14's for use by Army and reserve teams, and those sometimes walked also. I knew a fellow who bought one from an Army reserve colonel; when he was caught with it, the colonel denied the whole thing and the Army stated that they had never released any. My friend got a year in jail plus 4 years probation, and could never own another modern firearm.

If you want a definitive answer, I say again, write BATFE HQ (do not call - nothing on the phone is official with the government) with a full description of the rifle, including serial number and all markings, and ask if that specific rifle is or is not under the purview of the National Firearms Act as a machinegun and also whether it is considered stolen property. But your answer could come from an agent with orders to seize the contraband property.

For myself, I wouldn't buy that rifle. I wouldn't even want my fingerprints on that rifle. If the dealer has it when BATFE does a compliance check, he will be in trouble, but at least an innocent party won't be in a world of hurt.

BTW, having a Class 3 SOT does not make someone either an attorney or an authority on BATFE's decisions. Nor, be it noted, am I either one, so my postings mean nothing either in terms of legal advice. But people have gone to jail for trusting some other guy's word, so be careful.

Jim

bthest86
July 12, 2008, 09:37 PM
I believe many M14s where manufactured at Springfield in semi-auto and not just converted to semi later on by the army?

TexasRifleman
July 12, 2008, 09:40 PM
Yeah

An almost 3 year old thread is revived with a "Yeah"?

Mmmmmm Kayyyyyy

buttrap
July 13, 2008, 03:40 AM
ATF has a very short list of legal M-14s they are the usual not legal deal but there are few listed by SN that are legal.

buttrap
July 13, 2008, 03:41 AM
I would aslo expect that if its on the list its a 12k gun too for price on a cheep day too

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