Manufacturing a firearm legally


August 12, 2006, 11:13 PM
I realize that this forum doesn't constitute legal advice, but words of experience and direction certainly abound here. My question:

What counts as 'manufacturing a firearm' under BATFE regulations?

My reason for asking is that I'd like to join the hordes who assemble their own rifles from parts. I understand that if I bend/mill/make my own reciever, I've made a firearm and can't sell it afterwards.

BUT, if I buy a stripped reciever from DPMS, Olympic or whoever, and parts kits and put them together myself, does the same legal provision apply? My assumption has been no: after all the reciever, the bit with the serial number, has been bought as a 'firearm', and I should be able to re-sell it. I read on various boards about folks doing this for friends, etc.

However, I had a local gun dealer today refuse to consider doing an FFL transfer on a reciever because he didn't want "to end up on the wrong side of the law" and stated categorically that adding parts to a reciever constituted 'manufacturing' and that ANY gov't surplus parts would further classify the piece as an NFA firearm.

So, legal experts or anyone who's questioned the BATFE on this out there? What's right?

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August 12, 2006, 11:25 PM
Now understand a fella could make a carrer out of studying the laws / regs on this ... but my understanding is that if you buy a completed reciever that is serial no'd . You just bought a gun .. no matter what , IMHO Some dealers choose not to have any part of this market due to the possibilitys of the " bubba " gun coming back to haunt them .. this imho is understandable . just go to a moore needy dealer lol . Anyway if you have to do the " yellow sheet two step " its a gun you just bought , and you can sell it , gift it , heck throw it away , within atf and your state regs .. hope that helps .

Car Knocker
August 12, 2006, 11:58 PM
Your local gun dealer is not conversant with the laws. Time to find an FFL who knows his "elbow" from a hole in the ground.

August 13, 2006, 12:39 AM
He may simply be erring on the side of caution. His shop is located just a few hundred yards from the back gate of Ft. Riley Kansas. Many of his customers are young soldiers, and I know he's been hassled by the BATFE before. Why you ask?

Once upon a time he sold a handgun to a young soldier... named Timothy McVeigh.

I didn't think the owner was right, but I'm not going to back him in to a corner over it. Thanks for the confirmation.

Actually, can anyone point me to a) the correct legal citation or b) cases or rulings that might set a precedent?

August 13, 2006, 02:01 AM
921 Definitions.

(a) As used in this chapter—

(3) The term "firearm" means

(A)any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive;

(B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon;

(C) any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; or (D) any destructive device. Such term does not include an antique firearm.

You cannot manufacture a firearm if it is already defined as a firearm. By definition, there is no difference between a fully assembled firearm and a stripped receiver.

Car Knocker
August 13, 2006, 02:14 AM
This may be of interest also:

(A5) Does the GCA control the sale of firearms parts? [Back]

No, except that frames or receivers of firearms are "firearms" as defined in the law and subject to the same controls as complete firearms. Silencer parts are also firearms under the GCA, as well as under the National Firearms Act (NFA). Certain machine gun parts, such as conversion parts or kits, are also subject to the NFA.

[18 U.S.C. 921(a)(3) and (24), 26 U.S.C. 5845, 27 CFR 478.11 and 479.11]

August 13, 2006, 07:08 AM
The idea that some one thinks the Gov't model clone that I assembled is an NFA weapon because it has a GI extractor in it certainly brought a smile to my face.:D

There seems to be more misunderstanding of the law in this area than most. However, I find it impossible to believe that some one could be so misinformed. To be reluctant to sell bare receivers might be understandable, but to lie about the reason is reprehensible.

He is right about one thing. If you were to buy receivers, and assemble them to sell as completed weapons, and did so on a regular basis seeking a profit, you would be considered to be manufacturing firearms. The gov't would want their excise tax. To purchase a single receiver, assemble it, and in the course of events to sell it, is not manufacturing.

I know! Confusing, ain't it?:confused:

Where is the dividing line? I don't know, I just don't believe that I have ever crossed it. Since profit seems to be a part of the mushy formula, I don't believe that I will ever have any problems.:neener:

August 14, 2006, 12:45 PM
Thanks, one and all. Excellent information. Now on to the big question:

How am I to convince my wife to put off purchasing a handgun so that I can start a rifle project? :D

August 14, 2006, 11:41 PM
Here is some info, on building a gun from (a Kit) or non serial numbered reciver, I have bought a few serial numbered, AR recivers from my dealer, and like it says, I bought a firearm, I can sell it, gift it, what ever, Now will a dealer buy this( build reciver weapon?? whould you? not knowing who build it, or how it was build?

80% frame is actually a "special case" with the BATF and it applies to metal castings that are used to form the basis for gun parts. In this case what we are talking about is a metal casting that has been "almost" completed. It was cast and then all the milling work was done to it.....but they stopped before they cut the slide rails (or any other combo of cuts that add up to 20% of the milling steps). Because the manufacturer stopped working on the piece BEFORE he/she finished it....this piece is still in a state of limbo so to isn't really a "Gun" but it isn't really a raw hunk of metal either.

The castings do NOT have any serial numbers or roll marks on them (normally the last step in the manufacturing process). In this form they are still considered to be just pieces of metal as far as the BATF and the Brady bill are concerned. If the manufacturer takes them 1 more step further...then they are subject to all the laws of the land that apply to firearms. Remember that as far as the ATF is concerned...the frame/receiver IS the firearm....and everything else is just parts.

So it is perfectly legal to order an 80% frame/receiver from the distributor and there is no paperwork at all involved. You do not need to be an FFL dealer, anyone that wants one can just call and give their credit card number and *poof* out it goes in the mail.

Ok.....sounds really cool huh? So what's the rub? Well the bottom line is...YOU (and only you) have to finish the final machining process on it yourself. There are no serial numbers and the firearm (once it is complete)can NEVER....let me say that again so you understand it...NEVER, EVER be sold to anyone else....period ! It is a firearm for "personal use only".

If you do it this way (build it yourself) then you are acting as a firearms manufacturer and that is perfectly legal as long as it is for personal use only. Kinda like it's legal to make all the homemade wine/beer that you want as long as it is not for resale....(well same basic idea any ways).

You can do the frame rails (in the case of a Colt 1911) with only a file if you want to but it would take a long time. I recommend a mini-mill to finish out the last 20% like the professionals do. (the mini-mill is a great investment and they cost less than 700 bucks brand new).

There are 80% frames available for Colt 1911's, AR-15's, FAL's, Sig P-228's, PPK's and many other styles.(another reason to buy your own Mill ). You would just need to buy a parts kit to complete your new gun.

With a little bit of Do-it-yourself attitude and few pointers from someone who knows what they are doing....anyone can build one for themselves.

** NOTE ** All of this assumes that it would otherwise be legal for you to own a firearm. If you can not legally own a firearm then you can not legally build one either...

Here is a link to the actual BATF website and a paragraph that addresses the 80% issue:

August 15, 2006, 08:30 AM
I've read about milling/pressing one's own recievers from 80% parts, and it sounds intriguing. However, it's a bit beyond my present capabilities. Someday, maybe...

Here's a what-if on the legal side. If I buy myself a jig and some flats to bend AK recievers, but actually do the bending on a friend's press in his shop (I'd still be the one pulling the handle) does that still count as me doing 100% of the work? And what manner of proof/documentation required should it be called in to question?

Jim K
August 15, 2006, 01:37 PM
First, it is not considered manufacturing a firearm if you buy a numbered receiver and install the parts. The only thing you can't do is change the legal nature of the firearm, such as making a short-barrel rifle, a pistol, or a machinegun. If you do, it will either require registration (as an SBR) or be illegal, as a machinegun. As long as you build a rifle on a rifle receiver, there is no problem.

As for building the receiver, you can make your own receiver, but you cannot get anyone else to do it (or finish an 80% receiver) unless he/she has a manufacturer's license.

The odd thing is that the main reason for those 80% receivers is so people can have a gun that does not have a serial number. BIG DEAL! If the guv ever decides to seize all our guns, owning even one gun or a hunting license or NRA membership or a subsciption to a gunzine or posting here would be enough for a raid and they wouldn't care if any given gun had a number or not.


PAC 762
August 17, 2006, 08:17 PM
Search There is no number limit or anything. Just don't build with the intent to sell and do all the work yourself and not for anyone else. (in otherwords, it's OK to use a friend's tools to build yours, but don't build a receiver or frame for a friend.)

August 18, 2006, 01:10 PM
Alright, more questions on the same topic:

I see a variety of AK 'parts kits' out there. I see some sold as "for repair or replacement only, all NFA rules apply."

I assume (correctly?) that this is because the fire control group contains full-auto parts. If one should toss the FCG, replace with a US-made semi-auto FCG and assemble to a US-made frame, would building from one of these kits still violate the NFA?

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