zip gun laws and building your own


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John E.
August 5, 2009, 01:37 PM
Hey all,

The build-your-own-AK thread got me wondering - in States like Texas which prohibit the manufacture of 'zip guns', how does that apply to building your own gun for personal use?

According to Texas statute:

46.01.(16) a zip gun is "a device or combination of devices that was not originally a firearm and is adapted to expel a projectile through a smooth-bore barrel by using the energy generated by an explosion or burning substance."

46.05 of the Texas Penal Code it is a crime to intentionally or knowingly possess, manufacture, transport, repair or sell a zip gun. 46.05(a)(9).

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nalioth
August 5, 2009, 01:46 PM
I'm not sure where the confusion is.

A zip gun is where you make a mortar out of an old water heater.

A zip gun is where you make a 'gun' out of water pipe.

If you're "building your own gun", obviously it will "originally be a firearm".

John E.
August 5, 2009, 01:49 PM
I guess what I'm asking is if you take raw materials and machine out a gun from scratch, is it a zip gun or a legal firearm and what makes the difference?

bobotech
August 5, 2009, 01:53 PM
A zip gun is a slang term. Kind of refers to making a 22 out of a pen and a rubber band which would be illegal under NFA definitions. It would be considered an AOW I believe.

If you build a gun that adheres to all proper rules and regulations such as a receiver that has an 18 inch barrel, a stock, and so on, then that would be legal. But you can't build a gun that doesn't look like a gun (AOW) or would be considered something like a SBR.

That is how I understand it.

nalioth
August 5, 2009, 02:05 PM
I guess what I'm asking is if you take raw materials and machine out a gun from scratch, is it a zip gun or a legal firearm and what makes the difference?

If you make your own barrel, your own receiver, and all the parts, you "intend it to be a firearm", ergo not a "zip gun" by definition.

If you go buy a Paladin Press manual off the news stand and make a 12 gauge shotgun out of water pipe and 2x4, you've built a zip gun.

jmorris
August 5, 2009, 02:05 PM
I guess what I'm asking is if you take raw materials and machine out a gun from scratch, is it a zip gun or a legal firearm and what makes the difference?

If it shoots a projectile it’s going to need rifling it can only be smooth bore if it shoots shot. If you intend to cobble up something from crap lying around you might garner a little more scrutiny than one who spends hours with machine equipment making a first class firearm. I contact the ATF and or the NFA branch before starting a build if it’s outside the norm. You can build what some might call “zip guns” if you send in a Form 1 for an AOW along with specifications and $200. You can call the NFA branch at 304-616-4500 for more details.

bobotech
August 5, 2009, 02:23 PM
Ahh!! Good point, forgot about the smoothbore vs rifling angle. 18 inches vs 16 inches barrel. No pistol shotguns unless its a SBS.

theotherwaldo
August 5, 2009, 02:35 PM
-So if I cast, bore, and sleeve up a 9-pounder Napoleon cannon then it's a zip gun... unless I rifle the sleeve.

Then it's no longer a historical reproduction.

Now I'm confused.

Sam1911
August 5, 2009, 02:42 PM
No pistol shotguns unless its a SBS.

No, of course not! No pistol shotguns unless it's an AOW (Any Other Weapon)!

SBSs have butt-stocks.

Isn't this simple? ;)

-Sam

John E.
August 5, 2009, 02:42 PM
"A zip gun is a slang term."

With respect, bobotech, 'zip gun' is (ambiguously) defined by the Texas Legislature in the statute I quoted in the original post.

Along the lines of what nalioth suggested, a water pipe is a device that was not originally a firearm, so building a shotgun from a water pipe would be illegal.

But would raw pipe tube stock not be a device in the same way that a finished pipe would be?

Is it the threading on the ends of the tube stock that make the tube into a pipe?

Sam1911
August 5, 2009, 02:44 PM
-So if I cast, bore, and sleeve up a 9-pounder Napoleon cannon then it's a zip gun... unless I rifle the sleeve.

Then it's no longer a historical reproduction.

Now I'm confused.

No, that's a muzzle-loader and generally exempt from most of the rules. (Though others will have to fill in the specifics.)

Make a "9-pounder" breech-loading rifle using smokeless powder and you've made a Title-II "Large Bore Destructive Device." Which you can do if you file a Form 1 and pay the tax.

-Sam

Cosmoline
August 5, 2009, 02:59 PM
That's why I like building smoke poles. Much less red tape to fuss over.

Birdmang
August 5, 2009, 02:59 PM
whats a smoke pole?

Carl N. Brown
August 5, 2009, 03:03 PM
smoke pole = muzzleloader in my neck of the woods

bobotech
August 5, 2009, 03:44 PM
With respect, bobotech, 'zip gun' is (ambiguously) defined by the Texas Legislature in the statute I quoted in the original post.


I have always heard "zip gun" in respect to people making guns out of pens or whatever. Crude homemade guns that use cartridges. My dad used that term when referring to guns made by gang members in the 50s and 60s in the Bronx where he grew up. A zip gun isn't a particular type of home made gun, its just a generic/slang term that some states have felt the need to define. I'm not sure why they felt the need to define the term but that really isn't important. The important fact is that you can build a gun of your own purely by scratch provided its not illegal by ATF standards (less than 18 inch smoothbore barrel, etc). If it has a rifled barrel, then it can't be no less than 16 inches unless there is no provisions for a rear stock since the receiver would be a virgin and could be made into a pistol.

The Texas definition goes into detail about a zipgun being a smoothbore which makes sense. How many gang members do you know would take the time to get a rifled barrel for their zip gun?

theotherwaldo
August 5, 2009, 04:07 PM
How many gang members do you know would take the time to get a rifled barrel for their zip gun?

-You'd be surprised. Every time that you cut down a .22 rifle you're left with a chunk of rifled barrel... .

2nd 41
August 5, 2009, 04:40 PM
Have not heard the term Zip Gun in years (I'm so old)
Tie a pipe to a board, secure a door bolt with a heavy rubber band to the pipe/board set up....launch a large nail or bolt.

deadin
August 5, 2009, 04:44 PM
Where would this fit in the great scheme of things?

http://www.modelgatlinggunplans.com/#
I know a regular Gatling is "legal" (not considered a full-auto), but what about a 1/3 replica?
Barrels are too short, overall length too short, etc.
I was thinking of taking this on as a machining project, but if I have to get a Form 1 (or whatever) I don't know if it's worth it as I probably will find it beyond my tools capacity. (and mine.:D)

nalioth
August 5, 2009, 04:53 PM
Where would this fit in the great scheme of things?

http://www.modelgatlinggunplans.com/#
I know a regular Gatling is "legal" (not considered a full-auto), but what about a 1/3 replica?
Barrels are too short, overall length too short, etc.
I was thinking of taking this on as a machining project, but if I have to get a Form 1 (or whatever) I don't know if it's worth it as I probably will find it beyond my tools capacity. (and mine.) I think you'll need to do some deep research.

It's not a rifle.
It''s not a pistol.
It's not fully automatic.

jmorris
August 5, 2009, 06:16 PM
Where would this fit in the great scheme of things?


Its a gatling gun and allowed by the BATFE as long as you have to crank it by hand by some degree for each shot. You would want to keep it on a carriage as a stock might put you into a gray area with the short barrels.

bobotech
August 5, 2009, 07:59 PM
I'm curious, so are gatling guns somewhat exempt from the NFA strict definitions along the same lines as how you are allowed to put a stock on some old Mauser pistols without a SBR stamp? Do you have any more info on that. I'm intrigued!

Sam1911
August 5, 2009, 08:13 PM
I'm curious, so are gatling guns somewhat exempt from the NFA strict definitions along the same lines as how you are allowed to put a stock on some old Mauser pistols without a SBR stamp? Do you have any more info on that. I'm intrigued!

Gatling guns that are entirely mechanically cranked are considered to only fire once per operation of the firing mechanism by the shooter. That singular operation may be only 1/60th of a revolution, but as long as your hand is moving the crank (and NOT an electric motor moving the crank) it's not a machine gun.

Old Mauser pistols have been specifically exempted from the SBR rules if they use an ORIGINAL stock/holster. Same, I believe with some of the Hi-Powers. Use a reproduction (modern manufactured) butt stock and it will need a SBR registration.

There are also certain Marlin and Winchester lever-action rifles that were produced with 14" barrels. Some of these are specifically called out, by individual serial number, as being Curio and Relics and are exempt from the NFA rules. Identical rifles which are not listed, including any modern reproduction of the same rifle, have to be registered SBRs.

Makes sense, right? No? Oh well, rules is rules...

-Sam

Sam1911
August 5, 2009, 08:16 PM
You would want to keep it on a carriage as a stock might put you into a gray area with the short barrels.

Wow. Now that's a permutation I'd never considered! It would almost be worth asking the BATFE tech branch for a letter on a build like that ... assuming that there would be any practical way to wield such a thing.

-Sam

tju1973
August 5, 2009, 08:45 PM
If it shoots a projectile it’s going to need rifling it can only be smooth bore if it shoots shot. If you intend to cobble up something from crap lying around you might garner a little more scrutiny than one who spends hours with machine equipment making a first class firearm. I contact the ATF and or the NFA branch before starting a build if it’s outside the norm. You can build what some might call “zip guns” if you send in a Form 1 for an AOW along with specifications and $200. You can call the NFA branch at 304-616-4500 for more details.
How do manufacturers get away with making smoothbore .22s? I gues if they say they are intended for shotshells only..

NM, I may have answered my own question..

8*)

Prince Yamato
August 5, 2009, 08:45 PM
I think there are some "zip guns" considered C&R. There are a couple of single-shot shotguns that were dropped into the Philippines during WW2 that work on a "slam-fire" principle that I have seen for sale for a couple hundred to thousand dollars in gun shops.

For the most part, a "zip gun" is probably going to be an AOW or and SBS.

RevolvingGarbage
August 6, 2009, 12:54 AM
So if someone theoretically machined an adapter to fire .45 ACP, .45LC, and .410 shotshells from a standard .177 pump BB gun, would that be legal?

The machined piece was always intended to fire a bullet, but the BB rifle which sets the primer off was not. where does this fit in the homemade firearms spectrum?

KenWP
August 6, 2009, 01:12 AM
and where on the BB gun is there a fireing pin unless this adapter includes that which would cost a fair bit to have made out of proper steel.

bobotech
August 6, 2009, 01:15 AM
Gatling guns that are entirely mechanically cranked are considered to only fire once per operation of the firing mechanism by the shooter. That singular operation may be only 1/60th of a revolution, but as long as your hand is moving the crank (and NOT an electric motor moving the crank) it's not a machine gun.

Old Mauser pistols have been specifically exempted from the SBR rules if they use an ORIGINAL stock/holster. Same, I believe with some of the Hi-Powers. Use a reproduction (modern manufactured) butt stock and it will need a SBR registration.

There are also certain Marlin and Winchester lever-action rifles that were produced with 14" barrels. Some of these are specifically called out, by individual serial number, as being Curio and Relics and are exempt from the NFA rules. Identical rifles which are not listed, including any modern reproduction of the same rifle, have to be registered SBRs.

No, no, that's not what I'm asking. I understand that hand cranked only weapons are fully legal and not subject to NFA (such as 1919a with hand crank adapter).

What I'm asking about is the miniature gatling gun shown in post 18 and Naolith's response implying that even with the barrels that appear to be shorter than 18 inches, it would not be subject to NFA rules because of it being a Gatling gun.

bobotech
August 6, 2009, 01:20 AM
So if someone theoretically machined an adapter to fire .45 ACP, .45LC, and .410 shotshells from a standard .177 pump BB gun, would that be legal?

The machined piece was always intended to fire a bullet, but the BB rifle which sets the primer off was not. where does this fit in the homemade firearms spectrum?
Sure, that would be legal provided it has a barrel length of 16 inches or longer and that the barrel is rifled. Or if the barrel is smoothbore, then it has to be 18 inches or longer. The rifle would also have to meet overall length requirements as well, something like 24 inches.

But once you convert it to fire a cartridge of some sort, it is now a firearm and subject to all rules and regulations that firearms have to follow such as transfers to FFL if being mailed, and that sort of thing. It is no longer considered a BB gun.

The only real gray area would be which part is considered the receiver, the machined part or the original BB gun receiver. But if kept together, its just a standard firearm like all others.

RevolvingGarbage
August 6, 2009, 02:17 AM
Good to know. My understanding though is that regardless of rifling, a barrel of .50 caliber or smaller and no stock= pistol in legal terms.

Think there might be a market out there for a BB gun to cartridge firearm converter?

bobotech
August 6, 2009, 03:55 AM
Good to know. My understanding though is that regardless of rifling, a barrel of .50 caliber or smaller and no stock= pistol in legal terms.


Actually you don't have to have a stock on a rifle. Look at folding stock rifles with their stocks folded that are still operational.

The key point is that a pistol can't have a provision for a stock mounting point.

nalioth
August 6, 2009, 04:33 AM
Good to know. My understanding though is that regardless of rifling, a barrel of .50 caliber or smaller and no stock= pistol in legal terms.
Actually you don't have to have a stock on a rifle. Look at folding stock rifles with their stocks folded that are still operational.

The key point is that a pistol can't have a provision for a stock mounting point.

You guys are heading for trouble with those thoughts.

If a gun is designed from the get-go to be pistol, it only has to be 'able to be fired with one hand'. Nothing is written anywhere about "can/can't take a shoulder stock". There have been too many "nervous nellies" posting on these boards about 'welding it up so it can't take one at all", but that is not legally required.

If it was built as a "rifle", taking the shoulder stock off doesn't make it a "pistol".



The Gatling gun (full size or .22 caliber) is neither a rifle or a pistol. How is the barrel length measured?

TexasRifleman
August 6, 2009, 08:02 AM
Actually you don't have to have a stock on a rifle. Look at folding stock rifles with their stocks folded that are still operational.

But the stock is still attached. A rifle with the stock removed no longer meets the definition of "rifle".

(7) The term "rifle" means a weapon
designed or redesigned, made or re-
made, and intended to be fired from the
shoulder and designed or redesigned
and made or remade to use the energy
of an explosive to fire only a single pro-
jectile through a rifled bore for each
single pull of the trigger.


Once the stock is gone it cannot be intended to be fired from the shoulder, so it's no longer a rifle. The folding stocks are just for ease of storage and transportation, still intended to be fired from the shoulder. Whether you actually do isn't the point, it's intended to be used that way, so it's a rifle.

A rifle with the shoulder stock removed would only meet the definition of "firearm".


any weapon (including a starter gun)
which will or is designed to or may
readily be converted to expel a projec-
tile by the action of an explosive; (B)
the frame or receiver of any such
weapon; (C) any firearm muffler or fire-
arm silencer; or (D) any destructive de-
vice. Such term does not include an
antique firearm.

We see the same with the pistol grip only shotguns. Teechnically they are not shotguns, since they are not intended to be fired from the shoulder. They are simply "firearms" and as such ATF has said that "firearms" must be sold under the same age restrictions etc as handguns, not rifles.

What I'm asking about is the miniature gatling gun shown in post 18 and Naolith's response implying that even with the barrels that appear to be shorter than 18 inches, it would not be subject to NFA rules because of it being a Gatling gun.

The Gatling gun refrenced above is also simply a "firearm", at least by definition. Same as the semi automatic Browning belt feds you see sold. Not rifles, since they have no stock and were not intended to be shoulder fired.

They would still be subject to the 16 (or is it 18) inch minimum barrel length requirement or they become NFA items "AOW". Maybe :)

I'm not clear on whether it is 16 or 18 inches. That one is not clearly addressed. The definition of SBR seems to imply that the rule only applies to rifles, which gatling guns are not. Fuzzy legal ground, and caution is a good idea.

The gatling gun manufacturer in the link above says:

Finished dimensions: Overall length 21 in.(gun) / 39 in.(gun and carriage). Overall height from floor 20 in. Scale field carriage has 18 in. diameter wheels. Breech diameter is 2 3/8 in. Uses 10 .22 cal. barrels, each 12 11/16 in. long by 0.465 inch OD.

So, going by SBR rules that breaks both of them, under 26 inch overall and barrels under 16. But, not being intended to be fired from a shoulder, is it still subject to those rules?

Probably end up one of those things where the ATF "interprets" the law however they want. Never forget that this agency made every shoestring in the US an illegal machinegun for a short time.

That's why it is so important to be careful when making your own, you can cross a line and be in big trouble quite easily. Most people end up writing tech branch of ATF to ask their interpretation before building anything.

nalioth
August 6, 2009, 02:41 PM
Actually you don't have to have a stock on a rifle. Look at folding stock rifles with their stocks folded that are still operational.
But the stock is still attached. A rifle with the stock removed no longer meets the definition of "rifle".

Balderdash.

A rifle is designed as a rifle. When the end user removes the butt stock, they're not changing the fact that it was originally designed as a rifle. They've just neutered it's utility.

By your reasoning, we should be able to have machine gun receivers for our semi-auto guns, so long as the 'go fast' parts have been removed (at that point, it'd no longer meet the definition of 'machine gun')

TexasRifleman
August 6, 2009, 11:28 PM
A rifle is designed as a rifle. When the end user removes the butt stock, they're not changing the fact that it was originally designed as a rifle. They've just neutered it's utility.

By your reasoning, we should be able to have machine gun receivers for our semi-auto guns, so long as the 'go fast' parts have been removed (at that point, it'd no longer meet the definition of 'machine gun')

Well, there is a problem with that. Not with your reasoning, but with the way the ATF interprets this.

The ATF said that if you take a shotgun and remove the stock, leaving only a pistol grip, and you sell it, it no longer meets the definition of shotgun, it's now a "firearm" and must be sold under the same rules as handguns as far as age restrictions etc. even if it still meets the 18 inch barrel and 26 inch overall length definition.

So, it may not make much sense but that's how our lovely friends at ATF are interpreting things.

Caution is advised to anyone who might try to think around them.

nalioth
August 7, 2009, 01:23 AM
The ATF said that if you take a shotgun and remove the stock, leaving only a pistol grip, and you sell it, it no longer meets the definition of shotgun, it's now a "firearm" and must be sold under the same rules as handguns as far as age restrictions etc. even if it still meets the 18 inch barrel and 26 inch overall length definition.Again, you're not making sense.

You can make an AOW out of a shotgun that has never had a butt stock on it.
If the shotty has had a butt stock on it, it has to be papered as a SBS.

What you're saying is that if I buy a Remington 870 Police, change the butt stock for a pistol grip and sell it to you, you can paper it as an AOW, since it was sold w/o a butt stock.

Sorry, but the revenuers have long held to the view of "if it once had a butt stock, it's always considered to be a rifle or shotgun"

gdragon34
December 24, 2009, 04:27 PM
I want to make a single shot .22 pistol.

If I use an old .38 special revolver and put a barrel on it I assume it would be legal as the .38 started off as a firearm.

If I make something from scratch it is legal as I am the manufacturer and it always was a firearm.

What if..however.. I were to start with a blackpowder revolver and fit a rifled 22 barrel? Would that be a zipgun as the BP frame was never a 'firearm'?

Sam1911
December 24, 2009, 08:48 PM
You may make a Title I firearm for your own use out of anything you want, so long as it doesn't fall into any of the Title II territory (smooth bore handgun for example).

If you start with a pile of iron ore and an acorn and it takes you 50 years to grow your stock -- neither of those things ever were a firearm, but you sure can make one out of them.

-Sam

gdragon34
December 24, 2009, 11:29 PM
Ooooohhhhh, so if I were a gangbanger and built this contraption with a piece of pipe it would be NFA. Since I'm planning on using a rifled barrel and not making an AOW or SBR out of it then I'll be cool as long as I follow all the other rules (no foregrip, etc.)

Makes sense...for the ATF anyway.

DeepSouth
December 24, 2009, 11:35 PM
46.01.(16) a zip gun is "a device or combination of devices that was not originally a firearm and is adapted to expel a projectile through a smooth-bore barrel by using the energy generated by an explosion or burning substance."


That would even include a Potato Gun........(Do you guys know what that is?).......I hope AL laws are different or the one I had when my boat sank would not have been legal.

Sam1911
December 25, 2009, 09:32 PM
Ooooohhhhh, so if I were a gangbanger and built this contraption with a piece of pipe it would be NFA. Since I'm planning on using a rifled barrel and not making an AOW or SBR out of it then I'll be cool as long as I follow all the other rules (no foregrip, etc.)


I think you've got the picture, except that you don't have to be a gangbanger.

I don't think we have any worry about gang-bangers whipping up "zip" guns. Kind of like the switchblade issue, that's a fairly illogical holdover from back in the bad old days. (Read the NFA if you want to see more such prohibition-era legislative lunacy that can't be thought logical even if you squint and hold your tongue just right while reading...)

The lowest-ranking gang member doesn't want anything to do with some jury rigged pipe-and-plywood single-shot, smooth-bore "zip gun." There are enough Glocks, High-Points, and many other, better guns out there on the black market to arm every "G" that ever tried to pop a cap.

------------------

Spud gun?

Q: How do I obtain a classification from ATF for my “potato gun?”

Any person desiring a classification of a “potato gun,” “spud gun” or similar device must submit a written request (not e-mail) to the Director and include a complete and accurate description of the device, the name and address of the manufacturer or importer, the purpose for which it is intended, and such photographs, diagrams, or drawings as may be necessary to make a classification. A final determination may require physical examination of the device. Such requests for classification should be submitted to: Bureau of ATF, Firearms Technology Branch.

-Sam

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