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M-16 Auto Sears... still sold?

Discussion in 'Legal' started by coloradokevin, Jun 20, 2017.

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  1. coloradokevin

    coloradokevin Member

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    **DISCLAIMER: I fully understand the general legal issues that go along with machineguns, and the fact that NFA rules make it illegal to produce a machinegun or obtain one made after 1986. This question was just based out of a hypothetical discussion I had with another shooter the other day**

    This question is more of a technical one, just for the sake of curiosity... a friend and I were recently talking guns, and how it seemed like things like auto sears (or parts kits containing them) were commonly sold at the gun shows we remember going to 10-15 years or so ago. Neither of us has seen one around in a while, though neither of us really attend gun shows these days, nor have we ever looked for the parts since neither of us can afford a pre-86 M-16.

    But, as a matter of legal discussion, we started debating the current legal situation, and were wondering where things stand from an ATF perspective on these parts. Thus, the following questions:

    1) Are auto sears for M-16 style rifles now considered an NFA part that needs to be tax stamped in and of themselves? If so, what became of all of those parts kits we used to see at gun shows? Are those all considered unregistered machine-guns now?

    2) Or, are auto sears still just part of a parts kit that really has no relevance other than the fact that they can only be installed on a properly registered/tax-stamped NFA lower receiver (one of those elusive pre-86 lowers with the proper design to accommodate the auto sear)?
     
  2. AlexanderA

    AlexanderA Member

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    The second interpretation is correct, if we are talking about a standard, issue auto sear. (A "drop-in" auto sear is a machine gun in and of itself.) However, if you have a standard auto sear plus a semiautomatic AR-15 (and no registered M-16 for which this could be a legitimate spare part), the authorities could really push things and claim that you had "constructive possession" of a machine gun. It all depends on whether you are on the authorities' radar for other reasons.
     
  3. Art Eatman

    Art Eatman Moderator In Memoriam

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    The only legal auto-sears must have a serial number and be registered with BATFE. All the usual rules apply.

    Possession of an un-registered auto-sear but no possession of an AR is not a crime, SFAIK.

    Today's ARs are narrower inside the lower receiver than when the idea first came about, so without internal machining, an oritginal auto-sear won't fit.
     
  4. Snyper

    Snyper Member

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    The auto sear by itself is considered a machine gun :
    https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndfl/p...d-unlawfully-selling-unregistered-machineguns
     
  5. AlexanderA

    AlexanderA Member

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    We have to make a distinction here between drop-in auto sears and the original issue auto sears that are part of the M16 design. Drop-in auto sears are machine guns in and of themselves, so they need to be registered whether or not the owner also has an AR. (That means that they have to be serialized and have been manufactured prior to May 19, 1986.) Having an unregistered drop-in auto sear is a crime, just like having any other unregistered machine gun.

    Original-type auto sears (that require the lower receiver to be wider inside, and have the "third hole" drilled) are just parts. There's no problem in owning them, unless you also have an AR that's at least theoretically capable of being machined inside to accommodate them. That gets into a gray area of the law, involving the concept of "constructive possession." Pure cases of constructive possession, that have reached the courts, are few and far between. Play it safe and don't own an original auto sear if you have a semiautomatic AR-15 (unless of course you also own a registered full-auto M16, in which case the original auto sear would be considered a legitimate replacement part).
     
  6. Jeff H

    Jeff H Member

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    Very interesting. I didn't know there was a difference.

    So the M-16 design changed at some point to a drop in system?
     
  7. Carl N. Brown

    Carl N. Brown Member

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    M16 was not changed to a drop-in system. The drop-in auto sears were an aftermarket item used with semi-auto AR15s and are themselves considered machine guns.

    On M16 parts sets used in an AR15 rifle build, what I have is this:

    ATF E-Publication 5320.8
    Extract:
    IMPORTANT INFORMATION CONCERNING AR-15 TYPE RIFLES

    ATF has encountered various AR-15 type rifles such as those manufactured by Colt, E.A. Company, SGW, Sendra and others which have been assembled with fire control components designed for use in M16 machine guns.

    The vast majority of these rifles which have been assembled with an M16 bolt carrier, hammer, trigger, disconnector and selector will fire automatically merely by manipulation of the selector or removal of the disconnector. Many of these rifles using less than the 5 M16 parts listed above will also shoot automatically by manipulation of the selector or removal of the disconnector.

    Any weapon which shoots automatically, more than 1 shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger, is a machine gun as defined in 26 U.S.C. 5845(b), the National Firearms Act (NFA). In addition, the definition of machine gun also includes any combination of parts from which a machine gun may be assembled, if such parts are in possession or under the control of a person. An AR15 type assault rifle which fires more than one shot by a single function o the trigger is a machine gun under the NFA. Any machine gun is subject to the NFA and the possession of an unregistered machine gun could the possessor to criminal prosecution.

    Additionally, these rifles could pose a safety hazard in that they may fire automatically without the user being aware that the weapon will fire more than 1 shot with a single pull of the trigger.

    In order to avoid violations of the NFA, M16, hammers, triggers, disconnectors, selectors and bolt carriers must not be used in assembly of AR-15 type semiautomatic rifles, unless the M16 parts have been modified to AR-15 Model SP1 configuration. Any AR-15 type rifles which have been assembled with M16 internal components should have those parts removed and replaced with AR-15 Model SP1 type parts which are available commercially. The M16 components also may be modified to AR-15 Model SP1 configuration.

    It is important to note that any modification of the M16 parts should be attempted by fully qualified personnel only.

    Should you have any questions concerning AR-15 type rifles with M16 parts, please contact your nearest ATF office. Our telephone numbers are listed in the “United States Government” section of your telephone directory under the “United States Department of Justice.”
    :Endextract

    NRA published ATF approved instructions for converting M16 internal parts to AR15 SP1 semi-auto only configuration. Frankly, it is simpler and easier to buy semi-auto AR15 fire control groups. Any M16 parts sets used with a semi-auto lower must be altered to semi-auto only configuration (they probably wouldn't fit an AR15 lower without alteration).

    I would contact ATF regulators with questions. I would not blunder ahead and get caught by ATF enforcement agents.
     
  8. Art Eatman

    Art Eatman Moderator In Memoriam

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    I don't pretend to know everything about everything, so I thank those who provided correction to my "SFAIK".
     
  9. CapnMac

    CapnMac Member

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    To answer the question of whether drop-in sears are still for sale, they are sold as frequently as any other $15-20,000 firearm.
    So the answere is greater than never; but not all that frequently, either.
     
  10. AlexanderA

    AlexanderA Member

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    That ATF position, which dates from the early 1980's, is outdated. For one thing, Colt received a later determination from ATF that it could use full-automatic M16 bolt carriers in its commercial semiautomatic AR-15's.

    Any semiautomatic AR-15 can be made to fire automatically (although unreliably and unsafely) by simply removing the disconnector. This causes a condition known as "hammer follow-down." This became an issue back in 1970-71 when Colt realized what could happen (probably with some input from ATF) and pulled the AR-15 off the market for a time. When the AR-15 was re-introduced, it was redesigned with a notched hammer and beveled ("unshrouded") bolt carrier, so that it would hopelessly jam if the disconnector was removed. Later, these modifications were quietly reversed, and no one (including the ATF) seemed to care. (Incidentally, the period of time that the Colt AR-15 was off the market gave an opening for the Armalite AR-180, which was its big competitor then.)
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2017
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  11. AlexanderA

    AlexanderA Member

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    That wasn't the question asked by the OP. The question, as I understood it, was about regular auto sears sold as part of surplus parts kits a few years ago, not about drop-in auto sears.
     
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  12. CapnMac

    CapnMac Member

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    Fair enough.
    But. it was the portion I could answer.

    I haven't seen an M-16 parts kit in so long I can't remember where it was I saw it. But I have seen a transferable drop in come up for auction, though.
     
  13. AlexanderA

    AlexanderA Member

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    Yup. Registered drop-in sears sears sell for as much as registered receivers. Maybe even more, because they can be moved from gun to gun. Which to me makes no sense, since they're simple devices made of two pieces of metal. But on the other hand, you are really buying the paperwork, and not the hardware itself. Nothing makes sense about the machine gun market post-1986. If we had a halfway rational government, this whole area would be revisited.
     
  14. rromeo

    rromeo Member

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    To answer the question, yes, they're still sold. I have seen complete M-16 lower parts kits at gun shows in the past few months. I can get you one, they were $80.
     
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  15. Carl N. Brown

    Carl N. Brown Member

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    M-16 Auto Sears ... still sold?
    To assure that it is clear _ the opening post confused two types of auto sear:
    _ The M16 auto sear as found in a parts kit for an M16 or in a parts set from a disassembled M16 is an original M16 part.
    _ The drop-in auto sear aka DIAS is an add-on used to convert an AR15 semi-auto to fire full auto. Never was an original M16 part and would not be found in an M16 maintenance kit or a stripped M16 parts set.
    BTW: The ATF quote in my previous post was from:
    ATF E-Publication 5320.8 ·
    Revised: April 2009 ·
    which was the last version I had.
     
  16. rromeo

    rromeo Member

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    The OP didn't confuse the two types, several other posters did. The opening post only mentioned the original M16 parts kits, and the accompanying sears.
     
  17. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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  18. Klint Beastwood

    Klint Beastwood member

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    ^^ True.

    In addition, they are totally possible to get and come upon if you know where to look. You can easily do the machine work to get the sear to work, but there are more parts that I won't list here that you would need to make it fully auto, and a specific part you need to make it burst fire.
     
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