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When is a silencer a silencer?

Discussion in 'NFA Firearms and Accessories' started by Caliper_Mi, Apr 9, 2018.

  1. Caliper_Mi

    Caliper_Mi Member

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    I'm assuming most here are aware of the Silencerco Maxim50. https://silencerco.com/maxim50/ Basically a muzzleloader with a permanently attached "silencer", except because it's attached to a muzzloader, it's not a silencer according to the NFA.

    I like the concept, but don't like the gun it's attached to for multiple reasons. I'm thinking up a custom muzzleloader build in my head and was wondering about doing the same thing but building it myself. Obviously, the moderator (since it's not a silencer as per the NFA, I'll use Silencerco's term for the thing that would be at the end of my barrel) would have to be permanently attached to my muzzleloader, but I'm not very fluent in silencer legalities and when does a piece of metal tubing become a Federal crime... So, any pointers? What parts of a silencer are regulated and at what point in the process of building one would one need to have a NFA registration? I'm looking to do this entirely without creating a silencer as per the NFA definition, so any ideas on method and order of manufacturing?
     
  2. Telekinesis

    Telekinesis Member

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    The short answer is all parts of the silencer are regulated (tube, baffles, and some but not all end caps) and there are only a few that are not normally regulated such as thread adapters and boosters (not really applicable to a rifle can, especially one permanently attached). The tube generally carries the serial number and other information, and is generally the part that is registered to the form 1 or 4.

    In order to build a NFA registered suppressor, you must have the approved form 1 back before starting ANY work. I have heard several FFL/SOTs mention that threading the tube for end caps was a defining line, but I don't have any citation for that. Drilling out a baffle would definitely be manufacturing a suppressor part. Only SOTs are allowed to have extra suppressor parts, and once you complete your can you can't have extra baffles or swap out parts to test different configurations.

    I'll be interested to hear what others think about this as I'm not sure how you'd go about doing this yourself without running afoul of the NFA. My recommendation would be to either just do a form 1 and make the can removable, or work with a FFL/SOT and have them make the perm attached can and attach it to the barrel for you. It may be hard to find a FFL/SOT that's willing to take on the project though.
     
  3. adcoch1

    adcoch1 Member

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    If building a moderator for a muzzleloader, just make sure the case part isnt ever assembled off of the barrel. As in, don't thread your attachment point, press it on the muzzleloader barrel and weld it up. A baffle isn't a baffle until there is a case to put them in. If this is not your only suppressor, make sure your baffles are smaller diameter than the case for other suppressors in your possession. Or larger as it may be. BUT, you may be on thin ice with the atf and the courts, even if it's completely legal....
     
  4. Caliper_Mi

    Caliper_Mi Member

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    Actually, this would (at this time) be my only suppressor, er... moderator. Or whatever.

    My newb thought had been to bore the muzzle back and oversized to allow clearance for a loading tube similar to the silencerco design, drill cross-holes in this section of the barrel (which would now be the core of the moderator), solder/braze some sort of baffle devices on to the barrel, and put the outer shell over that. Thus, the moderator is integral to the muzzleloading barrel, never existed as a separate part and could not be removed without machine work. Problem is of course cleaning, because I'd be using black powder in this. Am I understanding that a removable cover is a potential issue? Even if it's just a length of pipe?
     
  5. Elkins45

    Elkins45 Member

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    It has to be permanently sealed. You can’t have a removable front to remove and clean the baffle stack. Otherwise the minute you put out a baffle and hold it separately you have an unregistered silencer part.

    One way to do what you are asking about would be to build and permanently attach the can, then turn unbored baffles. Stack them up and weld on an unbored front cap. Now bore the hole, after having taken sufficient measurements to make sure it aligns to the bore. At no point was it a separate silencer because a bullet couldn’t pass thru it until after it was permanently part of the rifle.
     
  6. MachIVshooter

    MachIVshooter Member

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    That would really be the only way to legally do this without SOT
     
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  7. Elkins45

    Elkins45 Member

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    I suppose you could bore each baffle immediately after you dropped it into the can so long as you tack welded it in place first. That would allow you to dimple the center of each one as you make it, perhaps helping with the alignment issue.

    I like that approach a lot better.
     
  8. PapaG

    PapaG Member

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    I bet in Illinois it is a silencer/suppressor....at least the bp rifle itself is a "firearm" unlike most states.
     
  9. Caliper_Mi

    Caliper_Mi Member

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    So, sealed and no disassembly is of course a bit of a problem for a black powder gun... But, what if the moderator were fitted with a drain or drains? Maybe a setscrew that can be removed to allow flushing water through the internals? Is a drain plug a suppressor part?

    Or, what if some number of drain holes were left open? Yes, that would make any sound moderation less effective, but BP guns aren't known for being extremely loud to begin with. If there are holes in the outer shell though, would it still even be regarded as a suppressor, or does that make it a muzzle brake?
     
  10. Carl N. Brown

    Carl N. Brown Member

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    The NFA definition of silencer is attached a cartridge firing firearm.
    Non removable permanently attached to a muzzleloader or air gun (which are not firearms by definition) is not a firearms silencer unless it is removable and can be attached to a cartridge firing firearm.
    Muzzleloaders or airguns with silencers were rarely used in 1930s gangster movies and escaped the attention of Homer Cummings.
     
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  11. Theohazard

    Theohazard Member

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    Here’s a question I have:

    We established that if the “moderator” is permanently attached to something that’s not legally a firearm, it’s not legally a silencer. So, wouldn’t that mean that the baffles for this non-silencer “moderator” wouldn’t actually be considered “silencer parts”?

    So, wouldn’t that mean you would be legally able to remove the baffles provided the tube was still permanently attached? After all, those baffles wouldn’t be able to be used by themselves as a silencer, and those baffles shouldn’t be considered “silencer parts” since they’re parts for something that’s not legally a silencer.

    Disclaimer: I want to make it clear that this is a question I thought of, I’m not claiming that I’m legally correct.
     
  12. adcoch1

    adcoch1 Member

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    Just like the extra baffle plates for a supertrap motorcycle muffler aren't suppressor parts, neither would your "moderator" baffles. Just make sure its clear they don't accidentally work for a firearm suppressor. Truthfully, anybody with freeze plugs and a mag light could technically be building a suppressor, but there aren't a lot of mechanics or auto part store owners getting prosecuted for "intent". Just make sure it looks ok and you'll be in the clear.
     
  13. Elkins45

    Elkins45 Member

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    I don’t think I would want to be the test case for this. The minute you detach it from the “nonsilencer” it becomes a silencer part.
     
  14. Caliper_Mi

    Caliper_Mi Member

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    I'm with you on that, and I don't have the defense fund that some of these companies do...

    Anyone have thoughts on a moderator with a drain or vent holes? Gotta have some way to clean a BP gun or it's going to rot from the inside out pretty quick.
     
  15. Elkins45

    Elkins45 Member

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    A ML silencer would almost have to be stainless...if you use black powder.

    It seems to me that Silencerco missed a real opportunity by not persuading Savage to make a run of their smokeless muzzle loaders to put their silencer on.
     
  16. Caliper_Mi

    Caliper_Mi Member

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    I definitely would be.

    So, what if the shell had holes in the outside? At what point does something transition from being a silencer to a muzzle brake? ie: even a leaky muffler is quieter than a straight pipe...
     
  17. Theohazard

    Theohazard Member

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    I don’t see how. It didn’t come from a silencer. It was never designed to be a part in a silencer. So how could it legally be considered a silencer part?
     
  18. Elkins45

    Elkins45 Member

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    Because once it exists as a separate part it is capable of being installed into a silencer, and is therefore a silencer part.

    A silencer attached to a ML is sort of magical—-it isn’t a silencer, but if you take a hacksaw and remove it from the end of the barrel it magically becomes an unregistered silencer. Same thing happens with an individual part.
     
  19. Theohazard

    Theohazard Member

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    I agree with you here, and that’s because a non-silencer “moderator” that’s permanently attached to a muzzle loader non-firearm and then subsequently detached can now readily be attached to a firearm and can lower its decibel level, therefore it has become a silencer.

    This is where I disagree. A silencer part is a part to a silencer. But as along as this “moderator” is permanently attached to a non-firearm, it seems to me its parts can’t be silencer parts — even if they’re removed — since they came from (and are intended to be used in) something that’s not a silencer.

    Take oil filters, for example. When used in conjunction with an oil filter adapter silencer, they’re silencer parts. But when used as oil filters, they’re not. How is the example of a part to this “moderator” any different?
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2018
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  20. Elkins45

    Elkins45 Member

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    An oil filter has as its primary purpose the filtering of engine oil. A silencer baffle has as its primary purpose???

    If you look at the correspondence between ATF and SilencerCo regarding their ML silencer, ATF specifically makes the point about the end cap needing to be welded on. Presumably that's so the parts can't be removed. I think it's a stupid interpretation, but the downside of being caught holding what looks like a baffle without a stamp to accompany it vastly outweighs any perceived benefit. Yes, I know this is purely an academic discussion because ATF doesn't go sneaking around the country looking for unlicensed silencer parts, but I try not to develop bad habits.

    There's a bunch of stuff in my garage that looks like it could be used to build a silencer, but I also have two unbuilt Form 1 stamps. I acquired the stamps before I bought the stuff.
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2018
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  21. Theohazard

    Theohazard Member

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    But we’re not talking about a silencer baffle since this “moderator” isn’t legally a silencer. An oil filter has a primary purpose that’s different from being a silencer part. And a baffle for a non-silencer “moderator” has a primary purpose that’s different from being a silencer part. Both are parts on items that aren’t legally silencers.

    Let me give another example. What if I owned — say — a vacuum cleaner that just happened to have an internal part that was the exact same shape as a baffle. Does that mean removing that vacuum cleaner part would also be illegal because it’s now a silencer part? That doesn’t make any sense to me.

    I don’t disagree with you there. I just don’t understand the logic that says these are silencer parts since they’re installed on a device that isn’t legally a silencer. If the ATF is indeed taking that stance, I’d guess they’re doing it out of an abundance of caution and not for any sound legal reasons, but that’s just a guess since I’m not a lawyer.
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2018
  22. Elkins45

    Elkins45 Member

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    I'm not disagreeing with the illogic of it, but merely stating how I'm reasonably sure ATF would look at the situation. The vacuum cleaner part came from a machine where it presumably had some function in cleaning the carpet. Removing it doesn't change its function unless you stick it onto the muzzle of a gun somehow. The "non-silencer" baffle came from a machine that was designed to quiet the report of a gunshot, albeit from a gun that isn't a 'firearm' by the legal definition. Look up the Sig muzzle break ruling to see how ATF regards things that are 'silencer-like.' And a court backed them up IIRC.
     
  23. Elkins45

    Elkins45 Member

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    From the ATF decision letter regarding the Silencerco MAXIM 50:

    Additionally, the removal of the permanently affixed sound moderating device or any of its components, from the host antique firearm may result in the “making” of a firearm silencer under the GCA and NFA, and consequently must be registered with the National Firearms Act Branch. Also, if a sound moderator unit were to be fabricated separately it may be the making of a firearm silencer.

    As previously stated, the removal of the sound moderator, or parts of the sound moderator, may result in the making of a silencer of a combination of parts designed and intended for use in assembling or fabricating a firearm silencer; and thus a “ firearm” as defined in 26 U.S.C. § 5845(a)(7). FTISB personnel also noted the adhesive used to attach the forward end cap is not an approved method of permanent attachment. Please be aware, prior to such removal, an unlicensed individual would be required to obtain an approved ATF Form 1 (Application to make and register a firearm) and pay the $200 making tax prior to any such redesign of the subject sound moderator.
     
  24. Theohazard

    Theohazard Member

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    Yeah, I don’t know what reasoning the ATF is using there. Maybe the argument is that the baffles on a non-silencer “moderator” could be used on an actual silencer? If that’s the case, how is my example of a fictional vacuum cleaner part any different in a legal sense? Both a vacuum cleaner and a muzzle loader aren’t legally firearms. I understand that one is designed to shoot a projectile, but I don’t see how that would make a legal difference.

    I suppose it’s all about legal grey areas. The “muzzle brake” on the SIG MPX was basically just a silencer without a tube that was attached to a firearm. Since all you needed to do to make a silencer was to wrap the tube with a solid material, a court decided it was illegal. I’ll bet it didn’t help that SIG was planning to market a tube that would make the brake into a silencer. So they were basically admitting that the brake was actually a monocore baffle stack. But my fictional vacuum cleaner part is clearly designed to be used on a device that’s not a silencer, even though it just happens to be the same shape as a silencer baffle.

    Maybe the ATF’s reasoning here is that a baffle on a non-silencer “moderator” is in a grey area that falls closer to the MPX’s “brake” rather than my fictional vacuum cleaner part since a muzzle loader is more similar to an actual firearm than a vacuum cleaner is. Me, I don’t think that makes much logical sense since both a muzzle loader and a vacuum cleaner aren’t legally firearms, but I’m probably missing something here since I’m not a lawyer.
     
  25. Elkins45

    Elkins45 Member

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    The ATF letter I quoted called the host gun an “antique firearm” so it appears to them it’s still a firearm silencer, just one that’s found itself a loophole in the law.
     
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