- Does the ATF regulate the sale and possession of air guns? Is an air gun classified as a “firearm” under Federal law
- Does my weapon qualify as a curio or relic (C&R)?
- Is it legal to attach a vertical fore grip to a handgun?
- Is it legal to assemble a firearm from commercially available parts kits that can be purchased via internet or shotgun news?
- Are Glock conversion devices legal?
The term “firearm” is defined in the Gun Control Act of 1968, 18 U.S.C. Section 921(a)(3), to include
(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….Based on Section 921(a)(3), air guns, because they use compressed air and not an explosive to expel a projectile, do not constitute firearms under Federal law — unless they are manufactured with the frames or receivers of an actual firearm. Accordingly, the domestic sale and possession of air guns is normally unregulated under the Federal firearms laws enforced by ATF.
We caution that ATF is not charged with enforcement or oversight of the firearms laws of States or localities. To determine possible restrictions on air guns where you reside, we recommend that you contact the office of your state Attorney General, the State Police, or other State/local law enforcement authorities for further guidance.
For your information, a regulation implementing Federal firearms laws, 27 CFR Section 478.11, defines C&R firearms as those
which are of special interest to collectors by reason of some quality other than is associated with firearms intended for sporting use or as offensive or defensive weapons.
To be recognized as C&R items, 478.11 specifies that firearms must fall within one of the following categories:
- Firearms which were manufactured at least 50 years prior to the current date, but not including replicas of such firearms;
- Firearms which are certified by the curator of a municipal, State, or Federal museum which exhibits firearms to be curios or relics of museum interest; and
- Any other firearms which derive a substantial part of their monetary value from the fact that they are novel, rare, bizarre, or because of their association with some historical figure, period, or event.
Firearms automatically attain C&R status when they are 50 years old. Any firearm that is at least 50 years old, and in its original configuration, would qualify as a C&R firearm. It is not necessary for such firearms to be listed in ATF’s C&R list. Therefore, ATF does not generally list firearms in the C&R publication by virtue of their age. However, if you wish for a classification of your particular firearm under categories (b) or (c) above and wish your item to be listed, you may submit the weapon to the Firearms Technology Branch (FTB) for a formal classification.
If you desire an evaluation, ship the firearm to FTB via FedEx, UPS, or other common carrier. You must also include your carrier’s account information or a return postage label for the return of the item. Please submit any supplemental documentation such as value appraisals or curator letters that may denote the firearm as a collector’s item. The weapon would be returned with a letter detailing our examination and stating FTB’s findings concerning the weapon’s classification as a C&R firearm.
Address the parcel to:Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and ExplosivesChief, Firearms Technology Branch244 Needy Road
Please note that firearms regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA) may be classified as C&R items, but still may be subject to the provisions of the NFA. If your C&R item is an NFA firearm and you desire removal from the NFA status (e.g., Winchester Trappers), you must submit it to FTB for evaluation and a formal classification.
“Handgun” is defined under Federal law to mean, in part,
a firearm which has a short stock and is designed to be held and fired by the use of a single hand…Gun Control Act of 1968, 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(29).
Under an implementing regulation of the National Firearms Act (NFA), 27 C.F.R. § 479.11, “pistol” is defined as:
… a weapon originally designed, made, and intended to fire a projectile (bullet) from one or more barrels when held in one hand, and having (a) a chamber(s) as an integral part(s) of, or permanently aligned with, the bore(s); and (b) a short stock designed to be gripped by one hand and at an angle to and extending below the line of the bore(s).
The NFA further defines the term “any other weapon” (AOW) in 26 U.S.C. § 5845(e) as:
… any weapon or device capable of being concealed on the person from which a shot can be discharged through the energy of an explosive, a pistol or revolver having a barrel with a smooth bore designed or redesigned to fire a fixed shotgun shell, weapons with combination shotgun and rifle barrels 12 inches or more, less than 18 inches in length, from which only a single discharge can be made from either barrel without manual reloading, and shall include any such weapon which may be readily restored to fire. Such term shall not include a pistol or revolver having a rifled bore, or rifled bores, or weapons designed, made, or intended to be fired from the shoulder and not capable of firing fixed ammunition.
ATF has long held that by installing a vertical fore grip on a handgun, the handgun is no longer designed to be held and fired by the use of a single hand. Therefore, if individuals install a vertical fore grip on a handgun, they are “making” a firearm requiring registration with ATF’s NFA Branch. Making an unregistered “AOW” is punishable by a fine and 10 years’ imprisonment. Additionally, possession of an unregistered “AOW” is also punishable by fine and 10 years’ imprisonment.
To lawfully add a vertical fore grip to a handgun, a person must make an appropriate application on ATF Form 1 (5320.1), “Application to Make and Register a Firearm.” The applicant must submit the completed form, along with a fingerprint card bearing the applicant’s fingerprints; a photograph; and $200.00. The application will be reviewed by the NFA Branch. If the applicant is not prohibited from possessing a firearm under Federal, State, or local law, and possession of an “AOW” is not prohibited in the applicant’s State of residence, the form will be approved. Only then may the person add a vertical fore grip to the designated handgun.
A person may also send the handgun to a person licensed to manufacture NFA weapons. The manufacturer will install the fore grip on the firearm and register the firearm on an ATF Form 2 (5320.2). The manufacturer can then transfer the firearm back to the individual on an ATF Form 4 (5320.4), which results in a $5.00 transfer tax. If the manufacturer is out of State, the NFA Branch will need a clarification letter submitted with the ATF Form 4 so that the NFA Branch Examiner will know the circumstances of the transfer. Questions can be directed to the NFA Branch or the Firearms Technology Branch.
For your information, per provisions of the Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968, 18 U.S.C. Chapter 44, an unlicensed individual may make a “firearm” as defined in the GCA for his own personal use, but not for sale or distribution.
The GCA, 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(3), defines the term “firearm” to include the following:
… (A) any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may be readily 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 silencer; or (D) any destructive device. Such term does not include an antique firearm.
In addition, the National Firearms Act (NFA), 26 U.S.C. § 5845(b), defines the term “machinegun” as:
… any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger. This term shall also include the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or combination of parts designed and intended, for use in converting a weapon into a machinegun, and any combination of parts from which a machinegun can be assembled if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person.
Finally, the GCA, 18 U.S.C. § 922(r), specifically states the following:
It shall be unlawful for any person to assemble from imported parts any semiautomatic rifle or any shotgun which is identical to any rifle or shotgun prohibited from importation under the…[GCA]…Section 925(d)(3).as not being particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes ….
Also, 27 C.F.R. § 478.39 states:
- (a) No person shall assemble a semiautomatic rifle or any shotgun using more than 10 of the imported parts listed in paragraph (c) of this section if the assembled firearm is prohibited from importation under section 925(d)(3) as not being particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes ….
- (b) The provisions of this section shall not apply to:
- (1) The assembly of such rifle or shotgun for sale or distribution by a licensed manufacturer to the United States or any department or agency thereof or to any State or any department, agency, or political subdivision thereof; or (2) The assembly of such rifle or shotgun for the purposes of testing or experimentation authorized by the Director under the provisions of [§478.151(formerly 178.151)]; or (3) The repair of any rifle or shotgun which had been imported into or assembled in the United States prior to November 30, 1990, or the replacement of any part of such firearm.
- (c) For purposes of this section, the term imported parts [tabulated below] are:
- (1) Frames, receivers, receiver castings, forgings, or castings.
- (2) Barrels.
- (3) Barrel extensions.
- (4) Mounting blocks (trunnions).
- (5) Muzzle attachments.
- (6) Bolts.
- (7) Bolt carriers.
- (8) Operating rods.
- (9) Gas pistons.
- (10) Trigger housings.
- (11) Triggers.
- (12) Hammers.
- (13) Sears.
- (14) Disconnectors.
- (15) Buttstocks.
- (16) Pistol grips.
- (17) Forearms, handguards.
- (18) Magazine bodies.
- (19) Followers.
- (20) Floor plates.
As a result of a 1989 study by the U.S. Treasury Department regarding the importability of certain firearms, an import ban was placed on military-style firearms. This ban included not only military-type firearms, but also extended to firearms with certain features that were considered to be “nonsporting.”
Among such nonsporting features were the ability to accept a detachable magazine; folding/telescoping stocks; separate pistol grips; and the ability to accept a bayonet, flash suppressors, bipods, grenade launchers, and night sights.
Please note that the foreign parts kits that are sold through commercial means are usually cut up machineguns, such as Russian AK-47 types, British Sten types, etc. Generally, an acceptable semiautomatic copy of a machinegun is one that has been significantly redesigned. The receiver must be incapable of accepting the original fire-control components that are designed to permit full automatic fire. The method of operation should employ a closed-bolt firing design that incorporates an inertia-type firing pin within the bolt assembly.
Further, an acceptably redesigned semiautomatic copy of nonsporting firearm must be limited to using less than 10 of the imported parts listed in 27 CFR § 478.39(c). Otherwise, it is considered to be assembled into a nonsporting configuration per the provisions of 18 U.S.C. 925(d)(3) and is thus a violation of § 922(r).
Individuals manufacturing sporting-type firearms for their own use need not hold Federal Firearms Licenses (FFLs). However, we suggest that the manufacturer at least identify the firearm with a serial number as a safeguard in the event that the firearm is lost or stolen. Also, the firearm should be identified as required in 27 CFR 478.92 if it is sold or otherwise lawfully transferred in the future.
A Glock conversion switch is a part designed and intended for use in converting a semiautomatic Glock pistol into a machinegun; therefore, it is a “machinegun” as defined in 26 U.S.C. 5845(b). Glock conversion devices are considered post-May 19, 1986 machineguns and may only be lawfully possessed by properly licensed Federal Firearms Licensees who have paid the appropriate Special Occupational Tax (SOT) required of those manufacturing, importing, or dealing in National Firearms Act (NFA) firearms.
Conversion is fast and simple requiring no technical expertise. Conversion requires removal of the original polymer slide cover plate and replacing it with the conversion device, typically made of metal. By switching these plates, which takes less than 60 seconds, the conversion is complete. Conversion of a Glock pistol will result in a rate of fire of approximately 1200 rounds per minute.
We are aware of other variations of this conversion device. We are also aware that these devices are available from certain internet sources.