QA/QC Test of 1/2″ ar500

Recently, we had a batch of 1/2″ AR500 targets cut which we ended up questioning the actual material hardness. Every batch of material we cut into targets includes what we call a QA/QC Blank. Two overlapping 6″ circles, with two bolt holes. Simple, but not something people ask for as a target so it’s easy to pull from each sheet, label for the batch, and have available for testing.

QA/QC blank from a 2017 cut batch. Known good batch of material, used as testing standard.

We’ve done this before and written it up, when it was a question about 5.45x39mm, but that’s been almost seven years ago.

This test was prompted by a hand written note on one of the piece of material, which seemed to indicate it was AR400.

Mozambique target system torso with note indicating AR400, not AR500 as spec’d

We could do the research, find out about the heat number, back track all that, and still not know if they grabbed the wrong material, or the wrong paperwork. So we tested the actual material.

Testing method is pretty simple. Taking a known standard of AR500 material, in this case, a blank from 2017 from a known batch, the material to be tested, and some additional material for comparison, head out to the range.
We chose to use our standard A-Frame Brackets to mount the testing materials.×4-bracket,%20target-stand

Testing materials were hung from the 2×4 crossbeam with our 12″ firehose kits, which include the hardware shown.

Testing targets as set up on MOA Targets A-Frame Brackets and Firehose Kits. Similar to the MOA Starter Kit which would include the brackets, firehose and hardware, and one 8″ gong of 3/8″ AR500.

At the range, we set up at 100 yards. Using factory (GECO) 5.56x45mm ammo with an estimated muzzle velocity of 3000 ft/s from our 16″ test bed rifle (previously chronographed), we should have an impact velocity of approximately 2800 ft/s at 100 yards. 2800 ft/s is the typical damage threshold for hardness 500 steel (AR500). Four QA/QC plates were tested. The known standard 3/8″ AR500, a known 3/8″ AR400, a known 1/4″ AR400, and the questionable 1/2″ piece that is the true subject of the test. Testing results below:

The last photo, with the targets painted white, was after moving out to 150 yards. At 150, AR500 should no longer take even the light surface pitting you will typically see at 100 with a 16″ barrel and standard velocity 5.56x45mm. In this case, our 100 yard results were inconclusive enough to move out to 150. At 150, both the known standard 3/8″ AR500 and the test subject 1/2″ material ceased to show damage, while the 3/8″ AR400 continued to show damage.

As velocity based damage is a result of exceeding hardness, not thickness, our conclusion was that the subject 1/2″ material was indeed cut out of AR500 and we could go about our day. Scroll back up and note the dent in the 1/4″ AR400 material, not only did 5.56x45mm pit the target, it bent is as well. That’s not observed on the 3/8″ or 1/2″ material, and is the subject of another blog post.

We hope this has been a useful writeup for you guys. We had fun shooting stuff, got to confirm that our QA/QC methods work, and enjoyed some nice desert air.

Field Report – 1″ AR500 on a Public Range

Historically, we haven’t actually encouraged ranges to pony up for our 1″ AR500 unless they were going to be used for 50BMG. Five years ago (summer 2014), a range in northern California requested some custom 1″ AR500 targets from us, to replace their worn out targets. So we did, so here’s the story and the current status of the targets we provided.

The worn out targets were made of 3/4″ T1 structural steel, estimated brinnel 300. AR500, by definition, is brinnel 500. Mild steel, for reference, is 100-180 brinnel, typically.

Out with the old (Spring 2014)

3/4″ T1 Crater of the moon pig target. Note void to left of swing arm near center. note lack of ear.

One of our recommendations to the client for target longevity and staff safety was to integrate the swing arm into the target. The down side is cost and it makes the target difficult to rebuild. The up side is safety. Grinding and welding on steel targets which have been shot gives unacceptable risk levels of heavy metal (primarily lead) inhalation when working on targets. After discussion, the client agreed with our recommendation.

Old 3/4″ T1 target, note penetrations and dents, and reinforced swing arm.

In with the new (Summer 2014)

The replacement targets included full scale NRA Silhouette pigs and some standard round gongs. The 1″ AR500 pigs included the integrated swing arm, as discussed above. It was decided that 1.75″ was as good a number as any to pick for the arm. Wide enough to give us enough material to avoid heat affected zone to the core (roughly 1/4″ from each cut edge is affected), narrow enough to reduce weight and impacts. This was the first time we’d done something like this in 1″ AR500, so there was scientific wild ass guessing going on.

Production 1″ AR500 targets, NRA Silhouette Pigs with integrated swing arm. Also shown, gong on edge.

Present Day (Summer 2019)

To our delight, the range contacted us this summer to request more 1″ AR500 targets. Not, as one might expect, to replace the 2014 targets, but instead to add to them. Despite pretty significant price increases we’ve had to make since 2014, the range elected to add a full size NRA Ram to their collection. They are very pleased with the field results of the 2014 NRA Pigs and gong, and sent pictures to show the current conditions.

Current condition of 1″ AR500 NRA Pig. Note the impacts to the 1.75″ arm, compared to the rest of the pig.

It was quietly suspected that some shooters might focus on the swing arm in an effort to show off their skill, and damage the target. We’ve all seen shooters do this in the field, targeting chains, bolt heads, and other non-target portions of the system. One of the first things we learned in this business was that the target was almost secondary to the stand and suspension system.

As such, we’re not surprised to see the edge of the swing arm appears to have more impacts than the edge of the pig per linear inch, by wild estimate from these photos.

1″ AR500 pig. Note edge impacts on swing arm.

It’s clear, after five years, that the 1.75″ wide swing arm is sufficient to prevent premature failure of the system.

1″ AR500 Five years of range use has left a clear impression on this target. Compared to the target it replaced, however, it appears to have plenty of life left in it, and still has a clean side.
1″ AR500 Lots of craters, and chewed up edges, but still very serviceable after five years of use.

1″ AR500 won’t be for everyone. It’s heavy and expensive, and still vulnerable to surface damage from high velocity or hardened projectiles. However, for ranges that want long service intervals, this is an option that may solve problems. Please feel free to contact us for information on in stock and custom 1″ AR500 targets.

Quick Guide to Assembling and Setup of A-Frame Starter Kits

As shown for the 40% IPSC Starter Kit

Step by step assembly guide. Takes about five minutes the first time, about 30 seconds to set up and tear down after that.

Recommended tools – First make sure you’e got all the parts

Legitimate Beverage Entry Tool (3/4″ open and box wrench with 9/16″ open, provided with this kit)

Cordless impact driver (or ratchet, or just another 3/4″ wrench) with 3/4″ socket

Pokie boi (use with caution, don’t be dumb), I like to cut a X in the firehose and shove the bolt through. You can just drive the lag bolt through without cutting

Cut X in one end of each firehose with pokie boi

Using impact, run lag screw through firehose into user provided 2×4 (washer goes between lag and firehose) I recommend doing this from the back side of the 2×4 for spall reasons

Using impact and LBET install the hex bolts through the target and firehose. Firehose goes behind target, washer goes behind firehose

You’re done with tools now, go grab your EMT legs

Slip user provided 1/2″ EMT conduit legs over bracket, bracket over user provided 2×4 with target already mounted on it

Pick up the loose 2×4 end and the same thing with the other 2×4 bracket and EMT legs

Apply aiming points, apply bullets

Remember, 12 yards minimum for pistol, 100 yards minimum for rifle.

The importance of having a good spotter

I recently attended Cola Warrior West V. Some of you may have heard of this event, for those who haven’t, it’s a single stage 2gun match with elements of Tough Mudder and Jackass. Whatever you do, don’t go on youtube and start searching around for it, unless you have a lot of patience for silliness and emesis.

I allow none but the best to spot for me. High Woman from Cola Warrior West III helping out here

Anyhow, West V was my 16th Cola War, as I recall. I was staff and sponsor at this even, and did a run in an inflatable trex suit for the lulz during the staff runs. We ended up having time for me to do a serious run, and I did it on Combat Class (body armor, FAK and TQ, 1L water, carry your mags on you). I ended up putting up my best raw time (16:02) of any event, and one of my best placements (6th of 103, 1st of nine in Combat Class).

I credit a lot of that to the expert spotting I received, as shown in the picture. Having a spotter you can work closely with help make sure their adjustment calls are accurate. This service is provided for both new and experienced Cola Warriors on request. Or, hell, if you didn’t specifically ask for it not to happen. Rifle is a Colt 6940 for with a TA31 (my Village Bicycle) with a Harris bipod and a B5 stock, SSA-E trigger.

A rifle rate Red Neck Texas Star at 100 yards, with custom pointy paddles in front of a Joshua Tree. That won’t lead to any confusion, right?

It took me about two minutes to clear the 13 rifle targets ranging from a 4” hostage swinger at 100 yards to a full size IPSC Metric at 520 yards. There was also a texas star, a minimo, an armored bad guy, two cazadors, and a banjo mixed in there. As usual, all targets at Cola Warrior West were provided by MOA. Pistol range included several themed targets and a new prototype system, the Irish Half Rack, built on the concept came up with by North Salt Lake Welding who graciously gave us permission to go for it.

There are some important things you can pick up from this photo.

Bipod is deployed, but still has some additional adjustment available in it. You want your bipod to be tall enough to clear vegetation if need be and provide a comfortable angle. I saw a lot of people deflecting rounds off nearby vegetation and being way off as a result. Pick your bipod based off the environment you expect to be using it in. I often shoot from off camber field positions while hunting coyotes with this rifle. I don’t however expect to ever deal with tall grass. Lots of sage brush and rocks, steep hillsides, and mountains. With body armor, I’m bulkier than usual (the beer gut doesn’t help). Too tall and you’re doing the ground squirrel neck stretch which is uncomfortable and in real life makes you a bigger target. If you have the opportunity before your time to shoot, get up to the range and figure out where the targets are, distances, and where you want to shoot from. If you can glass them, all the better. This event allowed everything short of loading the firearm as long as you weren’t in the way. So I had already prone out with my rifle, adjusted my stock and bipod, and figured out what order I wanted to shoot the targets in.

I’ve got as much of my body in contact with the ground as I can. Normally, I’d have that left arm holding the stock into my right shoulder. However, because of the time of day and layout of the range, I was basically staring into the sun for most of the shooting portion. The TA31 has a fiber optic bar on top for dot illumination. During high light times like this, it’ll wash out the whole reticule. So, the left hand is being used to block the fiber optic while still providing some support to the shooting platform.

I used about 35 round to clear the rifle portion. The manner in which I attached a hydration bladder to my Esstac ASS was janky as hell, but it worked. If you want to do it properly, you need their Daeodan unit, not the Light/ASS. Their Kiwi mag pouch systems work fantastically, I’ve never lost a mag doing stupid human tricks. They’re all I use any more. Future upgrades include dropping some weight, figuring out a better way to do a hydration bladder on my ASS, and getting matching yoga pants.

Desert Brutality 2019 AAR, Southern Utah Practical Shooting Range, St George UT

Dear Internet,

MOA Gear and Targets
MOA Gear and Targets

Thank you for putting up with my shenanigans at the event. I like events where I get to see human suffering, failure, and lessons being learned. I personally finished towards the bottom of the pack, and had a bunch of lessons as well. I’ll be applying them as I go, to better myself for future events, and I hope you will too.

I saw a lot of great footwork, weapons manipulation, and shooting this weekend. I saw a lot of shitty things as well. The good news is no one got shot, and we can all get better at this.

NVGeologist and Sinistralrifleman on the math stage

I loved seeing the costumes and gear, cosplay and unique shit. I don’t play gun pokemon, so most of it was over my head, but it’s always interesting.

Event staff was fantastic, and I’m looking forward to working with Forgotten Weapons and SinistralRifleman, as well as the Southern Utah Practical Shooting Range (SUPSR) staff again at future events. Meeting a mess of gunnitors and arfcommers that I knew from the internet and now know IRL is awesome, as always.

two goofuses on the range
The heroes we deserve.

As MOA Targets, I sponsored Stage 2 and had targets on the vendor range for the weekend. Stage 2 had three MINIMO targets provided by me, as well as a polish plate rack, texas star, and standard plate rack owned by SUPSR. This stage crushed most people. About 85% of people parred out on it, and many never got to the rifle portion, which was the last plate rack.

I derive my life force from human suffering, and am well on my way to being immortal. I served as Range Officer at this stage Friday for the staff runs, and then watched and often filmed the competitors during the event. For those who watched the live stream, you got to see me yell generally helpful but obnoxious advice like “quit missing” “you’re low” “slow the fuck down”. For those who didn’t, you can find it on the MOA FB page. For those who don’t care, carry on.

I’ll be working on cutting video in the next few weeks. It was very cool how many people came up to me after their runs cracking up and thanking me for my advice. I always enjoy seeing people figure out what they are doing wrong mid flow and picking up and doing well. There was one guy who asked the collective peanut gallery to “SHUT THE FUCK UP” during his run, we did, he still sucked. For the record, the briefing by Karl at the start of the event made it clear that coaching, encouragement, ribbing, and peanut gallery is encouraged at this event, with the note of “shut the fuck up” if the runner asks for it.

On a technical basis, the MINIMOs worked correctly for the event, and the SUPSR guys were impressed enough to ask to buy the demo units after the match. Lucky for them, the three units on the range were my donation as Sponsor, and I cut them a pretty sweet deal on one more so they have four. Look for those targets in future matches.

LOW you're hitting LOW
Turns out the MINIMO is rated for 40MM. Neat!

I learned a lot about my gear, having run the match with a PCC as my rifle. The Colt mags I borrowed caused me some problems from overloading them (they don’t hold as many as the converted Uzi mags I usually use) which hosed my time on Stage 1, with 11 penalties. I also was carrying too much ammo (I competed in Armor +P, where you carry everything all the time) which was fucking heavy, ditto with water. My firearms worked great other than the mag related issues on my first stage. I need to practice shooting in armor and with a helmet more, the positioning is significantly different. I’m also fat and slow, so I’m working on that. Superstition Mystery Mountain 3gun is coming up in six weeks, and Cola Warrior West in seven. Time to put the pedal to the metal.

Don’t try this at home – MOA Steel vs Antitank rifle

A while back, we got a message from a friend asking if we knew anything about WWI tank armor. We didn’t, but with the power of the internet, we figured it out fast. Short version, 1/2″ AR450 is roughly equivalent in spec to what was used by the Brits. The whole project was put on by and documented by our friends at Full article linked below.


Could a Tankgewehr Really Take Out a British MkIV Tank?

October 22, 2018 Happy 50th birthday, Gun Control Act

This article has been stolen (with permission) entirely from user of Reddit. Permission is granted to repost with credit to him, in it’s entirety only.

The Wikipedia article for the Gun Control Act of 1968 lists its date of passage as October 22, 1968–exactly fifty years ago today (it’s a bit more complicated than this, but we’ll get to that below). With that anniversary approaching, I started doing some reading into exactly what the results were of that law beyond the Wikipedia synopsis, and it turned into quite a rabbit hole; the time between the GCA and the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act in 1986 was a circus for gun rights.

This turns out to be a hell of a detailed situation, and so I apologize in advance; this will be an obnoxious wall of text even by my standards.

Today, a great many gun rights advocates think of the GCA as the law that created the FFL environment we know today, and FOPA as the law that gave us the peaceable journey protection and closed the machine gun registry. Quite a few of them, based on this understanding, consider FOPA a loss or even a sellout by the NRA, as they consider the closed registry a large cost and the interstate transport protections a small benefit. This understanding is very far from the truth, and demonstrates just how much of the story of post-GCA gun law enforcement has faded from our subcultural memory. When you understand the legal landscape from 1968 to 1986, it becomes rapidly clear just why the NRA and its allies fought so hard for FOPA, and why they weren’t willing to throw it away to save the machine gun registry; the regulatory environment before FOPA was a disaster, and its reforms were ultimately responsible for the comparatively free environment we take totally for granted today.

The history is extremely complicated, and I’ll do my best to pull it together into a coherent and accurate package; but if you see any mistakes, please point them out. I’m working from a very large set of data that was presented for completeness, not for narrative simplicity.

It’s impossible to express enough thanks to attorney David Hardy (who worked closely with the NRA and FOPA’s sponsors to draft the bill and steer it through its rough course to passage) for recording and publishing so many of the individual details that come together to tell the story. His 1986 article for the Cumberland Law Review is shockingly detailed, citing everything from the official debate transcripts, to committee reports, to newspaper quotes, to personal correspondence, to dozens and dozens of US laws and court cases that formed the controlling case law across the history of American gun control. If this article has any weaknesses, they’re only in its very comprehensiveness: the story is drowned in the vast wealth of data as he covers every proposal and amendment in chronological order, and much of the compelling human drama that made FOPA so crucial plays out in the footnotes. Hardy also wrote a mainstream article on FOPA in 2011 which is dramatically more accessible, but goes into far less detail.

In addition, David Kopel’s eulogy for key FOPA sponsor Harold Volkmer (D-Missouri) is a readable celebration of the man’s service to our fundamental right to arms, covering several important highlights of the FOPA fight. Volkmer, incidentally, is one of those unsung heroes of our community, who continued defending gun rights through the Bad Old Days of the Clinton administration, was overwhelmingly elected to the NRA Board of Directors, joined the Board of Trustees of the NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund, and even on his deathbed made time to study and make recommendations on case proposals that had been submitted to the CRDF. But I digress. We’ll talk more about Volkmer later.

The road to the GCA:

First, it’s not exactly accurate to talk about a date of passage for the GCA of 1968 because there isn’t precisely a gun control act of 1968. It was in fact three separate laws passed in two groups. These three laws overlapped in some ways, diverged in some ways, and conflicted with each other in some ways. For example, each of the laws defined “prohibited persons,” but each gave a different list of disqualifications. One barred only dealer sales to prohibited persons, while the others barred possession by them as well. They also defined “firearm” differently and had different criteria for regaining your rights, so you might find yourself disqualified from buying but not from possessing some guns but totally barred from possessing other guns, and able to regain your rights to some guns but not others, with the scope of prohibition and relief and penalties sometimes arbitrary depending on which language the court decided to use. Even the convictions that could disqualify you varied, with some standards including certain specified misdemeanors, while others exempted certain specified felonies. It was a mess all the way down.

The story of the GCA begins in the 1950s, when the postwar surplus boom cut into American gun manufacturers’ sporting gun profits. All the militaries of the developed world had spent years building and contracting for as many rifles as they possibly could, and then the damned Germans had gone and invented the assault rifle, rendering them all obsolete for military purposes. With most of the west clamping down on civilian arms, the American market was one vast sponge of economic prosperity and relatively liberal gun laws, ready to absorb the seemingly endless stocks of yesterday’s arsenal. If you’re Remington, it’s hard to sell as many $95 Model 700s as you’d like when Hunter’s Lodge is selling K98s out of ads in Popular Science for thirty-five bucks a pop, many of them already sporterized. Domestic gun manufacturers petitioned the State Department to restrict its issuance of import permits without success (indeed, after WWII the State Department actively facilitated the mass commercial importation of surplus, reasoning that those guns were safer in American civilian hands than arming international insurgent groups). Finding no help in the Executive branch, they turned to the legislature. The first serious attempt saw an amendment banning surplus imports attached to the 1958 Mutual Security Act. Opposed by the NRA, the amendment was defeated in the Senate.

But gun manufacturers didn’t give up, and they split the pro-gun faction in Congress (some of whom were more loyal to the domestic industry than they were to the principle of free imports in particular). Through the 1960s they worked with Senator Thomas Dodd, a conservative Democrat from Connecticut (then home of over a half dozen major gun manufacturers) on a series of efforts to restrict surplus imports and mail-order gun sales, a cause in which they were joined by anti-gun representatives. As they failed to pass in the face of resistance from the NRA and its Congressional allies, these efforts actually increased in ambition, growing from early proposals that required notarized statements of eligibility and local LEO approval to buy guns by mail, into full-blown replacements for the Federal Firearms Act of 1938. By 1968, the various proposals included lists of prohibited persons, import bans, assorted bans and restrictions on interstate sales, and the expansion of the NFA to cover “destructive devices.”

Two of these ambitious bills (S. 1-90 and S. 917) passed together in early 1968. They covered substantially the same ground, but with anomalous differences that would cause many headaches in the coming decades. They created most of the FFL system we know today, locking gun sales into a restrictive brick-and-mortar model, restricting Destructive Devices, expanding the prohibited persons list to most of its current scope, and banning the importation of milsurp handguns. But the antis were not done; 1968 was a golden opportunity for them. While the bills were still being debated in the Congress, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated; President Johnson publicly denounced the laws as a “half-way measure” that “[left] the deadly commerce in lethal shotguns and rifles without effective control.” A third bill was introduced on June 10, 1968. It added an interstate transfer ban, federal age limits for sales, more prohibited persons (uncoordinated with the other lists), restrictions on the sale and transfer of “handgun ammunition,” and mandatory penalties for possessing a gun while committing certain crimes, and expanded the import ban to all “non-sporting” firearms. All together, the provisions of the three laws constitute what we call the Gun Control Act of 1968.

The GCA in practice:

On its face, the GCA was largely acceptable to the American mainstream. The consensus we know today (that unrestricted mail-order of guns is just too scary to be acceptable) was already strong, and most Americans weren’t too upset by the idea of dealer licensing and having to buy their guns in their home states or with having to fill out a form documenting the transaction. And with all the milsurp already in the country, few people were scandalized by the import ban.

But the practical effect of the GCA would go totally off the rails as a result of two events: the ATF was made into a full bureau in 1969, and the price of sugar skyrocketed in the early 1970s.

That second seemingly unrelated event suddenly made moonshining unprofitable, and the newly expanded ATF ended up with five to six hundred field agents with very little to do, their traditional job of enforcing alcohol taxes suddenly made unnecessary. To prove that they were still relevant (and not incidentally, to please their viscerally anti-gun Executive, Richard Nixon), the ATF embarked on a series of high-profile projects to aggressively enforce the new federal gun laws. Agents and supervisors were reassigned to high-crime cities in projects like 1977’s Operation Concentrated Urban Enforcement and given quotas of prosecutions and convictions to fill. Given the choice between the difficult, time consuming, and dangerous work of infiltrating gangs and organized crime– …or shaking down honest gun dealers and collectors for procedural violations, ATF agents went after the latter hard. In 1978 William Pace, the director of an agents’ association wrote:

Enormous pressure was placed on agents…to “produce statistics.” One agent was given an advertisement from an Alexandria, Virginia newspaper offering two guns for sale. Acting undercover he purchased one (a .22 caliber target pistol) and reported that the seller was not a “dealer” and had only one other for sale, a .22 caliber rifle. He was told to return to the citizen, purchase the rifle and charge him with carrying on the business of a firearms dealer without a license…

Approximately 65 agents were transferred from the [Southeastern enforcement region] to the Washington, D.C. area for CUE. Because of the pressure exerted against them, only two of them are still in that area and only about 10 are still in the federal service. Those that were not eligible for optional retirements sought disability retirements. The Special Agent in Charge who pressured these agents was later commended by the BATF.

Also in 1978, Former enforcement agent Phillip A. Pitton wrote to a Senator his account of this era in the Bureau:

I entered the BATF, after several years of service as a border patrolman, immigrant inspector, and customs inspector, to realize a long time goal of becoming a Treasury agent. It was the biggest disappointment of my life. During those four years, I witnessed entrapment and conspiracy on the part of agents and high ranking supervisors that time and time again resulted in the arrests of honest, law-abiding citizens who had no prior arrests [sic] records. Generally these arrests resulted in [sic] the victim’s selling of three firearms to an undercover BATF agent.

In northern Illinois at that time, and probably so now, one had only to sell three firearms to be classified as a dealer in firearms. This gave enormous entrapment powers to an agent who desire [sic] to make a lot of cases to impress his supervisors. Here we had a man who owned some guns. He could go to any store and buy more. It was not illegal to own guns. Who would have thought that by selling three of his guns that he would be committing a Federal felony? Yes, in this manner hundreds of people went to jail.

Hardy describes the level of oversight of these operations in terms I can’t improve on: “At one point, the Bureau indicated that between 1972 and 1979, only seven agents were disciplined for arrest-related misconduct–and this included two oral and four written reprimands…Considering that the agency then had approximately a thousand agents enforcing firearm laws, this indicated either angelic behavior or lack of oversight. As shown infra, the former explanation is not warranted by the facts.”

The Congressional hearings before the consideration of FOPA involved the testimony of many gun collectors and legitimate dealers targeted by the ATF under their aggressive reading of the GCA. This is just a selection of that tiny subset of ATF victims:

…the lead-off witness at the first oversight hearing was a disabled veteran, set up in the gunsmithing business by the Veterans’ Administration. When approached by an informant with an offer to buy guns illegally, he had responded by telephoning BATF with the informant’s license plate number and a request for his prosecution. He was nonetheless charged with a technical violation–possession of a semiautomatic firearm with a receiver arguably, and unknown to him, meant for a machinegun. The District Court dismissed charges and apologized on behalf of the United States.

…Paul & Billie Hayes: seizure of entire inventory for six alleged improper sales; attempted license revocation after acquittal; attempted forfeiture of inventory after license issuance;

Gene Lane: attempted license revocation after acquittal; informant paid on contingency basis;

Patrick Mulcahey: prosecution of collector for “engaging in the business” of gun dealing, based upon three sales over two-year period; seizure of 89-gun collection based on that allegation; forfeiture after acquittal.

Robert Best: collector, told by one agent did not need dealer’s license, later unsuccessfully prosecuted for alleged dealing without license; Robert Wampler: same; entire collection, and some firearms stored for brother, seized, and no forfeiture action taken as of three years later.

Richard Boulin: dealer-collector prosecuted for selling firearms from collection without recording collection in dealer records; prosecution for unintentional violation, where BATF director stated even he thought conduct was legal; seizure of entire collection; unable to obtain relief from disability, since conviction was for Gun Control Act charge;

David Berry: dealer; prosecuted for inadvertent violations; conviction set aside by court

Preston Brown: hunter, arrested while on interstate hunting trip, for failure to have firearm permit while passing through a state requiring it;

Edwin Phillips: collector, prosecuted for inadvertently selling two firearms from collection to resident of another state.

David Moorhead: enforcement of strict liability, on technical point, against person with no illicit intent;

Curtis Earl: search, seizure, and unsuccessful request for indictment based on erroneous agency records;

A.W. Phillips: Attempted revocation of dealer’s license based on criminal charges earlier dismissed…

The Senate floor debate opened with a recitation of four cases, illustrative of those at which FOPA was directed. Two of the four concerned collectors charged with “engaging in the business.” … On the House floor, two of seven cases cited by Rep. Volkmer as the basis of his substitute involved collectors arrested on this charge.

…Few bills have seen as heavy a use of hearings in floor debates.

Even when the ATF blanched, other federal actors could use the GCA to extremely abusive effect:

One particularly aggravated case of overcharging was discussed at length during the Senate floor debates. It apparently involved a personal grudge on the part of a U.S. Attorney who, on his own, pressed a case Treasury had refused to take and charged the defendant with 88 felony counts, all dealing with recordkeeping. The jury took two hours to acquit on all charges. It was also pointed out that the defendant’s attorney’s fees totalled $100,000.

As you can see, one of the provisions of the GCA most weaponized by the ATF was the FFL requirement. The GCA had created these licenses as a “may issue” proposition, with only hazy guidance regarding who needed one and who should be issued one. The ATF was capricious in its own determinations. In one case, they determined that the executor of an estate that included firearms needed an FFL to dispose of those firearms. Internal ATF documents advised agents that “the term ‘engaged in the business’ is not defined in the law or regulations and is not susceptible to a rigid definition,” while simultaneously pressuring them to prosecute violations as aggressively as possible. Factors as trivial as whether or not a person placed a classified ad or possessed gunsmithing tools could be used as evidence that he was or was not “engaged in the business” depending on whether the Bureau was trying to deny a license or prosecute unlicensed sales.

The case law was equally vague, and two different standards developed in different federal districts. The test laid down in United States v. Gross held that a “dealer” is anyone who is engaged in any business of selling firearms, and that “business” is “that which occupies time, attention and labor for the purpose of livelihood or profit.” The second test (originating in United States v. Jackson), held that a person is a “dealer” if he “[has] guns on hand or [is] ready and able to procure them, in either case for the purpose of selling some or all of them to such persons as [he] might from time to time conclude to accept as customers.” You will note that this theoretically allows prosecution for “dealing” without a license of a person who does not in fact own any guns apart from the one he sold, if the prosecution argues that he presented himself as able to obtain more for sale.

Both of the tests were applied in extremely broad ways, and frequently used to prosecute collectors. In this environment, gun collectors “were required to act at their own risk, subject to felony sanctions,” with no useful way to determine ahead of time whether their actions would be considered legal. When asked by Congress to set a consistent standard, ATF director Rex Davis said that “the term ‘engaged in the business’ is not susceptible to a rigid definition…it can not be included in published regulations…the ‘standard’ changes, not only from one year to the next, but on a case by case basis.”

Hardy notes a test case organized by FOPA proponents to demonstrate the arbitrariness of the ATF’s determinations:

The accuracy of these frank appraisals was documented by one organization, which sent identical requests for advice on a given set of facts to seven agency regional offices. Two replied that no dealer’s license was needed, one sent an application for a license, one sent a question-and-answer pamphlet without further explanation, and two never replied. The last office, which was inadvertently sent two requests for the opinion, replied to one with an opinion that no license was needed and to the other with a form to apply for the license!

Under the Gun Control Act, all violations are “strict liability” offenses with an extremely high penalty: “whoever violates any provision of this chapter … shall be fined not more than $5,000, or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.” If a gun shop clerk makes a mistake on the 4473, that’s a felony. Under a strict liability standard, the prosecution doesn’t even need to show that you knew you’d committed the crime in question: imagine buying a used AR at a gun shop, walking out the door, and being arrested because the rifle’s previous owner had converted it to full-auto without your knowledge. This was the scope of power the ATF had to prosecute people who had done everything they could reasonably be expected to do to comply with the law. And boy howdy, they used that power. In this era it was a common sight at gun shows to see legitimate collectors led away in handcuffs after falling prey to an ATF setup.

The ATF was also empowered to seize any guns “used in, involved in, or intended to be used in any violation,” and the Bureau routinely seized entire collections and dealers’ entire inventory, on the grounds that a paperwork violation in one sale indicated an intent to commit paperwork violations in more sales. (The wording in the GCA was based on the standard for forfeiture of imported goods by Customs, which involves far fewer due process protections than Americans expect in the exercise of their enumerated Constitutional rights.) Case law established by United States v. 89 Firearms actually allowed the Bureau to seize weapons even when the accused person was acquitted or had the charges dropped.

After seizure, the ATF could initiate steps to forfeit the guns, taking permanent ownership for themselves (the Senate committee noted that as the years progressed the ATF showed a pattern of targeting increasingly valuable guns for forfeiture). But the owner’s opportunity to contest began only when that forfeiture was initiated, and they could opt to delay that process for up to five years; this allowed them to simply withhold a dealer’s entire inventory with no legal recourse for the victim, effectively forcing them out of business even if no criminal or civil action was ever taken. During FOPA debate, Senators cited “cases of agency holding seized collections for 2-3 years without filing action,” and “a consistent pattern of harassment of legitimate gun dealers by BATF.”

That pattern of harassment was also enabled by the unfettered authority the GCA gave the Bureau to inspect or demand the physical delivery of dealers’ records, resulting in harassment, business disruptions, and “fishing expeditions” in which agents could comb through the 4473s looking for paperwork violations to prosecute as felonies. If you think the antis’ modern strategy of trying to discourage banks from working with gun companies is a monstrous burden on the practical function of the trade in legal firearms– …well, you’re right. But the post-GCA environment was many orders of magnitude worse, with every gun dealer just one short straw away from prison or financial ruin.

I can sum up the situation no better than the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcomittee on the Constitution, whose seven members unanimously expressed the opinion that:

Based upon these hearings it is apparent that enforcement tactics made possible by current federal firearms laws are constitutionally, legally, and practically reprehensible. Although Congress adopted the Gun Control Act with the primary object of limiting access of felons and high-risk groups to firearms, the overbreadth of the law has led to neglect of precisely this area of enforcement…

The Subcommittee received evidence that BATF has primarily devoted its firearms enforcement efforts to the apprehension, upon technical malum prohibitum charges [that is, charges of procedural violations that cause no actual harm to anyone], of individuals who lack all criminal intent and knowledge. Agents anxious to generate an impressive arrest and gun confiscation quota have repeatedly enticed gun collectors into making a small number of sales–often as few as four–from their personal collections. Although each of the sales was completely legal under state and federal law, the agents then charged the collector with having “engaged in the business” of dealing in guns without the required license. Since existing law permits a felony conviction upon these charges even where the individual has no criminal knowledge or intent numerous collectors have been ruined by a felony record carrying a potential sentence of five years in federal prison. Even in cases where the collectors secured acquittal, or grand juries failed to indict, or prosecutors refused to file criminal charges, agents of the Bureau have generally confiscated the entire collection of the potential defendant upon the ground that he intended to use it in that violation of the law. In several cases, the agents have refused to return the collection even after acquittal by jury.

The rebuttal presented to the Subcommittee by the Bureau was utterly unconvincing. Richard Davis, speaking on behalf of the Treasury Department, asserted vaguely that the Bureau’s priorities were aimed at prosecuting willful violators, particularly felons illegally in possession, and at confiscating only guns actually likely to be used in crime. He also asserted that the Bureau has recently made great strides toward achieving these priorities. No documentation was offered for either of these assertions. In hearings before BATF’s Appropriations Subcommittee, however, expert evidence was submitted [by Vernon Acree, former US Customs Commissioner, who had been hired by the NRA to investigate the ATF’s conduct] establishing that approximately 75 percent of BATF gun prosecutions were aimed at ordinary citizens who had neither criminal intent nor knowledge, but were enticed by agents into unknowing technical violations. (In one case, in fact, the individual was being prosecuted for an act which the Bureau’s acting director had stated was perfectly lawful.) In those hearings, moreover, BATF conceded that…only 9.8 percent of their firearm arrests were brought on felons in illicit possession charges [and that] in the months following the announcement of their new “priorities”, the percentage of gun prosecutions aimed at felons had in fact fallen by a third… All this indicates that the Bureau’s vague claims, both of focus upon gun-using criminals and of recent reforms, are empty words.

The road to FOPA

The situation was so bad that within the first decade after the GCA passed, the NRA and its allies in Congress set out to pass a new pro-gun law to defang its worst excesses. This was a huge task: at the time, gun control was ascendant and no ambitious pro-gun law had ever been passed at the federal level. To that point, gun rights organizations had been waging a long, agonizing delaying action, fighting like hell decade after decade just to lose as slowly as possible. But the ATF’s excesses had gotten so bad that they energized opposition. Senator Sasser called the GCA an “ill-conceived law […that] does not deal with or even purport to deal with misuse of firearms. It is purely and simply a regulatory statute…” joining other representatives in opining that the Gun Control Act was having no practical effect on violent crimes, and so they saw no social cost in restricting its scope. Rep. Hendon said “The present law has not done anything to the crooks…” Senator Stevens said “pervasive regulation is not the answer to the growing incidence of violent crime.”

Representative Harold Volkmer, a Democrat from Missouri, was one of the chief sponsors (indeed, at one point the bill that would become FOPA was called the McClure-Volkmer Act). He said of the bill that it would direct “enforcement toward those who illegally traffic in firearms, toward those who criminally use firearms, and away from regulation of the law-abiding citizen.”

Still, getting FOPA passed was a monumental effort. It took seven years to fight it past the defenses of the anti-gun opposition.

And they worked hard to prevent FOPA from passing. Originally introduced as the Federal Firearms Reform Act of 1979, getting it before the Senate required years of debate and negotiation on specifics between the NRA and the Treasury Department (absolutely nothing in FOPA is an accident; there were months-long fights over individual words), a showdown over tacking it onto a vital appropriations bill, the installation of a new Senate majority leader, mediation by the Reagan administration, and an unusually large number of Congressional hearings and conferences aimed at illuminating the abuses of the GCA. At long last, after years of work by hundreds of dedicated advocates, FOPA went to the Senate floor on July 9, 1985, and was passed after only one day of floor debate. The bill moved on to the House of Representatives.

But the House Judiciary Committee killed it instantly. In an act of bald hubris, the Committee chair Peter W. Rodino, Jr. (D–NJ)–instead of simply ignoring the bill, as is customary in these cases–immediately made a public statement that “the bill is dead on arrival in the House,” indicating his total refusal to allow it to come to the floor for a vote before his committee had even discussed it.

Even if the Judiciary committee had approved FOPA, it would still have to get past the crime subcommittee which was headed by Rep. William Hughes (D-NJ– …yes, that Hughes), and be scheduled by the Rules committee. The first two were dominated by anti-gun Democrats, and the third had a history of complying with the wishes of the staunchly anti-gun Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill (D-MA). The bill’s prospects were hopeless.

Or so it seemed. Volkmer, working with his pro-gun allies, filed a rare discharge petition to force the bill to the floor without the cooperation of the committees. Discharge petitions are very difficult to pass: they require the signatures of a majority of the House, and the list of signers is not published until the petition succeeds, so members can quietly decline to sign with little concern about political accountability. And signers can withdraw at any time, so any existing consensus must be constantly maintained while the leadership attempts to court more supporters. In the quarter-century before FOPA, only seven discharge petitions had succeeded. It took almost five months for FOPA’s supporters to get the necessary signatures (Volkmer had to personally persuade dozens of his fellow Democrats to defy their party leadership) but get the signatures they did. Allowed to examine the list of signatories but not to take notes, pro-FOPA representatives repeatedly divided up the task of memorizing the current list of hundreds of signatures, each committing to remember five names and combine their lists afterward. (Incidentally, some Congressmen who joined the petition cited Rodino’s inappropriate statements as part of their motive for signing.)

Days before the last signatures were secured, Rodino tried to kill the bill again by offering a watered-down replacement written by himself and Hughes, but by then it was too late. The House ultimately forced the discharge and brought FOPA to the floor.

There, the anti-gun faction attempted to kill or weaken FOPA with amendments that would have:

  • Imposed a nationwide 21-day waiting period on all handgun sales.
  • Imposed a nationwide 14-day waiting period on all handgun sales.
  • Neutered the “scienter” requirements (largely keeping the “strict liability” system for GCA violations).
  • Removed the due process guarantees for dealers.
  • Formally allowed multiple warrantless searches of FFLs’ premises per year.
  • Limited the interstate transport protections to only rifles and shotguns.
  • Limited the interstate transport protections to only guns transported for sporting purposes.

These amendments were all defeated. Unfortunately, the discharge petition that had been necessary to get FOPA to the floor also put a ten-hour time limit on amendment debates to prevent a filibuster, and its opponents saved one dirty trick for last. When the infamous Hughes Amendment was introduced, only minutes remained of the allowed debate time. It was declared passed on a hasty voice vote, and requests for a recorded vote were ignored. This one of their amendments made it alone into the final bill.

With the time for debate ended, the House made its final vote on the amended FOPA, and the bill passed by a surprisingly decisive 292 to 130, the Yea votes including 131 Democrats. President Reagan signed the bill, and it finally became law.

The effects of FOPA:

FOPA was not merely the law that lets us bring guns through anti-gun states while we’re traveling and terk er machern gerns.

Anti-gun representatives were incensed by FOPA specifically because of its extremely ambitious reach. James H Scheuer (D-NY) called it an “almost monstrous idea,” and Theodore S. Weiss (D-NY) called it a “national disgrace.” It overruled nearly two decades of case law by negating seven important Supreme Court decisions and about 70 lower federal court rulings, constituting about a third of the total post-CGA federal firearms case law. Among the greatest hits of those wiped out by FOPA:

  • United States v. One Assortment of 89 Firearms, and Dickerson v. New Banner Institute, which held that the ATF could force individuals to forfeit guns for alleged violations even after the owner had previously won a criminal acquittal.
  • United States v. Biswell, which upheld unlimited warrantless searches of licensed firearms dealers’ premises without reasonable cause.
  • United States v. Freed and United States v. International Minerals & Chem. Corp., which had imposed strict liability on GCA violations.
  • Galioto v. Department of Treasury, which turned on whether a person can get relief from a non-felony prohibition. (This case was still in litigation in 1986, and was mooted by FOPA. The GCA says you can get “relief from disability” for a felony conviction, but has no mention of relief for any other prohibitions. FOPA expands the scope of relief.)
  • United States v. Cody, and Thrall v. Wolfe, which held that expungement and pardon for a state-level conviction did not relieve the federal gun prohibition.
  • United States v. Jackson, which suppressed gun shows by preventing dealers from conducting transactions on those premises.

Among its specific provisions, FOPA:

Consolidated the three existing lists of prohibited persons, harmonized their requirements and consequences, and expanded options for relief of prohibition. It also allowed relief due to pardon and expungement, which had not granted relief under the GCA.

Introduced “scienter” requirements for GCA convictions. No more could a person be convicted without even knowing he’d committed a crime. The negotiations on this one were especially fierce, as the ATF was very strongly opposed to the higher burden of proof; but given their campaign of terror against harmless people, it was one of the top priorities for the NRA and pro-FOPA reps. In the final Act, conviction for some of the more serious GCA violations requires that the prosecution prove a “knowing” state of mind, and the rest carry the higher bar of proving a “willful” state; that is, to convict a person of possessing a stolen gun, the prosecution must only prove that he “knew” the gun was stolen, not that he knew it was illegal to possess a stolen gun and “willfully” broke that law; which, to be fair to the ATF, would be a kind of irrational standard of evidence in that case). Either requirement is a substantial improvement over the strict liability of the GCA. In passing this provision, Congress relied on a report estimating that a full three quarters of the ATF’s post-GCA prosecutions would have been forbidden under this new scienter requirement.

Substantially reduced penalties for procedural violations. The penalty for violating “any provision” of the GCA was a fine of up to $5,000, and/or up to five years in prison. FOPA reduced false or incomplete records to misdemeanor. (The buyer lying on the form is still a felony, and an illegal sale itself can still be a felony, but the Act ends felony prosecution for paperwork anomalies in otherwise legal sales.)

Substantially restricted the ATF’s authority to conduct warrantless inspections of dealers’ sale records. In general, inspections now had to be made with reasonable notice, while attempting to trace a firearm as part of a bona fide criminal investigation, and not for the purposes of prosecuting the dealer. Only one annual inspection was allowed to determine whether any willful violation of recordkeeping laws was being committed. In the event that records have to be seized for an investigation, FOPA limits the seizure to only those records material to the case (which shouldn’t have to be specified, but in the case of the 1970s ATF, it did), and copies must be furnished to the dealer. In response to an earlier ATF attempt to use its record-inspection powers to build a partial gun registry, this section also adds the formal ban on assembly of “any system of registration of firearms, firearms owners, or firearms transactions or dispositions” by the Bureau.

Substantially narrowed the definition of “engaging in the business” of gun sales. The broad case law that allowed nearly any collector to be prosecuted for unlicensed sales was swept away in favor of a much narrower four-part test. To convict, all of the following factors must be proven:

  • devotion of time, attention and labor to such dealing;
  • as a regular course of trade or business;
  • with the principal objective of livelihood and profit;
  • through the repetitive purchase and resale of firearms.

This change can hardly be overstated. Many collectors and firearms researchers will sell a privately owned gun and use the proceeds to buy a different gun, gradually cycling through firearms as interests change and as guns are learned from. Many people right here in this thread do this regularly. The prosecution of those people under the GCA was not regarded as a bug: FOPA’s opponents said plainly that they believed the GCA should target those collectors. The hostile House committee report, arguing against FOPA, said that under the proposed Act “occasional sales and exchanges for advancement of a hobby and sale of all or part of a ‘personal collection of firearms’ are expressly [permitted]…one who maintains that he buys and sells guns to make a little extra money to add to his personal collection of guns [is] for all intentions and purposes, a firearms dealer… A principal concern of the Committee is that we not permit individuals to buy, sell and distribute firearms on a repetitive, continuing basis… In a prosecution for engaging in the business without a license it is unreasonable to require that the prosecution prove that livelihood and profit was the principal objective of one who maintains that he buys and sells guns to make a little extra money to add to his personal collection of firearms, or because he enjoys learning about all the various firearms that pass through his hands in buying and selling them.” It’s only because of FOPA that an American today can sell his own guns over the course of owning them or dispose of more than one privately owned gun at once without fear of felony charges. This part of FOPA also swept away the disturbingly broad case law that allowed prosecution of people characterized as “able to obtain” guns for sale even if they owned no actual guns.

Restricted the ATF’s power to seize firearms. Because strict liability was no longer the standard, the ATF was implicitly restricted to seizing firearms connected to a knowing or willful violation. To end the mass seizure of collections and inventories, the Bureau would be required to separately specify each seized firearm’s relation to the violation, backed by clear and convincing evidence. The ATF’s practice of forfeiture of guns even from people who had been acquitted or had the charges dismissed was ended, and the practice of holding guns for up to five years without opportunity of appeal was restricted by a 120-day limit. As Hardy puts it, “A mandate that the judicial action be commenced within 120 days will, to be sure, place certain time pressures upon the enforcing agency, but Congress appears to have shown far more concern for the claimant’s deprivation than for the agency’s convenience.”

Established an award of attorney’s fees for defendants unjustly prosecuted or deprived of his property when the action “was without foundation, or was initiated vexatiously, frivolously, or in bad faith.” This was a radical step. As Representative William “Machine Guns REEEEEE!” Hughes put it, FOPA “would have us paying attorneys’ fees for persons charged with illegally possessing weapons who successfully defend themselves, something we do not do for others that in fact avoid conviction in criminal offenses.” Hardy cites case law to give examples of Bureau behavior that can provoke these awards “ranging from pleading factually unfounded or legally barred claims to failure to make reasonable inquiry into the law or use of harassing, though not technically illegal, tactics to outright perjury based on personal spite. The availability of awards for defense against an unfounded part of an action may militate against ‘overcharging’ a defendant.” This provision got ahead of the post-FOPA ATF, giving the Act teeth and preventing them from experimentally probing at the edges to see what they could get away with, and contributing to their following retreat from aggressive enforcement.

Protected interstate transportation of firearms. We all know this one, but it’s a really big deal. Without it, residents of Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire would be unable to bring their guns out of that trio, hemmed in as they are by the license requirements of New York, Massachusetts, and Canada. As previously noted, FOPA opponents tried to attach a “sporting purposes” amendment to this provision, which would have barred the transportation of guns used for personal defense or collecting; Hughes was particularly annoyed by the defeat of this amendment, galled by the idea that a citizen might transport a gun “for any reason he chooses.”


The GCA was a disaster for gun rights in ways that few modern gun rights advocates appreciate, and FOPA was far more necessary that it’s typically given credit for. We have the luxury today of being so upset about the closure of the machine gun registry only because we’re accustomed to a dramatically safer regulatory environment in which the residents of free states have very few significant legal threats to worry about; and we have the luxury of being outraged at the ATF over the occasional import spat or absurdly botched Fast and Furious project only because the age of their agents aggressively entrapping honest dealers and collectors by the hundreds is largely forgotten. Before 1986, the ATF was an agency wildly out of control, trying to fill ambitious quotas of lives and businesses ruined and guns confiscated. FOPA didn’t instantly end every hint of misconduct in the Bureau (indeed, they’d get carried away six years later in the Ruby Ridge debacle), but their priorities rapidly tacked away from harassment and entrapment on a large scale of ordinary American citizens, and their major operations became increasingly rare.

Today the ATF has been reined in so effectively that they’re actively avoiding prosecution and regulation over trivial matters, deliberately interpreting the NFA as permissively as possible when the industry invents things like “pistol braces,” Shockwave-style “firearms,” or that stupid straight-rifled non-SBR. They studiously avoided regulating bump stocks until directly ordered to by the President. They circulated a white paper expressing their support for deregulating suppressors and liberalizing the “sporting purposes” import restriction. It’s a tamed agency that acts more like an office trying to get its job done in good faith than like a predatory agency aggressively ruining lives and suppressing civil rights to justify its budget.

FOPA was desperately needed, and was passed only through years of heroic, sustained effort by the NRA and a coalition of dedicated Congressmen. They defeated attempt after attempt to kill it, neuter it, and attach anti-gun amendments, and it would have been absolute madness to drop it right before the final vote just because one of those amendments got through. Bluntly, as much as so many modern gun rights advocates hate to hear it, machine guns just aren’t that important. FOPA was a deliverance from oppression for the American gun culture, and the Hughes amendment was a small price to pay for it.

Appendix: A note on machine gun conversion kits

While researching this, I learned about an incredibly stupid wrinkle in NFA regulation that I’ve never heard of before, which I believe actually allows the registration of unregistered “machine guns” under an extremely obscure and limited set of circumstances. I include it here just as a curiosity. If you do this, be sure to tell the judge that some guy on Reddit said it was fine, and you’ll be okay.

The National Firearms Act, as we all know, defined a “machine gun” as any firearm that fires more than one round with a single operation of the trigger. Prior to 1968, “M2 conversion kits” could be widely sold as surplus, making it easier to convert an M1 carbine to full-auto (the actual conversion would still be illegal without registration, but the ATF was displeased by how easy this made it to ignore the law). In order to close that venue, the Gun Control Act expanded the definition: from that point, any “combination of parts” intended to convert a firearm to full auto was itself a machine gun, and required registration.

What does a good capitalist do? Why, he designs a single-part conversion kit (usually a modified trigger or interrupter) that won’t trip the “combination of parts” definition, of course. And the market did provide.

To address this extremely silly situation, FOPA further amends the definition to “part or combination of parts,” making those triggers and interrupters into machine guns in their own right, requiring registration.

Simultaneously, the Hughes Amendment says “it shall be unlawful for any person to transfer or possess a machinegun,” with an exception for “a machinegun that was lawfully possessed before the date this subsection takes effect.” We paraphrase this as “closing the registry,” but that’s not exactly true. The ATF could theoretically go right ahead and register the three-hole AR you just made in your garage, but owning it would still be illegal even with the tax stamp.

But if you happen to have a contraband single-part conversion kit that was “legally owned” under the pre-FOPA oversight, the ATF can register it for you and you’re good.

…as long as you can fit all the required engravings on the part.

Link to /u/tablinum’s original post

Thanks for your hard work dude!

Reactive target stand options

You have been crushed by a wall of text. Take 2d6 damage.

Tl;dr Full album on Imgur with descriptions.

This post is based on a request for information from a client who objects to my haphazard way of doing my website. 😀

Standard angle iron base (BATTLEBORN)

Battle born stand
Utilizes 3” angle iron and 2×4 pockets with a set screw to build a simple H-frame with a vertical 2×4. Three sections of 2×4 approximately four foot long required. Simple, beefy. Service pistols do nothing, magnum pistol may dent it but do no damage. Rifle will zip right through. Most damage can be fixed with a die grinder (monster dremel) or file. Stable as all get out if you use four foot 2x4s, can be set up at fairly aggressive angles. If you shoot up the vertical 2×4, you can always swap it for a horizontal and keep shooting. Depending on the target you have mounted on it, you can get away with one horizontal leg. Has to ship UPS/FedEx. Recommended for people who plan to buy a base for every target.

Modular base (MODB)

Modular base
Utilizes 2×4” rectangular tubing and a set screw to build a simple H-frame with a vertical 2×4. Modular, additional vertical 2x4s can be added by slipping on the vertical component and 2×4. Four sections of 2×4 approximately four foot long required (assuming one vertical component). Simple, light. Service pistol may damage the pockets (dents), magnum will damage the pockets (deep dents) rifle will zip right through. Most damage can be fixed with a die grinder or file. Easily replaced components if you really mangle them. Stable as all get out if you use four foot 2x4s, can be set up at fairly aggressive angles. If you shoot up the vertical 2×4, you can always swap it for a horizontal and keep shooting. USPS Flat Rate shipping available. Recommended for people who will be setting up each time they go out and tearing down at the end, and who want to potentially have multiple targets on the same stand. May require use of shims depending on your specific 2×4 dimensions.

Formed AR base (ARMORBORN)

Formed AR armored base and upright
Utilizes formed 1/4” AR400 and 2×4 pockets to build a simple H-frame with a vertical section of formed AR 400. Two sections of 2×4 approximately four foot long required. Simple, overkill for many applications. Pistols do nothing, rifle if used as directed does nothing (occasional “JFK Magic Bullet” situations may punch the crown of the formed section, but it doesn’t affect use). table as all get out if you use four foot 2x4s, can be set up at fairly aggressive angles. Formed AR upright is held in by a set screw on the base. Has to ship UPS/FedEx.  Recommended for high volume ranges, machine gun use, and people who just really hate servicing targets and stands.

(Special order, contact MOA for this item)

A-Frame base (AFB)

MINIMO mounted on a-frame bracket
Utilizes 3/8” AR500 brackets, steel electrical conduit, and one 2×4 about four feet long. Simple, light. Stray rounds won’t hurt the brackets, but it’s a good idea to bring spare conduit. Stable as all get out, but can be jostled apart with high energy projectiles or machine gun fire. Duct taping the conduit to the bracket can solve that if need be. Great for suspending targets as well as stubbing 2x4s onto the cross bar for reactive target use. USPS Flat Rate shipping available.×4-bracket,%20target-stand

As always, good luck, have fun, don’t die.

“I made this” : A story of steel target design and meme warfare (CLAYSTAR)

Tldr The guy who has a history of getting butthurt about other companies building similar (or identical) steel target designs got called out for ripping off my new design.

Last summer I started prototyping a new version of a steel target system

Basically, I took the standard competition texas star concept and turned it on it’s head. Instead of shooting the first paddle off and then picking off the rest as it spun, you had to shoot clay targets out of the paddles. If you hit a paddle, you’d get penalized, and it would then start swinging, making it harder.

Jade Struck @ Superstition Mystery Mountain 3Gun (SMM3G) 2018

I kept the system a secret until a big 3gun match in Arizona this spring, Superstition Mystery Mountain in Mesa AZ. It went great, everyone loved (hated) it and a fine time was had by all.
One of my major competitors, Travis Gibson of MGM Targets, was at the match.

The system has been used in another major 3gun match since then, and a couple minor ones. I’ve sold a few system and the paddles. Time passed.

Here’s where things get interesting. The Lucas Oil PCC Championship was this weekend. I started getting messages yesterday from people asking if I had a Claystar at the Lucas Match. Nope.

Turns out MGM provided all the steel, including a claystar system compatible with their star, which they called a claystar (which is what I’ve been calling it).

All good, I don’t patent these things, I just want the credit. There’s a long history in the steel targets industry of not patenting things, and competing on your ability to make a solid design at a fair price backed with good customer service, and giving credit to the creator when they come up with something new. Texas Stars are generally attributed Terry Ashton of Texas, utilizing oil field scrap and pipe. Polish plate racks I’m fairly sure are the creation of North Salt Lake Welding. The first dueling tree documentation I have found involved Jeff Cooper and Seligman Shooting Products. The pepper popper is named for instructor John Popper. The claystar is my current contribution to the industry, IDGAF if other companies make it, I’d just like a crack at selling it to people along with the targets that hold it.

So, I posted up on my biz facebook, tagged him and his biz. Shit blew up reaaaaaal good.

A few hours later I got a from someone who indicated he’s with MGM, and that they had no idea that Travis had done this and that he wanted me to know what good people the are, and that they won’t be selling the claystar, and if they do they will credit me. I told him that’s fine, I just want credit. A post on their site or FB thanking me for letting them use my concept in the Lucas match would be nice, I said. I mean, calling ahead of time to ask for permission rather than forgiveness would have been better, but we can’t change the past.

I kinda doubt that is coming.

I’ve gotten some real nasty reviews from his sponsored shooters at this point, but I also picked up a bunch of new nice reviews from people who saw what was going on and finally chimed in on their own targets they bought from me, or shot at events. It’s been interesting to see it unfold.

Ah well, at least we have the memes.

So, at the end of the day, I dunno how this will play out long term, but at least I’ve got a cool story bro to go with the target design now.

On why silencers were included in the National Firearms Act of 1934

This article has been stolen (with permission) entirely from user of Reddit. Permission is granted to repost with credit to him, in it’s entirety only.


WARNING: Wall o’ text! tl;dr for the lazy:

In the official congressional record, no reasons were given at all. In fact, in any official record, “silencers or mufflers” were not mention on the house or senate floor, outside of when the bill text was read aloud, and only mentioned twice in the committee sessions:

  • During the Hearing for the Committee of Ways and Means (House), to state that the only use for a machine gun, sawed-off shotgun, or a silencer is criminal, outside of the use be officers.

    Mr. Fuller [Committee member from Arkansas]. If a man is carrying that type of weapon, if he is not an officer, he ought to be taken into custody anyway, because we know that he is carrying it for an unlawful purpose; I am referring to such a weapon as a sawed-off shotgun or machine gun, or silencer. General Reckord [Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association of America]. We agree with that.

  • During Hearing for Subcommittee on S. 885, S. 2259, and S. 3680; Committee on Commerce (Senate) to add “therefor” after “a muffler or silencer” in the definition of “firearms” for the purposes of the act, makes it clear the mufflers or silencers being regulated are just the one for use with a firearm (as opposed to all mufflers or silencers for anything). A mistake that wasn’t made in the house version of the bill.

It appears that the reason for the inclusion of silencers in the National Firearms Act of 1934 is completely unknown to the official record. The NFA was cooked up in the Department of Justice and advocated for by Hon. Homer S. Cummings, Attorney General of the United States and (especially) Hon. Joseph B. Keenan Assistant Attorney General, Department of Justice. I have been unable to find any credible source outlining the reason silencers were included in the NFA, and this knowledge likely died with Cummings, Keenan, and their staff. If anyone can point me to a credible source, I’d love to see it.

I will also note, that the National Rifle Association of America, the American Game Association, and the American Legion strongly advocated for many changes that were, in my opinion, the sole reason we’re even having this fight today. More on that at the end. (Also, Colt Patent Firearms Manufactuing Co. and Auto Ordnance Co. can suck a bag of dicks.)

In depth discussion

Back in this thread on r/firearms about the Hearing Protection Act, u/Average_Sized_Jim claimed the reason for inclusion of scilencers in the National Firearms Act of 1934 was to prevent poaching (one of the most frequent reasons given). u/Estaban2 asked for a source for this reason, and u/DaSilence responded that (s)he’d never been able to find a source online, but that you could go to the Library of Congress (LOC) and get the transcripts of the floor speeches that were made on the record in 1933, and that they talk extensively about poaching.

That response was interesting enough, that I decided it was time to do a little investigating. Typically the LOC (and any government documents repository) will have many of these records digitized and available online, so I was surprised that u/DaSilence handn’t been able to find them. After a quick Google search, I learned that the NFA was passed during the 73rd congressional session, and that transcripts are available online via the LOC for most US Congressional Sessions, but there is a gap between the 43rd congressional session and the 104th. Damned, the NFA was passed right in the middle of the gap. So, let’s just ask a librarian at the LOC if the transcripts are available online anywhere. (Note, I could just request the transcripts via InterLibrary Loan, but as you’ll see, talking to the librarians first saves a bit of effort.)

My Inquiry:

Is there a digital archive containing transcripts of speeches made on the house and senate floor during the 73rd US Congressional session? I am researching the political conditions surrounding the passage of the Nation Firearms Act of 1934 and I’d like to be able to read the discussions surrounding the passage of that act. Thank you, ~ u/CookingWithoutWater

I also mentioned I had looked at the above LOC webpage in the “Resources Already Consulted” section of the Ask-A-Librarian form.

Inital response:

Thank you for using the online resources of the Library of Congress. The Digital Reference Section has received your question. Your question will be assigned to a digital reference specialist and you should receive a response within five business days.

Okay cool.

The very next day, I recieved this reply:

The Congressional Record, which contains House and Senate floor debates and speeches, is not available on the Library’s website from the 1930s.

That being the case, we have attached three PDF files to this message that contain the floor debates related to the National Firearms Act of 1934 as they appear in the Congressional Record. According to the legislative history of the National Firearms Act of 1934, this act was only discussed on the following three dates:

CONGRESSIONAL RECORD: 78 Congressional Record, 73rd Congress, 2nd Session (1934)

June 13, 1934, Rules suspended; passed House June 18, 1934, Amended and passed Senate; Senate receded from amendment June 18, 1934, House disagreed with Senate amendment

For future reference, you can find the Congressional Record from 1876 to 1988 at a local Federal depository library. Federal publications such as the Congressional Record are made available for free public use in Federal depository libraries throughout the United States. The Congressional Record is available in print, microfilm, and through online subscription databases such as ProQuest Congressional and HeinOnline. A listing of Federal depository libraries in Tennessee can be found on the GPO website at:

From this page, click on the link “Locate a Federal Depository Library Near You” to find a listing of Federal depository libraries in your state.

You may also find useful the following hearings and reports that are part of the legislative history of the National Firearms Act of 1934. The full-text of these hearings and reports can be found on the HathiTrust Digital Library at:


TITLE: National Firearms Act DATE: Apr. 16, 1934 Apr. 18, 1934 May 14-16, 1934 COMMITTEE: Committee on Ways and Means. House LENGTH:170 pp.

TITLE: To Regulate Commerce in Firearms DATE: May 28-29, 1934 COMMITTEE: Subcommittee on S. 885, S. 2258, and S. 3680; Committee on Commerce. Senate LENGTH:108 pp.


TITLE: Taxation and Regulation of Firearms DOCUMENT-DATE: May 28, 1934 COMMITTEE: Committee of the Whole House. House; Committee on Ways and Means. House DOC-NO: H.rp.1780 SERIAL-VOLUME: 9776 LENGTH: 4 pp.$b633011?urlappend=%3Bseq=1111

TITLE: Taxation and Regulation of Firearms DOCUMENT-DATE: June 6, 1934 COMMITTEE: Committee on Finance. Senate DOC-NO: S.rp.1444 SERIAL-VOLUME: 9770 LENGTH: 3 pp

Thank you for using the Library’s Ask-A-Librarian service.


The Digital Reference Section/KD Library of Congress

Hell yeah, librarians are the best. You can see the three attached transcripts here (PDF WARNING!): PDF1PDF2, and PDF3.

78 Congressional Record, 73rd Congress, 2nd Session (1934):

Unfortunately, silencers and mufflers were not discussed on the house or senate floor at all, except to declare that the act regulates them. So, the reason for inclusion of silencers cannot be found in the transcript of floor speeches (sorry u/DaSilence).

These are all short PDFs and actually a interesting to read, so I’d suggest reading them; points I found particularly interesting:

  1. This act was to prevent “criminals, racketeers, and gangsters” from gaining access to the types of regulated arms. Dillinger and Capone were the bogeymen of the era, and much of the discussion revolved around them.
  2. “Ladies’ organizations” and “promenent women” were lobbying hard for keeping pistols and revolver in the bill, but the Committee on Ways and Means removed pistols and revolvers because:

    The majority of the committee were of the opinion, however, that the ordinary, law-abiding citizen who feels that a pistol or a revolver is essential in his home for the protection of himself and his family should not be classed with criminals, racketeers, and gangsters; should not be compelled to register his firearms and have his fingerprints taken and be placed in the same class with gangsters, racketeers, and those who are known as criminals.

  3. Self-defense was a prominent reason in the 1930s to own a pistol or revolver, a fact that should shock no one.
  4. The $200 amount for the tax as set because that was about the cost of a machine gun of the time — effectively a 100% tax.

Okay, so that was a bust in terms of silencers, so what about the other documents referenced that are part of the legislative history?

Hearing for the Committee of Ways and Means, House:

The only time mufflers or silencers were mentioned was to state that the only use for a machine gun, sawed-off shotgun, or a silencer is criminal, outside of the use be officers.

Mr. Fuller [Committee member from Arkansas]. If a man is carrying that type of weapon, if he is not an officer, he ought to be taken into custody anyway, because we know that he is carrying it for an unlawful purpose; I am referring to such a weapon as a sawed-off shotgun or machine gun, or silencer. General Reckord [Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association of America]. We agree with that.

Hearing for Subcommittee on S. 885, S. 2259, and S. 3680; Committee on Commerce, Senate:

The only time mufflers or silencers were mentioned was to add “therefor” after “a muffler or silencer” in the definition of “firearms” for the purposes of the act, makes it clear the mufflers or silencers being regulated are just the one for use with a firearm (as opposed to all mufflers or silencers for anything). A mistake that wasn’t made in the house version of the bill.

Report for the Committee of the Whole House; Committee on Ways and Means, House:

Just a short summary of the bill.

Report for the Committee on Finance, Senate:

Just a short summary of the bill.

Total bust; no real mention, discussion, or debate around them in the entire legislative history (sorry again u/DaSilence).

Okay, but, having read all that, I did find quite a bit of interesting stuff in there. Mostly, we have been having exactly the same [redacted] debate for near 100 years! The arguments that took place in the record (in no particular order):

  • Automobiles; “but licenses and registration because they are dangerous”
  • But [insert favorite country]’s homicide rate is ____
  • Pistol licensees are some of the most law abiding citizens
  • defensive gun use happens all the time and here are newspaper clippings to prove it
  • New York sucks a bag of dicks
  • criminals will get guns anyways
  • Only use for ____ is criminal (even body armor came up because it’s “for armament and purely a matter of criminal use.”)
  • NRA are propagandists (but the antis are honest and forthright) and publishing magazine articles about legislation and informing their members is nefarious (because informed citizenry has always been a bad thing apparently) [Note: senate committee meeting has the text of most of the NRA publication about the NFA of the time. Someone asked the NRA to bring in copies to submit to the record.]
  • Wont someone think of the children?
  • “Crime literature” is bad and influences our poor children (why won’t someone think of the children?)
  • for manufacturers to “keep on file at least one bullet fired from each gun”.
  • Micro-stamping of bullets. (I didn’t know that argument was so damn old either.)
  • Magazine capacity (original definition of machine gun had it as any automatic or semi-automatic gun capable of shooting more than 12 bullets without reloading)
  • Regulating ammunition like a firearm
  • Criminals mostly steal their weapons
  • Firearms are designed to kill
  • Police, in general, don’t know marksmanship
  • The great equalizer

I cannot believe how amazing close to word-for-word this argument was compared to today’s arguments.Reading this whole shit show has been… interesting… to say the least.

On the NRA

When this bill was first introduced, the NRA had only gotten wind of it the day before, but came in on a train that night to testify in front of the house committee. General Reckord [Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association of America] was by far the main voice of opposition to this bill. I believe he alone speaks as much as the DoJ does. The NRA focused their entire effort on preventing:

  • Machine guns being defined as any automatic or semi-automatic gun capable of shooting more than 12 bullets without reloading. It was General Reckord that proposed the single action of the trigger definition we are all familiar with today.
  • Removing pistols and revolver. From the testimony, it is clear this is entirely due to his advocacy, and that of members of the NRA, and was bitterly fought by the DoJ.
  • Registration of all pistols and revolvers, and the ability to transfer them between citizens. Again, NRA vs DoJ.

Overall, I’d suggest that this was the most critical time in terms of the ability of a citizen to own, carry, and use firearms in general. It was very clear machine guns and sawed-off shotguns were going away and there was nothing anyone could do about it. All the congressmen balked at even the slightest hint of not including those. The machine gun and sawed-off shotgun clearly, in the eyes of the nation, were super evil scary things thanks to Dillinger and Capone (who gave them this whole regulation-by-tax idea, btw). Evenmore so, the Department of Justice really, really, wanted to essential end civilian firearms ownership, and without the NRA, I believe today we’d essintially be there. I’d say the NRA picked the right battles of the time and we (the firearm owners of America) all came out as best we could.

Likewise, silencers some how gained the same status of machine guns and sawed-off shotguns in the eyes of the DoJ, but I can’t think of any particularly high profile use of them for the era. There was more discussion of not regulating machine guns and sawed-off shotguns than all talk of silencers combined. It’s still utterly mystifying that they were included at the same level as machine guns, but not discussed at all, nor challenged by the NRA.

On last tidbit: at the time, Annual membership to the NRA was $3/year at the time; lifetime $25. They had approximately 1/4 million members. At the very end of the senate committee hearing, there is a income and expense statement for the NRA in 1933. A rather large, and well funded organization for the day. Oh, 1/2 of membership dues went to printing the American Rifleman magazine.

Link to /u/cookingwithoutwater’s original post