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AR15 pistol to rifle and back to pistol


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FFL could have made a mistake on the computer and all you pistol owners could go to jail. Who knows what they send in to the feds. JMO. Does anyone know anyone who has been arrested for changing a lower from a rifle to a pistol. Just curious.

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FFL could have made a mistake on the computer and all you pistol owners could go to jail. Who knows what they send in to the feds. JMO. Does anyone know anyone who has been arrested for changing a lower from a rifle to a pistol. Just curious.

 

Technical things like that are almost always an "add on" charge, once you're under the radar for something else.

 

The 4473 only "suggests" that there may be an impropriety of some sort, would have to be supported by manufacturer/distributor info as the config, and also FFLs bound book as to config sold in, etc.

 

As far as your taking a virgin lower and being charged for having made a rifle before a pistol, would take some extraordinary evidence of some sort of course. Like maybe a snitch friend or two who owed ATF dues, eh?

 

- OS

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A gun that was ever a rifle on a 4473 will always be a rifle. There have been people I have spoke to who sold a lower that was once transferred as a rifle. When it was found out the stripped lower had once been a rifle the seller got a call by the ATF asking why the rifle they had bought was now being sold as something other than a rifle.
 
Despite what some people may think, they do keep records of transactions. And they do know when a rifle is transferred as something other than a rifle.
 
To add to even more confusion I read a opinion letter this week that says that if a lower was transferred with a stock but not an upper then it didn't meet the definition of rifle and should be transferred as other. That is in direct conflict to what it has been for a very, very long time.
 
It is listed in here somewhere.
http://www.openatf.com/rulings

That is a list of the more notable opinions. And yes, that is the official ATF website.

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How would the ATF know about a transfer? In arkansas, my FFL doesn't even send anything in. It's just books he writes in along with the 4473. He doesn't even have to run background if you have a valid ccw
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If anyone is overly worried about it just make sure your lower is listed as "other" on the 4473 and have it engraved "pistol", "AR Pistol Only" or something along those lines.

Like the other poster just said, it's a tack on charge. If you're just a normal enthusiast like the rest of us and aren't dabbling in other very illegal stuff you don't have anything to worry about.
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A gun that was ever a rifle on a 4473 will always be a rifle. There have been people I have spoke to who sold a lower that was once transferred as a rifle. When it was found out the stripped lower had once been a rifle the seller got a call by the ATF asking why the rifle they had bought was now being sold as something other than a rifle.
 
Despite what some people may think, they do keep records of transactions. And they do know when a rifle is transferred as something other than a rifle.
 
To add to even more confusion I read a opinion letter this week that says that if a lower was transferred with a stock but not an upper then it didn't meet the definition of rifle and should be transferred as other. That is in direct conflict to what it has been for a very, very long time.
 
It is listed in here somewhere.
http://www.openatf.com/rulings

That is a list of the more notable opinions. And yes, that is the official ATF website.

 

Don't see anything about the stock issue, and don't know what "conflict" you speak of. By ATF's own definitions, a stock has no bearing on classification of a firearm without a barrel being attached at same time.

 

Also, since the 4473 changed in 8/2008, the directions plainly state that even if a receiver can only be made into a rifle, it is still to be transferred as "other firearm".

 

At any rate, what's on 4473 is not legally definitive at all. A FFL's mistaken classification does not make you guilty of anything. The only fact is that the firearm must have not originally been configured as a rifle, and it takes more than a 4473 to prove that. Indeed, before 2008, most all AR receivers were transferred as "long gun" by common practice, since "other firearm" was not an option -- but that doesn't mean you couldn't make a pistol from them initially as per SCOTUS ruling in 1992.

 

If a FFL's choice of firearm type were legally binding, would mean that taking a lower that had first been configured as a rifle, reselling it as lower only, and checking "other firearm" on 4473 would make it legal to make that lower into a pistol -- which of course is not the case, and the fact the FFL checked "other firearm" as required by the 4473 directions has no bearing on your legality of making a pistol from that lower.

 

- OS

Edited by Oh Shoot
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How would the ATF know about a transfer? In arkansas, my FFL doesn't even send anything in. It's just books he writes in along with the 4473. He doesn't even have to run background if you have a valid ccw

 

By federal law, 4473 info is not to be kept by ATF after background check. In reality, who knows?

 

Of course, ATF can go see a 4473 at FFL's biz any time they want.

 

Also, when a FFL goes out of biz, all 4473s ARE sent to BATF, and they DO keep them, legally, and have been digitizing them for years, complete with searchability. Saw a special not long ago where they had to lease a separate building for storage of all the paper 4473s waiting for the scanning.

 

- OS

Edited by Oh Shoot
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If anyone is overly worried about it just make sure your lower is listed as "other" on the 4473 and have it engraved "pistol", "AR Pistol Only" or something along those lines.

 

You realize that what's engraved on a lower has zero legal significance, either federally or AFAIK under any state's law either?

 

The only engraving that has meaning is serial number (required since 1968 for commercially manufactured firearms) and NFA engraving required if you do tax stamp.

 

- OS

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The way the rule is makes me want to make all future purchases "other" rather than rifle. In my case, it doesn't matter,
anyway, because I doubt I'll be buying any more lowers.

Ahh, they'll change the reg around again, just to keep us confused.

 

This is why the legislature is supposed to make the laws. We're not supposed to be at the mercy of regulatory agencies.

Edited by tnguy
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This is why the legislature is supposed to make the laws. We're not supposed to be at the mercy of regulatory agencies.

 

Federally, the USC (the statutes as codified) and the CFR (administrative rules for the statutes) has been the system since 1938.

 

CFRs can be changed, but more often than not, there are official "rulings" about them and the CFRs stand as written.

 

As far as this "pistol/rifle/pistol" and "constructive possession" topic, the "ruling" was by SCOTUS in 1992 and of course not subject to ATF "reinterpretation".  The BATF didn't come clean and publish their own ruling echoing it until summer of 2012, keeping to its "keep 'em guessing" culture for all those years.

 

- OS

Edited by Oh Shoot
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The engravings on the side mean squat. I can mark "AUTO" in the third position of the safety and engrave the lower with "Full auto machine gun" and there is nothing illegal about it unless it FUNCTIONS as a machine gun.
 
The ATF's definition states that it is designed to be fired from the shoulder. Makes no mention of barrel length. If an AR has a 12" barrel AND a shoulder stock it is a rifle. If an AR has a 20" barrel and a shoulder stock it is a rifle. If you remove the shoulder stock from the 12" gun it is no longer a rifle just like if you remove the shoulder stock from the 20". The shoulder stock defines the rifle.

The term “Rifle” means a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of the explosive in a fixed metallic cartridge to fire only a single projectile through a rifled bore for each single pull of the trigger.

A pistol has a rifle bore so that part of the definition isn't exclusively rifle. Firing a fixed metallic cartridge isn't exclusive to rifles either. You take away the shoulder stock and it becomes either a "pistol" or "firearm", depending on overall length. Take a "pistol" and add a shoulder stock and the "pistol" becomes a short barreled rifle.

 

The opinion stating that having a stock on an AR lower doesn't matter is a relatively new opinion, 2010.  For years prior to this if an AR lower came in with a stock attached it transferred as a rifle. Maybe it all changed with the "other" classification on the 4473 but I know for a fact at least 6 years ago an AR lower with a shoulder stock transferred as a rifle if it had a shoulder stock.

 

Even with that copy of the opinion I would caution against assuming that an AR lower with a shoulder stock is not a rifle. I have talked in depth with various agents at the ATF and they have all said that if the private letter ruling doesn't have your name at the top it doesn't apply to you. This only adds to the confusion that is the ATF. Now I am sure you could use another's opinion letter as evidence. ATF rulings apply to everyone and a private letter ruling only applies to those who the letter is addressed.

And if anyone thinks the ATF doesn't get concerned when a gun that was previously transferred as a rifle gets transferred as a pistol I will gladly accept the transfer of a stripped lower that was once a rifle. It will not be me getting the call asking why I changed a rifle into something other than a rifle. And another word of caution, if someone ends up with a stripped receiver that once a rifle and then assembles it into a pistol they have a unregistered SBR.

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That wasn't my question, Gordon. What I meant was, if I took my rifle apart and sold the parts, including the lower, how would

it affect what the future owner does with it? That seems vague to me.

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Okay. Every AR I have made has started as just a receiver. That's how they were transferred to me. Not trying to start an argument,

just point out a vague situation. If I sold one of my receivers to someone, how would they know how it started out, unless I told them

otherwise. I think it goes back to the way OS stated things, doesn't it? I understand if the receiver was from a store bought gun. See

what I mean?

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Okay. Every AR I have made has started as just a receiver. That's how they were transferred to me. Not trying to start an argument,

just point out a vague situation. If I sold one of my receivers to someone, how would they know how it started out, unless I told them

otherwise. I think it goes back to the way OS stated things, doesn't it? I understand if the receiver was from a store bought gun. See

what I mean?

 

They wouldn't?

 

No one said it wasn't FUBAR.

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...How would the ATF know? Because every single firearm that is listed on a 4473 is also part of the call in. The dealer notifies what firearm is being purchased, the serial number and what it is. And when a serial number that was previously a rifle on a 4473 is now anything other than a rifle then the purchaser is in possession of a SBR and the ATF will stand up and take notice.

 
For that to happen all 4473s would indeed have to have been kept, logged, and made automatically searchable in a database. No, I can't prove they aren't, in direct violation of federal law. And it's true that some years ago, a certain amount of un-destroyed 4473 info was discovered, as I understand it. And it is also true that 4473s from closed FFLs are indeed being scanned into database, that's not even secret. But that is part of their separate National Tracing Center, and it's pretty tin foil to think that every 4473 they have is cross audited during every routine FFL NICS query.
 
But the larger point is that while what a FFL marks on 4473 might be a clue in an investigation, it is not legally definitive at all, and there's nothing in USC or CFR that says a firearm legally becomes what an FFL chose on the 4473.
 
If it did, an FFL could erroneously:
 
-  mark a complete SBR as legal "long gun" on line 18 and "rifle" on line 29 of 4473. Would that make it legal for you to posses said SBR without a tax stamp? Of course not. It's still a SBR.
- mark a Glock as a "long gun" and "rifle".  Does that mean you could then add a vertical forward grip and a stock to it? Of course not. It's still a handgun.
- mark an AR lower as "long gun" and "rifle". Does that make it illegal to make a pistol from it? Assuming it's a virgin lower receiver, of course not.
- enter wrong serial number or even brand name. Does that mean the firearm is somehow illegal for you to possess? Is it evidence you changed the serial number?  Of course not.
- etc
 
Of course it is unlikely an FFL would blow both fields on the 4473 in the first place, even the ones who erroneously check "long gun" on 18 will also put "receiver" or "lower" under 29 where they have to actually describe the firearm. Even pre 8/2008, where "other firearm" was not an option, section 18 would have "receiver" or "lower" there too, unless the FFL was just flat out lying for some reason. But all receivers since 1992 have the same "pistol/rifle/pistol" test, ie, that if built as handgun first, can go back and forth.

 

There is also the issue of what the FFL writes in his bound book, too. But of course the greater evidence would be how the manufacturer/distributor released the receiver to the FFL in the first place. For the FFL to change the status, he would have had to configure it into a long gun or handgun before selling it, which even if he blows it on 4473 should still be reflected in his bound book and/or receipt.

 

Also, just because someone configured their virgin lower as a rifle, and later sold it as a rifle through an FFL 4473 transfer, that still doesn't mean that the lower cannot be made into a pistol, if indeed the original owner made a pistol first. That would still require some extraordinary proof to convict the second owner for "making a weapon from a rifle" or whatever the charge is.
 
In short, what an FFL puts on a 4473 does not alone determine the actual legal status of a firearm.

 

All that being said, though, since indeed there is an "other firearm" choice nowadays, it certainly behooves the buyer to check it before it's submitted, I mean, why not cover every base you can, eh?
 

- OS

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That's kinda what I thought. Thanks, Mac. Of course it is the ATF, and secret squirrels within that agency will probably say

one thing to one person, and something else to another.

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That's kinda what I thought. Thanks, Mac. Of course it is the ATF, and secret squirrels within that agency will probably say

one thing to one person, and something else to another.

 

Their "letters" vary quite a bit over time, and they are masters at incomplete answers, using "could constitute" and "may be determined to be" and the like --  I notice the ones I've seen since they themselves came clean in the 2011 published ruling have been more consistent. Before that you still see some verbiage that still "suggests" that if a firearm was ever a rifle, has to stay one, even after the SCOTUS ruling in 1992.

 

Here's one, for example, only saved the last page from it, so don't know date, but reading it seems to suggest that. But I'm putting it here because it does state that a stock on a lower does not a rifle make, can still be made a pistol,  even though that would seem to be common sense to me even within the BATF's convoluted thinking. See "Can an AR-15 type lower receiver, with buttstock attached...". So at least Spencer got that part right. :)

 

Buttstock-Receiver.jpg

 

 

- OS

Edited by Oh Shoot
  • Like 1
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That ruling was the one I was talking about. It is in the link as 2010-513

 

BTW, that opinion applies to only one person. The person to whom it was addressed because it is a private letter ruling. Feel free to call the ATF and ask if a private letter ruling applies to everyone. I have asked and have been told the only letters that matter are the ones with my name at the top, of which I have several.

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I have wrote three and have had two returned with opinions.

 

One opinion I called about and was told it was perfectly legal but the supervisor said to write the letter because unless my name was on it his opinion didn't matter. I wrote the letter and 3 months later I got a letter saying just the opposite of what the supervisor had told me. I called the supervisor and told him the agent had opined the exact opposite of what he had said. I asked if he could fix it and he said he would not reverse the agent's ruling on the matter even though he disagreed with the ruling.

 

The second ruling was more of a shot in the dark and never really expected them to rule in my favor.

 

The third, which asked for clarification on some trust issues, was never returned. I assumed it was because they were consulting with staff lawyers and honestly forgot about it until I found a copy of the letter I had sent.

 

The reason why you need a ruling with your name on it is because different agents can rule differently on the same issue. A ruling that applies to me may nto apply to the enxt person. On the major issues they generally rule the same but it is also possible to the random agent who opines totally against the grain.

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One thing about "opinions" signed and addressed to the inquirer. They appear, when shown together with other "opinions", to cast doubt in
the agency's competence when presented to a judge or jury, so I would hesitate to call them
authoritative. I would rather an agency be much
more transparent than that. I would also hope
people who get these "opinions" to let them be known and shared. Only then can others get to the truth and that agency could possibly be forced
to live up to higher standards, rather than the mess they are.
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That ruling was the one I was talking about. It is in the link as 2010-513

 

BTW, that opinion applies to only one person. The person to whom it was addressed because it is a private letter ruling. Feel free to call the ATF and ask if a private letter ruling applies to everyone. I have asked and have been told the only letters that matter are the ones with my name at the top, of which I have several.

 

Agree. A letter is "just a letter", but then again, they do have significance.

 

SIG is selling the AR "brace" on "just a letter", and the letter is not even to SIG. And folks are all buying it, due to only a letter, and the letter is not to them. Same with Magpul Angled Fore Grip, and the various mag well grip adapters, cheek risers, even cane tips for pistols, etc. All approved by letter, but not to the end user.  But once you see several of them that all say same thing to different folks, you tend to get the gist of things from them.

 

And obviously, a letter from some agent or other certainly wouldn't carry same weight as one from head of entire national division. Matter of fact, didn't know they let but certain personnel even issue a letter.

 

But anyway, a butt stock alone simply does not make a firearm a rifle or shotgun. Indeed, you can have a stocked receiver that can be both a rifle AND a shotgun. With the exception of machine guns (where mere full auto part counts under the definition) a firearm must have a barrel along with the butt stock to determine the type of long gun it then becomes -- a legally configured rifle or shotgun or a legally or illegally configured SBR or SBS.

 

About the only AR lower I know of that couldn't be configured as a pistol without some wild modification first is the Cavalry Arms "unibody" deal:

 

cav_arms_lower.jpg

 

But even it is to be transferred as "other firearm" -- perhaps this oddball example is one of the reasons that the 4473 says,

 

"If a frame or receiver can only be made into a long gun (rifle or shotgun), it is still a frame or receiver, not a handgun or long gun." Why? Because it ain't a rifle or shotgun without a barrel on it -- a non-NFA receiver with a stock on it is just that, a receiver with a stock on it.
 

 

- OS

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....I would also hope
people who get these "opinions" to let them be known and shared

 

They do, that's how we know about them, as per the one I posted above. Whole section of scanned "letters" on arfcom pistol section for example, since there are so many finer "rulings" that have come up since they became popular. They are almost all from division heads though, not rank and file "agents"; they seem to be pretty careful about who they let write these things.

 

- OS

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