Posted: 8/3/2008 3:42:40 AM
[Last Edit: 12/15/2008 8:27:53 AM by Steve-in-VA]
THE IMAGE ABOVE IS A PAID ADVERTISEMENT
Let's start with the law. As we all know, possession of an unregistered machine gun is illegal. "Machinegun" is defined in 26 United States Code § 5845(b). It states:
The term “machinegun” means any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger. The term shall also include the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or combination of parts designed and intended, for use in converting a weapon into a machinegun, and any combination of parts from which a machinegun can be assembled if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person.
Contrary to myth, mis-statements and internet hyperbole, BATFE has never "ruled" nor promulgated that installing an M16 part in an AR is "illegal." They do, however, advise against it. In a March, 1999 letter from then Chief Owens, he stated:
We would advise any person who possesses an AR-15 rifle not to
possess M-16 fire control component.
This is repeated over and over and even found in FFL literature. The reason for such an admonition is not that such behavior is per se illegal, but because a person could, by mistake, stockpile too many parts and have enough to readily convert their AR to full auto. Again, from the above letter:
A person who possesses a registered M-16 machinegun and
a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle and a separate quantity of M-16
machinegun components could be in possession of two machineguns.
Again, this "warning" is borne out of a concern that someone could accumulate enough parts to enable full auto in their AR, not that installation of an M16 part in an AR is against the law. Again, from the above letter:
Thus, an AR-15 rifle possessed with separate M-16 machinegun
components can meet the definition of a machinegun, if the rifle
shoots automatically when the components are installed.
In February of 2005, BATFE wrote Colt, via Carlton Chen, this letter:
U.S. Department of Justice
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco
Firearms and Explosives
[stamp] FEB 10 2005
[stamp] Received FEB 14 2005
Mr. Carlton S. Chen
Colt Defense LLC
547 New Park Avenue
West Hartford, CT 06110
Dear Mr. Chen:
This is in reference to your most recent facsimile transmitted to the Firearms Technology Branch (FTB), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), on January 13, 2005. In your faxed letter, you seek clarification regarding the use of M16 machinegun bolt carriers in AR-15 type weapons.
As you are aware, since your provision of copies of relevant material in your previous faxes, ATF has previously addressed the use of M16 machinegun fire-control components in AR-15 type rifles in the General Information section of the Federal Firearms Regulations Reference Guide (ATF P 5300.4). (Please refer to page 115, item #3, “Important Information Concerning AR-15 Type Rifles.”)
However, we would like to direct your attention to a particular paragraph of item #3, which states the following:
In order to avoid violations of the NFA, M16 hammers, triggers, disconnectors, selectors and bolt carriers must not be used in assembly of AR-15 type semiautomatic rifles, unless the M16 parts have been modified to AR-15 Model SP1 configuration. Any AR-15 type rifles which have been assembled with M16 internal components should have those parts removed and replaced with AR-15 Model SP1 type parts which are available commercially. The M16 components also may be modified to AR-15 Model SP1 configuration.
Accordingly, based on previous FTB recommendations not to install this bolt carrier and the conclusions presented in the passage cited above, our Branch cannot specifically authorize you to install an M16 bolt carrier into an AR15 rifle. Also, we cannot definitively tell you that installing an M16 bolt carrier in an AR 15 will make that firearm fire automatically.
Mr. Carlton S. Chen
We can only inform you that if this installation were to create a firearm that fires automatically, it would be a machinegun as defined; conversely, if it did not result in the production of a weapon that shoots automatically, it would be lawful to posses and make.
We thank you for your inquiry and trust the foregoing has been responsive.
Chief, Firearms Technology Branch
As you can see from the highlighted portion, BATFE acknowledges the clear intent of 26 United States Code § 5845(b) by stating the installation of an M16 component in an AR would be legal so long as the definition of "machinegun" outlined in that code section is not met. Although this seems to be a "first", BATFE has never ruled or written otherwise. Seems very simple- it is. The confusion seen on the 'net is borne out of ignorance and mis-statements of law and BATFE's "rulings."
For more links, letters and caselaw, go here: www-2.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs/usr/wbardwel/public/nfalist/
WarNerve gave me this recent ATF letter that succincly drives home the point:
Here's a contribution from MarineSniper8541 who had some interesting encounters with Colt recently- I have also included his opionions as to the "orginal design" aspect/argument:
Here is some new info just passed to us by the instructor of the Colt armorer's re-cert course I just graduated. The instructor has been with Colt for over 30 years, is the chief production armorer for Colt, and knows what the F&%K he is talking about.
In 2005 the ATF issued Colt approval to use full auto bolt carriers in any gun that will accept one (excludes the versions with the receiver block simply because it will not physically accept one).
The ATF gave Colt permission to cease production of the semi auto bolt carrier and use full auto carriers in all of their new production models. Of course...exhausting current stocks of semi-auto carriers first.
The reasons were explained to our class as follows:
Problems have been linked for years to the lessened weight of the semi auto bolt carrier and the shape of the rear most portion of all 4 types of semi-auto carriers that have been designed over the years. Tests even proved that although one might not realize it, the rear of the bolt carrier in the half-circle design, actually flexes and vibrates during firing. This, along with the carriers weighing less than was intended in original design has been found to be responsible for a lot of malfuctions and excessive parts wear due to the bolt carrier actually sliding and grinding against the upper receiver and receiver extension when the flexing and vibration occurs.
Colt was able to articulate and prove that the bolt carrier was not "designed and intended solely and excusively" for full auto use. The same carrier was shipped in original AR-15 semi-autos (which shipped with semi-auto only fire control parts).
They proved that the AUTO SEAR was designed exclusively to work OFF of the bolt carrier....and NOT the carrier to work off of the sear...
The bolt carrier was designed in that original form. Stoner realized he needed a component to retard the hammer on its return cycle toward the firing pin to keep it from firing out of battery. So he designed the auto sear AROUND the already existing lower foot of the bolt carrier.....and bingo....there you have it.
Every single one of you, with 90% certainty(10% for those who actually might have an OLD upper reciever that was made without it) possesses an upper receiver with a sear relief. That sear relief is designed and machined into the receiver "designed and intended solely and excusively" (as the law states) to facilitate the functioning of fully automatic fire.
The ATF long ago approved the industry use of the exact same upper receiver for semi auto sales as was and is being used for full auto weapons. The same thing has happened with the bolt carriers. Colt quit making separate semi auto only upper receivers and was able to simplify production...just as they are now doing with carriers. But now, the full auto upper receiver is accepted as the industry standard. The bolt carrier issue is just so new that people are still skeptical.
Here is an example. If you have the one on the right, you possess a full auto upper receiver.