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Old August 17, 2014, 01:03 PM   #1
RangerJoe
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Transfer Questions

Greetings all; Great forum you guys have here. I have a question concerning the legalities of transferring a few firearms.

I have in my possession an old Colt Single Action Army. My grandfather worked at colt as the vice president of manufacturing at the time. the story behind this SAA is that it came off the line because of a hairline crack in the frame (clearly visible). when it was pulled by the quality control section, the serial number was X'd out as it was never intended to be sold. It was given to my grandfather and has been in my fathers safe for decades...then my safe.
It's a beautiful gun, but the serial number was covered at the factory.

I have a Colt Agent which comes with a handwritten letter from my grandfather (on colt letterhead) to my father stating that this particular firearm was assembled by him at Colt. It consists of an Air Crewman barrel, steel cylinder. He used this conglomeration to recommend changes in design and engineering. Again, in the letter, it states that he requested the serial number be X'd out at the factory as it was never intended to be sold.

I believe these are significant collector pieces and I would like to see them go to someone who will appreciate them. I have a few other pieces that are significant to me so I would like to let these go.

My question is, I understand it is a felony to destroy a serial number on a firearm. Is there any legal way to transfer these? I'm a career Soldier and really dont need the ATF raiding my house for some relics!

The Colt historical society was no help.

Thanks in advance for your help.

-Joe
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Old August 17, 2014, 01:06 PM   #2
R.Ph. 380
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Those two don't really exist. What has no legal existence has no legal need to transfer
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Old August 17, 2014, 01:12 PM   #3
RangerJoe
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I like how you think.
Is it really that simple?
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Old August 17, 2014, 01:23 PM   #4
Aguila Blanca
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Quote:
I like how you think.
Is it really that simple?
No, it is not that simple.

They are handguns. Under federal law, ALL transfers of handguns must go through an FFL if the transfer is interstate. Some states may allow undocumented, face-to-face transfers of handguns within the same state, but many do not. "Within the same state" means, for you, within your state of residence. Even if you drive to another state to meet a buyer, it's still an interstate transfer. Since you didn't mention what state you live in, we can't know whether or not your state allows undocumented, face-to-face ttransfers, but you can look it up.

Serial numbers were not required by the federal government until 1968. Firearms manufactured prior to that date didn't require a serial number. The problem lies in the federal law (echoed in the laws of many states) prohibiting the removal or alteration of a serial number. If your guns had no serial numbers, they would be squeaky clean. But they did have serial numbers, which have now been defaced. Doing so when it was done (assuming before 1968) wasn't prohibited, but simply possessing those firearms today is a felony.

The one with the factory letter attesting that the serial number was x'd out before it left the factory might be okay. If you don't have similar documentation for the SAA, I would suggest that you consult an attorney who is knowledgeable about firearms law.
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Old August 17, 2014, 01:25 PM   #5
jtmckinney
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I thought a serial number was not required until 1968 and everything manuf before that was grandfathered. Is that not correct?

Edited to add: I was asking above at the same time "Aguila Blanca" was answering. He is probably a better source of info.
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Old August 17, 2014, 01:27 PM   #6
Aguila Blanca
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The law prohibiting the removal, alteration or defacement of a serial number does not say that it applies only to firearms manufactured after 1968. Therefore, the law applies to any firearm that ever had a serial number on it.
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Old August 17, 2014, 01:40 PM   #7
RangerJoe
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Thanks for all the help, guys.
That clears it up for me, will do a little research and see if I can find a knowledgeable attorney.
I'm in North Carolina, by the way.
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Old August 17, 2014, 02:13 PM   #8
Frank Ettin
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R.Ph. 380
Those two don't really exist. What has no legal existence has no legal need to transfer
Where did you come up with that nonsense?

Everyone needs to understand that we here have very limited tolerance for the posting of bogus legal information, especially when getting things wrong could get someone into a lot of trouble.

If anyone plans to post something to the effect that "there's no legal issue" or "that's legally okay", he needs to be prepared to come up with some clear and substantial legal authority to support his assertion.
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Old August 17, 2014, 02:30 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RangerJoe
...I understand it is a felony to destroy a serial number on a firearm. Is there any legal way to transfer these?...
Here's your dilemma. Under 18 USC 922(k):
Quote:
(k) It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly to transport, ship, or receive, in interstate or foreign commerce, any firearm which has had the importer’s or manufacturer’s serial number removed, obliterated, or altered or to possess or receive any firearm which has had the importer’s or manufacturer’s serial number removed, obliterated, or altered and has, at any time, been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.
Courts have said, for example:
  • U.S. v. Horey, 36 F.3d 1106 (C.A.10 (Okl.), 1993):
    Quote:
    ...We turn to defendant's argument that his conviction for violating 18 U.S.C. 922(k) was also based on insufficient evidence. Defendant argues the government failed to sufficiently show that the revolver's serial number was removed, obliterated, or altered. He asserts the statute does not reach serial numbers that are still readable.

    Police officers testified that the serial number was obliterated. In addition, an expert in firearms and tool mark examination testified the revolver's serial number was partially obscured or obliterated. The examiner also noted that it was possible one or two additional serial numbers were completely obliterated. Based on the clear language of 922(k), we reject defendant's argument that the statute does not reach the firearm recovered by the police in this case. The evidence is sufficient to sustain the conviction, and we AFFIRM the jury's verdict....
  • See also U.S. v. Adams, 305 F.3d 30 (Fed. 1st Cir., 2002)(emphasis added):
    Quote:
    ...As for the evidence, that was clearly sufficient once it is understood that any alteration that works against legibility is enough; ...The pistol was presented to the jury. The case agent testified at trial that he could read the six digits of the serial number but with difficulty. At oral argument, Adams's counsel asked that this court examine the original pistol, and we now report the results.

    ...

    Of course, judgment as to the degree of impairment was for the jury. But a reasonable jury could easily conclude that this pistol had been altered so as to make it appreciably more difficult to read the serial number. Indeed, a reasonable jury could hardly reach any other conclusion...

I have no idea whether it makes a difference that the obliteration of the serial number was done at the factory. I'm a lawyer, but I'm not your lawyer; and I won't be taking that question on.

What you really need is a good lawyer to advise you. One thing a lawyer could do is formally request a written, advisory opinion from ATF. A lawyer can do that without disclosing your identity. So if you get bad news, your lawyer could most likely work out a way for you to surrender the guns without yourself winding up in jail.
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Old August 17, 2014, 02:45 PM   #10
RangerJoe
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Wow, thanks Frank.
I dont need that headache. I think I would rather part it out myself and research how to dispose of the frames.

I appreciate your help.
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Old August 17, 2014, 03:16 PM   #11
BillM
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National Firearms Museum might be interested in the Agent--considering
you have some provenance on it. Might be a way to get it out of your
hands and get a little tax write-off for your donation.
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Old August 17, 2014, 03:49 PM   #12
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Turn them in at a gun buy back event??
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Old August 17, 2014, 06:12 PM   #13
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Quote:
I dont need that headache. I think I would rather part it out myself and research how to dispose of the frames.
According to ATF Ruling 76-25 [pdf],

Quote:
Before a firearm may be considered destroyed, it must be cut, severed or mangled in such manner as to render the firearm completely inoperative and such that it cannot be restored to an operative condition.
The old advice about removing the firing pin really doesn't cut it. It needs to be rendered inoperative.

On a revolver, the frame will be the operative part. Disassemble it, stick it in a vice and cut it in half at the trigger guard. The barrel and other spare parts can be kept or sold without issue.

Transferring the guns as-is to anybody besides law enforcement (even a museum) is going to be very risky legally.
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Old August 18, 2014, 09:52 AM   #14
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This legal "trap" comes up still, I strongly suggest you get a lawyer, one that either specializes in gun law, or can/will do the research needed.

That said, is the SAA with the cracked frame an operable firearm? Was it ever? If it is not operable, (meaning CANNOT be fired) not just cannot be fired safely , it may not be a legal "firearm".

However, this is a matter on which you need qualified legal advice, not just the well meant advice from forum posters.

In some cases, when it is clear that the guns ARE not legal, the lawyers can often arrange their surrender without you being arrested. It depends on many factors, but one of them is your good faith approach. Since these are inherited items, and its clear you have no intent to commit a crime, your lawyer can probably make some kind of deal. That's the likely outcome, but get a lawyer, and do what they say, the cost of representation (no matter how high) is cheaper than a federal conviction, jail time, and the effectively permanent loss of your gun rights, which is a worst case scenario.

Get a LAWYER, and good luck!
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Old August 18, 2014, 10:22 AM   #15
gyvel
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Given the circumstances of why the serial number was "Xed" out and the provenance you have with it (the Colt letterhead note), ATF might be prone to give you a special variance and allow you to keep it.

In this instance, the serial number was obviously Xed out due to a clearly defective component BY THE COLT FACTORY. It was not an attempt to deface, alter or obliterate a serial number for criminal purposes.
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Old August 18, 2014, 10:29 AM   #16
Frank Ettin
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gyvel
...It was not an attempt to deface, alter or obliterate a serial number for criminal purposes.
But that is not an element of the crime described by 18 USC 922(k), and the comment illustrates why well meaning advice on the Internet might not helpful.

The OP question has adequately been answered. So I'll close this.
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