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Old April 20, 2015, 04:12 PM   #1
dakota.potts
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Receiver blank build - when does it become a rifle?

I'm thinking pretty heavily about building a PTR 91 (HK G3 type rifle) from a receiver blank which can be bought at hkparts.net. It seems more cost effective and conducive for quality to buy the receiver already formed and welded as this is considered one of the more difficult parts of the build and doesn't require the very expensive flat bending jig.

The problem is I am 19, soon to be 20, and can't take possession of an "other firearm" from an FFL.

I will be going to a school for gunsmithing and the instructor does have an FFL. I was warned that going into the school at under 21, I could not bring in a personal handgun to work on because it would need to be taken back out with a 4473 by somebody over 21.

Could I have the receiver sent to the school or a local gunsmith to be held while I work on it? Since I plan to build it into a rifle, could I have a gunsmith add the barrel and stock and transfer it to me as a rifle? Or could I have it sent to the school as an other firearm and leave it in possession of the school until it's met legal requirements to be considered a rifle?

Just trying to figure out what my options are here.

I will be living with my girlfriend who will be 21 later in the year who might be able to do the form for me, but I have to wonder at what point that becomes a straw purchase.
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Old April 20, 2015, 04:22 PM   #2
Aguila Blanca
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dakota.potts
I will be living with my girlfriend who will be 21 later in the year who might be able to do the form for me, but I have to wonder at what point that becomes a straw purchase.
As soon as she signs it.

The fact that you expressed it as "she might be able to do the form for me" should be all the answer you need.
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Old April 20, 2015, 04:26 PM   #3
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That's about what I thought. I was told that it wouldn't be an issue to have someone over 21 retrieve a handgun for me if I brought it in to work on it -- but that doesn't sound right to me.

So, given I couldn't have somebody pick it up for me, what options do I legally have without starting from an 80% receiver?
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Old April 20, 2015, 04:27 PM   #4
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You re paying for the gun and she will take possession from the FFL on your behalf?
Almost sounds like a straw purchase - just sayin??????
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Old April 20, 2015, 05:22 PM   #5
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With an 80% receiver...

... as soon as you do ANYTHING to it the BATFE classifies it as a gun. So all gun laws now apply. That includes the initial pilot hole drill or such.

Do not have anyone else pick up the gun for you as that will likely be a straw purchase.
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Old April 20, 2015, 05:31 PM   #6
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I'm not positive on this, but if you get it as an 80% blank it isn't anything, not an "other firearm" or anything of the sort. Just a hunk of metal as far as the ATF is concerned. So you complete it at your school and serialize it as a rifle lower and complete it as a rifle build, and you don't have to worry about straw purchase legalities. The way you explained it with your girlfriend and everything is textbook straw purchase and if you're going to be gunsmith you want to keep your nose squeaky clean.
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Old April 20, 2015, 06:06 PM   #7
dakota.potts
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I definitely don't even want to hint at doing something illegal which is why I ask here. Straw purchase is bad juju.

I wouldn't be getting an 80% receiver, the receiver I want is a complete formed receiver which requires FFL to transfer.

So, could I send a receiver to my FFL as an "other" and have them hold it until I put a barrel and stock on it? Then could I fill out the transfer form as a rifle rather than an other so I could kick it up?
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Old April 20, 2015, 06:08 PM   #8
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Alternatively, say I decided the receiver would be a nice Christmas present and someone of legal age spends their own money and fills out the form to give it to me as a gift. This is legal, correct?
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Old April 20, 2015, 06:54 PM   #9
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You're sure making things difficult.
As far as I know, it's not illegal for anyone 18+ to manufacture their own firearm. The receiver blank is not a firearm until you do the finish machining on it. There is no requirement to involve an FFL.
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Old April 20, 2015, 07:09 PM   #10
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I'm talking about a receiver like this, I guess receiver blank was the wrong term for the title.
http://brethrenarms.com/product/ptr-...pped-receiver/

I suppose for all the trouble, I might as well just get a true receiver blank and try to bend/weld it myself and bypass the issue
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Old April 20, 2015, 07:27 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill DeShivs
You're sure making things difficult.
As far as I know, it's not illegal for anyone 18+ to manufacture their own firearm. The receiver blank is not a firearm until you do the finish machining on it. There is no requirement to involve an FFL.
The problem is that (according to a couple of FFLs I know) the BATFE has begun to tighten the screws on finishing 80% receivers. Apparently, it used to be acceptable for someone to buy an 80% receiver, haul it down to his friend's machine shop after-hours, and finish it up. I'm told that the current view of the BATFE is that the owner of the receiver not only has to perform the remaining 20% of the work himself, he also has to own the machinery used to perform the work.

IIRC, we have those AR-15 "build parties" to thank for this unhappy turn of events. It's a headache for me, because it means if I ever hope to build a 1911 from an 80% receiver I'm going to have to buy a milling machine.
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Old April 20, 2015, 07:33 PM   #12
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I thought you were still allowed to use another's machines but had to perform the work yourself -- for instance, you couldn't just pop it in a CNC machine with the programming already done and hit start, but you could mill it out yourself in their mill.

If not, can you still finish an 80% receiver at an FFL holder's machine shop and then have them transfer the firearm to you via 4473?
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Old April 20, 2015, 09:43 PM   #13
Aguila Blanca
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dakota.potts
If not, can you still finish an 80% receiver at an FFL holder's machine shop and then have them transfer the firearm to you via 4473?
I believe the answer is no, unless the FFL has a manufacturer's license. The problem is, the chunk of metal came in his doors as a chunk of metal. Somebody then turned that chunk of metal into a completed firearm (remember, a completed receiver is a firearm). If you did it, how is it then transferred to him in order for him to transfer it back to you? If he did it, he has to apply his name and city and state and a serial number in order to get it into his bound book so he can then transfer it to you. That makes him a manufacturer, since he didn't "build" it for his own, personal use.

According to the information I've been given recently (as I posted above), the BATFE no longer allows the owner of an 80% receiver to use someone else's machines to complete the work. I don't know with 100 percent certainty that this is correct, but it's what I have been told by multiple FFLs -- including one who has a manufacturer's license.

Obviously, the intent of the 80% receiver exception is to allow home hobbyist gunsmiths to literally finish making their own firearm(s). Thanks to people who abused that and tried to bend the rules beyond the pojnt of recovery, the BATFE is looking at this a lot closer than they used to. A few years ago there was no problem if you had a friend with a machine shop and you took your chunk of metal in there to finish off -- as long as you ran the machines. What I'm being told is that, now, you can't do that -- you have to own the machines.
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Old April 20, 2015, 10:46 PM   #14
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It seems ridiculous to think that I couldn't go to a friend with a TiG welder to weld together a flat that I've bent, but I wouldn't put it past the ATF at all. I'll have to do some research into that.
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Old April 20, 2015, 11:19 PM   #15
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If you need to own the equipment your using to finish the build. Couldn't just by a piece of the shop your using. I would think that then you would own the equipment.
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Old April 21, 2015, 12:44 AM   #16
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Quote:
You're sure making things difficult.
As far as I know, it's not illegal for anyone 18+ to manufacture their own firearm. The receiver blank is not a firearm until you do the finish machining on it. There is no requirement to involve an FFL.
A "firearm precursor product" (that's the ATF's definition for the 20%/50%/80%/95% receivers) becomes a firearm the moment that its purpose is designated.

An AR-15 lower, for example, becomes a firearm when you drill or even center-punch the hole locations for the hammer, trigger, and selector; or when you mill out the fire control group pocket. There are more ways, but those are the quickest ways to turn an AR-15 "80% lower" (or even a raw forging) into a "firearm".

Quote:
According to the information I've been given recently (as I posted above), the BATFE no longer allows the owner of an 80% receiver to use someone else's machines to complete the work. I don't know with 100 percent certainty that this is correct, but it's what I have been told by multiple FFLs -- including one who has a manufacturer's license.
That's completely opposite of what I have heard over the last few years and, most importantly, what I heard from an ATF agent in the Boise, ID "industry branch" about 6 weeks ago: (Edit: Stuart Smith was the agent.)

Your "firearm precursor product". Your time. Your operation of the machine. No pre-set jigs or tools. No pre-programmed CNC routines...
Good to go. Perfectly legal firearm.


Quote:
I'm talking about a receiver like this, I guess receiver blank was the wrong term for the title.
http://brethrenarms.com/product/ptr-...pped-receiver/

I suppose for all the trouble, I might as well just get a true receiver blank and try to bend/weld it myself and bypass the issue
Yea, that linked receiver is already a firearm. The discussion about machining it doesn't really apply.

But if you get a PTR-91 receiver "flat", you'll be the manufacturer of the firearm. And, at that point, this discussion will apply.
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Old April 21, 2015, 12:55 AM   #17
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Part of what I'm trying to figure out: I don't meet the legal minimum age to have a receiver transferred to me, but I can buy a rifle. Can I have a receiver sent to an FFL who has the tools I need for them to hold it while I work on it, and then have it transferred to me once I have done enough work for it to be considered a rifle? If so, I could have it sent to the school, barrel it and attach the stock there, and then have the school (who does have an FFL) transfer it to me.
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Old April 21, 2015, 01:03 AM   #18
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The ATF has a long history of reversing their own decisions. What an agent may tell you, in completely good faith might not be correct. OR it might be, and the policy might be 100% reversed the next week, or month, or year.

If you go to them for the legality of something, get it is writing, and get it from someone above a field agent. Get it dated. Keep multiple copies.

Later, when the next administration decides that thing you did was not legal, after all, at least you have something to show a Judge that you tried to act in good faith. The gun will, of course, be gone, but you might get a lighter sentence, maybe even probation. No guarantees, but its worth a shot.
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Old April 21, 2015, 06:11 AM   #19
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Quote:
Part of what I'm trying to figure out: I don't meet the legal minimum age to have a receiver transferred to me, but I can buy a rifle. Can I have a receiver sent to an FFL who has the tools I need for them to hold it while I work on it, and then have it transferred to me once I have done enough work for it to be considered a rifle? If so, I could have it sent to the school, barrel it and attach the stock there, and then have the school (who does have an FFL) transfer it to me.
Who is going to say it's a rifle?

You are talking about a bare wannabe receiver that has never been built as either a rifle or a pistol. That makes it a "receiver" or "other." The BATFE position is that whichever it is first built as is what it is. Build your receiver into a rifle, and you will always have a rifle. Build it as a pistol, and it's a pistol forever.

Even if you have it sent to an FFL and you finish it on his equipment, when you get finished you'll still have a bare receiver that has never been a rifle or a pistol. We know the laws regarding age for transfers of rifles and handguns. I can't recall ever seeing any discussion of an age criterion for transfers of bare receivers to persons under the age of 21.

I think you are wandering into uncharted territory, and with the BATFE that's probably never a good idea.
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Old April 21, 2015, 09:00 AM   #20
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Lobby Congress to change the law or mount a well-reasoned challenge to the law in court. In the meantime, obey the current law. Before either of your efforts could come to fruition, you will be over 21 and the issue will be moot for you. Don't forget then the unfairness of your current situation now, and keep working to change the law.
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Old April 21, 2015, 04:50 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aguila Blanca
The BATFE position is that whichever it is first built as is what it is. Build your receiver into a rifle, and you will always have a rifle. Build it as a pistol, and it's a pistol forever.
This arguably isn't entirely accurate.

26 U.S. Code § 5845(a)(4) and § 5845(c) clearly state that it's a crime to start with a rifle and end up with "a weapon as modified [that] has an overall length of less than 26 inches or a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length".

However, my reading of the law and current ATF guidance* indicate that's it's perfectly lawful to start with a pistol receiver and assemble it into a rifle, PROVIDED that the actor does not create a SBR at some point in the process. This includes using a bare receiver that was first assembled into a pistol.

*Taking 44 AMP's post #18 into account.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Armorer-at-Law
Lobby Congress to change the law or mount a well-reasoned challenge to the law in court.
This thread yet again demonstrates that current U.S. firearms laws were not written with the concept of modular firearms in mind.

Unfortunately, given that most modular firearms are of the EBR variety, I don't foresee the laws changing positively in this regard.
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Last edited by carguychris; April 22, 2015 at 01:57 PM. Reason: reword
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Old April 22, 2015, 12:03 AM   #22
dakota.potts
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Although interesting discussion for someone legal minded like myself, I may wait on the PTR/HK model gun until later in my college studies. It's a little bit more of a difficult build than some others on the market. By the time I'm 21, I'll have been through some courses on welding and machining and I'll be hitting the point in classes where we have 100 hours of "specialty" education where we can choose any area of specialization or any project to work on with help from the instructors.

So, although it doesn't sate my need for pontification and perfect legal knowledge, it probably bypasses those issues if I just go with an 80% that I have the ability to legally turn into a rifle without help from an FFL. That would make it a moot point.

Thanks for the discussion though.
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Old April 24, 2015, 01:35 PM   #23
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There's a lot of gunsmithing to be learned before I'd waste my time on a receiver blank.

Think about it. As a gunsmith, you will get to make ONE of these, for yourself. You will never make a dime turning them out for customers, and ATF won't let you share the tooling.

You're going to be money ahead by doing something else. I wouldn't even use my 100 specialty hours for it, it's a personal project that will gain me nothing beyond a PTR91. If I still wanted to do it when the time comes up later, I'd use my personal time outside of my specialty hours.
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Old April 24, 2015, 04:05 PM   #24
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Question for the Lawyers

Disclaimer: I'm not a Lawyer.

That being said, if the receiver was shipped to the gun smithing school (FFL), then he worked on it at school, but did not take possession of it until it was a completed rifle, would that work?

I don't think there is any law against someone under 21 working/handling a pistol or "other" weapon prior coming of age.
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Old April 24, 2015, 04:49 PM   #25
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Kilimanjaro, thanks for your opinion. It is something to consider. I do want to go into production work versus small custom builds, and there are sveral companies (including PTR themselves who are not too far from the school in South Carolina) who import and re-build rifles such as that, where I thought demonstrating proficiency putting one together might be something I could use as a resume of sorts. That's why we build our .30-06 bolt action for the end of class project.
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