View Full Version : Legal query: can I have a non-FFL welding shop modify a gun *part*?

Jim March
April 16, 2009, 01:48 AM
Esp. when that part isn't the serialized frame or a firing piece on it's own?

Here's the backstory: Ron Powers (Power Custom) is about to ship a new grip frame for the Ruger SAs based on the Keith #5. See also:


The serialized part of a Ruger SA is the cylinder frame (the metal that surrounds the cylinder). The grip frame is always removable same as a Colt SAA. In this Ron Powers grip frame (prototypes pictured), the backstrap is also separate from the front/triggerguard piece.

It's the backstrap I'd want to have altered to a Bird's Head configuration. Basically a welding/grinding job.

Can I take that backstrap to a welder who isn't an FFL or licensed gunsmith and have him modify it to my specs, if he NEVER touches or even sees the serialized frame (or cylinder or ammo or anything else)? In other words, I do all the screwdriver work at home, and hand him a part to alter that only barely looks gun-related at all?

April 16, 2009, 09:24 AM
I don't see any problem with it, even in California. Wouldn't be any different then having a sculptor make you a set of carved grips.

April 16, 2009, 10:12 AM
I'd venture out to say you could give the guy the whole gun, and as long as he doesn't modify it to fire fully automatic or burn off your serial number, there's no problem.

What's the difference between this and giving your gun to a guy who polishes the trigger components?

Someone smarter than me chime in if I'm off base here... Does someone need an FFL to do work on a firearm???

April 16, 2009, 10:32 AM
Not that I am aware...
I remember as a kid that many guys thought a shotgun barrel had to be shortened by a gunsmith to be legal...

Jim March
April 16, 2009, 11:48 AM
I'm in AZ now :).

I need a definitive answer if anybody knows....

April 16, 2009, 03:13 PM
A gunsmith license is only required if the licensee is making a living or livelyhood repairing firearms. Even if just the grip frame was taken to a licensed gunsmith, they would not have any reason to log it in and out of their books because it does not meet the definition of a firearm.

To do things such as trigger jobs, etc, does not require a license unless a livelihood (profit) is made from such work.

A person can earn a living/make profit from making components such as grips so long as they are not handling the actual firearm.

Jim March
April 16, 2009, 04:00 PM
OK, cool. Now for the hard part: can anybody cite ATF rules to that effect?

April 16, 2009, 04:29 PM


§ 921 Definitions.

(a) As used in this chapter—

(3) The term "firearm" means (A)any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; (B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon; (C) any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; or (D) any destructive device. Such term does not include an antique firearm.




Subpart B – Definitions

§ 478.11 Meaning of terms.

(d) Gunsmith. A person who devotes time, attention, and labor to engaging in such activity as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit, but such a term shall not include a person who makes occasional repairs of firearms or who occasionally fits special barrels, stocks, or trigger mechanisms to firearms;

Firearm frame or receiver. That part of a firearm which provides housing for the hammer, bolt or breechblock, and firing mechanism, and which is usually threaded at its forward portion to receive the barrel.

Per 478.11(d), a person other than a licensed gunsmith may work on guns and gun parts.

Per 921(a)(3) and 478.11, the backstrap is not considered a "firearm" and can therefore be shipped across state lines to a non-licensee.

Jim March
April 17, 2009, 11:55 AM
Killer. Shipping won't be an issue as I want to work with a local guy, but yeah, this solves the problem very neatly.