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Old November 9, 2015, 11:46 PM   #1
gyvel
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Destructive devices

Here's a good question for the legal eagles: Disregarding obvious types of weapons such as mortars, cannons, howitzers, bazookas, land mines, atomic bombs, etc. what are the criteria for defining a destructive device. Basically, I'm referring to such items as .55 cal. Boys rifles, Lahti antitank guns, etc.

The reason I'm asking is because of a discussion I had with several different BATF agents, each of whom more or less gave me the same answer regarding a so called "slug gun" rifled barrel that used a shotgun receiver as its platform. Their stand was that, since the barrel was rifled, it would then be legal to cut the barrel down to 16" since, in effect, the weapon technically had been made as a rifled arm.

However, since the bore was over .50 caliber, would it then not become a destructive device according to BATF standards.
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Old November 9, 2015, 11:57 PM   #2
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A flame-thrower?

The Boys' anti-tank rifle could conceivably be used as a charge-stopper when hunting the big 5, if ammo was at all available for it. Not sure about the Lahti.

I think Elmer Keith was photographed holding a huge rifle which shot a cartridge based on the Russian 14.5mm AAA gun, and I don't remember hearing anything about the ATF coming after whomever built it. Hard to say where they draw the line, or guess where they will the next time.
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Old November 10, 2015, 12:27 AM   #3
Frank Ettin
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gyvel
...what are the criteria for defining a destructive device.....
Here's the definition as set out in the ATF Regulations (27 CFR 478.11):
Quote:
Destructive device. (a) Any explosive, incendiary, or poison gas (1) bomb, (2) grenade, (3) rocket having a propellant charge of more than 4 ounces, (4) missile having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one-quarter ounce, (5) mine, or (6) device similar to any of the devices described in the preceding paragraphs of this definition; (b) any type of weapon (other than a shotgun or a shotgun shell which the Director finds is generally recognized as particularly suitable for sporting purposes) by whatever name known which will, or which may be readily converted to, expel a projectile by the action of an explosive or other propellant, and which has any barrel with a bore of more than one-half inch in diameter; and (c) any combination of parts either designed or intended for use in converting any device into any destructive device described in paragraph (a) or (b) of this section and from which a destructive device may be readily assembled. The term shall not include any device which is neither designed nor redesigned for use as a weapon; any device, although originally designed for use as a weapon, which is redesigned for use as a signalling, pyrotechnic, line throwing, safety, or similar device; surplus ordnance sold, loaned, or given by the Secretary of the Army pursuant to the provisions of section 4684(2), 4685, or 4686 of title 10, United States Code; or any other device which the Director finds is not likely to be used as a weapon, is an antique, or is a rifle which the owner intends to use solely for sporting, recreational, or cultural purposes.
The definition in the Regulations follows closely the statutory definition as enacted by Congress (18 USC 921(a)(4)):
Quote:
(4) The term “destructive device” means—
(A) any explosive, incendiary, or poison gas—
(i) bomb,

(ii) grenade,

(iii) rocket having a propellant charge of more than four ounces,

(iv) missile having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one-quarter ounce,

(v) mine, or

(vi) device similar to any of the devices described in the preceding clauses;
(B) any type of weapon (other than a shotgun or a shotgun shell which the Attorney General finds is generally recognized as particularly suitable for sporting purposes) by whatever name known which will, or which may be readily converted to, expel a projectile by the action of an explosive or other propellant, and which has any barrel with a bore of more than one-half inch in diameter; and

(C) any combination of parts either designed or intended for use in converting any device into any destructive device described in subparagraph (A) or (B) and from which a destructive device may be readily assembled.
The term “destructive device” shall not include any device which is neither designed nor redesigned for use as a weapon; any device, although originally designed for use as a weapon, which is redesigned for use as a signaling, pyrotechnic, line throwing, safety, or similar device; surplus ordnance sold, loaned, or given by the Secretary of the Army pursuant to the provisions of section 4684(2), 4685, or 4686 of title 10; or any other device which the Attorney General finds is not likely to be used as a weapon, is an antique, or is a rifle which the owner intends to use solely for sporting, recreational or cultural purposes.
Note that in the statute Congress gave the Attorney General some authority to make determinations regarding the use or suitability of a device for sporting purposes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kosh75287
...Hard to say where they draw the line, or guess where they will the next time.
Or you could try doing some research instead of guessing.
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Old November 10, 2015, 12:29 AM   #4
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dupl.
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Old November 10, 2015, 12:33 AM   #5
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Come to think of it, I don't believe any .577/450 Martini or .600 Nitro Express rifle has ever been classified as a DD.

Regardless, my main question is about the status of a 16" rifled barrel on a shotgun receiver (*And let's say, for argument's sake, that it left the factory with an 18 or 20" rifled barrel and not as a smoothbore.)

Is it still a shotgun? Has it become an SBS, or, according to 4 different BATF, become a legal rifle with a 16" barrel due to it being rifled, or has it become a DD.

The agents with whom I had the conversations with all agreed that: It fires fixed ammunition, is rifled, and being rifled is still legal at 16" since it seems to meet all the requirement of a rifle. The only remaining question is: Does it become a DD with an over .50 cal. bore.
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Last edited by gyvel; November 10, 2015 at 12:49 AM.
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Old November 10, 2015, 12:44 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gyvel
....The agents with whom I had the conversations with all agreed that: It fires fixed ammunition, is rifled, and being rifled is still legal at 16" since it seems to meet all the requirement of a rifle. The only remaining question is: Does it become a DD with an over .50 cal. bore.
And unless the Attorney General or a court has made a ruling, it's impossible to know.

A lot might depend on exactly what the gun is. Perhaps it's likely that the AG would find that it serves a sporting purpose -- like a double rifle in .600 Nitro or . 577 H&H.

If it's really important to know, the only way to know, with regard to a particular gun, would be to formally request in writing a determination by ATF.
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Old November 10, 2015, 12:51 AM   #7
Bill DeShivs
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Rifled shotguns are accepted by BATF as sporting weapons. I would THINK the barrel could be shortened to 16". If you actually plan on doing it, write to BATF for a ruling letter.
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Old November 10, 2015, 01:37 PM   #8
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It is still a shotgun using shotgun ammunition so it comes under the description of a "shotgun".
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Old November 10, 2015, 01:58 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mobuck
It is still a shotgun using shotgun ammunition so it comes under the description of a "shotgun".
And you know this how?

And it's wrong. See 18 USC 921(a)(B) to the effect that a shotgun or shotgun shell could be a destructive device unless it's one:
Quote:
...which the Attorney General finds is generally recognized as particularly suitable for sporting purposes....
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Old November 10, 2015, 07:05 PM   #10
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"And you know this how?

And it's wrong. See 18 USC 921(a)(B) to the effect that a shotgun or shotgun shell could be a destructive device unless it's one:"

A factory barrel designed to fit a shotgun receiver firing commercially produced ammunition is pretty cut and dried. I don't know what you're trying to make out it but I interpreted the OP to be asking a simple question about a rifled slug barrel. Internal rifling of a shotgun barrel doesn't make it a rifle.
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Old November 10, 2015, 07:28 PM   #11
Frank Ettin
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mobuck
A factory barrel designed to fit a shotgun receiver firing commercially produced ammunition is pretty cut and dried. I don't know what you're trying to make out it but I interpreted the OP to be asking a simple question about a rifled slug barrel. Internal rifling of a shotgun barrel doesn't make it a rifle.
  • No, that was not the OP's question. His question (in post 1) was:
    Quote:
    ...Their stand was that, since the barrel was rifled, it would then be legal to cut the barrel down to 16" since, in effect, the weapon technically had been made as a rifled arm.

    However, since the bore was over .50 caliber, would it then not become a destructive device according to BATF standards....
    And in post 5 the question was clarified:
    Quote:
    ...my main question is about the status of a 16" rifled barrel on a shotgun receiver (*And let's say, for argument's sake, that it left the factory with an 18 or 20" rifled barrel and not as a smoothbore.)

    Is it still a shotgun? Has it become an SBS, or, according to 4 different BATF, become a legal rifle with a 16" barrel due to it being rifled, or has it become a DD.

    The agents with whom I had the conversations with all agreed that: It fires fixed ammunition, is rifled, and being rifled is still legal at 16" since it seems to meet all the requirement of a rifle. The only remaining question is: Does it become a DD with an over .50 cal. bore.
  • So the OP's question was not limited to a "factory barrel designed to fit a shotgun receiver firing commercially produced ammunition." Furthermore, his question focuses on cutting the barrel down to 16 inches, which is permissible without a tax stamp for a rifle, but not for a shotgun.

  • And your statement:
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mobuck
    It is still a shotgun using shotgun ammunition so it comes under the description of a "shotgun".
    doesn't answer the question of whether it becomes a destructive device for the purposes of the NFA since, as the statute I cited provides, a shotgun could be a destructive device if the Attorney General has decided that it's not particularly suited to a sporting purpose.

So you didn't understand the question, and you certainly don't understand the law.
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Old November 10, 2015, 08:25 PM   #12
James K
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I got involved in the same thing last week, saying that a rifled shotgun would be a DD; several good folks advised me that there is a BATFE ruling that a gun made/designed as a shotgun can be made with, or fitted with, a rifled barrel for firing slugs (a "slug barrel") but that it still remains a shotgun as defined in the law. If that is the case, then a shotgun with a rifled barrel would still be a shotgun and subject to the 18" barrel length minimum.

I can't find any formal ruling to that effect; it could have been a letter ruling, but it appears to be valid as several companies make shotguns with rifled barrels or sell rifled barrels to be installed on shotguns. They would certainly not be doing so if such guns were considered destructive devices.

Perhaps someone has a cite to a letter ruling, revenue ruling, or some other source for the above. AFAIK, there has been no change in the law itself or the definitions in the law. The AG could have made a blanket ruling, but that would be uncommon.

Jim
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Old November 10, 2015, 08:39 PM   #13
Frank Ettin
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Quote:
Originally Posted by James K
I got involved in the same thing last week, saying that a rifled shotgun would be a DD; several good folks advised me that there is a BATFE ruling that a gun made/designed as a shotgun can be made with, or fitted with, a rifled barrel for firing slugs (a "slug barrel") but that it still remains a shotgun as defined in the law....
The thing is that there are many variations possible and no clear, universal answer. So --
  • I strongly suspect that a common, sporting shotgun like a Remington 870 fitted with a factory, 18 inch, rifled barrel remains a sporting shotgun.

  • Cutting the barrel down to 16 inches, even if rifled, becomes a separate issue.

  • And certain types of shotguns (e. g., "street sweepers") are destructive devices under the NFA no matter what the barrel length.
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Old November 10, 2015, 10:00 PM   #14
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"So you didn't understand the question, and you certainly don't understand the law."
Thank you Sir for your very gracious improvement of my knowledge.
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Old November 10, 2015, 10:07 PM   #15
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I think I'd be hesitant to cut the barrel shorter than 21.5" on a shotgun. If memory serves, the minimum legal length is 18", but I'd leave the extra 3.5" on, so no enterprising BATFE agent with a grudge can bust me for a barrel under 18" in length after they've scraped it on something rough and hard enough to take 1/16" off the muzzle.

The extra 3" of barrel would assume a 3" chamber, and would obviate those sterling individuals who police such matters from deciding independently that the barrel starts where the front of the shotshell stops, rather than where the rim of the shotshell rests.
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Old November 10, 2015, 10:13 PM   #16
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Quote:
"So you didn't understand the question, and you certainly don't understand the law."
Don't mince WORDS, there, Counselor... Tell us how you REALLY feel!

Quote:
Thank you Sir for your very gracious improvement of my knowledge.
Great reply, Mobuck. I admire your restraint. Just don't reply in kind, or you'll get your hand spanked.
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Old November 10, 2015, 11:18 PM   #17
Frank Ettin
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kosh75287
...The extra 3" of barrel would assume a 3" chamber, and would obviate those sterling individuals who police such matters from deciding independently that the barrel starts where the front of the shotshell stops, rather than where the rim of the shotshell rests.
Actually, if you had bothered to do some research you'd know that ATF has told us exactly how it determines barrel length:
Quote:
...The ATF procedure for measuring barrel length is to measure from the closed bolt (or breech-face) to the furthermost end of the barrel or permanently attached muzzle device. ... Barrels are measured by inserting a dowel rod into the barrel until the rod stops against the bolt or breech-face. The rod is then marked at the furthermost end of the barrel or permanently attached muzzle device, withdrawn from the barrel, and measured....
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Old November 12, 2015, 08:43 PM   #18
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I'm not as smart as my post count might lead you to believe, but I have noticed something about rifled shotgun barrels and their slugs. For all my research I have only found 12 ga sabots with .45 and .50 caliber bullets. If a 20 ga can hold a .44 or .45, then a 12 ga should be able to hold a larger diameter slug than .50
Of course, the rifled barrels don't work well with any of the ammunition on the market that doesn't use a sabot.

I am guessing none of the major manufacturers want to cross that line. They may just like using readily available muzzle loading bullets. The definition of the l aw clearly states bore diameter, not 'bore designed to propel projectile of greater than .5 diameter,' but it is still something.
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Old November 12, 2015, 08:53 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnwilliamson062
... For all my research I have only found 12 ga sabots with .45 and .50 caliber bullets....
Except the applicable statute and regulations go by bore diameter, not bullet diameter.

The bore of a 28 gauge is about 0.550 inch, a 20 gauge is about 0.615 inch and a 12 gauge is about 0.729 inch. So all three exceed the 0.50 threshold.
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Old November 12, 2015, 11:31 PM   #20
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Yeah Frank, I noted that in the last sentence of my post. I've noticed US firearms manufacturers tend to stuff the most bullet and most powder they can into a cartridge. Why is it not a single manufacturer has taken advantage of the 12 GAs ability to fire a larger bullet out of the sabot? There are enough saboter 12 ga loads shot each year I find it hard to believe there wouldn't be a market for at least one manufacturer to introduce the product.

Does anyone know where I can even purchase sabots to fit larger diameter bullets?
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Old November 13, 2015, 01:49 AM   #21
Bill DeShivs
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Non- saboted Foster-type 12 ga. slugs are .72 caliber!
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Old November 13, 2015, 02:37 PM   #22
johnwilliamson062
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Quote:
Non- saboted Foster-type 12 ga. slugs are .72 caliber!
They aren't designed to be and are not very effective out of a rifled barrel. With a smooth barrel it is clearly a shotgun. It gets interesting when a rifled barrel is installed.
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