The Firing Line Forums

Go Back   The Firing Line Forums > The Conference Center > Law and Civil Rights

Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old July 1, 2016, 08:24 AM   #1
GunMaverick
Member
 
Join Date: June 26, 2016
Posts: 38
Legality of Garage Guns

Hi all,

Another question from your ol' buddy GunMaverick... Are garage guns legal? Can I build my own firearm without a lisence? Can it be automatic? This is another aspect of firearms I am not well versed in, I only put it in the general hand gun forum because I couldn't find another place for it. Apologies if I miss placed this thread. Any insight to the legality of garage guns would be helpful.

GunMaverick
GunMaverick is offline  
Old July 1, 2016, 09:03 AM   #2
reddog81
Senior Member
 
Join Date: October 16, 2014
Location: Iowa
Posts: 1,127
Yes, There's a whole market of 80% lowers and lots of info available surrounding them. Starting from scratch would be basically the same as starting with a 80% receiver.

What do you mean by automatic? If you mean full auto there's no way you're going to be able to do that without jumping through many legal hoops and getting a BATFE license to manufacture such items.
reddog81 is offline  
Old July 1, 2016, 09:20 AM   #3
briandg
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 4, 2010
Posts: 5,253
The fact that people have created guns from plastic with printers would support that a person can legally create a firearm from scratch literally millions of "kit" guns exist in black powder and cartridge arms. Any person who can legally own a firearm can make one with no license, or assemble a kit. To create or alter any firearm to a restricted model will require the proper licenses, or it is a federal crime.

In the past, there were conversion kits available for certain weapons that caused all sorts of problems, and one of the steps taken was to order a change in the design to prevent the kits from working.

Keep in mind, the part that has the serial number, if there is only one, is considered to be "the gun". Everything else is just an accessory. Usually that is the receiver, with the firing mechanisms. A child or felon can possess any parts except that that serial numbered really receiver. Possession of that receiver, even if it's totally stripped invokes legal questions.
__________________
None.
briandg is offline  
Old July 1, 2016, 10:14 AM   #4
Aguila Blanca
Senior Member
 
Join Date: September 25, 2008
Location: CONUS
Posts: 11,551
Home-made firearms are legal ... unless they are not.

Under Federal law, anyone who is not a prohibited person can legally fabricate his/her own firearm, as long as it's a legal firearm. That means no full-auto, no short barreled rifles, no "AOWs" ("any other weapon").

There may be state laws that are more strict. In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook School shooting, several states enacted "assault weapons" bans. In those states, as I understand it, although you can legally manufacture your own six-shooter, semi-auto handgun, or bolt action rifle, you can't fabricate your own "assault-type" firearm if the state doesn't allow people to buy one from an FFL.
Aguila Blanca is offline  
Old July 1, 2016, 10:24 AM   #5
carguychris
Senior Member
 
Join Date: October 20, 2007
Location: Richardson, TX
Posts: 7,524
^^^^ This.
Quote:
Originally Posted by briandg
Keep in mind, the part that has the serial number, if there is only one, is considered to be "the gun".
Only a federally licensed importer or manufacturer is required by federal law to apply a unique serial number. A home gunsmith is not.

Per 18 USC § 923(i):
Quote:
Licensed importers and licensed manufacturers shall identify by means of a serial number engraved or cast on the receiver or frame of the weapon, in such manner as the Attorney General shall by regulations prescribe, each firearm imported or manufactured by such importer or manufacturer.
Despite this, IIRC there are some grey areas in the law that can potentially jump up and bite the builder if a non-serialized homemade firearm is subsequently transferred to someone else, although I don't recall the details.

Mandatory disclaimer: I am not an attorney, nor do I play one on TV. This is not legal advice. Caveat emptor and YMMV.
__________________
"Smokey, this is not 'Nam. This is bowling. There are rules... MARK IT ZERO!!" - Walter Sobchak

Last edited by carguychris; July 1, 2016 at 10:29 AM. Reason: Citation and disclaimer added
carguychris is offline  
Old July 1, 2016, 12:28 PM   #6
briandg
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 4, 2010
Posts: 5,253
I didn't say that he had to have a serial number or any individual number, just mentioned it to point out that other than the receiver or other part legally defined as "the firearm" is simply a part and he can pretty much do anything, only the receiver is controlled by law. For example, a juvenile can legally purchase or own barrels, magazines (I think) firing pins, sights, anything that isn't considered a gun. Not sure if that's going to be a concern, but for example, it c certainly leaves a gray area if a gunsmith shortens a barrel if he never touches the firearm. There are probably areas regulations that definitively cover that .

I wish to God that I could have cited some regulations to my dad so that I could have gotten out of shaping the butt plate and other parts of his muzzle loaders with worn out files and sandpaper.
__________________
None.
briandg is offline  
Old July 1, 2016, 12:32 PM   #7
James K
Senior Member
 
Join Date: March 17, 1999
Posts: 24,383
"Any person who can legally own a firearm can make one with no license,"

Not quite. Automatic weapons owned before closure of the register are legally owned and can be transferred but new ones cannot legally be manufactured except by licensed manufacturers for LE/military use.

Jim
__________________
Jim K
James K is offline  
Old July 1, 2016, 12:46 PM   #8
T. O'Heir
Senior Member
 
Join Date: February 13, 2002
Location: Canada
Posts: 10,796
People have been assembling their own legal firearms for eons. Semi-autos and every other non-Class 3 action are fine.
"...people have created guns from plastic with printers..." No, they haven't. You can't 'print' a barrel or receiver that will withstand the pressures of ANY real firearm.
__________________
Spelling and grammar count!
T. O'Heir is offline  
Old July 1, 2016, 12:58 PM   #9
briandg
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 4, 2010
Posts: 5,253
Well, that's true, but try telling that to the average person, even gun owners.talk about barrels, springs, firing pins, but there have been quite a few people who have put together crap toys.

There is a company that printed a laser sintered steel 1911 that created a sensation. As you said, come on. They made a frame and slide, hand fitted it, printed a few other parts, then used factory jade springs, barrel, and some other bits.

I don't believe that there will ever be with practical, or even seriously successful printed gun of any sort. Frankly, just the fact that it was made with a quarter million worth of machinery made it a joke.
__________________
None.
briandg is offline  
Old July 1, 2016, 04:00 PM   #10
357 Python
Senior Member
 
Join Date: June 7, 2007
Location: Charlottesville, VA
Posts: 921
As I understand it as long as the firearm is not intended for sale then it would be legal to build your own semi-auto firearm at home. I believe the for sale is the key here. You could make one for yourself or as a gift but could not accept any payment for it. To be on the safe side instead of building one for a friend as a gift I would have them over and build it together.
357 Python is offline  
Old July 1, 2016, 05:01 PM   #11
Aguila Blanca
Senior Member
 
Join Date: September 25, 2008
Location: CONUS
Posts: 11,551
Quote:
Originally Posted by T. O'Heir
You can't 'print' a barrel or receiver that will withstand the pressures of ANY real firearm.
But there have been 3D-printed, plastic AR-15s. I don't recall if the barrel itself was plastic (almost certainly not, I'd say), but there are Youtube videos of the things being fired. The one I recall seeing didn't last for very many rounds, but it fired.

Not the one I recall, but I found this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsCAWh1Jn4c
Aguila Blanca is offline  
Old July 1, 2016, 06:00 PM   #12
briandg
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 4, 2010
Posts: 5,253
People have also taken lowers from airsoft guns and used them.
__________________
None.
briandg is offline  
Old July 2, 2016, 12:30 AM   #13
44 AMP
Staff
 
Join Date: March 11, 2006
Location: Upper US
Posts: 19,235
Quote:
Can I build my own firearm without a lisence? Can it be automatic?
Well, you'll know for sure, after the court case verdict is read...

Here's what you're looking at.. prior to the AR becoming everyone's DIY project, there were (and still are) a small number of custom rifle builders in the country. And I don't mean guys taking an action and building a custom sporter from a milsurp, I mean guys who built it all from scratch. High end bolt guns, generally.

These guys were building maybe a dozen rifles a year, usually less, and because of the low numbers made, were not required to have the Fed license to manufacture firearms, like the big arms makers. This was what the law had to deal with for many, many years.

The key is the govt's interpretation of "engaged in the business" of dealing in firearms. Very small numbers of guns made, and sold were traditionally considered exempt, not worth prosecuting. That was then.

A future administration can change their minds, anytime they want.

Making a gun, for your own personal use is, as far as I know legal without any license or permits from the Federal govt. Check you state and local laws, which may differ.

The gun has to be of a type that is legal. SO, no full auto (or other NFA regulated weapons without prior govt approval).

There are some grey areas, about selling guns you made yourself, when you get tired of them, etc., because you are then dealing with business & commerce laws.

Also remember that an honest difference of opinion with the Govt can land you in court. Also the govt doesn't have to worry about expenses taking you to court. Their costs come out of all our pockets. Your expenses come out of your pocket alone.

Might just be urban legends, I can't give you any cites, but I have heard of two cases where the govt took people to court over "Thompson submachine guns" they made at home.

The first one was a complete faithful repro tommy gun, correct in all dimensions, including barrel chamber and rifling. It was capable of chambering live ammunition. And, except for springs, was made entirely of wood.

The second was a faithful reproduction of a Tommygun, all parts workable, but scaled down. The gun was about 4 or 5 inches long. A scale model, in steel and wood.

Govt said they were illegal (unregistered & untaxed) machineguns.

They lost both cases. (no conviction) but it was still expensive for the owners.

Any guesses why the Govt lost???
__________________
All else being equal (and it almost never is) bigger bullets tend to work better.
44 AMP is offline  
Old July 2, 2016, 06:30 AM   #14
briandg
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 4, 2010
Posts: 5,253
He's quite right that there are very serious worries if the federal government government gets involved, with bad intentions. I don't for even a moment believe that you will run into trouble, unless you really blow off the law to the point that you get their attention, or if you are the kind that just draws attention. Don't do anything that even looks illegal.


I hope that I can say this without all hell breaking loose, but the ruby ridge incident occurred because a person made a small, but serious mistake, and he was already on the government's list of dangerous people.

People, don't drag the topic onto arguing about this, I only brought it up to point out that it doesn't have to be a big issue, even a small violation can result in serious consequences.
__________________
None.
briandg is offline  
Old July 3, 2016, 02:23 PM   #15
62coltnavy
Senior Member
 
Join Date: February 1, 2011
Posts: 353
Garage guns are legal if built for your own use, with the following caveats:
1. The gun must be legal under both your state's laws and federal law. That means that you cannot build any thing that runs afoul of the NFA, including fully automatic weapons, short barreled rifles or shotguns, silencer or destructive devises.
2. You cannot manufacture for resale. You must manufacture for your own use.
3. You can sell limited quantities of homemade weapons without being deemed a manufacturer subject to licensure, however, you do have to engrave, attach or stamp a "unique" identifying number on the receiver in letters at least 3/16 high and .03 inches deep. I don't believe there is a requirement that the serial number be reported to the ATF, but not sure about that.
62coltnavy is offline  
Old July 5, 2016, 10:43 AM   #16
Lark
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 28, 2012
Location: Western WA
Posts: 144
As far as NFA firearms go you can make them for personal use without a license as long as you obtain an approved tax stamp application first. The tax stamp is not a license. I make silencers as a hobby this way.
__________________
Lark is free!
Lark is offline  
Old July 5, 2016, 11:55 AM   #17
Rick W.
Member
 
Join Date: November 13, 2011
Location: Yakima, Washington
Posts: 19
An option that's available to you is to Google "zip gun" and see what they say about the legalities of building your own gun in the garage. From what I understand, back in the early 1900's to the 1950's, a lot of people made their own guns out of pieces of wood for a frame, galvanized water pipe for a barrel, springs and just about anything they wanted to try for a firing pin. Sometimes they didn't even have a trigger and it fired by pulling back on the spring loaded firing pin and letting it go! These were single shot pistols that usually was only good for close quarter shooting, as there wasn't any kind of rifling in the barrel either. Not very ideal guns to try to use and some even blew up in the person's face the first time he tried shooting it. Not suggested by me for you to build a gun like this, but you can find out some legal information on this by Googling it, then build one of better reliability, more modern methods and parts.

I myself was thinking about buying a part here and a part there from various vendors to build my own(who ever had the best price on a quality part of the type of rifle I wanted to build)and put my own rifle together too. There is quite a bit of lapping and matching one part up with the other part(such as lapping the receiver and bolt to the bolt face and head spacing) that is required to put a gun together this way from scratch. Good luck with your project. It sounds like it might be a fun project.
Rick W. is offline  
Old July 5, 2016, 01:36 PM   #18
Bill DeShivs
Senior Member
 
Join Date: April 7, 2006
Posts: 9,821
Rick- We aren't talking about "zip guns" here.
We are talking about real, rifled firearms.
Zip guns have unrifled barrels, making them illegal weapons- unless federally registered.
__________________
Bill DeShivs, Master Cutler
www.billdeshivs.com
Bill DeShivs is offline  
Old July 5, 2016, 01:45 PM   #19
carguychris
Senior Member
 
Join Date: October 20, 2007
Location: Richardson, TX
Posts: 7,524
Quote:
Originally Posted by 62coltnavy
You can sell limited quantities of homemade weapons without being deemed a manufacturer subject to licensure, however, you do have to engrave, attach or stamp a "unique" identifying number on the receiver in letters at least 3/16 high and .03 inches deep.
The serial numbering requirements you've summarized are from 27 CFR § 478.92, which—as with 18 USC § 923(i) that I quoted earlier—only applies directly to licensed manufacturers and licensed importers. [EDIT: With the caveat that the lettering height requirement is actually 1/16" rather than 3/16". ]

AFAIK the commonly parroted advice for homebuilders to apply their name and a serial number is NOT a cut-and-dried legal requirement; it's better characterized as a best practice to avoid ADDITIONAL charges or penalties for violating the various federal serial-number requirements [18 USC § 923(i), 27 CFR § 478.92, and 18 USC § 923(k)] if the builder is LATER found to have been "engaged in the business". CYA IOW, YMMV.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick W.
An option that's available to you is to Google "zip gun" and see what they say about the legalities of building your own gun in the garage. From what I understand, back in the early 1900's to the 1950's, a lot of people made their own guns out of pieces of wood for a frame, galvanized water pipe for a barrel, springs and just about anything they wanted to try for a firing pin... These were single shot pistols that usually was only good for close quarter shooting, as there wasn't any kind of rifling in the barrel either.
I believe you would find that most such firearms meet the NFA definition of Any Other Weapon. The fact that the NFA may not have always been strictly enforced in the past is of little value when the ATF comes knocking today. Additionally, AFAIK "zip guns" are widely regulated or prohibited outright under state law.
__________________
"Smokey, this is not 'Nam. This is bowling. There are rules... MARK IT ZERO!!" - Walter Sobchak

Last edited by carguychris; July 6, 2016 at 09:49 AM. Reason: clarification, minor reword
carguychris is offline  
Old July 6, 2016, 03:16 AM   #20
44 AMP
Staff
 
Join Date: March 11, 2006
Location: Upper US
Posts: 19,235
Quote:
Zip guns have unrifled barrels, making them illegal weapons- unless federally registered.
(BUZZER SOUND)

No, sorry, the lack of a rifled barrel alone does not make them illegal. (pssst...SHOTGUNS! )

There has to be something ELSE beyond a smooth bore to make them illegal.

Most zip guns fall below the legal size limits for rifles or shotguns, making them handguns, and smoothbore handguns are an NFA item.
__________________
All else being equal (and it almost never is) bigger bullets tend to work better.
44 AMP is offline  
Old July 7, 2016, 12:39 AM   #21
Bill DeShivs
Senior Member
 
Join Date: April 7, 2006
Posts: 9,821
Technically, you are correct.
I doubt there are very many zip rifles or zip shotguns, though.
__________________
Bill DeShivs, Master Cutler
www.billdeshivs.com
Bill DeShivs is offline  
Old July 12, 2016, 06:47 PM   #22
Dudechevy
Junior Member
 
Join Date: July 12, 2016
Posts: 12
imported parts makes homemade gun illegal?

I want to get y'alls thoughts on the use of “imported parts” as making a homemade gun against the law. This is quoted from the 2014 version of ATF Publication 5300.4. The first quote from page 196 dealing directly with home made firearm.

(A6) Does an individual need a license to make a firearm for personal use?
No, a license is not required to make a firearm solely for personal use. However, a license is required to manufacture firearms for sale or distribution. The law prohibits a person from assembling a non–sporting semiautomatic rifle or shotgun “from 10 or more imported parts”, as well as firearms that cannot be detected by metal detectors or x–ray machines. In addition, the making of an NFA firearm requires a tax payment and advance approval by ATF.


This 2nd quote comes from pages 186 and 187 from the same publication. This list what the ATF considers as the imported parts.



Assembly of Nonsporting SemiAutomatic Rifles and Shotguns from Imported PartSection 922(r),

Title 18, U.S.C., makes it unlawful for any person to assemble from imported parts any semiautomatic rifle or any shotgun which is identical to any rifle or shotgun prohibited from importation under section 925(d)(3) of the GCA. Regulations implementing the law in 27 C.F.R. 478.39 provide that a violation of section 922(r) will result if a semiautomatic rifle or shotgun is assembled with more than 10 of the following imported parts:
(1) Frames, receivers, receiver castings, forgings, or stampings (2) Barrels (3) Barrel extensions (4) Mounting blocks (trunnions) (5) Muzzle attachments (6) Bolts (7) Bolt carriers (8) Operating rods (9) Gas pistons (10) Trigger housings (11) Triggers (12) Hammers (13) Sears (14) Disconnectors (15) Buttstocks (16) Pistol grips (17) Forearms, handguards (18) Magazine bodies (19) Followers (20) Floorplates


When I read both these sections, it appears to me that if your going to assemble, ie put together(, a homemade gun, you can not use more than 10 parts that are not made in the USA or else it makes the gun against the law. If this is the case, then even using a stripped lower to build an AR is against the law. Please explain to me how I am reading this wrong.
Dudechevy is offline  
Old July 22, 2016, 03:19 PM   #23
RowdyCo
Junior Member
 
Join Date: July 22, 2016
Location: Washington state
Posts: 10
Just a note about the construction of semi-automatic firearms, for instance a semi-auto Sten built from a parts kit. The weapon will need to be manufactured or modified to fire from a closed bolt. A semi-auto only that fires from an open bolt is a Federal no-no, as far as I recall.
RowdyCo is offline  
Old July 22, 2016, 08:25 PM   #24
barnbwt
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 17, 2012
Posts: 1,085
So You Want to Build a Gun?

First things first:
1934 National Firearms Act - Defines what configurations of gun you can make
1968 Gun Control Act - Defines who/how can make firearms, and how to transfer them
1986 Firearm Owner's Protection Act; Hughes Amendment - Cannot make machineguns
922r Statute - If using imported parts, gives configuration rules
"Constructive Intent" - Build procedures and practices to ensure the ATF cannot trump up charges against you (this one requires research)
"ATF Letters" - Published ATF opinions on what they have deemed acceptable in the past (non-binding & can change at any moment; some legal risk involved in relying upon them)
"Personal Use vs. Manufacture" - Very different rules govern your intent in building a firearm. Only licensees may build guns for others or for sale (profit be damned)
"Closed Bolt vs. Open Bolt" - Very sweeping restriction on the types of trigger and ignition mechanisms that may be used in a build, stemming from an extremely expansive ATF determination but not mentioned in the law

Them's the rules; separates us from the baddies. These are only the most basic restrictions on your freedom, so it behooves you to do your homework if you wish to do advanced builds like semi-auto conversions from demilled machinegun parts kits. weaponsguild.com is the best resource there is, but you'd better be serious about building, giving the hobby a good reputation, and heeding to the experience of others.

Quote:
IIRC there are some grey areas in the law that can potentially jump up and bite the builder if a non-serialized homemade firearm is subsequently transferred to someone else, although I don't recall the details
Not really, at least in non-registration states. That said, CSI/etc have so ingrained in folks the notion that all firearms must have a serial number, that if you present a blank homebuild for sale at some point you're likely to get shrieks of "NO TATTOO! NO TATTOO!"

4473's can have "NVS" or "No Visible Serial" put down in place of the serial. Otherwise there'd be no way to transfer guns from before '68 when the stupid law was enacted.

TCB
__________________
"I don't believe that the men of the distant past were any wiser than we are today. But it does seem that their science and technology were able to accomplish much grander things."
-- Alex Rosewater
barnbwt is offline  
Old July 22, 2016, 08:54 PM   #25
TXAZ
Senior Member
 
Join Date: September 5, 2010
Location: McMurdo Sound Texas
Posts: 3,578
The 'garage 3D printed' guns are getting better and more sophisticated.
It wouldn't surprise me that a major gun mfg won't allow someone to 3D print one of their guns at home in the future, licensed under a different name and company.
They provide the software, you provide the printer/materials.
We will see.
__________________
!أنا لست إرهابياً
TXAZ is offline  
Reply

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 09:53 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
This site and contents, including all posts, Copyright © 1998-2018 S.W.A.T. Magazine
Copyright Complaints: Please direct DMCA Takedown Notices to the registered agent: thefiringline.com
Contact Us
Page generated in 0.09249 seconds with 8 queries