Yesterday, the ATF was expected to publish its decision on pistol braces. Instead, the ATF published an open letter to all FFLs on the updated determination of what is considered a “readily completed” frame or receiver. This new determination process seeks to define partially completed, disassembled, or nonfunctional frames as firearms.
By Drew Bryant
December 29th, 2022, theloadoutblog.com
Main photo from Polymer80’s Instagram account.
Yesterday, the ATF was expected to publish its decision on pistol braces. Instead, the ATF published an open letter to all FFLs on the updated determination of what is considered a “readily completed” frame or receiver. This new determination process seeks to define partially completed, disassembled, or nonfunctional frames as firearms. This would require these frames to be serialized and would require record-keeping and background checks by the FFLs for a consumer to purchase an 80% frame or receiver. In the open letter, the ATF focuses on Polymer80 and Lone Wolf Distributors frames as examples of “readily completed” firearms.
Below, is portions of the open letter from ATF to FFLs regarding the updated determination on frames and receivers. A link will be provided for the full 10-page letter to FFLs.
ATF Open Letter
Impact of Final Rule 2021-05F on Partially Complete Polymer80, Lone Wolf, and Similar Semiautomatic Pistol Frames
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is issuing this open letter to assist the firearms industry and the public in understanding whether a “partially complete, disassembled, or nonfunctional” frame of a Polymer80, Lone Wolf, or similar semiautomatic, striker-fired pistol (sometimes generally referred to as “Glock-type” pistols) has reached a stage of manufacture such that it “may readily be completed, assembled, restored, or otherwise converted” to a functional frame, and is therefore classified as a “frame” or “firearm” in accordance with the final rule titled Definition of ‘Frame or Receiver’ and Identification of Firearms (Final Rule 2021R-05F), which became effective August 24, 2022. In particular, the following addresses partially complete, disassembled, or nonfunctional semiautomatic striker- fired pistol frames or parts kits manufactured, sold, or distributed by Polymer80 (known as ‘Poly80’ or ‘P80’ frames or blanks), Lone Wolf (known as ‘Freedom Wolf 80%’ frames), and others, with the characteristics described below.
Applying the regulatory text of Final Rule 2021-05F, partially complete Polymer80, Lone Wolf, and similar striker-fired semiautomatic pistol frames, including, but not limited to, those sold within parts kits, have reached a stage of manufacture where they “may readily be completed, assembled, restored, or otherwise converted” to a functional frame. This definition of “readily” applies to each and every classification of a partially complete frame or receiver under this Rule, whether sold alone or as part of a kit. Therefore, even without any associated templates, jigs, molds, equipment, tools, instructions, guides, or marketing materials, these partially complete pistol frames are “frames” and also “firearms” as defined in the GCA and its implementing regulations, 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(3)(B) and 27 CFR 478.12(a)(1), (c).
The Gun Control Act (GCA) defines the term “firearm” as: “…(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.” (Emphasis added.) 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(3). The GCA implementing regulations define the terms “frame” and “receiver” by describing a single housing or structural component for one specific fire control component of a given weapon—for example, a single housing is specified for particular weapons such as a “handgun” and a “rifle.” 27 CFR 478.12(a).
The regulation defines the term “frame” in 27 CFR 478.12(a)(1), as “
Further, 27 CFR 478.12(c) explains when a partially complete, disassembled, or nonfunctional frame or receiver, including a frame or receiver parts kit, is regulated as a “frame” or “receiver”:
The terms ‘frame’ and ‘receiver’ shall include a partially complete, disassembled, or nonfunctional frame or receiver, including a frame or receiver parts kit, that is designed to or may readily be completed, assembled, restored, or otherwise converted to function as a frame or receiver, i.e., to house or provide a structure for the primary energized component of a handgun, breech blocking or sealing component of a projectile weapon other than a handgun, or internal sound reduction component of a firearm muffler or firearm silencer, as the case may be. The terms shall not include a forging, casting, printing, extrusion, unmachined body, or similar article that has not yet reached a stage of manufacture where it is clearly identifiable as an unfinished component part of a weapon (e.g., unformed block of metal, liquid polymer, or other raw material). When issuing a classification, the Director may consider any associated templates, jigs, molds, equipment, tools, instructions, guides, or marketing materials that are sold, distributed, or possessed with the item or kit, or otherwise made available by the seller or distributor of the item or kit to the purchaser or recipient of the item or kit.
Section 478.11 defines “readily” as:
A process, action, or physical state that is fairly or reasonably efficient, quick, and easy, but not necessarily the most efficient, speediest, or easiest process, action, or physical state. With respect to the classification of firearms, factors relevant in making this determination include the following:
(a) Time, i.e., how long it takes to finish the process;
(b) Ease, i.e., how difficult it is to do so;
(c) Expertise, i.e., what knowledge and skills are required;
(d) Equipment, i.e., what tools are required;
(e) Parts availability, i.e., whether additional parts are required, and how easily they can be obtained;
(f) Expense, i.e., how much it costs;
(g) Scope, i.e., the extent to which the subject of the process must be changed to finish it; and
variants thereof, that provides housing or a structure for the component (i.e., sear or equivalent)
the part of a handgun, or
designed to hold back the hammer, striker, bolt, or similar primary energized component prior to
initiation of the firing sequence, even if pins or other attachments are required to connect such
component (i.e., sear or equivalent) to the housing or structure.”
There are many partially complete, disassembled, or nonfunctional semiautomatic pistol “frames” being marketed as so-called “partially complete” or “80%” frames. The Federal firearms statutes and regulations, however, do not employ terms such as “80%,” “80% finished,” or “80% complete.” These are merely terms used by some to market these items; they are not based upon application of the term “readily” in the GCA or Final Rule 2021-05F. As used in the GCA and the Final Rule, the term “readily” does not involve evaluation of a percentage of completion for an item that, when completed, will function as a frame or receiver. Rather, the analysis examines how efficiently, quickly, and easily a clearly identifiable component part of a weapon can be completed, assembled, restored, or otherwise converted to house or provide a structure for the applicable fire control component. Such analysis may include consideration of any associated templates, jigs, molds, equipment, tools, instructions, guides, or marketing materials that are, directly or indirectly, sold, distributed, possessed, or marketed with the component part or kit. As outlined in the above definition, the analysis must consider all factors that are relevant to the assessment.
On the above mentioned “partially complete” pistol frames and products manufactured by Polymer80, Lone Wolf, and similar “partially complete” frames used to assemble semiautomatic, striker-fired pistols, the critical areas of the “frame” are the front and rear fire control cavities. The front and rear cavities are critical because these areas provide housing for the sear. See 27 CFR 478.12(a)(1), (a)(4)(iii). As further explained and illustrated below, removing or indexing any material in these critical areas, or completing or indexing any of the pin holes necessary to install the sear, are therefore crucial steps in producing a functional frame.
This updated determination of what is considered a frame or receiver by the ATF will have an immediate impact on FFLs on how the market and sale 80% frames and receivers. It will also strip gun owners’ of their right to build personal firearms. We will have to wait until for the this storm to be over to survey the potential damage done by this ruling.
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