Mark from Austin’s Silencer Shop is a downright pleasant fellow. Talking to him yesterday afternoon after our story posted about the rumored ATF cease and desist letter that’s coming down the pike, he sounded calm, cool, and collected. But one thing that did seem to concern him was how, as he sees it, the ATF is trying to use his shop as a scapegoat . . .

The eForms system that the ATF put in place was supposed to solve the NFA paperwork processing problem. Instead of submitting forms on dead trees that needed staff at the ATF to transcribe them into digital records, the individual gun shops themselves could do that and save a ton of wait time. By slicing out that time-consuming step they could finally start to make a dent in the pile of pending applications, and maybe even get to a point where the 10-month wait for approved could be whittled down to only a few weeks. But the key to the entire process was their shiny new website.

However in a manner reminiscent of healthcare.gov, the new site had major issues from day one. Gun shops complained that the system wasn’t working, wasn’t compatible with their web browser, or was just generally slow. And over time, things have only gotten worse. Unlike the Obamacare portal – because of a much lower public profile, no doubt – things never improved.

Months down the line now, nothing has improved. FFLs have yet to stop complaining, and things aren’t getting any better. And now there’s increasing chatter from both FFLs and sources in the ATF that are blaming it squarely on Mark’s shop.

The problem is that Mark actually is doing something different. Where most shops submit their forms online one at a time, Silencer Shop uses an automated process to upload all of their forms in a batch as quickly as possible. According to Mark, that’s about four forms per minute when they get rolling. But Mark claims that the upload process only runs during the night, when everyone else in the country is asleep. In fact, he believes that by removing Silencer Shop from the daily press of people trying to use the site during business hours, it improves the overall performance of the system.

There’s one other small piece of evidence that makes me sympathetic to Mark’s claim. “The [batch uploading] system has been offline since Saturday, it’s being upgraded” he says. “You haven’t heard any reports that things are getting better, have you?”

I’ve been basing my posts on this subject on a number of tips that I’ve been receiving from multiple sources — it’s not just one person feeding me information about the ATF’s opinion on this matter. But given their track record, I’m more than open to the idea that the regulators are trying to pin the blame for their failed computer system on the Silencer Shop rather than facing the music themselves. We’ll be watching to see how the situation shakes out.

46 Responses to Silencer Shop: The ATF Is Blaming Us for Their Crappy Website

  1. It’s not his batch processing. Silencer shop is not at fault. It’s a simple “more popular than expected” issue I reckon.

    Don’t blame them.

    • The BATFE is taking the same stance as the administration does on Obamacare. It is our fault, since you know we don’t know how to use the intertube, or whatever….
      I mean seriously Nick and myself could have probably done a better job! There are private companies, you know those big bad rich dudes, that have websites that work perfectly. Amazon, EBay, FaceBook, all work pretty darn well. But the government spend the equivalent of the first ten years of FaceBooks operating costs to come out with healthcare.gov? Hundreds of millions have been wasted on state websites that were either shut down, or still not working. I have about as much faith in US government websites as I do a monkey typing out Shakespeare on the first go round.
      Sorry I am just not surprised, or shocked…

      • Considering how a large percentage of our federal politicians (and probably a lot of state level ones too) don’t understand these newfangled “technologies” (some haven’t “gotten around” to email yet), it’s not surprising that they hire people that are completely incompetent to build a website that only has to handle some paperwork and credit card info. Trust me, it’s not that complicated of a task, yet they f-ed it up just like they f-ed up healthcare.gov. http://slashdot.org/story/14/03/10/1933252/embarrassing-stories-shed-light-on-us-officials-technological-ignorance

        I remember reading somewhere about the people they got to fix healthcare.gov and they commented that it was one of the most dysfunctional and crappiest pieces of software they had ever seen.

  2. ATF must have been forced to use that same contractor that won the no-bid for building the website for the ObamaCare federal exchange….forget how that happened- what was it again, Valery Jarretts cousin working there?

    Where’s the Google Geeks when you need them?

    • Yeah, that’s what I was thinking.

      Sorry, your system sucks if it can’t handle your customer trying to use it.

    • Forced? Perhaps.

      SPECULATION: They possibly contracted to some Democratic Senator’s son’s company that was just starting out with little to no experience on designing and coding an eCommerce type website let alone one that would have high traffic.

  3. Is a 30 or so decible reduction on a rifle really worth the money you would spend on the suppressor +tax stamp? Call me when I can buy a quality suppressor for $100.

    • Hearing loss is cumulative. So to answer your question – yes it is. But only if you value hearing things.

    • Speaking as a guy with tinnitis and significant cumulative hearing loss (at 40 I have the hearing of a 65 year old) thanks to small arms use (ok, and C-4), I’d say YES!

      • Totally worth it, I also have hearing damage. Pretty much everyone who has hearing damage will say that a suppressor is worth it.

    • Ask someone with a suppressed rifle to show you the difference. With subsonic ammo. Then you’ll have the answer to your question.

      (I don’t know what that answer will be – only you can decide for yourself)

  4. Give the government any project and they will always screw it up. Had the ATF outsourced the eForms project to – oh I don’t know – how about any 13 year old kid with a laptop, the wait time would be days and not months.

    • The modus operandi of certain leaders elsewhere in Gov’t tend to use the blame game as well. Hmmm… Holder picked it up from his boss?

  5. Really unbelievable that suppressors are regulated at all. What an outrageous and defenseless infringement on the right to property.

  6. What exactly does the ATF do with form 4s that can’t be accomplished with a NICS check? The wait should be the same time as a NICS check because it should just be a NICS check

  7. I’m a (sometimes) web developer, and I had cause to use the ATF site to help a friend submit his forms. What a nightmare. Pretty much anybody could have done a better job than whoever the ATF hired. In fact, the people the ATF hired could have done a better job if allowed to.

    The problem with government contracts is that the developer MUST write to the requirements as stated. If the contract doesn’t provide a complete and well-defined set of requirements, the developer is up against the wall, because acceptance testing is a literal interpretation of the stated requirements, with no room for “AH-HA moments” on the part of the developer. This means they can’t fix stuff that they might find deficient in the design/requirements/implementation.

    Finally, the developer has little/no input as to architecture or hardware suitability. The feds put the software on the hardware they have available, and typically, that means shoe-horning an app onto an already overloaded server.

    In all honesty, I fully expect that the ATF took proactive and intentional steps to make it as difficult as possible on the developer, and then saddled the app with crappy servers.

    • Depends upon the contract verbage and allowances. There are CR/PR processes,CCB, and routes for requirements clarification, typically. HW might be spec’d by the contractor. Testing and acceptance processes are based upon org processes or might be subcontracted. As with all gov’t things, it’s contractually bound but with some hand waving.

  8. If they want to say guns are a health care issue….cant we use that to our benefit and use that to get silencers taken off NFA bc its a “health issue”

    • Not if that comes with an open invitation/requirement for doctors to document our firearms, and also the ability to declare health status as a condition for gun ownership

      • It would be nice to get the $200 fee waived with a note from my ENT.

        I got my eye doctor to help design optimal shooting glasses (and this in Manhattan – he said he’s never had the request before, but was happy to help), so now I need my ENT to perscribe a suppressor.

  9. “But given their track record, I’m more than open to the idea that the regulators are trying to pin the blame for their failed computer system on the Silencer Shop rather than facing the music themselves.”

    “The Obama Administration issued a recently-completed study of the ATF processing difficulties, which found that George Bush was to blame.”

    There – glad we got that settled.

  10. The gov has screwed up everything from the post office to the CIA. Yup, it’s the users’ fault. Who gets fired????

  11. Every financial institution in the world uses batch processing to process thousands of transactions a minute. Theres no excuse for the atf to have trouble dumping data into a database of some kind and automating form transfers. Whether they use a flat file database, a relational database, ect…it should not have issues with batch processing. Im no expert…but banks have been doing this stuff since at least the 70s. This is first year computer science stuff. I know for a fact I could write a oracle or ms sql server database web app for form processing in about a week. And I haven’t programmed in 3 years. If a small credit union can have members fill out xml forms all day for loans and other bs with no issues…our own tax and spend and create fake money government should be able to do it as well.

  12. There’s no excuse for a poor website that does nothing more than dumb data entry. If the web application and DB were designed decently, you could even run both on a single ho-hum, 10-year-old Dell server and still handle on the order of dozens of entries per minute.

    • I agree that the data on these forms are minuscule and that their middleware is just totally boogered up. This is your government at it’s peak performance….totally F’d up as usual.

  13. I predict that the number of “solvent traps” purchased or built by rural property-owning shooters will continue to climb.

  14. ” According to Mark, that’s about four forms per minute when they get rolling.”

    And this brings the system to a crawl? Good Lord… Sounds like the system was written by someone that just picked up html programming in 21 days and took a transcender cert course.

  15. It’s a poor carpenter who blames his saw.

    This is part of the top-down chaos and uncertainty that Obama wanted to create. People are much easier to push around and manhandle when they’re continually off balance and don’t know what’s coming next. Next week…or next year. This is a deliberate choice by Obama, not a sign of rank incompetence, even though he may be. Fear-suspicion-distrust: This is boilerplate for all Leftists. And it actually works.

  16. Did, or did not the ATFE’s website allow batch-processing as an option? If not and this is some macro function on the users end, I could see it becoming an issue…maybe. But if batch-processing is a feature offered by the ATFE’s website, how is using that feature anyone’s fault but the ATFE’s?

    Stimpy! Do not touch this shinny candy-like button!

    • Even if batch processing wasn’t formally offered as an option it’s a ridiculously poor system that can’t handle four submissions per minute with a small amount of data per submission. I might be more sympathetic to the “it wasn’t designed for that” argument if that batch process involved transmitting 1,000 documents per second or something, but 4 per minute? No way.

      • I am going to guess they paid some folks a ton of money and did not find out it was crap until it was too late. Now to fix it would likely need a rewrite and money they did not budget for. This is a mess. At the very least some heads should roll and they should start to try and fix this. The problem is clearly this administration is not going to lift a finger to fix another broken Web site.

  17. Who do we complain to that can help get this fixed? Maybe a massive email / letter campaign might stir the pot with some votes shifting to those that can fix this.

  18. The guys at Silencer Shop seem to be some good dudes. I had a minor question and they were quick to respond. Plus they are all set up to help you get squared away regardless of how you’re applying of your gear (LEO sign off, trust, etc.) I spoke with them at the Dallas Safari Club and they were the same in person. Just some plain old good guys that love to chat suppressors and what it takes to get the paper squared away. Plus their prices seemed very fair.

    This is all just another gov’t agency being a bunch of tools because their overpriced excrement systems don’t work. Think Obamacare II.

  19. Yup, my dealer is trying to submit a form 4 for me right now and is unable to do so because of this pile of shit they dare to call a “web form system”.

  20. I’m so happy to find this site with others having the same infuriating experience that I am. I have about 20 pissed off customers thinking it’s me or my computer system with the problems and not this so-called eFile System! I’ve tried to get on this shitty website until 2:00 a.m., NOTHING! It doesn’t even work when the traffic is low. I’m at my limit! All I’m trying to do is make an honest living in the Gun Business and with every turn there is just too much paperwork. When am I suppose to have time to actually MAKE some money?! I guess this is the “New American Way”! (Can I just have the 80’s back…please!)

  21. I agree that the ATF is to blame for the stunning eForms platform failure. But, most FFL’s have known that the system was unstable and very slow at times. With that said, you cannot tell me that Silencer Shop did NOT know this. They DID know but continued to push the batch processing. Not only has Silencer Shop crapped on themselves but on every other FFL using the eForms system. Thanks ATF and Silencer Shop for ruining my buzz.

    • This is more of that childish “ruining it for everyone” whining. Sheesh, grow up!

      If the system wasn’t crashing, do you really believe that government would’ve fixed the existing deficiencies in the system? Of course not! Even *if* the shop had caused problems, it was using the system as it was supposedly designed to function. It’s actually better that bugs get shaken out of a system earlier rather than later. It’s more difficult to get bureaucracies to fix their mistakes down the road as the common reply is, “well, it’s been working fine all of this time so it must be something you’re doing wrong.”

  22. I looked at silencer shops website. I see the ospreys priced at what appears to be way below the minimum advertised price allowed by silencerco. Check this out and see. If so, why do they not follow the MAP required?

  23. Five minutes to tell me my password was incorrect (hey, at least it was, this time). Two minutes to load their own damn logo. What an utter shit heap of a project. Looks like a web page from the ’90’s; someone laughed all the way to the bank on this one.

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