EP80BLACK-2

I just got off the phone with Dimitrios Karras, owner of Ares Armor (which was recently raided by the ATF). Ever since the ATF’s visit they’ve gone completely radio silent, and the lack of information has made it hard for even us to keep track of what’s really happening. There’s a lot of conflicting information floating around, and he wanted a chance to clean things up and explain exactly what was going on. It’s still not 100% clear even to Karras, but I’ll take a shot at laying out the facts of the case . . .

It all started over a hunk of plastic.

A firearm only becomes a firearm when it becomes fully functional. Raw materials — even those destined to become firearms — are not regulated like a firearm until all the manufacturing processes have been completed to make it operational. But that creates a loophole for do-it-yourself gun owners, since they can purchase nearly-completed lower receivers for their AR-15 firearms and manufacture the rest of the firearm themselves. Not only does this get around needing to have a background check to buy the firearm, but it also keeps them from having a paper trail of any kind that the ATF can come snooping down should they want to confiscate the guns. In theory, anyway.

EP Armory has been working with Ares Armor for ages. The owners of the two companies are buddies, and Ares Armor buys and distributes EP Armory’s other products through its website and stores. Somewhat recently EP Armory started building a polymer 80% lower receiver that used two different color plastics to differentiate where the end user (manufacturer) needs to mill out in order to make the gun functional. It’s a pretty slick design, since it makes the manufacturing process a whole lot easier for people to follow.

The ATF wasn’t pleased with this development.

According to Karras, the ATF had one day decided that EP Armory’s polymer lower receiver was an illegally manufactured firearm. Specifically, they believed that the lower receiver was being manufactured as a complete firearm, and then later had the relevant sections of the lower filled in to take it “back” to an 80% state. Since the ATF believes that once something is a firearm it is always a firearm, simply filling in the lower would not render it an 80% hunk of plastic once more. The ATF was of the opinion that the lower was in fact a complete firearm, and EP Armory and Ares Armor were both selling and shipping these illegal guns.

Karras literally laughed at this. According to him, the lowers are “impossible” to assemble in the manner the ATF describes. He says that the “plug” is manufactured first (the part that needs to be milled out by the end user), with a series of ridges that lock it into the rest of the lower receiver as it is molded around the plug. That way, at no point is a complete firearm manufactured and the 80% status is preserved.

I’ve tried to find out the truth behind that claim as to the method of manufacture, but so far I’ve come up short. Dimitrios says that this is the way the lowers have always been made, but there are no supporting documents that I can find. It does look like those documents may become available shortly as the case progresses, though.

The ATF contacted Karras a few weeks ago when they were starting to do their full investigation into these supposed illegal firearms that were being sold and asked him to turn over the lowers he had in stock as well as the customer list. He agreed to turn over his current stock of lowers for inspection, but refused to turn over the customer list. The ATF threatened him with a search warrant, and instead of folding to their request he applied for and was granted a temporary restraining order against the ATF keeping them out of his store.

Up to this point, everything Karras says is backed up by a statement by Paul Ware, the ATF’s attorney. But that’s is where things get complicated.

Last week, the ATF asked for some clarification on that restraining order. According to the court, the order could not prohibit them from carrying out a lawful investigation. In order to do so, they would need an approved search warrant based on a finding of probable cause by the courts. When Ares Armor applied for the restraining order, they submitted a ton of documentation about the manufacturing process of the lower receivers and showing that the manufacturing process was not consistent with the method described by the ATF’s letter in which they determined the lower was an illegal firearm. So in essence, they gave the ATF all the information required to determine that the lower receiver is, in fact, legal. This information will be made publicly available at some point in the future, and should be interesting to read.

Following that clarification, the ATF raided Ares Armor and took all their product and sales records. Karras was not able to see the search warrant, so he has no idea what evidence it was based on. Some people started speculating that the ATF was using Ares Armor’s proposed “build parties” as an end-run around the restraining order, which I found credible and used as a basis for my previous articles. But with Karras’s assertion that there’s no doubt whatsoever about the polymer 80% lowers being the target of the investigation (which he in turn based off the ATF lawyer’s own statements to that effect), it looks like that theory can be safely blown out of the water.

At this point, there are two roads that this story can take. And it all hinges on how the ATF received their search warrant.

The ATF apparently has been issued a search warrant for Ares Armor. The catch here is that in order to get the search warrant, they need probable cause that (A) the lower receivers are in fact illegally made and (B) Ares Armor’s batch are made the illegal way. If they didn’t obtain the search warrant using “proper” evidence, then not only was the raid illegal but it was in violation of the restraining order. So, like I said, two paths here.

Path #1 is that the ATF re-defines the point at which a firearm becomes a firearm,, and that even when assembled the “legal” way EP Armory’s lower receiver is still an illegal firearm. This is the most likely course of action if the ATF doesn’t find (or fabricate) any evidence that the lowers are manufactured the “illegal” way, as the ATF would want to cover their ass and protect themselves from a lawsuit from Ares Armor for violating the restraining order. If this happens it will kick off a rather massive shitstorm as this would mean the ATF has moved the goalposts and re-defined what makes a firearm “complete.” This is especially concerning for traditional manufacturers, who buy forged lower receivers (technically also 80% lowers) from non-FFL holding metalworking shops and finish them in-house much the same way that Ares Armor’s products are designed to be used. If the companies doing the forging now need an FFL and a serial number on each forging, that will make things massively complex and make firearms manufacturing much harder to accomplish. So, expect a massive backlash in this case from both the industry and the gun owning public. I give this a low probability rating mainly due to the ensuing shitstorm.

Path #2 is that the ATF still truly believed (or at least claimed to believe) that EP Armory’s lower receivers are manufactured the “illegal” way, as described in their original letter declaring the products illegal firearms. The catch is that they would need probable cause for the search warrant, and depending on the validity of the evidence they presented the search may or may not have been “legal.” If the ATF pressured the judge into signing off on the search without any real evidence, or fabricated evidence of their own, then Ares Armor will have a field day suing the ATF for violating the restraining order as well as the illegal search and seizure. However, if the ATF did have real evidence that EP Armory and Ares Armor were in the wrong and the lowers really were being manufactured the illegal way, then Ares Armor is in a world of hurt. This is the most likely path forward, and the most entertaining for those of us watching on the sidelines and hoping for a smack-down on the ATF for their thug-like way of conducting themselves.

There are tons of questions as to what the ATF’s case really consists of, and we won’t know until the courts publish the ATF’s affidavit for the search warrant or bring charges against some of the players. We don’t know which of these opinions the ATF holds, and until there are more facts on the table all we can do is speculate. But for my part, it’s fantastic to get the actual facts straight from the horse’s mouth about what has happened so far.

98 Responses to TTAG Exclusive: Interview with Ares Armor’s Dimitrios Karras

  1. Nick, not to be pedantic but it’s not a loophole that lets you make your own gun. Its right there in the law.

    It was a deliberate choice on thr part of thr BATFE to declare that one portion of a gun – in the case of the AR-15, the lower – is the “real” gun while everything else isn’t. There’s the loophole – they chose to make “the gun” part be a part that’s readily able to be finished at home with a modest shop, and to declare what can and can’t be done on that “non-gun” piece before a serial number goes on. They chose a relatively non-stressed part so you don’t need to necessarily make it out of metal, either. Et voila – it can be made out of plastic and a lot of the hard bits for a home machinist can already be done.

    If they had designated the barrel, say, as “the gun” they likely wouldn’t have this problem.

    • It isn’t always the lower receiver or frame. There’s apparently some flexibility about what component comprises the firearm.

      Consider the SIG Sauer P250 product family: The fire control assembly carries the serial number, and is the part subject to firearms regulation – background check, waiting period, possession rules, transfer rules, registration, concealment rules, and all the rest. The grip frame, barrel, slide, and magazine can all be changed at will (size and caliber) to meet mission requirements.

    • “Loophole” implies that it’s a workaround of some kind. The government wants to regulate guns, they have to decide what a gun is, and they decided that the “80% lower” is not a gun yet. Naturally, this means that people will come up with the best solutions to follow the law while still getting what they want. It works this way with any regulatory system. Basic guns are actually pretty simple to make, you can use a length of pipe to make a “gun” if you really want to. Logically, a block of metal isn’t a gun until you’ve made it into one. How much machining does it take to turn something from a piece of metal into a gun? Does a gun-shaped piece of metal count as a gun? Not necessarily. The problem here, then, is that the BATFE needs to declare what constitutes a gun, and they decided that anything more than an 80% lower receiver is a gun. If an 80% lower receiver is a gun, they have to play the definitions game again and settle on a new standard, and then that standard will be the new level to which companies can sell “unfinished guns” to consumers. If I buy an unmachined block of steel with the intention of creating a gun all on my own, that block of steel isn’t a gun. If the BATFE wants to regulate guns, the burden of definition is on them.

      • One of the best responses I’ve read.
        I know the taxpayers will end up footing the bill (as always), but the BATF should be held responsible for their actions IMHO. It seems to me that they are on a witch hunt. -Tharget

    • loop·hole
      /ˈlo͞opˌ(h)ōl/
      noun
      noun: loophole; plural noun: loopholes

      1. an ambiguity or inadequacy in the law or a set of rules.

      The law is intended to keep people from buying a “firearm” without going through a background check. I would say having someone else making you something, telling you exactly how to modify it to create a “firearm” with simple household tools, and then selling it to you without a background check qualifies as a loophole.

      I’m not saying that I’m against that specific situation, I’m all for it. But if we’re not being pedantic, I think it’s a good use of the word.

      • “The law is intended to keep people from buying a “firearm” without going through a background check”

        Which law(s) specifically are you talking about? The GCA ’68 establishes that you must have an FFL to be in the business of manufacturing or selling firearms with the assumption that such activities will involve interstate commerce (authority derived by the commerce clause). AFAIK, there is no federal “law” granting someone the right to build a firearm for your own personal use due to the fact said activity does not involve interstate commerce. There are only rulings from the BATFE determining what is a firearm (or not I.E. 80% lowers) and subject to their regulations (or not). Or am I missing something?

    • From what I understand the reason it is that way and not a loophole is because guns a person makes themselves for personal use have nothing at all to do with interstate commerce and the ATF and the federal firearm laws they are meant to enforce are all about the licensing of commercial dealers, distributors and manufacturers. By being that way the laws are squarely within the commerce clause and all they have to worry about is trampling the second amendment.

  2. How can the subject of a search warrant not know the contents of said warrant? The only exception I can think of for having to serve (i.o.w. GIVE) the warrant to the subject is FISA.

  3. Oh great, I can see it coming now, all machinists will need to be registered and tracked by the gov’t. /sarc

    As a machinist, I’m interested in seeing the final determination here, an 80% receiver is a great time saver, but I have some raw forgings laying around too. Never mind that one could go to Home Depot and buy components that are more easily turned into complete firearms than any commercial 80% product. Where will it end?

    • Coming soon, as well as registration of all 3D machining, subtractive and additive. Sadly, I’m not being sarcastic. Give it a decade at most.

    • “Oh great, I can see it coming now, all machinists will need to be registered and tracked by the gov’t.” /sarc

      More like: “Oh great, I can see it coming now, all machinists will need to be registered and tracked by the gov’t.” /precognition

  4. Nick, interesting article. Have you reached out to EP armory to get their take as well? Seeing as it’s their product and manufacturing process that has been called into question by the ATF, they might have more info on what specifically got the ATF’s panties twisted.

    Also, when you say “with the method described by the ATF’s letter in which they determined the lower was an illegal firearm.”. Is this determination letter from the ATF publicly available?

  5. Ploymer80 isnt taking any orders currently.

    Connected? Polymer lower fears cascading through the industry?

    It’s funny how perfectly legal things can become illegal just because more people participate in said legal act or the act becomes easier to participate in.

    Free speech was well and good until the Internet made it too easy to be heard. Now it’s a problem. The 4th was all well and good until it became too easy to hide and encrypt. Now that’s a problem. Since a $200 stamp is now affordable in todays money NFA items are becoming more commonly owned and some politicians see this as a problem.

    When only special privileged people can participate it’s all fine and dandy. Once the common slob on the street can print a gun now they need to worry and make it all illegal.

    • A thousand times yes. When the government realizes that people are getting around their not-to-well thought out laws, it’s apparently time to make more laws. Why more people aren’t outraged at stuff like this is beyond me.

    • An excellent post. Freedom is all well and good when just a few are exercising it. But when every Joe Schmoe does it, panic time.

  6. Don’t fall into the antis’ linguistic trap! It’s not not a “loophole” to obey the law.

    If I drive down the street at the speed limit, I’m not “a nefarious scofflaw skating on the edge of the law, exploiting a loophole to evade prosecution.” I’m behaving exactly as the legislators prescribed.

    Please don’t call lawful behavior a loophole.

    • +1

      I often use that same analogy. So tired of people using the word “loophole” to describe lawful activities.

  7. Possibly a stupid question, but if “Once a gun, always a gun” is the way the ATF sees it. Shouldn’t ‘de-activated’ guns still be guns? Even if it’s done by a certified gunsmith?

  8. At this point Ares made their money and are interested in talking about how the lowers were manufactured. Who gives a shit what happens to ares now, they can reopen elsewhere later.

    The fact that the atf was this bold, and willing to do so much for a 5k customer list is scary! Ares could have removed this information from their store with the knowledge of the on coming raid, but they left it there to cover their butts.

    They may have just gotten 5000 other people raided, and lose their guns.

    Ares has an obligation to use their new found media coverage to shine a spotlight on the atf behavior and attempt to warn, or prevent raids on these customers.

    the legality, or the lowers, or the manufacturing process were never the goal…..the customer list was.

    Protect your clients Ares!

  9. I’m still curious why Ares didn’t remove or destroy their customer lists and documentation from the store or at least encrypt everything if they knew the ATF was chomping at the bit to raid them.

    • The judge specifically prohibited them from doing so.

      “Plaintiff Lycurgan Inc. DBA Ares Armor (“Plaintiff”) and its owners, officers,
      managers, employees, and agents ARE HEREBY PROHIBITED from taking
      any steps to destroy, transfer, sell, or otherwise divest themselves of the items
      that are the subject matter of the Court’s March 11, 2014 Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) (see ECF No. 4);”

    • The customer list would be helpful to the ATF. They still can get subpoenas for the credit processors and banks.

    • With the tech the NSA has, It’s a small period of time for anything less than or equal to 1024-bit encryption to be have the encryption broken. Snowden documents point at more sinister dealings though: backdoors created in commercial encryption programs by the coercion of the NSA.

      http://www.tomsguide.com/us/encryption-nsa-edward-snowden-rsa-ssl,news-17503.html

      If they want it bad enough, they probably will get it, despite how long it might take through a brute-force approach.

  10. ares has an obligation to post more info on proceedings real time on their site. they should be answering client questions too.
    Ares made a clear decision: destroy records and deal with IRS later, and let NSA figure out who bought what.

    OR leave customer info so that book keeping is easier and let atf continue to run rogue and do what they may with that info. Well, we may see poly 80 percent guns causing border crime in a fast and furious scenario now. or at least reported that way.

    • Fun fact, no IRS audit requires a retailer to keep information that identifies the purchaser. All that is required is the cost and tax info. (The receipts don’t even need to be itemized.)

        • Draws suspicion??? Are you serious? Have you EVER done business with someone online where they did NOT ask you for your address, phone etc? How about companies that want to be able to send you marketing info about the upcoming sales, discounts, etc? You gladly give them your info so you can receive these offers.

          You all need to read a bit more info before jumping down Ares throat. HOW the hell is this their fault that the government has gone through massive trouble to get in their stores? Ares has done WAY more than I’ve ever seen any other “gun store, etc” go through to prevent the government from getting what they want.

          Also, one of the articles I read the owner said they go to great pains to keep their information private. This was in the article about the ATF taking the computers, so my guess is at the very least it’s encrypted. But even if it’s not, how is this Ares fault? They were operating what EVERYONE thought was a legal business selling a legal item until the ATF decides one day to say it’s NOT legal. Do you really think the ATF is going to raid 1000+ houses?

          Honestly my best guess is IF they got the customer information AND could figure out what was what, they would probably do a criminal database search on those on the list to see if they are prohibited person. Is this wrong, hell yeah, however, I can’t see them having the resources of going house to house over a polymer lower. I haven’t done business with Ares however with seeing how they handled this, I would be happy to. I’ve been following them since they put up a fight with city council on their signs/billboard on their store and thought way to go guys, keep up the good fight. THIS IS A GOVERNMENT FAIL, not an Ares fail. I get why people buy the 80% lower, I have one I bought from EP, I don’t want the ATF coming to my house anymore than anyone else, only because they have NO right, not because I have anything to hide, but I didn’t go nuts over EP releasing my info.

      • Oooooo there’s a thought. It doesn’t make much sense to use a credit card to purchase a “completely untraceable” firearm. Doing so creates a paper trail anyway. Best to pull out the greenbacks for these lowers if you want one. Even if you live in a free state.

        • you guys bring great points I totally agree with. what I was getting at was…..they knew this was coming, and they should have removed or destroyed the records prior to the tro. I agree with most every point you, and the poster above brought up. they just played the “product” game when this was about names, financial paths, and God knows what else BESIDES the 80 % lowers. its about finding the pain in the butt NGO’s standing up for their right to buy a totally crooked plastic shitbox lower.

    • Ares is in the middle of a potential criminal investigation. They absolutely should have done nothing to destroy or hide any records they where keeping. Pointless for them to be found innocent of whatever they might be being investigated for, but still do time for “destruction of evidence.”

  11. I give this a low probability rating mainly due to the ensuing shitstorm.

    I doubt the ATF would care. I’m betting they’ll go with Path 1.

  12. There is a very simple answer to this. Someone has to make 80% lowers that are purposely awful so that they can be insanely inexpensive … say on the order of $30. Then, we need about 20 million good people in the U.S. to purchase just one of those lowers. Let us make it impossible for Big Brother to track down and prosecute because of overwhelming numbers.

    Everyone talks about employing massive civil disobedience. Well I cannot think of a better opportunity.

    • if anything comes of it for the clients lets hope its just a letter and not a midnight raid that gets your dog shot.

    • There is a very simple answer to this:

      Stop manufacturing supposedly 80% lowers in a two-stage color-coded process. As I discussed yesterday, molding the black/second portion around the white plug as a complete second step is in effect creating a 100% lower around that plug. I am willing to bet this is the BATFE take on this product. If EP Armory manufactured the EXACT same lower in a single step without the color coded plug I expect they would be absolutely within the letter of the (unconstitutional) law.

  13. “Ever since the ATF’s visit they’ve gone completely radio silent, and the lack of information has made it hard for even us to keep track of what’s really happening.”

    Amen.

    As an Ares Armor customer I want to know this…

    DOES THE ATF HAVE MY PERSONAL INFORMATION?

    I haven’t received one freakin’ email from Dimitri answering that question. Yet, my email inbox is getting their ads to buy crap.

    Despite having never purchased specifically the polymer lower, I fully expect my door to explode inward at zero-dark-thirty. I hope they knock first.

    • There is a good chance they didn’t get bubkis. It depends on how they setup their system.
      We also don’t know how complete it is.
      Purchasing might be separate from an advertising database.

  14. Let me suggest Path#3, based on Nick’s previous reporting (click on the link in the article). Once the ATF discovered an illegal Mexican immigrant, a convicted felon, milling out the lowers in the back of LCG Parts and Accessories in CA, some manager at the ATF hit the “Fast and Furious” panic button.

    The ATF scenario might go like this: Mexican gang members or drug cartels might be buying 80% receivers and mass producing untraceable ARs, and we HAVE to investigate and shut this down RIGHT NOW or the shit will hit the fan. The legality of the lowers is one legal tangle (for them), where they’re headed is another. Karras says that the Ares records of production and SALES were seized, but doesn’t say anything about the product. It’s just a matter of time before some serious thugs are found with an AR with no SSN, and that’s going to be the ATF’s excuse. My $$ is on Diane Feinstein to introduce the bill banning the manufacture of partial receivers.

    • Mexican gang members or drug cartels might be buying 80% receivers and mass producing untraceable ARs

      I doubt the cartels really care. It’s more like “Yes, we have full-on military weapons stolen directly from the Mexican army, and what are you gonna do about it?”

      • DaveL, that sounds about right for cartels using Army stolen M16s for their usual enforcement work. For hit jobs in which the weapon might have to be ditched, having no SSN helps. I’m not saying it’s a reality, I’m saying the possibility might be the justification that drives the ATF forward.

  15. More importantly than this article or any situation thereof; what’s to come in the not so distant future? Ponder on that one and let me know when people actually understand that we, as a Nation of sovereignty, are fucked! God help us all….

  16. “Karras was not able to see the search warrant”

    Am I the only one that is not alarmed by this? They must show a signed warrant. Saying they have a warrant is meaningless particularly since they can say anything factual or contrived. I don’t know if they’re required to provide a copy or an opportunity to make a copy, but still.

    • I think what he probably means is that he did not get to see the affidavit in support of issuance of the warrant. I am guessing that the ATF sealed the affidavit, because it has not yet surfaced in any publicly available filings. All we do know is that the ATF has consistently referred to these lowers in its filings in the Injunction action as “firearms,” without any discussion as to WHY they consider them to be firearms. As to this latter, the only evidence is a RECENT determination letter by the ATF that concludes that the PROCESS used by EPL to manufacture the lowers results in a “firearm” that is then converted into an “80%” lower by filling in the fire control pocket with a colored polymer. Ares and EP (in the one public statement it has made on the kerfuffle to Fox News) say that the ATF description of the manufacturing process is mistaken, and that, as detailed above, the receiver is formed around the polymer plug.

      What I don’t understand is how the ATF can decide on a case by case basis what is and what is not an 80% lower. Shouldn’t there be a rule or regulation detailing a standard by which all lowers are judged? Why should the ATF have unfettered discretion to make individual rules for individual companies? I understand that there are some sort of guidelines, but I was under the impression that the BATFE has to engage in rule making, publishing a proposed rule, accepting public comments, and allowing for judicial challenges to the rules. Am I wrong about this, or was this done?

      • That’s a good question.
        The answer is that broad “policies” go through the process you just described. The issue here is that ATF is saying that the EP lower doesn’t conform to the current definition of an 80% lower. It isn’t making new policy by that standard, they are enforcing existing policy.
        Clearly there’s something malodorous in Denmark. If EP got ATF sign off on their lowers before bringing them to market, which seems likely given anecdotal commentary on removing the dimples over drill points, then someone reversed a previous finding—which sucks for EP and their customers. Outside of Ares issues, EP’s issue is going to be explaining to a judge somewhere how their machining process creates a product functionally different than a viable gun with plugged drill points. Playing devil’s advocate, it is pretty easy for me to build a logic box wherein the different colored plastic isn’t part of the lower and therefore, whether the gun is built around the plug or the plug is inserted post manufacture, it’s still legally a 100% lower. From a consumer perspective, the difference is functionally nothing. I can no more easily turn an EP lower into a functioning firearm than a conventional aluminum version. The plugs being different colored plastic may act as reference points, but I still have to do the same work on both. Unfortunately, the legal standards heavily favor the ATF since they write the policy in the first place. I’d like EP to win this, but I rather think that in CA, ATF is holding all the cards.

  17. There is an additional problem with ATF option #1. Their redefinition of what constitutes a firearm would go forward but could not go backward. The lower receivers sold in the past would legal and would not constitute probable cause for a crime so their seizure would still be illegal.

  18. Having looked into 80% lowers I don’t think the EP Armory lower qualifies. I don’t even think you would need a jig to prepare their lower for use. The holes are already drilled out and it looks like you could use a dremel to take the plug out. Am I missing something?

    • The holes are NOT drilled from the factory. If I remember correctly, they even changed the original design because they had dimples in the molded lower, which the ATF didn’t like as it made locating the holes too easy. So they put bumps where the holes went (it’s much harder to accurately drill them that way) to satisfy the feds.

    • Yes. The holes that ATF says must not be drilled out are not drilled out. The “plug” is not a plug but an integral part of the casting that has to be machined out, whether with a dremel, milling machine, or drill and files is immaterial.

      The BATFE is making up rules as they go along. They have done it several times before, and gotten away with it. I think they will chose path one. They have nothing to fear from this administration, and only a small possibility of punishment from Congress, *if * the Republicans win the Senate in 2014.

      • Congress won’t do a thing. They’re impotent and weak. Geesh, DOJ has been ignoring Congressional subpoenas for how long now?

    • You are incorrect. Does qualify as 80%. The 80% poly lower has the “shape” as an 80% aluminum lower.

      From video of “machining” of an AP 80% lower (yes with a Dremel which is irrelevant) it is clear that AP has molded an AR15 lower around/onto an white plastic plug/insert. Best method (if they have the volume to pay for the tooling) would be by injection molding.

      Search on insert molding or coinjection molding.

  19. Another interesting side to Path #1 (if they found a way to legally reach into the past with it, which seems doubtful) is that it could have serious ramifications for the EPA, IRS, DOT, DOE, etc that creates “law” via regulation… Of course that all depends on how the case is put together I suppose.

  20. Now let me get this straight. The same organization that sold 2000 or more guns to the the most violent drug gangs in the world. That sat by as some 300 or more Mexicans were killed up to NOW with those guns. The same same organization that allowed a fellow Federal officer to be killed, and then covered up their complicity in the murder, will quietly and meekly go thru all the court procedures, and if the stars and moon line up, will allow themselves to be bitch slapped by a small business owner? ARE YOU F”ING KIDDING ME?

    Warning to Mr. Karras. These people will kill you, your wife and children if they need to. They will destroy you. Period. You are not going to win.

  21. The problem with path 1 is that there is really no “legal definition” of what constitutes an 80% Lower or that says anything over 80% is a firearm. The definition of a firearm is a regulatory definition made by a legally authorized regulating agency, IOW, BATFE. The decision as to whether of not a particular manufacturing process produces a firearm or a paperweight is made by the BATFE Technical Division. The item in question is submitted by the maker, examined and a determination made. The maker is then given a letter of determination saying no, it is not a firearm or yes it is and here’s why.

    There is no indication that I am aware of that either EP Armory or Ares Armor ever made such a submission of received such a letter. Instead, it appears they just started making and selling what they assumed to be “80% lowers” because someone else who possibly did have a letter was doing it. But someone else’s letter only covers someone else’s ass not EP and Ares.

    All BATFE has to do is provide the court with a letter of determination saying that the EP lower is a firearm and they have a valid warrant without causing a “shitstorm” of problems for anyone else that already has their letters.

    • The problem with BATFE and small explosions producing a letter that says these 80% lowers are firearms and that other 80% lowers are not is something called the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. Something about an equal protection clause. I’m sure they may try this tactic but ultimately it won’t fly. Of course it may take years of legal wrangling to get there. Or not.

      • Yes, but BATFE has been doing this since 1934 and what says they can is a little something in the Constitution called the Commerce Clause which gives Congress the authority to regulate interstate commerce. Which seems to have been stretched beyond all recognition when it comes to firearms to pretty much include anything that has ever been involved in interstate commerce or might be involved in the future.

    • Obtaining a determination is not legally required, it is a CYA procedure. But even then, the ATF can change its mind. Further, as a block of plastic, this lower complies with available ATF definitions; the dispute is about the manufacturing process and which came first, the chicken or the egg. ATF says the receiver came first, and therefore it is a firearm; Ares/EP say that the plug came first, and the receiver after, so it was never a firearm. I believe that this disputed question of fact needs to be determined by a jury if a criminal action is brought.

      • But BATFE still has the regulatory authority to determine at what stage in the process of becoming a firearm, a block of metal or plastic actually becomes one. So yes, the letter is a CYA, because if you don’t get a predetermination, you really don’t know what they may decide when you attract their attention for any reason.

        BATFE seems to be moving towards curtailing “pretemplated” receivers where the drill holes and milling locations are marked on the receiver block in any way.

        • Isn’t that kind of ridiculous? I mean, if you have a jig, marking of the holes with a punch–or using the jig as a guide as intended–takes seconds. What conceivable difference does it make it the spots are marked or not? why should the ATF care whether it is a jigless lower or one that requires a jig? The owner still has to do all of the drilling. Is the point merely to make it more likely that you will screw up the lower?

  22. The bell cannot be unrung, and the ATF now has the customer list…. No matter how many lawsuits are filed, those people are now outed and will be subject to ATF hate raids…

  23. Considering which side of this dispute to believe, this would be the same ATF that was sending guns to the Mexican drug cartels under the Fast and Furious scheme, right? In an attempt to demonize gun owners to make the case for Obama’s “we have to ban assault weapons because they are getting into Mexican drug cartels’ hands” scheme, right?

    As far as most of us are concerned, the ATF is guilty until proven innocent.

  24. What I don’t understand is this:

    If the ATF “re-defines the point at which a firearm becomes a firearm”, isn’t there some sort of ex post facto situation here? Assuming that the lowers were legally produced prior to the time of seizure, how could the manufacturer be held liable for a product legally made? Sure, they may not be allowed to sell them after such re-definition, but up until then, their product would be legal.

    This of course hinges on the true legality of the production process.

  25. Path 2.5: BATFE was investigating gunsmiths doing excessive hand holding of end-users of metal 80% receivers. Like “I’ve set it up, you just pull the handle on the mill.” BATFE appears concerned that the two-tone polymer lowers cross the line. In the case that I think led to this, an undercover buyer got a ar-pistol made at a shop with/by a Mexican felon.

    • I don’t think one investigation has anything to do with the other. The one in Sacramento deals with “build parties” and owners leasing out pre-programmed CNC milling machines. The Ares case deals with polymer lowers. The affidavit for the Sacramento case has not apparently been used or even referred to in the Ares case, where the ATF is contending that is particular lower is a firearm even before any milling is done to it.

      There is only one commonality between them. In his declarations submitted in opposition to Ares application for a preliminary injunction (to be heard tomorrow) asst AG Paul Ware says that the reason that Ares sales records were seized that the ATF could cross-check to see if felons had purchased these receivers, and were therefore felons “in possession of a firearm.” [Query: does possession of a paperweight 80% lower by a convicted felon constitute probable cause to believe that the felon has in fact built a functioning firearm illegally?] Somehow, I have a hard time believing that this is the reason for seizing the records, and I am not even particularly paranoid.

  26. Call it intimidation or a witch hunt by the ATF. As an engineer with significant plastics expertise, identifying the order in which this paperweight is made should be easy to resolve. Reviewing the mold that makes the main body of the paperweight would tell you everything you need to know. There would be significant document history as well – CAD of the tool design, drawings, CNC programs for cutting the tool cavities and components etc. etc…

    A plastic part molding process such as this can be referred to as “insert molding”, “two shot molding” or “over molding”, and is very, very common.

    If the mold is designed to have the white insert in it when shooting the black, it will have no feature in the tool to make that cavity that is otherwise take up by the white piece. If you were to mold the paperweight without the white insert piece present, that void area will be filled with plastic (and being a thick area would shrink/warp so badly the paperweight would never be good for more than that).

    You “could” mold the part as the ATF claims, but since the trigger/hammer pocket is an internal cavity, and has associated through holes, the tooling for molding a finished receiver would be that much more “elaborate”…as in moving parts…not something you could just remove when the suits show up without leaving evidence or having a functioning tool.

    FWIW, Given the complexity of molding all the other features present in that part, it’s a work of art…at least from an engineering perspective.

    • Not being an engineer, it seems to me that the ribs molded into the fire control pocket that lock the white insert in place would also make it impossible to remove the mold if the black was molded without the plug in place.

      • As I read it, there are external ridges on the insert. If so, it was probably for redundancy. Generally with insert molding, you want a bonding of the insert to the overmolded plastic (try peeling the rubber grip off your cordless drill)….the overmold plastic comes in molten after all, if the insert is a compatible grade and the process is set properly, you will get fusion with virtually no mixing. Certainly, the insert could be a material that doesn’t bond during the overmold, in which case the ridges insure it doesn’t simple fall out when you drill the cross holes. If that was the case, you would not have to fully machine the insert away…you could pry it out at some point after removing enough material from the core.

  27. I think this has to be part of the picture . . . part of what has inspired the ATF’s investigation into how vast the Cortez-Garcia network really was:

    http://www.therepublic.com/w/CA–Homemade-Guns-Arrests

    “The federal charges allege that the men allowed individuals to buy the parts and turn them into illegal weapons in assembly-line fashion using affiliated machine shops. U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents said the weapons were then sold for as much as $2,000 in cash, with higher prices charged to individuals with criminal histories or who were otherwise not allowed to own firearms.”

    • Not only is there no known link, the cases were investigated by different offices of the ATF, and the Cortez-Garcia case involves solely aluminum lowers, while the Ares case deals solely with polymer lowers. Ares and EPL were allowed to keep their tocks of aluminum lowers. The EP lower is a “jigless” design that does not require a CNC machine. While a drill press is better, one of these lowers can be milled with dremels and hand drill, finishing with files and sand paper. There are videos on EP’s web site demonstrating this.

  28. “A firearm only becomes a firearm when it becomes fully functional.”

    This statements is absolutely, 100%, not true.

  29. The only “loophole” that I can see are the crazy Commerce Clause cases that allow the Feds to interfere with or control every facet of American life.

  30. This whole thing is nothing but scare tactics. If ATF had any suspicions of EP’s product, you’re telling me they couldn’t have bought one themselves and saw for themselves? Why the dramatic raid? Even the videos online clearly show the “lugs” that are molded as part of the receiver. They are why you can’t just pry out the core.

  31. To those who said the ATF chose to have the lower be the firearm. The ATF didn’t decide to have the lower receiver be the firearm. Keep in mind that the AR-15 came into existence in the early 60’s. Well prior to the CGA of 1968. Until GCA68 manufacturers were not required to even place a serial number on a firearm much less worry about what part was actually the “firearm”. Colt began manufacturing the AR-15 first for the military and serialized the parts for inventory purposes. The magazine well was a logical choice for the data to be engraved since it was a fairly large area and was flat etc. 10’s of thousands of rifles had been produced by the time the CGA68 came into effect. ATF simply accepted the fact that they had already been produced for many years by serializing the lower. ATF has stated that if the AR were designed and submitted today the upper would be the serialized part. i.e the Sig 556 rifle.

    • So THAT’S the story. I always wondered about that. But then again, frames of pistols and revolvers are (usually) the serialized part, so maybe the history of this goes back even further? [Yes, I know that many handguns are not serialized, but Colts always have been, and it always on the frame.]

  32. Path #3: The ATF obtained the search warrant by submitting an affidavit to the judge stating that the ATF, as the sole determinator of such things, has determined that the EP Lowers constitute firearms. That they are not serialized by a licensed firearm manufacturer under the law, and that Ares Armor did knowingly try to obstruct the ATFs lawful investigation thru ‘deception’. Officer’s “expert testimony” is often the basis for search warrants, just look at the Cortez warrant package posted here a few days ago. The warrant, therefore, was based on probably cause and Ares Armor is SOL. The best they can hope for is for the ATF to reconsider their determination, find that the lowers are not firearms, and return them. Also destroying (or at least saying they are destroying) the copies of the customer records they have.

  33. I’m glad I had the opportunity, a few days ago, to watch the Nutnfancy video that Dimitrios called in and explained what happened after the BATF quality inspected Ares Armor products.

    I think exclusive and completely radio silent is a bit of a stretch. IMHO

  34. Regardless of what the ATF did,

    There’s still a Judge who approved the search warrant. Until judges are held accountable for their actions in signing search warrants or in sentencing or heck even parole boards releasing violent inmates, then nothing will change. Perhaps, this Judge didn’t have enough familiarity to understand what exactly is being done by Ares and what the ATF may have played him/her.

    Judges make mistakes…..a lot of them. Its just the Police that take the lumps for them.

  35. what about the rumor that Ares Armor allowed customers to use Ares Armor machining equipment to complete the lowers?

  36. Where’s the part about Ares being thieves and stealing from many Calgunners, taking months, if not almost a year to pay back customers?

    http://www.calguns.net/calgunforum/showthread.php?t=738579

    They should have been raided for being a terrible business and charged with fraud.

    But why care now, now they’re at the forefront for fighting for a freedom, bwaaahhhaaaa. Everyone get behind them and support them… an absolute disgrace, no better than CTD.

  37. UPDATE 6/2014 – The manufacturer has turned over customer lists to the ATF to avoid prosecution and since Ares has gone silent one can assume that they have done the same. Since the manufacturer has admited to selling what the ATF considers a firearm Ares has no leg to stand on as a dealer of the product.

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