A couple months back I talked about an ATF ruling that may have made it possible for those with a gun trust to legally manufacture machine guns. The key element is that since the Gun Control Act of 1986 stated that no person may manufacture or register a new machine gun and the ATF says trusts aren’t people, there may be an opening for trusts (not people) to register those devices. As soon as word leaked out a couple people immediately filed applications to make and register machine guns (ATF Form 1), and those applications seem to have finally made it through the process. Rumor has it at least one application has been approved — with a twist . . .

From an Arfcom thread on the matter, one of the regulars who sent in a form 1 posted the following:

I haven’t seen it yet, but supposedly both a denial and an approval are in the mail. ATF called and wants the approval returned immediately.


ATF agent stated they denied first, then accidentally ran it a second time and approved it. I recorded the call. I haven’t had time to check my audio (and won’t until after work) but hopefully it came out well.


Anyone have SAF’s contact information? I’m not sure how keen they would be on a machinegun case given some of their Supreme Court arguments, but it’s worth a shot.

Unfortunately I don’t have enough money to hire a lawyer myself. I’m not even sure if their is much a lawyer can do.

The audio confirming that the approval took place (and subsequent revocation) is in the YouTube video above.

The ATF have dug themselves into a pretty big legal pit over the last couple years. First they kicked the hornet’s nest that is SIG SAUER by classifying their muzzle brake as a silencer, which has led to a long and protracted legal battle that SIG SAUER is hell bent on winning. Then they decided to stick their noses into Ares Armor’s business, for which they have drawn some significant criticism and once again firmly ensconced themselves as the “bad guys” in the firearms industry.

This latest issue arose when President Obama demanded that the ATF close the “gun trust loophole” and make it harder for individuals to purchase legal firearms. They proposed a rulemaking change to make that demand a reality, and promptly received an avalanche of letters opposing any such move.

While the official rule change is probably more than a year away if ever (and the legal battle to follow such a change would take even longer), the ATF decided to try and make that change happen right now anyway by re-defining a couple things. Thanks to that definition — that a trust is not a person for purposes of a form 4473 — it opened the flood gates for trusts to build machine guns. In theory, anyway.

There’s already a legal fund coming together to fight this revocation and take the ATF to court over this issue. Stay tuned.

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67 Responses to ATF Just Approved the First New Civilian Machine Gun in 28 Years. By Accident.

    • Same here- I have a Sten kit I would love to build. It would cost me $200 to make it a hideous long-barreled approximation of its former self… So I would rather spend $200 for a tax stamp and just make it like it was originally. Actually, I would love to just make the bloody thing like it should be without having to beg permission to exercise my rights, but for now I have to do what I can.

      • If all you are talking about is barrel length then this case doesn’t apply to you. You can already send a Form1 as an individual or Trust for manufacture of a short barreled rifle and wait for your stamp to come back. This case only deals with the manufacture of a machine gun.

        I have no idea how the fire control group works on Sten so making your kit full auto may or may not be easy as a “manufacturer” on Form1 so this case may or may not have any bearing on that. However, Im pretty sure the Sten was made before 86 so if you wanted FA you could just scrape up the cash and buy a real Sten.

        • True, but $200 for an SBR or $200 for an SMG… Which would you prefer? Yes, I COULD build it as an SBR. Yes, I COULD build it as a rifle with a 16″ barrel. Yes, I COULD build it as a semi-auto pistol. All of which involve a new bolt or a crap-ton of mods done at home just to make it meh. Building it as a SMG would just be a tube and some welding. Also, a full-auto Sten costs alot more than a $50 kit and a piece of tubing, even with a $200 tax stamp added on.

        • yes that was basically my point… your original post dealt primarily with the length of the gun “hideous long-barreled approximation of its former self” so you didn’t make it very clear you meant you wanted a full auto Sten replica. Also not knowing how complicated the fire control assembly is on a Sten I don’t know if it is really as easy as say, drilling a hole into an AR receiver and putting an auto sear in it. You seem to have answered those questions, so carry on.

        • This is in reply to Tex300Blk below. For some reason there was no reply button on your post.

          The Sten is EXTREMELY simple, and is probably more complicated to have one work on semi-auto than full-auto. It’s pretty much a bolt that recoils and fires the next round as soon as it slams shut.

        • Tex,

          Apologies if I’m teaching Granny to suck eggs… I can’t speak to the Sten, not having had the chance to handle one, but Her Majesty occasionally used to issue me a L2A3 Sterling (okay, I’m showing your age) as consolation prize for also having to carry a PRC-351 Clansman plus batteries.

          The fire control group on the Sterling is really simple; it’s a detent for the bolt, since the weapon’s an open-bolt slamfire. Pull the trigger with the selector on “R” (repetition) and the detent drops, then clicks back up, until you release the trigger and pull it again (so, the bolt goes forward, chambers and fires one round, then is caught when it recoils). On “A”, the detent comes down for as long as you hold the trigger.

          Of course, if you’re stuck with a batch of dubious 9mm of uncertain origin, even setting it to single can have side-effects; if the fired round is a bit anaemic and doesn’t blow the bolt all the way back to the detent, it’ll go forward, chamber and fire another round, and so on until you either get a full charge (and so the bolt is held back), an empty magazine, a duff primer or some other stoppage. In theory you could yank the magazine out, in practice your best bet was to just keep the muzzle pointed safely downrange until the weapon stopped firing. Never happened to me, but it was exciting enough when it did happen for the stories to circulate way beyond the couple of incidents… a problem coming from the Sterling’s reliability was that one of the few ways to generate “weapon firing, weapon stops” was (really) bad ammunition. (We’re talking bad enough that some rounds didn’t actually get the bullet out of the barrel; the rumour mill was that it was a bargain-basement purchase from India for inexpensive training)

          The single-shot mechanism is probably fiddlier than full-auto, if the Sten (which made the austere, if extremely robust and reliable Sterling, look luxurious) even has a selector; I’ve got a feeling that it’s full auto only, so converting it to semi will need some work to basically do it from scratch.

          As a side issue, because the original UK definition of an automatic weapon was that it would fire repeatedly as long as the trigger was pulled, there was a time where some enthusiasts made up Stens where the trigger locked back; technically legal, they’d empty the magazine on one trigger pull. Sort of pointless, and the loophole got closed, but probably fun to put a few magazines through…

      • Hmm, if you build your own Sten, would you even have to register it? Damn things were just stamped out, probably aren’t too terribly difficult to manage.

      • Xanderbach,

        I strongly recommend you do some serious research very quickly. As far as I know, having all parts on hand to build a full-auto machine gun (especially the full-auto fire control group) is enough for the ATF to ruin your life. I don’t imagine you would want some agent showing up at your door with a search warrant, finding the kit, and taking you away in handcuffs.

        Keep in mind that having the parts on hand in and of itself may not be illegal technically speaking. However, a prosecutor could argue that you are conspiring to build an illegal machine gun which would be a crime. And conspiring to commit a crime is a crime last time I checked.

        For reference I am not an attorney nor am I giving you legal advise.

        • That’s the problem with the Sten. If you have the parts to make a semi-auto one, you have the parts for a full-auto one. They have to add parts to keep it from going full auto from what I gather.

          It was one of those very simple recoil operated, stamped and welded guns made from a couple of steel tubes and some sheet steel. The round firing off blows the bolt back, ejects the round, closes the bolt on a new round and fires that round immediately. To make it fire in semi-auto you have to add a way for the firing pin to travel back into the bolt (to make it a closed bolt) or keep the bolt open (illegal?).

          Every Sten has the required parts for full-auto. That’s one of the drawbacks (benefits?) of such a simple design.

        • Forrest,

          Having any gun that is open bolt only, even if it fires single shot for some reason, is considered a fully auto machine gun.

        • That’s why you gotta do the bolt & firing pin mods (to make it operate closed bolt) BEFORE you machine the new receiver tube.

          Possessing a properly flame cut FA Sten kit is NOT illegal because it has been de-mil’ed to ATF’s requirements. Said kit isn’t even a GUN anymore according to ATF.

          Possessing a FA Sten FCG as well as a functional SA Sten that has been modified to operate from a closed bolt is NOT illegal, because while you still have the FA FCG group, it will no longer work properly with the bolt modified to use a floating firing pin.

          Possessing an unmodified flame cut FA Sten kit with a finished Sten receiver tube very likely is illegal, ’cause you could pretty readily construct an SMG out of that pile of parts without any heroic measures.

          Order of operations matter a great deal when doing FA -> SA conversions. You have to disable the FA functionality in some way BEFORE you create the new receiver. In open bolt SMG’s that’s usually done by removing the fixed firing pin and feed lips on the bolt face, and installing a spring loaded floating firing pin. On box body machine guns like the M1919 or M2 you have to make specific changes to the side plate guide rails BEFORE you repair or reproduce the RH plate (the one that gets cut to de-mil the gun in the first place). On a de-mil’ed M16 kit (which would be the whole rifle, less the crushed lower receiver, if such a thing existed) it would be as simple as not drilling the new lower for an auto sear pivot pin, and destroying or disposing of the FA FCG.

        • Also, in response to BillC above, Open Bolt operation is fine for SINGLE SHOT weapons, rifle or pistol.

          Where ATF starts getting itchy is repeating arms that operate from an open bolt.

          Single shots cannot be classified as machine guns because they do not possess the ability to load another round into the chamber after the first one has been expended.

          Semi-autos that ran from an open bolt were designated as “readily convertible” to full auto, because simply disabling the disconnector would cause the gun to function in a fully automatic manner.

        • “I don’t imagine you would want some agent showing up at your door with a search warrant…”

          An agent with a search warrant? I thought we were talking about the ATF here. Where are the tanks and sniper teams in your scenario?

        • I am a defense attorney (federally licensed) and I’m not representing you, but I would advise a theoretical person in your hypothetical situation not to have those parts on hand. There are two types of possession under the law — actual possession and constructive possession. Having the parts together, even unassembled, almost certainly qualifies as constructive possession of a machine gun. Don’t do it, hypothetically speaking.

      • If you had an 07 FFL ($50/yr) you could legally build that sten kit into a MG. There are 2 ways to go about it. 1) get and maintain a SOT for a couple of years for $500/yr. 2) Pay the $200 tax.

        There are other caveats and requirements, but this is a legal fact. Also, you can do all of this out of your home with a little zoning work. Since most towns have carve outs for “home occupation”s, you can usually prevail.

        As far as getting an approval, you have to show the ATF 2 things. 1) that you actually intend to engage in commerce in firearms. 2) that you have zoning approval.


  1. The disapproval was first, followed by an approval. So technically one can legally argue that the most recent action (the approval) is all that counts. Wow imagine if that ultimately holds up… luckiest SOB in the world lol.

    • Sure, but then what’s stopping the ATF from processing the application a third time and sending out another disapproval? It would be the most recent decision, and would supersede the other two.

      The problem is that federal firearms regulations are ridiculously arbitrary and convoluted. Even the ATF’s own people don’t understand the rules.

      • IANAL but it seems to me like the only way to un-approve would be via mutual consent, method of law, or judicial action. Obviously the BATF is hoping for mutual consent here. I don’t know if there’s any method of law to un-approve it (aside from violating a law making the person/trust ineligible). I’m sure that the BATF doesn’t want to go through the courts here and risk their interpretation being rejected.

        So yeah – really interesting situation here.

    • They would raid his house and confiscate anything firearms related that he owned as ‘evidence’.
      It’s happened before. He’s lucky that he got a nice call from the guy who mistakenly approved his form.

  2. BATFE is just stuck on stupid. They make regulations that affect millions of people that seem to have ZERO thought or research into the matter. It’s like the agency is run by a bunch of schizophrenic sadists.

      • Well,

        1) the approval by the ATF of a Form 1 would be a sign of the Apocalypse; and (also)
        2) the approval by the ATF of a Form 1 would be a sign of GOD’s Great Love for us.

        : D

        Can we all agree that the ATF does not protect people from firearms (even “machine guns”). They only regulate those who are willing to comply [moment to moment].

        If we can reach that agreement, we can better coalesce to convince the ATF.

        Also, the ATF touts its own stats as to how much alcohol and cigarettes they confiscate without the proper tax stamps, so they ain’t really cutting it that way totally either, just sayin.

  3. Obama and his stupid self-defeating cronies just keep stepping on it as they stumble all over each other trying to infringe our constitutional Second Amendment protections.

  4. Purposfully make rules so impenatrable that the “average”person could never keep them straight, then trip over them themselves. Noticing a trend in .gov?

    • The ATF and other agencies attempt to dictate law based on not actual wording, but intent. In this case, even though the form 1 applicant was fully abiding by the law as set by the ATF (may I add, the ATF’s authority to set law at all is questionable), the ATF’s position is that their intent was for no new MGs to be registered.

      Sorry ATF, you either are correct or you are not, and it has nothing to do with your intentions behind writing specific law.

      • The ATF does not make laws. The Congress makes laws, usually broad and more of a statement of intent than anything se, then delegates authority to the executive branch to enact regulations to effectuate the law. Thus, ATF has the authority to enact regulations within the scope of the laws passed by Congress. A form is a product of a regulation, and if it is erroneous, ATF has the authority to rewrite it.

  5. I’m glad the agent was at least polite and seemed to enjoy what he was doing. (his job, not the crushing all of our dreams part.)

    • His Job IS to crush all our dreams.. Just because he is being diplomatic about it doesnt mean he isnt relishing in it. Diplomacy and politeness go hand in hand…”Einstein said it best: Diplomacy is the ability to tell someone to go to hell and them enjoy the trip.”

  6. Odds of a republican president and looking decent for the next election. We should try to reduce the ridiculous restrictions through congress with the support of the next president… First up would be to deregulate SBRs and SBS’ (if a criminal wants a sawn off shotgun, 5 minutes with a hacksaw and a vice is not going to be stopped by some words on paper). Then maybe open up the machine gun registry to civilians. Gotta take small steps.

    • Rick Perry looks like a genuine gun guy to me. His shooting that coyote with his .380 opened my eyes. I’m cautiously optimistic that a Perry presidency might result in a rollback of some of our federal gun laws. (“Gun-Free” School Zones law is at the top of my personal list, but NFA isn’t far behind, and reciprocity would be nice for those California beach vacations.)

      • Won’t happen. Perry didn’t even try to get Texas’s anti-machine-gun statutes removed, why would he try to get federal ones removed?

    • I have to be honest that I would be fine with SBR/SBS/suppressors being deregulated and MGs left in their current state, if that constitutes a “compromise,” but by god if we could have it all, I would surely take it!

      • As long as we’re bargaining over G giving up some of its power and not about us giving up some of our rights, I’m okay with negotiations. The problem is that “compromise” is usually the other way around.

  7. Looks like this guy is from TN; if so, he is in the 6’th Circuit. If so, looks to me like he would have a sporting chance of a favorable ruling on an appeal. Then, SCOTUS would have to overturn a favorable ruling from the 6’th. That could open a whole can of worms that SCOTUS wouldn’t want to get into.
    Call Matthew J. Bergstrom in Vienna VA; he does NFA trusts and might be interested or know someone who would be interested in your case.

  8. I’ve got this great idea, I’m going to hand those illiterate, emotionally stunted tardy boys over there the keys to your whole existence and if you object or don’t do whatever they say they get to lock you in a cage for 30 years or even kill you on the spot should they so desire. Awesome, right? I call it government. Your children will grow to worship it like a god.

  9. Rock island v Illinois, read it. If you can present a good argument, and spend lots of money on lawyers, you can get new machineguns

  10. “As soon as word leaked out a couple OF TRUSTS immediately filed applications to make and register machine guns”
    FIFY Nick.

  11. Couple thoughts on this call. First of all I think it shows that not all the people who work at the ATF are not evil morons. This guy seemed nice enough, admitted he made a mistake, and admitted he didn’t understand the laws either. It is the people who are in command that have real contempt for us, not the low level guys. Second, I think this guy backed down a little too easy. He is going to have the stamp which they state would be illegal for him to manufacture, okay, but I don’t think I would be taking down information and needing to spend my money to fix their problem. At the very least I would have told the guy that “my gun trust goes through my lawyer and I will need to talk to him before I go any further”. Even if the guy doesn’t have a lawyer I wouldn’t give up a collectible that easy. If this guy doesn’t know why it is a person in one case and not the other then it should be clarified before it is sent back. As soon as he sends the evidence back then this call will have never happened.

    • Well, if you talk to them, and I have, and they (have to /~ wind-up) talking to people like me, who have not the whole clue either, but are [perhaps often in the state of mind of:] “I want my expensive paper-work intensive crap right now” ; P , then no one will be happy with them, and they won’t be happy with us either.

      But they have always been polite and professional. They have had to protect (not disclose) personal/private information and that can sound like their “dodging” but it isn’t. I don’t envy them, I appreciate their service and hope for their continued and speedy diligence… : )

      Please & Thank you.

  12. This case is interesting because they would be deciding what’s the definition of a trust and does it violate the Hughes amendment. It’s not a 2A case even though it has to do with guns. No one is arguing 2a or 14a.

    I really hope saf takes this.

    • I’d like the ATF eliminated as much as the next guy, but I honestly think we are better of having them in place. If the ATF was eliminated they would most likely just transfer all the power and responsibilities to the FBI, and I fear that would be a lot worst for us.

  13. Basically the ATF can do what they want however they want regardless of consistency. It’s not a free country anymore…they don’t work for us. They don’t answer to us. It’s all an illusion. They completely disregard the concept of SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED because they want to maintain the machine guns for the wealthy and themselves…

    We need to stop living under the illusion this is still the United States…

  14. The guy may now have standing to challenge the ATF determination regarding machine guns and trusts. He has an actual case and controversy and a lost property interest, ie the $200 fee. Not to mention his right to manufacture the machine gun.
    I suspect that explains why the ATF was all too willing to process his refund ASAP. They didn’t want him to have standing to take this to court. The ATF bureaucrats change in demeanor was also very very telling. He seemed at first to be rather ignorant of the law on machine guns, and then changed to very informed toward the end of the conversation. If I had to guess the panic button was pushed by ATF on this, and they consulted with legal on how to mitigate the damage. Glad that the guy seems to be lawyering up now. Any hope for the ATF in simply letting this slide under the radar has now passed. I eagerly await this going to court.

  15. As the inventor of bumpfire stocks and the original Akins Accelerator, I know a lot about ATF flip flopping on approvals and violating our constitutional rights. First ATF TWICE approved my Accelerator stocks (bumpfire stocks) for over a year and a half, then without anything in the law changing, and in violation of congressional law saying one shot per single trigger function is semi auto (which my Akins Accelerator stocks did), the ATF arbitrarily reversed their decision and said my bumpfire stocks were machine guns. The joke is on them now that I removed the spring and they work totally isometrically. I’d love to be called as an expert witness to testify in court to how arbitrarily ATF routinely flip flops on their approvals and violates our rights.

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