Is the extensive muzzle brake permanently attached to the end of one version of the MPX’s barrel a muzzle brake or a “silencer”? The battle between SIG SAUER and the ATF has been raging for months. SIG SAUER’s position: it’s a muzzle brake. The part doesn’t reduce the noise of the gun in the slightest. But there’s a twist: SIG planned to make and sell a specially designed shroud that would transform the muzzle brake into a properly registered silencer. The ATF was not pleased. They dropped the ban hammer on the part. SIG SAUER sued. And now a judge has made his decision . . .
From the court decision:
In the present case, the ATF acted rationally in concluding that Sig Sauer intended the baffle core to be used only as a silencer part because the agency pointed to substantial evidence in the record to support its determination.
First, it is undisputed that the baffle core is an essential silencer component. Tr. at 55-56 (Doc. No. 31). It is, in fact, identical in design and dimension to the baffle core contained inside a removable Sig Sauer silencer. A.R. 824; see also Tr. at 55-56 (Sig Sauer’s counsel conceding that Sig Sauer has “basically taken the cap off [its] silencer . . . welded it into the gun, and [marketed the baffle core] as a muzzle brake”).
Second, Sig Sauer proposed to attach the baffle core to a pistol caliber rifle, which the ATF determined did not need a muzzle brake to function effectively. A.R. 818. Third, the ATF examined other muzzle brakes on the market and concluded that the baffle core was unlike other conventional muzzle brakes because it included expansion chambers and was considerably larger than the muzzle brakes that are already available for sale. A.R. 818-21.
Finally, it noted that muzzle brakes are designed to be no larger than two to three inches, which is considerably shorter than the baffle core, because a muzzle blast discharges after two to three inches, making longer muzzle brakes impractical.11 A.R. 822-23. All of these observations require expertise that is well within the ATF’s grasp. Thus, its conclusions are entitled to substantial deference from a reviewing court. Marsh v. Or. Natural Res. Council, 490 U.S. 360, 378 (1989).
In short, since the judge bought the argument that muzzle brakes are “designed to be no larger than two to three inches” and the muzzle brake forms an “essential silencer component.” He was happy classifying the muzzle brake as a silencer. This is more than a little worrying.
A reasonable person would expect the ATF would judge an object based on what it is and how it functions, not based on how it could be used. Again, the muzzle brake in question doesn’t reduce the rifle’s sonic signature. The firearm’s design – which includes proprietary threading – makes it impossible to “readily convert” the specified MPX into a suppressed weapon.
And yet, because the muzzle brake might be used as a silencer, it is a silencer. That’s like saying an oil filter might be used as a silencer, so we should regulate them like silencers. In this case, the judge has granted the ATF’s request for a summary judgement and closed the case. I get the feeling SIG SAUER will want to appeal, and hopefully SIG v. ATF II, Electric Boogaloo will fare better.