And here we though the ATF under Donald Trump would be much more Pro-2A than previous administrations. Word comes from Dead Air Silencers that the ATF has made the unprecedented decision to consider silencer wipes as a silencer part, making them just as regulated as the rest of the silencer itself. Why is this an issue and what the hell is a wipe? Let me break it down for you.
Early silencer designs were pretty crude. Lacking the precision manufacturing that we have available to us today, early designers made their metal baffle stack openings excessively wide to avoid any baffle strikes from the bullet passing through. One way some silencer manufacturers tried to make a tighter and quieter can was to add a “wipe” or a series of wipes to the bullet’s path. These plastic discs were designed so that the bullet would rub against them as it flew through the can, providing a much narrower passage while not harming the internal components of the silencer.
The problem with bullet wipes in silencers is twofold. First, the fact that something is rubbing against the bullet has a tendency to throw the trajectory way off course and make the firearm massively inaccurate. Second, the bullet wipes would wear out quickly and need to be replaced.
Replacing bullet wipes should be a simple operation — just keep a bunch in your pocket and swap them out as you go — except that the ATF has an issue with this whole “constructive possession” thing. According to the ATF silencer parts are in and of themselves silencers. You can see this lunacy taken to its logical and extreme conclusion when the ATF declared that pot scrubbers were regulated silencer parts. Ownership of pot scrubbers by a silencer owner constituted intent to construct another unregulated silencer and was punishable under the law.
For decades the ATF has declared that bullet wipes don’t have this problem. A letter dated from 1999 confirms that the ATF believed silencer wipes to be specifically exempt from this onerous and rediculous regulation. Until recently the ATF had a pretty good track record of respecting and being consistent with their own opinions, but starting with the SB Tactical arm brace open letter that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.
Dead Air’s Ghost 45M silencer (released not too long ago) used bullet wipes to increase the performance of their silencer. This is consistent with decades of rulings from the ATF saying that wipes are legal. Recently the ATF reached out to Dead Air and told them that, actually, they had changed their mind about the whole thing.
From Dead Air:
Last week, we were notified by the BATFE that they consider the accessory aperture wipe on our Ghost 45M suppressor to be a “silencer” part. We presented them with the Bardwell ATF opinion letter (http://www.titleii.com/bardwell/atf_letter66.txt)* that is commonly used as justification for the use of wipes and replacement of wipes in silencers by their owners. This morning, we were informally notified that the BATFE FTB does not share the opinion of the Bardwell letter regarding wipes not being silencer parts, and asked that we take immediate corrective action. As such we are immediately discontinuing the sale of accessory wipes for that product. The aperture wipe for the Ghost has always been an optional use item. We have consciously decided NOT to pursue the issue with FTB, as the resulting opinion letter, based on the informal notification to us, may have a potential negative impact on ALL owners of suppressors that utilize wipes in the design.
Moving forward we are conducting research on a wipe constructed of a more durable material, that will be included with the Ghost 45M. Extra or additional wipes will not be available for sale. Other options and clarifications are being sought as well.
Dead Air has developed and will release a new linear compensator product for handguns and submachineguns that will lead to cross compatibility with some Ghost accessories, including pistons, fixed mounts and caliber specific caps.
We appreciate the support of our customer, dealers and wholesalers, and will continue to bring innovative, quality products to the market. If there are any questions regarding this issue or any questions about our products, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org,
Director of Sales
Dead Air Silencers
What’s the impact of all this?
To start, at least one currently manufactured line of silencers is now illegal. That’s a whole lot of time and money spent by Dead Air to bring a product to market which they thought followed the rules but is now completely useless. It also leaves Dead Air’s customers in a bind, since those who purchased this silencer (and any extra wipes) may unknowingly be committing felonies simply by owning the extra wipes. And possibly any other silicone based materials they might have laying around.
What’s unclear is if this makes historical silencers illegal as well. Designs such as those on the MAC-10 and MAC-11 made extensive use of bullet wipes, and many others followed suit. Given the new status of bullet wipes this might make ownership of these silencers (which has been legal for over half a century) illegal.
Why the sudden change? There’s no definitive proof, but my rampant speculation is that the ATF may be trying to crack down on silencer parts in an effort to put a stop to homemade silencers and 3D printed parts.