Let’s look at the situation surrounding Ares Armor, EP Armory’s lowers, and why the ATF might be interested.
Ares Armor is a distributor of EP Armory’s polymer 80% lower receivers. The claim to fame for these models is that the lower receivers are two different colors — one color for the receiver itself, and a completely different color for the parts that need to be milled out to complete the gun. It’s the equivalent of a “paint by numbers” approach to firearms manufacturing, making the process nearly idiot-proof.
The problem is the definition of an “80% lower.” The appeal of the 80% lower receiver is that it is legally just a chunk of metal and not a firearm, so it skirts nearly all of the gun laws in the United States right up until the point where someone drills out all the required parts and assembles their own gun. In order to maintain that status, the lower needs to be like a block of marble in an artists’ studio: just raw material with the finished product still needing to be chiseled out. According to the ATF’s “once a gun always a gun” doctrine, the instant the lower is milled out and completed it’s officially a firearm and subject to all of the applicable laws. Even if you go back and fill in the relevant sections, it’s still a gun that you just manufactured and must be treated as such.
The question with this specific lower becomes one of the chicken and the egg. The lower, as sold, has all the right parts filled in. But when it was manufactured, was it actually first made as a “proper” complete firearm and then had the relevant parts filled in, or was it manufactured some other way that would keep the ATF agents happy that it really never was “complete” at any point in its construction?
When Ares Armor applied for and was granted their restraining order, they included a note from EP Armory’s head honcho stating that the fabrication process was in compliance with the ATF’s instructions on the matter and 100% legal. I have contacted EP Armory to get a more detailed overview of how their manufacturing process works, but they haven’t returned my call. I get the feeling that they’re a little busy at the moment, having just been raided themselves. The folks at Ares Armor helpfully took a few minutes to talk to me, but all they could do was point me at the EP Armory website for more information — and there doesn’t seem to be anything helpful over there.
The situation is still developing, and as we get more information we’ll let you know. But the facts at the moment are this:
- Ares Armor sought and was issued a restraining order against the ATF to keep them out of their store in relation to this specific 80% polymer lower.
- Ares Armor is a distributor of EP Armory’s product, not a manufacturer.
- EP Armory was raided by the ATF over this issue, and no additional information is available about the findings in that case.
- The ATF claims the raid on Ares Armor was about an unrelated investigation, hinting at the manufacturing kerfuffle that I discussed this morning.
So, in short, clear as mud as to what’s really going on. Stay tuned.