ATF Re-Classifies Certain Flares and 40mm Chalk Rounds as Explosives, Begins Confiscation


The ATF is on a bit of a hit streak when it comes to random reclassifications. First they arbitrarily and capriciously changed their collective mind on the pistol stabilizing brace. Then they tried to ban M855 ammunition by branding it as “armor piercing.” Now it seems that they are turning their gaze upon some of the less common items and applying their similarly capricious thought processes. The latest targets are types of projectiles which can be fired from 40mm grenade launchers, specifically parachute flares and chalk practice rounds. And their ruling could soon be expanded to include all ammunition bigger than 1/2 inch in diameter . . .

A thread on ARFCOM started it all, with the OP stating that they had been contacted by the ATF to turn in their recently purchased flare rounds. It is worth noting that these rounds had been previously classified by the ATF as non-explosives, but in this world of ever-changing definitions it seems that they have reversed themselves on that take.

The logic they use to support their move (presented in a letter here and here) is that because the 40mm rounds in question are not “small arms” ammunition, the ATF can classify them as “low explosives” having no explosive properties whatsoever. This is also, of course, applicable to any ammunition with a diameter larger than 1/2 inch. That means firearms registered as a “destructive device” may soon have their own love note from the ATF classifying every round of ammo as a dangerous explosive that needs to be confiscated for the good of all humanity.

President Obama has been looking for ways to manipulate the law to harass gun owners to the maximum extent possible for years, and this appears to be another attempt at instituting new gun control laws without the messiness of going through Congress. Today’s target are destructive device owners. There’s no telling who will be the next target of the President’s impotent rage against law-abiding citizens.


  1. avatar tom w a glock says:

    I can see where this could bring 2 federal entities into conflict. USCG flares for offshore passage are 26 mm aerial flares. A food fight might just be fun. The bonus here is the flare gun itself is an unregistered, unserialed item. Commonly 12 gauge for pleasure craft, 26 mm for commercial and offshore passage-making.

    1. avatar PerplexedPistolero says:

      If USCG is DHS, and BATFE is DOJ and the Attorney General is the less senior cabinet official, does that mean BATFE can go suck eggs on this one?

      1. avatar tom w a glock says:

        The larger flares are required equipment for some vessels during passage of European waters, for instance. Any vessel making a cross Atlantic passage is either required or strongly advised (for those instances where it’s optional) to have them. This is a conflict brewing.

    2. avatar borg says:

      I thought flares were specifically exempt from regulation making this decision illegal. If the ATF can pick and chose which laws to break than what about other law enforcement agencies? What other law enforcement agencies pick and chose which laws to break? Do some agencies violate federal civil rights laws? The ATF violating federal laws may embolden other agencies to do the same.

  2. avatar Old Ben turning in grave says:

    Hmm, what about muzzle loader projectiles bigger than 50 cal? Would a lead ball bigger than that count as an explosive device? I suppose one must assume the answer would be “yes.”

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      That was my thought exactly. .54 cal. are common, and there are plenty of antiques of .57, .65, and even .75 cal floating around, plus reproductions in the same calibers. I remember there was a you tube vid making the rounds of a good old boy firing a 1.0 cal. musket with a 1 oz lead projectile. Since the letter says that black powder is excluded from the definition of “small arms” ammo, the inference is that our flintlock muskets of greater than .50 cal. from the Revolutionary War are now prohibited “explosive devices.”

      1. avatar Dave says:

        They’re talking about conventional ammunition cartridges, not lead bullets. Plus, muzzleloaders and Antiques are categorized as “non-weapons” by the ATF.

        1. avatar Wood says:

          …and they never change their minds. Capriciously. Randomly. Malevolently. Nope, never.

        2. avatar int19h says:

          In this case they can’t really change their mind about it, because it’s black and white in the text of the law. Most of this other stuff where there’s random and arbitrary (re)classification is the areas where the text is unclear or doesn’t cover it at all.

        3. avatar Dave says:

          And a 40mm flare or chalk round is any more a weapon than a muzzle loading firearm how?

      2. avatar Katana0 says:

        The funny bit is, most 37mm flare data I’ve ever seen uses black powder or a black powder substitute.

        1. But it’s a fixed cartridge, not a muzzle loader. That’s the difference.

    2. avatar Sian says:

      You know Russian VOG-25 style grenades are muzzle-loading. Hmmmm…

  3. avatar JR_in_NC says:

    12 ga. marine flares are over 1/2″. As are 25 mm flares.

    Ariel flares are REQUIRED by USCG for certain boats.

    How’s THAT going to work?

    1. avatar JR_in_NC says:

      Ooops. Tom, you beat me to it. Posted while I was posting (there were no replies yet when I started).

      1. avatar tom w a glock says:

        Must. Type. Faster.

  4. avatar ShaunL. says:

    We MUST somehow justify the existence of the ATF(and really big fires)…..

    Sig brace…. Nope, didn’t work.

    Common ammunition…. Didn’t work either.

    LET’S TRY FLARES!!!…. Great idea ATF agent Bob!

    1. avatar ATF agent Bob says:

      We know what you have buried out back, ‘Shaun’…

      1. avatar Tessius says:

        You’re in Kelven Crenshaw’s department aren’t you? Confiscating things that don’t need Confiscating.

  5. avatar David says:

    No one seemed to bat an eyelash when the reclassified certain smoke grenades as DD’s. Got to fight this one.

    1. avatar Rambeast says:

      Yeah. Their logic being that the phosphorus accelerant within is deemed an explosive.

  6. avatar Soccerchainsaw says:

    Looks like we need to ban the BATFE and start confiscating their stuff….

    1. avatar PerplexedPistolero says:

      Let me see…. The fun police is banned, so I’ll take that nice Ops-Core helmet and level IV plates purchased with tax money. Oh, and the suppressed SBRs, I’ll have a couple of those. Anyone else want some of this?

      1. avatar Pwrserge says:

        Can’t hear you from down in their garage. I call dibs on the surplused Bradley.

        1. avatar BDub says:

          I now have plans for an armored burrito stand called MWraps!

        2. avatar Coffee Addict says:

          ..I’m in the tracing center Gun Library. Can you bring me another wheelbarrow with the Bradley?

        3. avatar B says:

          I don’t think I should have laughed at MWraps. But I did. Bravo.

        4. avatar C says:

          MWRAPS is the best idea i’ve ever heard.

        5. avatar Tomyironmane says:

          If MWraps became a thing near me, I would go out of my way to eat lunch there.

      2. avatar Shaun says:

        I just want a pair of MP5ks. I’m not greedy 😀

      3. avatar Cyberats says:

        Yes, All Those, Please.

  7. avatar Rusty Chains says:

    Any ammunition greater than 1/2 inch??? I don’t think BATFE is man enough to take on 12 gauge shotgun slug hunters! Flare guns? Really? Time for the new head of BATFE to be called before Congress and publicly spanked again.

    1. avatar sagebrushracer says:

      at this point, they really should know better, but its always funny to watch.

      I got a few design innovations for the paddle, thinking wiffle holes and spikes.

      1. avatar Tomyironmane says:

        Razor wire. Spikes are not an acceptable substitute, they penetrate too deeply with not enough tissue damage.

    2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      The ATF documented response (linked in this article) did mention something about certain sporting shotgun loads being exempt.

      Nevertheless that doesn’t help the problems with flare guns.

      1. avatar Juanito ''Johnnie'' Ibañez says:

        One must remember that throughout the federal firearms laws one will find some version of “…the Secretary (of the Department of the Treasury) finds…”; so it’s whatever USSoT Jacob Joseph ‘Jack’ Lew “finds” these things to be that counts…not what you or I believe them to be.

        And always remember those ever-present ‘weasel words’ throughout those same firearms laws: “sporting purposes:” words not found in the Constitution or Bill of Rights.

  8. avatar KingSarc48625 says:

    Well I had better stop using 12ga slugs during deer season. Now that they are explosive, I’ll damage too much meat!

    1. avatar Old Ben turning in grave says:

      In PA, it’s illegal to hunt deer with a rifle in many areas. I guess 20 gauge slugs would still be legal? Still, grand silliness. Here comes a run on 12 gauge slugs.

      1. avatar NineShooter says:

        20 gauge slugs are around .60-.61 caliber, so no.
        Some folks load a .575″ rounds ball; still a no-go.

  9. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

    I sure hope the ATF never finds out about potato guns. It’ll be 1845 all over again.

    1. avatar BDub says:

      As long as its a registered potato, grown in or before May 1986, you should be fine. /sarc

      1. avatar Gunr says:

        Now I know why potatoes have “eyes”, so they can see what kind of gun they are being fired out of.
        Ooooooooooooooo this one has rifling, must report! Must report!

        1. avatar Wood says:

          No no no, the eyes are part of the guidance system.

      2. avatar Chicago Steve says:

        Remember, you must register each individual potato.

        1. avatar Mad Marsupial says:

          Not if it was a home grown potato…or at least 20% of it.

  10. avatar Accur81 says:

    F the ATF.

  11. avatar JQPub says:

    …because there have been so many incidents recently of mass violence committed with 40 mm flares and chalk rounds, they just had to take action. /heavy sarc

  12. avatar Colt Magnum says:

    What the hell? Now we can’t even use our potato guns! I will not comply!

  13. avatar SteveInCO says:


  14. avatar Shire-man says:

    They’re reaching for anything and everything at this point.
    Should this stick I expect no shortage of stories about how the Obama administration worked against the gun lobby to keep explosives and incendiaries out of the hands of criminals.

    Naturally nobody will ever look it up and no MSM outlet will ever report on what actually happened and all the plebes will cheer.

    1. avatar DisThunder says:

      Exactly. And you know how much this clan of morons loves them some media attention, so resorting to a snoozefest like flare guns and chalk rounds show just how desperate they are to gain any kind of win- they’re even willing to do without CNN!
      These are dangerous times, but make no mistake, this is exactly what this team always does when they’re losing.

      1. avatar E762 says:

        THIS… Is a ghost flare gun. It shoots 400 smoke flareazine launchers per second and holds 100 high-capacity assault chalks.

  15. avatar Mark Lloyd says:

    Ban this!! Grabs crotch.

    1. avatar Stuki Moi says:

      It’s already banned. For being sexist.

      1. avatar Mark Lloyd says:

        Sexist? Hardly. Try again.

        1. avatar BDub says:

          moar like sexi…est!, amiright?! da dum tsssh!

        2. avatar tom w a glock says:

          Way to stay classy there…

      2. avatar TSgt B says:

        M “projectile” is DEFINITELY well in excess of .50 in diameter. Come and get it.

    2. avatar ATF agent Bob says:

      “Ban this!! Grabs crotch.”

      Insufficient evidence…


      1. avatar Mark Lloyd says:

        Oh now that was uncalled for! That’s hitting below the belt. That’s just plain mean.

    3. avatar Rambeast says:

      *smirk* I doubt that meets the diameter requirements.

  16. avatar Bob109 says:

    When I think I cannot distrust the feds more than I already do, I see something like this. Are these guys out of their freaking minds? So, the BAFTE want to reclassify 12-gauge slugs and marine flares as explosives! The US is on this wild march toward tyranny, and bluntly, it is scaring the crap out of me.

    1. avatar Red In Texas says:

      I’m pretty sure a 12ga slug is classified as “small arms” ammunition.

      But feel free to look out for that piece of falling sky.

      1. avatar Accur81 says:

        Currently, maybe. But if the ATF can be loose with definitions, who knows what the future holds.

        By the way, tell Bob from the NSA I’m keeping my 12 gauge slugs and flares.

        1. avatar NSA agent Bob says:

          We know what you’ve got, Aaron…

          Are you some kind of troublemaker?


  17. avatar mike says:

    I swear, it’s like the ATF is trying to keep interns/new hires busy with something. Anything!

    1. avatar Old Ben turning in grave says:

      Maybe they could put them to work processing NFA forms? Too much to hope?

      1. avatar Rambeast says:

        Pipe dreams, brother.

  18. avatar Former Water Walker says:


  19. avatar BDub says:

    More arbitrary legislation by regulatory fiat. Its time to push back on this agency until they are irrelevant to our lives.

    1. avatar Old Ben turning in grave says:

      It’s not just them. And they are not the most invasive and damaging of the alphabet soup list by a long shot. I’ve read the Constitution numerous times, and I still can’t see anything in there that gives Congress the power to delegate legislative authority.

  20. avatar Toasty says:

    But why though? Do they have people in the BATFE whose sole job is to find stuff to ban? Chalk? Chalk. Chalk…

    1. avatar tom w a glock says:

      Maybe their heartburn is so bad they’re out of Maalox and Tums, so it’s time to chew on chalk. Next they’ll come for the 3rd grade teachers’ blackboards.

      1. avatar Rambeast says:

        “Blackboards” are racist, we use whiteboards now…oh, wait.

  21. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Potato gun. Check.
    USCG required 12 gauge flares in my boat. Check.
    Funny, I don’t feel any different…

    1. avatar Gunr says:

      Would it stir things up if you fired potatoes in your flare gun??
      P.S. You might end up with some tasty french fry’s.

  22. avatar Kendahl says:

    How about 12 gauge slugs?

    1. avatar Rad Man says:

      That’s the first thing I thought too. .72 caliber is pretty big and all shotty owners have them. Look out.

      1. avatar ATF agent Bob says:

        We keep a registry on those who went to law school.

        Lawyers getting all uppity on the Constitution and the ‘rights’ they seem to think they have…


        1. avatar Rad Man says:

          Gee whiz Bob, I’m already on more watch lists and registries than I can count!

  23. avatar Alan Longnecker says:

    After the feds displayed their stunning success with the Charleston and LaFayette shooters, they just can’t wait to help YOU out.
    It’s time to defund the U.S. Government.

    1. avatar Mack Bolan says:


      It’s a thing.

  24. avatar Leo says:

    ATF putting the F in ATF once again

  25. avatar Ralph says:

    From the wonderful people who brought you the Waco Siege . . . .

    1. avatar ATF agent Bob says:

      And Ruby Ridge…

      1. avatar Mack Bolan says:

        And the Waco biker massacre.

        1. avatar JWM says:

          Fair is fair. I think the biker thing was all local cops. And bikers.

  26. avatar Former Water Walker says:

    Time to stock up on slugs…

  27. avatar DaveL says:

    In other news, the BATFE will not be processing any NFA paperwork until further notice, since a mid-level bureaucrat changed the definition of “indoors” and millions of dollars in computer equipment got ruined by rain.

  28. avatar Martin Cohn says:

    OK who’s gonna build that 1st .51 cal?

    1. avatar Marcus says:

      .50 BMG projectiles have a diameter of .510, so John Browning beat you to it in the ’20s. 😉

  29. avatar Ross says:

    Wow I’ve made the big time! That was my thread on ARFCOM! This was a total pain in the ass. We had planned on using those IR round for pig hunting when it was cloudy and didn’t have enough light to see well through our NODs. This whole scenario is BS. The DD market is so small and such a pain in the ass and now I pretty much have a useless M203. I’m not sure what is going to come of all this.

    1. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

      I hope you used all those flares, wouldn’t want to give those a$$-wholes anything.

    2. avatar DJ says:

      I am not a lawyer and I did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. That said…

      Are they compensating you for what they are seizing? Seems like a “takings” clause issue, potentially, right? Since they are seizing your property, don’t you have a right to demand due process (ie, force them to go in front of a court)?

      I have no idea what the answers to that are. Anybody?

      1. avatar Ross says:

        Yes I surrendered the items under protest so I can go to court over it. The problem for me is that I only had about $150-200 in the seized items. One one hand it’s not really worth the financial cost to take them to court over. On the other hand it is a matter of principal. I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet.

        1. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

          Please contact SAF and NRA, will definitely send funds to help if they take the case!

        2. avatar Nate says:

          Contact the SAF for sure! I know court is expensive but I’d love to see (and have some hope) that some federal Judge might nip this in the butt before it gets more common.

  30. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    What does this mean for largish fireworks that lots of regular folks are using more and more often? They are shooting some pretty large charges out of “mortars” that must exceed the referenced standard. Or am I way off base?

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      I know of you are referring to, best keep a low profile…

      But, damn, they look cool when they go ‘boom’, don’t they?

  31. avatar HELL NO says:

    The atf are nothing but domestic enemies of The United States. I cheer whenever I hear about one of them dying. Those who would trade liberty for “safety” deserve neither. I mean that literally.

    1. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

      Real classy, I’m not fond of our government’s alphabet soup but “cheer”, Really? Name calling is one thing but maybe some thoughts are better not shared with the world wide web.

      1. avatar Rambeast says:

        They kidnap, rob, and kill citizens on a regular basis, and you get offended when someone cheers their death. Check your priorities.

        1. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

          Just to be clear, I don’t cheer when they do those things either.

        2. avatar E762 says:

          Reality called – its time for your annual check-in.

  32. avatar JWM says:

    If they ban flares and you’re having a boating accident with your guns, how do you signal for help? All your guns will be lost before rescue.

  33. avatar Indiana Tom says:

    There’s no telling who will be the next target of the President’s impotent rage against law-abiding citizens. Well, he did say that one of his biggest disappointments was not getting common sense gun laws passed.

  34. avatar WV Cycling says:

    Tannerite, watch out. I’m betting you’re being eyed…

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      Time to stockpile?

    2. avatar Timmy! says:

      I’m surprised every day that Tannerite remains legal… especially after that incident with the load of it in an oven hitting a kid with shrapnel. I’m far too lazy to go look for the TTAG article on it, but it was earlier this year in Oklahoma I believe.

  35. avatar gsnyder says:

    We have got to stop this ridiculousness. How do these moves make anyone safer? They don’t. Same stuff, all the bad guys will have the big stuff. The military will needed to fight a cartel.

    I was thinking about high-pressure pneumatic cannons, where do they fall? And fireworks in general, all mortar class A now illegal? And then I think about my potato cannon. Watch for Final Net hair spray to drop in sales.

  36. avatar Mark Lee says:

    I believe it is actually time to DO something now rather than just talking about doing something about the BATF. NOW is a pretty good time – kicking them when they are down – there could be no better opportunity as now to obviate their many failures, including the latest when NICS failed to keep a recent multi-shooter from purchasing a firearm and killing innocent people and use in the argument all of the issues cited in the ongoing lawsuit against them – using most prominent in the argument to eliminate the agency altogether. We should be able to prove that silencers, short-barreled rifles/shotguns and that modern fully automatic weapons should be open to the NFA registry (and should have been all this time) and that ever since the Miller decision the agency has proven over and over again has functioned as an agency who is abusing the citizens it was created to serve and accomplishing little else but infringing on our rights across the board.

    We have more than enough ammunition to win such a fight through a concentrated social campaign. The government wonks DO listen to us voters when we get a few tens of thousands of signatures over the internet now. I hereby volunteer my time to support the effort – how many of you are ready to do the same – and what organization is worthy of our support to accomplish this critically-necessary feat?

  37. avatar Raul Ybarra says:

    This sounds like someone was told, “Give us something we can call a win. Anything!”

    Wonder when they’re going to go after model rocketry? D, E and even F class engines are not expensive and you could build some interesting things that go boom with them.

    1. avatar DK says:

      They tried that already back in the ’90s and got slapped around by a Federal Judge for it. Sorry for the wiki link, it was the only one I could find quickly, not a whole lot of stuff online from that era.

      1. avatar Raul Ybarra says:

        Oh, interesting. From what I read in the link, it sounds like that court case could actually provide the precedent to void this reclassification.

  38. avatar God says:

    I love all this ammosexual nonsense about the President being impotent, and the unwashed masses of gun freaks “rising up” (presumably without Viagra) to do something. Ain’t gonna happen, and Ms. Clinton is going to continue the trend of taking ammo away from crazies that shouldn’t have firearms in the first place. They won’t be coming for your guns, they are just going to make sure that you don’t have any ammo.

    1. avatar barnbwt says:

      That’s some right flaccid bait, right there…keep at it

    2. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

      If you live near Michigan (Guy wishing he was) God, they are constructing a new large bridge on I75 near the Chrysler building. Maybe you can troll there.

  39. avatar Brandon says:

    Better turn in your soda cans gentlemen, or stock up while you can before they are pulled from shelves. Maybe this is really an idea from Moo-schelle to solve the obesity problem in this nation.

  40. avatar JWM says:

    Seeing those m79s remind me. Do they still make a 40mm bean bag round?

  41. avatar Steven Wolf says:

    I think a lot of the commenters don’t realise the bigger picture here.
    “And their ruling could soon be expanded to include all ammunition bigger than 1/2 inch in diameter . . .”
    12 Guage is the equivalent of .72 inches, that is MORE than half an inch. So due to this ruling your dad’s over and under shotgun will become a prohibited device while the AR-15 in .223 will be ok.

  42. avatar Yngvar says:

    And their ruling could soon be expanded to include all ammunition bigger than 1/2 inch in diameter

    If I remember correctly the ban on .50 and up for civilians was part of the UN Arms Trade Treaty that Obama signed on behalf of law abiding Americans everywhere.

  43. avatar GWB says:

    So, the ATF has evidently never read the bit in the Constitution about ex post facto laws?
    You can’t come confiscate things that violate a change in the rules when they were previously legal. Sorry, now go ex post f* u

  44. avatar Diamondback says:

    Unenforceable in any honorable court (IF we have any such in amerika anymore) as violating the prohibition on ex post facto laws.

  45. avatar dan says:

    the House needs to defund the batf….NOW…..imho

  46. avatar KissMyWookiee says:

    Since when did the Second Amendment declare a “size” for the “arms” that we have a right to bear?

    It merely stated “arms”, which covered handheld weapons and artillery.

    1. avatar Juanito ''Johnnie'' Ibañez says:

      Don’t forget those WELL-over-.50-caliber cannons on those ocean-going ships the privateers owned and used against ol’ crazy King George’s Royal Navy….. 😯

  47. avatar Sean says:

    I doubt this nonsense will go anywhere, I HOPE it goes nowhere. If it does after all I see new doors opening in the sabot R&D and marketing arena.

  48. avatar Sean says:

    Forgot to mention, I see a jump in spite purchases of 40mm grenade launchers as well. Thanks Obama, for keeping the markets for firearms and related items crackin like chains of red “Lady Fingers” on the 4th of July.

  49. avatar willymae says:

    So when do WE get to restrict ATF from carrying weapons beyond what WE decide is useful? Restrict their illegal entries and demands?
    These organizations who make their own laws run short on regulating themselves via already established law.

  50. avatar Ryan says:

    If they are looking at 40mm flares 37mm is not far behind.

  51. avatar White Eagle says:

    This is illegal. CONGRESS is the only body allowed to make legislation. It is wayyy to long of a time waiting for the US Supreme Court to back up the Constitution by ruling that all executive Orders, Mandates and Directives, unless dealing directly with the process of running/administering the White House itself, are illegal, and do not apply to anyone, person, state, business , etc. No more blackmail with funds that should be used to pay off the deblt instead of bribing varous state agencies too.

    IF the Supreme court and Congress do not get with it…and continue to be wishy washy, soon, it will be like late Rome, or preWWII Germany…and there will be no more Congress. This un-American presidential Ceaser needs to be reined in.

  52. avatar avaforce says:

    Hello there! I could have sworn I’ve visited this blog before but after looking
    at may of the posts I realized it’s new to me. Anyhow, I’m certaily happy I found itt
    and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back regularly!

  53. avatar Michael E. Stora, Ph.D. says:

    This article needs to be corrected. It is causing a lot of confusion in the collector community.

    It appears that in a bid to add some teeth to the effort to recover 40mm M992 Infra-Red Flares stolen from the military and in the hands of innocent retail customers, the ATF very strictly reinterpreted the “Illumination Device” exemption for things that would otherwise be classified as explosives and require an FEL, storage bunker, etc. They decided that IR is not “illumination” since it cannot be seen with the naked eye.

    If M922s that did not “fall off the back of a truck” ever hit the market legally, they would not be DDs, but explosives. Visible flares and chalk rounds were not impacted. They are still readily available a year and a half after this supposed ban.

    It’s a stupid decision but not nearly what has been reported.

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email
'Twitter for iPhone'
'Twitter for iPhone'
'Android.*(wv|.0.0.0)' ]
'Android.*(wv|.0.0.0)' ]