Screen capture by Boch. Via ABC13.
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When you buy government surplus from the military, it’s supposed to be double and triple-checked that nothing “inappropriate” is in the lot that’s being sold. However, for one couple in Texas who buys large quantities of military surplus for resale, they got quite a surprise in cases designed to transport M-16 rifles.

Screen capture by Boch. Via ABC13.

One of the crates — no doubt heavier than the others — contained 12 M-16s…of all things.  Full-auto capable and ready to rock.

According to reports, the guns rifles came complete with information about the units from which they came.

Screen capture by Boch. Via ABC13.

Of course, the FBI and the ATF were eager to recover the wayward firearms. And leave it to the ATF to get a warrant to search the entire storage unit, despite the fact that the honest couple immediate notified the authorities when they found the bonus prizes in the one case.

ABC13 has the rather incredible story . . .

Federal authorities are trying to figure out how at least a dozen fully-automatic M16s ended up among military surplus equipment sold to a Houston couple.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) executed a search warrant in a Richmond-area storage facility on Monday afternoon. However, that only came after the couple voluntarily notified authorities of their highly-unusual find.

Last week, the couple – who runs a side hustle of buying surplus lots, dividing up the products, and reselling them on eBay – received delivery of 108 empty storage cases sold by a government surplus website. Over the weekend, a friend helped the couple stack and store the cases. As a thank you, they gave one of the cases to the friend.

When that friend opened the case, he realized it was not empty. Inside were 12 fully-automatic M16s, all of them still with various tags designating the military branch and name of service members who handled the weapons. …

Unsure of what to do, the couple reported the M-16s to authorities. Within hours, ATF and FBI agents seized the one open box with the 12 weapons. Shortly thereafter, the ATF obtained a search warrant for the couple’s storage unit. They spent most of Monday on location, going through the boxes.

Without a doubt, several someones will have some ‘splaining to do over the rifles. After all, the .mil (allegedly) likes to keep a pretty close tabs on their firearms…unlike our neighbors to the south.

As for the (briefly) lucky couple, hopefully honesty is the best policy (though it got them a search warrant and an afternoon spent with some of the ATF’s finest. Still, I’m not sure failing to fess up to accidentally getting a crate full of Uncle Sugar’s fully automatic rifles is a good idea.

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    • ?????
      I’d have at least kept the uppers. In all honesty, I probably would have stripped the lowers and scrapped the lower receivers.

    • I held an ar-15 and I wish I hadn’t. It weighs as much as 12 boxes you might move with….

      I can’t imagine how strong this couple and their helper were!

      • Cooter E Lee, why would you wish you hadn’t held an AR-15? First of all and M-16 IS NOT an AR-15.

        • It actually is an AR-15. AR-15 Was the original designation by the designer (Eugene Stoner) and the manufacturer (Armalite). It was the Armalite Rifle (AR) of the 15th model. M16 is the military designation. Just like the M9 was the Beretta 92.

      • You held an 8 lb rifle and it “weighs as much as 12 boxes you might move with..” What are you smoking (or ingesting)?

    • Surprisingly, a half full case is lighter than you might imagine – obviously NOT empty but light enough to pick up with out busting a gut.

      I’d love to be able to run a transaction history on those serial numbers – contrary to some armchair opinions it’s not all that easy to make small arms disappear from accountability records, It, obviously, can be done but without somebody in a command position signing off there are some easily visible red flags that pop up.

      • The touching naivete of someone who hasn’t been around the modern military…

        More than likely, what happened here was that those weapons were packed up and shipped, then “lost in shipping” and written off. Shipping containers filled with sensitive items went missing all the damn time, despite the fact that they were supposed to be handled separately and tracked better than the rest of them. More than likely, what happened here was that this was a “lost container” that the original owning unit wrote off, and which then reappeared as frustrated cargo. Someone else besides the owning unit then was made responsible for unpacking the damn thing, and the cased rifles were missed by that party, who likely didn’t have the inventory lists to go off of for what was supposed to be there.

        Coming back from Iraq in 2004, we had a sensitive items container including weapons go “missing” in the system. Transponder was knocked off, or something… It wound up in a frustrated cargo yard somewhere on the East coast, then bounced around for a couple of years. Next deployment, we return from Iraq again, and what shows up in our set of cargo containers? Yeah; you guessed it. The one missing from the previous deployment. What apparently happened was that they saw our second deployment containers come through, looked at the unit information we’d stenciled on the containers, and went “Hey, we got onna dose, over in frustrated cargo…”, then included it in the batch of containers we had coming back from our second deployment. It was like doing a forensics project, trying to reconstruct what was supposed to have been in that thing and whose property it all was–We’d already done the writing off of it all, and most of the records were gone, baby, gone.

        Interestingly, the hardest part of re-acquiring the property was getting the central registry to acknowledge we’d gotten the weapons back. There’s apparently no provision for returning a written-off weapon SN back onto that thing, soooooo… Yeah. Awkwardness, all around. Most of the equipment and property was just turned in, as we’d already drawn replacements.

        Do not ask what I know about that central serial number registry. I still get twitchy about it all, remembering the pain generated by some of the times we had to make use of that system.

        • I did retire 5 years ago after over thirty years in the logistics business – spent a big chunk of those years doing inventory, then managing accountable equipment, ending with supervising the folks who did both – so I suppose there could be changes in how it’s done…

          There was a definite learning curve trying to explain how we did business in the USAF/ANG to the USA troops in the USPFO office so that could factor in to our disconnect in opinions.

      • Hi JS,
        Just as curiosity to help understand Ukraine war, would you happen to know ballpark how many man hours to swap a Paladin barrel in the field? I think these are about 7 tons. I found a comment that Russia can fit 3 barrels max on a train for their 54 calibers length 152 on their SP howitzer (8 tons each). Got a guess of 5 man crew with crane and 50 man hours. Old barrels left on site (not repair able).
        Barrel life I got as 1750 full charges (accepting accuracy loss).
        I ask as this is logistics.
        Lots of guys guessing stuff, was hoping to get more expert info.


    • LOL – Navy was both the best and the worst job I ever had. If you don’t remember any of the bad, that’s probably a sign that senility is claiming your old butt.

  2. Government. Working as intended.
    Somebody mixed up the cartel shipment with the surplus reseller shipment.

  3. It obvious that the case was meant to be sold to someone, just not them. Most likely headed to some drug cartel as before, just because it’s the Biden administration, they could F-k up a one elephant circus. Their ineptitude is amazing, they can’t even smuggle arms across the border.

    • In my experience this was coordinated between a Government property disposal employee and his “partner”. Unfortunately the intended buyer was outbid (a sealed spot bid) and he lost.

        • Hence very wise to call it in but maybe better to call the owners (Army / Navy /Marines) rather than civilian agencies. If they kept it and either investigators or criminals came looking a few parts sets look like a trivial reward. I will guess the military agency involved woukd have appreciated the discretion.

  4. Eric Holder and Co already has buyers lined up for those rifles.

    Want to bet that the “lucky couple” will have surprise visits from BATFE for years to come. At least the Bureau produced a search warrant and the couple’s dog(s) escaped execution…this time.

    • Did F-Troop cuff them and leave them sitting in the sun at gunpoint while they conducted their search warrant?

  5. Was there actually only 12, or is that what they reported, and just kept two or three for themselves?🤔

  6. I don’t know what you’re talking about. I bought storage cases. There they are look for yourself. Whoever screwed up wasn’t going to tell on themselves. Asses at ATF already trying to blame them, hence the warrant. You can bet the ATF gonna be up their ass the next few years. Before it’s all over they will drum up some bull shit against them. ATF probably pissed off @ them for saying something.

    • Without consent, a warrant was necessary to search all of the cases and the rest of the storage unit to see if anything else was “amiss.”

  7. I’m thinking real hard here. Would I have notified authorities? Hmmmmm . . . . .

    I don’t really think so. More likely I would have distributed the weapons to safe locations, then destroyed the crate they came in. If anyone ever came knocking, I would swear forever that I never saw any automatic firearms. Someone lost them, and made up a story about sending them to me!

    Of course I could never actually use them, unless things were already so far gone that possession of stolen government weapons wouldn’t mean anything.

    • Legally they weren’t stolen by the couple. They were sold to the couple by the U.S. Government as part of the case. There was no knowledge or intent or willfullness on part of the couple.

      This is a pure government screw-up.

      • This was my profession for many years, but I was never this lucky.
        They could have disassembled them and sold most of the parts. They could have tried to convert them to AR-15’s, but if they were marked M-16, the Gov still considers them select fire. Could have smuggled them to Canada or Mexico!

        • Strip them for parts, destroy the lowers and the auto sear, keep the uppers. No one would have ever known.

      • They would have been in trouble anyway for keeping them even though it appears they came upon them by “legal means. It’s called “conversion of property” If someone accidentally gives you something you weren’t meant to have and keep it, that’s “conversion” . This is not legal advice.

      • Years ago, at a military auction, a man bought one or more shipping containers used to ship jet engines. When they opened one of them, there was a jet engine in it. The case went to court and the judge said the man owned the jet engine complete with container. The government bought the engine back from the man. If I myself opened the case and found it full of rifles , i would do whats right. Silence is golden !

  8. They did the right thing. Not necessarily what I would have thought about doing, but whatever.

  9. It would be interesting to follow these guns and find out that they get used by the bad guys to murder many good guys. It’s a risk no matter what you do. The question is who do you trust the least? But you can be absolutely guaranteed that criminals would NOT have been so quick to make this call.

    • Id have used the 3S system on them (strip, shovel, shut up). They usually are crated with an ACOG installed, and only the lowers are serialized.
      If anyone wants one of these – empty, of course – a seller out of Manhattan, KS sells these on eBay for $225 truck shipped anywhere in the cUSA… they are otherwise available in lots of 96 or 108 from uncle sugar to the winning bidder.

    • Communists regimes have generally involved totalitarianism of the far left.

      Fascist regimes have generally involved totalitarianism of the far right.

      You’re giving the marxists a pass by calling everything that smacks of authoritarianism or totalitarianism “fascism”. It’s a mistake conservatives and libertarians make online every day. The people they are complaining about are usually leftists.

      • 20 years ago I would have agreed with you. But who owns the ‘left’ these days? Students and old hippy profs? No. Corporate billionaires bought the ‘left’. Communism/marxism is dead. It was replaced by fascism.

        Remember that fascism isn’t just hitlers brand of master race bullshit. It was practiced in Italy and spain and a number of other countries without all the racial crap.

  10. Now you know what an actual ‘assault rifle’ is dacian.

    These were not MSR’s.

    Now that the US government (via the ATFs actions) has defined that ‘assault rifle’ is an automatic fire military rifle…. MSR’s can no longer be called ‘assault rifles’.

    • Every time I hear Biden on tv talking about banning assault rifles, These kinds of things come up. People are getting assault rifles for free. Just given to them. Buy government. Maybe it’s incompetence and maybe not but it’s people that don’t go through a NICS background check. These are just the ones we know about.

  11. One stupid mistake does not make a case about anything. I Mremember when I was a STASTION SARMOUER in the RAF we found waht appered to be an abandoned wooden case in the back of the Armourynthat had obviously notbee opeed for yeays, WE opened it and foung d it contained FOUR PRE WW2 LEE-ENFIELD plus 200rds of ammunition dated 1937 RADWAY GREEB that was earmarked for issue to the Local Police Force in an emergency. I presume a Wartime Emergency. Strange really because the Armoury had been built in 1959 so the case must have come from elsewhere.
    Believe it not quite recently in the UK there was 22,000lb GRANDSLAM beiingg used as a Gate Trophy that had been in place for probably fifty years. A visitor who had worked on these things a long time ago noticed that all was not well and eventually got it properly examained It was found to be LIVE. Had blown it would have destroyed a good part of the RAF Base and the area around it

  12. A Brit I worked with used to work for Rolls Royce. They sold old engine storage crates as garden sheds off to the locals.
    A couple called up bc and complained it had a huge thing inside. It was an overhauled Avon fighter jet engine.

  13. This will soon be seen on
    an episode of TVs FBI… in one hour, they will find the OTHER two dozen M4s that were included in the shipment and sold to far-right radicals, narrowly averting multiple horrific school shootings. All in ONE HOUR !
    WITH commercial breaks !

  14. I think I’d have asked for the value of the rifles since they sold them to me. May have some gall in doing such but hey the stupid tax should be a thing. At least the value for kitting them out.

  15. “….despite the fact that the honest couple immediate notified the authorities….”


  16. Why can’t I run across a deal like this? A case of rifles? Seal the cases and dig a hole. Anyone comes knocking be pissed because your shipment was short a couple containers. If things continue as they are for much longer there may be a need for such items.

  17. Some good little citizens right there and probably fully fauxinated too. /s

    The military is hardly tight with taxpayer weapons and equipment, at least from what I saw back when I did my time; here is a small glimpse. The military simply knows how to cook the books A LOT better than bureaucrats do. People walked away with equipment every time there was a command change or people were EASing; people got tattoos and grandfathered them between commands. TMK, our armory custodian had to re-write the entire log book because the next command wanted a clean book that is fully accounted for. That is JUST the unit itself.

    These M16s probably got “misplaced” in the shuffle of boxes and equipment. Once something real bad like this happens, the unaccounted for weapons simply disappear from the books via unofficial order of the unit commanders. Other times, the person that is supposed to be keeping account of them EASs and it’s simply not his problem anymore.

    It’s trivially easy to steal fully automatic weapons from the military if you know where the training areas are on public lands. It’s as simple as putting on a uniform, walking into a bivouack site (camp) like you belong there, and picking up a rifle some boot shoved outside his tent. The armory, radio, etc, all leave dozens of piles of unguarded equipment lying around all day when they do inventory. Security of small arms and serialized equipment is utterly comical in the military if what I saw on MCBH was anything to go by. I recall one person was even arrested for trying to sell explosives, probably something reported as expended in training.

    In Afghanistan, we had all kinds of un-accounted for munitions because the previous units would over-report how much they expended so they would have extra in case they needed it. Old interceptor armors were *given away*, MTVs, old packs and equipment that was left behind for some reason or lost in the shuffle of countless prior units. I recall someone from another unit SOLD their SIPERNET laptop in Afghanistan and someone else was selling excess uniforms (I forget if they were ours or ANA uniform). Nothing bad could happen from uniforms though, right? RIGHT? (The SIPERNET laptop was recovered.)

    TL;DR, the idea that the military is serious about the security and accountability of small arms and equipment is comical at best. It’s absolutely no surprise that some M16s slipped through the cracks. These are just a few rifles found, how many more slipped through and no one said anything about?

    • A significant number of US Army grunts are probably Cartel Sicarios getting mandatory advanced training. This was probably part of an extracurricular activity to get some good equipment for the looming fight.

      • I suspect it’s easier to get the machine drawings and build as many receivers and trigger groups as you like in a machine shop; all other parts can be ordered online, even for light and medium machine guns.

        I’ve heard all about the gang members but didn’t see any, just former gang members and people from gang infested areas trying to get away from that. From what I saw, they were exclusively Hispanic. (USMC)

  18. Unsure of what to do, the couple reported the M-16s to authorities.

    I’d have never breathed a word myself……………I’d have been grinning like a possum so much I wouldn’t have been able to say a word.

    Surprised that this wasn’t an ATF frame job myself.

  19. As taxpayers, we are owed the follow-up and know damn well we will never get it.

    This was not a random mistake. Weapons are tightly controlled. Someone had a plan and it did not proceed accordingly. When they are not shooting dogs and otherwise being a menace, there are federal law enforcement agencies that are tasked with investigating actual crimes. They should completely track this down to the source.

    The military will lock down an entire base for one weapon. Commanders will be immediately relieved in minutes if a rack is not properly secured. Don’t tell me this was a simple mistake.

    • we once got stuck with an entire rack plus an M-60 one night simply because the guys got back too late and the arms room was closed…we spent an uneasy night nurse maiding those babies….this sounds a lot like a plan gone bad rather than simple ineptitude….

    • in 86-87 I was at ft dix when they locked down the whole base over a missing m16. Some E-0 lost it and it walked away. Supposedly found duct taped to the frame of a suburban trying to leave the base.

      • in 2006, we locked down a base and searched everything attempting to leave for a NVS google. Despite over-hyped news articles, the military takes accountability of sensitive items extremely serious.

        When you remove the impossible, the remaining, however improbable is the truth. This was an attempt to steal and it went awry. As taxpayers, we are fortunate that the individuals in this instance were ethical and moral.

        If anyone gave it some thought, they really did the smart thing. The type of people who are willing to steal government weapons are also the type who would come looking for them. These people were in serious risk had the perps come looking for the weapons.

  20. if the rifles were manufactured before 86, are they legal for more citizens to possess? I would have checked the date before ringing up the boots

  21. “And leave it to the ATF to get a warrant to search the entire storage unit, despite the fact that the honest couple immediate notified the authorities when they found the bonus prizes in the one case.”

    Which is how you turn patriotic and cooperative citizens into people that wouldn’t piss on a cop if he was on fire. Clearly the second and third order effects of acting like ham fisyed things is lost on FedGov.

  22. Kinda sucks. A crate of older rifles is treated like they discovered a nuclear weapon. Sure can’t trust them non .gov types with automatic weapons. Sad and pathetic.
    The big men that swooped in to secure the dangerous scene and protect us from danger.

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