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Dimitri Karras' 80% lower (courtesy

I’m going to give The Washington Post credit. Their article  ‘Unfinished receivers,’ a gun part that is sold separately, lets some people get around laws doesn’t once use the words “ghost gun.” That’s the term coined by California State Sen. Kevin de Leon to describe firearms manufactured by Americans from unfinished rifle receivers (a.k.a., 80% lowers). The idea being that these unregistered firearms are a ghostly, ghastly presence – a hidden threat to society. Indeed, the Post files this story under “National Security.” Which is patently ridiculous. So I’m not going to give them that much credit. Especially as they lead with this little gem . . .

It was John Zawahri’s failure to pass a background check that prevented him from buying a firearm in California several years ago.

So the 23-year-old obtained an “unfinished receiver,” the metal piece that holds the critical mechanisms that allow guns to fire, and built an assault rifle himself. Last summer, he went on a rampage at a college in Southern California, firing about 100 rounds and killing five people before police fatally shot him.

Zawahri’s assault became one of the most notorious cases involving unfinished receivers, which are unregulated and have become readily available for purchase online and at some gun stores. Officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives [ATF] view the spread of the receivers as an effort to get around strict gun-control laws, particularly in California. They also acknowledge that they have no idea how many of the components have been made and sold.

It’s hard, perhaps even impossible for antis to get their heads ’round the idea that bad people do bad things regardless of the tools at their disposal. If they can’t buy a gun, they’ll make one. If they can’t make one, they’ll steal one (e.g. Adam Lanza). If they can’t steal one, they’ll use an edged weapon (e.g. the recent mass stabbing in China) or explosives (e.g., the Bath Township massacre) or poison victims (e.g., Harold Shipman) or run them over with a car (e.g., the Venice Beach boardwalk homicides), etc.

Ever since Cain killed Abel (metaphorically speaking), evil finds a way.

The antis’ argument: easy access to efficient killing methods makes it easier for people with murderous impulses to realize their horrific desires. Yes, well, the vast majority of firearms-related homicides are not spree killings. Nor crimes of passion. Again, both common sense and historical data show us that those types of killings can’t be stopped by limiting the availability of deadly weapons. And then there’s the simple, inescapable fact that the rapidly rising number of firearms in the U.S. has been accompanied by an equally dramatic fall in violent crime.

It’s important to note that this trend has nothing to do with FBI background checks on new firearms purchases. As John “Death by Stats” Lott has proven time and time again, background checks do sweet FA to prevent crime. More to the point, what did the background check system do to stop John Zawahri’s rampage? Does the Post share the ATF’s belief that tightening regulations on home-made firearms would reduce firearms-related crime? Yes. Yes it does.

The sale of unfinished receivers, also called “blanks” or “80 percent lower receivers,” is one of the most daunting challenges for law enforcement officials tasked with enforcing firearms regulations. There are no sales records of unfinished receivers, as there are for ordinary gun sales, which means the ATF cannot check with stores for information about buyers when a gun is used in a crime. And because the receivers bear no serial numbers or other markings that would indicate where they were manufactured, guns made with them can’t be traced back to their owners if they are found at a crime scene . . .

Law enforcement officials say their inability to trace the firearms is becoming a major problem. Firearms built with unfinished receivers are increasingly being found at crime scenes and being purchased from suspected gang members by undercover ATF agents.

Local police, officials say, often don’t contact the ATF about the guns because they know they can’t be traced, which makes estimating how many are out there that much more complicated.

The ATF is trying to crack down on the trade in the makeshift guns by targeting shops and individuals who offer to turn the unfinished receivers into functional pieces for firearms.

How many times do police solve crimes by checking the serial number on a gun used in a crime and then tracing it back to its owner? I imagine there might be a few criminals stupid enough to use a traceable gun but I’d bet dollars to [yesteryear’s] donuts that the vast majority of crimes solved are presented to the prosecutor, judge and/or jury without gun tracing evidence.

In fact, it would be nice to have some facts about this homemade lowers -> crime problem. Forgive me for thinking their absence – along with the lack of attribution for the vague generalities provided by the Post – indicates a major logic fail. Or, if your prefer, yet another example of law enforcement beating the drum for gun control. Crime is getting worse! Criminals are getting smarter! We’re important! Give us money! Do what we say! Like that.

Truth be told, the right of Americans to own unregistered, untraceable firearms is enshrined in the Constitution (the bit about “the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”). Whether or not firearms serial number registration is a valuable crime-busting technique is irrelevant. Firearms registration is infringement. The FBI’s NICS background check – a method for the government to keep a record of who bought which firearm when – is also an infringement. Think of it this way . . .

Hate speech is a crime. Should we pass [unconstitutional] laws requiring registration of all writers who publish on websites so the government can know where to find people who publish hate speech? Yes, I know: hiding your identity on the web is as difficult as finding an anti who can provide an accurate definition of an “assault rifle.” The government can find you in a New York minute.

Which makes our ability to keep and bear arms without government surveillance even more important. As 80% lower seller and Marine Dimitri Karras understands well enough.

“In the current day and age we live in, the NSA receives files on almost everyone in our country,” Karras said. “This is a way for people to maintain their privacy.” . . .

“An armed society is a civil society, and it is my belief that the better armed our society is, the more civil it will be,” Karras said. “Most government agencies get upset when people find a way to maintain their privacy. This is a way for people to maintain their privacy.”

Substitute the word “liberty” for “privacy” and we’re there.

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  1. Funny timing as I just sat down from finishing up an 80% lower. One of those super evil EP poly lowers. Always feels good to have built something.

  2. RF,

    I agree with you so much that I may, or may not, own several lower receivers built from various LPK’s. One might have even be a billet recieved with a trigger upgrade. Since they potentially have no serial numbers, there’s really no way to tell if I even have them or not.

    I’d say it’s a real problem, but ARs made from 80% lowers may, or may not, be just as fun and reliable as serialized lowers.

      • …as of today, they are still legal. Things may change of course, especially with Leon crowing about “ghost guns”.
        I’ll be working on my 80% lower this weekend, a nice alumi-nurium model. *8)

        • If I look straight ahead I see two things out of the corner of my eye, one good and one scary. The good first, a ‘Ghost Gun’ that’s seems to be a tack driver, can’t really tell, it’s kind of fuzzy. the bad…Kevin De Leon with his head firmly implanted up his rectum. I keep hoping that this fool will join his Buddy Leland Yee on the defendants table.

        • Stupid question coming, for those who know more than I. Why not stamp a serial number on your completed lower? If nobody but you knows the number, it’s not written down anywhere, how does it hurt anything. And if someone somehow inspects the gun, it has a number, so everything is normal, no? One less “Ghost gun” in the world, spewing ghost reloads all over the place.

      • And that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. My photo and a few firearms were already on display in a “Stand Strong Connecticut” photo, and I’ve got a YouTube video shooting an SR-556, but you’re free to believe whatever you want.

    • But in Detroit there are already thugs robbing people by threatening them with actual long-handled shovels! NICS checks at the local garden center, coming up!

      • But noone robs people who matter with shovels. That’s the difference. An AR made from an 80% receiver, poses a threat to those more equal, who have (armed, of course) bodyguards.

        It’s not like any well indoctrinated progressive has time to give a toot about some destitute in Detroit, who is neither on TV nor being mentioned as a donor there. He’s too busy mindlessly cheering on the guys who are on TV, to be bothered with such trivialities. Just like he is too busy cheering on self proclaimed “labor organizers” to give a toot about people who actually perform useful labor.

  3. The ATF says : Firearms built with unfinished receivers are increasingly being found at crime scenes and being purchased from suspected gang members by undercover ATF agents.” You need a degree in governmentease to understand what the ATF is really saying. Since there are very few reported cases of ARs being used in crimes (other than spree shootings) and then being left at “crime scenes,” you have to realize that what the ATF means by a “crime scene” is a drug lab, a dealer’s house, a car, etc where someone is arrested and contraband is found. Finding “assault weapon” does not mean that anyone was actually shot with it. I think that these BGs/dealers are using them the same way every does–home defense.

    • Yeah… the ATF found one 80 lower at one crime scene… and they they found one more at another crime scene. THE NUMBER OF LOWERS FOUND IS INCREASING!

      • at a dramatic rate even. I mean if they found one, and then found another, that’s a 100% in lowers found!

        • “It can’t be real! Must be a statistical anomaly.”

          It may well be, but noone dumb enough to get all tied in a knot over this, has the brains to understand enough statistics to tell.

  4. Also note the major inconsistency: ATF says more and more of these guns are being found–but then says that fewer and fewer are being submitted by local agencies for trace analysis.

  5. And finally, just like Robert, I really want to know–and have never seen ANYONE explain–what use trace evidence is, particularly since most murders in this country are gang-related and committed with stolen weapons–which means that the identity of the original owner is entirely irrelevant.

  6. Felons do not need to register firearms in their possession, per U.S. v. Haynes (1968).

    But to the point: Anyone with enough machining skills can make guns from nothing. Anyone. You don’t need a Bridgeport. You don’t even need a lathe. You simple need shop skills, steel that you can harden, fire and knowledge.

    If you took all my machinery and tooling away from me and left me with a hand file, fire and some time, I could make a working gun. Would it take a couple months? Yes. Would the gun work at the end of it? Yes.

    The lower-reach guns we used to call “zip guns” and you could use copper tubing, or car antenna bases, etc. Stuff a .22 shell into them, pull back on the finishing nail with a rubber band for a spring, and zip, it would fire.

    This stuff isn’t difficult – except to journalism majors, who seem to know jack about everything, as evidenced from reading their mewling complaints about this, that, and some other thing. Cripes, I wish these pearl-clutching, hanky-sniffing crybabies would go find some real employment.

    • You and me both. Which is why I switched from a Journalism major in… what year was that? 1967!!!

      I could see it coming then. Everything was geared towards pearl-clutching NEWSPAPER “journalism”. I wanted to learn magazine journalism. No such luck.

      Oh well.

  7. It cannot be emphasized enough that what they are freaking out over is explicitly NOT a firearm. You can redefine the point at which a block of raw material becomes a firearm, but regardless of where you set it there must be SOME point before which that object is not a firearm. And from that object a firearm can then be manufactured. No law can change that.

    • Right. We can’t go banning metal. Or wood. Or whatever. You could literally whittle an AR-15 lower receiver from a block of wood and it would work. People have molded them from epoxy. So scale back 80% to 70%, then 50%, and then all of the sudden we’re banning what? Any piece of metal? As we see in Brazil, The Philippines, and elsewhere, people make real, freaking fully automatic firearms from scrap metal. From pipes, sheet metal, pieces of other products, pieces of wood, screws and bolts, springs, etc. You can’t stop this sort of thing.

  8. Wait…. “one of”?…. how many more notorious shootings were committed with firearms built from 80% lowers?

    • They know they’re losing control – the worst thing in the world that can happen to a control freak. And they’re freaking out.

      Nowhere Man, the world is BEYOND your command. If you don’t like it, find another world.

      Because OURS will be free.

  9. I bet there are thousands of people out there trying to circumvent the law with their welding gear and drill presses and hunks of metal.

    Time to start registering craftsmen and tinkerers.

    Don’t let their mild-manner cutesy “handmade” touristy shops fool you. They’re all members of evil sleeper cells who want nothing more than to murder your sweet babies with 900 caliber heat-seeking exploding death bullets from ludicrous capacity clips racked into ghost guns made from your recycled dishwashers. muahahahahahahahaha

    • Someone needs to take them to a gunmaking shop in the mountains of Pakistan, where the craftsmen can duplicate any firearm ever made. Don’t forget to bring smelling salts for the weenies.

    • Circumventing WHAT law? It is NOT illegal by the BS laws being foisted upon us, to make a firearm.

  10. I think the term ‘Ghost Gun’ is kind of DOA given how much what’s his name made himself look like such an ass when he coined it.

    And I have a question here: do we have any actual statistics on guns without serial numbers showing up being used in crimes? Not guns with the number removed. But actual firearms that were made without one. The one mentioned in the article is the first I’ve yet heard of.

    And as a final point… do these ‘journalist’ think that a gun can only be made in a factory? ANY gun can be made in a home machine shop, given enough time, skill, and tools. Have anyone ever looked into the Pakistani arms factory? I saw a video online somewhere of a bunch of guys squatting in what looked like a mud hut hand fabricating pistol parts. Guns are not mystical items that can only be fabricated in the forges of Mt Doom.

    • do these ‘journalist’ think that a gun can only be made in a factory?

      They, and the ruling elite they serve try real hard not to think about it. They’ve built up their entire self image, along with their rationalizations about the way they treat other people, around this delusion of their own critical importance to society. People just building artifacts of modern civilization on their own, without the input, involvement, or permission of their “betters”, shatters that little bubble. It makes it clear it’s they who need the “little people”, not the other way around.

    • Does anyone know where serial numbers even came from? I mean, why we started putting them on guns? Seems kinda silly, I would suspect it had to do with identifying a stolen gun, or proving ownership if it’s disputed. With cars, it also has to do with identifying what particular iteration of a model you are dealing with, for purposes of repairing it, but I can’t picture that with a gun. And if I build it, whose business is it whether I put a serial number on it?

  11. Dollars to donuts really doesn’t mean anything anymore, now that donuts often cost a dollar. It used to be an expression meaning you were so confident in your claim that you’d put up a dollar against something worth way less than a dollar. “I’ll bet a buck for every 5 cents you bet” kind of a thing. But today… ehhhh


  12. It isn’t surprising that 80% lowers have grown in popularity at the same rate that distrust in our government has grown.

    If I trusted the local PD to do their jobs & trusted my own government not to seize my weapons at some later date, I wouldn’t have any need for an unfinished receiver.

    the more the anti’s push for draconian laws, and the more the government pushes for registration, the bigger they can expect the 80% market to grow.

    I’m waiting for someone to point out to mayor billionsberg & the Monsanto mom that they share part of the blame for any future misuse of the weapons caches created due to their push for mag bans & registration. Now there are tens of thousands of scared americans with ammo dumps in their basements & closets – and it’s only a matter of time before those weapons, mags & ammo get stolen & used in crimes. Those crimes wouldn’t be possible without billionsberg & his histrionic puch for draconian firearms laws.

    • Eh… I think it’s kind of like folks who build computers. It’s interesting to do and gives someone more knowledege about how the item works, a better ability to troubleshoot. I don’t really think its about distrust as much as more people finding out about it and giving it a shot. Have a friend (a LEO) who’s built a couple of ARs and will probably build an 80% now just becaues he thinks its an interesting challange and kind of the next logical step.

  13. Such is the price of living in a free Republic. If you don’t like it, take your sister, daughter and wife, and let them be concubines of Fearless Lumpendwarf in Pyongyang.

    If you feel unsafe in a free land, go find yourself a goddamn TYRANNY to live in, and stop trying to turn MY COUNTRY into that place.

    Don’t make me tell you twice.

  14. Yeah, but does it have a 30 caliber clip magazine to disperse with 30 high powered assault bullets in half a second?

  15. The laws don’t stop people from killing people! We need more laws! Now those laws don’t work either! We need more laws!

    When does it stop with these people…

  16. Hate speech isn’t a crime, by the way, but fully protected speech. Any law banning it is Unconstitutional, full-stop.

  17. I’m thinking of setting up a new business selling rectangular blocks of aluminum and milling instructions for 0% lowers. I won’t make any money at it, but I will drive Everyclown for Gun Safety totally batshit crazy and completely piss off the ATF.

    Sounds like fun.

    • The machining drawings are available on the web. BTW watch out for some instructions, you only need 2 end mills a 1/2″ and a 7/16″ extended reach which is the typical corner radius for the pockets (.218) This IS NOT a critical dimension. You need the extended reach end mill, if you choose to use one, to clear the area the buffer tube goes into.

    • I was wondering if that was legal. For example. You get a block of aluminum, and a CNC program. Then you rent a CNC machine plug the program in and make a receiver. Is that legal?

      • Good question. Each thing you mentioned is in itself legal, put them all together, how could it not be? OTOH, I bet selling the product is illegal unless you have bowed to the masters.

      • Not 100% sure, but I think you would need to set up the machine yourself, and press the “go” button yourself. Interesting question though.

      • Technically, yes.

        The ATF, however, has been trying to crack down on shops that rent out their equipment, tooling, fixtures, etc and allow people to crank out a bunch of receivers.

        Listen, people, this isn’t that difficult, and you don’t need a CNC. If you’re willing to actually learn something, all you need is a J-head Bridgeport, a good drawing and some ingenuity. First, don’t try to make a complete lower. Make it in two halves and use dowel pins and screws to put the two halves together. I have one such receiver and it works fine.

        Second, you’ll need to make some fixtures to hold the receiver as work advances. You’ll need to make these ahead of your lower receiver.

        You’ll need a bunch of tooling – various end mills, drills, reamers, a tap for the buffer tube.

        Lastly, there will be some clean-up with a file. Learn how to use a file properly. I’ll give everyone a freebie here: the type of file you want to use on aluminum is called a “Magicut” file by Nicholson. It doesn’t pin as easily as standard mill/hand files in soft metals.

  18. Isn’t it awesome how in the field of firearms compliance with the law becomes “exploiting a loophole?” If you made a change to your house without a permit because the relevant authority told you one wasn’t necessary, are you exploiting a loophole in building codes? Or if you build your new house without prohibited features, are you trying to get around the spirit of the law? I strenuously doubt anyone would argue that but that’s exactly what they say about guns.

  19. “….firing about 100 rounds and killing five people…..”

    Is anyone, anywhere, keeping track of cops vs spree killers, as pertains to shots fired per kill these days?

  20. I think that what we are seeing is a push by the ATF and Big G Government to register and/or eliminate AR style rifles. Long guns, historically, were not registered, only recorded in an FFL’s books. That is changing. California now registers all long gun sales with the DOJ on and after 1/1/14. The DeLeon “Ghost Gun” bill would require the retroactive registration, not just of all rifles built with an 80% lower, but in fact every AR/AK style rifle in the state 9aswell as requiring pre-registration of all blank before legally manufacturing a complete lower). At the same time, we have the ATF shutting down “build parties” using pre-programmed CNC machines–because it makes it too “easy” for the average citizen to complete the milling of an aluminum lower. Similarly, they raided EP Armory and Ares Armor to seize polymer lowers because, again, the “indexing” of the lower by the use of a plug and pre-positioning marks for three holes–makes it too “easy” to build a lower. and last but not least, the ATF is surreptitiously seeking to extend the two-or-more long gun reporting requirement from the four border states to the entire country to slow a “river of guns” that as far as I can tell the Government is happy to keep flowing. The net effect will be de facto gun registration of almost all FFL long gun sales. When added to the dearth–or more accurately near absence of– straw buyer prosecutions, it is reasonable to conclude that preventing straw sales is not the true intent of the program. And the last factor. For all of the felons in possession arrested with AR/AK rifles, for all the sales by felons of AR/AK rifles that they are building and selling for fun and profit (better than selling drugs, yes?), for all the millions of AR/AK rifles in circulation right this moment, including all of the tens (hundreds?) of thousands of 80% builds, there is an almost total absence of violent criminal/ gang activity associated with these guns. So what we see is the Governments–state and federal–spending millions of dollars to “solve” a problem that is not a problem at all. Where is the logic in that? What is the hidden agenda? I hate to wear a tin hat, but it sure seems like I ought to be.

  21. Let me get this straight. Words on a piece of paper (a law) did absolutely nothing to stop a determined criminal from attacking and harming a bunch of people. And this is surprising to someone because … ???

    And just to be clear, shutting down one way for a criminal to acquire a firearm (purchase from a store) had no effect on the criminal finding other ways to acquire a firearm, right?

    If it isn’t obvious, it should be. We cannot prevent determined criminals from attempting to harm good people. The best we can do is be ready to act immediately and effectively to stop them.

  22. I know that 80% receivers for the AR type rifles have been available for many years. My question is, does anyone sell 80% receivers for any other kind of rifle? pistol? shotgun? I ask, because it would seen to me (I’m NOT a gunsmith!) that bolt action rifle receivers would be an easy home workshop project.

    • There are some out there. I’ve seen 80% 1911 frames, 80% AK receivers, and 80% Ruger 10/22 receivers for sale. The only real hitch is it has to be a firearm with thriving aftermarket parts availability, or it’s just a pain to source all the bits and pieces you need to turn it into a working firearm. ARs, 1911s, AKs, and 10/22s certainly all meet that definition.

    • A Remington 700-style receiver would be a good project for a home gunsmith. The Rem700 receiver is a round bar of 4140 steel, and this allows you to do most of your work in a lathe with easy set-up – especially compared to a receiver with a square bottom or flat sides like a Winchester 70, or a Mauser 98.

      The most difficult thing for many home machinists/gunsmiths to do would likely be to drill the bolt raceway (it is a “deep hole” – ie, more than 3 to 5 diameters deep) and then broach the lug races. It can be done the expensive way (buying broaches and an arbor press) or cheaply (with your lathe), but the cheap path means you need some ingenuity on how to set up a workpiece on a lathe. Instead of putting the receiver in a chuck and drilling it to size, you’d drill under-size, then make a fixture to hold your receiver on the compound rest, and make a boring bar that will go through the receiver and be supported by a live center in the tailstock.

      You could then use a toolbit in the same type of boring bar, but with a toolbit with different cutting angles to slowly cut the lug races, as tho your lathe has become a shaper turned inside-out.

      With the expensive path, you buy a broaching set and arbor press and get to work.

      You’d need a mill to cut the ejection port and do the details for the cocking cam, as well as to machine the tang and the trigger/bolt release/etc cuts and pin holes in the receiver. If you want it to have a magazine, you’ll need a mill to cut that opening into the bottom of the receiver as well.

      Making the bolt yourself would be somewhat difficult – best just go buy a bolt and fit it to your receiver. There is no serial # on a bolt, so who cares about buying that?

  23. The part I love in all this is that, other than drug lab raids where they find the actual gun, what is left behind at a crime scene is the bullets.

    The bullets that come out of a rifle barrel are grooved. Those grooves are specific to a manufacturer. Manufacturers are required to register their grooves with the FBI that maintains a database ( Manufacturers are required to maintain records of rifle barrel sales that will trace back to you.

    So, even though there may not be a serial number on your rifle, the feds can find you through the rifle barrel manufacturer.

    So the serial number on the lower reciever is useless in forensics. But please don’t let this small piece of reality intrude on your conversations…

    • Fire a thousand rounds through that barrel, and it will no longer match what ever the manufacturer submitted to the FBI.

    • The specifics of the groove dimensions cannot do anything more than tell them what type of barrel fired the projectile. Even then, more than one manufacturer may have identical dimensions.
      I know for a fact that I rarely buy a barrel from the manufacturer, and that the dealers I buy my barrels from buy them in quantity, not recording any specifics about which one they sell to whom.

    • That doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense. Since I can go buy a barrel with cash and no identification, how could anyone trace it back to me?

      • +1.

        Even if the LEOS know the manufacturer of the barrel used in a crime, they aren’t going to go to every owner of barrels from the same manufacturer, even in a relatively small area.


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