The NFA and Hughes Amendment Strike Again

nfa hughes amendment machine gun

The good-old days

If you’ve spent even just a minuscule amount of time in the firearms world, you are familiar with the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Hughes Amendment portion of the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986. The former regulates machine guns, short barrel rifles, short barrel shotguns, and suppressors. The latter made machine guns manufactured after May 19, 1986 illegal for civilian ownership.

That cutoff date means that there is a finite number of legally-available machine guns in circulation in the United States. When you apply the laws of “supply and demand,” it means that guns before the Hughes Amendment which sold for hundreds or low-thousands of dollars now command a high premium.

How high, you ask? We’re talking tens of thousands of dollars – and not just for a complete firearm. Even full-auto sears, which is the piece that makes the host gun an actual machine gun, sell for princely sums.

Take these two registered, fully-transferable drop-in auto sears that sold on April 24, 2019, at Morphy Auctions in Pennsylvania:

Wilson Arms Drop-In Auto Sear (courtesy Morphy Auctions)

Wilson Arms Drop-In Auto Sear
From the description:
Very highly sought Wilson Arms registered M16 drop-in auto sear which will convert a semi-automatic AR-15 into a fully automatic machine gun. Please note that this lots contains only a registered sear. Serial number clearly visible on this small but very valuable and essential part. Registration shows model as “SP1” with no barrel or overall length of course. CONDITION: Very good in the white with signs of use. These do not surface for sale very often. THIS IS A NATIONAL FIREARMS ACT ITEM AND REQUIRES BATF APPROVAL PRIOR TO TRANSFER. THIS ITEM IS FULLY TRANSFERABLE ON AN ATF FORM 3 OR 4.

The auction estimate was $12,500 – $17,500. It sold for $24,600.

 

B and B Drop-In Auto Sear (courtesy Morphy Auctions)

B and B Drop-In Auto Sear
From the description:
Very desirable B AND B enterprises registered M16 drop-in auto sear which will convert a semi-automatic AR-15 into a fully automatic machine gun. Please note that this lots contains only a registered sear. Manufacturer and serial number clearly visible on this small but very valuable and essential part. Registration shows model and caliber as “NA” with no barrel or overall length of course on incoming e-filed transfer form. Current Form 3 indicates, “BAUER, RICHARD L DBA B AND B Enterprises” as the manufacturer. CONDITION: Near excellent matte blue finish with little to no signs of use. Exceptionally sought after little piece. THIS IS A NATIONAL FIREARMS ACT ITEM AND REQUIRES BATF APPROVAL PRIOR TO TRANSFER. THIS ITEM IS FULLY TRANSFERABLE ON AN ATF FORM 3 OR 4.

The auction estimate was $12,500 – $17,500. It sold for $27,675.

It’s hard to believe that something so small could cost so much. In fact, the two sears are so small that they were each put into a little bag and then taped to a brightly colored piece of paper so that they couldn’t be misplaced!

Here’s the photo I took of them before the auction:

Auto sears taped to paper to avoid being lost.

Think about that for a second. Two itty bitty, teeny tiny pieces of non-precious metal that you can fit in the palm of your hand cost a total of $52,275. All because of gun control.

Crazy.

comments

  1. avatar Texican says:

    And when the NFA gets repealed they’ll drop in value. I wonder if the new owners would fight that?

    1. avatar Shire-man says:

      Yes. Yes they would. I’ve had more than one conversion with a “stamp collector” that ended with, paraphrasing, “I’ll fight repeal because I’m special and nobody will take that from me.” Even among the anybody can get SBR and suppressor crowd I’ve seen this mentality. Government approval must be one hell of a drug.

      Douchebags aplenty.

      1. avatar JasonM says:

        I have a stack of stamps for suppressors and SBRs. If we repeal the NFA, or just remove one or both of those categories, I’ll burn my forms and do the happy dance…and then go buy/build more suppressors and SBRs.

        1. avatar strych9 says:

          Burn them? Fuck that. I’ll be framing mine as conversation pieces.

          “What’s that?”

          “A Tax Stamp affixed to a Form 4.”

          “What’s that and why do you have it?”

          [Insert brief history lesson here.]

        2. avatar JAlan says:

          That’s actually something to think about. The stamps themselves could become collectibles. After all, people collect pre-AWB rifles for its own sake. Maybe you won’t get $20K+ out of it, but surely it would be worth something.

        3. avatar Dan in Detroit says:

          In my stamp collection, I have a $200 stamp on a $5 transfer item form.
          That’s a good one to have. It shows the ATF isn’t as perfect as everybody thinks…

      2. avatar Hal_greaves says:

        Most of them are old boomers that won’t make it the next 20-30 years anyways. Their children likely won’t give a crap about the collection and let it rot, let the government add it to their collection or give it away to museums.

      3. avatar barnbwt says:

        That’s funny; I’ve never seen that attitude myself at MG shoots, gun shows, or anywhere else. Dbags like that generally don’t shoot their investments…but jealous tools blaming a person for spending their own money & not the government & gun rights orgs that make the price too high for them to buy themselves, sure fit that description.

      4. avatar Aholio says:


        I’ve had more than one conversion with a “stamp collector” that ended with, paraphrasing, “I’ll fight repeal because I’m special and nobody will take that from me.”

        C’mon, those conversations didn’t actually happen. I get that people believe folks say stuff like this, and perhaps some actually do. But in 30 years I’ve never heard anyone say it in the MG community, and somehow you’ve heard it more than once? In your imagination, perhaps.

        You don’t need to lie about it, man. Envy is an ugly thing.

        1. avatar cawpin says:

          Exactly. People who shoot their machine guns would be very happy if Hughes went away.

      5. avatar Nigel the expat says:

        I had a canoe-load of SBRs and suppressors before I was stupid enough to put them all in a canoe…

        That said, I’d be happy to celebrate the revocation of the NFA. That would mean more and cheaper suppressor, and no stupid tax to have a short barrel. The stupid little ‘XYZ trust’ on the side of my SBRs would be a relic of times gone by.

    2. avatar Swarf says:

      Would? They do.

    3. avatar Jeremy D. says:

      You would think that a person spending $20k+ on one of these has more than enough disposable income. Probably a drop in the bucket for them

      1. avatar Hopeislost says:

        I saved up for 3 years to buy mine and I would not call myself particularly wealthy. I just worked a bunch if overtime with a goal set .

    4. avatar Hal J. says:

      The NFA will likely never be repealed, sadly.

      1. avatar pwrserge says:

        Repealed? No. Struckl down? Definitely possible. All we need is two more conservative seats on the SCotUS.

        1. avatar Hal J. says:

          Even given that, I have my doubts.

        2. avatar Daily308 says:

          Yeah, not even Scalia would overturn the NFA restrictions. It would take conservative judges to the right of Scalia. Maybe, but we’re talking long term . . . vague probabilities.

        3. avatar 191145 says:

          Maybe the district court decision in CA striking down CA’s magazine ban will have far rippling affects . When the 9th circus overrules the lower court SCOTUS will have to Schiff or get off the pot . The rational argument used by the judge is written in such a way, I find it hard to believe the liberal justices could ignore the constitutional precedence . Cross your fingers, it very well could happen .

      2. avatar Salty says:

        Not with that attitude!!! Govt of by and for the people. If the people is a buncha defeatists like you then sure I guess not.

      3. avatar Justsomeguy says:

        I doubt the NFA will ever go away, but Hughes might.

      4. avatar Chad Carroll says:

        It wasn’t that Scalia wouldn’t overturn the NFA. The unknown fact is that Justice Kennedy required parts to do with the NFA remain in tact in order for him to be the 5th vote. That’s the sad truth. Say Gorsuch or Kavanagh was on the court at that time I firmly believe they would have struck it down, but never forget it was Justice Kennedy who is responsible for some of the verbiage in Heller that didn’t come from Scalia exclusively on this topic. Scalia would have wrote differently if Kennedy didn’t insist. Thinking about it Scalia had no choice because they reasonably knew that it would come down to a 5-4 decision so of course he had to write it the way he did. It sucks that our right to bear arms was literally almost taken from us in the 5-4 decision. The founding fathers would have declared war if it would have been the other way because they intended for us to have any weapon commonly owned including machine guns!!

    5. avatar Jake J says:

      Sorry, but the NFA won’t be repealed, nor will the Supreme Court overrule it. This is not what you want to hear, but anyone who reads District of Columbia v Heller will see it. Start on p. 50 of Scalia’s opinion.

  2. avatar Jay in Florida says:

    No crazy is that someone would pay that much for a small piece of metal.

    1. avatar FedUp says:

      They’re paying for the impossible to replicate tax stamp. Sort of like a multi million dollar collector in which every part except the VIN is expendable.

      The Wilson looks like a beat up piece of crap, but I bet it can be rebuilt to like new, for more effort than it would take to make one from scratch.

      1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

        Build up the surfaces with welding and then machine new surfaces?

        1. avatar strych9 says:

          No need for complicated machining.

          It’s small enough I’d TIG it… also because TIG is the best way to weld, fuck you SMAW guys and MIG, don’t be a MIGger. (Kidding SMAW guys. Not kidding MIGgers, you aren’t welders.)

          Tack it to a table because I’m too lazy to make a jig, fill in gouges with appropriate filler metal, break tack, flip, repeat filling procedure, break tack #2, lock in vice, smooth with angle grinder, touch up with Dremel or equivalent, hit it with scotch brite on a pneumatic rotary tool to polish. Done. 30 minutes tops with a Cold Air Gun for cooling. Used to spend half a 12 hour shift doing that sort of shit on $500,000 units. Same process, just bigger. Fixed a lot of irreplaceable auto parts for classics and collectors items that way too.

          If I know/like you I’d do it for free. As a business…. $20-$50 depending on what it’s made of. As an “NFA business”… well, what’s it worth to ya?

        2. avatar Stephen M says:

          As a TIG guy, I agree, MIG guys aren’t welders lmao. Makes me sad, some of the receivers I’ve seen MIG’d together by some idiot.

  3. avatar RWE says:

    No, supply and demand is not a crazy concept. What’s actually crazy is the egregious breach of the Constitution that has been accepted by the citizens of the United States. The government has no authority under the Constitution to regulate firearms. The NFA as well as the Hughes amendment are illegal under the simple reading of the Constitution. At least as far as I can understand. These outright abuses of congressional power, (in my opinion) have put us directly where we find ourselves today. The power hungry in our government found they can ignore the Constitution with impunity, so they do. It gets worse everyday.

  4. avatar George from Alaska says:

    I worked three to four jobs simultaneously most of my life including Firefighter/Cardiac medic, oil and lubricants sales, a FFL/SOT store and construction. I had fun going to college, partied a bit – mostly pizza and beer.. Watched friends snort a fortune of coke up their noses, buy overpriced time-shares in Hawaii and get new jet skis and snow machines every year, not invest in deferred comp or IRA’s or mutual funds. So now I’m retired from one job after 34 years and am still relatively young and am buying my second select fire MP-5 with a registered trigger pak. Yes, those little pieces of metal are expensive but that’s my hobby and I saved up for it. I could buy one every six months without touching my savings and I don’t have any extraordinary skills and was not born into money.
    I feel sorry for all of the invulnerable people I used to know. Best hunting/camping friend is dead from lung cancer spread everywhere from smoking three packs of Camels a day, second best hunting and camping friend dead from Hep-C and and advanced liver cancer probably from using dirty needles, a fellow worker dead at barely 50 from being over 400 pounds of zero exercise, another big guy bed ridden from a massive stroke – will never work or drive again.

    1. avatar CarlosT says:

      You are to be congratulated on your discipline and forbearance. It has obviously served you well.

      More to the point of this article, the NFA and the Hughes Amendment specifically, is a ridiculous violation of the Second Amendment. It also causes ridiculous distortions of the free market where parts that would retail for $100 go for tens of thousands.

      1. avatar barnbwt says:

        And using Commerce Clause justification, no less, lol

        1. avatar Vic Nighthorse says:

          Almost every law that is unconstitutional was justified via the commerce clause. Even the partial birth abortion act of 2003 was justified under the “interstate and foreign commerce” clause.

      2. avatar E. Zach Lee-Wright says:

        If you can get approved to buy a NFA item you can also get approved to be a dealer. A dealer can buy new full autos in order to potentially sell them to police departments and other LEO organizations. So quit whining. You can legally buy ANYTHING if you are willing to navigate a few loopholes.

        1. avatar Nickel Plated says:

          So speaking up about infringements on our rights is “whining” now?

          You’re not supposed to navigate ANY loopholes. That’s not how rights work.

        2. avatar Nickel Plated says:

          To add, becoming an NFA dealer is not exactly just “a few loopholes” you seem to be really oversimplifying the process.

          The ATF doesn’t just hand those licenses out.

        3. avatar FedUp says:

          And what’s the license cost, $3k a year or something?

          Although, the cost difference between a new gun and a worn out transferable gun might pay for quite a few years of that…

  5. avatar Andrew Lias says:

    Grabbers are stupid if they think that anything but willingness to obey the law is keeping anyone from making something like this. Period. I could (but wouldn’t) make one of these in an afternoon with a few files, a right angle grinder and some steel plate. Maybe a welder to help out where I boo-booed.

    I hope the war comes but those who be don’t realize how ugly it’s going to be when everyone starts uncorking what they have and making more that never was restrained to go with it.

    1. avatar CarlosT says:

      Exactly right. To expand further on this point, fully automatic guns are manufactured by guys in caves and favelas with hand tools. A lot of submachine gun designs are dead simple.

      Guns are late 19th to mid 20th century technology. People freak out about 3D printing, but if your community has the technology to repair bicycles it can make guns.

      1. avatar Cloudbuster says:

        The Firearms Blog regularly features sub-machine guns illegally manufactured in Brazil. Some are of decent quality. They also feature AMRs and machine guns manufactured by various rebel factions in the Middle East.

        Gun grabbers are crazy if they think they can put the genie back in the bottle.

        1. avatar Andrew Lias says:

          The one part they’d probably rightly be freaked out about is mags. The ability to print reliable, high quality mags makes the rest fall into place. If they can be mass produced then the rest of a basic 9mm SMG comes into place without too much work. A full auto only one is even easier. Shoot they produced something like 500-700 in German occupied Warsaw during the war.

      2. avatar Red in CO says:

        Very true. A full auto only open bolt submachine gun is about as mechanically complex as a stapler

    2. avatar Kyle says:

      I was just saying that too my wife.

      How many bangers with a brother who took a shop class in high school have converted their gun of choice to a fully auto just for giggles.

      Sad reality, the bangers probably discovered what the military discovered 70 years ago. A giggle switch just burns ammo and makes you miss.

      Only the government idiots think the fully auto gun is a death beam of destruction.

    3. avatar edward kenway's ghost says:

      W1 or W2 tool steel, worked to the right size, tempered in a forge, and quenched.
      At some point after banning the tools and kit to fabricate illegal items, you might as well ban the knowledge, too. For good measure take hands and heads, as well.
      We’ll see how that works out.

  6. avatar Michael says:

    It has nothing to do with gun control and everything to do with power…why do you think it addresses, “all enemies, foreign and domestic”, read, learn, teach and eradicate ignorance…or stop sniveling…-30-

  7. avatar Timothy Toroian says:

    Hughes was an ass. He also the ambassador to Panama when gave the canal to them. Slick Willie appointed him. He snuck that amendment in because he knew people wanted to enact the spending bill it was attached to. I wonder if we could get those dicks to pass a law that amendments that have nothing to do with the original bill will not be attached. Maybe we could get a national referendum. Maybe with a super majority, we could get that repealed. It hasn’t prevented anything and just made some people rich.

    1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

      {Hughes amendment}

      “Maybe with a super majority, we could get that repealed.”

      We won’t need congress. In the ‘Miller’ decision, “Weapons of war” were expressly declared protected by the 2A.

      I’m gonna laugh my ass off at the “Weapons of war” crowd in “Everytown” when that comes back to bite them on their asses. Nothing like 100 years of ‘tradition’ for Kavanaugh to see things our way…

      1. avatar Andrew Lias says:

        What’s funny is I would argue that “weapons of war” ARE the protected guns. Not a duck gun, deer rifle or squirrel shooter. The militia clause they love to quote also screws them in this regard. It’s not to establish a duck blind or a deer stand the rights to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

  8. avatar Tec's Dad says:

    My STEN MkII was bought in ’87 for $350; today is has increased in value manifold…

    1. avatar edward kenway's ghost says:

      STEN sub-guns are a marvelously simple 9mm design. Very highly sought after historical items for those lucky owners who have them.
      I’d absolutely LOVE a manufacturer to make a modern STEN MkII in semi-auto. It could be easily done and given contemporary, well-engineered parts, be just as accurate and ridiculously cheaper to buy for retro firearms fans – like me – who’d buy it in a heartbeat.

      1. avatar Andrew Lias says:

        Part of the reason it hasn’t been made as a new production gun is there’s still a gajillion kits out there. I mean it’s taken decades for them to finally come to the point of almost drying up. Still get em for under 200 and near 100 depending on the model.

        1. avatar E. Zach Lee-Wright says:

          Bingo! It is much like the liberals who like the Justice Robert’s opinion ensuring same sex marriage denying the opinion also comes in handy arguing for polygamy. They can’t accept giving any rights to people they see as conservative. Hypocrites all.

  9. avatar Ben says:

    Select fire weapons are like horses. Sure I like riding one every once in awhile. But I could never own one, cost of care and feed would kill me. I’ll save gorse back riding for special occassions.

  10. avatar barnbwt says:

    Coming soon to a bump stock near you (j/k no one will ever pay for a post sample bump stock, lol)

  11. avatar barnbwt says:

    So…at a certain point the artificial value of obeying the law surpasses the criminal penalty, and it’s also highly unlikely forged tax stamp documents would come under scrutiny without a lot of other criminal activity drawing attention, and now we have states/cities saying they will not be actively prosecuting or referring these cases to the feds, who are too few to realistically enforce these laws alone.

    Do what thou will is about to be the entire law.

    1. avatar Hopeislost says:

      As I recall there has only been 2 to 3 actual crimes committed by legally registered M/Gs owners since 1936 and funny enough one of them was a cop. For the most part NFA owners are probably some of most law abiding firearms owners in general due to the stiff penalties for violations and the general value of the firearms themselves.

      As a LEO myself, most run of the mill officers have little knowledge of NFA firearms and would not know a fraudulent stamp and there is no way to confirm this unless the NFA branch is contacted directly.

      The only fraud I have heard about with NFA stamps have been private party sellers on some of the gun boards attempting sell firearms they do not own . The other fraud was some dealers slowly changing some Serial Numbers and firearm descriptions from a low end M/G to High end M/G.

  12. avatar DD says:

    But,But…Hannity said Ronnie was the bestest president ever!…hmmmm?

  13. Goverment overreach and political corruption within some [email protected] organizations…Destorying the American U.S. Constitutional-Bill of Rights Since the early 20th century….

  14. avatar TheUnspoken says:

    “If you’ve spent even just a minuscule amount of time in the firearms world, you are familiar with the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Hughes Amendment portion of the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986.”

    I don’t really think this is the case. If you have spent a miniscule amount of time in the firearms world, you probably think machine guns are banned and only the military has them. You might think ARs are M16s, and that silencers are for ninja assassins. You may not know much beyond “muh Glock.”

    I know a lot of gun owners who don’t get beyond a plinker .22 pistol and their home defense Glock, they don’t even know about concealed carry regulations… and silencers, SBR, SBS, aow, FFL, c&r, and machine guns would blow their minds.

  15. avatar Stateisevil says:

    I assure everyone of one thing. The NFA will never be repealed. Semi-automatic rifles will be added to it one day however.

    1. avatar DavidT says:

      It was originally intended to cover everything but bolt, pump and lever rifles and shotguns. Wiser (?) heads prevailed and removed handguns and semiautos before it was passed.

  16. avatar GrannyGuns says:

    People that own those and all Machine guns don’t want the NFA repealed nor do most dealers and manufacturers who are big donors.

  17. avatar possum, destroyer of arachnids says:

    I can convert a MAK90 to full auto with a little piece of spring steel.

  18. avatar Mad says:

    Bring back full autos repeal the 1934 act

  19. avatar feetpiece says:

    The Hughes Amendment inadvertently created a privileged class of firearm owners. The trick to overturning it is demonstrating to the court that it discriminates against minorities and other oppressed people who can’t afford the price of admission.

    If it can be shown that the majority of registered machine-gun owners belongs to a specific ethnic group the problem will sort itself out 😉

  20. avatar GlockMeAmadeus says:

    Or you could join the rainbow coalition diversity seeking gender fluid police force and get them for free!

  21. avatar lucky43113 says:

    You can thanks the NRA for this they help write the NFA and convinced Reagan to sign the Hughes Amendment

  22. avatar Geoff says:

    It’s the women’s fault we have so many anti-gun laws today.
    It all started with the Temperance Movement in Ohio in 1874 to ban alcohol.
    http://www.history.com/topics/womens-history/womans-christian-temperance-union
    This led to the 18th. Amendment. Prohibition.
    On October 28, 1919, Congress passed the Volstead Act providing for enforcement of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which was ratified nine months earlier. Known as the Prohibition Amendment, it prohibited the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors” in the United States.
    Crime went through the roof during the 1920s and 1930s. Bootlegging, Chicago Mobs, bank robberies, etc.
    OH! Let’s let women vote!
    The Nineteenth Amendment (Amendment XIX) to the United States Constitution prohibits the states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex. It was adopted on August 18, 1920.
    And we have been screwed by women voting Democrat for the most part since then.

    Then Prohibition was repealed in 1933 because IT DIDN’T WORK!
    On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment was ratified, as announced in this proclamation from President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
    The 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment of January 16, 1919,
    ending the increasingly unpopular nationwide prohibition of alcohol.
    Because of the high rate of crime during Prohibition, Congress passed and the President signed the 1934 National Firearms Act in violation of the 2nd. Amendment (SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED) to regulate and tax machine guns, short barrel rifle and shotguns and “silencers”. Handguns were also included but removed.
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Firearms_Act
    Since it was never challenged the Government deemed it OK to further infringe on the right “to keep and bear arms”.
    And they have been doing it ever since. And Charles Rangle (D) is solely responsible for the Hughes Amendment passage and signed by President Reagan.
    http://www.everydaynodaysoff.com/2013/11/08/cake-and-compromise-illustrated-guide-to-gun-control/
    So if you want to blame anyone for gun control, blame the women.
    If the 18th Amendment had never even been introduced, there may have never been the NFA which was in response to the crime of the 1930s during Prohibition.
    Better to try for repeal of the Hughes Amendment than the NFA.

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