The National Firearm Act of 1934 (commonly known as the “NFA”) was the first federal gun control act and for the first time created a national registry of purchasers of “Machine guns”, “sawed-off shotguns” and “silencers”. In addition, a $200 tax is imposed on each transfer of any NFA item and waiting periods can be long.
However, with the recent introduction of innovative new guns and technology that seem to have effectively circumvented the NFA, is the NFA still a useful law?
More than two years ago, we wrote about a new and innovative “shotgun” that has since taken the forearms world by storm. Originally introduced as the Mossberg Shockwave and then the Remington Tac-14, these shotguns came with a standard 14 inch barrel and an overall length of just over 26 inches. The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) had examined samples of these firearms and determined that these were legal under the NFA for reasons discussed at greater length in our article about these firearms.
However, the same concepts that apply to the Shockwave and the Tac-14 have now been applied to AR-15 style firearms. By creating AR-15 firearms with a short barrel, no shoulder stock but rather a “Forearm brace” and a foregrip, that is just over 26 inches, firearms manufacturers such as Dark Storm Industries are able to produce a non-NFA AR-15 style firearm with a barrel length of just 12.5 inches. By affixing a forearm brace and a vertical foregrip the firearm is not intended to be fired from the shoulder so it is not a rifle and not intended to be fired by one hand so it is not a pistol.
The most recent innovation from Franklin Armory is their Reformation line of firearms. Generally a rifle, by definition has a rifled barrel; a series of lands and grooves are cut into the interior of the barrel in a spiral pattern to cause the bullet to spin as it leaves the barrel and strikes its target. This spiraling stabilizes the path of the bullet making it more accurate. A shotgun on the other hand has a completely smooth barrel. Franklin Armory, has designed a firearm where the lands and grooves cut into the inside of the barrel, which is only 11.5 inches, are straight, not spiral. So according to the BATF, the firearm is neither a shotgun since it doesn’t have a smooth bore nor a rifle since the barrel doesn’t have lands and grooves that are cut into a spiral pattern. Accuracy will be achieved on these new guns by using special ammunition designed to work in the firearms with the straight cut lands and grooves.
Unlike the Dark Storm and the Shockwave which become non-NFA firearms based upon the lack of a shoulder stock and the use of some kind of foregrip, the Franklin Armory Reformation firearms can have a shoulder stock and are not required to have a foregrip since the barrel itself is unique to the gun and makes it neither a rifle or shotgun.
Other NFA items are similarly available without the delays, paperwork and cost associated with purchasing NFA items. For example a recent article on theTrace.org, in which I was quoted talked about the booming business in homemade silencers. In addition, while Bumpstocks and similar items that can increase the rate of fire of a semiautomatic rifle have just been banned, Franklin Armory’s Binary trigger, which some claim can shoot faster than a fully automatic machine gun, is available for sale in most states.
So, I ask you, if AR-15 pattern firearms with 11.5 inch barrels, shotguns with barrels of 14 inches (or in some cases less), homemade suppressors, and rifles that fire faster than full auto machine guns are all available, is the NFA dead?