The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has ruled that the muzzle brake for the SIG-Sauer MP-X Carbine model is “intended only for use” as a silencer. (We covered the introduction of the MP-X in January, 2013). The timeline of the whole SIG-ATF interaction also serves as an illustration for the glacial pace at which the payroll patriots of ATF do, or don’t do, just about anything:
- 4 Apr 2013: MPX-C submitted by SIG to ATF’s FIrearms Technology Branch (FTB)for evaluation.
- 26 Aug 2013: (note, 153 days later — ATF speed) FTB rules that the muzzle brake is a silencer. It is, says FTB, a “monolithic baffle stack. Welding it to a barrel does not change its characteristics or function.”
- 6 Sep 2013: (10 days later — private sector speed) SIG responds to ATF with the results of tests that show that the device does reduce recoil and muzzle rise, but that instead of silencing a weapon, the gadget the bozos at FTB think is a silencer actually increases the sound level of the rifle’s report. SIG also shows other examples of similar devices that have not been classified by the arbitrary FTB examiners as silencers — just SIGs. SIG’s letter includes comprehensive documentation.
- 21 Feb 2014: (141 days later — ATF speed) The FTB responds, ignoring but not disputing SIG’s evidence, and reasserting that the part looks like it might go in a silencer to FTB’s GED-level experts, therefore, it is a silencer. Amazingly, to the FTB, the fact that it does not silence, suppress, muffle, or reduce sound is irrelevant. So it’s a non-silencing silencer, and SIG can lump it.
- 7 Apr 2014: (47 days later — getting lawyers involved slows even the private sector down) SIG files suit in the US District Court of New Hampshire.
SIG’s is being represented by two excellent attorneys, NH’s Mark Rouvalis and Virginia-based national and international gun-law expert and legal author Stephen Halbrook.
Although the technology exists to conduct clear and simple tests of suppressor noise reduction — one example protocol, developed by Dr Phil Dater, is used by the military — the ATF’s supposed experts at the Firearms Technology Branch don’t have this capability, and so they don’t evaluate items they think are suppressors or suppressor parts on it: instead, they eyeball the piece, based on their past training (which is in-house and shallow), and experience. They do not need to look at ATF precedents — FTB rulings are non-precedential, sometimes ephemeral, and each one is approached de novo. They are never retracted, unless they favor the applicant, and then they’re subject to a revocation process that’s as arbitrary and capricious as the original process was.
ATF may be relying on erroneous media reports, when the MPX was introduced, that the MPX-C muzzle brake was identical to the suppressor innards and “all you need to do is add a registered tube” to have the same suppressor.
But in a very similar case just last month, the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the Innovator Enterprises “Stabilizer Brake” is not a suppressor, and that ATF’s method of guessing the effects of a device based on hunches and eyeballs is “arbitrary and capricious” and not a “reasonable construction” of the law. (Here’s the write-up of the case at Guns.com and at Courthousenews.com; here’s Innovator’s complaint; here’s the Court Ruling — the last two courtesy J Frazer Law). The judge’s opinion is definitely worth reading; it looks like the Department of Justice attorneys played fast and loose with the truth.