Category Archives: Weapons Accessories

Defoor Strikes Again

Needed: riser mount for an Aimpoint.
On hand: Aimpoint, no riser mount, odds and ends.
Input: A now old-guy’s memory of “how we did it back when this stuff was shiny and new”
Result: Aimpoint on a section of Yankee Hill Machine 5/8″ rail. Mission accomplished.

Defoor improv riser mount

If you’ve been around a while, you probably have junk like that in your junk box — sights and mounts and rails for stuff you’re never going to mount again, ’cause it’s as obsolete as a crank handle for a Model T. Also, before we move on, note that Mr Old School who cooked this up is not using a 90s-vintage Aimpoint, but a modern Micro T1. Optics are one of the fastest-moving areas of sooting technology, and if you stand still here you get left behind. Still, as the if-it’s-stupid-and-it-works-it-ain’t-stupid riser shows, the knowledge and cunning you developed 20 years ago (for some of us, 40 years ago?) can still be applied.

This Old Man was Kyle Defoor, who was around back when all this stuff was new and putting it together was hard. (Heck, 20 years before him, guys were doing it with electrical tape — green 100-mile-an-hour tape was still too hard to pry out of Supply — and/or radiator-hose clamps. Look at some of the Son Tay mounts for the Single Point red-dot, or some of the Armson OEG carrying handle mounts we used after that. They were stupid, but they worked. Sort of). Here it is in his own words:

In the mid 90’s when I was first issued an Aimpoint there were no mounts commercially available. ARMS and Wilcox were still a few months out. It was common practice to go to the armory and acquire one Badger Ordnance 30mm scope ring and a 5/8″ riser to use to attach the red dot to the then new flat top rail. The BO scope ring was of course from the snipes and the 5/8″ riser was a holdover from the MP5 days when using a gas mask and needing more height.

Here you see my modern version using the stock AP Micro mount and a Yankee Hill 5/8″ rail piece….not because I want to revisit my past but because it’s all I had available where I was at…..totally freaked some new guys out….and they lost money

And because it’s Defoor, there’s a few prime sarky hash tags:


And the primest of all:


It’s our observation that bagging on New Guys is a self-perpetuating tradition; when a former New Guy becomes an Old Guy he has a lot of pent-up hostility to vent on today’s innocent New Guys. It seems to us that this is more an aspect of SEAL than SF culture, from all the SEALs we’ve known over the years. In SF a New Guy is expected to be learning, sure, but so is an Old Guy, because the mission, situation, and technology is constantly changing. If a New Guy wasn’t a productive member of an ODA on arrival — even though he’s maybe six to ten years from his peak — we’re doing the SFQC wrong. (Especially true for officers, who don’t have six years on an ODA to improve. They’re good right out of the gate, or it’s going to be an unhappy, ineffective team).

To orient yourself in SOF gun history, Kyle’s talking about a time about five years after the MP5’s Waterloo in Grenada, when we had all learned to love the 5.56mm carbine (and had reached a modus vivendi with 14.5″ because it ran so much better than the old 10-11.5″ barrels). But the guns we had came from Colt in several models: M16A1 Carbine, M16A2 Carbine, then XM4. Sometime around 1993 or 4 we started getting guns with removable carrying handles and picatinny-rail flat-tops, to which, at first, we had nothing to attach but the carrying handle. How you got from A (flat top) to B (mounted optic) was on you, for a while. (By the way, at different times we received both “M16A2 Carbines” and “XM4 Carbines” with both flat tops and A2-style permanent carrying handles, direct from the factory. Only some of the M16A2 Carbines had the lousy three-round burst. All these oddball transitional guns were later turned in for standard SOCOM M4A1s).

In retrospect, getting the flattops months and years before optics was probably just the incompetence of the supply system, as it appeared to us at the time to be. But it could have been sheer brilliance: “Let’s put these out here and see what the SF, SEALs and direct action guys do with them, and when they’ve worked out the best way, we’ll adopt it.” Because that’s pretty much what happened. (True, some of the private-purchase mounts like Wilcox and, later, Larue, were a lot better than the issued ones, but the issued ones are OK).

Finally, if you’re interested in technique you ought to be paying some attention to Defoor. We have not personally attended his training but we believe Our Traveling Reporter has; he was, in fact, the one that turned us on to the guy.

Geissele (ALG Defense) AK Trigger

Bill Geissele’s wife’s company, ALG Defense, makes products for more of a mass-market than the very sweet, fairly simple, Geissele AR-15 triggers that live in more than a few SOF M4s and Mk. 11/12/18s, etc. (Indeed, sometimes the Geisele triggers are authorized MFP 11 or unit purchases, and sometimes they are installed on a catch-me-F-me basis by unit weapons men or armorers). Along with the triggers for full-on M4s and HK416s, Geissele makes improved triggers in both single-stage and two-stage variants for a wide range of semi ARs. They’re not cheap, they’re not always in stock, but they’re good.

ALG Defense makes simpler AR triggers — and now, an AK trigger, imaginatively coded AKT. In this video Bill explains the objectives this trigger meets and talks about some of the challenges involved in designing it.

The AK, Bill says, “has a ton of sear engagement.” That’s what you, the shooter, perceive as the very long and very smooth takeup of the typical AK trigger.  (The SKS trigger has a similarly long, smooth engagement, suggesting that this may have been a standing Soviet / Russian design objective).

The result is an AK trigger that fits a variety of common receivers on domestic, imported, and kit-built AKs, and that reduces the trigger pull force and duration (including that all important very long sear dwell) significantly.

For example, Bill shows a graph of a stock AK trigger versus the ALG AKT; the stock trigger moves about 0.150″/4mm and takes about 4.5-5 lb. of pressure during that sear dwell period. The AKT takes up the slack more quickly and seems to come in about 0.065″ and just under 3.5 lb.

At about 8:30 he shows a 3D model (in Autodesk Inventor) of the trigger and walks through its function.

It fits some AKs with no fitting, but because of the wide variation in AK safeties, some AKs need a roll pin positioned so as to contact the safety. It’s explained in the video and in the AKT’s instructions.


Lee Williams: Down With Poly AK Mags!

Lee Williams has had it with polymer AK mags, and this is his reason:

The mag blew up while sitting unattended in Lee’s safe, and the resulting chaos was waiting for him when he opened it up.

I’m done with polymer AK mags
Posted on April 30, 2015 by Lee Williams

I had a surprise last night when I opened my safe.

The top of a loaded polymer AK mag had broken off for reasons unknown, spraying 28 loaded rounds and bits of plastic all over my safe.

The spring was sticking halfway out of the top of the mag. I found the follower behind an SKS.

via I’m done with polymer AK mags – The Gun Writer.

We agree that this is an unhappy thing. We don’t agree that all polymer mags are created equal. (Ask any Glock owner who’s tried both Glock mags and the temptingly cheap Korean knock-offs). Even all polymer AK mags.

The Russians were the first to issue a synthetic magazine widely, and in the 1970s began producing polymer magazines with reinforcements in critical areas for the AKM and AK-74 rifles. These are the characteristic orange mags. They’re a good bit heavier than modern polymer mags, a lot heavier than US or Western-style aluminum or even steel mags, but are a lot heavier than thick-sheet Russian AK mags. Ivan’s polymer/steel composite-construction mags are about as durable as the steel mags they replaced (and significantly lighter). Collectors call these “Bakelite” mags, but the material does not appear to be Bakelite at all — it’s some other form of thermosetting; a Finnish article reprinted on a US site, minus most of its original photos unfortunately, says that it’s “fiber-reinforced phenol.” (We wonder if that’s a mistranslation that should have been phenolic instead).

To our disappointment, an unclas tech intel bulletin on the mags that we know was out there, was not available on DTIC. There is an interesting page on the net that lays out various mags for 5.45mm-class weapons, and some of that transfers to the 7.62mm versions. Anyway, we haven’t brought one of these mags to our injection-molding expert friend, but the original kind of feels like urea plastic to us. The Circle-10s are something lighter, maybe even ABS (ordinary polystyrene, like in hard-plastic toys).

The mag that disassembled itself on Lee was indeed a Bulgarian “Circle-10” mag, a marking associated with Arsenal, and as you can see, it is by design not reinforced, neither with steel lips nor fiber reinforcement.

What makes a mag fail like this? Lee seems to think that the guilty party is leaving the mag loaded for a length of time. We have our doubts about that and would be more inclined to suspect the cumulative effects of age and ultraviolet-ray exposure (plain ordinary sunlight, which it certainly couldn’t have gotten in his safe). But the durability of different AK mags, even different Bulgarian mags, is widely variable.

We also don’t think loading only 28 rounds buys you anything. The difference in pressure is nominal. This goes back at least as far as Vietnam and was a ritual practiced by troops (although, there it was putting 18 rounds in a 20-round magazine) who were neither trained on the rifle nor given a supply of replacement magazines. It was something they did to appease the M16 Gods

The plain ugly fact is that magazines are, by design, expendable items and you need to start thinking of them that way — they’re the toilet-paper of small arms, necessary but not especially durable or reusable. And just like toilet paper, some brands are better than others. Lee, for example, probably should dump all of his circle-10s that are the same age as the one that failed, because their clock is ticking, too. Sorry to be The Bear of Bad News.

In the real world, private owners and armies alike are reluctant to purge their bad magazines because the mags represent a considerable cost — both the sunk cost that was spent on them and is lost for good, and (more germanely) the replacement cost for new mags. It is possible (although not necessarily economical or practical) to repair or overhaul metal, especially steel, magazines, but synthetic materials are harder to repair and rebuild.

AR-15 Speedloader, Home Made

The neat thing about this homemade loader, similar to the earliest bench Magloaders, is, well, that it’s homemade. Looks like it could be routed out relatively easily. The loader video has been ripped off by various non-linking aggregators (who do you assclowns think you are? or BuzzFeed?) so we note that you should have the option to “Open on YouTube” in our post of it.

The poster, Bryan Lilly, writes:

My uncle made this speed loader and it takes about 20 seconds to load a p-mag. Update: Due to overwhelming positive response, my uncle is considering options to bring the speed loader to market. Please be patient and I will keep you informed of any new developments.

The real plus with this one is the “dish” area for straightening out and lining up your rounds before sweeping them into the curved “load” area.

While this one appears to be routed, someone without a router could make something like this by using any precise saw and making it in laminated layers.

Here’s another version that lacks the “dish” aggregation area, but it has something else that’s pretty neat.

Did you see the neat thing? You did not, because it’s the build videos. That’s pretty neat! This one is built with a bandsaw, and building it up in layers.

Video 1 (Build it by eyeball — about 30 minutes):

Video 2: Build it using templates you can buy from Larry at

Note that Larry’s templates only work with 30 round GI/STANAG magazines, not with pMags or any other non-standard mag.

There are a number of other DIY mag loaders out there, but these should open your mind to what is possible.

Ay, yi yi yi yi Relief….

This guy seems to shop at al-Bubba the gunsmith:

Aye Relief


These ISIL imb-isils are answering the shouted question, “How many brain cells have you got?” Note the cat in the second line with two fingers, and the guy in the back, behind the clown with the Syrian-flag headband, holding up all five fingers? They’re the brains of this outfit.

But Bubba is their armorer. Putting the scope where the rail is, not where the scope needs to be, is a bit like the drunk who was looking for his car keys a couple of blocks from where he lost them, “because there’s a streetlight here!” Let’s zoom in a little closer on this lash-up, because the picture’s kind of dark. We’ll lighten it with an Auto Levels tool and see if that helps the Bubba job stand out (it embiggens, but has lousy resolution).


The scope is on a who-needs-a-jeezly-cheekweld height mount, and seems to be mounted at an angle to the bore better measured in degrees than in Minutes of Angle or Miliradians. But wait, what’s that opposite the scope?

Why, yes, it is two fore-grips, because Allah helps those who keep a grip, evidently. The clown is gripping a Grip-pod, and right behind it there’s a folding grip, which looks to us like the Command Arms product. (Funny. Grip-pod doesn’t list ISIL when they mention “Who Uses Grip-Pod“. We thought “there is no such thing as bad publicity!”)

And, of course, for extra Tactical Operator fetish points, al-Bozo here is pulling the old two-magazines-and-electrical-tape spare ammo storage trick. Somewhere, Gecko45 just had a nocturnal emission.

This Arab assclown is undoubtedly more of a threat to himself and those around him than he is to any enemy other than an unarmed child, but then, that’s the history of Arab arms in a nutshell, isn’t it?

Despite that, these inept brain-deads have been beating, defeating, hell, clobbering, the guys that were well disposed to us in particular and to civilization in general. We live in interesting times.


Brownell’s “Edge” — Like Amazon Prime, but for Us.

If you’d like us, at some time or other you’ve probably thought, “Gee, wouldn’t it be cool if Brownell’s or Midway had something like Amazon Prime.” Wouldn’t it?

Well, Midway hasn’t been heard from yet, but Brownell’s now does offer such a thing; they call it Brownell’s Edge.


In the gun and sporting goods world, deals like this can be good or not so good. For example, Sportsman’s Guide has a “Member’s Only” club which we found to be an incredible pain in the neck to operate. Coupled with the cellar-dweller quality of much of their merchandise, we let it lapse. So how does Edge stack up?

Amazon Prime is the daddy of loyalty programs. Prime’s “killer app” — free two-day shipping on most in-stock items — is a sweeter deal than Brownell’s is offering under Edge. Instead, with Edge you get free standard shipping, and discounts (the size of which do not seem to have been revealed) on 2-day or overnight shipping. There are also surcharges for FFL or signature-required items. (Of course, Amazon’s deal might be better, but Amazon is hostile to ambivalent towards firearms-related products. At least you know Brownell’s likes taking your money, something  that’s always in doubt with Amazon).

Free or discounted shipping, then, is the keystone of Brownell’s Edge offering, and the math is simple: are you likely to spend more than $50 this year on shipping? If so, Edge is probably a win for you. If not, it’s a loss. (What Brownell’s may be hoping is that all of us sign up for Edge and then make damn sure we buy enough tools and supplies that we earn back our $50. That was certainly Amazon’s plan for Prime, but they wound up losing money on it).

We did a quick look at Brownell’s, throwing some parts and tools we needed in our cart. A High Standard slide stop spring, a set of roll pin starters (we’ve gotten away with not having those, but they are convenient). $55 worth of tools. $8 worth of shipping. So we’d need a little over six orders this year to pay for Edge. That’s borderline for us — we have a metric crapton of tools already — but the temptation to “get something for nothing” is strong (despite it being as great a violation of God’s natural order as a perpetual motion machine, “something for nothing” still exerts a siren’s call).

There is one more benefit to Edge, that can pay for itself sooner, later or never. That is free return shipping, if you order the wrong thing. Those of us who are infallible don’t need this, but you guys out there may benefit.  Seriously, for the working gunsmith or armorer, ordering an extra or a mistaken part, or having a customer/client/cop/op change his mind about, say, a set of sights, is pretty routine. Does this scenario sound familiar?

“Hey, Jerry, those Trijicon sights for your Glock came in. Stop by and I’ll set ’em up for you.”

“Oh, geez. I got a new one and it came with night sights, so I don’t need ’em.”

“Well… okay then, keep us in mind.” Click. $%^$!! Now we gotta pay to ship ’em back….

If you’re that guy, at least now you can send the sights back without paying shipping. Brownell’s Edge lets you print an RMA label and stick it on the box, and off it goes, with Brownell’s eating the return postage (hoping that they’ve capitated these costs adequately when they offered this for $50).

Hat tip, Tam, on whose site we first heard of this.

In addition to the Edge launch, Brownell’s is flagging four items as SHOT Show launches (the show opens today). They are:

  • Brownell’s own .308 magazine, for KAC/SR-25/M110/Mk11/DPMS type ARs;
  • Truglo TFX night sights, for several common defensive pistols;
  • The X-Products Can Cannon;
  • The X-Products 50-round drum for Colt-style 9mm lowers;
  • Several “Grace” brand premium tools with wood handles.

Big News From MagPul: Glock Mags

MagPul has had several announcements of new products. We’ve featured their video press release on the D-60 60-round AR drum, because the product tickled our fancy. On the other hand, we initially let their AK announcement slide. There were two reasons that we might have included it here: (1) it’s a big deal that they have an AK product line, and it will give tacticool AK fans an alternative to TAPCO, and (2) the video is hell for clever, and humorous, and God knows we haven’t had enough grins lateley, and there are plenty in this. So we’ll run the video now, even though we didn’t run it here when they first put it up.

Now, there was one reason we didn’t originally run the video: the video was great, but the product didn’t excite us all that much. We’re not huge fans of the AR Stock of the Week club, and while we like Magpul’s mags, they didn’t announce mags for the AK. That got us thinking about why they didn’t announce AK mags at the same time as they made a humorous video launching their stocks. As we see it, the possibilities are:

  1. They don’t think there’s a market at all. AK owners tend to be bottom feeders, mag-wise; they buy dirt-cheap surplus mags, or cheap-in-both-senses TAPCO ones. Is there a void at the top of the market? If so, is it large enough for a new mag to have a positive NPV, considering tooling costs?
  2. They don’t think they could be price-competitive. Not only do their top-line AR mags sell for more than the popular AK mags, their budget-line AR mags do, too. We’d guess an AK mag (with its greater size) would cost more in material and take more machine time; we doubt they’d be able to bring it in for less than their AR mags.
  3. They’re planning to launch an AK mag, but it wasn’t ready for SHOT. Strong probability, because our instinct tells us there is a narrow niche at the top of the AK mag quality continuum, and Magpul with their brand ID could own that niche.
  4. They’re planning to launch an AK mag, but, Steve Jobs-style, they’re holding the Big Reveal for last (Jobs was legendary for his presentations that would seem near winding up, and he’d say, “Wait. There’s one more thing… ” and a roomful of Apple fanboys would go nonlinear. Under this scenario, the AK mag will hit Magpul’s facebook on Sunday night and be there to greet SHOT attendees on Monday. That’s our guess, and we have friends looking for stuff.

CORRECTION: Uh, we’re as dumb as a box of rocks. The reason Magpul didn’t announce AK mags is because they already have AK mags. In fact, it seems that they’re in their second generation of them. D’oh. Thanks to Shawn at for catching our error.

End of Correction.

Having a diverse product line has other benefits for a company so tightly wedded to injection-molding technology. Injection-molding tools and machinery are very expensive, but they need to run all day to earn back the investment in them. Many products means you can respond flexibly to the market, without idling machines for longer than a die change.

But the BIG News from the Colorado Escapees…

…Has to be the Magpul Glock mag. They teased it yesterday morning with this image on their Facebook page.

Magpul Glock Teaser

Then they announced at noonish yesterday. Video, with the soundtrack of a somewhat incongruous Jobim standard where the industry is fixated on death metal:

There’s no voiceover on the video, which makes us wonder if it was put together in hell-for-a-hurry.

And Da Facts:

The PMAG 17 GL9 is a 17 round Glock 9mm handgun magazine featuring a new proprietary all-polymer construction for flawless reliability and durability over thousands of rounds. High visibility anti-tilt follower, SS spring, easily removable floorplate for cleaning, Dot matrix for mag marking, ridged floorplate edges for better grip, 17rd indicator windows. Drops free loaded or unloaded. The same boring reliability you expect from an OEM magazine. MSRP $15.95

If you’ve ever paid $30 to feed your Glock, this has got to be tried out. The factory Glock mag is polymer overmolded on steel internal parts, which is part of why it’s so expensive. (Overmolding is high-value-added as injection molding goes). The Magpul mag has no overmolding — it’s plastics all the way down.

The Glock magazine is one of the cornerstones of Glock reliability. Gaston Glock understood in a way that the US Army does not understand that the magazine is an absolutely critical component of the interactive, even resonant system that is an autoloading firearm. (The mags for the AR system were originally intended to be single-use disposable). Glock mags are built like Glock’s knives and shovels (which ought to be more famous. The Glock field knife is a baby Ka-Bar). So MagPul has struck the king here, and struck him in one of his highest-margin fiefdoms. If they’ve got it right we’ll soon know, and the sad panda flag will be flying over the accountants’ cubicles in Deutsch-Wagram.

One last note to put a smile on your face: these mags will generate a lot of sales — many millions of dollars — and a lot of work hours and workers’ income, and of course, corporate revenue and, one hopes, profits. There will be some new pickup trucks in the Magpul lot in 2015, and somebody’s going to get a new kitchen or a big-game hunt out of it. And all that stuff is going to get taxed to some degree or another, and not a dime of those taxes will go where they would have gone, to the state of Colorado and jurisdictions within, if John Hickenlooper and his legislative loyalists had not declared war on the 2nd Amendment. That’s economic growth that Hick and friends chose to, shall we say, out-grow. But hey, he thinks magazines like this are a crime wave in the making, so they’re banned in Colorado anyway.

Yikes. Magpul Launches 60-Round Drum

Well, we guess we all know what Magpul is letting out of the bag at SHOT next week. The video dropped at about 1300 Eastern Time yesterday, and we don’t know anything else about it. It’s a 60-round drum with a loading lever to allow “easy” hand-loading. They show it with ARs, a 416 (wait, that’s an AR, HK fanboys!) and a SAW.

Looks like you could definitely melt a barrel with a few of these things. Looks like Magpul got close.

It’s pretty bulky. There are good drums on the market already, including a couple with NSNs, but drums tend to have problems as practical mags. (When we tried to use them in SF, it was as a single mag to use gaining fire superiority as part of an ambush drill. We wound up regressing to standard capacity, 30-round magazines).

Some of the drums out there work well, and each has some pros and cons. But none of them has Magpul’s name and brand recognition behind it. Maybe we need to gather a few drums for a drum-off?

PPShooting Around Corners

Waffen Revue 25 - StG44If you’re the kind of gun and history geek (hey! own it) we generally attract to the blog, you’re already familiar with the Krummlauf (“crooked barrel”) attachment to the German MP.44 series assault rifles.

The Krummlauf  is well-documented in books like Small Arms of the World, surviving period documents, and that sort of thing. It was made in several versions, differing in the degree of “bend” (30, 45, and 60º IIRC) and could be used for firing from cover (down), or the whole weapon could be turned over for firing around corners (sideways). It had its own 1.5x optic, and the extended, curved barrel was both vented for relief, and rifled.

Whether it was intended for urban warfare (firing around corners in the assault), armored warfare (firing from behind cover in a halftrack) or positional warfare (firing from trenches) is a matter of speculation. The problem with this kind of specialized weapon, for the Germans or anybody, is that you only need it once in a while, but you have to carry it all the time. That is, if you’re going to have any hope of having it with you on the rare occasion when you do need it.

There’s a number of surviving Krummlauf attachments and MP44 Krummlauf hosts, at least a half dozen, with at least two on the NFA registry (there are probably more that those numbers). One was auctioned recently by Rock Island and has a very complete description, with an explanatory video by Ian McCollum of Forgotten Weapons, on its auction page.

grease_gun_around_corners_ps_march_52The US experimented with something similar, but vastly simpler. We deleted the German prismatic sight, and didn’t even make a complete barrel, creating something more like a bullet trough for a spray of 230-grain solids to go off in the general direction of the enemy. This has been widely reported to have been done by the OSS. The historical writeups are thinner than on the Krummlauf, but they’re there. The gun seems to have first come to public attention in the Korean War era. For example, it was featured in Popular Science magazine in March, 1952 (image left). The article suggests that the gun was meant to be used, and hints that there might have been an optic, but, “Sights are secret.” The gun was also featured in LIFE in 1953, and those photos turn up online here and there.

LIFE OSS curved barrel

But we never knew until we stumbled over it on the excellent site, that there were at least two Russian variants of the same thing for the PPSh-41, which was made in staggering quantities. Unlike the common PPSh, these variations are extremely rare, probably for the same reasons of impracticality that limited distribution of the German and American ones. The more sophisticated showed a similar design approach to the Krummlauf, with the added benefit of being easily convertible in direction. This video shows the gun:


The second was a bent-down version, called in one reference the Model 1945, that looks more like a gimmick than a real, working gun.

ppsh-45 curved

It honestly looks like someone heated and bent a regular PPSh. (As we’ve seen from our recent M4 at Wanat series, heating barrels can be A Bad Thing®).


We’d love to have the whole who-shot-John on these, but we don’t. Maybe some commenters can help.

One of the most interesting questions is this: were the American and Russian “corner guns” simply examples of convergent evolution, or did they come about after examining German Krummlauf units?

Ian notes, in his video about the Krummlauf, that the Germans tried doing an open trough like the later American Grease Gun modification, but gave it up and went with a rifled curved bore instead.

The SIG Brace / Not a Stock / ATF Letter Trip

donovan leitch 1967Remember the old Donovan song? Eh, unless you’re like us, old enough to remember the introduction of that new “dirt” stuff, maybe you don’t. The trippy 60s songwriter sang the very zen line:

First, there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.
First, there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.

To which we’ve always mumbled, “Don’t take the brown acid….” (Sorry, another cultural flashback). Anyway, Donovan’s flickering mountain is a bit like the various ATF letters explaining their attitude to arm braces on AR pistols over the last couple of years, since they first provided a Firearms Technology Branch blessing to the Sig Brace.


First, it was a stock that made the gun an SBR, then it wasn’t a stock, then it was.
Then, it wasn’t a stock that made the gun an SBR, then it was a stock, then it wasn’t.

We’re not sure what to make of the ATF apparently taking up the recreational herbs and spices of the Sunshine Superman his ownself, but we’ve been whipsawed by the letters and haven’t written about them. Regulatory stuff is kind of boring, at least until ATF shows up looking for someone to feed their stats machine and settles on you. (And trust us on this: every Federal law enforcement agency has a stats machine, and it looks just like the one in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.)

Fortunately, the Prince Law Firm’s blog has been on it, and these guys are, like, real lawyers with bar cards, and ostentatious diplomas, and continuing education credits, and everything. Adam Kraut, Esq:

Well, it appears very clear that FTISB and ATF as a whole are paying very close attention to what people are doing and how they are utilizing products, including reviewing internet postings, pictures and videos. All of the stabilization/cheek enhancement products on the market have a legitimate purpose and have assumedly been approved by FTISB at some point. But, it appears that some individuals are not looking to purchase these products for their legitimate purpose and use and instead intentionally intend to misuse them from the moment they are purchased.

As was noticeably absent in the letter discussed in my blog post Cinderella and ATF’s Determination: The Fairy Tale of an AR Pistol to SBR through Magic, this letter does mention intent, in fact several times.

ATF didn’t appreciate people purchasing various stabilization products/cheek weld enhancements for the purpose of avoiding the payment of the NFA tax (which could constitute tax evasion). This is why the intent aspect, as stated in the definition, is important. If an individual purchases one of these products intending to use it in the manner for which it was made and then misuses it, as ATF previously held in the Bradley letter, he/she has done nothing illegal. There is no law dictating the end use of a product. However, if an individual purchases one of these products to install on their pistol and intends to use it as a faux stock, he/she has very clearly created an illegal SBR.

We think the consigliere has done a good a job as anyone can hope to of reading the ATF tea leaves, so we’ll leave it at that (do go Read The Whole Thing™).

Now, we’d like to make some comments about the ATF technology evaluation process in general. Kraut notices that they did something they usually don’t do, explicitly warn that this paper really isn’t worth more than the paper it’s printed on. He quotes commentary on the latest “brace” letter, this one to Thorsden Customs. What the letter itself (hosted at Prince Law) says, is:

In closing, we should remind you that the information found in correspondence from FTISB is intended only for use by the addressed individual or company with regard to a specific scenario described within that correspondence.

This is apparently new boilerplate. But the fact is, that is the nature of all ATF determinations. They are ephemeral, have no precedential value, and are only binding on citizens, not on the ATF. The ATF can, and does, overturn them at any time on nothing more than a whim, and the courts have rules that these will-o-the-wisp whims require near-absolute deference.

ATF-Molan Labe

Finally, a couple of exit thoughts: If the ATF didn’t take an elephant’s gestation to process SBR paperwork, maybe so many people wouldn’t be looking for an end-around. Want to increase compliance with the law? Make it easy and convenient. If somebody’s not making it easy and convenient, maybe they’re not really interested in increasing compliance with the law.