EP Armory Forfeits 3800 Polymer AR15 Lowers to the Feds

ep-armory-bakersfield-ca

EP Armory out of Bakersfield, California was recently forced to forfeit over 3,800 of their polymer 80% AR-15 lowers over to the feds. The U.S. Government claimed their polymer 80% AR-15 lowers were a violation of federal firearms laws because they were manufactured and sold without a serial number. As you know an AR-15 lower receiver must be manufactured with serial numbers by a licensed manufacturer and can only be sold by a licensed firearms dealer.

But wait, aren’t 80% AR-15 lowers without serial numbers legal? Yes, they should be. The issue according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento was that EP Armory’s 80% polymer AR-15 lower receivers had cavities with a different color polymer which made it easier for the users to mill it out into a complete AR-15 lower receiver. The feds claimed because the different color polymer in the center was a separate piece of polymer which was added after the lower receiver was molded it was a firearm. The federal government doesn’t consider that a true 80% lower receiver and because EP Armory only had a dealer’s license and not a manufacturer’s license along with the fact they had no serial numbers they were forced to hand them over.

eparmory

According to this news article federal agents actually purchased 33 of EP Armory’s lowers back in January of 2014 which they found had no serial numbers. They then issued a warrant and seized 3,804 of their lowers with the different color cavities. EP Armory actually had a contract to have 40,000 of them made before the feds came knocking.


Ray I.

Long time gun enthusiast, archery noob, Mazda fan, Sci-Fi nerd, Whiskey drinker, online marketer and blogger. My daily firearms musings can be found over at my gun blog ArmoryBlog.com and Instagram.

Shoot me an email at ray.i@staff.thefirearmblog.com


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  • So wait, the FEDS say it’s legal to buy 80% lowers but then seize them. I think the Feds are screwed up in the head somewhere.

    • Roy G Bunting

      Their reasoning is that the different colored “Biscuit” means that the FCG well area is already finished and just filled. Thus making it more the 80% finished.

      IIRC there were some reports that you could pop out the “Biscuit” with just hand pressure.

      • If that’s the case I can understand the ruling. Most Injection Molds are sprayed with a mold release so if they are doing a double-injection mold around the biscuit the plastics won’t be bonded properly.

        • Marcus D.

          Believe me, there was no possible way to remove the biscuit without milling it out. Now I can’t say whether there was a releasing agent in there or not (I suspect there may have been), the manner in which the biscuit was formed made that impossible. The biscuit had to milled down to almost nothing before it was possible to chip out the remainder (as it was a stiff, hard plastic). Further, you still had to mill or file down the ribs, plus a tiny bit more, left in the outer injection before any trigger parts could be installed

      • John C Sell Jr

        I had heard that too but having had my hands on one, I think it would be pretty hard. The preformed biscuit (center) has deep grooves cut into it both horizontal and vertical that when it is put into the mold and the poly for the lower in injected and sets, it locks into those grooves. It might be doable but it would take a lot I think. And the lower was never empty, it was formed around the biscuit.

        • Roy G Bunting

          I agree, but I get their point. If I pour plastic into a standard 80% mold, there is never a void for the FCG. If I insert a “biscuit” and pour the plastic into the mold, the biscuit forms a void and thus I’ve gone farther then 80%.

          I disagree with their conclusion, but I see where its coming from.

          • Marcus D.

            A biscuit is solid, thrrefore it cannot constitute a void, which is the absence of material.

          • Roy G Bunting

            The biscuit fills the void, but as it is not part of the lower, it creates the void in the actual lower receiver.

            Imagine if the biscuit was a part of the mold that broke off and got stuck in the finished product. It fills the void, but the void exists because of the biscuit.

            That’s how the ATF is seeing it. Based on the machining videos I saw of it, I think they’re wrong. But understanding your opponents is key to fighting them.

          • Marcus D.

            Actually, and to be clear, the ATF was of the opinion that EP made an injection molded lower with a void for the -fire control pocket, and that it then backfilled that void with a different color polymer. If EP had done so, then the lower would be a “stripped lower” and therefore a firearm. Once a firearm, always a firearm, and backfilling the void would not change that. The ATF was wrong because the shape of the pocket does not allow the biscuit to be removed at all, which also means that a mold creating a void could not be removed either. Specifically, the biscuit creates ribs in the side of the lower that do not go to the bottom of the fire control pocket, as a result the ribs lock the biscuit firmly into the pocket such that it can be removed only by milling.

    • Jwedel1231

      What they claim is that they made receivers that should have been serialized, then instead of being numbered, they filled in the cavity with a different colored polymer. If that is true, then the feds are doing their job.

      • Norm Glitz

        The thing is, it’s not true.

    • Mark N

      The industry made up the 80% nomenclature not the government. Lot of shooting from the uninformed hip going on around here.

      • Norm Glitz

        No. It’s an ATF rule. Been around for many years.

  • Ryan

    I can actually sort of understand this reasoning. They first made lowers that were 95% done (just missing the trigger pin holes) and then filled the cavities back in. At one point it was a firearm; filling it back in doesn’t un-make it.

    • Twilight sparkle

      They didn’t make the lower first, they made the inside then made the lower around it

      • John C Sell Jr

        Right! There was never an empty cavity lower.

        • May

          Wrong, there was always an empty cavity lower, just with a cover on it. Effectively what they were doing was casting fully complete lowers, then only partially removing the mold from the casting.

          • Marcus D.

            Wrong. Twilight has it right. I built one, and there was a heck of a lot of plastic and no empty pocket in there, I can tell you for certain. And EP testified that the method was to form a lower around a pre-formed “biscuit” of a different color polymer, not molding a lower and then filling in the fire control pocket, which is entirely consistent with how many plastic parts are injection molded.

  • Hensley Beuron Garlington

    Disregarding the letter of the law, principally, this fed is so wrong. So many bad guys out there and they want to go after this, because God forbid they’re be un-serialized firearms produced and sold.
    This isn’t protecting anyone. This is the feds desire to control.
    Back to the law, yeah, these guys were possibly in the wrong, legally. Do we give a crap?! I don’t. I care more they are going after these guys than I do that these guys were making them and selling them.

    • Hensley Beuron Garlington, FWIW, I signed up for a ‘Disqus’ account JUST to show my admiration for your concise analysis of this situation. VERY well said imho!

      • Hensley Beuron Garlington

        That’s flattering. Welcome to the family. I wish I could of said it way better, but I was pissed and just skimming while at work on break.

        • Thanks for the welcome! I am frustrated as well. Mostly because the ATF, as a cog in the infamous “4th Branch of Gov’t”, has the ability to arbitrarily put the lives of otherwise productive and law abiding citizens in jeopardy based upon its subjective (and frequently illogical) decisions. Guess I should get off my soap box now. lol

          • Hensley Beuron Garlington

            You’re in mostly good company here. You will be shocked that there are those here who support more gun laws and a stronger ATF here, as well. But they are in the minority. Hopefully.

    • BryanS

      Background checks do not seem to do anything but inhibit lawful owners who go through them. I would like to see a removal of the requirement from the law that came about in the GCA of 68. End the FFL madness too.

    • oldman

      They go after the law abiding people because they are easer to find if they went after the bad guys they would have to work harder.

      • law-abiding-citizen

        That’s funny about the bad guys. I wonder how long they ignored Leland Yee’s activities so they could harass and investigate this & Ares Armor?

        • Hensley Beuron Garlington

          Yeah, they don’t like to talk about ol’ Leland very much. LOL.

      • milesfortis

        They also tend not to go after the ‘real’ bad guys because of their (the bad guy’s) tendency to be much more violent.
        That can be dangerous.

      • Rocketman

        Not to mention that on occasion the bad guys sometimes decide to shoot back.

    • bobfairlane

      But they will send Mexican druglords full auto weapons and probably some dessert, too.

      • Hensley Beuron Garlington

        That is supposedly “good police work” according to a fellow officer that frequents this blog. Good police work that got a fellow officer killed. Moral is it is okay for the government and not the serfs.

  • Jwedel1231

    I thought their process was that they made the “biscuit” for the cavity, then cast the lower around it. If so, there was never a lower in existence for the different colored plastic to be put into, meaning there was no crime.

    • Will P.

      Yes that is exactly what they found, and had ATF approval when they first started manufacturing them. But of course the ATF has the ability to change thier mind at any point they see fit. I purchased 2 of them before the incident in 2014, last I looked at thier site they are making solid polymer 80% lowers now though so I’m confused why this is still going on?

      • John C Sell Jr

        I think these lowers were the ones seized last year (or before) but were evidence and not officially forfeited until now.

        • Will P.

          Oh so they were illegally seized and held in legal limbo for 2 years until the ATF could decide what they wanted to do. I still can’t understand how they can approve a manufacturing process and then change thier minds and almost ruin a company. I loved the 2 lowers I bought, they were much easier to complete than an aluminum one but still had to be drilled and milled out.

          • Budogunner

            I once wrote the ATF seeking clarification on a point in the Clinton Ban. They wrote me back two years later explaining how a thumb hole stock is not a pistol grip for the purposes of import law, but WAS a pistol grip under the Clinton AWB… so both, at the same time. It was an astounding piece of stupidity to have received on gov’t letterhead.

            Emphasis on ‘was’. The ban had sunset and was no longer law by the time they got back to me, making the decision pointless.

          • Mark N

            How surprising that different laws written by different people at different times have different details. I would be surprised if they did agree on details.

          • Budogunner

            In this case I was explicitly told in a single page letter that a thumb hole stock both is and is not an evil feature at the same time.

            What SHOULD happen in cases like that is our Judicial branch steps in and reconciles the nonsense. In this example, that would mean showing there was legal precedent to not consider thumb hole stocks to be pistol grips, bring in experts to testify, and amend the new, offending regulation.

            Leaving it on the books add it was, I saw plenty of illegally configured gins in pawn shops because even licensed dealers were confused. It seems like deliberately strong traps for those who actively try to stay within the law.

          • rdsii64

            That was their intent the whole time. Mark my words this won’t be the last time they pull this stunt. The next time I have some extra money I’m going to buy all the 80%’s I’m going to need. THE FEDS HATE 80% lowers!!

      • Marcus D.

        They did not have an ATF letter. EP Armory was selling these to Ares, and Ares was raided as well. But I agree that the manufacturing process was not as ATF detailed in its probable cause statement in support of the warrant. The other claimed issues with the EP lower was that it had raised dimples where the trigger pin holes and hthe safety switch needed to be drilled, and according to the ATF that is a no no, again because it makes it “too easy” to mill out the lower. (I’ve never seen any authority for the proposition that when it is too easy it is illegal.)

        • Budogunner

          I’ve never heard of having to much extra material to remove being a problem before, either (regarding the raised dimples).

          The NRA makes it easy to get contact information for your congressmen. Might be a good time to write them and ask for a rogue agency to have a leash put on it so it cannot make and unmake law at will. Also, be careful who you vote into Congress.

          • Marcus D.

            The ATF contends that marking the locations for the drill holes is illegal, whether it is a raised dimple or a mark into the material of the lower, like a stamping. Why I do not know, because a purchaser applying a decal/sticker template or placing the lower into a jig is perfectly fine. The only difference is that using a jig is more expensive when you factor in the cost of the jig. Maybe they are trying to make it cheaper to buy a stripped lower? I am clueless since there seems to be no rhyme or reason here.r

          • bobfairlane

            The point is to keep the king’s men employed, and the politically incorrect subjects unemployed.

      • carlcasino

        Are you telling me the ATF is feminine or effeminate ? Full disclosure , I am not a member of law enforcement of working for same.

  • Chadd

    Didn’t Ares Armor do this too awhile back and have the same thing happen?

    • Jwedel1231

      Ares Armor machined people’s aluminum 80% lowers into full lowers for them for a fee, or “instructed” them on how to run the machines Ares had on site to do so. This is a little different.

      • Chadd

        My mistake, I was thinking of when the ATF made a big deal about these same lowers in 2014.
        Thanks for catching that and making me go look up who I was thinking of 🙂

        • John C Sell Jr

          Ares had these lowers for sale too and the ATF took the ones they had in stock from Ares.

      • Marcus D.

        That was a separate issue. ATF also shut down “build parties” that utilized someone else’s CNC mill, contending that the provision of the pre-programmed tool was the equivalent of manufacturing.

        • law-abiding-citizen

          Son following that logic, I guess we can expect them to shut down the Ghost Gunner by Defense Distributed any day now – unless they already have & I just missed it.

          • milesfortis

            The deal with that is though, the end user making the lower is the actual owner of the mill not merely “renting” time on it.
            Of course, there’s no accounting for future bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo.

          • law-abiding-citizen

            Right? Also, be careful you don’t make the mistake of presuming that the ATF will be fair, logical, or consistent as they change or make up the rules to fit the agenda of the current administration.

    • Marcus D.

      Ares was selling EP lowers.

  • mosinman

    whether or not these lowers were legal or not, the law in question is pretty stupid all around.

    • BattleshipGrey

      Yes, you’d think that anything less than 100% couldn’t be called a firearm. Who decided that 81% was the line in the sand that ruins your life or livelihood.

      • mosinman

        not to mention you could just build your own “ghost” gun at home legally

      • Cymond

        80% is just a meaningless marketing term. The line in the same had to be drawn somewhere. It was drawn, and some manufacturer decided to refer to it as 80%

  • Andy Leach

    This is a growing problem for American gun owners : The difference between “LAW” and “RULE”. According to the LAW these were legal and incomplete, never violating any statute. According to the ATF RULING on them however, they magically BECAME Firearms. Both the source article and much more disturbingly *THIS* Article, seem to pain EP as Negligent for “Failing to serialize firearms, which were manufactures without the proper license”

    That’s BS, to be frank. They aren’t serialized because they NEEDN’T Be serialized, and He did not have a license for business he was not CONDUCTING. We should really be struggling to hold the ATF to a much higher degree of accountability over their “Rulings”, this is the method they use to declare the SIG Brace Legal one day, illegal the next, and arrest you for “Manufacturing an SBR” for the act of touching one to your shoulder. This is the method they use to declare a GODD***N SHOESTRING as a MACHINE GUN!

    How is this article calmly (and erroneously) reporting their party line as if it acceptable when we SHOULD be storming the ATF headquarters and demanding this insanity stop?

    (Also, the agreement by EP to “Forfeit” is the culmination of the 2014 matter, not a new matter entirely. )

    • USMC03Vet

      When it comes to 2nd amendment civil rights there is a growing disconnect with what is written in the law and what is enforced by the authorities that circumvent it to create their own law. Take for example the sig brace, the attempt to ban green tip under the BS redefinition of armor piercing , and now 80% lowers that are 80% lowers, but not how the enforcers want it to be regardless of written law.

      Any other civil right with such blatant abuse wouldn’t be tolerated by the courts.

  • Mike Moffat

    It seems like the best way to solve this is for the company to manufacture a ‘single pour’ 80% lower, no different colors, biscuits, or popouts. Then, produce or work with a separate company to produce an AR receiver templatejig than a person could clamp onto the 80% lower and drill out the appropriate spots. The template/jig would not itself be a firearm or firearm part, but a tool,so falls outside the sphere of influence of the BATF. The receiver could actually be poured with extra pieces built-in specifically to accept the jig, The jig would come with instructions on how to apply the jig to the 80% lower, what to drill out with what size tools, removal of the jig and removal of the jig bolt hole pieces and best practices for milling the jig connection areas down to a completely smooth finish. This way, one jig could be used on many 80% lowers.

    It would be a little extra work, but certainly worth the effort to those folks that want factory type results without all the extra headache associated with purchasing a finished product.

    • Will P.

      Last I looked at thier site that’s how they now do it. They haven’t had the “biscuit” style ones since the incident in 2014. Luckily I purchased 2 of them just before that incident, and they are super easy to build polymer lowers. But the ATF originally approved thier manufacturing process, but later changed thier mind saying they didn’t have a full understanding of how it was done. The “biscuit” white polymer insert is made first and the rest of the lower is poured around it though so it’s opposite of what they say. But who’s going to win in that argument? The ones who make/change/interpret laws as they please or a small manufacturer?

      • Xanderbach

        I had one of their old ones, and now I have one of their new ones. Old ones had a different colored middle, locked with moldings into the lower, same material as the lower. Impossible to remove unless you milled it out. New ones are solid polymer, with stickers to mark where to drill. I also recently completed a TNArms lower, which comes with a one-time use fixture, which is destroyed in the completion process. All of them work fine. If you don’t mind a few lonely hours with a dremel, the EP Armoury ones do the job. Not as strong as aluminum, but for a .22 or .223, just fine. Would avoid for larger calibers or blowback (pistol caliber) ARs.

        • Will P.

          I liked the old ones, and as you said there was no way that center section was coming out without being cut out. I built one for my wife’s 5.56 AR and it’s held up great over 2 1/2 years. The other one I drilled one of the trigger pin holes a little off and haven’t messed with since, it was just a test run one anyway.

  • M

    Wait, is this a new event or talking about the time a couple years ago when they handed over the list of purchasers to the ATF?

    • John C Sell Jr

      On going. I think these were the seized for evidence lowers that are now being fully desposed of.

  • Daniel

    if you guys want to see awesome in action try to find a video they posted on their Facebook page a year or 2 ago. where they claim “we know guns-what do you know” while displaying shooting that id slap my 8 year old for being proud of. they also were using a slide fire stock which is a big no no in KA.

  • Broz

    Saw a site the other day which allow you to cast your own AR lower – you get a mold, inserts and cold cure polymer mix which allow you to cast a completed lower…forget the company no, but the genie is out of the bottle…

    • Edeco

      Yep, can’t stop the signal. I thought about trying it with zinc, but I fear the brass shakes. Would have to have the operation tuned up vis a vis temp control.

  • Kivaari

    Other than being easier to work with than aluminum, I just can’t see spending that much money for a product that will be inferior to a serial numbered lower. Yes, I get it, people want guns without serial numbers. Got it. Use the aluminum, as no plastic or plastic-zinc lower is worth having. People would be better off buying a Russian 91/30 at a garage sale.

    • Marcus D.

      I’ve had no issues with mine. The vast majority of the stresses are in the upper, not the lower, and then mainly where the tube screws in.

      I actually didn’t intend to finish it; I simply bought it because idiot Senator DeLeon wanted to ban “ghost guns.”

  • Budogunner

    This is how things are. Remember it when you vote.

  • Hi Mr. Cook, thanks for chiming in and telling us what really happened. That’s very unfortunate about your CalGuns attorney.

  • Ken

    Ahh, gotta love the US Gestapo squads.

    • NofDen

      No, I don’t. I despise the gestapo no matter where they turn up in America.

  • MartinWoodhead

    As my plt Sgt used to say nice try but no.
    Having the bit you cut away a different colour is a dead giveaway.
    It’s not like your not going to build an ar15 with an 80% finished lower.
    When you play on the edge sometimes you lose.

  • NofDen

    Shutdown the damn ATF, prosecute these mind changing,illegal scum and put them in GITMO,Cuba.

  • Christian Hedegaard-Schou

    Why is this a criminal issue to even begin with? Shouldn’t this simply be a regulatory issue?

    Oh, right. The ATF is no longer a regulatory agency part of the tax department, but a full-blown criminal justice agency. Maybe the FBI will just ship these lowers to Mexico like the ATF did with fast and furious.

  • Mike Lashewitz

    Shall not be infringed. . . .

  • CJS3

    I thought this process had already been abandoned. I bought an EP Armory 80% lower last year that didn’t have the different color cavity. Did they start making them again, even after they were determined to be in violation, or is this just old news that was somehow recently discovered again?

  • Kevin Craig

    Am I mis-reading something here, or did you just crap all over Ares?

  • Cymond

    Hey Ray,
    You really need to clarify how this is new information. It sounds exactly like what I heard about Area, EP, and the ATF 2 years ago.

    So what’s actually going on here?

  • punchy

    sounds like a picky technicality. can you get around that by switching the moulding process? if the reciever is moulded around the different colored piece that is intended to be machined out, then there was never a reciever made that was in violation and fixed, but rather it comes out of the mold correct. i suspect all this requires is a new set of moulds. somebody will be back in business with this product shortly and atfe will have to invent another excuse