The DDTC Potentially Opens Large “Loophole” for 07 FFLs

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While I agree that that Directorate of Defense Trade Controls has gone way above and beyond on the requirement to register for ITAR for those who are threading barrels, the new “clarification” opens an incredibly large “loophole” for the very types of “manufacturers” that the DDTC has been likely to crack down upon.

*It should be noted that I am not a lawyer. However, I am pretty astute at reading contractual and Government language from a long history of selling to the Government. One should always consult a lawyer based on individual circumstances.

Specifically, the new rules and regulations open up AR-15 and common platform assemblers (who actually constitute a large number of the supposed “manufacturers” out there, are basically exempt. Specifically, the DDTC calls out what is not considerred manufacturing.

Registration not Required – Not Manufacturing: In response to questions from persons engaged in the business of gunsmithing, DDTC has found in specific cases that ITAR registration is not required because the following activities do not meet the ordinary, contemporary, common meaning of “manufacturing” that DDTC employs in implementing the ITAR and, therefore, do not constitute “manufacturing” for ITAR purposes: a) Occasional assembly of firearm parts and kits that do not require cutting, drilling, or machining; b) Firearm repairs involving one-for-one drop-in replacement parts that do not require any cutting, drilling, or machining for installation; c) Repairs involving replacement parts that do not improve the accuracy, caliber, or other aspects of firearm operation; d) Hydrographic paint or Cerakote application or bluing treatments for a firearm; e) Attachment of accessories to a completed firearm without drilling, cutting, or machining—such as attaching a scope, sling, or light to existing mounts or hooks, or attaching a flash suppressor, sound suppressor, muzzle brake, or similar item to a prethreaded muzzle; f) Cosmetic additions and alterations (including engraving) that do not improve the accuracy, caliber, or other aspects of firearm operation beyond its original capabilities; g) Machining new dovetails or drilling and tapping new holes for the installation of sights which do not improve the accuracy or operation of the firearm beyond its original capabilities; and h) Manual loading or reloading of ammunition of .50 caliber or smaller.

Activities limited to the domestic sale or resale of firearms, the occasional assembly of firearms without drilling, cutting, or machining, and/or specific gunsmithing activities that do not improve the accuracy, caliber, or operations of the firearm beyond its original capabilities (as described above) are not manufacturing within the context of the ITAR. If you are not manufacturing, exporting, temporarily importing or brokering defense articles or services, you are not required to register with DDTC.

And what is considered “manufacturing”:

Registration Required – Manufacturing:

In response to questions from persons engaged in the business of gunsmithing, DDTC has found in specific cases that ITAR registration is required because the following activities meet the ordinary, contemporary, common meaning of “manufacturing” and, therefore, constitute “manufacturing” for ITAR purposes:

a) Use of any special tooling or equipment upgrading in order to improve the capability of assembled or repaired firearms; b) Modifications to a firearm that change round capacity; c) The production of firearm parts (including, but not limited to, barrels, stocks, cylinders, breech mechanisms, triggers, silencers, or suppressors); d) The systemized production of ammunition, including the automated loading or reloading of ammunition; e) The machining or cutting of firearms, e.g., threading of muzzles or muzzle brake installation requiring machining, that results in an enhanced capability; f) Rechambering firearms through machining, cutting, or drilling; g) Chambering, cutting, or threading barrel blanks; and h) Blueprinting firearms by machining the barrel.

Basically, what the DDTC is telling folks is that if one is not using any special tooling or equipment (ie buying parts and using common tools) that one is not required to register for ITAR. This would apply to those small FFLs that are having receivers manufactured for them under variance or using another companies standard “firearm”  (and thus the OEM is responsible for ITAR) and assemble from kits as not being “manufacturers” under the definitions of the DDTC (though they would be “manufacturers” under the eyes of the ATF). This is, of course, predicated on the definition of “occasional” so one would have to do so infrequently.

Further it does clarify that 07 FFLs do not have to register for ITAR if they are not physically performing the “manufacturing” operations per the “ordinary, contemporary, common meaning” that the DDTC is using.

Because the GCA is intended to cover a broader scope of domestic activity than the AECA, the ATF regulations define the term “firearm” more broadly than the ITAR. As a result, not every firearm controlled by the ATF regulations is also controlled by the ITAR.

This does, however, screw the small guy. Small-time gunsmiths are basically now forced to pay ITAR even though they are not “manufacturers” under the eyes of the ATF.



Nathan S.

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

Nathan can be reached at Nathan.S@TheFirearmBlog.com

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


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  • Major Tom

    Well that’s an “undue burden” lawsuit waiting to happen.

  • KestrelBike

    It really seems like a feather the gov can stick in their cap for when they want to go after someone and make an example of someone.

    It’s the proverbial chipped-star in the windshield that can instigate a deeper investigation, or be used as add-on charges against someone who annoyed them.

    And of course, be a source of business-discouraging/prohibiting concern for the law-abiding who is aware of this bs and cannot/refuses to pay the unconstitutional fees.

    Hah what would be really sick is if this is all a ploy for hillary to swoop in during October, publicly challenge this letter and “protect small business Americans”, and DDTC recinds/clarifies this letter for only those who internationally export.

    • PK

      “Hah what would be really sick is if this is all a ploy for hillary to
      swoop in during October, publicly challenge this letter and “protect
      small business Americans”, and DDTC recinds/clarifies this letter for
      only those who internationally export. All so she can say to the fudds
      that she’s not here to take their guns.”

      I really wouldn’t hold your breath on that one.

    • Sunshine_Shooter

      If Hillary actually helped gunsmiths stay in business, I would applaud her. I honestly believe she would never do such a thing.

  • Harry’s Holsters

    This is really going to hurt the small one man shops. A buddy of mine builds is own precision rifles as a hobby. He was telling me what the hourly rates for a good smith is and it’s amazing how they make any money considering the costs of operation and this just adds to it. I mean you can make a living but you aren’t killing it.

  • Joseph Goins

    Your argumentation is flawed as you didn’t take into account the very wording that you marked in bold. (Occasional assembly of firearm parts and kits that do not require cutting, drilling, or machining…) The use of the word “occasional” would mean that companies who assembly on a routine basis are not included in that exemption.

    (I’m not disagreeing with your conclusion, merely the logic of it.)

  • Sianmink

    What this REALLY is, is an early step to try and stop the inevitability of Ghost Guns and Printed-on-demand guns, which terrifies anyone with even a little bit of Statist in them.

  • FightFireJay

    Someone will correct me if I’m wrong here, but each of the following makes you an ITAR manufacturer…
    – threading a barrel
    – changing barrels on an AR15 if the caliber is different
    – installing those removable magazines on an SKS or changing bottom metal on a bolt gun

    But what about…
    – installing MagGuts to increase mag capacity?
    – installing a .22 LR conversion in an AR15?
    – installing a .22 LR conversion on a handgun?
    – barrel swap on a handgun, like 40-357Sig conversion?
    – swapping cylinders, 22 LR for 22WMR or 45 Colt for 45 ACP?

    • David Harmon

      You have to be an FFL to fall under the ITAR. Basically when you go to get your 07 FFL , you are required to pay the ITAR.

      • FightFireJay

        I understand that part. My post was an attempt at clarifying what exactly pushes an FFL into ITAR territory when gunsmithing.

        Consider all of the above scenarios for gunsmiths or small FFLs doing what I would call superficial work for a non mechanically inclined gun owner.

        • David Harmon

          A smith isn’t an 07 FFL. It’s an 01. Only manufacturers fall under ITAR, which is an 07 FFl.

  • Ira

    Is this only for FFL’s? Can I still do whatever I want to my guns as long as I’m not engaging in the business of selling them? As a regular citizen,can I still weld a muzzlebrake into place on a 14.5″ barrel upper i’m assembling?

    • David Harmon

      If that barrel was not mounted onto a complete rifle beforehand, you are fine. If you mount it on a non-pistol unregistered SBR rifle, then weld it on, you are technically in violation of the NFA.

      • Ira

        I appreciate your response, but Im well aware of how the NFA works and how to stay on the legal side of it. My question pertains to how ITAR will effect everyday citizens and hobbiests who work on and modify firearms (cutting, drilling, or machining) for fun rather than financial gain.

        A better hypothetical example: Say I happen to have a 20″ barreled AR lying around and for whatever reason I decide to take it and cut it down to 16.25″ and then re-crown and thread the barrel to accept a flashhider. Even though this is a personally owned weapon that is staying in my collection and I don’t have an FFL, would the simple act of personally doing the work to customize my rifle in such a way that requires cutting, drilling, or machining put me in violation of ITAR?

        • milesfortis

          The regs don’t cover what an individual does for/on their own guns….as defined for now.
          Doing it for ‘someone else’, even for free as a hobby, is where this is going to go wild.
          A local guy doing AR builds for friends is now in play.

          Some see it as a plan is get everyone using FFL gunsmiths for even the littlest things.
          Guns logged in on a Bound Book and not go back to the owner without a NICS background check.

          • David Harmon

            It will just cause everyone to start doing their own work, or have a friend do it.

          • milesfortis

            People do that already. Will ITAR be twisted to cover ‘shadetree’ ‘smiths and will State and ATF have an incentive to go after them?

            That’s what’s now in play.

          • David Harmon

            This only applies to FFL holders…

          • milesfortis

            We can only hope that State sees it that way.
            Many businesses that don’t require a FFL are still required to register under ITAR regs.

          • David Harmon

            It doesn’t matter what the individual states think. None of this is even under the guidance or jurisdiction of the State authorities. This falls directly under the Department of the State, which means DHS. If they take issue with you, it will be either FBI or DHS agents breaking down your door at 4am, not local state authorities.

          • milesfortis

            Damn dude (Facepalm) YES State as in STATE DEPARTMENT.
            You got it so why the hubub bub?
            Just got to get that last line right?

          • Nick

            An NICS check is not required for repairs if and only if the person picking it up is the same that dropped it off AND it’s being picked up from the same licensee.

            This is why you can mail your gun back to the manufacturer for repairs and get it mailed back to you directly.

          • milesfortis

            It still goes on the bound book if left overnight. And those records are inspectable for 20 years unless the FFL goes out of business and then those records are going to ATF where who knows how they’ll be filed, scanned and indexed.

        • David Harmon

          If you’re not an 07 holder, then it has nothing to do with you.

  • Brian Hert

    An archangel stock changes the capacity of a Mosin. So does that count as manufacturing? Just putting on an aftermarket stock with no machining, drilling etc..?

    I see this getting the crap kicked out of it in court.

    • Ira

      I too am curious about this…

  • David Harmon

    I’m telling you right now, it doesn’t matter what you tell these people or if you can show that you don’t need to pay your ITAR fees, if you are manufacturing, they will tell you that you have to.

    I was told even to hold an 07-02 for research and development purposes I would have to pay the ITAR fees. Even though there is a clear except for R&D 07-02’s that are not actively selling products.

    ITAR needs to go, it’s ridiculous that I have to pay an International Fee for items I have no intention of ever selling outside of the US.

  • RickOAA .

    This should not apply to those only selling domestically or those not engaged in defense procurement, but what do I know…

  • Shane

    Complete and utter bullshit.

  • Bill

    I love it when people acknowledge that they aren’t lawyers and then try to parse arcane, complex legal issues. I’m not a doctor, but understand where an appendix is and read a book on surgery and dated a surgeon, so when do I start cuttin’?

    • grunion

      Start at your left ear lobe…

  • Kivaari

    So bedding a rifle to improve accuracy beyond what it originally could do, is now ITAR? One more intrusion into life of people that doesn’t need to be taken. Had they simply ignored normal gunsmithing that would make sense.

  • Oldtrader3

    Obama needs to go back to sucking c–ks, instead of making laws that he does not have a clue about. How many 10’s of thousands of jobs will be eliminated by Oblamer’s latest law making farce?

  • Joseph Goins

    Guns, not politics.

  • Tom Currie

    All well and good, until you start reading different parts of the CFR together.

    Keep in mind that magazines are considered PART OF THE FIREARM (remember 922(r)?)

    Now read the DDTC memo: “ITAR registration is required because the following activities meet the ordinary, contemporary, common meaning of “manufacturing” and, therefore, constitute “manufacturing” for ITAR purposes: …. b) Modifications to a firearm that change round capacity” — under a strict reading of their definition, simply putting an extended magazine into a firearm constitutes “manufacturing”, even putting your stock G17 magazine into a G26 would be “manufacturing” a new firearm according to DDTC — and don’t even think about installing any of those evil +2 base plates.

    Yes, I know that’s not what they meant, but that is what they wrote. Even what they meant would still encompass many routine activities that no one outside DDTC would consider manufacturing or even gunsmithing – such as installing a 20 round fixed magazine or a removable magazine adapter on an SKS, which absolutely does fall within the DDTC definition of “manufacturing”

    Like Nathan, I’m not a lawyer — but similar to Nathan, I spent many years as a GS-0341-11 “Administrative Officer” with the federal government, responsible for writing & interpreting regulations and policies – and especially for avoiding garbage like what we have in this memo.

  • Steve_7

    I don’t think you’re right in your interpretation, if you get an FFL for manufacturing, by definition you have declared to ATF that you are engaged in the business of manufacturing. Claiming that you’re not then engaged in manufacturing for the purposes of the AECA seems a bit iffy to me. “Occasional” is a pretty narrow exception anyway. I mean 01 FFLs can make occasional imports according to ATF, even though they’re not licensed importers.
    You’d have to be pretty brave (or stupid) not to register under the AECA and rely on this exception. When you read laws, it’s not really relevant how ATF or the State Dept. or any regulatory agency would view it, it’s how a court would view it. A court can take a completely different view to the regulatory agency and often do. The courts enforce the law at the end of the day. The US Attorney prosecuting you isn’t going to just stick with the view of some bureaucrat in DC.
    Anyway the silver lining is, the more people are registered, the more people can apply for export licenses.

  • Joe Schmo

    Its going to be funny when people just start doing their own gunsmithing or just “replacing parts for a friend”. This is out of control.

  • Watch the language. The post gets blocked and I have to edit it delaying your post.

  • David Harmon

    Enoughto not be a passive aggressive tart over the internet.

  • Dr. A. B. Plato

    A. Who, exactly, gave DOS the Right to dictate in-country gun smithing.
    B. Who do the DOS people expect to enforce these “rules,” in a jurisdiction, within US boarders, that is not within their preview.
    C. Does this mean that DOS now has an enforcement arm and how, if so, do they get around Constitutional and other public law.
    RE: Sianmink – What is it about “Printed-on-demand guns,” that would terrify someone OUTSIDE of the govt. when there are pretty hard facts which suggest that to ANY “Statist” that in as much as approximately 30,000 (that’s right zelda, I said three and four zero’s) lives saved every year in the US by gun owners taking action, which I might add is nearly always the simple will to rescue a potential “gun violence” (I really hate that non-sequitur) victim including themselves, their families and even neighbors and unknown potential victims. And I’m sure you are aware that of the less than 1000 homicides reported each year to the Bureau only about 300 are by firearm, including rifles and shotguns, for an average total of approx. 100 handgun related homicides each year apply your stats to that if you have the guts.
    The obvious conclusion, therefore, is that the more guns the less crime, QED.
    NB
    The FBI does not report these confrontations since saving a life with zero people being injured and zero laws being broken is not within the scope of the duty of police agencies to report to the Bureau.

    Oddly enough not even the crook is put out too much as they invariably just move on to the next victim–one who isn’t armed.