On April 11, 2022, the US Attorney General signed the new ATF final rule 2021R-05F – Definition of “Frame or Receiver” and Identification of Firearms. The rule will go into effect on August 24, 2022; 120 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register.
ATF final rule 2021R-05F was initially posted on April 26, 2022, and there are six sections to what was actually posted on the Federal Register. The ruling becomes effective 120 days from the day that it was posted in the register, which happens to be August 24, 2022. There is one other important date to note for Privately Made Firearms or PMF (defined later). If you are holding any PMF inventory as of August 24, you will have 60 days to mark their inventory.
What is ATF final rule 2021R-05F?
- Definition of Firearm, Frame, and Receiver
- Privately Made Firearms (PMF)
- Marking Requirements
- Record-Keeping Requirements
- Record retention
Final rule 2021R-05F – definition of firearm, frame, and receiver
New 2021R-05F ruling removes and replaces the regulatory definitions of “firearm frame or receiver” and “frame or receiver” using examples and diagrams to clearly convey what is a “frame or receiver,” amending the definitions of “firearm” and “gunsmith,” providing definitions of terms such as “complete weapon,” “complete muffler or silencer device,” “privately made firearm” and “readily,” and amending regulations on marking and recordkeeping.
These changes in the definition aim to address technological advancements and judicial developments since the regulatory definitions were originally set forth in 1968 and 1971. There have been some significant technology upgrades and enhancements as far as the manufacturing process is concerned.
The final rule, 27 CFR 478.12(a)(4), includes analysis and pictures of the frame or receiver of specific firearms and variants to better guide the public and the firearms industry.
It includes revolvers, pistols, including those using chassis systems (serialization visible or “conspicuous” when placed in the grip), bolt action rifles, various shotgun designs, AK variants, Steyr AUG variants, Thompson sub-machineguns, HK variants, FN-FAL, and Stens.
The original definition of “firearm frame or receiver” lacked analysis as to the stage at which an item is regulated as a frame or receiver. Technology and manufacturing processes complicated the analysis. Further, as ATF stated in the final rule, Federal courts have applied ATF’s definition of “frame or receiver” in a way that would leave most firearms currently in circulation in the United States without an identifiable frame or receiver.
- Provides a regulatory definition of “frame” and “receiver” that reflects technological advancements and judicial developments since the regulatory definitions were originally drafted.
- Identifies a single part of each weapon as a “frame” or “receiver” and provides specific examples and pictures of those parts of popular firearms that are classified as the “frame” or “receiver”.
- Addresses the classification of partially complete (which is commonly referred to as “80%”) frames or receivers that are sold, distributed, or possessed with the associated templates, jigs, molds, equipment, tools, instructions, guides, etc.
- Addresses partially complete, disassembled, or non-functional frames or receivers that are sold, distributed, or possessed within parts kits.
For example, a frame or receiver parts kit containing a partially complete or disassembled billet or blank of a frame or receiver that is sold, distributed, or possessed with a compatible jig or template is a frame or receiver, as a person with online instructions and common hand tools may readily complete or assemble the frame or receiver parts to function as a frame or receiver.
As you can see in the image above, there is a jig and a blank. The blank gets inserted into the jig and it comes with the various drills that are needed. Everything is very specific kind of pointed out that how and where both parts attach and where you get to cut out, etc. This is going to be defined as a frame and receiver.
So if you have these kits in your inventory for sale and if you can sell them through August 24, 2022, before the new ruling comes into effect, it does not impact you. However, after August 24, you will need to mark these blanks because they come with a kit.
The term “frame” now means the part of a handgun or “variants” (also a defined term) using a handgun design, that provides housing or a structure for the sear or equivalent—that part that holds back the hammer, striker, bolt, or similar component prior to firing.
The term “receiver” means the part of a rifle, shotgun, or projectile weapon other than a handgun, or variants, that provides housing or a structure for the bolt, breechblock, or other primary component designed to block or seal the breech prior to firing.
The term “variant” means a weapon utilizing a similar frame or receiver design irrespective of new or different model designations or configurations, characteristics, features, components, accessories, or attachments.
The new ruling also amends the definition of “firearm” to clarify when a firearm parts kit is considered a “firearm”.
Firearm –“The rule clarifies that the definition of “firearm” includes a weapon parts kit that is designed to or may readily be completed, assembled, restored, or otherwise converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive.”
The term “firearm” does not include a weapon, including a weapon parts kit, in which the frame or receiver of such weapon is “destroyed” as described in the definition “frame or receiver.”
The new ruling also amends the definition of “gunsmith” to clarify the meaning of that term and to explain that gunsmiths may be licensed as dealers (without being a manufacturer) solely to mark firearms for unlicensed persons.
- Includes those engaged in the business of identifying firearms for non-licensees, and increasing access to professional marking services for privately made firearms (PMFs).
- FFL dealers (in addition to FFL manufacturers and importers) may adjust or repair and return the firearms, including PMFs, without taking them into inventory, if returned to the person from whom the firearm was received on the same day.
- Non-FFLs may mark PMFs for a licensee if done under the licensee’s direct supervision.
- FFLs may adopt existing serial numbers, including adopting the unique identification number previously placed on a PMF by a non-licensee, under certain conditions.
“A person who, as a service performed on existing firearms, not for sale or distribution, devotes time, attention, and labor to repairing or customizing firearms, making or fitting special barrels, stocks, or trigger mechanisms to firearms, or placing marks of identification on privately made firearms in accordance with this part, as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit, but such term shall not include a person who occasionally repairs or customizes firearms (including identification), or occasionally makes or fits special barrels, stocks, or trigger mechanisms to firearms.
In the case of firearms for purposes of sale or distribution, such term shall include a person who performs repairs (e.g., by replacing worn or broken parts) on complete weapons, or places marks of identification on privately made firearms, but shall not include a person who manufactures firearms (i.e., frames or receivers or complete weapons) by completion, assembly, or applying coatings, or otherwise making them suitable for use, requiring a license as a manufacturer.”
- “complete weapon,”
- “complete muffler or silencer device,”
- “privately made firearm (PMF),” and
Frames or receivers of firearms are unchanged by the final rule
The final rule states that consistent with ATF’s long-standing classifications and ATF Ruling 2010-3, the right-side plate of “box-type” receivers will continue to be the “receiver” of the firearm. Specifically, the receiver “is the side plate of the weapon that is designed to hold the charging handle.” This includes the Vickers/Maxim, Browning 1919, M2, and box-type machineguns and semiautomatic variants.
- AR receiver stays unchanged by the final rule.
- Ruger Mark IV pistol frame stays unaffected by the final rule.
- Benelli 121 receiver is unaffected by the new ruling.
The rule also identifies the frame or receiver of the Ruger Mark IV pistol (upper assembly) and the Benelli 121 M1 Shotgun (lower assembly) as other examples.
For example, pursuant to 27 CFR 478.12(a)(2), the “receiver” of an AR-15/M-16 variant firearm would be the upper assembly as it provides housing for the bolt. However, the final rule makes clear that “[t]he receiver is the lower part of the weapon that provides housing for the trigger mechanism and hammer (i.e., lower receiver).
Specifically, that “part” of a firearm classified as the “frame” or “receiver” prior to publication of the final rule shall continue to be classified as the “frame” or “receiver” under Federal law.
With these changes, it is important to understand those things that are unchanged by the rule.
The final rule provides that prior determinations that a partially complete, disassembled, or non-functional frame or receiver, including parts kits, was not, or did not include, a frame or receiver prior to April 26, 2022, the publication of the rule are not valid or authoritative.
Final rule 2021R-05F – privately made firearms (PMFs)
The final rule amends 27 CFR Parts 447.11 and 478.11 to define a firearm made by a non-licensee as a Privately Made Firearm (PMF).
A PMF is defined as “[a] firearm, including a frame or receiver, completed, assembled, or otherwise produced by a person other than a licensed manufacturer, and without a serial number placed by a licensed manufacturer at the time, the firearm was produced. The term shall not include a firearm identified and registered in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record pursuant to chapter 53, title 26, United States Code, or any firearm manufactured or made before October 22, 1968 (unless remanufactured after that date).”
The final rule, however, does not apply to firearms marked and registered pursuant to the NFA, 26 U.S.C. 5842 and 27 CFR 479.102, upon approval of an ATF Form 1. It also does not apply to firearms manufactured or made before the effective date of the Gun Control Act of 1968, October 22, 1968, unless remanufactured after that date.
The final rule amends the regulations to require all FFLs to mark any PMF they take into their inventory within 7 days of the firearm being acquired by a licensee, or before disposition, whichever occurs first.
The serial number must begin with the FFLs RDS Key as a prefix followed by a hyphen and a unique identification number.
If FFLs have PMFs in their inventory, they will have until 60 days after the rule becomes effective to mark them. FFLs would have the option to mark their existing PMFs themselves, contract with another FFL, such as a gunsmith, or directly oversee a non-FFL who can perform such engraving services on PMFs. Alternatively, FFLs may deliver or send PMFs to ATF for disposal, or destroy them in accordance with ATF guidance.
There is no requirement in the rule for FFLs to accept a PMF into inventory, and they have the option to ask the PMF maker or owner to have the firearm marked by another licensee before accepting it into inventory or the FFL can bring the PMF to another FFL or unlicensed engraver to mark the PMF with their license information, provided they directly oversee the serialization.
Final rule 2021R-05F – marking requirements
Manufacturers and importers are required to identify each firearm manufactured or imported by the placement of serial number, name of license, and the city & state of their place of business on the frame or receiver. Markings can no longer be placed on the barrel or pistol slide (if applicable).
The model, caliber or gauge, foreign manufacturer, and the country of the manufacturer may be placed on the frame or receiver or barrel or pistol side. The new ruling also defines the marking requirements for “Multi-piece frames and receivers”.
Revised marking requirements under the final rule are intended to increase the success rate in the tracing of firearms used in criminal activities through licensees’ records.
Multi-piece frames and receivers
The term “multi-piece frame or receiver” shall mean a frame or receiver that may be disassembled into multiple modular subparts, i.e., standardized units that may be replaced or exchanged…
…The term shall not include the internal frame of a pistol that is a complete removable chassis that provides housing for the energized component, unless the chassis itself may be disassembled…
…The modular subpart(s) identified in accordance with § 478.92 with an importer’s or manufacturer’s serial number shall be presumed, absent an official determination by the Director or other reliable evidence to the contrary, to be part of the frame or receiver of a weapon or device…
- For multi-piece frames or receivers, the requirements regarding individual serial numbers may vary.
- For a multi-piece frame or receiver that has more than one outermost component, all similar parts that are required to be marked must be marked with the same serial number if sold together as a complete modular frame or receiver.
- However, the final rule requires each outermost modular subpart of a frame or receiver to be marked with a unique serial number when the modular subparts are disposed of separately (27 C.F.R. 478.92(a)(iv)).
For multi-piece frames or receivers, the following are the identification and marking requirements
- The outermost housing or structure designed to house, hold, or contain the primary energized component of a handgun, breech blocking or sealing component of a projectile weapon other than a handgun, or internal sound reduction component of a firearm muffler or firearm silencer, as the case may be, is the subpart of a multi-piece frame or receiver that must be marked with the identifying information.
- If more than one modular subpart is similarly designed to house, hold, or contain such primary component (e.g., left and right halves), each of those subparts must be identified with the same serial number not duplicated on any other frame or receiver.
- A marked modular sub-part of a multi-piece frame or receiver must be presumed, absent an official determination by the Director or other reliable evidence to the contrary, to be a part of the frame or receiver of a weapon.
Marking requirements for muffler or silencer parts
Under the final rule, manufacturers and makers of complete muffler or silencer devices only need to mark the part of the device that is designated the frame or receiver.
The end cap of a silencer cannot be a “frame” or “receiver.” In most cases, the “frame” or “receiver” would be the outer tube or the principal housing attached to the weapon. In the case of a multi-piece frame or receiver, if there are two or more similar subparts that make up a multi-piece frame or receiver then those subparts would be marked with the same serial number.
Minor components of silencers would not need to be engraved or registered when transferred between Special Occupational Taxpayers (SOTs). A subpart of a firearm muffler or silencer that is not a component part of a complete weapon at the time sold must be identified by an individual serial number.
Therefore, any firearm muffler or silencer part transferred separately to an individual that is not a SOT MUST be marked and registered, and transferred in accordance with the National Firearms Act.
Final rule 2021R-05F – recordkeeping and record retention requirements
The new ruling requires FFL to retain their Firearms Transaction Records, Forms 4473, and acquisition and disposition records until they discontinue their business or licensed activity. The rule allows them to store paper records at a separate warehouse or electronically that are older than 20 years. These records need to be stored in accordance with a forthcoming ATF Ruling. The separate warehouse is considered part of the licensed premises and subject to inspection.
The national average for Time-to-Crime is 7.79 years. “Time-to-crime” is the amount of time between the retail sale of a firearm by a federal firearms licensee (FFL) and its recovery by law enforcement.
Currently, FFLs are required to retain each ATF form 4473 for a period of not less than 20 years after the date of sale or disposition. In the cases where the sale, delivery, or transfer of the firearm was not made, FFLs are required to retain records of these uncompleted transactions for a period of not less than 5 years after the date of the NICS inquiry.
The final rule requires ALL licensees to eliminate duplicate recordkeeping entries. In the event the licensee records a duplicate entry with the same firearm and acquisition information, whether to close out an old record book or for any other reason, the licensee shall record a reference to the date and location of the subsequent entry (e.g., date of entry, book name/number, page number, and line number) as the disposition.
The final rule clarifies that licensed dealers (including gunsmiths), manufacturers, and importers may conduct same-day on-the-spot adjustments or repairs to firearms without recording them as acquisitions or dispositions, provided they are returned to the person from whom they were received on the same day.
Impact of ATF’s final rule 2021R-05F
Final rule 2021R-05F is expected to leave an impact on the firearm industry including subcontract manufacturers, outside processing vendors, firearm manufacturers, suppressor manufacturers, suppressor component manufacturers, distributors, dealers, eCommerce retailers, gunsmiths, software vendors, and those who import firearms as well. However, a significant impact will be on the industry’s manufacturing space.
Final rule 2021R-05F also affects building your own firearm as well as firearms such as AR 15 and firearm accessories such as suppressors. It is extremely crucial for FFLs to understand the new ATF Ruling 2021R-05F and how the ATF will start to manage ghost guns, 80% lower receivers, new firearm marking requirements, and new Form 4473 firearm transfer storage requirements.
ATF has several objectives to achieve with 2021R-05F, one of which is reducing unserialized privately made firearms or “Ghost Guns”. It also aims to minimize disruption and cost to the industry by encompassing changes in the industry that have come over time. The new ruling will improve tracking and inspections with its new marking requirement and terminology.
The goal of the final rule 2021R-05F is to ensure the proper marking, recordkeeping, and traceability of all firearms manufactured, imported, acquired, and disposed of by federal firearms licensees. Sure there is going to be some confusion, especially in the manufacturing space as the new rules become effective, but things will start to make sense gradually.