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Industry News: ATF Updates Curios & Relics List
By Robert M. Hausman

ATF has updated its list of firearms classified as Curios or Relics. The update is as of January 16, 2008. Firearms automatically attain curio or relic (C&R) status when they are 50 years old. Any firearm that is at least 50 years old, and in its original configuration, would qualify as a C&R firearm. It is not necessary for such firearms to be listed in ATF’s C&R list. However, if a C&R item is regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA) in order for it to be removed from the provisions of the NFA, a sample of the firearm must be submitted to the Firearms Technology Branch for evaluation and a formal classification.

The following is a partial update to the C&R list. For a complete listing, check with BATFE.

Section II - Firearms classified as curios or relics, still subject to the provisions of 18 U.S.C. Chapter 44, the Gun Control Act of 1968:

Section III - Firearms removed from the provisions of the National Firearms Act and classified as curios or relics, still subject to the provisions of 18 U.S.C. Chapter 44, the Gun Control Act of 1968:

Section IV - NFA firearms classified as curios or relics, still subject to the provisions of 26 U.S.C. Chapter 53, the National Firearms Act, and 18 U.S.C. Chapter 44, the Gun Control Act of 1968:

ATF Announces Final ITAR Rule

ATF has announced a final rule that conforms the regulations in 27 CFR Part 447 to the revised International Traffic in Arms Regulations. The final rule amends the list of countries from which the importation of defense articles into the United States are prohibited by adding Afghanistan and removing South Africa and some of the states comprising the former Soviet Union (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan). The rule also removes the arms embargo against the countries of Serbia and Montenegro. It also clarifies an outdated reference in the regulations to Zaire, currently known as the “Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

Importer Legal Issues

An overview and update on legal issues that licensed importers should be aware of was presented by David Wulf, an ATF acting associate chief counsel, during the annual ATF Importers Conference held last summer in Washington, D.C.

While 18 USC 922 (I) makes it generally unlawful to import firearms and ammunition there are certain exceptions.

Government exceptions are found in 18 USC 925(a)(1) which allows federal, state and local governments to import firearms and ammunition that otherwise would be prohibited from importation, such as nonsporting firearms/ammunition and surplus military firearms. This exception does not apply to government contractors.

The “Sporting Purposes” test is found in 18 USC 925(d)(3) which provides that firearms and ammunition are importable if they are of a type that is “generally recognized as particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes.” This does not apply to NFA or surplus military firearms.

If you bring a firearm out of the U.S., such as on a European hunting trip, no Form 6 is needed for its return. However, upon return, you must satisfy U.S. Customs that you took the firearm out of the U.S. Using Custom form 4457, as well as a sales slip, are good ways to do this.

Conditional importations are permitted under 18 USC 925(d) which allows the importation of a firearm for examination and testing to determine whether the firearm would be importable.

Curios and Relics are covered in 18 USC 925(e) and 27 CFR 478.11 defines Curios and Relics. Regardless of other Gun Control Act prohibitions, importers can import C&R long guns and C&R sporting handguns. To be a Curio & Relic, the firearm must be in its original configuration. Parts can be replaced as long as the configuration isn’t changed.

The Scientific or Research Purposes exception allows non-sporting firearms and ammunition to be imported for research and development purposes. An example would be importing ammunition to test a weapons system. Several years ago ATF expanded what was considered scientific or research purposes to include things beyond “laboratory research” such as research and development. In 2006, ATF advised that product liability testing is included in this exception.

It should be noted that ammunition imported for scientific or research purposes will only be approved in reasonable amounts. 28 USC 5844 allows the importation of NFA firearms for limited purposes including scientific or research purposes. However, 18 USC 922(o) has no exception for scientific or research purposes. Thus, post ’86 machine guns can not be imported for this purpose.

Smokeless powder designed for use in small arms ammunition by itself is classified as “ammunition.” Thus, importers of smokeless powder must be licensed as importers under the Gun Control Act, must also be licensed as an importer under the explosives laws, be AECA registered, and apply for an approved Form 6 to import.

Numerous airgun silencers tested by ATF’s Firearms Technology Branch have been determined to be, by nature of their design and function, firearm silencers.

A firearms silencer is defined in 18 USC 921(a)(24) as a device for silencing, muffling, or diminishing the report of a portable firearm, including any combination of parts, designed or redesigned, and intended for use in assembling or fabricating a firearm silencer or muffler, and any parts intended only for use in such assembly or fabrication.

Starter guns which will or are designed to or can be readily converted to expel projectiles are considered firearms. Starter guns built on the frame or receiver of a firearm are firearms.

37/38mm gas guns are destructive devices when possessed with bean bag ammunition. The bag cartridge, standing alone, constitutes ammunition for a destructive device. ATF Ruling 95-3 provides that 37/38mm gas/flare guns possessed with “anti-personnel” ammunition, consisting of cartridges containing wood pellets, rubber pellets or balls, or bean bags, are destructive devices as that term is used in 18 USC 921(a)(4) and 26 USC 5845(f)(2). Finally, Wulf noted that nail guns are not firearms. ATF Ruling 54-245 held that a tool powered by blank .22 and .38 cartridges that is used for setting studs or driving anchors into masonry or metal is not a firearm. Even when a nail gun expels a projectile by the action of an explosive it is not regulated as a “firearm.”

ATF Installs New Phone System

One of ATF’s busiest customer call centers, the Federal Firearms Licensing Center (FFLC) in Atlanta, Georgia, has implemented an Automated Call Distribution system (ACD) to improve customer service.

The FFLC mail call center phone line, (866) 662-2750 (toll-free), is the first number dialed by many licensees. A primary ACD enhancement gives callers the option of waiting in a queue to speak with a live customer service representative instead of being transferred into a voice mailbox, which is sometimes full and unable to accept new messages. The ACD system also efficiently redirects the more common types of calls not requiring a live response. For example, requests for application packets are some of the most frequent and repetitive calls received by the FFLC. The ACD system automatically refers these calls at the beginning of the call-flow process to the ATF Distribution Center in Virginia (703) 455-7801 for a response, freeing customer service representatives to devote their time to answering more complex licensing questions.

Another important ACD enhancement is the systematic measurement of call volumes by date, time, length, and type. The system generates statistical reports that inform management how to allocate customer service representatives resources to best meet workload demands. Thanks to ACD, the FFLC now knows that the customer service representatives facilitate more than 3,400 calls per month. ACD also counts the number and length of abandoned calls and tracks customer wait times in the queue to establish performance benchmarks by which to plan and measure continued improvement. The ACD system has been such a success that ATF plans to expand its use to other customer call centers in Enforcement Programs and Services, such as the Federal Explosives Licensing Center and the National Firearms Act and Imports Branches.

ATF Switching to Electronic Fund Processing

Licensees making payments to ATF should note that ATF is switching to electronic fund processing. Checks presented to ATF will be converted into an electronic funds transfer, meaning that ATF will copy the check and use the account information to electronically debit your account for the amount of the check. The debit will be shown on the payer’s regular account statement. The original check will not be sent back as it will be destroyed by ATF, but the agency will keep a digital image of it.

The author publishes two of the small arms industry’s most widely read trade newsletters. The International Firearms Trade covers the world firearms scene, and The New Firearms Business covers the domestic market. Visit He may be reached at:


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