I have an idea for a new kind of full-auto weapon that I have been seeing in
my head for a long time. I'm no where near ready to start machining stuff
yet but I am wondering how to do legal research and developing of the idea.
So, do I call the ATF and say: "Hey I want to build a machine gun."? At
what point does it become a problem? It looks like I'll only need a few
pounds of unobtainium and some disapearium. The idea eliminates one whole
operation and could increase cycle rate by as much as 30% while diminishing
recoil. It might do better if I could suspend some of the laws of physics.
Yes, basically. You'll need to jump through a bunch of hoops and pay
some money. Undoubtedly it will be unpleasant and difficult, but
Congress has given them unpleasant and difficult laws to administer.
There are some good guys at ATF, actually. You might start here:
The ATF site is pretty
comprehensive. State laws apply as well.
When you assemble one.
It looks like I'll only need a few
Higher cyclic rate means hotter barrels. When you look at the GAU-8,
for example, you see lots of barrels. I think the thermodynamics are
tougher that the cycle rate.
Higher cyclic also means more total recoil energy/sec. On submachine
guns like the MP-5, they have mechanisms to slow the things down so they
don't end up pointing to the ceiling after a burst. My only tiny
experience was when I messed up the disconnector when adjusting a High
Standard .22 pistol and it emptied a 10-shot magazine in what sounded to
me like a single explosion. Only the first shot was on the target paper.
IIRC, a Class 7 FFL (manufacturers Federal Firearms License) and a Class 2
SOT (NFA weapons manufacturing Special Occupational Taxpayer status). The
class 7 ffl is for any firearms manufacturing, like Remington, Ruger, Colt,
etc. The SOT is for National Firearms Act controlled items: machineguns,
silencers (sound suppressors), short barreled rifles (shorter than 16") and
shotguns (shorter than 18"), destructive devices (explosive devices, cannon,
and any firearm with a bore larger than .500" with exception made for
sporting shotguns and some safari size rifles), and Any Other Weapons (pen
guns, briefcase James Bond guns, also some makes of shotguns that were
originally manufactured with pistol grips and barrels later shortened).
Some forms, a background check, fingerprints, photos and a substantial
recurring fee. Not too substantial if you are going to make a living at it,
but big enough to discourage the casual interest. I am told when you figure
in all the fees it comes to about $1500/year.
Most forms require local chief law enforcement signoff.
There's more but I am too tired to remember it all tonight, maybe someone
else will chime in.
First thing I would do is find someone who really understands firearms and have
them sign a non-disclosure document and show them drawings of your idea and
explain it. See if they think it will work and if there is a demand for it. It
is real easy to delude yourself into thinking that you have an idea that is
worth millions. There are lots of people out there making millions off
inventors with an idea. Not as many inventors are making money off their ideas
I'd be careful about that one. Seems to me there's wording to the effect
that owning parts to make something full auto is a no-no.
A manufacturing license/permit would go a long was towards avoiding
I do believe one has to be in a state where it's possible to own full
auto firearms to make them. I had an idea once I wanted to try, but was
told by a local gun shop I'd have to move to Nevada to build and test. I
never looked into it beyond that.
Ever see a magazine called Pistolero years ago? Whata bunch of
borderlines, though they could be pretty straightforward and funny at
times. Anyway, I recall seeing an article about a guy that had developed
a .22 rimfire that allegedly would rip off 3000 rounds/minute, feeding
cartridges via cloth belt. The whole firearm was housed in a large
heavily finned aluminum housing. Didn't much look like a weapon really.
One picture showed the weapon allegedly firing and there sure seemed to
be a fair amount of brass coming out the ejection port... Of course
there's a big difference between a .22 and a cartridge with any
practical military value.
There was a submachine gun, Swedish I think, that had the bolt running
up a ramp at an angle to the bore's axis. This generated a downward
thrust to counter muzzle climb. Supposed to have worked pretty well,
allowing good control at high rates of fire. Looked funny though, sorta
like it got run over by a truck and bent...
I don't delude myself!!! I have a million ideas that are worth a dollar!!!
Usually I get an idea and find the right expert that blows it apart. I do
have some patents that in a few hundred years will make me wealthy. It's
usually brain-candy and just keeps my mind working. My best claim to
mechanical fame is reproducing the processes of a $250K machine for less
than $2K but it took 20 years to dream it up. That machine is just starting
to be built and should be done in a couple of months.
First thing I'd do is a patent and literature search. This is a lot
easier to do now than previously, a lot of patents are online now.
Very little is new in the firearms field, a lot of very creative folks
have been there before you. Chinn's 5 volume "The Machinegun" set has
a whole lot on guns that actually made it to metal as do Nelson's
books, books by both should be available by inter-library loan if the
local library doesn't have them. If you actually do have a new idea,
you'll need to get some federal licensing before you can construct
firing versions. Don't cut metal before getting a license. AFAIK,
you can make all the wooden and plastic models you like, just as long
as they don't fire.
Newly-made machineguns can't be sold to civilians in the US, so that
market isn't there, the US military has their own suppliers and you'll
be competing with a lot of suppliers in the foreign markets, some
governmentally subsidized. It would have to be one doozie of a gun to
break into the military market. It CAN happen, Stoner did it.
All the posters above are absolutely correct. I am in the business
and it is a squirrelly business with lots of twists and turns. I have
the FFL 7 manufacturer's lisence and the Class 2 SOT, which is what is
required to build full auto weapons, subject to State laws. The cost
is actually $550/year (if you do over $1 million revenue/year it would
Roughly speaking, as I understand it, Federal law recognizes any
firearm assembly to be a full auto machinegun if it can be assembled
within 8 hours and fire more than one round with one pull of the
trigger. You can legally work on it for months before it gets to that
point. With some exceptions, notably M16 parts, anyone can own machine
gun kits, which are all the parts except the receiver.
In my experience, designing and building machineguns is done by
people who love firearms more than they love money. I am not aware of
anyone in the business who has made a killing (no pun intended). Of
course there have been those: Hiram Maxim who is generally credited
with inventing the modern machinegun, and the Browning family; but
they are on a level with Edison and Ford. There are some guys making
an excellent living, but they tend to do it by trading and have done
it for many years, and I believe it's because "transferable" (guns
available to individuals) machinegun prices have blasted through the
roof. An auto sear that cost $200 12 years ago now gets $8000. That's
because in 1986 it became illegal to manufacture or import any
machinegun for non-governmental use, which capped the supply in the
face of rising demand. You could produce the best machinegun in the
world, and you could only sell it to the government, or with
government permission, export to foreign buyers. You can imagine, the
actual work would be the easy part.
That said, any new design is going to be competing with both well
heeled manufacturing concerns (General Dynamics, Heckler & Koch, etc)
as well as your small time small shop mechanic who spends 120% of
their time on machineguns just because they love it.
If you want to do it because you can't resist the better mousetrap
game, then go for it. If you want to do it because you want to make a
lot of money, forget it and think about something that Wal-mart might
If the former, you could possibly get yourself federally lisenced
(the biggest hurdle is actually local zoning, ATF will contact your
local zoning administrator to verify that your location is a bona fide
manufacturing zone), beyond that a background check will kick out any
felon, or misdemeanor domestic abuser, and your local police chief had
better not say anything bad about you; then you get to pay your money.
As for States, quite a few allow full auto (contrary to public
misconception), but quite a few don't. I don't think it's far off half
Alternatively, you could hook up with a Class 2 SOT and work with
them quite effectively. As the above discussion implies, most of these
guys are the straightest arrows you'll meet, and the business often
involves sending thousands and tens of thousands of dollars to guys
you may never meet, for stuff you won't see for up to 4 months after
you've paid for it in full. It's just the way the business works. Most
(of course not all) are very trustworthy individuals; their reputation
is nearly as important as their life.
I think the weapons of the future will address the hot barrel issue,
and caseless ammunition will eventually take some hold (IMHO), perhaps
even with a fluid propellant.
If you wish, email me and I could provide further specific
direction. Good luck. Machineguns are more of a disease than a
Good Luck, Fred
The 9th Circuit recently went over this one. A google search will
provide lots of details and discussions. Look for "ninth circuit machine
In U.S. v. Stewart, the circuit ruled that Congress has no power under the
Commerce Clause to ban home-made machine guns.
So at least in a few western states you can make whatever machine guns you
My expectation is you will run into MANY practical difficulties. Your best
would be to do the work inside the courthouse.
apply for a manufacturers license and for what you want to manufacture
with the ATF... if you get the license then you dont have a problem..
problem is i bet there is a big money fee for the permit, or a bond that
you or the average person cannot afford.. like the license for alcohol
making stuff years ago... that is what the charges would be in the old
days... some states even have their own license requirements... like to
make wine in louisiana there was a $50,000 license that went back to the
prohibition days.. just recently it was lowered to $500 so the small
vineyards could get a license....
yes, I would assume the original poster, if he was licensed, could only
make what is called a post-1986 dealer sample. Don't you need a letter from
a government agancy saying they have some interest in your dealer sample?
The Type 7 Manufacturer's license is $150.00 for three years. The SOT (Special
Occupational Tax) (reduced for less than $500k biz per year) for a Class II
manufacturer is $500.00 per year. The Type 7 allows manufacturing and
sell/resale of standard or sporting weapons. The SOT allows one to manufacturer
and sell/resell Class III devices.
Thats the case I was thinking off, but didnt have time to dig it up..
Its an interesting case with some wide reaching ramifications.
Everyone is walking around this one like its a live bomb.
"A vote for Kerry is a de facto vote for bin Laden."
I've seen photos of something similar. Can't remember what it was called,
"Stinger", "Zipper". Something like that. It was developed for use in prisons
to quell riots. It's unsettling to think of how many gov't agencies have
uses for machine guns.
The law is squirrely: A class 2 SOT can make and register any
machinegun at any time on his own without a request for demo from law
enforcement, but he must register it within 24 hours of being within 8
hours of completion (that does make some sense), it then becomes a
However, neither a class 2 manufacturer or a class 3 dealer can buy
that weapon from you, or any other post(May, 1986)-sample without a
"request for demo" letter from a law enforcement agency (eg any chief
of police, sheriff, etc).
And, you would only be able to sell any post-dealer sample either
directly to the government, or to an SOT class 2 or 3 if they have a
written request for a demonstration from law enforcement government
Cool, the unobtanium should make for some friction free surfaces. Don't
worry about the ATF though, a good coating of disapearium should make the
gun virtually invisible, they'll never know you have it. As for suspending
the laws of physics, you'll have to visit your local "Q" entity for that ;')
I always wondered if the gun itself was made out of invisible parts,...
would it be considered a concealed weapon if you had it in the open?
Ok, how about in a holster that reads "caution - invisible gun"?