May 28, 2016

ATF Confiscating Drop-In Auto-Sears


( — Agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, or ATF, have begun confiscating gun parts known as drop-in auto sears, or DIAS. A DIAS is a simple toggle device which, when installed in an AR-type rifle, along with several other critical fire-control parts, can convert a semi-auto AR into a full-auto assault rifle, writes Jeff Knox at the Firearms Coalition.

The devices were originally unregulated, but in 1981 ATF declared them to be machine guns if possessed in conjunction with the other parts needed to make a conversion, but the agency made their new determination apply only to DIAS’s manufactured after November 1, 1981. Now ATF is apparently using the records of a man who openly sold the devices for decades to track down purchasers and take their property as contraband – with the real possibility of then prosecuting those people.

One of the reasons gun owners tend to be completely opposed to the passage of any new gun laws – no matter how innocuous or reasonable seeming – is the erratic history of interpretation and enforcement of the current gun laws. This is also why I cringe every time I hear someone who supposedly supports gun rights – from politicians to the head of the NRA – calling for the feds to “enforce the laws already on the books.” The fact is, the gun laws that are already on the books are a labyrinth of confusion and booby-traps full of open-ended mandates, ambiguous definitions, and unbridled bureaucratic discretion. Many innocent people have had their lives and livelihoods completely destroyed when federal agencies have decided to “enforce the laws already on the books.”

The law that was on the books up until 1981 said that a DIAS was just a chunk of metal unless it, along with at least 3 other “full-auto” parts, was actually installed in a gun without prior ATF approval. Then in 1981, ATF bureaucrats, at their own discretion and under their own authority, redefined them as machine guns, but in their decree, they included the following exception:

“With respect to the machine gun classification of the auto sear under the National Firearms Act, pursuant to 26 U.S.C. 7805(b), this ruling will not be applied to auto sears manufactured before November 1, 1981. Accordingly, auto sears manufactured on or after November 1, 1981, will be subject to all the provisions of the National Firearms Act, and 27 C.F.R. Part 179.”

For the following 30+ years, it was widely understood that any DIAS manufactured prior to November 1, 1981, was “grandfathered” and not subject to the rules regulating machine guns, and that it could be legally possessed so long as the possessor did not also possess either an AR15 rifle into which the auto sear could be installed, or the other necessary M16 conversion parts. The belief in the legality of DIAS possession was so prevalent that a variety of sources continued publicly selling drop-in auto sears that they claimed were manufactured before ATF’s arbitrary cutoff date. Such DIAS’s were widely known as “Pre-81 Drop-In Auto Sears” and were routinely advertised in various firearms publications and on-line auction sites.

In 1986, the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act was passed with an amendment forbidding the future civilian transfer of any machine gun manufactured after May 19, 1986. There was also a provision strengthening the definition of machine gun to include any part designed or intended exclusively for the purpose of converting a gun into a machine gun. These two provisions meant that possession of a DIAS – even without a gun to put it in or the other needed parts – was a felony, and that a DIAS could only be legally registered by someone specially licensed to manufacture machine guns for the military and law enforcement – and then could only be possessed by a military or law enforcement agency.

The belief that pre-81 DIAS’s were exempt continued in spite of a ruling in 1998 from the US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit which declared that the ATF did not have the authority to “grandfather” or exempt pre-81 DIAS’s. That determination was not widely reported, nor was there any apparent effort on the part of ATF to enforce the ruling. In May of this year, the determination of the 7th Circuit was echoed, and expanded upon by judges in the Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. I wrote a column at the time warning that not only DIAS’s, but a variety of other firearms and devices that have long been understood to be fully legal, are actually completely illegal (at least in those Circuits) and that the owners of these devices everywhere are in jeopardy.

The fact that the same conclusion has been reached in two different Circuits means that it is very likely that the other Circuit Courts will follow the same line of reasoning and reject any claims of exemptions based on prior ATF determinations. It appears that ATF might be endeavoring to expedite that process as I am aware of attempts by the agency to locate and confiscate pre-81 DIAS devices in the jurisdictions of both the 1st Circuit and the 3rd Circuit. Thousands of people are now at extreme risk for possessing items that ATF has explicitly told them it is legal for them to have. Confiscations of drop-in auto sears could be just the tip of the iceberg, as ATF could start going after other “grandfathered” items such as open-bolt MAC and KG type pistols, Browning “G Series” Light Rifles, and certain other guns and devices. Anyone who owns one of these devices should seek qualified legal counsel immediately. Anyone who is contacted by ATF inquiring about such devices should refer them to counsel and also contact The Firearms Coalition to let us know about it.

As I have said before, while the rhetoric surrounding gun control always talks about targeting criminals and public safety, the reality is that enforcement of these laws is always aimed at regular gun owners whose only crime is believing that they are committing no crime.

The target of gun control isn’t criminals, it’s us. The objective of these laws is to make us criminals and make lawful gun ownership too difficult and dangerous to attempt.

ATF says this is a machinegun because it can be used to convert a gun into a machinegun – but it only works in guns that ATF says are already machineguns. So this device is illegal because it can convert a machinegun into a machinegun.

Photo courtesy of the Firearms Coalition.

468 Responses to “ATF Confiscating Drop-In Auto-Sears”
  1. Jared Cooper says:

    This article is seriously confusing and I think you’re playing up the confusion to benefit your point. a DIAS will make a semi auto machine gun fire at a rate of more than one round per pull of the trigger and nothing else is required to make this happen. To make this a sustainable rate of fire of course the buffer, bolt and several other items would have to be upgraded, less the shooter wants an explosion in the face.

    So the ATF is saying that they are enforcing the 1986 rule which came after the 81 rule, which is in line with the NFA. There is nothing confusing about that.

    • dave says:

      So if congress passes a law and the president signs it saying that people with brown eyes may be enslaved for a period of no more than three years to work for the government, you believe that would be an enforceable law? If good people, like those in the atf go along with these unconstitutional conspiracies, then they are part of societies lawless elements. It seems like more and more that is becoming a prerequisite for public service. People who choose to ignore the language of the constitution and make excuses for violating it, are acting against it.

  2. george milton says:

    I bet a DATABASE of gun owners would be very useful for this “illegal guns” hunt. Next up they will make a law demanding that everyone with a semi-automatic firearm bring their weapons in to inspection sites for verification that they have not altered the weapon in any way.

    This is like when the United Nations tells African citizens to bring their weapons in to collection centers usually RIGHT before some random mysterious group of mercenaries wipes out their WHOLE village in a bloody slaughter.

  3. dave says:

    Something else to think about. You can own class thee weapons now after paying a tax and allowing extra ordinary access to public officials of your private property. Would you be fine with this lawless standard were the tax applied to the exercise of your religion? How about free speech, would it be ok with you if only the people who had the tax stamp were allowed to make public political speech? Ok, now a twist on deformity of the law of our land, what about slavery: If you paid a special fee and allowed the government inspection access, how many people would be ok with reintroducing some sort of slavery back into society, damn the constitution and it’s amendments? What we have here, is a failure to communicate. People who choose to ignore the language of the constitution and make excuses for violating it, are acting against it. We have two federal classes of crimes that I know of for these acts : Sedition, and Insurrection. Why are we not electing people to office who will follow through on upholding our laws? Will it take someone to put forth legislation tolerating some limited form of slavery before we act? Where are your standard’s people?

    • Jared Cooper says:

      There is no implied or explicit loss of your 4th amendment rights for owning a class 3. That’s a myth. If you have evidence that it’s part of owing a class 3 weapon, please post it.

      • dave says:

        Really? I’d say paying a tax to own one would be. Like I said above, how would you feel about paying a tax to practice your religion, speak freely. How about to not be a slave? Levying taxes as a stipulation for a civil right that is specifically and clearly defined as something that shall not be infringed, it is absolutely a 4th amendment violation. No crossing that line.

        • Jared Cooper says:

          I think you may have an argument about not taxing rights but it’s not well framed within the 4th amendment.

          The 4th amendment is the amendment that protects against unreasonable search and seizure.

          My comment was in response to this part of your post “allowing extra ordinary access to public officials of your private property.” There is no extraordinary access with class 3. They can’t just show up and demand to see the weapon is what I mean.

  4. Bob says:

    DIAS; a Drop In Auto Sear! Hoary Buckets of Brass, Batman! I gotta get one of these for my Thompson Center Contender. Another for my Hammerli Olympic Free-Pistol. Perhaps another for my MGXP100 (.17 Caliber Mouse Gun, built on the (Single-Shot-Sleeved WITH THE ATF “WINDOW”) XP-100 Benchrest action. And yet another for my Great-Great-Grandfather’s .69 Caliber Springfield, Mdl. of 18 & 39. Brought back from “The War”. Those one-bangers are just about all I shoot these days, but the FBATF&E (FEDeral Burro of….. ….) simply cannot tolerate the concept of any Force existing that is greater than its Own Power (operative word, that) to Regulate, Prohibit, to instill Terror in the Hearts of The People, and to Destroy Whoever and Whatever They Will to Destroy.

    Not that they ever would, of course; Power is Ne-ver abused in America. Like ‘The People’, ‘they’ just like to know that if ‘they’ ever want to do so, ‘they’ can.

    BTW; those “Ball & Cage” contraptions in which a series of ball bearings roll through tubular wire cages, triggering flashing lights, whistles, and pop-out clowns in a series of Roller-Coaster style moves? If hooked up to a Semi-Auto, those entertaining machines could be used as a sequencing device for firing a dreaded second round with a single 3-minute pull of the trigger. Dianne, The Village, and The Idiots had better ban Roller Coasters too, so’s we can sleep o’nights.

    Danm! With one of these DIAS’s incorporated into GG-Gramp’s old Springfield, I could ramp my rate of fire from 0.50 RPM to what? Maybe even a blistering …. TWO shots per minute? (GG-Gramps claimed some fellows could get off 4 shots per minute, but old men are known to embellish the tales of their accomplishments!)

    I do have a couple of repeaters; a Winchester Model 94, and an old S&W target grade wheel-gun. Maybe I’d better get a couple more, just for them.

    HeII, a block of iron and a draw file is all you need …. for a …… charge of ……. C-O-N-S-P-I-R-A-C-Y-Y-Y !!!!!!!!!!

    For the Federales, it isn’t about Freedom, Principle, or even that old scrap of parchment that truly Constitutes (!!! Think about it!!!) these United States of America. The Bureaucracy they serve has no interest in these things. For them, it is about Security … their Security, in their Position, of Power. For without that Position, that Power, the Bureaucracy itself would cease to exist.

  5. John says:

    Well here’s one for you Dave. The second amendment states that our right to own a gun shall not be infringed. But they can tax it, regulate it and limit it. Allowing you to own a shotgun does not infringe on your right while they out law all rifles and handguns. The second amendment does not stipulate that you have a right to own all firearms only that you have a right to own one. Well the only thing that stops government is us at the polls. All politicians want to keep their jobs and as long as the majority of the people are willing to vote that line then they won’t cross it. Yes you have the Pelosi’s, Feinstein’s and Boxer’s but you have to look at where they come from as well as the Schumer’s and Rangel’s. These people care nothing about the Constitution or they wouldn’t push the gun control debate so hard. Join the N.R.A. and then donate to the N.R.A.-I.L.A. to help fight this over reaching government. Don’t wait for the other guy and don’t make excuses. Just do it.

    • dave says:

      John, there are so many inaccurate points in your post I won’t address them all. Here’s they type A summary. The Bill of Rights was a late addition to the constitution, added because the representative were basically tired and wanted to go home, yet they knew the document as it stood left out some key points that would have doomed it to failure had they not been included, namely the relationship of the citizenry to the government, specifically, that there were specific lines that no government had the authority to cross because no citizen had that right to cross it. rather than explain the meaning of the second or any other amendment to anyone I’ll note the language, that it applies to everyone, be they electorate, elected, or appointed…or “government” as a separate entity. No one legally infringe our keeping or bearing of any individual based arms save through a constitutional amendment negating the 2nd. They may not poll tax them out of existence. They may not Jim crow them out. While it’s wise to follow even illegal laws like many we are thinking of here, there comes a time when people have to choose that enough lawlessness is enough and require their representative and those appointed to maintain the right, or face a lawless society. this is where we are now, living in a much more dangerous society than we need to be because a few corporatist scum have usurped our laws, over decades, and are illegitimately taking our lives, liberty, property for their use. This is unacceptable. So contribute to the NRA, but understand that they are living under the same false monarchy as the rest of us and if we really want change, we need to vote law abiding people into elected office, not NRA stooges who merely want to prolong the conflict. That means not voting for your Big Two Crown Party candidates, and I challenge you to make that effort.,

      • John says:

        The debate over gun control has gone on for years. We have a Constitution and a Bill of Rights. We pay a $200 tax for the privilege to posses a Class 3 firearm. With our government anything is possible. There should be term limits for Congress and Senate. People need to get informed before they vote. The earlier post is nothing but an example of what type argument the government could use. The government passed in 1934 the N.F.A. In 1968 the Gun Control Act. In 1992 the assault weapons ban. Of course the 92 ban sunset after 10 years. But the point here is the government has regulated our guns. In some certain cities you have to have permits. The bottom line is it appears that the government is slowly taking control. They have tried to use the Consumer Product Safety Commission to band ammunition. It didn’t work. But the fact they tried tells me they want control. That control comes from disarming Americans. Prof John Lott did a study on guns and crime. Read the book More Guns Less Crime. That book disspeals the liberals argument about guns and crime.

        • dave says:

          Government, like any individual citizen, may only act seditiously, when law respecting Americans allow it to. We have aright to expect our legitimate laws be upheld, and those illegitimate laws passed be mediated out of existence. How we do that is an individual decision. Some people chose to fund lobbying organizations, some simply require the law be upheld, some do nothing. In various situations most of us have been in each of those camps. More and more people are seeing our government as being occupied by lawless elements in society. As more people recognize this, more people will stand up and say this is unacceptable. Be you an elected official, a member of the military, public safety community, in business for yourself, or a citizen who doesn’t fall into any of those categories, the law applies to all of us equally and those who act against the basic law of the land, no matter where they are on any spectrum, act in insurrection to our nation and people. If we tolerate that, we have become a nation without law, a nation of slaves.

        • Unknown says:

          “We pay a $200 tax for the privilege to posses a Class 3 firearm.” Privilege? Since when did a right become a privilege? Do you pay a $200 tax to vote? How about a $200 tax to cross a state line? Sorry, you can’t tax a right.

  6. dave says:

    Nonsense, the 2nd amendment clearly states for everyone to read that no one shall infringe a citizens right to keep and bear arms. Pursuing this sort of illegitimate prosecution will likely result in much wastage, and it is owned by those foolish enough to try and impose the whims of criminally behaving regimes. Much sadness will result from indiviuals who think they are kings in America.

  7. Dominiator says:

    We fight so hard to keep our guns and to be able to purchase our guns but we seem to forget to fight for WHAT guns we can purchase and modify! I would like to own, purchase and/or modify one of my Glocks to full auto but I am told by the ATF that I am not allowed to own, buy or modify any full auto Glock!
    Yet the Black Panthers of which all or most have criminal records have an arsenal of full auto weapons? Hmmm.

  8. John says:

    Ok what is it about class 3 people don’t get? If you have an auto sear you have the capability of converting a semi to full auto. That in and of itself is illegal unless registered with the ATF. The auto sear should be registered since it has the capability of portability. I build SBR’s for myself. While I wait for the form 1 I cannot have the short barreled upper until I receive the paperwork. Until the receiver is registered I cannot have all the component s in my possession. The NFA controls all class 3 from AOW to suppressors and in between.
    Learn the law. All post 86 full auto are illegal to own by the public since Geo HA Bush signed that little piece of legislation. Be careful any violation of the NFA is a felony. That in itself will ban you from owning or possessing a gun.

    • Unknown says:

      The part I get is Class 3 dealers have made a business out of something that is illegal in the first place- infringement of our rights. By cowering to those that are breaking the law (ATF), you are supporting them. 72 people were BBQ’d alive over a tax that never should have been. Collaborators that worked for the Germans during WWII never thought there would be any repercussions against them if the Germans lost, they were wrong. Something to think about.

  9. Jody says:

    I’m so glad that, other than the few guns I own that I did 4473 (FFL) transfers for, and the components and accessories that were included in their boxes at the time of purchase, I don’t possess any other guns, gun parts, magazines, accessories, ammunition, ammunition components, tools, supplies, or related paraphernalia, period. Like my attorney says, Thank You for caring so much about the public’s safety – now don’t trouble yourself to come back again without a warrant.

  10. Fuzzbean says:

    Michael Z. Williamson says:

    August 9, 2013 at 6:19 am

    The DIAS does not “only work in a machine gun.” It works in any low shelf AR that contains the FA FCG and BCG. Without the DIAS or a sear, it will still only function as a semiauto rifle.


    I think what he is saying is that AR’s such as you describe, with the parts you describe included, ARE machine guns legally according to the ATF. There are other parts besides the DIAS which would also meet your definition of “critical part” — an AR with a DIAS installed but a semi-auto disconnector will only fire semi-auto. Same with the hammer and the bolt carrier and the selector switch.

  11. Steve N says:

    Just my opinion – but ATF is a disaster happening. I don’t see any problem with law abiding Americans owning machine-guns or silencers – neither has even been used in the commission of a crime since Bonnie and Clyde.

    • John says:

      You forget the L.A. shoot out. Not only were full auto’s used so were bullet proof vest. A bullet to the head stopped one the other committed suicide. I could go in to the small percentage of gun deaths per year versus car accidents. The unknown amount of times guns are used to prevent crime. Don’t anyone forget the dabacle of “Fast & Furious”. Our own government at work. Agent Brian Terry killed by one of the firearms that our own government help put in the hands of the drug cartels. Class 3 firearms have been regulated since 1934. In 1968 the Gun Control Act was put into law. The 4473 firearms transfer was put in place at that time. Until that time firearms could be ordered from magazines and mailed directly to your house. All about government control. And all in the name of public safety.

  12. The DIAS does not “only work in a machine gun.” It works in any low shelf AR that contains the FA FCG and BCG. Without the DIAS or a sear, it will still only function as a semiauto rifle. This is the critical part that allows FA fire. ATF has said for years that possession of a DIAS and an AR constitutes constructive possession,.

    Also, how does one prove a block of metal was made before a certain year?

    These were always a disaster waiting to happen.

    • John says:

      Because sears have serial numbers and therefore traceable. At least auto sears and that’s because they are portable. Placed in one firearm with the portability of being used in another.

      • Unknown says:

        I don’t think so. All of the USGI sears and parts sets I’ve inspected do not have any serial numbers on them. Perhaps a part number or a drawing number, but nothing that is consecutive or serial.

  13. cal says:

    A war is brewing between us and them..holder and his cronies, the atf and that bunch are looking for a way to pull every semi and auto type weapon including the ones used at national machine gun shoots from the hand of every American. After they pull that off be prepared for prison camps for those who speak out for their right’s.We’ll no longer have ANY RIGHT’S!!!! Everything this country stands for will be trampled into the dirt As our Flag has been in the past and the only hope America will have will be from those who have not been thrown into those prison camps. I and No one else want’s to see any of this happen but as long as we have people like this bunch in Washington the possibilities are there. It’ll make a hell of a book when it’s written.Taking back America-1 2 3.

  14. Gods Servant says:

    Typical of the type of tyranny you can expect from the government!!!
    Thomas Jefferson said it best “When the government fears the people their is liberty. When the people fear the government their is tyranny.”

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