In case you missed it:
Last week, the ATF issued an open letter to all Federal Firearms License holders (gun stores) about 80% lowers. ATF's goal is to clarify what types of lower receivers under their new ghost gun rules are classified as 'firearms' and what kinds of 80% lowers are not classified as firearms.
The recently implemented ATF Rule 2021R-05F changed many regulations surrounding 80% build kits and 80% receivers, but the new restrictions didn't ban 80% receivers altogether (or even come close). Confusingly, the new rules only banned the direct-to-public sale of 80% receivers that can "readily be completed, assembled, restored, or otherwise converted" into a functional firearm.
The new rule means that retailers (who may or may not be FFLs) can still sell 80% lowers directly to the public without needing to complete the ATF Form 4473 and NICS check required for firearm sales – but only if the 80% lowers are not readily convertible. If the 80% lower is readily convertible, it can only be sold by an FFL and requires a 4473 and NICS check.
So what makes something "readily convertible"? Well, according to the ATF:
A process, action, or physical state that is fairly or reasonably efficient, quick, and easy, but not necessarily the most efficient, speediest, or easiest process, action, or physical state. With respect to the classification of firearms, factors relevant in making this determination include the following:
(a) Time, i.e., how long it takes to finish the process;
(b) Ease, i.e., how difficult it is to do so;
(c) Expertise, i.e., what knowledge and skills are required;
(d) Equipment, i.e., what tools are required;
(e) Parts availability, i.e., whether additional parts are required, and how easily they can be obtained;
(f) Expense, i.e., how much it costs;
(g) Scope, i.e., the extent to which the subject of the process must be changed to finish it; and
(h) Feasibility, i.e., whether the process would damage or destroy the subject of the process, or cause it to malfunction.
If you think this isn't very clear, you aren't alone. The new ATF rules made sense to no one because (as usual) the ATF did a poor job of making the regulations plainly understandable.
To help clarify their position, ATF released an open letter that you can read here, but the main takeaway is below.
The main thing:
...a partially complete AR-type receiver with no indexing or machining of any kind performed in the area of the fire control cavity is not classified as a “frame or receiver” or “firearm” provided that it is not sold, distributed, or marketed with any associated templates, jigs, molds, equipment, tools, instructions, or guides, such as within a receiver parts kit
Impact of Final Rule 2021-05F on Partially Complete AR-15/M-16 Type Receivers
So there we have it – no indexing or machining around the trigger pocket means an 80% is probably good to go, as long as it doesn't come with instructions, jigs, or parts kits. ATF was nice enough to include some helpful visual examples.
Worth 1000 words
The following three pictures are 80% receivers ATF does not consider firearms:
ATF considers these a firearm:
This is a gallery of lower receivers ATF does consider to be firearms.
Hopefully, the open letter and visual aids offer you some clarity on a previously murky situation.
- 80% lowers are still considered "defense articles" on the U.S. Munitions Import List and are subject to restrictions on import or export. So, avoid getting caught shipping incomplete receivers OCONUS or bringing them into the US without an ATF Form 6.
- ATF 2021R-05F Guide: https://www.atf.gov/firearms/docs/guide/overview-final-rule-2021r-05f-definition-“frame-or-receiver”-and-identification/download
- This is not legal advice.
Bonus: If you aren't up to speed on the new ghost gun rules, you can read a synopsis in Issue #15 for free below: