A Loss for ATF - Issue #35 - 2022

The subscriber-only Newsletter for the week of September 3rd, 2022.

A Loss for ATF - Issue #35 - 2022
Good morning, friends. It's Saturday, September 3rd, and we're looking at a federal judge's ruling against the ATF on ghost guns, some new handguns from Springfield and S&W, law enforcement's data grab in Fog Reveal, a Navy SEAL training death, and more.

Rest in Peace

Before the usual stuff this week, a moment to recognize the passing of James Yeager. One of the OG modern instructors/GunTube guys of the digital era, James Yeager, had a long and colorful career as a shooter and is reported to have passed away peacefully in his family's company. He had ALS.

James Yeager, RIP - The Truth About Guns
James Yeager of Tactical Response is reported to have passed away on September 2, 2022. James had been fighting ALS for some time.

3D Printing & DIY

80% Lower, 100% ATF Tears

US District Judge Reed O'Connor of the US District Court for the Northern Division of Texas ruled Friday that Tactical Machining, LLC., a manufacturer of 80% lowers, can lawfully continue to operate despite ATF's recently-enacted Final Rule on 80% lower receivers.

Judge O'Connor issued [this] ruling, which very roundly criticizes the Biden ATF's new stance on firearm parts. Some highlights:

ATF exceeds its authority

In other words, § 478.12(a) describes the full scope of frames and receivers that are consistent with the statutory scheme. ATF’s expansion in § 478.12(c), on the other hand, covers additional parts that are “designed to or may readily be completed, assembled, restored, or otherwise converted to function as a frame or receiver.” 27 C.F.R. § 478.12(c). But Congress intentionally omitted that language from the definition. Section 478.12(c) is thus facially unlawful because it describes only parts that Congress intentionally excluded from its definition of “firearm.” It is purely an expansion of authority beyond the statutory language.

Schrödinger's receiver

Rather, the issue here is whether ATF may still regulate a component as a “frame or receiver” even after ATF determines that the component in question is not a frame or receiver at the time of evaluation. Congress has not extended ATF’s authority so far. That the firearm part is “designed” to be or may one day become a frame or receiver does not change the fact that, in that moment, it is not “the frame or receiver of any such weapon.” 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(3)(B).

Parts kits are not firearms

Plaintiffs are also likely to succeed on their claim that the Final Rule unlawfully treats weapon parts kits as firearms. The Final Rule contains its own definition of “firearm,” notwithstanding that the Gun Control Act already defines the term. Under the Final Rule, “[t]he term shall include 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.” 27 C.F.R. § 478.11 (definition of “firearm”). That language conflicts with the statute’s definition of “firearm.”

ATF has no general authority to regulate parts

ATF has no general authority to regulate weapon parts. But the Final Rule grants ATF that general authority by copying language used throughout the statutory definition. It takes phrases like “designed to” and “may readily be converted” and “assembled” from various places in the statute, cobbling them together to form ATF’s own definition of “firearm.” Those terms may add a patina of credibility to the drafting, but they tarnish Congress’s carefully crafted definition. More importantly, they unlawfully expand ATF’s authority beyond the boundaries set by the Gun Control Act.

Tactical Machining can operate, but customers are a different story

Covered by the injunction, Tactical Machining can operate its business as it has, free from the threat of enforcement of the Final Rule’s unlawful redefinitions. Presumably, Tactical Machining’s customers are still subject to felony charges for buying its products. See 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(3). And it may be the case that Tactical Machining’s business will fail unless the injunction is subsequently amended to cover a substantial portion of Tactical Machining’s customer base. But for now Plaintiffs offer neither evidence nor argument on that point.

My Impression

Overall, this ruling doesn't change much right now for the country as a whole. But this early criticism against ATF's Final Rule in 2021R-05F is pretty scathing. Granted, this is a judge in Texas – but assuming the legal fight over the ghost gun ruling works its way up the court system, this early injunction seems to suggest that 2021R-05F is a sloppy move by ATF that will not hold up to serious scrutiny.

10/22 Barrel Limited Offering

For a limited time, you can order a completed aluminum 10/22 proto barrel from DB Firearms. If you don't feel like the work of building one yourself, this is a good way to go. These are very light, with the rifle-length barrels weighing only 14oz. The barrels can be ordered in custom lengths and are for a standard 10/22, NOT a takedown model.

Aluminum Proto Barrel (Completed) — DB-Firearms
For a limited time we are offering a pre-order on a completed proto barrel in aluminum. The chamber end contains two set screws to clamp your barrel liner down. The muzzle end has one set screw and is threaded in 1/2x28. These barrels are for the standard Ruger 10/22 - NOT the takedown version at t


The Prodigy

Springfield has a new release, and this time it isn't a remixed Croatian Glock clone or a laughably awkward bullpup. The 1911 DS ProdigyTM is a metal framed 9mm 1911 pistol with a 20+1 capacity. There's a government (5") and commander (4.25") length model, and the guns ship with an Agency Arms-inspired AOS optics mounting system.

Springfield 1911 DS ProdigyTM
Springfield 1911 DS ProdigyTM

Springfield is running a big national promotion for the release this weekend, and the gun has been a pretty closely guarded secret. I got the chance to check one of these out a few weeks ago but couldn't post about it without violating an NDA. It's a nice piece, and it feels good in the hand. If you're a 1911 guy, this seems like a winner. It's got the right features for a modern 1911, and it comes in about a thousand dollars below a comparable Staccato P. My early contention is that this is a rare W for Springfield, but I won't fully endorse it until I know it can hold up to the particular kind of abuse that only the general gun-buying public can dole out.

1911 DS Prodigy™ Handguns - Springfield Armory
With a huge selection of pistols and rifles, Springfield Armory is the premier manufacturer of quality handguns for protection and competitive shooting.

M&P®9 M2.0™ Metal

Smith & Wesson is adding metal framed pistols to their popular M&P 2.0 lineup. The new variant will feature a 7075-T6 aluminum frame covered in a tungsten grey Cerakote. The pistol still fits into standard M&P holsters, accepts M2.0 magazines, and takes standard M&P 2.0 palm swells.

M&P®9 M2.0™ Metal
M&P®9 M2.0™ Metal

The M&P lineup was due for a facelift, and the metal frame is a welcome choice. The guns are optics-ready, ship with the standard 17+1 capacity, and offer the M2.0 flat trigger and enhanced sear.

M2.0 Metal Series | Smith & Wesson


Fog Reveal

Police are using a tool called Fog Reveal to conduct digital dragnet searches and collect pattern-of-life intelligence on citizens. The program is secretive, and it's not uncommon for law enforcement to hide its use from defense attorneys at trial.

Apps like Waze, Starbucks, and many others gather a unique device ID from your phone. This information is bundled and sold by data brokers on the open market. Fog Reveal buys the data and turns it into a software suite law enforcement can use to detect specific devices, track a person's movement history, and more.

Warrants are a gray area and are not required much of the time. The data is commercially available, and phone users have agreed to the terms and conditions of their apps.

Spooks and ex-military intel officers run the company itself:

Fog Data Science LLC is headquartered in a nondescript brick building in Leesburg, Virginia. It also has related entities in New Jersey, Ohio and Texas.
It was founded in 2016 by Robert Liscouski, who led the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cyber Security Division in the George W. Bush adminstration. His colleague, Broderick, is a former U.S. Marine brigadier general who ran DHS’ tech hub, the Homeland Security Operations Center, during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The cost of the Fog Reveal suite is relatively cheap compared to purchasing electronic warfare devices like Stingrays. Some of the LE contracts are as cheap as the 4-figure range.

At a minimum, preventing your apps from tracking your movements or capturing personalized ad information is a good idea. Fortunately, you can read below how to disable Ad ID monitoring on your smartphone.

Read More:

Tech tool offers police ‘mass surveillance on a budget’
Local law enforcement agencies from suburban Southern California to rural North Carolina have been using an obscure cellphone tracking tool, at times without search warrants, that gives them the power to follow people’s movements months back in time, according to public records and internal emails o…
How to Disable Ad ID Tracking on iOS and Android, and Why You Should Do It Now
The ad identifier - aka “IDFA” on iOS, or “AAID” on Android - is the key that enables most third-party tracking on mobile devices. Disabling it will make it substantially harder for advertisers and data brokers to track and profile you, and will limit the amount of your personal information up for..…
(h/t @N1ghtTr4C3)

Bellingcat Outs a Spy

Here's an interesting story about how the independent publication Bellingcat which is totally not an intelligence laundering apparatus funded by NED dollars outed a Russian spy. The burned operative had to beat feet back to Russia after sloppy tradecraft outed a range of passport numbers belonging to Russian spies.

Socialite, Widow, Jeweller, Spy: How a GRU Agent Charmed Her Way Into NATO Circles in Italy - bellingcat
A Russian spy with an unconventional Peruvian backstory, and a chaotic private life, managed to befriend and engage numerous staff and officers at a NATO base in Italy, a Bellingcat investigation has found.

Mikhail Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, passed away at 91 this week. Gorbachev is remembered by the West as "a man one can do business with" and by his countrymen as largely a sell-out.

During his time as head of state, Gorbachev was known for his progressive politics, withdrawal from Afghanistan, and willingness to weaken his country's military readiness to appease foreign interests. Gorbachev had the ability to offend both traditionalists – who were no fans of his progressive policies – and radicals, to whom he was not progressive enough. Ultimately, ineffective administration and political infighting meant his country would dissolve into regional territories shortly before collapsing on the world stage and losing its status as a superpower. Ahem.

Mikhail Gorbachev, former Soviet president who took down the Iron Curtain, dies
Mikhail Gorbachev -- the last leader of the former Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991 -- has died at the age of 91.

Adjacent News

The CH-47 Chinook – the workhorse helicopter of the US Army – is grounded over concerns about engine fires. It's good to take preventative maintenance and safety seriously, but it's...not good that the entire fleet is grounded for the moment.

Army Grounds Entire Chinook Fleet Over Engine Fire Risk
The Army has grounded its entire fleet of CH-47 Chinook helicopters while it works to fix fuel leaks that caused an unspecified number of engine fires, the service confirmed.

Ethereum goes Proof-of-Stake

Ethereum will transition from a proof-of-work to a proof-of-stake model next week. In the most basic of terms, PoW is more secure, but PoS requires substantially less electricity.

There was an alarming situation with the US Treasury launching a successful attack on coin mixing service TornadoCash a few weeks ago, which raised questions about Ethereum's security. We looked at this in Issue #32. For privacy, it's not looking like Ethereum is leading the pack.

Ethereum’s long-awaited proof-of-stake transition set to start on September 6th
It all begins with the Bellatrix upgrade

BUD/S Training Death

A Navy SEAL trainee died in his sleep after completing the infamous BUD/S "Hell Week." The young sailor went to sleep after the training event and never woke up. He had bacterial pneumonia and had been coughing up blood during the course, and performance-enhancing drugs were found in his vehicle.

The Navy has faced criticism in recent years as a culture of hazing, steroids, drugs, and cheating has become something of an open secret in the Teams.

Death in Navy SEAL Training Exposes a Culture of Brutality, Cheating and Drugs
CORONADO, Calif. — Kyle Mullen always had the natural drive and talent that made success look easy. Until he tried

(Not So) Smart

Thousands of people in Colorado this week found themselves amid a heat wave, but they could not turn down their air conditioners because the power company had locked their home's "smart" thermostat.

Giving the power company control over one's thermostat was an optional program; participants received billing credits for taking part. But many customers were unaware they'd give up so much control in their homes.

If you pay attention, you'll notice that "smart" actually means "things the government can monitor or control." Smartphones. Smart cars. Smart thermostats. Smart doorbells.  

Thousands of Xcel customers locked out of thermostats during ‘energy emergency’
When thousands of Xcel customers in Colorado tried adjusting their thermostats Tuesday, they learned they had no control over the temperatures in their own homes.

That's it for this week, everyone. Get rid of your smart IoT devices and lock down your phones. I'll see y'all next time

- Lee