Section 922R Compliance of Imported Weapons

by Chuck Burns on August 6, 2011

This article and the information contained in this website is not intended to provide legal advice in any way. The laws change, enforcement policies change without notice. Contact the BATF directly to get current and up to date information.

About Section 922R Compliance and 922R Compliance Parts. In 1989 gun control advocates passed a law that banned the importation of a particular type of semi-automatic rifles and shotguns. These were the guns that were ominous looking assault style weapons deemed by the ruling class as too dangerous and scary for Americans to possess. During that time the “weapon” was considered to be the serialized receiver and the rest of the components that made up the gun were designated as parts.

Section 922R came about as the result of an enterprising company named B-West which got around the BAN, it imported all the parts needed to build an AK-47 less the serialized receiver. What they did was in accordance with the 1989 BAN and therefore legal at the time. B-West had the receivers made in the United States and sold the rifles assembled and as kits from about 1992 to 1994 when Section 922R was added to the law to make what B-West was doing illegal.

Section 922R is quite ridiculous and makes no sense. As an example, My Benelli M4 is made in Italy and imported. As such it can have a magazine capacity of no more than 5 rounds because of the law which defines a “sporting” gun. If I increase the magazine capacity to 7 rounds the shotgun becomes illegal. But, to be in 922R Compliance, all I have to do is replace the complete Benelli magazine tube, the Benelli magazine follower, and the Benelli fore end with US made 922R compliance parts. The illegal M4 is then 922R compliant and becomes legal. By the way, the fore end is a copy of the original Benelli part but is just made in the USA which makes it 922R Compliant.

Law makers wrote Section 922R to make what B-West was doing illegal. This was accomplished by declaring that an imported semi-automatic weapon or shotgun that did not meet the definition of a gun “for sporting use” could only be built using 10 imported parts. The parts in question were identified in a list of 20 parts. Some confusion comes in trying to determine how many of the 20 imported parts listed are actually in your particular weapon.

Here are the 20 parts: Keep in mind that your particular gun very probably does not have all 20 items.

1)   Frames, receivers, receiver castings, forgings or stampings
2)   Barrels
3)   Barrel extensions
4)   Mounting blocks (trunions)
5)   Muzzle attachments
6)   Bolts
7)   Bolt carriers
8)   Operating rods
9)   Gas pistons
10)  Trigger housings
11)  Triggers
12)  Hammers
13)  Sears
14)  Disconnectors
15)  Butt stocks
16)  Pistol grips
17)  Forearms, hand guards
18)  Magazine bodies
19)  Followers
20)  Floor plates

You have to determine which and how many of these designated parts are in your weapon. For instance, My Benelli M4 shotgun has 13 parts (replace 3 imported parts with US made parts) to get the listed imported parts at 10 or less, unless it has an original collapsible stock then it has 14 parts(replace 4 imported parts with US made parts) to get the listed imported parts at 10 or less.

To further complicate the issue, if you add a part such as a pistol grip stock to a gun that previously did not have one then the pistol grip counts against you and you must add one to the count.

Here are some links that may be helpful to you in getting a better understanding the Federal 18 USC 922R regulation:

  • TAPCO – 922R parts count as it pertains to the Benelli M4 shotgun
  • Gun Enthusiast – A good layman’s description of 922R
  • BATF answers about building a weapon using imported parts
  • Carrier Comp – Description of 922R
  • 922R Compliance Calculator – Parts count of a few popular imports

NOTE: It may be helpful to request help in determining your imported parts count for a particular weapon directly from the BATF. Here is the address:

  • Chief, Firearms Technology Branch
  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms
  • Firearms Technology Branch
  • 244 Needy Road
  • Martinsburg, WV 25401

Once you get your letter, keep it on file but remember, laws can change and ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law.

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Here is Section 922R taken from the ATF.GOV website. It has a lot of information in it. Keep in mind that ignorance is no excuse for violating the law and the government can and probably will make changes to the law as administrations and agendas come and go. Any changes made will be without consulting you or informing you of the change.

Here is a BATF answer to the Question: Is it legal to assemble a firearm from commercially available parts kits that can be purchased via internet or shotgun news?

For your information, per provisions of the Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968, 18 U.S.C. Chapter 44, an unlicensed individual may make a “firearm” as defined in the GCA for his own personal use, but not for sale or distribution.

The GCA, 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(3), defines the term “firearm” to include the following:

… (A) any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may be readily converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive: (B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon; (C) any firearm muffler or silencer; or (D) any destructive device. Such term does not include an antique firearm.

In addition, the National Firearms Act (NFA), 26 U.S.C. § 5845(b), defines the term “machinegun” as:

… any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger. This term shall also include the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or combination of parts designed and intended, for use in converting a weapon into a machinegun, and any combination of parts from which a machinegun can be assembled if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person.

Finally, the GCA, 18 U.S.C. § 922(r), specifically states the following:

It shall be unlawful for any person to assemble from imported parts any semiautomatic rifle or any shotgun which is identical to any rifle or shotgun prohibited from importation under the…[GCA]…Section 925(d)(3).as not being particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes ….

Also, 27 C.F.R. § 478.39 states:

(a) No person shall assemble a semiautomatic rifle or any shotgun using more than 10 of the imported parts listed in paragraph (c) of this section if the assembled firearm is prohibited from importation under section 925(d)(3) as not being particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes ….

(b) The provisions of this section shall not apply to:

(1) The assembly of such rifle or shotgun for sale or distribution by a licensed manufacturer to the United States or any department or agency thereof or to any State or any department, agency, or political subdivision thereof; or (2) The assembly of such rifle or shotgun for the purposes of testing or experimentation authorized by the Director under the provisions of [§478.151(formerly 178.151)]; or (3) The repair of any rifle or shotgun which had been imported into or assembled in the United States prior to November 30, 1990, or the replacement of any part of such firearm.

(c) For purposes of this section, the term imported parts [tabulated below] are:

(1) Frames, receivers, receiver castings, forgings, or castings.

(2) Barrels.

(3) Barrel extensions.

(4) Mounting blocks (trunnions).

(5) Muzzle attachments.

(6) Bolts.

(7) Bolt carriers.

(8) Operating rods.

(9) Gas pistons.

(10) Trigger housings.

(11) Triggers.

(12) Hammers.

(13) Sears.

(14) Disconnectors.

(15) Butt stocks.

(16) Pistol grips.

(17) Forearms, hand guards.

(18) Magazine bodies.

(19) Followers.

(20) Floor plates.

As a result of a 1989 study by the U.S. Treasury Department regarding the importability of certain firearms, an import ban was placed on military-style firearms. This ban included not only military-type firearms, but also extended to firearms with certain features that were considered to be “nonsporting.”

Among such nonsporting features were the ability to accept a detachable magazine; folding/telescoping stocks; separate pistol grips; and the ability to accept a bayonet, flash suppressors, bipods, grenade launchers, and night sights.

Please note that the foreign parts kits that are sold through commercial means are usually cut up machineguns, such as Russian AK-47 types, British Sten types, etc. Generally, an acceptable semiautomatic copy of a machinegun is one that has been significantly redesigned. The receiver must be incapable of accepting the original fire-control components that are designed to permit full automatic fire. The method of operation should employ a closed-bolt firing design that incorporates an inertia-type firing pin within the bolt assembly.

Further, an acceptably redesigned semiautomatic copy of nonsporting firearm must be limited to using less than 10 of the imported parts listed in 27 CFR § 478.39(c). Otherwise, it is considered to be assembled into a nonsporting configuration per the provisions of 18 U.S.C. 925(d)(3) and is thus a violation of § 922(r).

Individuals manufacturing sporting-type firearms for their own use need not hold Federal Firearms Licenses (FFLs). However, we suggest that the manufacturer at least identify the firearm with a serial number as a safeguard in the event that the firearm is lost or stolen. Also, the firearm should be identified as required in 27 CFR 478.92 if it is sold or otherwise lawfully transferred in the future.

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