March 25, 2022
Officials with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) have now determined that some forced reset triggers (FRTs) are considered to be machine guns under federal law.
ATF made the revelation on Thursday in an open letter to federally licensed firearms dealers. In the letter, the bureau claims that some such triggers are “firearms” and “machine guns” as defined in the Gun Control Act. At issue are triggers manufactured by Rare Breed Triggers in Florida.
“These particular FRTs are being marketed as replacement triggers for AR-type firearms,” the ATF letter states. “Unlike traditional triggers and binary triggers … the subject FRTs do not require shooters to pull and then subsequently release the trigger to fire a second shot. Instead, these FRTs utilize the firing cycle to eliminate the need for the shooter to release the trigger before a second shot is fired.”
As we’ve reported previously, Rare Breed’s FRT-15 trigger has been considered perfectly legal until recently, when ATF begun investigating the triggers and the manufacturer.
“RBT disagrees with any conclusion which suggests the FRT-15 can shoot more than one round by a single function of the trigger,” Kevin Maxwell, general counsel for Rare Breed, wrote back in August in a letter addressed to Craig Saier, special agent in charge of the Tampa Field Division. “This is not just my opinion. Before the first FRT-15 was manufactured, the design was reviewed in detail by Retired Special Agent Kevin McCann, Esquire, and former ATF Special Agent, Program Manager and Chief Firearms Technology Instructor Daniel G. O’Kelly. The conclusion of that review determined the FRT-15 is not a machine gun.”
The move by ATF comes just two weeks after 20 U.S. Senators called the agency onto the carpet over what the senators called enforcement of “secret guidance” concerning forced reset triggers. A March 11 letter addressed to Attorney General Merrick Garland and ATF Acting Director Marvin Richardson describes what the senators deem to be abuse of the ATF’s powers and accused the agency of intentionally concealing internal “guidance” documents from American gun owners and the firearms industry.
“Our government, including the ATF, has a duty to inform Americans what they must do to comply with federal law, especially when the conduct involves the exercise of an enumerated constitutional right and violations could result in a penalty of up to 10 years in prison,” the letter states. “With this attempted secret regulation, the ATF shows an abject disregard for the fundamental principles of due process and accountable governance.
“Federal agencies cannot enforce the law in this manner.”
Additionally, the letter revealed that the ATF had formulated secret internal guidance documents “to assist ATF personnel tasked with … identifying certain machine gun conversion devices commonly referred to as” FRTs. These documents contain summaries of the standards that the Firearms and Ammunition Technology Division purportedly uses to classify items.
“Disturbingly, ATF made these documents available only to those tasked with enforcing the law, rather than those who strive to comply with it,” the letter stated. “Indeed, ATF marked these documents as ‘Law Enforcement Sensitive’ to conceal them from the firearms industry and the American public.
Now, apparently, such internal “guidance” determining that some forced reset triggers are machine guns is no longer a “secret regulation,” but one that ATF has made public and plans to enforce in the future.
Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for more than 20 years.