One of the more confusing aspects with regard to the importation or manufacture of firearms can be the approved markings and serial numbers required by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) in accordance with the Gun Control Act of 1968, particularly when an existing serial number is present. In 2013, ATF clarified this with a ruling known as 2013-3, whereby it is permissible to adopt the serial number, caliber/gauge, and/or model already identified on a firearm without seeking a marking variance, provided all of the conditions in this ruling are met (see ruling 2013-3).
This is more than just a convenience for the manufacturer or importer to use existing markings. Imported firearms, firearms that have been remanufactured from imported parts or NFA items that have been built from existing firearms, can often have a variety of serial numbers that can make logging these firearms into a bound book confusing. Furthermore from a standpoint of performing a firearm trace, an incorrect serial number may be recorded at some point in the firearm’s chain of history. A notorious past example of this would be the Uzi carbines manufactured by Vector Arms.
In the case of Vector, the parts used to build the carbines in question were made from military parts taken from originally manufactured Uzi carbines by Israeli Military Industries (IMI), built on receivers originally made by KY Imports.
In true military fashion, all of IMI’s parts were numbered with the original serial number of the carbine that was de-milled. The receivers were marked by KY Imports and were subsequently bought by Vector. As Vector manufactured the receivers and parts kits into semiautomatic rifles, they issued their own serial number. The final equation results in a rifle that has three completely different serial numbers, including 2 on the receiver, itself (Vector’s and KY Imports’).
Under 2013-3, ATF allows manufacturers, importers or firearms builders to use the existing serial numbers as opposed to obtaining a variance as long as the serial number is marked in accordance with 27 CFR 478.92 and 479.102, including that it must not duplicate any serial number adopted or placed by the manufacturer, importer, or maker on any other firearm and that it consists of Roman letters and Arabic numbers. In the case of reusing all of the required markings, including the original manufacturer’s name and place of origin, the manufacturer or importer must receive an approved variance from ATF.
Ease of manufacture and ease of performing a trace on crime guns or firearms that were stolen are the key benefits of this ruling and another example of ATF working to make compliance with regulations easier for law enforcement, manufacturers, importers, dealers and firearm owners.
Orchid Advisors provides electronic newsletter (“Advisory and Alert”) and blogs for general informational purposes only. It should not be considered a formal or informal interpretation of law. It is not intended as professional counsel, should not be considered legal advice and should not be used as such.