The National Firearms Act of 1934, in conjunction with Title II of the Gun Control Act of 1986 (codified at Title 26 United States Code, Chapter 53, Internal Revenue Code) ("NFA") regulates the ownership of certain firearms, including, Short Barrel Rifles ("SBR"), Short Barrel Shotguns, Machine Guns, Destructive Devices, Suppressors and AOW's (Any Other Weapon).
A Short Barrel Rifle is defined as any rifle having barrel length of under 16 inches, as measured from the face of the closed bolt to the muzzle, and/or having an overall length of under 26 inches. This is the story of how and why Kelsey & Trask, P.C. Partner and Holdover Consulting, LLC Principal Matthew Trask legally obtained an SBR. Although this process was specific to the acquisition of an SBR, the process would be similar for any other Title II firearm.
Owning an SBR - Part 1: Finding the right SBR for me.
Ever since I watched Bruce Willis as John McClane dispatching eastern-European terrorists over the side of the Nakatomi Plaza, I’ve had a soft spot for the MP5. I wanted one. With the proper licenses, I could even own one in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, a transferrable, fully-automatic Title II MP5 will cost upward of $22,000.00.
The next best thing was the semi-automatic carbine version of the MP5 produced by Heckler & Koch and imported into the United States from 1982-1991. A total of 15,633 HK94 carbines came overseas from Oberndorf am Neckar, the last one in 1991. HK94 prices have risen steadily, and even a semi-automatic version can fetch close to $5,000.00 today.
After HK stopped importing the semi-automatic derivatives of the MP5, a number of small builders and manufacturers sprang up and started producing clones of the HK94 and HK89. At about the same time, license-built copies produced in other countries were imported to the U.S.
Early models utilized surplus HK parts which were permitted to be imported, but as those supplies dried up, some builders started manufacturing their own components, often with varying amounts of tolerance and degrees of success. Put another way, there were good clones and bad clones. Good builders and bad builders. High volume guys and low volume guys. It was tough to tell the difference. If you chose your builder correctly, you could get a near-perfect clone for around half of what a “genuine” HK cost. If you chose poorly, you could get a two thousand dollar paperweight.
Recently I was discussing these issues with the owner of my local gun shop, who is also a Title II/Class 3 dealer in Natick, MA. He immediately suggested I consider a DF94, an MP5/HK94 clone build by Dave Getz of DJ Getz Firearms Co. I looked at one of the new DF94’s he had, and had to agree it was a very well-built, built-to-spec HK clone. The welds were clean, the machining on the bolt and bolt carrier were smooth and the fit and finish were very nice. As an added benefit, the DF94 shipped with a tungsten filled bolt carrier and other upgrades, making a more than acceptable sear host if I ever (legally!) wanted to down the road.
A day or so after I picked up the rifle, I had a few questions. I emailed Dave Getz with a few questions over components and parts compatibility. Not 15 minutes later, Dave himself called me with an answer to my questions. We chatted about our affinity for Teutonic steel, rapid-acquisition optics and the direction gun laws seem to be heading at a state and federal level. Dave didn’t have to call me to answer my questions, but he did. You don’t see that level of customer service anywhere. That conversation and 600 flawless rounds later, I was a very happy customer.
There was, of course, one problem. The National Firearms Act requires that a rifle have a barrel length of 16 inches, and an overall length of 26 inches. The DF94 I was now the proud owner of had a faux suppressor pinned and welded on the end of the muzzle to bring the overall barrel length of the rifle to over 16 inches. Detective McClean’s MP5 had a barrel of just under 9 inches, so some work would need to be done. Time for an SBR.
Part II will discuss the National Firearms Act and the process for legally manufacturing a Short Barrel Rifle as well as our experience Navigating the ATF's E-Forms System.
Part III will involve dragging the Kelsey & Trask, P.C. team out to the range.