DDTC Reinterprets Defense Services Related to Firearms: Not all Gun Activities are Created Equal…or Covered by the ITAR

2016/08/09

By: Danielle McClellan

Previously, several activities related to firearms constituted manufacturing for ITAR purposes. This meant that many activities related to firearms required registration with DDTC. After a review of the policy, DDTC has found that many traditional gunsmithing activities do not constitute manufacturing for ITAR purposes and will no longer require DDTC registration.

The guidance below is limited to domestic (U.S.) activities involving firearms (as defined in Category I(j)(1) of the United States Munitions List (USML) (22 CFR § 121.1)) and related ammunition that are .50 caliber (12.7 mm) or smaller – i.e., firearms in Category I, paragraphs (a) and (b), related items in paragraphs (e)-(h), and ammunition in Category III(a) for those firearms.  Activities involving items elsewhere on the USML, including Category I, paragraphs (c) and (d), are not included in the scope of this guidance.

  1. Registration not Required – Not Manufacturing:  In response to questions from persons engaged in the business of gunsmithing, DDTC has found in specific cases that ITAR registration is not required because the following activities do not meet the ordinary, contemporary, common meaning of “manufacturing” that DDTC employs in implementing the ITAR and, therefore, do not constitute “manufacturing” for ITAR purposes:
  1. Occasional assembly of firearm parts and kits that do not require cutting, drilling, or machining;
  2. Firearm repairs involving one-for-one drop-in replacement parts that do not require any cutting, drilling, or machining for installation;
  3. Repairs involving replacement parts that do not improve the accuracy, caliber, or other aspects of firearm operation;
  4. Hydrographic paint or Cerakote application or bluing treatments for a firearm;
  5. Attachment of accessories to a completed firearm without drilling, cutting, or machining-such as attaching a scope, sling, or light to existing mounts or hooks, or attaching a flash suppressor, sound suppressor, muzzle brake, or similar item to a prethreaded muzzle;
  6. Cosmetic additions and alterations (including engraving) that do not improve the accuracy, caliber, or other aspects of firearm operation beyond its original capabilities;
  7. Machining new dovetails or drilling and tapping new holes for the installation of sights which do not improve the accuracy or operation of the firearm beyond its original capabilities; and
  8. Manual loading or reloading of ammunition of .50 caliber or smaller.

Activities limited to the domestic sale or resale of firearms, the occasional assembly of firearms without drilling, cutting, or machining, and/or specific gunsmithing activities that do not improve the accuracy, caliber, or operations of the firearm beyond its original capabilities (as described above) are not manufacturing within the context of the ITAR.  If you are not manufacturing, exporting, temporarily importing or brokering defense articles or services, you are not required to register with DDTC.

  1. Registration Required – Manufacturing:  In response to questions from persons engaged in the business of gunsmithing, DDTC has found in specific cases that ITAR registration is required because the following activities meet the ordinary, contemporary, common meaning of “manufacturing” and, therefore, constitute “manufacturing” for ITAR purposes:
  1. Use of any special tooling or equipment upgrading in order to improve the capability of assembled or repaired firearms;
  2. Modifications to a firearm that change round capacity;
  3. The production of firearm parts (including, but not limited to, barrels, stocks, cylinders, breech mechanisms, triggers, silencers, or suppressors);
  4. The systemized production of ammunition, including the automated loading or reloading of ammunition;
  5. The machining or cutting of firearms, e.g., threading of muzzles or muzzle brake installation requiring machining, that results in an enhanced capability;
  6. Rechambering firearms through machining, cutting, or drilling;
  7. Chambering, cutting, or threading barrel blanks; and
  8. Blueprinting firearms by machining the barrel.

3) Registration Required – Other than Manufacturing:

  1. Assisting foreign persons in the design, development, and repair of firearms may constitute the export of a defense service (see 22 CFR § 120.9) and require ITAR registration with and authorization from DDTC; and
  2. Exporting a firearm or any other item on the USML requires ITAR registration with and authorization from DDTC.

It should be noted that there are two US laws that are related to the manufacturing of firearms and just because one regulation controls an activity it does not mean the other will or will not. The Gun Control Act (GCA) and the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) both control the manufacturing of firearms. The GCA requires manufacturers to obtain licenses as manufacturers (Federal Firearms Licenses from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)). The GCA is intended to cover a broader scope of activity than the AECA. The term firearm is defined differently thus, not every firearm controlled by the ATF regulations is also controlled by the ITAR.

If, after careful review of this guidance, you are unsure as to whether you are required to register with DDTC, you may submit an advisory opinion request (see 22 CFR § 126.9) detailing exactly what you do or intend to do with regard to firearms and ammunition.  This request should be sent in hard copy (services like UPS or FedEx recommended for faster delivery) as indicated on our website: http://pmddtc.state.gov/about/contact_information.html.

If you have any general follow-on questions, please feel free to contact the Response Team at (202) 663-1282 or DDTCResponseTeam@state.gov.

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