*FAL Variant Parts (for legality)*
Recently there has been a renewed discussion on building FALís . One of the things folks donít usually think about when they get into these discussions is the requirement to make the weapon when built compliant with the current version of federal law. So with that in mind, Iíll put the list of parts out there you can pick from and have a little discussion of whatís available as of late March 2005.
At this time on the Federal level you have to deal with "Section 922R" of 27CFR178. That is what is always referred to in the sales catalogs and what is always referenced. In the fall of 2004 the so called Assault Weapons Ban expired and so did "Section 922R" but the part covering making a firearm with imported parts in 27CFR178 is still in place. This is the section of the federal law that defines what a "compliant" weapon is if you want to build one. If you want to read the stuff for yourself here is the link: http://www.atf.treas.gov/regulations/27cfr178.html. The part we are interested in is actually in section 178.39. Here it is (You can find it at the link about ľ of the way down):
[T.D. ATF-270, 53 FR 10494, Mar. 31, 1988]
Sec. 178.39 Assembly of semiautomatic rifles or shotguns.
(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 Sec. 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 are:
(1) Frames, receivers, receiver castings, forgings or stampings
(3) Barrel extensions
(4) Mounting blocks (trunions)
(5) Muzzle attachments
(7) Bolt carriers
(8) Operating rods
(9) Gas pistons
(10) Trigger housings
(16) Pistol grips
(17) Forearms, handguards
(18) Magazine bodies
What you have codified here are the defined parts that make up a compliant weapon. Without going into what has been hammered out by those that are into this stuff, in the case of the FAL you need 7 compliant parts to build a "compliant" weapon (if you use a (5) Muzzle attachment also known as a flash hider). In English what that means is you have to have 7 parts that are American manufacture in the rifle you build, if you use the flash hider, or at some time in the future when they catch you they will lock you up. Otherwise you can get by with 6 parts. So, what are the parts usually used in making a "compliant" FAL?
Usually the following parts are used. These parts are not in order of cost or commonality but of what is seen most frequently.
(1) Frame, receiver.
(8) Operating rod (In the case of the FAL, BATF determined the Charging Handle performed that function and is a compliant part if American made)
(9) Gas piston
(10) Trigger housing (In the case of the FAL, BATF determined the Lower Receiver performed that function and is a compliant part if American made)
(16) Pistol grips
(17) Forearms, hand guards (in the case of the FAL)
WHATís the bottom line?
Up until about the fall of 2004 the cheapest way to assemble a compliant weapon was to:
1. Buy a rifle kit from one of the peddlers. They were about $150.00 for a decent kit to $300.00 for a "new before it was cut up" STG-58" kit.
2. Buy an Imbel receiver (Imbel being an Argentine arms manufacturer who has been making FALís for over 30 years under license to FN), $179.00 wholesale.
2.a. Buy a Coonan receiver which is American made, $200.00 wholesale.
3. Buy a Hammer, Trigger, Sear set (HTS) from Harold Shinn who owned First Son Enterprises (FSE) for $40.00.
4. Buy furniture (butt stock, hand guards, pistol grip) from Tapco for about $50.00
4.a. Buy furniture (butt stock, hand guards, pistol grip) from Penguin Small Arms Works for about $50.00 for the "economy" furniture and $90.90 for their premium sets.
5. Buy either a (8) Operating rod Charging Handle, or (9) Gas piston, or (20) Floor plates. The Charging Handles ran about $30.00 each and could be gotten everywhere. The best buy on Gas pistons was Tapco at about $20.00. Floor plates were about a dollar each.
One caveat about Floor plates needs to be addressed. If you have a rifle that needs the magazine in it with a floor plate to be compliant and if you place a magazine in your weapon that does not have a US floorplate in it you are now a Felon. You have violated federal law. And there have been debates at the various web sites of the legality of even removing the magazine from the weapon to reload it with another magazine that is compliant. What most people did if they used US made floor plates is to have the floor plate bump the piece count on the weapon up one part this way. That way you had 8 parts if using the muzzle brake/flash hider or 7 if your gun didnít have it.
Now itís late spring 2005 and the following things have changed. FSE went out of business. Mr. Shinn was honest and thought people who dealt with him were honest also. He had a policy to exchange with no questions asked a defective HTS parts set without having the original set returned to FSE. Since there are many dishonest people out there they were saying they had bad parts, FSE was sending replacements with no proof the original parts were bad and it forced FSE out of business.
The other peddler of HTS sets is DSA. At this time they are producing folding stock pattern paratrooper lower receiver sets that are selling very well. These sets use DSAís HTS components and DSA has stopped selling HTS sets as of the second week of March 2005. They say once the production and demand level out they will resume sales of their HTS sets. (they say sometime this summer).
There are at least two companies who are trying to field a HTS set and it looks like one of them will get their product on line by this summer (July 2005). Falcon Arms is that company (If I remember the name right).
Penguin Small Arms Works sold off a huge batch of "second" furniture (butt stock, hand guards, pistol grip) sets to a bunch of wholesalers and they can be had for about $30.00 delivered. Youíll need to scrape off mold lines from the casting process and sand them a little but they work and fit fine. The 3 I bought had color mis match problems. By that I mean you could see slight swirls in the pigment of the stock material and the color wasnít homogeneous. Other than that they were Penguins economy $50.00 sets.
A sale of 29,000, inch pattern Australian kits was stopped and all the rifles went to the smelter (Bet the Auzzies will miss em when the Indonesians show up). This happened last summer (2004) and that coupled with a similar situation in Europe has forced the prices of the remaining kits to go up. Kits that Tapco were selling for $99.00 are going for $150.00-$180.00. The Imbels, which were middle of the pack weapons, are going in the low $200.00ís. The "new before it was cut up" STG-58ís that are considered top end Metric kits are in the upper $300.00ís and the Australian kits are going for the price of complete weapons as produced by Century International Arms.
How do I build my rifle and not go broke or go to jail?
If I were building a compliant rifle at this time I would use the following:
1. Coonan Receiver (1 American Part), Stay away from the Century receivers because they require more fitting than the first time builder has the skills to usually do.
2. R1 rifle Kit from Military Gun Supply (MGS). They are at http://www.militarygunsupply.com for $179.00 less shipping. Be advised these rifles are warrior weapons and have been in a war. Also they are painted in strange green and puke yellow colors to act as camo. Donít expect a 400.00 kit cause you ainít gonna get it. You will get a functional kit that can be assembles into a rifle.
3. Penguin second furniture (3 American Parts)
4. DSA gas piston (1 American part). The DSAís are a couple thousands over in diameter and this seems to compensate some for the worn gas systems on the R1ís.
5.Tapcoís Charging Handle (1 American Part)
6. What I would do so I didnít have to worry about compliant magazines would be to buy an American made Flash hider. Iíve bought DSA stuff and been happy with them. You can also cut the threads off your barrel and have your weapon look like Belgian issue but I donít like that because you have to recrown the barrel.
7. Buy one of DSAís lightweight aluminum lower receivers (1 American Part), nicely made but $100.00.
The reason I stay away from the American follower and floorplate is they will eventually start prosecuting people for non-compliant weapons. When they do I donít want to be one of them and if I have a rifle that is illegal with the magazine out of it I donít want to risk that. Besides I have well over the number of magazines I want to buy the parts to convert. I know youíd like to know what that number was but letís say I canít pick them all up at once and leave it at that.
Whatís sergers bottom line here?
The costs in March 2005 would be:
1. Coonan Receiver $200.00 wholesale. Figure at least $40.00 for the dealer/shipping/tax
2. R1 Kit from MGS about $200.00
3. Penguin second furniture at about $30.00
4. DSA Piston $35.00 plus shipping $35.00
5. Tapco Charging handle $30.00 $38.00 (including shipping)
6. DSA flash hider $25-35.00 less shipping. $45.00 (includes shipping for it and the DSA Gas Piston)
$548.00 (plus what you can haggle the dealer down to)
You might have to add the cost of the receiver wrench and barrel blocks if you need to have them to assemble the rifle. I havenít needed any yet but I might get some later. If so add about $75.00 to the cost.
You can possibly get the parts for less if you look around. But donít take too long doing it because the parts kits are the mobile price and they are going up while the quality is going down. What ever you do, do it quick. Unless the situation changes we are in the twilight of the FAL building craze. What has been discussed and what I see is the tapering of manufactured parts because all the venders donít want to be the last guy out there peddling parts because he will be stuck with them.
Donít be shy, you can build a perfectly good rifle and be proud of it too.
Thanks for the read.
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