December 29, 2022 – The ATF’s definition of “firearm” was drastically changed with the enactment of Final Rule 2021-05F in August of 2022. In particular, this Rule added a new definition for a “[p]artially complete, disassembled, or nonfunctional frame or receiver,” which includes, among other things, “a frame or receiver parts kit, that is designed to or may readily be completed, assembled, restored, or otherwise converted to function as a frame or receiver…” These partially complete receivers and frames are now considered “firearms” by the ATF and thus subject to the same markings requirements and transfer restrictions as completed firearms.  The stated intention of the “[p]artially complete, disassembled, or nonfunctional frame or receiver” definition was to address the sale of what are known as “80% receivers” that are used to manufacture firearms for personal use without a serial number, and are sometimes referred to as “ghost guns.”
As expected, this Rule caused much confusion and the ATF has now issued an open letter to all Federal Firearms Licensees to “assist the firearms industry and the public” in understanding its impact. Specifically, the letter addresses “partially complete” striker-fired pistol frames, such as those sold by Polymer80 and Lone Wolf. In applying Rule 2021-05F, the ATF has concluded that these partially complete striker-fired semiautomatic pistol frames, “including, but not limited to, those sold within parts kits, have reached a stage of manufacture where they ‘may readily be completed, assembled, restored, or otherwise converted’ to a functional frame.” Thus, they will be classified as “frames” and also “firearms” as defined in the Gun Control Act and its implementing regulations, 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(3)(B) and 27 CFR 478.12(a)(1), (c). This classification applies “even without any associated templates, jigs, molds, equipment, tools, instructions, guides, or marketing materials” being sold with the partially completed pistol frame. The ATF specifically stated that the use of temporary rails and/or blocking tabs that can be easily removed by “novice” users with minimal equipment is insufficient to render them outside the scope of the Rule. The ATF also noted that the term “80%” (such as 80% finished or complete) has no relevance to the analysis since there are no ATF guidelines referencing 80% in any manner. Rather than considering the percentage of completion, the Rule assesses whether the partial frame may be “readily” completed.
Although Polymer80 and Lone Wolf pistol frames are specifically referenced, this analysis indicates that all similarly designed partial pistol frames will be classified as a “frame” and “firearm.” After the Rule was enacted, the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas, issued a preliminary injunction that has partially halted enforcement against one of the parties challenging its constitutionality. That matter is now pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

Renzulli Law Firm is continuing to monitor this legal challenge to Rule 2021-05F as well as other legislative developments and litigation that affects the firearms industry.  If you have any questions about complying with this Rule and its applicability to partially complete frames, please contact John F. Renzulli or Christopher Renzulli.