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To whom it may concern:I am writing to request clarification regarding the ATF’s current legal stance regarding modifications to Saiga rifles. These rifles have appeared in the marketplace in large numbers in 7.62x39mm, .223, and .308 calibers. If any of these questions are inappropriate for your office, please simply refer me to the appropriate organization. I have one specific question regarding Saiga rifles, and one more general question:1) Would modifying a Saiga rifle by replacing the existing buttstock with a “thumbhole-style” stock result in a rifle prohibited from importation under Title 18 USC § 925(d)?Note that if the answer differs depending on the caliber, please identify the correct answer for each of the three calibers identified above.2) With reference to the parts listed in Title 27, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 478 (formerly Part 178), section 478.39(c): Is a thumbhole-style stock counted as a buttstock, as a “pistol grip”, or both?Note that my question is narrowly focused on correctly “counting”.While it is not my desire to cause your office any unnecessary workload, given the potentially serious consequences of even inadvertent violations of Federal Firearms law, I am left with little alternative. I have been unable to locate clear answers to these questions despite extensive research. And thus, I sincerely appreciate your efforts in responding to this letter.Sincerely,LESchwartz
U.S. Department of JusticeBureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,Firearms and ExplosivesNOV 1, 2005903050:ELG3311/2005-663Dear Mr. LESchwartz:This refers to your letter, received by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Firearms Technology Branch (FTB), September16, 2005, pertaining to a Saiga AK-type semiautomatic rifle. Specifically, you requested a clarification regarding modifications to Saiga rifles. Your letter was forwarded to FTB’s new location in Martinsburg, WV, for reply.As you may be aware, the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), 18 U.S.C. § 922(r), prohibits assembly of certain semiautomatic rifles and shotguns from imported parts. The implementing regulations contained in 27 CFR § 478.39 (formerly 1 78.39) include the stipulation that “no person shall assemble a semiautomatic rifle or any shotgun using more than 10 of certain imported parts, if the assembled firearm is prohibited from importation under 18 U.S.C. § 925(d)(3) as not being particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes.”These parts are tabulated below: (1) Frames, receivers, receiver castings, forgings or stampings.(2) Barrels.(3) Barrel extensions.(4) Mounting blocks (trunnions).(5) Muzzle attachments.(6) Bolts.(7) Bolt carriers.(8 ) Operating rods.(9) Gas pistons.(10) Trigger housings.(11) Triggers.(12) Hammers.(13) Sears.(14) Disconnectors.(15) Buttstocks.(16) Pistol grips.(17) Forearms, handguards.(18) Magazine bodies.(19) Followers.(20) Floor plates. Because certain AK-type semiautomatic rifles are currently prohibited from importation, the assembly of such rifles using more than 10 of the above imported parts is prohibited under § 922(r). However, assembly of AK-type semiautomatic rifles using 10 or fewer of these imported parts is not prohibited under this section.With respect to the questions in your letter, we will answer them in the order they were posed, as follows:Question 1: Would modifying a Saiga rifle by replacing the existing buttstock with a ‘thumbhole style” stock result in a rifle prohibited from importation under Title 18 USC, Section 925(d)?Answer: Yes. if your Saiga rifle is assembled using more than 10 of the imported parts in the above-cited 922(r).Question 2: With reference to the parts listed in Title 27, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 478 (formerly Part 178), section 478.39(c): Is thumbhole style stock counted as a buttstock, as a “pistol grip”, or both?Answer: Both: The “thumbhole stock” about which you inquire is considered a combination of a pistol grip and a buttstock, therefore counting as two parts with reference to the parts listed in 27 CFR § 478.39(c) (formerly 178.39(c)).Please note that the above answers are applicable to .223, 7.62x39mm, and .308 calibers.We thank you for your inquiry and trust that the foregoing has been responsive to your questions.Sincerely yours,Sterling NixonChief, Firearms Technology Branch