Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Weapon Classes and the NFA Explained

If anyone has recently watched the movie "The Purge" that was released On Demand, Redbox and iTunes around Halloween, then you may be familiar with the text displayed by the US Government on the TV Screens of US Citizens in the movie.  Without revealing any spoilers for those of you who haven't seen the movie, I would like to give a VERY brief description of the plot.  The Purge takes place in the US in the year 2022. Due to the overwhelming growth of poverty, homelessness, and crime, the Federal Government declared one night a year, known as "The Purge", for any crime to be legal! That's right, everything that is illegal is legal for one night a year, from 7pm to 7am....even murder.  The Purge begins at 7pm with the sound of the Air Raid/Tornado Sirens every American City has in place and an Announcement made by the Federal Government on Television. The announcement basically states that....All crime is legal and fair game for the next 12 hours, there will be no police, no fire trucks, and no ambulance on duty until 7am the next day.  All Weapons up to Class 4 may be used, anything over Class 4 is still illegal for use during The Purge.  And that's about all I am going to tell you.  Being a firearms aficianado myself, I am familiar with Class 2 and 3 weapons, and I could guess what Class 4 Weapons are but I wanted to find out with a quick Google search. Googling "Class 4 Weapons" brought up a bunch of questions, directly related to the movie "The Purge".  People all over the web want to know what Class 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on Weapons are and an example of each. The first one I clicked on was at Yahoo Answers, and the two answers given were completely retarded, and the one that was voted "Best Choice" was completely INCORRECT! This disturbs me, the fact that ignorant and uneducated people that know nothing about what they are saying, are in fact saying things and trying to answer questions which they shouldn't be answering. I answered a couple of these questions using the National Firearms Act of 1934 as my reference and info from the BATFE website. I actually did my research before answering the damn question, even though I had an idea of what the answer was before. When someone asks a question, it should be answered with fact and supporting evidence, it should state the sources of information. Answers to questions, especially at sites like Yahoo Answers, should NEVER be an opinion with the source "First Hand Knowledge".

I decided that my response to the question (What are Class 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on Weapons and an example of each?) was so accurate, detailed and necessary that it deserved its own post here at the Crow Flies blog. Without further ado, I present to you the Question and Answer of the Day:

Question: What are Class 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on Weapons and an example of each?

Answer:  I will answer this question correctly and as best as I can.  The NFA (National Firearms Act enacted on June 26th, 1934) classifies all weapons that are sold, manufactured, imported, exported or owned by Americans, into 4 major Categories. A Weapon is defined as: any instrument or tool that can be fashioned and wielded for the purpose of killing (animal or human) or inflicting bodily harm on others.  It is by this definition that the TSA is able to call a box knife (a tool most commonly used for cutting boxes and tape off of packages) a weapon, since it was used one time to hijack an airplane.  Now that you have some background on what a weapon is, it's time to define the different classes of weapons as outlined by the NFA.

Class I Weapons - handguns, rifles, and shotguns that are imported into the United States are defined as Class 1 Weapons. In order to import these weapons one must hold a Class 1 FFL (Federal Firearms License).  It should be noted that Class 1 Weapons are generally semi-automatic (one pull of the trigger fires one bullet) only as all fully-automatic (one pull of the trigger fires multiple bullets) weapons are no longer being imported into the United States, as of 1986. However, a Class 1 Weapon can legally be converted to a Full-Auto firing mechanism once it has been imported, but only by a properly licensed Class III FFL Manufacturer and only after BATFE (Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, and Explosives) approval. An example of this would be a Full-Auto AK-47 imported post-1986. These are rarely found legally owned in the US. However, the Full-Auto AK-47 is a very common weapon in the US, but almost all owners, obtained the weapon illegally. Since, the AK-47 is a Russian/Eastern Bloc Weapon, after the Berlin Wall fell in '86 millions of these carbines were sold to Mexico and other Latin American nations. Thousands of these rifles are smuggled into the US daily to help arm Muslim Terrorists fighting for Allah on American Soil.

Class II Weapons - handguns, rifles, shotguns, and silencers that are manufactured within the US.  These Class 2 Weapons are semi-automatic only, meaning that each time the trigger is pulled only one round is fired from the barrel. It should be noted that in order to manufacture a silencer one must hold a Class II FFL but in order to sell silencers you must have a Class III FFL. Also, in order to purchase and own a Silencer, one must apply for a Class III NFA Tax Stamp (a $250 fee paid to Uncle Sam) with the BATFE. It is for these reasons that Silencers are so often mistaken for being illegal or only sold to military and LEO's (since Class III FFL Dealers are not as abundant as Class II FFL Dealers).

Class III Weapons - Short Barreled Rifles (SBR's), Short Barreled Shotguns (SBS's), and Fully Automatic Rifles and Handguns are classified as Class III Weapons. Short Barrel describes firearms with a butt-stock and having an Overall Barrel length of less than 16" from muzzle to breech.  Because of the Short Barrel definition, one can reasonable conclude that attaching any type of stock to a pistol would then classify it as a SBR or Short Barreled Rifle which then makes it a Class III Weapon. If the pistol we are describing was just a regular handgun purchased from a Class II dealer, it would be illegal to make it a Class III SBR by attaching a stock to it, without filling out the appropriate paperwork first and applying for the NFA Tax Stamp. All NFA Violations such as this one, as Class Y Felony's punishable by a $100,000 fine and a 10 Year minimum prison sentence. Fully Automatic Weapons are those that fire multiple (more than one) bullet with a single pull of the trigger. These weapons are legal to own in the United States by non-felon, Class III Licensed citizens and are sold only by Class III FFL dealers.

Class IV Weapons - The last and highest class of Weapons, sometimes referred to as Class 4, covers what the NFA calls, Destructive Devices or DD's. Destructive Devices are bombs, grenades, nuclear weapons, flame throwers, dynamite, rocket launchers, tanks, Javelin Missile Launcher, Harrier Jets, and so on and so forth. Class 4 Weapons or DD's cover anything that explodes, shoots flames, or launches an exploding device. Class IV weapons are illegal to own, manufacture, sell, trade, import, export, or own parts for, by any American citizen other than properly licensed LEO's, Military, and government officials.

I hope that this info will clarify some of the things you may have been wondering or maybe never knew.  I know there are many new Gun Owners out there that want the biggest, coolest, and baddest looking gun and features, sometimes they buy things that would make their gun illegal to own and without knowing the NFA laws, this can get you into some serious trouble. One mistake such as the one described under Class III Weapons with the Pistol and stock attachment, could cost you a LOT! A felon, can never own another gun again, can NEVER purchase another gun, can NOT vote, can NOT serve in the Military, and can NEVER leave the United States....even for Vacation.  Do your research before attaching that awesome new accessory you ordered off the internet to your gun and taking it to the range!  This does bring me to another issue, just because it is sold legally at the gun store or on the internet, DOES NOT mean it is legal for you to own!  For example: A Full Auto Trigger Group for an AK-47 or AR-15 can be purchased for under $30 from various retailers online. It can be purchased and shipped directly to your house via US Mail, no questions asked, and this is perfectly legal. However, these parts are sold for those who LEGALLY own a Class III Weapon (Full Auto firearm) and are ILLEGAL for those who don't own a LEGAL Class III Weapon to have in their possession.  The law is very specific in how and what it states. The exact rules of the law will be explained in this next description:

Let's say you own an AR-15 with a 16" barrel that you bought at the local gun store.

A friend of yours who just sold his last AR-15 has some extra/spare parts lying around that he gives you since he has no use for them anymore. One of these is a short 7.5" barrel.  It is perfectly legal for you to own a 7.5" AR-15 barrel, you could use it to build an AR Pistol.  However, the fact that you don't currently have a dedicated AR Pistol receiver in your possession, the only AR-15 receiver you do have is the one that you just bought that has the 16" barrel on it, makes having possession of this
Stripped AR Lower Receiver - Class II Weapon
7.5" barrel an iffy ordeal.  According to the NFA law, which I encourage everyone to read (it's only several hundred pages long), having possession of this Short 7.5" barrel that will fit on your current Rifle Length 16" AR-15, gives you the ability to convert your current AR-15 into a SBR (Short Barreled Rifle) which is a Class III Weapon. This is a prime example of how not knowing the law could cost you your guns and life.  How can we make this scenario legal you ask? Simple! Go to the gun store, purchase a "Stripped AR Lower" and a "Stripped AR Upper", keep your 7.5" barrel stored in the same place as the two Stripped AR Receivers but separate from you 16" barreled AR-15.

Stripped AR Upper Receiver - Not Classified
If for some reason the police or ATF were in your house and saw this 7.5" barrel, they would see that you are in the process of building an AR pistol (you will probably have to tell them this is what you are doing) and it is perfectly fine for you to own these parts now.  Using this example you can swap the 7.5" barrel for many other parts that are available for you to purchase and apply the same concepts.  Going back to the Full Auto trigger group, if you have possession of a Full Auto Trigger Group in your parts kit that you take to the range with your new 16" barreled AR-15 that you bought at the local gun store, you are breaking the law! The ATF says that you could easily (even though there is nothing easy about it) convert that AR-15 into a Full Auto M16 by installing the Full Auto Trigger Group into it.  What makes this scenario legal? If you own a properly licensed Class III M16 that you have the paperwork for, then you can also have that Full Auto Trigger Group in your parts kit/tool box that you take to the range, even if the M16 is not with you, but back at home in your safe. You just need to make sure that you have proof of the paperwork to show in case the ATF asks.

Looking back, we have determined what a Weapon is, described the different classes (categories) of weapons as defined by the BATFE in the National Firearms Act, given examples of each, and then wrapped everything up by applying some real world scenarios to the different laws defined by the NFA.  Now you are aware that the NFA is not a person, nor is at a government body, it is a set of laws that govern all firearms on US Soil, even those carried by Foreign diplomats.  I would like to end this post by telling you what brought the NFA into existence - this is by far my favorite Firearms fact. World War I, the Great Depression, and Prohibition gave rise to many advances in technologies especially those regarding firearms as well as rise to a new culture and breed of individuals. Like modern times, where people want the latest and greatest technology in the lightest and most compact form factor available, the people of the 1920's and 30's wanted the same, in fact, it is safe to say, this has always been a desire amongst man in regards to technology.  World War I brought about many new weapons and refinements to current platforms, for example, the Fully Automatic Machine gun, capable of firing 800 to 1000 bullets a minute, was now not restricted to bulky vehicle mounted armaments but could now be held by a single man and fired while the man was at a full sprint!  Guns like the Thompson Submachine Gun fit this bill and could be purchased at the local hardware store for $25 by anyone that could see over the counter.  Check out these ads pulled from period specific Newspapers. 
 The Ad on the right was targeted toward Hunters and Plinkers. The one below was targeted toward security guards, police, and homeowners, as it describes the Tommy Gun as the Thompson Anti-Bandit Gun!  The Thompson Submachine gun was an instant success when released in 1919, even though the US Military didn't pick it up until 1938 for WWII, the streets of every major US City were flooded with Thompson Submachine Guns. No Bootlegger was without one, even farmers and ranchers purchased them as a means of fending off coyotes (this was another use of the Tommy Gun depicted by a 1922 Thompson Advertisement, not seen here).  US LEO's and J Edgar's G-Men were still carrying 6 shot revolvers, and SWAT teams hadn't even been thought of yet.  Government officials were being mowed down daily and every time, it was by Thompson's new Submachine Gun.  The Gangs of New York and Chicago were especially notorious for outfitting their workforce with Tommy Guns instead of pistols.  It was due to the high number of Government employees who died as a result of the Tommy Gun that in 1934 the 72nd Congress drew up and enacted the NFA. This made the Tommy Gun a Class III weapon and to own one, you would have to submit a photo id, fingerprints, and pay the $250 Tax to the ATF (at the time probably the new FBI). This made it especially difficult for the felons to purchase them and those that didn't have lots of money, especially since the tax was 10 times what the gun cost new!  It didn't stop people like Al Capone from purchasing them though.  Those that already owned a Tommy Gun were grandfathered in and were not subject to the NFA unless the attempted to sell the weapon.  It should be noted that in 1938 the Thompson Submachine Gun went into service with our Men and Women of the Armed Forces and was carried on the shores of Normandy to the Jungles of Vietnam. It was later replaced by the M16, but that is a different story altogether.  I have always been fascinated by the politics, culture, and state of our country from 1920 to 1939 and often wish I would have been alive to see that period. It is because of this that I find the above facts to be the most fascinating.  Culture, Politics, and Crime all played a part in leading up to the formation of the NFA. If the US hadn't gone through the Great Depression, Prohibition might never have happened, gangs and unions might not have been so influential, and the Thompson gun may have just been a Badass Coyote Killer! If you have any questions or comments feel free to post in the comments section below as it is open for everyone, guests included or you can email me at kellym.crow@gmail.com. If you would like to subscribe to my blog and be notified via email of future posts please email me a blank email with the subject line SUBSCRIBE ME. Thanks for reading!


  1. Thank you for such a carefully researched aanswer. I also did my own research and everything here seems to be accurate and factual.

  2. This was wonderful, really enjoyed reading it over!

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  4. Thanks for the indebth explaination of the classes of firearms. This information I have looked up many years ago. But your way of telling the masses is elequent and insightful. Thanks again. Really enjoyed the read.

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  6. This was wonderful, really enjoyed reading it over!

  7. Hi there, I read your blogs on a regular basis. Reading this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept chatting about this. Thanks for sharing.
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  8. there is no way a nuke or anything that could potentialy destroy buildings would be considered class 4. there has to be class 5 in theory

  9. FYI: felons are not barred from voting for life(not in all states, and not federally) , nor are they not able to leave the country. I myself have a 15 year old felony conviction and have done both multiple times, completely legally.

    1. Montana will sell a felon a gun after 7 years? Yes? No ?

  10. How many kids went on school shooting rampages back in those days?


  12. most everything in this article is completely false. there is no such thing as class 1,2,3,4 weapons. there are title one and title 2 weapons. flamethrowers are not classed as either of these and are not regulated at all by the federal government, you can order a flamethrower online and have it shipped right to your door. destructive devices are title 2 NFA items and can be legally bought and owned by anyone that can pass a background check in most states. there is a 200usd tax on most NFA items and a 5usd tax on AOW's I have been in the NFA business for many years and could go on and on with everything that is false in this article... anyone that is actually into these things will quickly make a fool of themselves if they use this page as a source of information

    1. i'm not from the US so i really don't have the right to get into this topic.But as a matter of fact even i heard that in the us (or at least in some states) people can own flamethrowers without too strict regulations.I maybe remember it weong but i read an article about people using it for killing insects in texas

  13. Interesting article. I would like to read some discussion of the following idea. In a grand bargain for congress to reaffirm the individual right to own guns and a nationwide concealed carry law, I propose the following: Reclassify all semi-automatic center fire rifles as Class 3 firearms. Stop manufacture and import of these weapons. All current owners of these guns would have the option of either applying for the Class 3 license and keep the weapon or selling the weapons to the U.S. Government at a price equal to a multiple of its catalog value in 2018 (e.g.x2, x3 etc.). I believe that without such a compromise, the next inevitable left wing government will threaten all gun ownership despite the 2nd Amendment.

  14. Thank you for sharing such useful information... i really like it..
    nice blog you had described in detail...
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  15. “ This disturbs me, the fact that ignorant and uneducated people that know nothing about what they are saying, are in fact saying things and trying to answer questions which they shouldn't be answering”
    “Thousands of these rifles are smuggled into the US daily to help arm Muslim Terrorists fighting for Allah on American Soil.”

    What a nonce.

  16. Does it really say all that about muslims or did you put it yourself.... also where did you research

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  18. I got too much interesting stuff on your blog. I guess I am not the only one having all the enjoyment here! Keep up the good work. where can i buy guns online

  19. I get upset when I see this kind of stuff after you just posting about giving informative answers.

    I am a felon, we can vote. That rule is a couple years old now, but older than the articles date written. We may also travel.

    I do however appreciate the in depth explanation of weapon classes. Thanks!

  20. Seems like they skipped a step when going from C4 to Nuclear bombs...

  21. Thanks for nice post....

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