The End of an Era in Gun Building
The Death of The 80
The days of the 80% lower are rapidly coming to an end. In late August a new ATF ruling will be finalized that changes how the bureau has defined “readily convertible” for the past 50 years. This move, which has been made with the primary intention of putting 80% handgun frame manufacturers out of business, will effectively kill the entire 80% receiver market as we have come to know it.
The ruling is so blatantly offensive to the industry that it is almost indecipherable by experts in the field. JSD Supply, one of the larger retailers of 80s has no way to tell if the ruling is legal in the first place, and furthermore what exactly it applies to. They have decided to stop selling 80s out of an abundance of caution after the ATF shut them down illegally before the new ruling even took effect.
Despite this many retailers soldier on, vowing to supply as many 80s as they can until the deadline, many storefronts actually placing their products on sale as opposed to the conventional price gouging gun owners are used to experiencing under similar circumstances. Additionally there are a handful of retailers continuing to get new stock in and do not even acknowledge the ruling, presumably these companies are calling the ATF’s bluff.
I personally did not see this ruling coming. I was well aware that 80s were an item every anti-gun politician had their eye on, but rather foolishly I assumed that there would be no way to actually enforce a law prohibiting inert chunks of metal and plastic, especially when the surface firearm industry relies so heavily on these building blocks. I thought they could not reasonably create a more stringent definition of a firearm without running too close to absurdity and therefore it wouldn’t happen. I was right, you can’t create a ruling like the one now coming into effect without it being absurd. Unfortunately the ATF doesn’t seem to care if the proclamations it hands down are absurd or not. So with that being said I owe some people an apology. I would like to take this time to formally apologize to the people that have been developing printed frames for Glocks and other kit guns such as the Mac and AK platforms.
In my private discussions I have routinely criticized printed kit builds. My argument would essentially boil down to something along the lines of ; “That Glock frame is neat I guess, but why wouldn’t you just get a P80 instead?” Well, I stand corrected, you win by virtue of being the last man standing. So I’m sorry for all the shit talking I’ve done over the years. I’ll begrudgingly admit that the dev was necessary. You’re the best we’ve got now.
Where do we go from here?
So with that said, P80 frames are pretty much dead. The ruling was specifically tailored for them, as so appropriately demonstrated by Joe Biden when he was seen handling one of their frames while he announced his attempt to crack down on ‘ghost guns’. Personally I think there will be more wiggle room in the area of forgings historically used in conventional manufacturing processes such as 1911, and AR15 receivers. In my opinion the ATF will draw its line along the idea of intent, Polymer 80 frames were intended to go to the consumer and be as easy as possible for them to finish, whereas an AR15 80% receiver for example, is the opposite of that and was sought out by the consumers initially, rather than them being marketed to them. I think the same will be said for receiver flats like AK and G3 pattern guns. Luckily for us, the language of the ruling is so broad that there will be plenty of room to try to get around it in the sense of litigation. I predict the rise of the “79%” receiver and “paperweight” dealers in the near future. Additionally some of the braver dealers show no signs of slowing down and seem like they’d like the ATF to give them standing in a court case of this nature.
Right now, without concrete knowledge of how the market will respond to this ruling the only thing that is assured is that the era of the 0% receiver in public consciousness has been thrust upon us. Defense Distributed released their 0% AR lower for their Ghost Gunner desktop CNC machine in response to this rule change. This option eliminates the need to rely on partially finished 80% AR15 blanks, so long as you have about 3 grand and a year to spend on it. Of course for better or worse all the printed options are still there, whether it be AR lower, Glock, CETME, FGC-9 ect. And the old fashioned way of turning and milling parts from scratch, which is often sorely neglected remains. Overall, this move will have done nothing but wean gun builders off of channels of commerce that can be easily regulated, and will serve to make the next era of home building further resistant to the will of the government.