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If you want to modify your imported firearm you have likely heard of 922r Compliance but what is it and what do you need to know about it to stay within the law.
Guns like the Benelli M4 are subject to 922r Compliance because of their import status.
Introduction to 922r Compliance
What is 922r?
922r, often mentioned in discussions around imported firearms and their modification, is a section of US federal law exclusively pertaining to imported rifles and shotguns.
Specifically, it represents Section 922r of Title 18 of US Code. But what should be noted is that the law does not apply to handguns.
How is 922r defined under US Code?
922r comes under Title 18 which elucidates Crimes and Criminal Procedure. Within Title 18 is Chapter 44 which specifically speaks about firearms, and Section 922 deals with acceptance and non-acceptance in this area.
To be precise, “R” is the specific part of Section 922 that constitutes the law referred to as “922r”.
To give you the actual text from 18 USC 922r, it states:
“It’s unlawful for any person to assemble from imported parts any semiautomatic rifle or shotgun which is identical to any rifle or shotgun prohibited from importation under section 925(d)(3) of this chapter as not being particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes except that this subsection shall not apply to – (1) the assembly of any 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 any such rifle or shotgun for the purposes of testing or experimentation authorized by the Attorney General.”
Translated simply, among other things, this law prevents the assembly of a semiautomatic rifle or shotgun from imported parts if it resembles a weapon barred from importation under section 925(d)(3) for failing to be suitable for sporting endeavors.
However, exceptions exist for assembly by licensed manufacturers for sale, distribution to the United States, State departments or agencies, or if employed for testing or experimentation as sanctioned by the Attorney General. (Seems real fair, huh?)
Details of 922r Compliance
The Requirement to Comply with 922(r)
Compliance with 922(r) is required for any individual who is assembling an imported semiautomatic rifle or shotgun that mirrors a firearm that’s forbidden from importation under section 925(d)(3).
The law intends to control and regulate the assembly of certain rifles and shotguns, thus, it does not apply to completely domestically manufactured firearms nor does it apply to handguns.
The directive under 922(r) is not about limiting the ownership of these firearms per se, but controlling the source or mix of their components.
To be more precise, if you’re assembling a rifle or shotgun from imported parts, you must ensure that the sum of certain foreign-made parts does not exceed 10 on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)’s list of 20 key parts (list below).
There is, however, a layer of confusion here due to contradictory guidance issued by ATF as observed in their letter from 1994, which asserts NFA weapons do not need to adhere to 922(r), and another letter from 2009 which negates the former by stating that NFA weapons do not bear exemption from 922(r).
As both can’t be accurate, the prudent approach would be to comply with the mandates of 922(r) based on its wording.
Exceptions to the Requirement to Comply with 922(r)
The language of Section 922r stipulates clear exceptions to compliance. This includes:
- Licensed manufacturers who assemble such rifles or shotguns for sale/distribution to the United States, any of its departments or agencies, or any State and its departments, agencies, or political subdivisions.
- For the purpose of testing or experimentation, when authorized by the Attorney General.
Although time has revealed contradictory letters from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), interpreting whether NFA weapons are subject to 922(r), the discrepancy remains unresolved.
Therefore, this may be an area of confusion for firearm owners. However, to avoid any legal consequences it’s generally advised to comply with 922(r) until official clarity is provided on the matter.
To simplify, in most cases for the average firearm owner or assembler, you must comply with 922(r), unless you fall into one of the two cited exceptions.
Steps Towards Achieving 922r Compliance
How do you make sure you comply with 922r?
Ensuring compliance with 922r, while seemingly complex, can be boiled down to basic counting and careful consideration of your firearm’s components. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
- Identify a Firearm’s Key Components: 922r applies to 20 specific components of a firearm. These include among others, the receiver, barrel, bolt, and operating rods. You need to be conscious of each part and its country of origin.
- Count the Number of Foreign Components: No more than 10 of these 20 key components can be made in a foreign country. For each of the identified components, you need to determine if it’s imported or not.
- Replace Imported Parts, If Necessary: If your gun has more than 10 imported parts from the list of 20, you’ll need to replace enough parts so no more than 10 are foreign-made. For instance, one firearm may have 11 foreign parts, meaning only one part has to be replaced. A different firearm may have 16 foreign parts, meaning a minimum of 6 parts need to be changed to U.S.-made parts.
- Documentation: Though not explicitly required, keeping an organized record of your part swaps can prove to be a substantial aid should you face any legal queries.
- Ensure Ongoing Compliance: Any future changes you make to the gun must ensure it remains 922r compliant. Compliance isn’t a static condition, it requires careful tracking and management.
Though a seemingly intimidating regulation, becoming 922r compliant often only requires the swap of a few key parts.
With careful consideration and accurate counting, you can ensure your firearm is on the correct side of the law.
Please note that the same firearm could be 922r compliant or not, depending on the differences in the assembly, number and type of parts used.
Calculating Compliance with 18 USC 922R
Calculating 922r compliance requires you to precisely tally the number of foreign-made components in your firearm.
Section 922r identifies 20 specific elements. In order to comply, you must ensure that no more than 10 of these parts are foreign-made. The components identified by the law include:
- Frames, receivers, receiver castings, forgings, or stampings
- Barrel extensions
- Mounting blocks (trunions)
- Muzzle attachments
- Bolt carriers
- Operating rods
- Gas pistons
- Trigger housings
- Pistol grips
- Forearms, handguards
- Magazine bodies
To calculate compliance, follow these steps:
Step 1: Carefully review your firearm and identify each of these components.
Step 2: Determine the country of manufacture of each component.
Step 3: Tally the number of components made outside the U.S. If this number is 10 or less, your firearm is 922r compliant.
Step 4: If the foreign-made parts count exceeds 10, you’ll need to replace sufficient parts to bring the count down to 10 or less.
Step 5: Upon making changes, repeat the calculation to ensure continuing compliance.
Please remember that maintaining a precise record of your firearm’s parts — their origin and any changes made — can prove to be beneficial in the event of legal inquiries. It is recommended to adhere to this stipulation, despite it not being an explicit requirement.
Implications of 922r Compliance
Section 922r and Magazines
One aspect of 922(r) that needs to be highlighted deals with magazines.
Notably, Section 922(r) views magazines as comprising three distinct parts: the magazine body, follower, and floor plate. Each part is considered individually under 922(r) compliance rules.
For instance, if you possess an assembled non-sporting semiautomatic rifle or shotgun that includes 9 922(r) segments, and insert a foreign-made magazine, you have suddenly added three more 922(r) parts to the mix—totaling to 12.
Consequently, your firearm would be deemed illegal under 922(r), even though the only addition was a single magazine.
Importantly, this illustrates how quickly you can find yourself in violation of the law, simply by overlooking the count of foreign parts in your firearm and the accessories you add.
To avoid crossing the legal line inadvertently, it’s safer to either use American-made magazines, or ensure the foreign-made magazine parts do not cause your total count to exceed 10.
In a favorable ruling highlighted by TheDrickel of Calguns, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE) clarified that constructive possession doesn’t apply to magazines under the 922(r) compliance rules.
This means if your firearm requires U.S-made magazine parts to be compliant, you do not need to modify all your magazines identically.
FAQ – Your Questions About 922r Compliance Answered
What Does 922r Compliance Mean?
922r Compliance refers to adherence to Section 922(r) of the United States Code Title 18 (USC Title 18), which lays out the requirements for the assembly of semiautomatic rifles and shotguns from imported parts.
The key aspect of 922r Compliance is the rule that any such firearm must not have more than 10 imported parts from a specific list of 20 parts identified by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). If your firearm has 10 or fewer parts from this list made in a foreign country, it’s considered compliant.
Compliance with 922r can mean replacing some imported parts with ones made in the U.S. or choosing firearms or parts that already have a compliant number of U.S. parts.
Remember, the stipulations of 922r apply to the assembly of a firearm, not simply its possession. Any changes to the firearm must keep it within these compliant boundaries. Adherence to this law is required for anyone assembling a semiautomatic rifle or shotgun from imported parts, except in few specific cases.