22 November 2022

National Firearms Act of 1934 - The 73rd Congress was Wrong and the NFA Needs to Die

Amendment: After speaking with a representative from the Cody Firearms Museum, I learned a few things. They have gone over what Winchester factory records they have and found that around 18,000 rifles in just the 1892 model would have qualified as Title II under the National Firearms Act as originally passed in 1934. I learned that the original bill as passed had barrel lengths for both rifles and shotguns at 18 inches minimum but was later changed to 16 inches for just rifles. That said, I found a document that had rifle and shotgun barrel lengths down to 16 inches initially when the bill was proposed. Clearly some changes where made during the discourse of the Act passing. Also, the museum contact noted that Winchester offered threading services from the factory as options for Maxim silencers. Very cool. 

Back in the 1930's, during a time of high profile crimes and the legends that perpetuated those crimes, the idea of "gangster-guns" was envisioned by politicians and lobbyists as something that needed to be regulated. These guns were taxed into oblivion by the 73rd Congress in 1934 through a piece of legislation called the National Firearms Act of 1934. That Congress appears to have never bothered to consider what were or were not "gangster-guns." They did not appear to contemplate that many of the firearms regulated had an intended use as what some people today call "sporting purposes."  These guns were popular but were regulated without regard anyway. Today, these regulated, Title II, guns and devices are becoming more and more popular with firearms enthusiasts, collectors and sportsman and women in the US. The People have had to learn to navigate the complex paperwork and arbitrary rules associated with these devices. As these weapons become more popular, the public is gaining experience that points to the notion that Congress was wrong about short barrel rifles, short barrel shotguns, AOWs, DD's, silencers and machine guns. Congress was wrong and its time to repeal all of, if not parts of, the NFA 1934. With the Bruen case, the National Firearms Act of 1934 may find an end. Below this article is the House of Representatives committee discussion at the beginning of the National Firearms Act of 1934's life.


The notorious timeframe of the 1920's and 1930's saw significant organized crime activity from groups such the North Side Gang or Al Capone's Chicago Outfit. The violence generated by the various gangs and an apparent assassination attempt on Present Roosevelt lead to the push to find ways for authorities to arrest these gangsters. The rumor is that the DOJ thought by taxing the guns favored by said criminals, the IRS (who was handling the tax stamps used for the NFA) or which ever enforcement agency, could arrest the gangsters for not paying the tax on the various weapons. Handguns being one of the most preferred weapons carried by these gangsters was originally included but there was too much push back on this according the House records and the House committee removed handguns from the taxable items list. If you look over the time frame that Wikipedia shows where in May 1934 the bill was introduced in the House, to it's passage in the Senate and signing by the President by July 1934, it's clear that little discussion of this law occurred by a party majority rule. Democrats held all three back then. I am unaware of anything regarding the People's fundamental rights that was passed so quickly, not that I'm an expert on law. 

It appears that little thought was given to the legality, constitutionality or efficacy of the NFA 1934 during its review by either Chambers of Congress. I see where no real discussion of how currently existing firearms with short barrels were useful or how many of these guns existed in private hands. Though at one point, either a Congressman or Senator from Tennessee appears to have noted that they would prefer people have sawn-off shotguns instead of handguns. Congress simply just said "okay" and gave little thought on how the People would be impacted. That said, there was SOME discussion about the law's constitutionality but it was dismissed and the Committee in charge opted to move forward anyway.

From what I can tell, there appears to have been a somewhat large number of rifles made by popular manufactures such as Marlin, Winchester and Kennedy from the late 1800's to the early 1900's that produced versions of their popular rifles with barrel lengths less than 16 inch with the 14 and 15 inch lengths being the most popular in that category. I do not know how many of these sub-16 inch rifles were made. I base this statement on the files that the ATF has produced where every few years, a number of rifles and other firearms requested exemption from the NFA under the Curio and Relics. Sadly, we have no way of knowing how many of these rifles and other firearms that were destroyed because the owner could not afford the massive tax in the 1930's or was intimated by the paperwork.

Those same list updates show that other firearms such as factory made Colt revolvers with a smoothbore (I think that would be considered an AOW) that were exempt under C&R at some point but removed. It's likely that given the .44-40 caliber, this was intended to fire similar shotshells like the Marble's Game Getter used. As to what purpose is beyond me but that's what the purchaser wanted. I can only speculate.

See the ATF's PDF on C&R's added from 2008 to 2014

That file alone has listings for over 140 different rifles that have barrels of 14 and 15 inches and it's not an exhaustive list. It's also not the only list the ATF has put out. 

My questions are, how many of these SBR's are unlisted and still out there in private collections? How many were destroyed because the owner couldn't afford the cost of a $200 registration?

Mechanics of the NFA

The short and sour of the NFA is you have Title I and Title II items. For a person to purchase a Title 1 device, you do the ATF form 4473 and complete the instant background ground that runs your name against the NICS system. The Title II items require you to file a Form 1 (you make it at home) or Form 4 (purchase from a gun shop or other person) to register the gun and send it to the ATF with a $200 or $5 check depending on the firearm's category. Once the ATF has your form and money, they are supposed to have a background check run against you. I am unable at this time to find out what sort of background check is completed but I figured it was similar to a Secret level clearance but I have no proof of that. It's possible that it's little different to the current NICS check but just manual and therefore, slow.

If your paperwork is completed successfully, a tax stamp is issued and mailed to the holder of the Title II item in question. If it's a Form 1, then the stamp should go to you. If the item is a Form 4, then the stamp is mailed, typically to the licensed firearms dealer you put on the Form 4. They usually call you to let you know the stamp is in. In my experience, the firearms dealer will then have you fill out a 4473 to complete the transfer of the firearm or silencer. 

Once you have the device, there are storage requirements there to prevent "unauthorized access" of the now regulated device. You can't just have the short barrel shotgun next to the bed like you can with a Title 1 shotgun. 

Short Barrel Firearms

Factory Winchester 1873 14 inch barrel rifles from a book

Under the NFA, firearms with barrel lengths under specific, specified lengths are subject to Title II regulations and taxation. For rifles, the barrel length is 16 inches while for shotguns, the minimum length is 18. I am unsure as to where those barrel lengths came from and appear to be arbitrary but may have something to do with concealability. Please note that for a firearm to be legally considered a short-barrel item, it first must meet the requirements to be either a shotgun or rifle under the legal definition under the NFA. Those definitions require a shoulder stock having been attached at make or manufacture to a virgin receiver. This technical standard is why certain firearms are able to be sold on the market since no shoulder stock was ever attached initially. 

Few guns are available for purchase as short barrel rifles or short barrel shotguns. Most of the time, the guns that are available are modern firearms such as commercial versions of the AR-15 based MK18 or some AK based platform. Some bolt actions and lever actions exist and appear to be whatever's most popular. 

People looking to own a short barrel firearm usually have to resort to filing a Form 1 and making their own or having a qualified gunsmith complete the process. In some cases, the basis for the gun exists to be an SBR or SBS and is sold in a Title 1 configuration. Once the owner has filed the paperwork, modern designs allow them to replace the needed parts by replacing a grip with a correct stock or replacing the barrel with a shorter barrel. For example, limited runs of 14 inch barrels for the Remington 870 have been produced and sold. A owner wishing to make an SBS 870 could file the needed paperwork and, with stamp in hand, swap the barrel by disassembling the gun. Please note that there are marking requirements involved for the receiver. More bureaucracy. 

In other more difficult cases, such as lever action rifles, a gunsmith will cut down and re-crown the barrel and modify other parts as needed such as the magazine tube. One notable example of a factory SBR lever action (really the only one) is the Chiappa Alaskan Takedown with 12 inch barrel in .44 Remington Magnum, though I don't believe the 12 inch version specifically is available in the US. The 16 inch model is, however. Companies such as Winchester, Marlin and Kennedy all offered factory made rifles with 14 and 15 inch barrels as factory options if not standard options. In some cases, those lengths are odd, uneven lengths but it appears that Trapper rifles were normal fare for pre-NFA days. Today, many manufacturers of lever action rifles have 16 inch barrel models and are labeled as trapper models in some cases. This would be inaccurate as trapper rifles where usually sub-16 inch barrels but the NFA limits the correct configuration for a traditionally configured trapper rifle.

Rifles are not the only options, though for short barrel configurations. Some shotshell based firearms are sold as Title II guns such as the Serbu Super Shorty though technically do not qualify as a Shotgun but are smoothbore pistols and are registered as an AOW or Any Other Weapon. It appears that Benelli may also sell various versions of their tactical models in SBS form. I have seen Mossberg 590A1 shotguns for sale but those specific ones may have been police trade ins. Mossberg, though, does have them listed on their website. 

I imagine that some people would argue against short barrel firearms but if we apply logic to what we are talking about here, short barrel rifles and shotguns absolutely make sense in our current-year world. 

The Utility of Short Barrel Rifles and Shotguns

Let's consider, for a moment, the guns being used for hunting. Many persons may conjure up the mental image of a long-barrel, bolt-action rifle with a big scope when someone says "hunting rifle." For anyone lacking experience in hunting may find that TV and movie media may bolster this idea without consideration of the realities. Why the long barrel? Why the big scope? Why have a big cartridge that can kill an elk at 500 yards? Why have those things when I don't need them? Longer barrels are great for maximizing the velocity of larger cartridges like 30-06 or 7mm Remington Magnum.  If I have a rifle with an 8 inch barrel and that's all that's need to drive the bullet from a .300 Blackout cartridge to the velocity needed to kill a deer at 150 yards and that's I'm hunting, then why not have a rifle with an 8 inch barrel? You choose the weapon for what you are hunting and where you are hunting it.

Let's look at this from another angle. If you spend enough time in the world of firearms and hunting, you will learn that many hunters have found favor in using a handgun for hunting of big game. Douglas Wesson of the Smith and Wesson brand, went on a hunting tour in the US with the newly created .357 S&W Magnum cartridge and a revolver back in the 1930's to promote the new cartridge and guns. He was successful in both harvesting large game and the marketing campaign as well. The cartridge also found favor with law enforcement as a duty cartridge for defensive pistols carried by officers. 

I bring up the .357 Magnum's pedigree since we can find modern iterations of firearms chambered for the cartridge today in both rifles and pistols. Hunters using a pistol such as a Ruger Blackhawk or Colt Python or various Smith & Wesson models can be found to have successfully taken deer with those guns chambered in .357 Magnum. None of these guns generally sell with barrel lengths that would be similar to a Title 1 rifle barrel. They are usually under 16 inches. Many of these guns have 6 inch barrels. 

The question then arises. If a pistol with a barrel length of 6 inches can be used ethically for hunting, then why can't I put a stock on that pistol for better accuracy? Would it not make sense that a firearm with a shoulder stock and a 6 inch barrel be just as balletically effective as a firearm with a 6 inch barrel and no shoulder stock? Given that a shoulder stock makes no change to the barrel in anyway, the two firearms will have similar ballistic characteristics when chambered for the same cartridge. 

Simply put, a single shot pistol such as a Thompson Center Contender with a 10 inch barrel that is chambered for .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum or 10mm Auto will have the same performance as a Thompson Center Contender rifle with the same 10 inch barrel chambered for the same cartridges. Sadly, the rifle would have to be registered and is considered a "gangster gun."  It's noteworthy that the mentioned platform is capable of being easily converted from pistol to rifle with the simple change of the rear attachment. Removing the pistol grip and replace with a stock to instantly become a felon if the firearm in not registered.

In summary, this logic applies the same to numerous firearms in various calibers. While firearms using pistol and small rifle calibers generally seem to be better suited to short barrel configurations, many firearms using larger rifle calibers with short barrels can be found. The ubiquitous cartridge that is .30-30 or 30 Winchester Centerfire from 1895 and still made today, single shot pistols such as the Thompson Center pistols can be found on the market with shorter barrels chambered in the .30-30 cartridge. 

If we go back to the hypothetical situation of a person imagining a bolt-action rifle when one says hunting rifle, then we can apply this same logic. While few commercial offerings exist, at least three companies are offering bolt-action based short barrel rifles from the factory. This would be JTAC Industries and their Elf Owl chambered in .300 Blackout with a 7 inch barrel. Q has their cutting edge, rifle the Fix in a 12 inch, 8.6 Backout variant. Black Collar Arms with their Pork Sword Stalker chambered for the new 8.6 Blackout and 375 Raptor also with a 12 inch barrel.  It's worth noting that the new 8.6 Blackout has been used to kill game animals in Africa and the US. I purchased long ago, an early release of the Black Collar Arms Pork Sword chassis before it was used in the Stalker. That chassis was used to build a 10 inch 300 Blackout pistol using a new Remington 700 action and a KAK barrel. The pistol was re-barreled with a 16 inch barrel from a Remington Model 7 rifle and is currently making use of a JTAC Customs folding stock to keep the firearm a Title 1 weapon. That firearm has successfully taken deer at shorter ranges. With the heavy weight bullets in .300 Blackout, the 16 inch barrel is a formality as the ballistic difference between the original 10 inch barrel and 16 inch barrel is negligible. Both barrels push the Hornady Sub-X bullets to subsonic velocities indicating that the requirement of an extra 6 inches of barrel is only there to keep the gun in the Title 1 category. 

Shotguns also can be demonstrated as not needing a longer barrel for use in sporting activities. While not as common, at least one person has demonstrated that a 14 inch barrel firearm can successfully take a deer. Below is a YouTube video of this.

There is no reason to expect that the person in the video would not have been successful in taking a deer if that firearm had used a shoulder stock. I believe this proves that a short barrel shotgun has short range hunting merits even if it was just for deer. That said, I'd be very interested to see how this would work for bird hunting with something like #8 shot or similar due to the likely reduced velocities. I would also like to note, that in Canada, shotguns with 14 inch barrels are normal fare and are non-restricted. Are they suddenly not gangster guns once they cross into Canada? 

Sadly, as long as the National Firearms Act of 1934 continues to burden the average American's right to keep and bear arms with short barrels, the hunters of America will struggle to accurately demonstrate, en-masse the efficacy of these alleged "gangster guns" as ethical tools for hunting. It's difficult to break myths and a general lack of understanding when something just is not commonly available. 

Sporting Arms Banned Under the NFA

I have been attempting to find and compile a list of factory produced firearms that would likely qualify as for "sporting purposes," that had barrel lengths under 16 or 18 inches. I've also come across firearms that were specifically intended for defensive applications which some would not consider "sporting" though I consider it, at the vary least, legitimate use. 

We'll start with Winchester. Those guns seem to occupy the bulk of older firearms made in the short barrel configurations prior to 1934. Trapper style rifles with factory 14 and 15 inch barrels had existed since at least the Model 1873 rifles. This continued with the models of 1876, 1886, 1892 and 1894 rifles in various calibers. Others may have existed but I haven't found them yet. Additionally, Winchester shotguns also came with shorter barrels. Many may have been labeled as riot shotguns but it's unclear at this time how common those guns were made. The earliest SBR configuration rifle from Winchester I can find on the Internet is a Model 1873 with a 14 inch barrel made in 1883. I found another '73 made in 1894 with a 15 inch barrel and a Model 1894 rifle with papers saying it was made in 1895. The inverse of this is that I have found on auction sites, an Model 1894 rifle made in 1926 indicating these SBRs continued to be produced. 

The Marlin Firearms company has been competing with Winchester in the rifle market for sometime. Notable Marlin lever action rifles such as the 1893 and the 1894 appear to have been offered in trapper configurations with 14 and 15 inch barrels. Some of these guns have been confirmed by the ATF. At this point, we have antique firearms that were made for over 50 years before Congress regulated them into near oblivion. 

Kennedy or correctly known as Whitney, as in Eli Whitney, manufactured guns at the Whitney Armory. These lever action rifles also came in 14 and 15 inch varieties as confirmed by the ATF's letters.

Colt sold the Burgess designed lever action rifles from the 1880's and again some of these are confirmed by the ATF letter, as having sub-16 inch length barrels. 

The Marble Game Getter is the firearm that started this search I have been on. It was a combination firearm that used a pair of either 12 inch or 15 inch barrels with one barrel being a rifle barrel and the other a shotgun barrel. The firearm had a folding stock and appears to have been fairly popular. The firearm is clearly intended as a small game rifle for use around a ranch, in the backwoods or hunting cabin. The early versions had a .22 rimfire barrel with the shotgun barrel using special .44-40 shotshells though it seems you could have used ball ammunition. Later versions replaced the .44-40 barrel with a .410 bore barrel. It's funny to note the existence of a small game rifle with a 12 inch .22 LR barrel as I have said before that I feel a lever action rifle like the Henry Mare's Leg with a shoulder stock would make for a stellar small game rifle. It appears that Webster Marble (the designer of the Game Getter) knew more about what I've been thinking of doing well over 110 years ago. I will also note, that other calibers such as .38-40 were available in place of the .44-40 if desired. Between the .44-40 and .38-40 options, a soft lead bullet from those cartridges from either the 12 inch or 15 inch barrels could take a deer at short ranges. This firearm alone proves the existence of short barrel "sporting guns" and the efficacy of short barrel firearms in the hands of Americans for sporting purposes. I believe the Game Getter is also directly responsible for the category of Any Other Weapon and the $5 tax stamp associated. 

Harrington & Richardson also made a firearm known as the Handy Gun that was a small caliber, small game, single-shot firearm that was talked about by Congress, that was known to be a sporting gun but was regulated by the NFA because some versions had stocks and rifled 12 inch barrels and others were pistols with smooth bores. There was also concern with the Thompson Contender in 1969 as an AOW. 

The Stevens models Pocket Rifle and Bicycle Rifle were yet another set of firearms intended for the gathering of small game similar to the Game Getter starting in 1872. It came in calibers such as .22, .25 and .32 rimfire. More calibers may have been available but these apparently are the most common. The rifles were also advertised as being able to use the shotshell versions of those chamberings. The barrel lengths of this rifle could be found in 10, 12, 15 and 18 inch varieties according to a vintage Hibbard, Spencer, Bartlett & Co catalog from 1895. The 10 inch barrel model could be had for $12.25. 

Simply put, a large number of rifles and shotguns were sold with barrel lengths under 16 and 18 inches well before the National Firearms Action of 1934. It's very difficult to know exactly how many of these rifles existed since someone would need to comb through literally millions of the serial numbers to confirm their configurations as they came from the factory. Winchester alone would be responsible for well over 3 million rifles in just the 1873, 1892 and 1894 models that would have to be sorted through. I spoke with a representative from Winchester and they confirmed they do not have access to these records. I've also attempted to contact the Cody Firearms Records Office at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West for help with no luck. While not every one of those model rifles would be an SBR or every shotgun be an SBS or AOW, it would be nearly impossible to know exactly how many of these sporting rifles and shotguns where in a factory SBR, SBS or AOW configuration. Many of these above mentioned companies records have been lost over the years for a variety of reasons. 


Notable Mentions 

Below I'm including items that are regulated but are not short barrel firearms or were specifically intended for hunting. For example, the Polhemus Manufacturing Model 23 Hunting Knife is a .22 rimfire pistol with a folding knife under the barrel which turns out to be smooth bore. This would be an AOW but appears to be intended as gun for dispatching game animals that were downed but not dead. This doesn't sound like a "gangster gun" to me. 

The Ithaca Auto and Burglar was intended as a personal defense firearm for use in your "motor vehicle" from carjackers or at home from burglars. It was basically a 20 gauge side by side, double-barrel shotgun that was "sawn-off" at the factory that had a wood pistol grip. 

Colt had apparently made revolvers with a smoothbore barrel in 44-40. At least one was registered with the ATF at some point. I assume that the user was intended to shoot the 44 shotshells similar to the Marble's Game Getter combination firearm. If I inject what I consider this would be for, I believe it would have been for small game shooting in a garden or barn but that's speculation or an educated guess. It could have been used for something else such as mounted shooting competition or demonstration. I'm thinking something along the lines of Wild Bill's Wild West Show or an old version of Cowboy Mounted Shooting. Again, I can only speculate.

Various Cane guns had been for sale having been intended as a more "gentlemanly" method of self defense. These would also be great since you could have a gun on you without the appearance of a gun. Because these guns don't look like guns, they are regulated as an AOW.

Pen guns follow the same route as the cane guns as a sort of hideaway gun and are regulated as AOWs.

All the above are examples of firearms that were regulated by the NFA 1934 that require a tax stamp. The Hunting Knife pistol may have been able to stay if the barrels had been rifled since the gun looks more gun than knife. It appears that not many were made. 


An advertisement for Silencers

Silencers had been added to the NFA 1934 but so far, I have not found any concrete reason for this. I have heard rumors this was due to poaching but have not found any truth in that statement at this time. Interestingly, I have personally hunted deer with a silenced rifle with both subsonic and supersonic ammunition. The previously mentioned bolt-action rifle chambered in .300 Backout and a custom built AR-15 in .350 Legend along with a lever action rifle in .357 Magnum have found their way into my hands as a companion while hunting whitetail deer on our farm in Georgia. Every time one of those rifles goes out, it has a silencer on it. A Dead Air Wolfman is fixed to the muzzle regularly. I dare any person who thinks a silencer makes any of those guns silent to prove it as I have first hand, real-world experience to show that these guns, even with subsonic ammunition are still loud. I invite those naysayers to the range for a real-world demonstration. That said, I imagine that my neighbors would prefer I use the silencer than hunt without to keep the noise pollution to a minimum. Or at least the startle factor. 

Purchasing silencers can be a pain due to the wait times associated with Title II items. My first silencer took over 250 days for the silencer to go from sitting at a gun store to being in possession. The .22 rimfire silencer took a significant amount of time and I'm still waiting for my Dead Air Primal. Ironically, the Primal was purchased after the ATF had implemented processes to streamline the forms process. Sadly, there does not appear to be a way for a purchaser or maker of any Title II device to determine the status of the application that I am aware of. You simply wait for something to happen. 

Many people consider silencers to be tools of assassins. While there are documented cases where assassins did use silenced weapons, there a plenty of cases showing they did not use them as well. Sadly, the lack of first hand experience with silencers by the general public in the US makes it difficult. For many people, a silencer is almost mythical and becomes fascinating. I almost always take a silencer and host gun to the range at this point and regularly demonstrate the device to shooters. It will likely take decades before silencers loose their mysticism.

If I could only chose one thing to come off the Title II list, it's silencers. They are extremely misunderstood.

AOW's and Destructive Devices

Any Other Weapons and Destructive Devices are regulated categories that seemingly came about as an after thought. A notable example of an actual "gangster gun" that actually used by a real-life ganger is regulated as a machine gun. John Dillinger had a Colt 1911 chambered in .38 Super that had been outfitted with an extended magazine and what appears to be the front grip from a Thompson. If the pistol had not been fully-automatic, the weapon would have been considered an AOW due to the front grip.

AOW's are easy to make at home. If someone didn't know better, if they just happened to have a vertical foregrip for a rifle they owned and noted that their pistol has a picatinny rail integrated into the dust cover part of the frame, they might be inclined to attach that foregrip to the accessory rail inadvertently making their pistol an AOW and them a felon. 

As mentioned previously, pistols with smoothbores are also considered AOWs. If a person wanted to have a revolver that used shotshells to handle pests in their garden would have to make sure that the pistol has rifling in the barrel or face regulation. Rifling will distort negatively the shot pattern of the shotshell when fired. Colt appears to have made a few if not just one smoothbore revolver. 

I believe the most notable example of an AOW is the Marble Game Getter as the hunting firearm appears to have been responsible for the $5 version of NFA stamps. 

Destructive Devices appear to be another catch-all category for items such as certain explosive ammunition, missiles, grenades etc but also include firearms that have bore diameters that exceed half an inch or .50 caliber. Most shotguns use ammunition in excess of .5 inch but are exempt due to "sporting purposes." There are some other examples of firearms that are exempt from the regulation because of the sport purposes clause such as .700 Nitro Express and .950 JDJ chambered guns. Firearms that are generally considered grenade launchers such as the M203 are effectively giant shotguns (see the China Lake pump action launcher) but are not considered sporting and require a $200 stamp. There did used to exist buckshot shotshells for the M203 as the M576 grenade. Interestingly, I believe each 40mm explosive grenade round must also be registered and also requires a $200 stamp. Five rounds of HE would be $1000 in taxes assuming you somehow could buy them. The only available ammunition for commercial 40mm devices are chalk/marking rounds that you have to make yourself. The RPG-7 from the Soviet Union could also be registered as a DD if you can find one. Or make it which people have.

The Streetsweeper shotgun is an example of a DD that uses common ammunition as it's a 12 gauge but the firearm itself is regulated and requires the $200 tax stamp. While it's not exactly semi-auto but instead uses a wound cylinder similar to a revolver and the firearm was regulated not all that long ago anyway. 

Machine Guns

From my seat on the porch, machine guns appear to be the catalyst for the National Firearms Action of 1934 outside of handguns and maybe other concealable firearms since that was used in the St. Valentine's Day Massecare. Interestingly, machine guns could be purchased by anyone who could afford to pay the tax. Back in the 1930's that $200 tax would have hurt but by the 1980's. inflation would mitigate $200 to around $520 in 2022 money. 

New machine guns could be bought and sold all the way up until 1986. If you wanted a fully-automatic M16, you could buy one. A wild variety of machine guns were available but in 1986, Congress passed a law that closed the Registry for new machine guns for civilian ownership. The law grandfathered in existing machine guns creating a small window where later generations can posses what are called transferable machine guns. Thankfully, some really cool options like various MP5's and similar roller-delayed guns, old heavy machine guns, AR-15 and AK's are still available with the MAC submachine guns being the most "affordable" options. That said, while you can purchase a machine gun, the number of transferable guns is limited. There is a finite number and you can't get new ones. Because of the limited numbers, these registered, transferable machine guns can go for outrageous prices. 

If you do a Google search, one can find where advertisements for surplus machine guns and military rifles from World War 1 were available and inexpensive. Sounds like the good old days to me.

I can already hear people harping on the idea that you don't need a machine gun to go hunting. Just because your AR-15 hunting rifle's lower receiver has a full-auto selector, doesn't mean you're actually going to use it on deer. In that same sense, just because you have a 30 round magazine doesn't mean you put 30 rounds in it. My AR-15 for hunting has a 20 round magazine. I only ever put 3 rounds in at at time. You can have the rifle setup for deer hunting then make changes for home defense. Maybe just by swapping uppers. The lower receiver is what handles the fire control group in the AR-15's case.

Would I own a machine gun if I could? Yes. Why? Because as far as I'm concerned, the B&T MP9 with all the accessories is the best choice I could conceivably buy for home defense.  A light for illumination, a silencer to protect my ears, a red dot for aiming and the folding stock for control and accuracy and finally, full auto to make quick follow up shots. You may disagree but when you think things through, that makes for a great option. The gun was originally designed for VIP details and defensive application and in my life, my family are my VIP. I want the best tools I can get, not what some politician thinks I should have. Incidentally, those people are protected by guns similar to what I just noted above. 

In an oddity, at some point the Thompson submachine gun was advertised as a home defense tool in the fully-automatic configuration. 


As laid out above, all kinds of firearms in the United States had a long history of being sold including machine guns. It was until the National Firearms Act of 1934 made it expensive to own a large number of these types. The passers of this law believed it to be constitutional under the auspices that it wasn't a ban, just merely a tax. A tax of course that few people could afford. A tax that while may have been a 100% tax on some guns, proved to be much more on the cheaper sporting guns of the day. I found an advertisement from the 1950's for Winchester 1894 rifles could be had for $69. I expect that the same Winchester 1894 would have been somewhere around $40 in the 1930's. A $200 tax on a $40 rifle is outrageous. That would have been new. Now imagine telling someone they need to pay that same tax on a rifle that was sold in 1910? The notion is ridiculous. 

The number of arms prohibited and regulated into oblivion is accurately incalculable. Literaly thousands to tens of thousands of guns and potential a million or close to, would have been regulated and those wouldn't have been machine guns. See this list for a good example of the tens of thousands of guns regulated. 

I want to point out that this law only applies to law abiding citizens. Felons can't be compelled to register Title II guns because it's self-incrimination. This law then serves no place other than to burden the law abiding citizen. See the Supreme Court case Haynes vs US with this link. See page 52.


It's time to repeal the National Firearms Act of 1934 or give it a day in court that isn't the Miller case. 

From the Records of that House debate

(Please note that the text is copied directly from the PDF (GPO-CRECB-1934-pt10-v78-10-2) from the Bound record from the Congress.gov website but was modified to correct spelling and easier to read. If that concerns you, you are welcome to read the file for yourself.)

The SPEAKER. Is a second demanded?

Mr. McFADDEN. Mr. Speaker, I demand a second.

The SPEAKER. Is the gentleman opposed to the bill?

Mr. McFADDEN. I am.

Mr. DOUGHTON. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that a second be considered as ordered.

The SPEAKER. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from North Carolina [Mr. DOUGHTON]?

There was no objection.

The SPEAKER. The gentleman from North Carolina is recognized for 20 minutes and the gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. McFADDEN] is recognized for 20 minutes.

Mr. DOUGHTON. Mr. Speaker, this bill is sponsored by the Department of Justice and has a unanimous report from the Committee on Ways and Means. For some time this country has been at the mercy of the gangsters, racketeers, and professional criminals. The rapidity with which they can go across State lines has become a real menace to the law-abiding people of this country. When the bill was first proposed by the Department of Justice it affected pistols and revolvers, but that provision was eliminated from the bill, and it now only relates to machine guns and sawed-off shotguns and rifles, or guns with barrels less than 18 inches in length, and to mufflers, and to silencers.

Mr. TREADWAY. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. DOUGHTON. I yield.

Mr. TREADWAY. Is it not a fact that originally there was considerable opposition felt to this bill owing to the fact that pistols and revolvers were rated in exactly the same way as machine guns or mufflers? Later on the Ways and Means Committee made the change whereby revolvers and pistols are distinctly exempted from the provisions of the act.

Mr. DOUGHTON. That is true.

Mr. TREADWAY. So that the type of opposition which came up in the first consideration of the bill was entirely removed and the opponents are in favor of the bill at the present time.

Mr. DOUGHTON. Those who opposed the bill as originally submitted to the Committee on Ways and Means by the Department of Justice, have withdrawn their opposition to the bill in its present farm.

Mr. SNELL. Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. DOUGHTON. I yield.

Mr. SNELL. Mr. Speaker. will the gentleman instead of telling us what is excepted from the bill tell us what is covered by the bill?

Mr. DOUGHTON. Machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, rifles, silencers, and muffiers.

Mr. SNELL. Is the ordinary sporting rifle included in the bill?

Mr. DOUGHTON. It is not included at all.

Mr. SNELL. Just shotguns and machine guns?

Mr. DOUGHTON. Machineguns, sawed-off shotgun rifles, silencers, and mufflers.

Mr. MAPES. Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. DOUGHTON. I yield.

Mr. MAPES. Objections have been raised on the part of prominent women and women's organizations in my district to the action of the Committee on Ways and Means in taking from under the provisions of the bill pistols and revolvers. Will the gentleman tell the House why this was done?

Mr. DOUGHTON. Protests came to the committee from some ladies' organizations throughout the country objecting to the elimination of pistols and revolvers. The majority of the committee were of the opinion, however, that the ordinary, law-abiding citizen who feels that a pistol or a revolver is essential in his home for the protection of himself an his family should not be classed with criminals, racketeers, and gangsters; should not be compelled to register his firearms and have his fingerprints taken and be placed in the same class with gangsters, racketeers, and those who are known as criminals.

Mr. CHRISTIANSON. Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. DOUGHTON. I yield.

Mr. CHRISTIANSON. Have we the gentleman's assurance that sportsmen's organizations have withdrawn the opposition they formerly expressed to the measure?

Mr. DOUGHTON. They have; and they heartily support the pending bill. The Department of Justice has agreed to an amendment which makes the bill acceptable to sportsmen and sportsmen's organizations. As the bill now stands, so far as I know there is no objection to it.

Mr. TERRELL of Texas. Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. DOUGHTON. I yield.

Mr. TERRELL of Texas. Does this bill in any way affect the rights of States to tax dealers in :firearms?

Mr. DOUGHTON. It puts a tax of $1,000 on the importer and manufacturer of machine guns; a tax of $200 on the dealer, and a tax of $300 on the pawnbroker; and it provides that 60 days after the enactment of the law all those having possession of firearms of the character referred to in this bill, must register the same with the Commissioner· of Internal Revenue.

Mr. TERRELL of Texas. Does the bill affect the right of States to deal with this subject.

Mr. DOUGHTON. It does not in any way interfere with the rights of the States.

Mr. TREADWAY. I should like to call the chairman's attention to an evident misprint on page 4, line 5. I think he would like to offer an amendment changing the word " acts " to " tax ", which is apparently what it should be.

Mr. DOUGHTON. I understand that mistake was corrected in the la.st print of the bill.

Mr. MOT!'. Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. DOUGHTON. I yield.

Mr. MOT!'. Is there anything in the bill which would affect collectors of firearms; is there any provision which would prevent a collector from possessing weapons of a certain type? I have in mind a man in my district who has several hundred guns in his collection.

Mr. DOUGHTON. I think not; I do not think it would affect them at all.

Mr. CONNERY. Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. DOUGHTON. I yield.

Mr. CONNERY. As I understand, the primary purpose of the bill is to stop gangsters from getting hold of machine guns.

Mr. DOUGHTON. That is correct.

The SPEAKER. The question is on the motion of the gentleman from North Carolina to suspend the rules and pass the bill. The question was taken; and two-thirds having voted in favor thereof, the rules were suspended, and the bill was passed, and a motion to reconsider was laid on the table. 

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