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California 2nd Amend. Political Discussion & Activism Discuss gun rights activism and 2A related political topics here. All advice given is NOT legal counsel.

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  #1  
Old 03-14-2011, 5:02 PM
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Default I got a letter back from the ATF Firearms Tech Branch

So, I wrote a letter to the ATF, asking them if I could build an electronic trigger for an AR-15. Yeah, yeah, it might be dumb, but personally I think it would have a place for competition shooters (high degree of adjustability/ precision) and also people who like to waste ammo (my idea is for special programming that would automatically change the pull weight/ travel based on how fast somebody is firing... its a kinda hard to explain). Anyway, this is the letter they sent me, and though I never mentioned bump firing, thats what they thought I was talking about. Regardless, they say my idea is legit, so long as it follows the "one shot, one trigger pull" rule, which is fine by me.

Anyway, if anybody can use this letter for anything, be my guest. Perhaps there are other letters out there that address the same thing, but keep in mind, this is the ATF, not CA DOJ, so I'm sure our laws here might preclude some designs. I think my electronic idea is good to go, though, since it isn't any kind of "multiburst trigger activator." It just allows you to fire quickly and easily, when in the auto- adjust mode. Now, I just need to build it, or have somebody else build it...




There was a second page, but it only had the guy's signature on it.
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Old 03-14-2011, 5:08 PM
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Like a high-end paintball gun.
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Old 03-14-2011, 5:10 PM
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Like a high-end paintball gun.
Yes, very similar to that, but without the full-auto.
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Old 03-14-2011, 5:20 PM
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Most of the actual high-end paintball gun boards don't allow full auto or any type of burst setting since that's illegal in competition, but they can be set pretty sensitive, and certain trigger shapes can allow for maybe 2-3 cycles by running your finger down the trigger once.

Of course people tamper with the software to enable other settings than semi-auto, which is something you have to be very, very wary of too.

I've been a few years out of the paintball scene and don't recall any manufacturers actually allowing FA or burst fire in their factory settings, things may have changed though since then.
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Old 03-14-2011, 5:52 PM
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There were electric triggers for benchrest rifles back in the 1970's. "Green" may have been the name. They've alwys been legal, as long as it "one shot per pull".
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Old 03-14-2011, 5:59 PM
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Awesome idea. At least one calgunners is adept at building embedded software and might be able to help. Maybe have an adjustable mechanical break for normal use then for "sport" use create the "short triggering" to be all behind the mechanical break.
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Old 03-14-2011, 6:58 PM
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Why use software? You could hard wire the whole thing with logic chips fairly easily. You could make a scaling mechanical break with say, 10 settings, and a small lcd display readout to show the resistance.
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Old 03-14-2011, 7:01 PM
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It's funny, the ATF knows about bump firing.
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Old 03-14-2011, 7:09 PM
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Nice I've kinda wanted to be able to paddle the trigger with my index and middle finger.. but the trigger pull would have to be super light
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Old 03-14-2011, 7:14 PM
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The problem is if you know anything about electronics it's pretty easy to make a full auto board.
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Old 03-14-2011, 7:27 PM
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The problem is if you know anything about electronics it's pretty easy to make a full auto board.
Actually, the bar is even lower than that. For most designs, all you need is a little knowledge about software to convert a semi-auto board into a full auto board...
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Old 03-14-2011, 8:05 PM
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Hey, that's a pretty cool idea. I'd buy one if the price was right.
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Old 03-14-2011, 8:05 PM
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The problem is if you know anything about electronics it's pretty easy to make a full auto board.
Why is it a problem?
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Old 03-14-2011, 8:09 PM
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The problem is if you know anything about electronics it's pretty easy to make a full auto board.
Who cares?

It's also pretty easy to illegally manufacture a 'large capacity magazine' from a rebuild kit, but it's illegal so I don't do it.
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Old 03-14-2011, 8:16 PM
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Heres the thing, though: it wouldn't be my problem if somebody altered the circuitry. That would be no different than someone making a DIAS or lightening link. This system would only allow 2 modes.

1) Normal semi-auto firing, but fully adjustable for travel and trigger weight.
2)"Enhanced" semi-auto, which if you pulled the trigger only once every 2 seconds or more, would fire at a preset weight, say 5 lbs. But as soon as you started firing faster than that, the weight could automatically drop to mere ounces, and the travel only a couple millimeters, allowing you to fire effortlessly. Twitching your finger would do it, and I'm thinking a new shoe could be designed to take advantage of that. Anyway, as soon as you stopped firing quickly, or ran out of ammo, it would go back to the 5lb standard.

I think its a killer idea, but I'm really just an idea man. Back in high school, I fooled around with a BASIC Stamp, made an ECG with one, but I forget all that circuitry and programming stuff. I know this guy who is high up in R&D for HP, but its been years since I've talked to him. I'm thinking the bulk of the electronics could be stored in a regular grip. Fitting the solenoid/ servo to the receiver might be trickier; ideally, it would be a drop in system, one well- sealed and shock- resistant, and perhaps running off a 9v battery, like an electronic 10/22 trigger I saw.
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Old 03-14-2011, 8:20 PM
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I'm not saying anyone here would break the law were it to exist. I'm saying most criminals who buy semi auto guns are to dumb to mechanically modify a gun to fire full auto. If a gun were to exist that was controlled by a PCB it would take looking in a basic electronics book and less than a buck at radio shack. (well a buck for the 555 timer method. About 5 bucks if you wanted some control and adjustability.)
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Old 03-14-2011, 8:22 PM
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Originally Posted by santacruzstefan View Post
Yes, very similar to that, but without the full-auto.
Mmmm, with a big two finger trigger.

Love it.
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Old 03-14-2011, 8:29 PM
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To be honest with you. From the looks of your letter, I don't think there saying not to make or install a electronically controlled trigger just nothing full auto.
If you want to try it, I'm game. I have experience with a few a the aftermarket paintball boards and I'm an industrial electrician that happens to have a pretty extensive background in electronics. If you'll fund it I'll build it.
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Old 03-14-2011, 8:40 PM
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Like ramping? I used to play alot of paintball and had ego's and dm's. The guns could go full auto but like said before they had to be locked for tournaments and in ramping mode in PSP tournaments. In nppl tourneys they had to be capped also but in semi-auto. In woods ball some tourneys allowed full auto.
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Old 03-14-2011, 8:48 PM
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To be honest with you. From the looks of your letter, I don't think there saying not to make or install a electronically controlled trigger just nothing full auto.
If you want to try it, I'm game. I have experience with a few a the aftermarket paintball boards and I'm an industrial electrician that happens to have a pretty extensive background in electronics. If you'll fund it I'll build it.
What do you think cost would be with something like this? We need to figure out if its even possible to fit this on and in a regular lower receiver first. I might have a potential investor, but they are family and probably wouldn't invest much... costs would need to be low. Really, it would be a prototype just to get a patent, then I figure sell it for a nice price to a big company who could manufacture it easily. Unless we could get it mass produced for cheap... but I see the money in this idea, esp. if we could sell them for less than $200.

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Like ramping? I used to play alot of paintball and had ego's and dm's. The guns could go full auto but like said before they had to be locked for tournaments and in ramping mode in PSP tournaments. In nppl tourneys they had to be capped also but in semi-auto. In woods ball some tourneys allowed full auto.
Yeah, almost exactly like a ramp mode.
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Old 03-15-2011, 8:09 AM
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I like thinking outside the box and I feel that as long as its legal it is your choice to build it or someone to buy it. I have to say though that i think this is dangerous. I cant even count how many people with these type of paintball guns have shot me or nearly shot me at the paintball park when we were not even engaged in a game. The triggers are just too light and an accident waiting to happen. Also, keep in mind that the method used to fire these devices in a full auto simulated fashion, requires a soft grip so that your trigger fingers(plural) are relaxed. This means your grasp strength on the pistol grip is very light if not non existant altogether. I am just guessing as I have never fired a full auto firearm, that one would like to grasp the pistol grip securely to have as much control of the weapon as possible.

Lastly, think of who would be buying this for the most part. Don't lie. Its gonna be people who want to feel the effect of the happy switch, and while there may not be a technical happy switch, that is the lure of the proposed product. It is as close as you can get to full auto. To sumarize, I think for the most part, only immature and unsafe shooters would want this type of thing.

I'm just being honest, and I have no authority to tell anyone what to make or what to buy, I just wanted to give my ideas on it. If you were just looking to make some money, I promise you will meet your goal. (unless someone sues you over a ND)
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Old 03-15-2011, 9:22 AM
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[...]To sumarize, I think for the most part, only immature and unsafe shooters would want this type of thing.
There's a guy on RimfireCentral who's just getting his first production run of electronic triggers (for 10/22 only) out. His market is aimed towards serious benchrest shooters -- I think there might be a pretty large market of high power and other precision shooters that might like a perfectly adjustable trigger. Regardless of the "happy switch"/ramp function in Mode 2, there will always be a pretty large market for Mode 1.
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Old 03-15-2011, 9:46 AM
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I agree with the bench rest value of a highly adjustable light trigger, and if the device were sold as this with no ramp mode or a limit of rounds per second built in along with a feature that put the trigger on safe after each pull of the trigger, I could feel safe shooting next to someone with one of these installed. The thing is that these triggers are so easy to accidently fire.
For those who don't totally know how they work, they are not even mechanicaly linked to the action/other fire control parts. All it is is a magnet embedded in the trigger and when the trigger moves that magnet close enough to a sensor, it sends a signal to the electronic control portion which then energizes a solenoid operated sear. In theory, you could have a trigger so light that the only force required to pull is what is needed to overcome the friction of the trigger pivot pin and the minute downward weight force of the trigger itself. I've seen the ones on paintball guns setup so light that they can litterally go off by blowing softly on them or just jolting the gun slightly.
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Old 03-15-2011, 10:57 AM
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This has been discussed at length before. I think I even started a thread on it! What's different is that it is nice to see that the ATF approves of the trigger, so long as there's no "ramping" or "auto" or "burst" modes (nothing we didnt expect).

I think the hardest thing to accomplish would be to make the trigger interface with the mechanical FCG. Or, if you are making an entirely new FCG along with the trigger, the hammer has to have enough force to properly punch the primer. Even 3lb triggers have some issues with certain primers. So the problem I see, mechanically speaking, is that the battery will go out much faster if it involves expending more energy to release the hammer. I dunno, maybe I am over thinking this issue.

The other thing is that these triggers will cause MANY MANY more accidents. If it's anything like my paintball trigger was (I got it to be shorter and lighter than a mouse click!), then you have a recipe for disaster. I cant tell you how many people were shot from unintended trigger squeezes. My buddy was shot from 2 feet away behind the mask into the back of his ear while we were wating for the game to start. Of course it was done by a negligent kid, but there have been times where I have accidentally pulled the trigger just because it was sooo easy to accidentally do. And there were times that I thought the gun was off, but it really wasnt, and yet again another accidental discharge.

I too love the idea of popping off 5.56 rounds like a paintball gun, but there is a dark side to such an ability. If there were to be a slew of accidents because of such a device, you can be assured that the gov't WILL BAN IT. They will do so "with the public safety in mind", or "has no sporting purpose"......the anti's will surely call such a device a "machinegun".....and with someone like Traver running the ATF, you can guarantee he will change the current "interpretation" to disallow such triggers.

I hate being the pessimist, but I dont see this going well. I hope to be proven wrong.
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Old 03-15-2011, 11:17 AM
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If you do come up with one that is a drop in on an AR15 receiver, I can arrange for it to be submitted to the BATFE tech branch through an 07/02...

you can do it yourself, but its not generally a good idea if there is a chance it could be declared a machine gun.
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Old 03-15-2011, 2:52 PM
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Originally Posted by G60 View Post
Most of the actual high-end paintball gun boards don't allow full auto or any type of burst setting since that's illegal in competition, but they can be set pretty sensitive, and certain trigger shapes can allow for maybe 2-3 cycles by running your finger down the trigger once.

Of course people tamper with the software to enable other settings than semi-auto, which is something you have to be very, very wary of too.

I've been a few years out of the paintball scene and don't recall any manufacturers actually allowing FA or burst fire in their factory settings, things may have changed though since then.
There are quite a few gun boards that do have a full auto function. But in general, most don't. The problem with an electronic trigger is that the recoil of the gun could easily cause the trigger to be pressed unintentionally resulting into something close to full auto fire. The end user could also adjust the sensitivity to allow full auto like function with ease. The overall design would not be hard because all you would need to do is to make a board that uses a sear tripping solenoid that is reinforced to take the abuse from recoil.

Plus, where are you going to stick that 9 volt battery and the board on your AR?
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Old 03-15-2011, 4:05 PM
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My idea makes it so the danger is no worse than firing any other gun, when its in the "enhanced" semi auto mode (similar to ramping, but still one-shot per pull). It would start off heavy/normal, and only once you started firing quickly would it switch to ultra-lightweight mode. As soon as you stopped firing, it would revert back to heavy. Granted, in the competition mode, where it would be adjustable to any weight/ travel, it could be dangerous, but that would be the responsibility and liability of the owner/ operator to watch out for.

Edit: and goodlookin1, it was indeed your "Just thinking..." thread a month ago that got my gears turning with this; if you go back read the thread, you can see how it all takes shape. I like your idea of a two finger trigger, as others have mentioned in this thread too. I think one could fit inside an open trigger guard, too, and in conjunction with my "enhanced" semi auto, it would be quite interesting. I wonder if the right muzzle device could be used to control recoil enough in order to fire it with the side of your finger, like with a paintball marker? But legally, I think this letter clears up any concerns with all that.
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Old 03-15-2011, 4:13 PM
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The problem is if you know anything about electronics it's pretty easy to make a full auto board.
But that would be illegal.
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Old 03-15-2011, 4:36 PM
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I was thinking basic 555 timer set up to use the trigger as a pulse. Debounce circuit and timer for one shot per pull and adjustable time between shots capped at one shot per second. Output is a solenoid that releases the hammer. Trigger will be adjustable. Weight will be controlled be spring insert.
The only thing I'm not sure about is that positive reset feel but I'm sure I'll think of something.
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Old 03-15-2011, 4:52 PM
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Be wary of the signature being on a separate page. It wouldn't be too hard to claim their original letter was different and that you altered the original letter and kept the signature page all on its own to add to whatever letter you wanted.
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Old 03-15-2011, 6:01 PM
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Originally Posted by goodlookin1 View Post
This has been discussed at length before. I think I even started a thread on it! What's different is that it is nice to see that the ATF approves of the trigger, so long as there's no "ramping" or "auto" or "burst" modes (nothing we didnt expect).

I don't see anything in that letter that ATF approves of an electric trigger mechanism. As far as I can tell, they misunderstood and/or ignored the actual question, went off on an unrelated tangent about bump-firing, and seemed to have the electric trigger idea conflated with other items which can be considered Bad under their interpretation of the rules.

My recollection (without any useful citations) is that they have, in the past, considered any sort of electrically-activated trigger on a semi-auto gun to be something that "...can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot...", and thus consider them to be machineguns whether or not they actually have ever been configured to fire more than one round per trigger pull (just as they treat all open-bolt semi-auto guns as machineguns). I don't see anything in that letter that makes me believe that they've changed their mind. Pay close attention to their last paragraph, in which they refer to various trigger modifications (including the application of a rubber band) which whey consider to trigger machinegun status.

Basically, that ATF letter is not responsive to the question that was asked. They picked a different question and answered it somewhat noncommittally, stating that something that fires one round per conscious trigger pull isn't a machinegun, except when they decide that it is.
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Old 03-15-2011, 6:58 PM
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I don't see anything in that letter that ATF approves of an electric trigger mechanism. As far as I can tell, they misunderstood and/or ignored the actual question, went off on an unrelated tangent about bump-firing, and seemed to have the electric trigger idea conflated with other items which can be considered Bad under their interpretation of the rules.

My recollection (without any useful citations) is that they have, in the past, considered any sort of electrically-activated trigger on a semi-auto gun to be something that "...can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot...", and thus consider them to be machineguns whether or not they actually have ever been configured to fire more than one round per trigger pull (just as they treat all open-bolt semi-auto guns as machineguns). I don't see anything in that letter that makes me believe that they've changed their mind. Pay close attention to their last paragraph, in which they refer to various trigger modifications (including the application of a rubber band) which whey consider to trigger machinegun status.

Basically, that ATF letter is not responsive to the question that was asked. They picked a different question and answered it somewhat noncommittally, stating that something that fires one round per conscious trigger pull isn't a machinegun, except when they decide that it is.
BINGO, very surprised that no one else caught on to it. They said nothing in that letter that wasn't already known.

I have never understood why people ask the DOJ or ATF or any law enforcement agency anything. Even if they tell you it is perfectly ok to stab someone in the eye, that doesn't mean you can. They can lie, tell half truths or even just flat out make MISTAKES. Contact a lawyer, after all they will be the one representing you in court when the ATF or some law enforcement body arrests you for having a perfectly legal, anything. Amazing.
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Old 03-15-2011, 7:43 PM
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I don't see anything in that letter that ATF approves of an electric trigger mechanism. As far as I can tell, they misunderstood and/or ignored the actual question, went off on an unrelated tangent about bump-firing, and seemed to have the electric trigger idea conflated with other items which can be considered Bad under their interpretation of the rules.

My recollection (without any useful citations) is that they have, in the past, considered any sort of electrically-activated trigger on a semi-auto gun to be something that "...can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot...", and thus consider them to be machineguns whether or not they actually have ever been configured to fire more than one round per trigger pull (just as they treat all open-bolt semi-auto guns as machineguns). I don't see anything in that letter that makes me believe that they've changed their mind. Pay close attention to their last paragraph, in which they refer to various trigger modifications (including the application of a rubber band) which whey consider to trigger machinegun status.

Basically, that ATF letter is not responsive to the question that was asked. They picked a different question and answered it somewhat noncommittally, stating that something that fires one round per conscious trigger pull isn't a machinegun, except when they decide that it is.
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BINGO, very surprised that no one else caught on to it. They said nothing in that letter that wasn't already known.

I have never understood why people ask the DOJ or ATF or any law enforcement agency anything. Even if they tell you it is perfectly ok to stab someone in the eye, that doesn't mean you can. They can lie, tell half truths or even just flat out make MISTAKES. Contact a lawyer, after all they will be the one representing you in court when the ATF or some law enforcement body arrests you for having a perfectly legal, anything. Amazing.
I agree, my question wasn't specifically addressed. However, I have the text of my original letter saved, so perhaps in conjunction with their response, it would hold up? You be the judge...

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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives
Firearms Technology Branch
244 Needy Road
Martinsburg, West Virginia 25405 USA

To Whom It May Concern:

I have a question about the legality of making an electronic trigger for an AR-15 (or any firearm, for that matter). Would it be legal to have a trigger or fire-control group actuated electronically by a servo or similar device, whereupon the operator of the firearm could change the amount of travel or the trigger weight using an electronic circuit? What if, by design of the program and circuitry, the amount of travel or trigger weight were automatically shortened or lightened, depending on rate of fire (in other words, the faster the operator pulls the trigger, the easier it becomes to fire, until they stop pulling the trigger)? At no point would the firearm fire multiple rounds for a single pull of the trigger, it would only become easier to pull the trigger faster. Are there any other NFA or associated legal concerns I need to consider before making such a device? Thank you for your help and guidance in this matter.

Respectfully,
Stefan ********
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Old 03-15-2011, 8:28 PM
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The problem is if you know anything about electronics it's pretty easy to make a full auto board.
It's also pretty easy for Bubba to make what is technically a machine gun (albeit it a very primitive, inconsistent, and dangerous one) by fiddling around on a hammer/sear with a file.
No one has ever done that to my gun, so it isn't a machine gun.

It will be illegal if some jerk reprograms his device to be illegal, not before hand.
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Old 03-16-2011, 8:51 AM
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I disagree with the assessment that building such a trigger might be illegal.

They are clear to mention that anything that allows the firing of more than one round per trigger pull is a machine gun. The specifically mention, "As long as you must consciously pull the trigger for each shot...", and also mention a word of caution against making/altering/adding anything to any trigger that will make it "fire automatically more than one shot with a single function of the trigger". These statements make it clear that whether electronic or mechanical, or a mix of both: It is perfectly legal so long as each function of the trigger only fires one shot. It doesnt matter how fast you are, how many fingers you use, how light or easy it is to depress the trigger to simulate fully automatic fire.....they make this clear in the "Bump Firing" definition: "Rapid manual trigger manipulation to simulate automatic fire". IE: LEGAL.
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Old 03-16-2011, 9:33 AM
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Slightly off topic, but:

What if you create a device that you pull the trigger 3 times, and on the 3rd pull, it fires 3 rounds? Almost like you have to 'charge' the gun.

I know it's silly, but 3 pulls of the trigger results in 3 rounds fired.
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Old 03-16-2011, 9:39 AM
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What about like a paint gun, where one pull fires a round and one release fires a round. Legal?
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Old 03-16-2011, 10:27 AM
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Slightly off topic, but:

What if you create a device that you pull the trigger 3 times, and on the 3rd pull, it fires 3 rounds? Almost like you have to 'charge' the gun.

I know it's silly, but 3 pulls of the trigger results in 3 rounds fired.
Interesting idea...

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What about like a paint gun, where one pull fires a round and one release fires a round. Legal?
I believe I saw in another letter somebody had that this was legal.
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Old 03-16-2011, 10:28 AM
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I think all of the talk About ND, accidents and what not can be completely circumvented by the use of a trigger safety. Much like the Savage accu-trigger system, or what is found on XD pistols. Or even a grip safety for the AR15.

With that said, I have shot triggers measured in the ounces and they are downright dangerous, usually less dangerous though because its on a bolt action gun, There are some obvious challenges but dont let those stop you, Also with the proper solenoid setup you wont have to worry about light primer strikes because your 1lb tigger pull can activate a sear that will work with any weight hammer spring they make. Normally the weight of the hammer will increase the felt weight on the trigger because you have to defeat it to disengage the sear, Which wont be required in a system such as you propose.
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Old 03-16-2011, 10:30 AM
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What about like a paint gun, where one pull fires a round and one release fires a round. Legal?
One trigger pull fires one round.

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So no
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