MARTINSBURG, WV –-(Ammoland.com)-Did the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) determine that the Rare Breed FRT-15 was a machine gun before The Firearms and Ammunition Technology Division (FATD) even had a chance to examine it?
On January 13, 2021, Intelligence Research Specialist (IRS) Rob Lopez sent an email including a RecoilTV YouTube video to Firearms Enforcement Officer (FEO) James Barlow. Rob Lopez found the video on a 4Chan message board thread. Barlow has not looked at the FRT-15 but copied embattled FEO Daniel Hoffman on the email. He believed that Hoffman had looked into the trigger.
Lopez asked Hoffman if the trigger would be a National Firearms Act (NFA) item. Hoffman wrote Lopez back informing him that the ATF Firearms Technology Industry Services Branch (FTISB) would likely consider Rare Breed FRT-15 a machinegun. Still, the department would need one before officially proclaiming the device a machinegun. Lopez asked if a case had been opened, but Hoffman did not know if there was an open investigation into the company.
On April 1, 2021, IRS Lopez also contacted Special Agent (SA) Michael Nuttal of the Tampa Field Office to inform the office about the Rare Breed website, which he believed was selling machine guns. The two men discussed options and decided to contact the Firearms Technology Criminal Branch (FTCB).
FATD did not move on the trigger until Lopez once again contacted Hoffman again on April 1, 2021. Lopez wanted to know if FATD received a Rare Breed FRT-15 for the determination. Lopez claimed that several concerned citizens had contacted the ATF about Rare Breed selling machine guns online. Lopez wanted to move forward and write a “lead” for the Tampa Field Office.
Hoffman told Lopez that the ATF did not have the trigger to examine. Hoffman did point Lopez to FEO David Smith with the FTCB, who read the patent information for the FRT-15. Smith is the FEO that eventually examined and determined that the trigger was a machine gun. But Smith’s reply email seems to insinuate that his mind was already made up.
Smith’s email reads: “Attached is the original US Patent #10514223, and the evaluation letter #307385 on at least the 1st generation of this device by the inventor. This device was classified as a combination of parts designed and intended to convert a weapon into a machinegun, and therefore a ‘machinegun’ under the NFA.”
Eight days later, on April 9, 2021, Smith would double down on his opinion that the Rare Breed FRT-15 was a machine gun in an email back to Lopez. Smith needed help getting a sample to test to rule that the trigger device was a machine gun officially. He said that FATD believes that it appears that the FRT-15 is a machine gun. Lopez informed Smith that the ATF was on a waitlist to acquire the trigger.
Smith’s email reads: “Is there anything you want us to include in the report? I will most likely use a lot of the language from the examination back in 2018. I will also include that based on your review from the blueprints, pictures and video, FATD believes it appears to be a machinegun BUT FATD will physically need to examine the trigger to make an official determination.”
On May 24, 2021, Smith suggested that if Lopez was still having issues getting the trigger from Rare Breed itself, the ATF should buy one off the secondary market and sent a link from Gun Broker. A suggestion Lopez took and purchased a trigger from a third-party website. At the same time, the trigger became available on the Rare Breed website. For some reason, the ATF could not complete the transaction through the Rare Breed site, so it relied on the secondary market only.
Lopez shipped the trigger to FATD via Fed Ex on June 2, and the Rare Breed FRT-15 arrived at the ATF Martinsburg location on June 4. Smith tested the trigger and reached the same conclusion that he and others in the ATF said he would even before examining the trigger. The Rare Breed FRT-15 is a machine gun.
On July 26, Special Agent (SA) Nuttal of the Tampa Field Office served a Cease-and-Desist order on Rare Breed, ordering the company to stop selling the triggers. The company has refused to comply with the ATF’s Demands. Rare Breed filed for an ex parte temporary restraining order (TRO) against the ATF, but the courts rejected the request.
On August 3, the company’s owner and attorney Kevin Maxwell filed for an injunction against the ATF in the Middle District Court of Florida. Rare Breed triggers remain on sale throughout the internet because the Cease-and-Desist only applies to Rare Breed, although this is highly likely to change.
About John Crump
John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, or at www.crumpy.com.