If you are looking to buy or build one of the world’s great battle rifles—most likely an AK—you are going to need a quick education in the ways of Title 18 Chapter 44 Section 922(r) of the United States Code, defined further by Title 27 Part 478.39 of the Code of Federal Regulation (CFR). While we can help educate, it is important to understand that Cheaper Than Dirt! does not offer legal advice nor should any of the information presented be construed as legal advice.
My first thought when I jumped into this was, “Who cares? I will just buy a rifle or shotgun that is already built and not have to worry about the law.” Not so fast. Sure, you can buy a firearm that is in compliance, but swapping out a part or two could later secure you a bed in the proverbial “Gray Bar Hotel.” If you are going to own a firearm subject to these regulations, know the law—claiming ignorance later will not keep you from being prosecuted.
What is 922R?
Title 18 of the U.S. Code (18 USC), Chapter 44 Section 922 breaks down the unlawful acts—in other words the ways you will run afoul of the law. For instance, Section 922 Paragraph R states:
“It shall be unlawful for any person to assemble from imported parts any semiautomatic rifle or any 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.”
Sub sections one and two obviously shouldn’t apply to anyone reading here. If you are manufacturer or have the blessing of the attorney general, you should already have a handle on this and a lawyer that specializes in firearms legislation.
Once you have determined that your rifle or shotgun (Saigas come to mind) is subject to 922(r), you’ll want to study up on the laws focused on assembly. This will take you to Title 27 Chapter 1 Section 178.39, which states:
(a) No person shall assemble a semiautomatic rifle or any shotgun using more than 10 of the imported parts listed in paragraph (c) of this section if the assembled firearm is prohibited from importation under section 925(d)(3) as not being particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes.
Essentially, this means if your firearm is subject to 925(d)(3) you can only use a limited number of the original parts (or more accurately, foreign made parts), so you’ll swap out for U.S. built aftermarket parts.
Compliance parts (imported parts—those parts that will count as part of the 10) are defined in paragraph (c) and include the following:
Making it Legal
Depending on whether you are building or modifying an AK or Saiga, you’ll likely be looking at replacing three to six parts (to U.S. manufactured parts) to reach compliance. If you are modifying a firearm that has already been made compliant, be careful. Changing a single part could land you in hot water with the feds.
A quick search of the firearms forums and gunsmiths used to working with these types of firearms have identified the following as the parts most often selected to reach 922R compliance:
- Pistol grip
- Handguard (upper and lower handguards on an AK only count as one compliance part)
- Gas piston
- Magazine parts—This is the most important item of the list. The body, follower and floorplate each count as one compliance part, but it comes with great risk. Swap a magazine or get caught with the wrong magazine, and you could find yourself holding a ticket for a one-way trip to the federal pokey.
The important thing to remember is the magic number based on the platform. That you need to research to ensure you are working off the latest data. Then, you’ll need to continue to monitor the laws regarding your platform to ensure you remain in compliance. As a personal recommendation, try not to push the limits. Use an extra part or two of U.S. manufacture. It is good for our economy and your relationship with federal agents.
Have you made your AK 922r compliant? Tell us about your experiences in the comment section.