Tactical Machining May Have (Accidentally) Explained A Problem With The ATF Raid On Ares Armor

Tactical Machining has been in the 80% receiver business since 2008, and have AR-10, AR-15, and 10/22 receivers as well as a 1911 frame on the market. From what I’ve heard of the company they have a good reputation for quality, and the denizens of various forums seem to think they are the are some of the good guys in the business.

Monday night, they took to Facebook to try to explain why they think the Ares Armor raid occurred:

In regards to the 80% fiasco at Ares Armor, the legality of 80% receivers, and how you can avoid the ATF knocking on your door for buying an “80% receiver” instead of an 80% receiver.

It’s not an 80% lower fiasco, it’s a we we’re selling a product that was clearly not an 80% fiasco. ATF considers any dimpling or marking of either the FCG or the hammer / trigger / safety selector as a 100% receiver. The ATF details this in the determination letter they provide you after they have approved your product. Also, the ATF considers the 3D printed lowers EP produced as once a firearm and converted to an “80%” which is a no-no because ATF has proper decommissioning standards. They print the 100% lower then print the FCG section into the 100% lower. A technicality but still “wrong” in the eyes the ATF. This ENTIRE fiasco could have been avoided by the manufacturer receiving a determination letter from the ATF saying that the item isn’t a firearm.

The approved standards for 80% receivers are pretty clear cut but manufacturers are constantly looking for easier ways for customers to complete it into a firearm. Without ATF approval you could be purchasing what the ATF considers a firearm. In the past when the ATF has changed its standards on 80% receivers it notifies all manufacturers with approval determinations and gives them the opportunity to modify their product to remain compliant. They also allow manufacturers to finish selling whatever receivers are in stock that are becoming non-compliant as long as they were manufactured prior to the determination change. The ATF is very cooperative with product determinations but if you do not receive one and manufacture products that are considered firearms they will stop the manufacturer and try to determine how many firearms were sold as non-firearms. This ATF raid was not due to an ATF crackdown on 80% receivers but a crackdown on non-compliant 80% receiver manufacturers.

Tactical Machining has a determination from the ATF stating that our 80% receivers are not firearms. Make sure the manufacturer of your 80% lower has a determination from the ATF or you could end up in the same boat.

Some critics read the post as an attempt by Tactical Machining to promote their products at the expense of Ares Armor and EP Armory, while being factually inaccurate in describing how EP Armory’s 80% lower receivers are made.

Apparently, EP Armory’s lowers are injection-molded, not printed, and they claim that their build order is reverse of what Tactical Machining had written, with the sprue in the fire control group area constructed first, and the rest of the receiver molded around it, which would seem to make it compliant as constructed.

Clear EP Armory 80% Lower Receiver (via Facebook)
Clear EP Armory 80% Lower Receiver (via Facebook)

After being excoriated in the comments, Tactical Machining has since heavily altered their post to read:

Our original post was in no way meant this as an attack on Ares Armor and we wish them the best. Our intent was to clarify which 80% lowers were under attack and not the industry as a whole. We want to see the 80% industry remain strong and ensure customers rights will not be violated.

I don’t think that Tactical Machining wrote their post with any malice intended. It appears that they were simply attempting to explain their experiences with the ATF and the changes and alterations that they’ve had to make to remain compliant, and then applied that against what they thought they saw of the EP Armory receiver’s construction.

Their information was partially wrong… but they still managed to shed some light on the situation by describing their interactions with the ATF since 2008.

Tactical Machining claims they once had dimples (removing material) on the side of their receivers to show customers where to drill, but the ATF later revised the rules so that these dimples constituted more than 80%, which was past the legal limit.

EP Armory seems to think that they have found a way to still mark these areas by adding material, to make what I would describe as elevated “drill cups” showing where the holes must be drilled. Their quite logical argument is that since they added more material that must be drilled away, they’ve increase the drilling work required. If that is indeed their argument, then they do indeed have what is best called a 79.5% lower receiver, which is arguably more compliant with the letter of the law.


Of course, the ATF isn’t precisely known for being rational, having declared in the past that both shoestrings and airsoft toys are machine guns.

Due to the seemingly arbitrary nature of ATF rulings, they may rule that despite the additive nature of the marking process that EP armor is making a lower receiver that constitutes a firearm, or they may rule that the differently-colored sprue for the injection molding constitutes a violation that makes the lower receiver a firearm.

In either event, it seems incumbent upon the ATF to first make an official determination that the EP Armory lower receiver is a firearm before conducting raids and seizing customer data.

If they did not do so prior to the raids, then they would seem to have no legal basis for seizing the lower receivers at EP Armory and Ares Armor, nor the customer records for Ares Armor. I’d like to see the legal justification for conducting a raid on a specific, known product which is not yet known to be illegal.

It’s beginning to look more and more like the ATF and DOJ “punk’d” federal magistrate judge Bernard G. Skomal.

It will be interesting to see how the ATF justifies this absurd and unethical behavior in court.