Once Politicians Get Involved,
Zany Gun Rules Ensue

By Mike “Duke” Venturino
Photos: Yvonne Venturino

A few years back I viewed on the internet a variety of items currently for sale in a French gun store. Although I knew some European countries do permit collectors to have pre-1898 “antiques” it was surprising to see what was offered in France.

I expected ancient muzzleloading dueling pistols but was surprised several American Colt cartridge-firing revolvers made prior to 1898 were offered. A few were SAA’s but more were the Colt double-action .38’s which served American military from 1892 to 1909. Of course only those made in the first 5 years of production were legal. Those .38 DA’s are chambered for the infamously “weak” .38 Long Colt.
Regardless, as I studied this internet page I thought, “You Frenchmen are virtually unarmed by your government and obviously subject to mass murder by the terrorists welcomed into your country in wholesale lots. If I had to live there I would purchase one of those cartridge firing Colts, or failing that, even a cap-and-ball revolver. Then by hook or crook I would get at least one cylinderful of the proper ammunition. At least it amounts to some protection.” Tactical types are thinking, “But the .38 Long Colt? It’s so weak.” Oh, horsepucky! A weak .38 is better than a fist.

Here’s another blip of bureaucracy. A resident of Great Britain wanted to own a “real” Colt Single Action Army sixgun. He couldn’t have one unless it was pre-1898, but furthermore he couldn’t have one in any of the current chamberings for which factory ammo is available. But he could have a .41 Colt because it is not factory loaded. Again, if it were me I would somehow get 5 rounds of .41 Colt—of course leaving the hammer down on the empty 6th chamber as is safe with such revolvers.

But think deeper. This concept of “antiques” is interesting and mystifying too. Here in the USA if a firearm was made pre-1898 it is an antique, and by Federal rules does not need to be transferred via an FFL (Federal Firearms License). State and local rules do apply so don’t take the statement as a universal pass on gun transfers. Neither do firearms using black powder and load from the front. It sort of insinuates cap-and-ball revolvers are not dangerous. Not so. They’re pretty darn dangerous for 6 shots.

The Colt SAA .45 (left) was made in the 1990’s and requires FFL paperwork
by dealers selling in-state or interstate. The other Colt SAA .45 (right)
was made prior to 1898. It is an antique and requires no Federal paperwork

Of these 4 Model 1873’s, the top 2 require FFL paperwork for dealer sales
in-state or interstate. They are modern made by Uberti of Italy. The third
one down is an original Winchester from the 1890’s. It can be sold in-state
or interstate with no Federal paperwork. The bottom rifle is also an original
Winchester but since it was made after 1898 it must be sold with Federal
paperwork or to holders of Curio & Relic Licenses.

Let’s consider Colt SAA’s as examples. If one was made on December 31, 1897 it is legally a non-firearm according to the Feds. One made the next day is a firearm and subject to all Federal rules and regulations. (Don’t anybody point this out to politicians lest some idiot champion closing that “loophole” too.)

One more example: Winchester Model 1873’s. If made before 1898, then no problem. They are legally antiques. Those made between 1898 and when ’73 production ended in 1923 are not antiques, but can be shipped from FFL to C&R holders. The replicas made in Italy and Japan must go between FFL’s even though they are functionally identical to original Winchester ’73’s.

What is a C&R? Another governmental conundrum: Curio and Relic Licenses. If a firearm is 50-years old or older it can be transferred between holders of C&R’s or from a standard FFL holder to a C&R holding individual.

Want a real surprise? A C&R licensee can receive a 50-year old or more full-auto from a Class III dealer after the regular ATF Form 4 is approved and bears the proper stamp. Again—as long as state and local laws allow such. Yes, it can be shipped right to the C&R licensee’s door.

Because a close friend lives there and because I’ve visited there, I know a little about some of New Zealand’s laws. Their bureaucrats are even dumber than ours. I walked into one Kiwi’s gun vault and almost fell over upon seeing a Japanese Type 99 7.7mm light machine gun. I asked him if I could shoot it during my visit. The answer was “No. It is on a collector’s permit so it can never be fired. Even cap-and-ball revolvers can’t be fired if they are on the collector’s permit.” So I asked why not put them on a permit where they can be fired. That can’t happen. So the bureaucrats trust New Zealanders to own fully functional machine guns but not to shoot them.

A little known fact is holders of C&R Licenses can receive full-autos from
licensed dealers if the weapon is over 50 years old and the required ATF
paperwork is approved and stamped.

While there I obtained a firearms permit and thus was able to buy and return home with a Winchester Model 1892 .44-40 rifle. In fact I could have walked into gun stores and purchased, and walked out with rifles and shotguns. (Handguns are a different matter.) My friend saw this and also got a permit, but life intervened and he never bought a firearm. Then when the authorities were doing random checks they asked to see his security. He didn’t have security because he didn’t have a gun. They then revoked his permit because he had no security for the firearm he did not own. Bureaucrat logic.

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