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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
It had been over two years since I did my research into starting my NFA stamp collection and making my CMR into a SBR. Then while having a discussion on a another forum the legality of the location of my makers marks became a topic. As the material was no longer fresh I started to debate myself my original conclusions and ran through the law, the relevant ATF handbooks (based off the law and ATF regulations with the effect of law), and other sources again to make sure I wasn't an accidental almost felon. Below are my personal notes I took like I should have the first time.

This is not legal advice, I am not a lawyer, I suggest you do not do this yourself, or consult a lawyer yourself before doing the same, etc. All standard disclaimers apply lol.

If you do happen to consult a gun lawyer kindly post back the results.

The law and the ATF use the terms "frame" and "receiver" interchangeably. I'll primarily use frame as this is the term Keltec uses for the serialized part.

The part I engraved is blow part #420 - Extruded Top Cover

Slope Line Font Parallel Diagram

The part Keltec serializes is part #203 - Frame

Product World Organism Slope Font

We can look at CFR 478 where The "receiver or frame" is defined.

Receiver or frame definition:

That part of a firearm which provides housing for the hammer, bolt or breechblock, and firing mechanism, and which is usually threaded at its forward portion to receive the barrel.
This means all of those components save for either a bolt or breechblock must be housed within and threading for the barrel is optional.

To clarify further as English is an awful language to be precise I will clarify here that when I use part elsewhere in this post to mean a discreet part unable to be disassembled further this language, to be demonstrated later, clearly means part in the sense of the following definition from Definition of part | :


a portion or division of a whole that is separate or distinct; piece, fragment, fraction, or section; constituent: the rear part of the house; to glue the two parts together.
The rear part of a house clearly houses more many more discrete parts i.e a door, windows. Stated another way; a distinct group within a larger body of people or things A.K.A a section.

JUST like an AR-15 the CMR-30 has a two part receiver or frame. There is no single part in the CMR or the AR that fully meets the legal definition of the receiver or frame.

For the CMR-30 this means the complete frame compromises parts #203 and #420 with part #420 housing the bolt, firing mechanism, and hosting the barrel. Clearly meeting part of the definition of a frame. Part #203 houses the hammer fulfilling the definition.

This topic is such a murky issue that multiple prosecutions have been dropped less a whole framework of law unravels from a ruling due to the mess of firearms laws. Here is an example: He sold illegal AR-15s. Feds agreed to let him go free to avoid hurting gun control efforts | CNN sorry for the CNN link lol. You may also go find the court records to get a primary source if you wish.

Roh is the guy that was charged with the illegal manufacturing receivers. Selina is the defense attorney in the case, below are the interesting bits:

“There is a disconnect,” the judge wrote.

Selna added that the combination of the federal law and regulation governing the manufacturing of receivers is “unconstitutionally vague” as applied in the case against Roh.

“No reasonable person would understand that a part constitutes a receiver where it lacks the components specified in the regulation,” Selna wrote.

Therefore, the judge determined, “Roh did not violate the law by manufacturing receivers.”
This is included here as it is a legal determination by a judge that 100% backs my rational. Receivers or frames may be made out of multiple parts... also this is just factually true given the LEAGAL definition and a multitude of real world examples with the AR-15 being the most common.

So If there are two parts to the frame and you engrave only one part, the frame is still engraved. This is how many modular guns are made today. The upper on an AR could be engraved and there are guns with split frames where the serial is on the upper e.g. the HK USC: USC - Heckler & Koch

When we look at the the "Making NFA Firearms By Nonlicensees" chapter of the "National Firearms Act Handbook" we see this:

The serial number must be engraved or stamped on the receiver of the firearm and the caliber, model, and identification of the maker must be engraved on the barrel or frame or receiver of the weapon. The marking and identification requirements for a maker are the same as for a manufacturer. Refer to section 7.4 for a detailed discussion of the requirements.
As a side note notice above that receiver is apparently treated as something separate from the frame here and deviates from the law's and the ATF's more traditional "receiver or frame" language...

Anyhow, clearly there is no intent that the maker marks must be placed on the same part where the serial is, as maker marks may be on the barrel while the serial MUST be on the receiver (which shares the same definition as a frame and is therefor interchangeable).

Subsection 7.4.2 states:

Certain additional information must also be conspicuously placed on the frame, receiver, or barrel of the firearm by engraving, casting, stamping (impressing), that is, they must be placed in such a manner that they are wholly unobstructed from plain view. For firearms manufactured on or after January 30, 2002, this information must be to a minimum depth of .003 inch.
As I can place my makers marks on a separate part from the part with the serial I concluded that engraving my makers mark on the non serialized part of a two part frame is 100% legal as they both compromise the frame part as defined by the law.

This is further reinforced by subsection 7.4.5 that states that having all required engravings together is only needed on individual receivers and / or receiver parts if they are kept or sold separate and not part of a completed firearm:

Firearms frames or receivers that are not components of complete firearms at the time of disposition must be identified with all the required markings, that is, serial numbers and all the additional markings discussed in Sections 7.4.1 and 7.4.2
As NFA items are not considered NFA items in their non-NFA configuration, even when registered, then when the gun is broken down there is no need to keep the frame parts together or in the required "disposition" as they are a collection of parts and not an NFA item.

You need not worry about constructive intent as when the gun is assembled it is then a legal NFA item correctly registered and marked with the serial on the "lower frame part" and your makers marks on the "upper frame part" having both items engraved on the frame meeting the requirements of the law.

This assumes that you have properly went through the ATF Form 1 process and have your stamp of course.

As further assurance; the NFA requires mens rea (you must have intent to be criminally convicted) while my understanding of law is even more shaky here to be sure, there is a great write up here Staples v. United States, 511 U.S. 600 (1994). conveniently around NFA items and an individual that got off owning an illegal AR with a third hole and all the hardware to make it fully automatic.

If you can 100% be in violation of the NFA and walk, I personally feel very safe in following the letter of the law without artificially applying an artificially narrow reading of the law, specifically the notion that the only part in your gun that is legally the frame is the serialized part.

Hope this helps out someone trying to navigate all of this in the future.

Some other approaches that I considered and why I didn't chose them:

Engraving makers marks on part #203 - Frame was not done as there is no room to engrave it in the exposed area. To do it here and have it easily viewed would require cutting the grip halves to make the window larger potently weakening the grip and making for ergonomic issues. It is also not clear if there would still be enough room, to be fair this was not fully explored by me.

Engraving makers marks on the barrel was not done due to having enough space on the protruding barrel and making the barrel longer would defeat the purpose of the SBR in my opinion. It is also not clear if cutting part #420 Extruded Top Cover to make a window to see the engravings would be considered easily viewed due to how receded it would be.

While I sourced a bit with primary sources I definitely have not sourced all of my assertions, mostly those I found not core to my findings. If you have a source you would like added, kindly provide it or request it and I will do my best to update this with a primary source.

TLDR; If manufactures can engrave the serial on one part of a multi part frame so can you for the makers mark; legal precedence as been established for decades.

Grand Poobah
1,443 Posts
See what a mess unconstitutional edicts make. Nobody should have to go through that kind of bovine excrement just to configure a firearm as you see fit. Considering the recent SCOTUS rulings in NYSRPA vs. Bruen and West Virginia vs. EPA, we're likely to see some very interesting lawsuits filed.


93 Posts
To have a legal short barreled rifle, like the CMR in my profile pic.
that is a tough one guy, i have done so many sbr and sbs firearms i feel like i invented them. i always had to put my name, address and stuff engraved onto the receiver but they were always steel. i dunno what to say here.

48 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
that is a tough one guy, i have done so many sbr and sbs firearms i feel like i invented them. i always had to put my name, address and stuff engraved onto the receiver but they were always steel. i dunno what to say here.
You still have to put it on the receiver or frame.

As an already serialized and otherwise engraved rifle you only need your or your trust’s name along with city and state where made engraved.

Those steel guns are likely of older designs where the receiver or frame was one piece and does not add this bit of confusion people seem to have.

The premise is very quite simple, just engraved the legally defined receiver…

My attempt to be very descriptive in breaking it all down may be complicating things though.

I don’t find it that difficult to follow, but I keep getting negative feedback that never tells me exactly how I am wrong… but thoughts can be hard to convey and read as they are always conveyed with two filters, here mine and the readers.
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