The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the BATFE or ATF, recently raided solvent trap manufacturer Diversified Machine among a string of raids targeting DIY gun parts suppliers. Recently the ATF made headlines after raiding prominent 80 percent receiver company Polymer80.
Diversified Machine is a company that makes “solvent traps,” which can be used as advertised to capture and contain solvents poured through gun barrels in order to prevent or minimize spills and leaks.
They can also be used as a sort of kit or template to make suppressors, which are highly regulated under the National Firearms Act, or NFA. By themselves, they’re inert and would even be dangerous or dumb to use as anything other than solvent traps, or even just paperweights.
With some extra machine work, and ATF approval, they can be used by home gunsmiths to build simple, but inexpensive sound suppressors. These solvent traps and similar kits are a cottage industry that represents a small–but legal–group of at-home suppressor makers.
While solvent traps are non-functioning as suppressors, the ATF argues that some features may show “constructive intent” to manufacture unregistered suppressors, which is a crime. Specifically, the ATF says that dimples in some designs mark places to drill, cut, or machine the traps, critical for remanufacturing them into suppressors.
If these dimples or marks are a part of the kits from the manufacturer, constructive intent is built into the design, according to the ATF. Other solvent traps and kits without these dimples or marks do not show constructive intent as the ATF has ruled before, and are legal to buy and keep, and even convert, with the right paperwork in hand.
The ATF and U.S. Customs are also working to stem the import of “fuel filters,” which are often complete and functional suppressors all but in name, many of which are made and shipped from overseas.
Truthfully, many American gun owners see these products–especially the foreign-made parts–as products to avoid. Many don’t trust the quality of the parts or materials, but mostly these products seem like honeypots–traps for people willing to violate the NFA.
But that’s not nearly the same case with all solvent traps, especially those with ATF approval. Many of these parts are for legal gun owners who would rather make a suppressor than buy a commercially produced one.
Still, these raids are making it hard to ignore arguments that the ATF is going after home gunsmithing businesses. While it’s impossible to ignore that there are companies selling products like fake fuel filters that are essentially illegal suppressors, it does seem possible that the ATF is gearing up to take on small shops and DIY enthusiasts, which is a lot more troubling.