ATF Encroaching on ‘Solvent Traps’ and DIY Suppressor Components

No arrests were made and it’s not clear if any laws were broken. (Photo: MAC/IG)

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.

See Also: NSSF on Polymer80 ATF Raid: Consult an Attorney Before Selling ‘Buy Build Shoot’ Kits

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.

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About the author: Max Slowik is a writer with over a dozen years of experience and is a lifelong shooter. He has unwavering support for the Second Amendment and the human right to self-defense. His ambition is to follow Thomas Paine, as a journalist by profession and a propagandist by inclination.

{ 31 comments… add one }
  • Vietvet January 21, 2021, 4:11 pm

    When NFA was passed into Law a $200.00 was imposed on certain fire arms and components after a short not widely published Grace Period, People today say so what $200 is minor, considering what a modern Fire Arm costs. But in 1934 it was a draconian burden.$200 1934 dollars is 3840+ dollars today. The Law was invoked because after Prohibition was repealed, Treasury had bunches of Agents (T-Men) with nothing to do so they made work for them. remember the Gov mantra, once hired-never fired.

  • dhumhanyhu January 4, 2021, 9:37 pm

    for the time being,president elect,wannabe Biden,said yrs ago, he would eliminate private owned guns by “attrition”. in other words,you break a fire pin or any gun part and it would no longer be available. Now, you don`t suppose the atf is gearing up for a biden move on his “attrition plan, by beginning raids on home shop machinists ? Thus, if you happen to own a milling machine, a lathe, even as a hobby or make your own car parts, soon one might expect a raid ? I`d not be in the least surprised to see that eventually, such equipment will have to be registered w/big bro. Under penalty of large fines,confiscation,perhaps jail. Almost anything can be construed used as a potential homemade silencer part or tools to make one. This type action by the atf must be halted.

  • Randy D January 4, 2021, 8:13 pm

    A suppressor is nothing more than a muffler. A supressor is as much of a weapon as a muffler is a car.

  • Matt January 4, 2021, 2:44 pm

    Seems like I remember someone making a homemade suppressor with a cut length of fence post pipe and some freeze plugs used in engine blocks.

    Anyone remember that one?

    • Nate January 5, 2021, 10:32 am

      I saw that in the 1970s in The Poor Man’s James Bond.

  • Lee Jones January 4, 2021, 1:08 pm

    As an air rifle enthusiast, I have been constructing my own suppressors for my personal air rifle collection since manufacturers started included suppressors on legally sold air rifle barrels. Mine were permanently affixed to the rifles, so they could not be removed and then placed on a firearm without seriously damaging the expensive air rifle. Suppressor kits, similar to those produced by Diversified Machine, are readily available from Chinese merchants selling high pressure air compressors for use in filling top-end air rifles. I’ve recently purchased carbon tanks, compressors, and these “fuel filter” suppressor kits for my newer air rifles, and this triggered a port-of-entry confiscation of one set of “fuel filter” components by US Customs along with an inspection of my home by a Homeland Security led search team. Nothing was confiscated at my home, but now I am under scrutiny by Homeland Security because of this recent change in BATF practices. I’ve asked my US Senator for assistance to deal with what I consider to be government over-reach in my case. This is no longer the America I grew up in. It’s just sad!

  • Earl Haehl January 4, 2021, 10:53 am

    I realize my age and popular culture addicitions may be showing but I was watching “Shaft” on television and he improvised a quickly needed suppressor using a half inch bit in a drill press to convert a raw potato into a suppressor. Realizing that this is fiction and having a certain level of respect for my firearms, I have not attempted this, However, it brings up a number of questions. Would possession of a drill press or a milling machine be something the ATF could regulate aas the could be used in manufacture of God knows what.Are there uses of solvent traps other than firearms manufacture. Since the amountthat is collected annually through excises on Title II weapons is not enough to fund the Bureau, is there any longer an argument that NFA is a revenue measure which leaves the convicction of Miller resting only on the lack of Military utility of the sawed off shotgun.

  • The Truth January 4, 2021, 9:09 am

    No way I’m touching one of those damned things! I went the legal route, paid my fees, filed my paperwork and am awaiting my LEGAL suppressor……

    Just don’t need that headache from the ATF, thank you.

  • Joseph Burge January 4, 2021, 5:54 am

    Who ever said bureaucrats were logical? If anyone has completed their CCH process, um, why do they need further paperwork? Same coin, once you have completed a Class-3 transfer, what possible justification is there for (further) one-year delays and fees? Just like meter-maids or tit on a boar-hog.

  • Tommygun851 January 3, 2021, 12:56 am

    I think that the ones that the BATF are concerned about are the ones that can be used AS IS without modification! I looked at them on Facebook and the ones that you have to drill out at least cannot be used as is! But if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…….. it’s a duck!

  • Larry Vandewalle January 1, 2021, 4:55 pm

    It’s only a revenue issue, anyway.

    The ATF should simply allow all FFLs to sell suppressors and to collect the fees for them, and then pass that fee along to the Treasury.
    I guarantee that it would:
    (A) Cut down on the ATF’s overhead,
    and
    (B) Increase revenue to the Federal Government – not to mention make things simpler for the average citizen.

    Bureaucratic stupidity at its finest.

    • Jon January 4, 2021, 10:50 am

      The ATF is running on a shoe string budget. There are only 26 NFA examiners (according to the 2018 numbers). I doubt they added many examiners. Seems like I heard they added 10, but not sure. They do not care about the budget.
      With long wait times, this is a way to infringe on the right to own NFA items and discourage purchases.
      Making it easier will never be a discussion for the ATF. The tax money by itself is enough justification to hire more.
      In one year they collected 31.8 million in tax revenue.
      Paying an employee an average of 80k/90k a year they can hire 100’s examiners.

  • Oldskool55F100 January 1, 2021, 1:55 pm

    Those solvent traps do not work… A gun will never be silent… It is a waste of time and too stupid to risk possibly getting something wrong and hurting yourself or having legal problems… Not worth the trouble.. IMHO

  • Leigh January 1, 2021, 12:23 pm

    “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. – you mean like a bucket…can…bowl…
    Come on…
    Same with 1/2 X28 “fuel filters”…
    They just need to deregulate suppressors once and for all.

    • Dan the Gunsmith January 3, 2021, 2:25 pm

      I can’t really disagree with the ATF on these things. Cracking down on this stuff is in line with the spirit of the law. I’m as much of a to-the-core 2A supporter as anyone, but I support changing the law – not circumventing it with technical trickery. These solvent traps, pistol braces, “fuel filters”, etc. are innocent on paper, but we all know what their real underlying purposes are. I’ve been working as a gunsmith in an indoor rifle range for a decade now, and never once have I seen anyone use a pistol “brace” as an actual brace. I’ve been asked a few times to add padding to a brace though, so it’s more comfortable on the shooter’s shoulder, lol.

      We do indeed need to deregulate suppressors – and SBR’s while we’re at it.

      • RSConsulting January 4, 2021, 8:03 am

        With the incoming administration, it’s even less likely that’s going to happen.

        Saw all those “filter ads” on FB – figured they were all BATFE Honey Pots anyways.

        As far as suppressors go – these would be a “use once & throw away” for me. U.S. made ones are likely of better quality than the cheep imports, but I recall seeing a “review” done – where they didn’t survive very long.

        If I’m going to get a suppressor and go through the hassle of being LEGAL – I’ll spend the extra $$ to get one from a reputable company that stands behind their work. I have resisted thus far, because I loathe the thought of giving BATFE permission to come visit me and inspect my paperwork/gear.

        • DGinGA January 4, 2021, 12:07 pm

          I’ve built 2. Silencers on Form 4’s and have several machine guns – registered of course. The dreaded ‘paperwork’. Is basically the 4473 we fill out at a gun store, with a few more steps (getting fingerprints and photo, sending a copy to your chief law enforcement officer, and paying $200. The processing time is the biggest inconvenience. But In 6 years, not once has ATF contacted me about inspections or anything. ‘
          Being legit is the only way.

      • Kent January 4, 2021, 8:06 am

        Most of us know exactly what the ATF is and is not. They are not elected Law Makers, yet they act as such.
        I can see a long awaited showdown coming, sooner the better.

      • MIke S. January 4, 2021, 9:25 am

        What we really need to do is repeal the enitire NFA.

        • Ej harbet January 14, 2021, 6:51 pm

          Not enough people who love freedom and vote to make that happen.
          And now that the best fraud machine on earth overturned the trump landslide your vote means nothing. Besides they need the nfa for semiautos and over 10 round mags

  • Larry A Johnson January 1, 2021, 11:05 am

    Is a solvent trap (in all situation ) a suppressor when there is a hole in the end of it. If you had an unexpected firing of a 22 (1) while using as a solvent trap, are you guilty of manufacturing a silencer ?

    • RSConsulting January 4, 2021, 8:10 am

      You mean NEGLIGENT DISCHARGE? The only unexpected/unintentional discharge – is in the case of a defective weapon (which should have been safety checked anyways). Anything else is NEGLIGENCE.

      Rule #1 of gunsmithing (or end-user maintenance) – make sure the weapon is clear before working on it – keep work area completely free of live ammo.

      There are no “accidents” – you pull the trigger, it goes off, you own the result.

      As far as your initial question – if this is attached to a firearm – the INTENT is to use it as an unregistered suppressor. Which is why the ATF Raid was (semi)-justified. Similar to another comment in this discussion regarding “braces”. WE ALL USE THEM ON OUR SHOULDERS – THEY ARE ALL SBRs – WE ALL KNOW IT.

      Absent the usual “shall not be infringed” position – it’s all about INTENT. In order for a crime to occur, someone has to INTEND TO COMMIT IT. And as judges are fond of saying – IGNORANCE OF THE LAW IS NOT AN EXCUSE.

      • Jeremy Barnhart January 4, 2021, 11:05 am

        Too bad the judges don’t say ignorance of the Constitution is not an excuse.

  • Casey Meester January 1, 2021, 10:52 am

    ATF is setting themselves up to get pinched in between average citizens and the upper echelons of our government. There’s way way more of us than there is of them.

    • Kent January 4, 2021, 7:59 am

      ATF are not Elected Law Makers. We must keep that in mind as they kick your door in order to check your gun safe to see what’s in it. Bump stocks, Braces, solvent traps or just serial number checks.

  • Punisher6 January 1, 2021, 10:15 am

    Why do liberals get to consider laws that they don’t like to be optional, including laws against dangerous addictive drugs, but stupid laws against simple protective equipment get enforced vigorously?

    • Publius Valerius Publicola January 1, 2021, 3:38 pm

      IMHO, because they are self-deluded elitists. Although their intellect and knowledge obviously and by no means set them apart as any kind of “elite,” they delude themselves that they know better what is good for society than carefully conceived, well deliberated, and long established law. Their emotionalism cannot be contained by facts and logic. So deeply conceited, condescending, and lacking in self-discipline are they that they impulsively satisfy their feelings and lusts with greater urgency and priority than obeying laws they happen not to like.

  • Greg January 1, 2021, 5:47 am

    Suppressor regulation is stupid anyway. Just a liberal control device.
    In Europe suppressors are encouraged and considered neighborly and healthy for hearing. As they should be here. Some Dumbass bureaucrats watched a gangster movie and started the regulation.

    • Elapid King January 2, 2021, 6:31 pm

      Silencers were initially regulated because of poachers, now they’re carried over because people have watched too many bond movies.

  • Dr Motown December 31, 2020, 4:36 am

    You can thank Paul Ryan for refusing to allow the Hearing Protection Act to leave committee and go to a general vote before Pelosi seized control of Congress….🙄

    • Ricky B. December 31, 2020, 12:08 pm

      That sucks! Anyone who has spent any time at all at an indoor shooting range with anything larger than a 22 knows exactly how quickly you can start doing permanent damage to your hearing even with ear coverings on… It really isn’t fair that suppressors are so inaccessible to most people due to their NFA status.

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