ATF (Almost) Bans Smokeless Powder! – Also Finds Trail Cam IEDs in Kentucky Wilderness

atf record-keeping

The ATF briefly classified — then unclassified — wetted nitrocellulose as an explosive. (Photo ATF/Facebook)

The ATF, more formally known as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has issued two notices on explosives — and has quickly retracted one of them. One notice immediately raised gun owner hackles while the other one is more of a public service announcement.

The controversial announcement was that the ATF — briefly — reclassified wetted nitrocellulose as an explosive. Wetted nitrocellulose is a common component in manufacturing and reloading ammunition. The decision was immediately criticized by the gun community as a way to drive up ammo costs by fiat.

In theory, by classifying wetted nitrocellulose as an explosive, the costs to license, handle, process and insure a basic loading component could have been artificially driven up. This could have raised costs across the board, even for government buyers. Even worse, it could have completely ended the way ammo is made and sold.

“If smokeless powders are now considered high explosives then ammunition can no longer be sold on store shelves. Manufacturers need to completely redesign their operations, rebuilding their facilities and ensuring their personnel meet the stringent requirements,” explained gun law expert Joshua Prince. “Simply put, if [the] ATF intends to enforce this new designation ammunition is going to be almost impossible to acquire.”

While the government makes exemptions for some uses of explosives, including specifically for ammunition manufacturers, this might still have significantly changed the ammo production landscape.

“At the point the nitrocellulose is incorporated into smokeless powder or a complete round of ammunition, it is exempt from the requirements of the record keeping, storage, and other requirements of federal law and regulations,” said Ammoland.

“However, other explosive materials used to manufacture ammunition will not be exempt until incorporated into one of the components of ammunition listed in the regulation, including smokeless powder or a complete round of small arms ammunition. Thus, wetted nitrocellulose containing greater than 12.6 percent nitrogen may be lawfully shipped, transported, or received only by persons holding federal explosives licenses or permits.”

So while the ATF’s decision to reclassify wetted nitrocellulose was definitely not a good thing, it wasn’t as bad as some people expected. Just the same, the ATF has since put the decision on hold, and that is a good thing.

The ATF delayed the decision almost immediately. In a memo titled “Nitrocellulose — Update” (.pdf) the ATF said that “Subsequent contact from industry members who import, transport, store or employ wetted nitrocellulose in the production of ammunition, however, has brought to our attention issues that were not fully addressed in the newsletter and require further consultation and consideration with the industry.

“Accordingly, ATF has and will conduct further industry outreach concerning wetted Nitrocellulose,” added the ATF. “In the interim, previously authorized industry practices concerning wetted citrocellulose will not be affected.”

The decision to withhold reclassification of wetted nitrocellulose could have been due to public outcry, logistics problems or both. It still serves as a reminder of how deeply an industry can be affected by a regulatory agency.

PSA: IEDs Found in Kentucky, Look Out

With the gun community spinning after the back-to-back nitrocellulose announcements one very important ATF release may have gone unnoticed. The ATF discovered nine IEDs — improvised explosive devices — in the Kentucky wilderness.

These IEDs were rigged up to game cameras across Harlan county. Three of the IEDs went off and injured passers-by but there may be more bombs yet to be found.

“Some of the trail cameras were found abandoned on paths in rural areas routinely accessed via the Dave Smith Drainage Area (Woodland Hills Subdivision, Harlan, KY) on the Little Black Mountain Spur in Harlan County,” said the ATF in an official statement. “These IEDs were designed to explode when a person inserted batteries into the trail camera.”

mark sawaf

Mark Sawaf, the suspected bomb-maker. (Photo: WKYT)

Not all of the bombs were built into trail cams. “Other IEDs were designed to be detonated by a tripwire leading to the trail cameras,” added the ATF. “In some instances, containers such as milk jugs, protein powder containers, or paint cans were placed nearby the explosive device. In addition, there is information that a tree stand had been placed in the woods with an explosive device attached.”

On the surface, it looks like someone was targeting hunters and outdoors enthusiasts, but drugs are commonly made and grown in out-of-the-way places. These could have been booby traps although police did not find any signs of drug production.

The ATF and local officials are cautioning people against handling game cameras they didn’t place themselves. And if anyone finds a suspicious game camera, please contact the ATF or the local police with a location and GPS coordinates if possible.

This announcement is related to the investigation and arrest of Mark Sawaf earlier this summer. Investigators found many explosives and bomb-related materials in Sawaf’s home.

Sawaf was killed in custody after attempting to take an officer’s pistol according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. Charges have not been filed against the officer involved.

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. Like Thomas Paine, he’s a journalist by profession and a propagandist by inclination.

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  • Dave September 10, 2016, 6:31 pm

    If Feinstein or Clinton and other democrats get attacked by a gunner and gets shot at….don’t you think that their body guards are carrying automatic weapons to protect them?

    I even believe that Feinstein and Clinton’s carry concealed automatic pistols. Think about it. But it’s hush hush about protecting their lives. Their exempt they think…it’s all bs

  • Dave September 10, 2016, 6:30 pm

    If Feinstein or Clinton and other democrats get attacked by a gunner and gets shot at….don’t you think that their body guards are carrying automatic weapons to protect them?

    I even believe that Feinstein and Clinton’s carry concealed automatic pistols. Think about it. But it’s hush hush about protecting their lives. Their exempt they think…it’s all bs

  • Jim September 10, 2016, 2:59 pm

    In way shold IEDS be glorified as cool, we should not fall into the same traps the Lefty media uses. They glorify the actions of terrorists and lunitics causing the copycat syndrome to take effect. To further outline the lefts media powers lets look at thier coined terms” assault rifle, high powed handguns “and so on. Once repaeted like all medai spiel. It becomes gosepel and truth. When in reality its just fabricated crap and a large portion of the sheeple all believe it more ever . Where are the real Americans, the ones that cant forgive Killary or Obama for there massive failures?

  • Cal Cotto September 10, 2016, 12:31 am

    That guy wasn’t killed while attempting to grab a police officers gun. He was recruited and now works for the ATF.

  • UConnPete September 9, 2016, 8:29 pm

    I really don’t care why the idiot made his trail cams into IEDs but I still stand behind my comment that his terrorist acts should never be considered COOL! Gunsamerica should retract/edit the title immediately!

    • Davy September 13, 2016, 4:04 pm

      “By Ballot or Gun our day will come.” – The IRA/ Sinn Fein

  • Mike September 9, 2016, 4:59 pm

    “Killed while in police custody”, how convenient, because dead men tell no tales, but the government will lie to us everyday about these total bullshit stories!

  • Larry September 9, 2016, 2:22 pm

    It’s just a trial run. If they can take away our mechanism to make bullets, they are effectively disarming us without the immense trouble of confiscation of our guns.
    I really rate being so cynical of our gubment but every thing about the little brown bozo’s regime is as anti American as Castro & the little dog eating fool from North Korea, combined.

  • Mark Bergo September 9, 2016, 2:02 pm

    “So while the ATF’s decision to reclassify wetted nitrocellulose was definitely not a good thing, it wasn’t as bad as some people expected. Just the same, the ATF has since put the decision on hold, ***** and that is a good thing.**** ”
    One more thing to look forward to after the election if Clinton wins.
    EPA put anti racing regulations on hold until after the elections and now this.

  • Patriot September 9, 2016, 1:53 pm

    The ATF must be a shameless idiot organization controlled by corrupt idiot Democrats such as Hillary and Billy to try to destroy the production of ammunition and other aspects of the Second Amendment and practically destroy the lives of good American people in the honest gun business.

    The ATF should completely abandon the idiot nonsense they have proposed and let Americans defend themselves from robberies, rapes, killings, and dope heads needing money.

    This shows how corrupt and biased the media usually is on liberal matters, such as the idiot nonsense proclamation by the ATF that would end the supply of ammunition and be a huge step in gun control. There was no objection from the media and that is because the media supports Hillary and idiot Democrats. The media and Hillary and Billy supporters, such as Obama, Pelosi, Feinstein, Boxer, Brown, Bloomberg, Soros who owns Progressive insurance, Schumer, Katie Couric, Healey, Harry Reid have something in common and it is the fact that all are ROTTEN TO THE CORE!!!!

  • muleskinner September 9, 2016, 1:25 pm

    Put on hold is code for coming in an Executive Order near YOU!…It’s only a matter of time…if they institute this illegal, unconstitutional “law” ammo will disappear from most store shelves for a long time, probably forever…Exactly what the liberal gun grabbers want…stock up now because you know it’s coming if the Hilldabeast wins…(or steals) the election..

  • Dean September 9, 2016, 12:31 pm

    Glad to be killing thieves? No one has the right to put a camera on PUBLIC LAND and claim that no one is allowed to touch their stuff. That right to ownership ended when he willingly put cameras on PUBLIC land.

    That act, putting a tempting device that is free for anyone to take, is an “attractive nuisance” just like a swimming pool or trampoline in your yard; there are higher insurance rates because the homeowner is liable for injuries caused by trespassers who wanted to use the pool. Therefore, to premeditate murder by placing explosives disguised as trail cameras in an attempt to attract anyone, including curious children, is murder, it is terrorism.

    • Tommygun851 October 10, 2017, 1:54 pm

      Dean, I don’t know the laws in the state that you live in but here in Connecticut you can place game cameras, hunting blinds, tree stands or whatever game equipment that you want (as long as it doesn’t harm the tree or vegetation that you place it on) NO ONE is allowed to take it or vandalize is it! It still is your property and if anyone does anything to it, you will be properly charged with a crime!
      If the owner booby traps it , then the owner is liable for what ever happens from that . But what a hard lesson to learn about NOT touching someone else’s property!

  • Mahatma Muhjesbude September 9, 2016, 11:29 am

    You know the more I hear this kind of stuff the more I realize that almost nobody is listening. I don’t know if it’s some new additive to the chem-trails that’s accelerating the epidemic of Alztheimer’s to all of us now or something… but the outrage should be focused better than just the specific knee jerk when they target and want to take away your little particular pet ‘no-no’. It should be focused on Repealing ALL Gun laws, Firing and prosecuting our Reps and any government agencies who in any way attempt to restrict the 2nd Amendment to deprive us of our right to bear.

    Because does anyone really believe or even entertain the crippled thought that these Totalitarians will EVER stop until they succeed in effectively disarming the entire populate for all practical armed resistance to tyranny purposes???

    They would have done it by now due to all the apathy and proactive laziness of the masses of dumb asses imprisoned in their little normalcy biased, smart phone controlled worlds, had it not been for the unforseen ‘backfiring’ (levity attempt there) of the consumption driven consumers who don’t like anybody telling them what they can’t buy so they went out and bought shit loads of those terrible black rifles and literally offset the regime’s efforts in terms of sheer volumetric efficiency progress.

    But just a minor set back if Hellbitch gets in. She has so much ‘pending’ legislature and executive/administrative mandates waiting in the bushes that those black powder people won’t even know what hit them after they get through with bringing the rest of the country up/down to Kalifornia dictatorial standards.

    They’ll never, never, stop. and they cover all the angles.

    I just noticed something in my latest ‘FireArms News’ -formerly Shotgun News which will now make me cancel my subscription.
    They decided (caved to the ATF, no doubt) to no longer accept ads for books or manuals on explosives or making automatic weapons conversions, etc.

    So it even gets worse when the last stand for Liberty involves defending our right to have knowledge. Which is usually the next thing to be stripped of, right after our 1st/A right to group protest, (they got away with murder trying it Nazi style in Malheur Wildlife Refuge protest) when they finally come door to door to confiscate your guns.

    And you can whine and bitch and moan and Molon Labe all you want. You’ll still have to give them up. Or they’ll just kill you and your family and just take them.

    • Kalashnikov Dude September 9, 2016, 1:07 pm

      No option to “like up” your post here. Too bad. You seem to get it.

    • Garrett Bradt September 11, 2016, 4:44 pm

      HA! Looks like someone scared the crap out of the ATF. Somebody had to draw a “line in the sand” somewhere…. I think we are beginning to do that all as Second Amendment activists and Constitutional supporters. Has the ATF ever heard of the IRA??? … yea… the British Army couldn’t even stop them. I think the ATF should do a little more research on the northern Ireland situation before blindly wandering into what they see as “their enemies territory”… dumba**es. Always watch out for traps in the woods, what amateurs.

  • Leighton Cavendish September 9, 2016, 11:12 am

    Going to another source…it appears he did indeed rig his OWN cameras…because he was tired of them getting stolen.
    And he died in custody trying to take an officer’s gun.

  • Richard E Taylor September 9, 2016, 10:59 am

    Sounds like someone was tired of people stealing his hunting gear.

  • Rich K. September 9, 2016, 10:15 am

    BATF = Bureau for the Absolute Termination of Freedom.

  • Chris Wagner September 9, 2016, 10:12 am

    Exactly what part of the IED’s is “COOL” as your headline states?

  • Russell Thompson September 9, 2016, 9:58 am

    Thanks for the laugh , Leroy

  • leroy September 9, 2016, 9:50 am

    So, I guess the chick in the picture is available now?

    • Deetee September 9, 2016, 1:08 pm

      Haha Classic!

    • perlcat September 9, 2016, 2:13 pm

      Yeah, and she has a whole bunch of game cameras that she doesn’t need anymore.Might want to be careful when you go to move them. Personally, I don’t get why people would want to steal a game camera, when you can rent a gorilla suit and have a whole lot of fun with it instead.

    • ejharb September 11, 2016, 11:57 am

      You win the damn Internet with that.

      A ribhurter a week keeps the shrink away

  • Ken September 9, 2016, 9:35 am

    “So while the ATF’s decision to reclassify wetted nitrocellulose was definitely not a good thing, it wasn’t as bad as some people expected. Just the same, the ATF has since put the decision on hold, ***** and that is a good thing.**** ”
    What in hell makes you even consider that being a good thing ?
    Do you not know the meaning of “put on hold”?
    That whole story means that it is in the works to stop production of ammo by every company and the public , just waiting for the “PEN” of Big O or the next democrat or liberal POTUS.

  • Ray Drysdale September 9, 2016, 9:31 am

    Its getting so it is just like 1969. Every step could be your last. ‘Charlie’ is in the trees!

    • Davy September 13, 2016, 4:12 pm

      In ’69 the British burnt us Irish Catholics out of our homes because they hated us…. ever heard of the Massacre of Mai iai??? When you are invaded by a foreign army I guess its just ok to then demonize the people you have invaded, am I right? You sound like your defending the actions of the ATF in the *first place* which is a big red flag for me that *someone* might be a Socialist-type or just another Imperialist douche.

  • hey September 9, 2016, 8:59 am

    When are going to stop waiting for the BATF to make laws out of thin air while by passing congress? Just like 2 senetors said we do not need the BATF, the DEA and FBI is already able to inforce the laws, this is their only purpose, the BATF was created to bypass the balance of power. The sane people left need to set an example and demand the cruption of the BATF is enough and the agency does not belong to American law or people.

  • Todd September 9, 2016, 8:38 am

    What’s “cool” about the IED’s ???

    • Davy September 13, 2016, 4:14 pm

      Your mom likes IED’s (insert extra dick) *bad joke* just go away leftist…. just go away.

  • Mark Voelker September 9, 2016, 8:06 am

    Bigger news Boys ! There are Trail Cams that transmit timed signals to remote devices.
    my 31 acres of “Conservation Project” , just thriving with Bucks and Birds in rural Upstate New York , no good now for “internet time share hunting sales”.

  • Gunny September 9, 2016, 7:45 am

    Is the ATF’s mission statement “We shall infringe” ?Seems to be their only M.O.

  • Treecop September 9, 2016, 6:37 am

    Nothing “cool” about IEDs.

  • UConnPete September 9, 2016, 6:30 am

    I am a little disturbed by the title of this article. I can’t understand why any device intended to harm or kill innocent people would be considered “cool” by any pro gun news and information outlet. This is just the kind of “ammunition” the liberal media will jump on to paint lawful gun owners as lunatics…

    • James Hottois September 9, 2016, 9:33 am

      How about this!!!!!!! Don’t steal someone else camera!!!!! Why the hell would you be putting batteries in someone elses camera…Sounds like thieves are the ones getting hurt, no problem here….

  • Sailorcurt September 9, 2016, 6:24 am

    I’m guessing someone was having problems with thieves taking trail cams and tree stands and decided to teach them a lesson.

  • Trent DeRoc September 9, 2016, 2:53 am

    It looks like what my dad taught me at 5 could be true too: “Charlie is in the trees, he’s got the whole place rigged to blow, one bad step and BOOM you’re in a thousand pieces”

  • SuperG September 6, 2016, 1:50 pm

    So what my Dad taught me at 5 is still true today. Leave things alone that don’t belong to you.

    • Mike September 9, 2016, 3:25 am

      Well…. except for that little – “Not all of the bombs were built into trail cams. “Other IEDs were designed to be detonated by a tripwire leading to the trail cameras,” added the ATF” thing.

    • Pseudo September 9, 2016, 6:14 am

      So I guess you missed the part about “trip wires, milk cartoons, etc?”

      • Dale September 9, 2016, 2:06 pm

        It’s a damn shame that the ATF seems to think it’s a legislative organization and more so that everyone just goes along as though their dictates are actually laws.

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