Gun Digest

Rare Breed Triggers And ATF Clash Over FRT-15

Rare Breed has rejected the ATF’s claim that the FRT-15 trigger qualifies as a machine gun based on the agency’s own definition. Time to grab some popcorn.


ATF Rul. 81-4
The National Firearms Act, 26 U.S.C. 5845(b) defines “machine gun” to include any combination of parts designed and intended for use in converting a weapon to shoot automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.

Rare Breed Triggers caused quite the stir when they released their FRT-15 trigger for AR-style rifles last year. At first glance, it's easy to see why. The FRT-15 enables its users to shoot in controllable, sustained bursts of fire in a way that is very outwardly similar to the function of a machinegun, but it does not technically meet the definition of one according to the ATF’s own rulebook as defined by the National Firearms Act (NFA). Rare Breed Triggers clearly has a better grasp on this definition than the ATF.

Standing for “Forced Reset Trigger”, the FRT-15 forcibly resets the trigger after each round is fired, avoiding legal classification as a machinegun because there is only one round fired per trigger pull despite the greatly increased rate of fire. Regardless of how blatantly this device skirts the spirit of the law intended to restrict private ownership of fully automatic weapons, it does not change the fact that it complies with the letter of the law. If the ATF wishes to classify the FRT-15 as a machinegun, they will need to amend how a machinegun is defined within the NFA.

The situation is best understood by simply reading the correspondence between the ATF and Rare Breed Triggers, as any attempt to paraphrase the response from Rare Breed’s lawyer would not do it justice. In the letters which can be read at the bottom of this post, attorney Kevin Maxwell eloquently, professionally and summarily informs the ATF of the many issues with their attempted new classification.

The case is still ongoing, and the results will remain unknown for quite some time, but Rare Breed’s refusal to comply with the ATF’s baseless cease and desist order is a glimmer of hope in the otherwise bleak onslaught on our constitutional rights. Many Americans flat-out disagree with the Supreme Court’s confirmation of the NFA’s constitutionality, but that’s a conversation for another day. As long as the NFA requires citizens to register their suppressors, SBRs and pre-’86 machineguns with the federal government, that’s what law-abiding citizens will do. The ATF is currently also targeting braced pistols, 80% receivers and homemade firearms. So their attack on Rare Breed triggers appears to be the agency testing the waters on compliance.

The development of this case holds interest for all gun owners, whether they purchased an FRT-15 themselves or not. An ATF court victory would enable them to classify things however they please, regardless of their own definitions. If this is the outcome, FRT-15 owners should expect a knock on the door from the Federales at some point where they may even see their dog get reclassified as target practice. If the courts determine that the ATF is obligated to abide by definitions as they are written in the NFA, we will likely see the FRT-15 and a slew of similar designs flood the market and finally enable the common man to own weapons with otherwise financially prohibitive fire rates.

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

To find out more on Rare Breed Triggers, please visit

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