A quick briefing on a subject that consumes entirely too much bandwidth in arguments, web forums and gun shop debates: who really made your AR? Simple. Lots of people, and not always the one whose name is on the lower.
Let’s say you are a guy with a lot of money who wants to be an AR “maker.” But, you don’t have enough money to invest in CNC machining centers or the trained machinists to run them. You can buy all the parts, assemble them and sell them as rifles.
You’ll need a location, staff, insurance, papers of incorporation, etc., and you’ll need a manufacturers license, listed as 07 in the federal regs, known in the parlance as an “Oh-Seven.”
If you want the rifles to have your name on them, that, too, can be arranged. You simply contract with the company who is doing the actual machining of your lowers and, for a setup fee and a minimum purchase, they’ll put your name on them instead of theirs.
As part of the process, the company machining the lowers will send a form in to the ATF (before they do so much as unpack and degrease the first receiver forging of your contract) known as a ”marking variance” that informs the Feds that they are making lowers with your name on them, thus the setup charge and the minimum purchase requirement.
If it turns out that you cannot, for some reason, accept delivery of the lowers, they can’t sell them. How could they, the receivers have your name on them. They can only destroy the lowers, after informing the ATF of that action.
They won’t take a bet on you, you have to accept the burden of cost and risk. They’ll probably even make you pay 100% up-front, until you establish a track record with them.
As many makers use proprietary tooling and cutting paths, it is possible to get a sense of who made something by looking at the toolmarks left behind.
However, it is entirely possible for an end-assembler to have contracts with two or more makers, and marking variances with each, to keep them supplied regardless of contractual conflicts.
This situation leaves people trying to figure out who “really” makes the lowers that so-and-so sells. At this point I throw my hands up and move on to the next chapter.
This is an excerpt from the new book Gunsmithing the AR-15 Vol. II.