AR15 DROP-IN AUTO SEARS - WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?
Originaly by Jeff SelectFire@aol.com
with updates by Quarterbore
There are two types of AR15 Drop-In Auto-Sears (DIAS) available;
(1)the so called ”legal pre-81” auto sears and (2)the registered auto sear. The
“pre-81” sears are commonly advertised in Shotgun News for about $125-$200. The
registered and transferable ones are much more difficult to find, and currently
(Nov-2003) are priced in the $7500 - 8500 price range. The purpose and function of
each type is the same; to convert a semi-automatic AR15 rifle to full automatic.
While there is no physical difference between the two, there are enormous legal
differences - one is completely legal to own and use, the other is a felony
waiting to happen.
THE REGISTERED & TRANSFERABLE DROP-IN AUTO SEAR
This is a an auto sear made before 1986 and registered (tax paid) with the BATF as a machinegun.
Currently (Nov-2003) they sell in the $7500 - 8500 price range and require an additional $200 transfer tax to own. This is the only type an individual can use to make an AR15 full auto. To obtain one, an individual (non FFL/SOT) would have to live in a state that permits ownership of full auto firearms and complete a BATF form 4 in duplicate with fingerprints, pictures, and a CLEO certification. The auto sear itself is legally the same as a complete transferable machinegun - it is legal to own and use, provided the paperwork is filed with BATF and you receive an approved form 4. The registered auto sear requires installation of M16 (full
auto) fire control parts (trigger, disconnector, selector, hammer, and bolt carrier) in the semi automatic host rifle. Normally, even possession of an M16 part with an AR15 is a felony - it doesn’t even have to be installed in the gun! If you own a registered DIAS however, possession is permitted as long as you are the legal owner of a registered DIAS. If the DIAS is removed from the rifle, the M16 parts MUST BE REMOVED also. The instant a registered DIAS is removed, any M16 parts in the AR15 will constitute a felony. The same principle also applies to barrel length. If you have a short barrel (less than 16”) on an AR15 with a registered DIAS installed, you must remove the barrel/upper whenever the DIAS is not in the gun. The registered DIAS can be installed in either a pre or post ban AR15 with all the evil assault features you wish. Because the DIAS makes the rifle full automatic when installed, it is no longer covered by the 1994 assault weapons ban, which defines an assault weapon as a “semiautomatic rifle” with specific features (bayo. lug, threaded barrel, flash hider, etc.). When the sear is removed from a post-ban gun, you must restore the gun to a post-ban configuration, and remove those evil assault features. Just remember, when the registered DIAS is installed, the host gun becomes like a machinegun and is treated as such. The instant the DIAS is removed, the host firearm must revert back to its original semiautomatic state (no F/A parts, no short barrels), and if a post ban, it must comply with the assault weapons ban.
THE “PRE-81” DROP-IN AUTO SEAR
The “pre-81” DIAS - commonly advertised in Shotgun News for about $125-$200 are a completely different item than a registered DIAS. Prior to 1981 it was legal to make and own these sears without necessarily registering them as machineguns. BATF eventually caught on, and in 1981 issued a ruling that the sears were considered machinegun conversion parts and sears made after 1981 had to be registered (tax paid) and transfer as any other NFA item (these became the registered ones referred to above). BATF grandfathered the unregistered sears made prior to 1981, but sears made after 1981 had to either be registered or are considered unregistered machineguns - a serious felony. IT IS A FELONY TO POSSESS BOTH A PRE-81 DROP-IN AUTO SEAR AND AN AR15 - UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES CAN AN INDIVIDUAL LEGALLY USE A PRE-81 DIAS IN AN AR15. Technically, you are allowed to possess an unregistered DIAS which was made prior to 1981, but you cannot possess one if you own an AR15 - it’s one or the other, but not both. Obviously, this rule makes possession of a pre-81 DIAS useless - if you cannot own the rifle it goes in, about all you can do with them is to make cufflinks, earrings, or a very small paperweight.
The so called “pre-81” DIAS presents another legal problem, which can make the mere possession of the sear a felony - even in the complete absence or an AR15. As stated previously, only sears made prior to 1981 are allowed to be unregistered - any sears made after the 1981 ruling must be registered or will be considered by BATF to be unregistered machineguns. Because none of the pre-81 sears carry a serial number which can be definitively linked to a date of manufacture, there is no way to prove to BATF or a prosecutor that an unregistered pre-81 DIAS was actually made prior to 1981. If you are caught with one (just a sear, not even with a rifle) BATF can assume it was made after 1981, and therefore prosecute for felony possession of an unregistered machinegun. The burden of proof will fall on the owner of the sear to prove it was made prior to 1981 - very difficult to do without a serial number of date of manufacture on the sear itself. Granted, some pre-81 sears come with a letter purported to document the sears authenticity, but often these are just Xeroxed, and will not stand up to the scrutiny of a prosecutor.
If you are considering buying an auto sear to convert your AR15 to a full automatic firearm, there is only one option - the registered & transferable DIAS. While it may be tempting to buy a pre-81 to save
thousands over the registered sear, the risks are considerable. Possession of an unregistered machinegun (a pre-81 DIAS and an AR15 rifle...or possibly even just a so called “pre-81” DIAS) is a felony punishable by
up to 10 years in prison, and up to a $10,000 fine, and permanent loss of your right to ever own a gun or vote again. Numerous rumors have circulated that some of the people selling the pre-81 sears are actually BATF
operations. Buyer beware.