Letter Re: Confusion About Ban Markings on Rifle Magazines

Mr. Rawles:
I was at a gun show last weekend, stocking up on ammo and magazines. A dealer had some original [Ruger] Mini-14 magazines (made at the factory, in white boxes) that were marked “restricted for law enforcement use..” or somesuch, stamped right into the body of the magazine. I also saw some Beretta M92 magazines with a whole bunch of the same kind of “thou shalt not…” small print. I thought that the [Federal] magazine ban had expired. I’m confused here. Could I get in trouble with my local police if I buy magazines with these marks? Thanks, – R.R.

JWR Replies: You aren’t the first one to ask me this. The U.S. Federal ban did indeed expire in September of 2004. (It expired because of a 10 year “sunset clause.”) A letter from the ATF confirms that you can disregard any ban markings on magazines. The only exception would be state or local laws, that can vary. (The state of New York, for example has its own ban that continues to make ownership of post-9/94 production high capacity magazines illegal.)

OBTW, there are also still some manufacturer’s restrictive sales policies to contend with. Ruger is one of the most notorious for this. They started restricting their dealers several years before the 1994 ban was enacted. But thankfully these sales policies do not cary any force of law. There are lots of distributors that flaunt them and sell outside of law enforcement channels. I suppose that the worst that could happen is that the distributor could lose their “factory authorized dealer” status and lose their special distributor pricing incentives.

With all that said, I need to repeat something I’ve mentioned before. There is a threat on the horizon: Beware of pending congressional bill, H.R. 1022the worst piece of proposed federal gun legislation introduced since 1968. Paragraph (L) is the dangerous catch-all that would make this new law much, much worse than the 1994-to-2004 “assault weapons” ban. That paragraph leaves the determination of what constitutes an “Assault Weapons” up to the arbitrary whim of the Attorney General (AG)–a political appointee. The real weasel phrase in paragraph (L) is “…and a firearm shall not be determined to be particularly suitable for sporting purposes solely because the firearm is suitable for use in a sporting event.” That phrase is the “back door” that they leave open for banning M1As and virtually any other model that the AG deems sufficiently ugly or “evil” looking. The NRA warns us that this law would also “begin backdoor registration of guns, by requiring private sales of banned guns, frames, receivers and parts to be conducted through licensed dealers.” In case this law ever morphs into a more draconian mandatory registration or confiscation law, I recommend that all American “black gun” gun owners look seriously at buying a few “sporting” semi-auto models such as a Valmet Hunter, Galil Hadar, HK SL6 (or 660), SL7 (or 770). Also consider FN-49s, which have a fixed 10 round magazine and no pistol grip. Ditto for M1 Garands, which use a 8 round en bloc clip. You should also show foresight and look beyond this particular piece of pending legislation. In the event of eventual “worst case” legislation–e.g. universal registration or confiscation of all modern firearms–you should hedge your bets by buying a few pre-1899 cartridge guns. (Such as those sold by The Pre-1899 Specialist.)

The only saving graces of the proposed ban are that it only affects new manufacture and importation. That still leaves a lot of existing (“grandfathered”) guns and full capacity magazines in circulation. If it passes, I predict that this law’s effect will be much like the 1986 machinegun freeze. And you’ve seen what has happened to the prices of Class 3 guns. The law of supply and demand is inescapable. Prices went up a lot during the 1994-to-2004 Federal ban. This time, prices will surely skyrocket even more, since this is a much wider-reaching law and there will be the public perception that the ban will be permanent. My advice: Stock up, especially on magazines. Buy at least a dozen for each of your guns. Buy hundreds, if you have some extra cash to invest. Again, based on the experience of the 1994-2004 ban and the 1986 Federal machinegun “freeze”, I expect magazine prices to at least triple. If you can, buy lots of extras, even for models that you don’t own, to use for barter. Buy a mix of mostly commonplace magazines (like HK91, FAL, and AR, and M14), and a few exotic ones (like Glock 33 round, Galil, SIG, Valmet, et cetera.) There may come a day when practically no amount of cash will buy you a pre-ban detachable magazine, but trades will still be considered.

Prices are still reasonable, because the full implications of this pending legislation have not yet registered with average American gun owner. For example, the last that I heard, TAPCO was still selling alloy 20 round HK91 magazines (that also fit CETMEs) at 50 pieces for $70. I think that in a couple of years such prices will seem like a dream. BTW, be sure to buy only factory original or original military contract magazines. Avoid all of the after-market junk.

The only other suggestion that I can make is: call, e-mail, and FAX your congressman frequently about this bill or any similar legislation. H.R. 1022 is blatantly unconstitutional legislation! And any of you that are NRA members should also contact the NRA and urge them to “hold the line” on this legislation. There is no “middle ground” or room for compromise.

My other oft-repeated advice, is: stock up on magazines now. Consider buying a lifetime supply for you and your children. Someday you may be glad that you did.