Wetted Nitrocellulose and the ATF

Recently there has been a large uproar around the internet regarding an ATF “reclassification” of wetted nitrocellulose.

In the June 2016 issue of the ATF Explosives Industry Newsletter the ATF included a short paragraph on wetted nitrocellulose. While the ATF dates the release as “June”, it appears the newsletter was likely released in late August. The ATF, in attempt to be helpful, shared an answer to a recent question. That answer included the characterization of wetted nitrocellulose as an “explosive.” On the 29th of August the industry noticed that wetted nitrocellulose had been considered an explosive. This is contrary to previous characterizations of the material and against many private letters the ATF had issued in answer to this very question.

So why the hoopla?

Nitrocellulose is the key ingredient in smokeless gunpowder. Every manufacturer of smokeless gunpowder goes through this stuff by the tons. To keep it from exploding the nitrocellulose is wetted. But upon drying out, ATF argues, nitrocellulose regains its explosive properties. The question becomes one of storage. Can the material be stored wetted and without further precautions, or must the nitrocellulose be stored like a high explosive (i.e. in bunkers, limited by amount, and secured in the event of a blast).

Currently, the industry wets nitrocellulose and stores it safely, but without the precautions typically used for explosives. If reclassified, manufacturers would be forced to invest in significant storage facilities and take precautions that have to date proved unnecessary. Such measurements would be costly and take significant time to implement. Much more time than the instantaneous announcement gave. Essentially, compliance would significantly increase costs and stop production for an unknown amount of time.

Industry was rightly concerned and contact the ATF. The ATF on the other hand seemed to have lost track of what they were doing. Rather than doubling down or holding the line they quickly admitted they goofed. In an August 31st announcement, only a day or two after the story broke, the ATF rescinded the characterization and stated they would re-examine the situation with industry. The retraction came so quick that the only email notice from the ATF includes the retraction before the newsletter!

Is it all over?

Not by a long shot. However, the ATF, faced with the significance of this change, will have to follow rule making procedures before reclassifying wetted nitrocellulose as an explosive. That will take time, and the ATF is very likely to wait on the upcoming elections to see which way the wind blows.

North Carolina Legalizes Suppressors for Hunting

South Carolinians have long enjoyed hunting with suppressors, but many states prohibit this same activity. South Carolina’s sister state, North Carolina, was one such state until very recently.

A comprehensive firearm law was recently signed into law, and among other things, the new law removes state restrictions on hunting with a silencer in North Carolina.

There may still be county or city restrictions and of course the property owners can enforce their own rules. Unfortunately, current indications are that some sheriffs will continue to reject all form 4 applications submitted by individuals. Fortunately, the proper use of a NFA Trust will allow those who want to purchase a suppressor to by-pass obstinate sheriffs.

Happy hunting to our brethren in North Carolina, and I am sure their neighbors will be appreciative of the reduction in noise.

For more, check out this article by the Winston-Salem Journal.

Silencers and Hunting

Silencers have been catching on with the hunting crowd and articles on their use have made recent appearances in a couple of popular magazines. The National Rifle Associations’ American Hunter and the classic Fur-Fish-Game each carried articles on silencers in the past several months. As all national publications must do out of necessity, the magazine cautioned readers to check their local laws when it comes to legality and hunting with silencers.

Fortunately for shooters and hunters in South Carolina, our state allows the use of silencers in all hunting on private land. (There are no blanket prohibitions on the use of silencers on public land, and I encourage everyone hunting on public land to check for any regulations or rules specific to the hunting area. ) Whether you are hunting hogs down in the Lowcountry or calling in coyotes in the Upstate, the use of a silencer will allow you to take game with a quieter sound signature. Or in other words, without disturbing the neighbors. Additionally, silencers protect hearing without limiting your use of all five senses.

If you are considering the purchase of a silencer, I strongly encourage you to hear one in action. Several gun shops in the Greenville, Greer, and Spartanburg area are happy to demonstrate silencers for potential customers. I also suggest reading several prior posts, here and here, on the benefits of using a gun trust or NFA trust to purchase firearms controlled by the National Firearms Act. As always, if you are looking for further information please feel free to contact me.

Hunting with Suppressors

Suppressors, referred to as silencers in the NFA, are legal for hunting on private land in SC. Most public lands, such as WMAs have minor firearm restrictions that normally do not include restrictions on suppressors, and it easy to check the DNR Regulation book or call to ensure your firearm is legal before hunting on public land.

There are several reasons to hunt with a suppressor including preservation of hearing, not disturbing other game, and not disturbing the neighbors.

Hunters want to hear a deer approaching or know that a coyote has howled in response to a call, but we don’t want a ringing in the ears after taking a shot. With ear plugs we can only have one or the other. Of course there are fancy muffs with electronic controls to allow some sounds in and exclude others, but we’re familiar with Murphy’s Law. Why rely on delicate electronics when a proven technology can dampen the noise?

Those of us who have spent some time in the woods know that the first shot isn’t always the last. Maybe we wish it were, or perhaps we have a chance to double up on varmints. Either way, we want every edge possible on that second or even third shot. A suppressor dampens the crack of your rifle increasing your opportunities for a follow up shot. Whether it is another squirrel or the buck of a life time, you’ll appreciate the second chance.

If you hunt enough places you are bound to find that one spot you wish you could hunt more if only you didn’t bother the neighbor. Maybe it is the difficulty of securing the land owner’s permission because of his past experiences with less than considerate hunters, or perhaps it is a concerned neighbor who feels it their civic duty to call the police at the sound of every shot. Regardless of your reason, ethical hunting with a suppressor won’t disturb your neighbors, and this will open up more opportunities for you.

Whatever your motivation  it is worth knowing that hunting with a suppressor is legal in South Carolina.