Monday, 6 October 2014

09:42 – Back around 1970, Gordon Ingram, who’d designed the Ingram machine pistol, and Mitch Werbell, who’d designed the Sionics suppressor, formed a company called Military Armament Corporation, or MAC. Their best-known product was the MAC-10 suppressed machine pistol. The company lasted only a few years, and by 1975 had filed for bankruptcy. The legal wrangling lasted for a few years, but by the late 1970’s their remaining component and finished-goods inventory was dumped on the market. I remember it well. MAC-10 machine pistols were selling for $35 each, and the Sionics suppressor for another $35.

If I could have gotten complete MAC-10’s for $70, I’d probably have bought several. The problem was, both the MAC-10 and the Sionics were Class 3 firearms, which meant you also had to pay a $200 transfer tax for each to the federal government, for a total of $470 for a complete MAC-10 with suppressor. At the time, that was the equivalent of about $2,000 today, but it was also the Carter era with its extremely high inflation. I remember thinking at the time that the $200 tax hadn’t changed since the National Firearms Act was passed in 1934, and if it remained unchanged that inflation would someday make that $200 tax trivial. Here it is 35 years later, and the tax is still $200, or about $50 in 1979 dollars.

And indeed Class 3 Firearms dealers seem to be a lot more common than they used to be. In 1979, there were very few of them around. I’m not sure there was even one in every state. They tended to specialize in NFA firearms and destructive devices rather than being general gun dealers. The other day, I was looking into local shooting ranges and was surprised to find that one of them offers silencers (suppressors) for sale. A quick check showed many other gun dealers and shooting ranges are doing the same, that suppressors are now popular accessories for hunters, and that rifles and pistols with threaded barrels designed to accept suppressors are now readily available. I suppose it’s not surprising. When the act passed, that $200 tax was more than some people made in a year, and was a month’s salary or more even for doctors, attorneys, engineers, and bank presidents. Nowadays, a $200 tax is pretty trivial for many people who would want to buy a suppressor or automatic weapon.