Skip to comments.Ban Of Device By ATF Triggers Inventor's Ire (NRA Alert)
Posted on 12/26/2007 8:43:59 AM PST by devane617
HUDSON - It was a simple idea, with big potential.
For years, marksmen have been using a technique called bump firing, shooting a semiautomatic rifle from the hip and allowing the weapon's recoil to pull the trigger.
With federal regulations keeping fully automatic weapons out of their hands, it was one of the few ways for firearm enthusiasts to enjoy the thrill of firing a machine gun.
If there was only a way to simulate that action, Bill Akins wondered, by creating a device that mechanized the recoil resistance to fire more rapid, and accurate, bursts of bullets.
Thus the Akins Accelerator was born.
Akins, 54, is an expert marksman, ex-Marine, Elvis impersonator, seventh-generation Floridian and member of the National Rifle Association.
The Hudson man spent nearly a decade designing his Accelerator. He got a patent for his invention. Then he poured his life savings into marketing and producing it for distribution.
In the era of gun control laws, the device promised to revolutionize target shooting.
"They were selling like hot cakes," Akins said. "We were truly amazed by the response."
That was until the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives banned the Accelerator - two years after approving it.
To the ATF, the mechanism is an illegal converter kit that, in the wrong hands, could turn a run-of the-mill target rifle into a 700-round-per-minute killing machine.
Threatening him with imprisonment, officials ordered Akins to cease production, turn over the recoil springs from his existing stock and hand over his customer list.
And they didn't give him a dime in return.
More than five years later, Akins is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy.
His business partner has severed ties with his company. His investors have bailed. He has a warehouse in Oregon filled with more than $750,000 worth of useless stock. His reputation has been sullied by trade publications that once praised his invention.
He can't afford to hire a lawyer to challenge the ATF's ruling.
"They've destroyed my dream," Akins said. "Eleven years of my life, gone like that."
Case Closed, ATF Says
ATF officials stand behind their decision to outlaw the Akins Accelerator.
Drew Wade, an agency spokesman in Washington, said the ATF initially approved the device after test-firing a prototype that Akins sent them in 2003.
Records indicate that the prototype malfunctioned when it was tested and analyzed by a senior technician from the ATF's Firearms Technology Branch, according to Wade. But the agency approved the Accelerator anyway, saying in a letter that it did not meet the criteria for a machine gun and, as a concept, was allowable under federal law.
"FTB has concluded that your submitted device is not designed and intended for use in converting a weapon into a machine gun," ATF officials wrote in a letter dated Aug. 23, 2005.
Wade said the agency reversed its position after someone who bought a fully functioning Accelerator requested another test firing.
This time, Wade said, the mechanism worked.
Shortly after, federal regulators issued a new ruling: The Akins Accelerator is prohibited under the National Firearms Act and the Gun Control Act of 1968.
The stop-production order came in an ATF letter dated Nov. 22, 2006. Besides mailing in all recoil springs in stock and his customer list, the agency demanded that Akins send an affidavit to each customer to account for all the devices sold. The recipients had to sign the document and return it to the ATF with the removed springs.
Wade would not comment on Akins' contention that the ATF erred in its decision-making.
"That's the bottom line is that we believe it's a machine gun," the spokesman said. "End of story."
Reversal Of Fortunes
Akins questions that rationale.
He cites sections of the 1968 gun control act that define a machine gun as any "weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger."
"That's not what the Akins Accelerator does," he said. "It isn't a gun. It isn't a machine gun. It's an accessory; that's all it is. These guys are making it up as they go along."
Officials from the NRA and the National Sports Shooting Association, chief advocates for gun ownership in the country, were not willing to comment on Akins' dilemma.
"We just don't know enough about it," said Ted Novin, the shooting association's president.
Before he patented the Accelerator, Akins did his homework.
He consulted lawyers such as James H. Jeffries III, who represented the NRA in high-profile lawsuits against the federal government, and sought a legal opinion from the ATF's Firearms Technology Branch.
They all thought his device was permissible under federal law.
"I wouldn't have invested millions of dollars on this if I knew it wasn't legal," Akins said.
Bringing his product to the marketplace, he established Akins Group Inc., took out bank loans and a second mortgage on his home to fund production, and began advertising in Shotgun News and other firearms publications.
The Accelerators, made of injection molded plastic, sold for about $1,000 apiece. They came in a small box with tools and instructions on how to attach the device to a semiautomatic rifle.
Buzz Spread Online
Similar to a Hellfire - which attaches to the trigger guard and already is on the market - the Accelerator was based on the practice of bump firing.
Once the trigger is pulled, the Accelerator's spring mechanism takes over and the trigger reciprocates at high speed, using recoil resistance to imitate automatic fire.
Most of the Accelerators were made for a Ruger 10/22, but Akins intended to make them for other rifles.
Overnight, the buzz about the Accelerator spread across the Internet.
"This thing is cool," one buyer gushed in a sporting chat room. "I can't believe it's legal."
But in 2006, several months after full production began, the ATF reversed its original ruling, outlawing the device and leaving Akins with a worthless product.
Akins wrote to the ATF, asking for clarification.
What followed was a flurry of vague and often contradictory correspondence that never fully explained why the federal regulators changed their position, Akins said.
"I wanted to explode," he recalled. "I started calling everyone I know, looking for help."
The NRA understood his dilemma, a spokesman told him, but didn't have a dog in the fight.
Akins turned to several pro-gun Republicans in Congress. Staff members promised someone would look into it.
"They said they couldn't do anything," Akins said. "Their hands are tied."
At the very least, he hoped to recover some of the money - his own and investors' - which he estimates at several million dollars.
"I don't understand how the federal government could come into my life like this, destroy my business and not offer compensation," Akins said.
"We did everything by the books."
Feeling Shaken And Stirred
The man behind the Akins Accelerator has toured the country impersonating Elvis onstage. He and his wife, Jeannie, live in a modest home on 2 acres along a winding road, in a rural corner of west Pasco County where you still can see the stars at night.
"I haven't made a lot of money over the years," Akins said. "But I've done all right for myself."
He considers himself a patriot and a rugged individualist in the Jeffersonian tradition.
He is an unflinching defender of the Second Amendment and a 30-year member of the NRA who learned to appreciate guns as a kid hunting rabbits in rural Florida.
He joined the Marine Corps at the height of the Vietnam War.
He has voted Republican his entire life, twice for George W. Bush.
And he loves his country.
"I was brought up to believe in America, in the principles of right and wrong," Akins said. "My boyhood heroes were John Wayne and Roy Rogers. I was a child of the 1950s."
That's why his ongoing feud with the federal government and the lack of backup for his cause have shaken him to the core.
He cites the Ruby Ridge shootings and the Branch Davidian siege by ATF agents in Waco, Texas, as examples of how the government crushes dissent.
He wonders if they will come for him, too.
"They're a bunch of jack-booted thugs," he fumed. "I wouldn't put it past them."
He also said he feels betrayed by the pro-gun lobby.
A few weeks ago, the NRA sent him a membership renewal. Akins stared at the one-page letter for a while. He sighed.
"I couldn't bring myself to renew it," he said. "What's the point, right?"
They've been doing that for years.
Of course the ATF is well known for it's Institutional Perjury.
Can’t wait for Mitt Romney, Huckabee, or Hillary to put these guys in charge of our health care!
He should publish his design drawings under his 1st amendment rights...let them try to stop THAT....
This is as good a statement as any about what's wrong with the NRA. Do they, or don't they, have a dog in the fight between an abusive and mercurial ATFE vs. lawful US citizen gun owners?
Even if they didn’t try to stop it, they can (and would) say that anyone making one is committing a federal felony, just as if they were making PCP.
that ought to drive the price of one up like a rocketship
The very heart of the issue and it is my understanding the end of the road garbage pit of government agences.
In all fairness, if automatics are illegal, this accelerator should too.
I’m just amazed that neither side did their job in the initial testing procedures. I presume that both knew it was supposed to be similar to a machine gun, but when it didn’t operate properly, they didn’t double-check with another copy.
Have one of these things ever been used in a crime?
Hey, isn't it wonderful living under the rule of law?
We should try it sometime.
“This is as good a statement as any about what’s wrong with the NRA.”
The NRA is about keeping the NRA in business. It never was about the 2nd amendment.
So why should we ask the government to exercise our God-given rights?
The ATF is an unchecked institution of power whose dictates are somehow law and upheld by a lot of judges. This needs to end...they are NOT the congress and they can NOT INVENT law and neither can Judges.
I keep reading that there are more guns in private ownership in America than ever before and I believe it. What I want to know is, when are America's gun owners going to stand up for their/our constitutional rights and demand Congress eliminate useless govt bureaucracy?
That was my problem while living in kalifornistan. Those idiots-in-residence (arnold and company) kept erasing our 2A rights. Kalifornistan has enough gun owners to start their own political party if they wanted. But few really cared enough to actually try to do anything.
So, I moved, and kal deserves what they get. As does the rest of the country if we allow these abuses to continue.
If the ATF is anti-gun AND would like to have fewer guns operational in the country, they should be FOR the use of the device. Fastest way to ruin a gunbarrel is to machinegun a barrel that wasn’t designed for it.
If they said it was legal and then it was not legal, then this is a taking of property entitled to compensation.
Taking of property does not mean just land, there is property of the intellect, property of the person, property of the conscience etc.
He would have a takings claim.
You'd think that since Mr. Wade properly capitalized Marine that he would also realize there are no "ex-Marines".
Mr. Akins is a former Marine.
I would post a response, but it’s just a matter of time before the ATF wants a customer list from Jim Robinson.
Yep! NRA BETTER get into this, as , shooting a semiautomatic rifle is legal. Apparently only because BATF&E has not yet pronounced from the mountaintops that semis are not legal. Which apparently BATF&E believes they have the author-i-tie to make such lofty decisions based upon just because.
NRA very much has a dog in this fight, and they are saying this is not their job. Well if it isnt, what is?
And NRA wonders why there are 70 million firearms owners and only how many NRA members?
Screw the NRA, they are cowards.
Just looking at the video DB provided I would say the device modifies the action around the sear. The report mentions springs. I’d guess the device bumps the sear down before it can engage the bolt.
The BATF is real touchy about messing with sears. Anybody with an AR15 type rifle needs to be aware of that fact.
EXACTLY. Despite the tragedy of this one man--being an inventor myself, I hope he finds a way to at least recoup some of his money--the underlying horror is that a group of bureaucrats have the power to tacitly create law from thin air, and then enforce it, destroying people in the process.
MM (in TX)
What are they going to do with rubber bands then?
The added danger being that governments often do not even recognize God given rights.
only the MSM would call firing from the hip as being a technique used be “marksmen”.
In all fairness, if automatics are illegal, this accelerator should too.
Any firearm, regardless of cyclic rate, is a killing machine.
“What are they going to do with rubber bands then?”
Outlaw them. Along with ‘bumps’ and ‘shoulders’.
Wake me up you y'all are ready for discussing real options. Including massive civil disobedience...
Imagine if an effort along the lines of the Bonus Army pulled more of a Battle of Athens...
The problem is that according to the law they are legal, and this guy put 10 years and everything he had into making it based on that law. Just the phrase "by a single function of the trigger" makes the law not apply to this device, since the trigger has to function for each shot.
Then the ATF, as usual, goes out and makes its own law. And we thought activist judges were bad.
Well that statement about firing 700 a minute just alarms the public who don’t know anything about guns.
Until I see a 700 round magazine then those guns are not going to shoot 700 rounds per minute.
Somebody should do the math on how fast someone would have to switch 40 round magazines in order to shoot 700 rounds per minute.
They knew exactly what it was.
It's kind of obvious from it's total lack of comment that this device applied to other rifles (which it mentions in the article is where they were going with it) would have destroyed most of the Class III market, the value of the obscenely overpriced firearms in that market, relegating the entire stock of transferable select fire weapons to dusty museum pieces and ended most of the reason for ATF to exist.
Somebody put two and two together and figured out the Adkins device would effectively put ATF out of the firearms business. That would leave them with pretty much nothing but a one question call center and chasing cigarette smugglers away from Indian Reservations.
I have often thought of electrical devices to achieve the same end. A small motor turning a cam to activate the trigger for instance or a solenoid activated trigger in series with a NO switch which is closed by the bolt returning to battery would fulfill the one shot per trigger pull requirement but I expect the ATF would disagree. If you think about it a Gatling gun (Mini gun) is technically not a machine gun since it is not self activated by recoil or expanding propellant gas. It just sits there until someone turns the crank. Add an electric motor and you can rip off four thousand rounds per minute and I would fully expect the ATF to consider it Class-III along with any other electrical add on mechanism.
As I said, too bad, so sad!
Do I really need a sarcasm tag?
The product developer estimated that it would cost $100,000 to bring it to market. As I said, I was in college so that wasn't gonna work.
Pay close attention to how the law defines "machinegun:"
"more than one shot... by a single function of the trigger."
This device clearly pulls the trigger once per shot.
Seems pretty clear.
“He has voted Republican his entire life, twice for George W. Bush.”
There’s one born every minute.
“Wake me up you y’all are ready for discussing real options. Including massive civil disobedience...”
It’s OK! McHuckaromnonsoniani will save us.
That wouldn’t do him a lick of good for recovering his lost finances. It would just anger the BATF people even more, and probably bring the legal system down on him. Instead, he needs to file suit, and do what he’s doing now; raise a public outcry.
I agree with you, if automatics are illegal, this shouldn’t be out there unless very tightly regulated. But if the BATF told him otherwise, then they owe him an explanation (and probably more) for why they pulled a 180 on him.
That was not just a ruling, a guy went to prison for that.
and JPFO published, a letter from the ATF declaring that if a shoelace had ever been tied to the trigger of a firearm to induce the gun to fire automatically, then that shoelace itself would forever afterward be an illegal machine gun under federal law. (JPFO was accused of ridiculing the ATF by making that claim; but in fact, the ATF was the only one being ridiculous.)
Marksmen? I think not. at least not from the hip.
I’m beginning to realize that myself more and more. It’s one reason why I haven’t renewed, even though I have two half-price discounts that came with some of my recent firearm purchases.
Blimey! I don’t see how the BATF could ever have approved that. That’s nothing short of an automatic adapter. I don’t agree with this thing being legal, but why did they allow its sale for 2 years? Something’s not right here.