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The RCMP have circulated a new memo to gun industry members advising them of a new AR-15 semi-automatic standard being used to classify semi-automatic AR-15 receivers from fully automatic receivers.

Historically, the differentiation between fully automatic (M16) receivers and semi-automatic (AR-15) receivers has been the existence of a low- or high-shelf inside the lower receiver. Denoting the height of the milled pocket located behind the trigger mechanism, where a fully-automatic sear and disconnector would reside in a select-fire rifle, the shelf height has often been the primary indicator due to the machine work required to allow a high-shelf lower to accept full-auto trigger components.

However, this latest memo from the RCMP looks to replace that aforementioned widely accepted international standard of shelf-height with an additional and nonsensical pocket width requirement. Early Colt AR-15 SP1 Sporter lower receivers featured a pronounced bump around the selector pin that protrudes into the lower receiver pocket, and according to the RCMP memo, “AR-15 pattern firearms which are not SP1 compliant risk falling into the prohibited firearm category as they can be easily converted to fire in a full automatic manner in a short period of time.” Due to the modern and almost universal standard of a lower receiver’s shelf-height being used to differentiate full-auto from semi-auto receivers so long, many manufacturers have forgone the needless SP1-syle machining of their lowers, and may now find themselves in the RCMP Firearms Program’s cross hairs. For further details, we’ve procured a copy of the memo in question, and you can view it here:

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What does this mean for us?

In discussion with the CSAAA; Canada’s firearm industry organization, CSAAA President Wes Winkel of Ellwood Epps said the memo, and ensuing FRT updates to specific AR-15 brands’ status would indicate that the RCMP would like to move towards a prohibition of at least some AR-15 brands; specifically those lowers that do not meet the so-called “SP1 standard.” According to the CSAAA, small numbers of AR-15 lowers will not meet this new standard, meaning the majority of AR-15 receivers should retain their original classification. The move mimics efforts previously undertaken by the RCMP wherein firearms and accessories are quietly shuffled from one classification to the other over the course of months, eventually culminating a in a single public notification of the reclassification effort, once all impacted firearms or accessories have been successfully migrated.

Please note that no public pronouncement has been made as yet, and while some AR-15 FRT entries have been updated, there has been no public notice from the RCMP. Calibre obtained this leaked memo and it was not intended for public release. The memo does not constitute notice of a change in classification for an AR-15 in your safe. There is no need to consult RCMP or local retailers to ascertain the status of your rifle as yet. Additionally, the CSAAA warns all gun owners that disassembling their AR-15 to examine the lower creates as undue risk of injury should the rifle be reassembled incorrectly.

What can you do?

Thus far, we’ve been unable to identify if the motivation for what we’re currently calling a reclassification effort; whether it stems from within the RCMP Firearms Program or from the Ministry of Public Safety. Regardless, stopping this movement will require legislative pressure from Members of Parliament, so we advise all gun owners email their MP and demand the RCMP walk this new and ridiculously impractical standard back. Remind your MP that all effected AR-15s are currently owned by some of the most stringently screened citizens of this country, and are specifically only bought and sold by Canadians with the absolute lowest propensity for criminal activity. In short, the potential reclassification of AR-15s serves no purpose beyond subverting Canadian gun owners’ faith in our national police force and government, as it will have no impact on criminal gun use. Furthermore, the act of actually converting a firearm to fully automatic fire (regardless of difficulty) is already a federal crime. And of course, as with all these legislative issues, they highlight the need for our gun organizations to be better supported, so if you feel compelled consider purchasing a (or more) memberships in them or volunteering.