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Antique serial numbers?
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I have heard from numerous sources that BATFE uses the Madis numbers, but the law specifically refers to the date when the gun was completed, not when it was started.  Many gun dealers use the Madis numbers and ship to FFL’s or individuals accordingly.  I don’t think they (BATFE) are going to nitpick over a couple of years one way or the other (unless you are a notorious criminal like Capone that they want to get anyway possible) when it comes to the dual dates for Winchester.  Additionally, since the legal date is the date “completed” they would actually have to get a Cody letter to find the date shipped, not the date the serial number was applied.

Hove some fun reading these posts from # 11 on:  https://winchestercollector.org/forum/general-discussions-questions/month-of-year-of-1st-production-early-riflescarbines/#p56211

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wolfbait said
I have several 1894s and 1892s that by the serial numbers listed on the Winchester factory site and Madis are made 1896-97, antiques. Polishing room numbers are post 1898. Reading some posted information it is stated that ATF is using the Winchester factory information regarding manufacturing dates, which are Madis numbers. I have tried to contact numerous ATF offices to get a clarification, but can not get past voice promps. Has anyone seen anything in writing, or any definitive information, from ATF regarding what numbers they are using to define antiques? http://www.winchesterguns.com/content/dam/winchester-repeating-arms/support/faq/serial-number-reference/Winchester-Manufacture-Dates-by-Year-2012-Scanned-Documents.pdf  

The BATF uses the DOM information as obtained from the Cody Firearms Museum records office. They do not use Madis’ book, or the erroneous information listed on the so called “Winchester” (Browning Arms company) website.  Several years ago, I received an email (see below), followed by a phone call from Creighton L. Brandt, Special Agent attached to the BATF Tucson Arizona office.  He had seen a copy of the corrected Antique serial number cut-off table that I published in several documents, and he wanted to know what my source of information was.  I explained to him that I had personally examined all of the original Winchester factory records at the CFM records office, and that if he needed confirmation, to get in touch with the CFM records office.  He then requested an e-copy of my published table, which I provided to him. 

—————————————————————————–

Subject: Winchester model 1894 Question
Date: Mon, 25 Mar 2013 18:59:52 -0400
From: [email protected]
To: [email protected]

Good afternoon Sir.  I am an ATF agent in Tucson, Arizona, and I am attempting to determine the DOM of a Winchester, model 1894, 30-30 rifle, SN: 344457.  Is there a phone number I could reach you at?
 
Creighton L. Brandt
Special Agent
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives
2255 West Ina Road, 3rd Floor
Tucson, AZ 85741
main. (520) 297-2100
desk. (520) 573-5603
cell. (520) 334-7747
fax. (520) 573-5696
 
—————————————————————————— 
 Bert

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September 6, 2017 - 8:08 pm
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wolfbait said
It really seems if ATF is using different numbers now, the polishing room, than they have been using the past 50 years they should make that known through public announcement and information on their website.   

Why on earth would you expect any Law Enforcement Agency to publically announce when they change their source of information… seriously ??

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I believe the BATFE is indeed using polishing room records. The problem I have with Madis’ dates is that they are often earlier than the PRB records that indicate when a serial number was applied (SNA date). Madis mentions in his book that many of the records his listings are based on no longer exist but the polishing room record books DO exist. As I understand it the early records Madis based his charts upon were compiled in the early 30’s from info obtained from various sources. Since the serial number is applied quite early in the manufacturing process and the Madis manufacture date so often precedes the SNA I’ve learned to trust the SNA dates from the PRB when they differ from Madis’ data.

Bert will be along in due time to correct any errors and misunderstandings I may have. 😉

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Wincacher said
I have heard from numerous sources that BATFE uses the Madis numbers, but the law specifically refers to the date when the gun was completed, not when it was started.  Many gun dealers use the Madis numbers and ship to FFL’s or individuals accordingly.  I don’t think they (BATFE) are going to nitpick over a couple of years one way or the other (unless you are a notorious criminal like Capone that they want to get anyway possible) when it comes to the dual dates for Winchester.  Additionally, since the legal date is the date “completed” they would actually have to get a Cody letter to find the date shipped, not the date the serial number was applied.

Hove some fun reading these posts from # 11 on:  https://winchestercollector.org/forum/general-discussions-questions/month-of-year-of-1st-production-early-riflescarbines/#p56211  

I suspect that your “sources” are not reliable.  The federal law does not state or refer to a firearm’s completion date as the date of manufacture!  You are dead wrong if you believe what you wrote in the following quoted statement;

Additionally, since the legal date is the date “completed” they would actually have to get a Cody letter to find the date shipped, not the date the serial number was applied.

Yes, many dealers still use the Madis dates, but only because it benefits them to do so, and while the BATF may or may not pursue (nitpick) the issue, they certainly could do so at any time they want to.  Intentionally violating federal law and trying to claim ignorance of same is just flat out stupid in my opinion.

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September 6, 2017 - 8:46 pm
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Bert H. said

I suspect that your “sources” are not reliable.  The federal law does not state or refer to a firearm’s completion date as the date of manufacture!  You are dead wrong if you believe what you wrote in the following quoted statement;

Additionally, since the legal date is the date “completed” they would actually have to get a Cody letter to find the date shipped, not the date the serial number was applied.

I’ll try to find my source(s) but if one uses the completion date one can never go awry of the BATFE since the completion date is by definition always later than the serial number applied date, or the order date or the in house date.

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Wincacher said

Bert H. said
I suspect that your “sources” are not reliable.  The federal law does not state or refer to a firearm’s completion date as the date of manufacture!  You are dead wrong if you believe what you wrote in the following quoted statement;

Additionally, since the legal date is the date “completed” they would actually have to get a Cody letter to find the date shipped, not the date the serial number was applied.

I’ll try to find my source(s) but if one uses the completion date one can never go awry of the BATFE since the completion date is by definition always later than the serial number applied date, or the order date or the in house date.  

You are correct in that using the completion date will keep you from having any legal quarrels with the BATF.  However, there is no need to limit yourself to that “later” date when the serial number application date is perfectly legal.  The BATF refers to the manufacture date as the point in time when the firearm or receiver becomes a “trackable” or “traceable” item… i.e. when the serial number is applied.

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September 6, 2017 - 9:55 pm
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Expecting a BATFE agent to overlook a violation of federal law is too risky for me. BATFE agents are as a rule detail-oriented but often misinformed and the last thing I want to do is give them an opportunity to charge me with a violation of federal law (always a felony) because at that point your best case scenario is a long, drawn-out (expen$ive) dismissal or acquittal process and no guarantee that common sense will prevail.

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September 6, 2017 - 10:27 pm
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Bert H. said

Why on earth would you expect any Law Enforcement Agency to publically announce when they change their source of information… seriously ??

Bert  

So that law abiding collectors and dealers will have the information necessary to obey the law. The vast majority of collectors and dealers I talk with have never heard of polishing room numbers. They use the long accepted, even by ATF, numbers provided by Madis and displayed by Winchester on their site. ATF is certainly aware of the long accepted Madis numbers, and the information published by Winchester. If they are going to enforce numbers based on new information, new even to them, they should have an obligation to inform the public. On their site, they continually publish new information regarding firearm regulations and enforcement. Why ignore this information that legally impacts many collectors and dealers?

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September 6, 2017 - 10:56 pm
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wolfbait said

So that law abiding collectors and dealers will have the information necessary to obey the law. The vast majority of collectors and dealers I talk with have never heard of polishing room numbers. They use the long accepted, even by ATF, numbers provided by Madis and displayed by Winchester on their site. ATF is certainly aware of the long accepted Madis numbers, and the information published by Winchester. If they are going to enforce numbers based on new information, new even to them, they should have an obligation to inform the public. On their site, they continually publish new information regarding firearm regulations and enforcement. Why ignore this information that legally impacts many collectors and dealers?  

Hence my comments above.  When speed limits on a highway are lowered, even temporarily, the signs are changed.  Otherwise they can’t give you a ticket for doing 65 in a zone marked as being 70, even if they think it should be 60.

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September 7, 2017 - 12:44 am
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Wincacher said
I don’t think they (BATFE) are going to nitpick over a couple of years one way or the other…

Do you honestly believe this?

Then why even bother worrying if anything is pre-1899 or not?

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September 7, 2017 - 12:49 am
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A couple of year’s discrepancy is between two different sources for a Winchester made in 1897 or 1898 or 1899 is not the same as “worrying if anything is pre-1899 or not”.  Even you should be able to understand that.

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wolfbait said

So that law abiding collectors and dealers will have the information necessary to obey the law. The vast majority of collectors and dealers I talk with have never heard of polishing room numbers. They use the long accepted, even by ATF, numbers provided by Madis and displayed by Winchester on their site. ATF is certainly aware of the long accepted Madis numbers, and the information published by Winchester. If they are going to enforce numbers based on new information, new even to them, they should have an obligation to inform the public. On their site, they continually publish new information regarding firearm regulations and enforcement. Why ignore this information that legally impacts many collectors and dealers?  

Your perception of what the BATF’s responsibility is to you (and any other dealer) is sadly misguided.  It is always incumbent upon YOU to be educated about the law, and ignorance of the law is not a viable excuse.  No law enforcement agency in this country is responsible to educate you (or anyone else for that matter) concerning any laws or regulations, or what source of information they use when investigating a case  Instead, they are solely tasked with enforcing the laws & regulations as mandated to them.

The information you keep referring to is not “new”.  I will not argue with you that many dealers are unaware of the PR records, but again, ignorance of the facts will not get you a “get out of jail free” pass when you are charged with committing a federal crime.   The PR information has been available through the CFM for nearly 10-years now, and there were a fair number of people aware of it for nearly 40-years now.  As for the BATF using the commonly found Madis numbers, that is a convenient urban myth, perpetuated by dealers for far too long.  When I spoke with Special Agent Brandt, I asked him what source they used to determine the date of manufacture on a firearm, and he specifically stated that they contact the specific manufacturer of the firearm, or in the case of old Winchesters, the Cody museum. They are fully aware that information published by Madis (and copied by so many other sources) is not accurate.  My suggestion to you, is to get fully educated, and then help educate others… that is what I have been doing fore the past 25-years.

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Wincacher said

Hence my comments above.  When speed limits on a highway are lowered, even temporarily, the signs are changed.  Otherwise they can’t give you a ticket for doing 65 in a zone marked as being 70, even if they think it should be 60.  

You are missing the point entirely.  It is not the State Patrol or County Sheriff that changes the speed limit signs.  Instead, it is the State or County DOT that does it, and the law enforcement agency then enforces those changes.  If you fail to notice the change in the speed limit and get pulled over, the policeman who stopped you could care less what excuse you come up with.  He/she writes you a ticket, and tells you to discuss it with the judge if you want to contest it.

While I am on this rant, way too many people in our community today are all too willing to point the finger of blame at someone else instead of taking responsibility for their own actions.  That is one of the problems we have in our society today!

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Bert H. said

You are missing the point entirely.  It is not the State Patrol or County Sheriff that changes the speed limit signs.  Instead, it is the State or County DOT that does it, and the law enforcement agency then enforces those changes.  If you fail to notice the change in the speed limit and get pulled over, the policeman who stopped you could care less what excuse you come up with.  He/she writes you a ticket, and tells you to discuss it with the judge if you want to contest it.

While I am on this rant, way too many people in our community today are all too willing to point the finger of blame at someone else instead of taking responsibility for their own actions.  That is one of the problems we have in our society today!

Bert  

His point was if the speed limit is lowered and no one responsible bothers to remove the old speed limit signs and replace them with correct signs (in this case, only ATF is involved in this matter, no other agencies are involved), and no one informs drivers the speed limit has been lowered after 40 years of a different legal speed, then the officials involved are negligent. ATF is the enforcement agency that is involved in the enforcement of the change of antique status of certain Winchesters. The law did not change, the legislature is not involved. If ATF is using different information than they have used for 40 years, they are the only agency involved that could provide that information to the public. The law did not change, so it is not a matter of collectors and dealers knowing the law. It is simply a matter of knowing what information ATF is actually using to determine manufacturing dates. Only ATF can inform the public if there is a change, after 40 years, in the serial number dating for their enforcement purposes. I have called 10 field offices and no one contacted could offer any information on the topic. I have scoured the internet and there is nothing from ATF, just forum gossip. I have checked ATF dealer notices and AFT website updates and the topic of dating Winchesters with new information is never discussed. It certainly appears that ATF is intentionally ignoring the subject of any change in how they have dated Winchesters for the past 50 years. It is important information, and ATF, the only agency involved, has a responsibility to clarify the matter and inform the public of changes of their protocol that alter legal status.

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If the BATFE only dealt with one firearm manufacturer it would certainly be able to codify the exact source of the manufacture dates used to classify antique firearms. That’s not the case so the powers that be must use the source that they determine to be most accurate and that seems to be the case here. I know, I’m alleging Uncle Sugar is using common sense but it appears to be what’s happening. Just because a portion of the collector community is ignorant of or declines to accept the published resources utilized by the BATFE doesn’t make the data less valid. If you’re going to take advantage of the exceptions afforded antique firearms then you’d better be able to prove when the firearm was made.

Keeping up with current issues is our responsibility as collectors. If, as a group, we show a willingness to disregard or ignore the laws we will face increased attention from the BATFE. I, for one, don’t want that. If, on the other hand, we stay current on laws and regulations and make an effort to keep other collectors educated and in compliance with the laws then BATFE will pursue enforcement activities elsewhere.

Bert is trying to keep us out of trouble. He’s very familiar with the issue and IMHO is giving good advice. During my LE career I had limited contact with BATFE (ATF in those days) and federal prosecutors but I can assure you I don’t want to do anything that will result in enforcement action against me or the collectors I deal with. I’ve only dealt with a few BATFE agents but not one of them was a good ol’ boy who seemed inclined to let a violator off with a stern lecture. I’ve also spent more time & money in law offices than I care to over the past several years and don’t want to do any more of that than I have to.

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It amazes me that even big dealers that should know better are still choosing to ignore the correct/accurate sources regarding manufacture dates.  For one well-known dealer, I counted nine 1894’s currently being advertised as “antique” when in fact, they are “modern”–one of those is even above 142,000 serial number.  I didn’t even look at the other models he has for sale, but I’m sure there are more on his website that are being falsely peddled and transferred illegally as “antiques.”  It seems someone of this caliber would know better, especially when they would have so much to lose if the BATF got involved.  Not to mention pissed off customers that paid a premium for an “antique” only to find out later that it wasn’t.  Just my take, but I’m not a gambling man either.

Don

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September 7, 2017 - 7:04 pm
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TXGunNut said I’ve only dealt with a few BATFE agents but not one of them was a good ol’ boy who seemed inclined to let a violator off with a stern lecture.   

Have NO trouble believing that, if there’s the smallest grain of truth to the many stories I’ve heard of ATF’s abusive treatment of legit collectors.  Most of those incidents, however, seem to have been the result of some anonymous informant with a grudge against the collector; a malicious report of someone owning an “arsenal” (never mind that the guns are legally owned) is all it takes to dispatch the swat team with their battering ram at 3 AM.

But other than some such scenario as that, it’s hard for me to see how a collector would attract the attention of ATF. For instance, it’s hard to believe they have time to be checking the numbers of guns advertised as “antique” on all the online auction sites.  (And even if they were, the seller would be the offender, not the buyer.)   When they surveil gun shows, isn’t it illegal weapons, “straw buyers,” and similar offenses they’re primarily looking for?  Suppose if a gun falsely described as “antique” was damaged in shipment and examined by Postal Inspectors, ATF might be brought in, but what other situations?

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September 7, 2017 - 8:27 pm
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I’m thinking the instances of abusive tactics by BATFE are few and far between. I have very little confidence in the press getting the story straight and even less confidence in social media. As you point out the BATFE agents have their hands full with other higher-priority violations. On the other hand, a violation is a violation and it’s their job to enforce the law. I don’t know why they would want to enforce this particular situation but apparently they do, from time to time. I don’t pretend to know the situations in which this particular violation would come to the attention of a BATFE agent but that’s not the point. Point is I don’t want to be involved in that situation.

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September 7, 2017 - 9:48 pm
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In my opinion, and experience, as long as there is money involved, a seller will tend to use the data that supports a higher price to the unaware buyer.

If ” antique ” is supported by a Madis number, it most likely will be used in the sale price listing. If pointed out to a seller, a shrug of the shoulders and ” I’m just using the numbers everyone has used, and it’s documented in the Madis Book. ”  They can call it what they want and there’s lots of room to pull this fraud off.

Also, a collector with “Madis number” guns in his collection, knows he will lose value, so he goes along with it.

I don’t know, but I doubt the ATFE has pushed this to a legal level of Madis vs. Cody Polishing Room records. I doubt there is a case precedent on file.

All I really know on this is opinion and conjecture as to what ATFE actually does. I use the polishing room records for the very reason Mike points out: we, as (WACA) collectors, should do the right thing with the most current data.

Bill

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