SD Tactical Arms Becomes a Victim of Prohibition

SD Tactical Arms is a veteran owned business specializing in modern firearms and accessories. 

If I asked you who Hiram Percy Maxim was, I’m quite sure I’d get a blank stare from you, even though you likely use one or more of his inventions daily.

In the late 1890s, Hiram went to work for the Columbia Automobile Company in Hartford, CT. As an inventor, he designed one of the first gasoline-powered cars. Concerned about the danger of loud noise, he moved into the area of sound suppression. Maxim invented the gun silencer in the late 1910s, and using similar technology, moved into automobile mufflers and silencers for machinery and other engines. He eventually became involved with early air conditioning and air purification systems.

He founded Maxim Silencers in Hartford, eventually sold that business, and it is still in business today in another state.

wallpaper_mafia_01_1600 from Flickr via Wylio
© 2004 NiranjanFlickr | CC-BY

In 1920, the 18th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified making the sale and consumption of alcohol illegal in the US. This was an early case of progressives and elites having good intentions and trying to control behavior with laws and regulations. Remember where the road paved with good intentions leads. When alcohol was outlawed, the black market exploded and bootlegging became a huge business along with speakeasies.

Mafias and other organized crime existed for decades, but it was Prohibition that gave it legs, as its influence exploded. In most cases, the different families and organizations got along with each other, but occasionally battles over territory would erupt. The 21st Amendment was ratified in 1933, ending prohibition, but with the depression well established, crime continued as groups had to scramble to find other ways to make money since alcohol was once again legal.

It would be naive to think money was not an issue in this decision to legalize alcohol. The government stood to make a tremendous amount of revenue from the tax. And remember, Al Capone was not busted for murder or bootlegging, but tax evasion.

I think most would agree that Albert Einstein was a reasonably intelligent man. He said, “Problems cannot be solved with the same mindset that created them.”

Since politicians are NOT of the same intelligence level of Einstein, nor do they use the intelligent advice he handed to them, they passed the National Firearms Act of 1934, NFA. After all, was it not already illegal to commit murder? To run protection rackets? Gambling? Lawlessness and corruption in cities such as Chicago gained attention, along with a few criminals such as Machine Gun Kelly. There were seven deaths apparently by machine guns at the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. (By the way, Machine Gun Kelly never killed anyone.)

The NFA was a solution looking for a problem. The Act did not ban machine guns and silencers. In general, it imposed a statutory excise tax on the manufacture and transfer of certain firearms and silencers and mandated their registration. Also included were destructive devices, short barreled rifles, and shotguns. If you register and pay the tax, barring a particular state restriction, the federal government allows ownership.

My specific attention today is with the silencers or suppressors. First, you should know, the movies have made this to appear much more than it is. Sound is measured in decibels. It is a scientific fact that exposure to high levels of sound permanently damages hearing. Hiram Maxim understood this and developed the silencer to help minimize the effect of the gunfire or exhaust. A jet on takeoff can reach 150 dB, high enough to rupture an eardrum. A rock concert can be 108-114 dB. Household appliances are around 80 dB (

A typical AR-15 produces 165 dB at the muzzle. The typical silencer reduces this level by 32-34 dB, far from the Pfffft the movies would have you believe. Reduction of noise is simply smart for both the user and any within earshot.


New AR-15 from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 Bob n ReneeFlickr | CC-BY

Aside from the suppressor or silencer itself, the NFA also regulates certain components and replacement parts. If you want the cost of something to go up or the supply to go down, let the government regulate it. Keep that in mind with healthcare costs, but I digress. Countries such as New Zealand, Finland and Norway are nearly unregulated, in fact, their usage is encouraged even in the UK.

In the US, a silencer must be purchased from a licensed Federal Firearms Licensed dealer. There is paperwork to file with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) and a $200 tax paid. This is the same tax as in 1934, so it was set at a cost that was prohibitive to the average person at the time. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $3,658.06 in today’s dollars. What in the world does all this have to do with SD Tactical Arms?

SD Arms is a Class 7, Type 2 FFL. They are licensed to manufacture and sell NFA controlled weapons. SD Arms sells custom rifles, suppressors, solvent traps, and other firearm accessories. A major portion of the company’s business is (was) selling a very popular solvent trap. The solvent trap attaches to the end of the barrel; its intended use is to catch or trap cleaning solvents used in cleaning the barrel of a gun. 

On January 25th, the ATF stopped SD Arms from selling any of their popular traps or related parts. In a phone conversation with Darrell Kress, owner of SD Arms, he relayed how devastating this has been. He and his wife and three sons all work in the business. As a show of good faith, he has returned all deposits to customers, and is now broke. He also told me he has never carried suppressors or sold them. However, the ATF told him he must list them on his website at this time. This has been like dealing with any government agency, talking to three different people, and getting three different answers. Historically any “dual use” part is not considered an NFA part.

“As of today, the ATF shut down our business of selling solvent traps. This is 99% of our income. They have put three Veterans, my wife, and our son out of work. They said I couldn't sell freeze plugs. NAPA can't even sell them to us because they are a suppressor part. They said all I can sell are complete suppressors. That is what we do for now until I get some legal help to fight these vague laws or opinions. The issue is NFA items. He said tubes and freeze plugs were suppressor parts. Would that mean if you have a shotgun and a hacksaw you have a sawed off shotgun? If you own an AR isn't that a potential SBR?”

All links and offerings related to the traps have been removed from the company’s website. Along with the listing was a warning, “SD Tactical Arms strongly recommends following all rules set forth by the NFA.” All the other products, including fully assembled suppressors, are still listed for sale.

“My plea for help is to make this Viral to the Trump admin, the Trump family, and such. I have been put in the street over mindless opinions. I had talked to the ATF in the past, and they had no issues. Today they shut us down.” #Americandreamlost

In a 2015 post on his website, gun trust lawyer David M Goldman warned that solvent traps, when used exclusively as a cleaning device were legal, but the overall concept of the kits are on shaky ground when dealing with the NFA restrictions. Goldman claimed, “The problem is that most people who purchase them intend to use them as suppressors or parts to a suppressor and not as a solvent trap. Even those who do not intend to use them as suppressors, sometimes do.”

SD stated in their ads and online:

“The stated intent of a solvent trap is to catch and trap gun cleaning solvent during bore cleaning operations commonly performed on firearms. Solvent traps do attach to the muzzle of a firearm but do not have any design features intended to allow a bullet to pass through them. Since as originally manufactured they are not intended to silence, muffle or diminish the report of a portable firearm they are not silencers.

However, if the solvent trapped (sic) was redesigned or utilized to assemble a device for silencing, muffling or diminishing the report of a portable firearm or if intent was demonstrated to use the device for silencing, muffling or diminishing the report of a portable firearm, the solvent trap would be classified as a ‘firearm silencer’.”

Personally, I subscribe to the 2nd Amendment’s statement of “shall not be infringed” and consider any government effort to regulate or tax firearms, ammo, and accessories as an infringement. The Duncan-Carter Hearing Protection Act of 2017 (HPA) will go a long way to correct the ill-conceived notion that a suppressor makes a gun more dangerous. The HPA would remove silencers/suppressors from the NFA, remove the $200 tax, and treat them the same as long guns, requiring only an instant background check prior to purchase. No more waiting, forms or fees. And this would, of course, clear up any issues for SD Arms.

A retired judge friend of mine once suggested that there are so many rules and regulations, if the state or federal government has a mind to, you can be found guilty of something. If we are now to be understood as guilty for having the parts or equipment to make or do something illegal, might I be arrested for writing the wrong thing? Might I be arrested for having the ability to commit rape or a woman charged with prostitution? After all, we are equipped to do something illegal.
Perhaps we have too many laws and regulations.

Perhaps the government should concentrate on restoring rights, not infringing on them.


Photo Credit: "Prohibition Ale," © 2007 Mike SchmidFlickr | CC-BY-SA




Written by Michael Murphy The Voice of Reason

The Voice of Reason

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