The firearms industry, like every manufacturing industry, has product marking requirements. In this industry, however, marking is an even more essential process; and one that is rigidly regulated by law.
While firearms is a diverse industry, with sporting, law enforcement and defense markets, the laws that apply to marking are common to most of the segments. First, let’s look at the regulations and who’s responsible for enforcing them.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), in enforcing the Gun Control Act (GCA) and the National Firearms Act (NFA), requires that each firearm must be engraved with a unique serial number to a minimum depth of .003 inches and in a print size no smaller than 1/16 inches. The serial number includes: the name of manufacturer, the country of origin, the model designation if assigned, and the caliber or gauge.
Regulations and Enforcement
The ATF also is responsible for licensing people or companies engaged in manufacturing, importing, and dealing in firearms. Individuals and companies licensed to engage in these businesses are known as Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs).
FFLs must comply with the federal firearms laws and regulations, including the GCA and the NFA. These regulations are designed to protect the public from the criminal use of firearms. GCA regulations include provisions specifically aimed at preventing illegal firearms trafficking and ensuring the successful tracing of guns recovered during criminal investigations.
Adding another wrinkle to firearms marking in the manufacturing process is U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) MIL-STD-130N, “Identification Marking of U.S. Military Property.” This government specification and particularly Section 5 – Detailed Requirements, subsection 184.108.40.206.1: Dot peen, laser, laser ablation and electro-chemical etching markings – provides detailed directions regarding the marking of items sold to the DOD, including firearms.
That’s a lot of specifications and regulations, but there is a marking solution provider with all the necessary expertise.
Laser Marking – Approved Method
“In firearms manufacturing, traceability – tracking and verifying the history and movements of the firearm – is vitally important,” says Nicholas Kaczmarski, National Sales Manager – Beamer Laser Marking Systems ®. “Because of that, clear and accurate marking of parts is also vitally important; and for clarity and accuracy, there’s no better system than laser marking. In fact, DoD MIL-STD-130N specifies laser marking as an approved method.”
Beamer Laser Marking Systems, an all-American manufacturer, has the critical marking expertise that any firearms manufacturer – from small shops to the very largest manufacturers – needs, according to Kaczmarski.
“Laser marking is fast, flexible, repeatable, durable, and it’s a one-button operation,” he explains. “It saves time in the manufacturing process – in some cases, as much as three minutes per part – because it relies on programable actions that reduce operator interface. Critical information like serial numbers and Item Unique Identifier Data (IUID) labels can be created with consistency throughout production of all parts and components. This speeds up cycle time and improves productivity.”
Beamer Laser Marking Advantages
He also notes that laser marking software is capable of automatically generating sequential information like serial numbers, versus keying in vital information. It’s a more straightforward process that enhances the traceability required by regulatory and DoD standards.
But the ways Beamer Laser Marking Systems can support firearms manufacturers does end there.
“Beamer has a CAGE (Commercial and Government Entity) code – assigned by DoD for bidding on defense projects,” he says. “We also understand the FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulations) standards and how they relate to MIL-SPECs. Tier 2 and 3 suppliers, and even Tier 1 suppliers don’t have to be experts in the application of these regulations and standards when it comes to their parts marking.”
With all the focus on regulations and stringent marking standards in the firearms industry, another important reason for precision marking may be overlooked.
“Decorative marking and marking that promotes brand identity is also extremely important to firearms manufacturers, especially in the sporting market,” Kaczmarski says. “Logos and the manufacturer’s name establish brand identity, while customized decorative markings enhance the aesthetics and uniqueness of the products, making them more attractive to customers. In addition to all the technical knowledge we offer, we can provide that kind of expertise as well – along with the best American-made laser marking solutions in the industry.”
About Beamer® Laser Marking Systems
Beamer Laser Marking Systems, a part of ARCH® Cutting Tools, means American-made quality in a full range of fiber laser marking machines providing an industry-leading 100,000+ working-hour span. In industries from automotive to aerospace and defense, medical and more; save production time and boost productivity with these affordable solutions.Beamer offers user-friendly off-the-shelf standalone turnkey solutions as well as custom fully automated solutions with extremely fast turnaround times. Whatever your direct part marking needs – Beamer has a solution that will enhance your product quality and give your operation a competitive edge. www.beamerlasermarking.com
Stacey Eeman, Director – Marketing & Business Development
Section 5 – Detailed Requirements, subsection 220.127.116.11.1 Dot peen, laser, laser ablation and electro-chemical etching markings. Marks that are acceptable per the requirements for printing on label material in 18.104.22.168.2 shall be acceptable or alternately see appropriate tables in SAE AS9132 for quality requirements.