Aiming to improve firearms marking

March 14, 2022 - 06:00am
Beamer Laser Marking for firearms

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. 

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 in. and in a print size no smaller than 1/16 in. The serial number includes manufacturer name, country of origin, model designation if assigned, and caliber or gauge. 

Regulations and enforcement
The ATF is responsible for licensing people or companies engaged in manufacturing, importing, and dealing with firearms. Individuals and companies licensed to engage in these businesses are known as Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs).

Holders of 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 Dot peen, laser, laser ablation and electro-chemical etching markings – provides detailed directions regarding the marking of items sold to the DOD, including firearms.

Laser marking – approved method
“In firearms manufacturing, traceability - tracking and verifying the history and movements of the firearm – is vitally important,” said 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, a division of Arch Cutting Tools, has the marking expertise that any firearms manufacturer – from small shops to the largest manufacturers – needs, according to Kaczmarski.

“Laser marking is fast, flexible, repeatable, durable, and it’s a one-button operation,” he explained. “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.”

Laser marking advantages
He noted 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.

The ways Beamer Laser Marking Systems can support firearms manufacturers do not end there.

“Beamer has a CAGE (Commercial and Government Entity) code – assigned by DoD for bidding on defense projects,” he said. “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.”

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