Things were settling down when politics reared its ugly head. In 1994, Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, the Assault Weapons Ban. Actually, the law was titled “Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994,” subtitled “Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act” and it did a whole bunch of pie-in-the-sky things. Among them was prohibiting the manufacture of magazines that held more than ten rounds. Existing magazines could be owned, used, sold, traded and repaired (more on that last part in a bit) but there could be no new ones, except those sold to law enforcement.
The reaction was swift: every magazine in the supply chain was bought, at dizzily-escalating prices. For a while, a hi-cap Glock 17 magazine could go for $150. The makers, knowing that screwing around would get them fined, imprisoned and/or ruined, made ten-shot magazines which were impossible to alter to hi-cap.
It quickly became apparent there would be a two-tier system if the USPSA didn’t do something: those with hi-caps and those without. So a new Division was formed: Limited Ten. For a while it looked like this would be the home of the single stack, but it proved not to be. So in due time (ten years later) the USPSA formed the Single Stack Division, giving the 1911 a place to play on a level field. There was also talk of an Open Ten, but it never materialized as an equipment Division.
The AWB/94 caused a whole lot of other changes. For one, it heightened interest in all the guns and gear that were “banned.” Also, it caused the Democratic Congress to be thrown out nearly en masse and turned the House of Representatives over to the Republicans. The law, thankfully, had a “sunset” provision in it: it would expire in ten years, unless it was voted to be renewed. It also allowed existing magazines to be repaired. To those in the know, this was a loophole big enough to drive an entire industry through.
You see, the law had no provision for marking “repaired” magazines, or tracking repairs, or anything. Other than saying they could be repaired, the law was silent. So, shooters quickly became adept at buying “repair” tubes from one source, and springs, followers and baseplates from another. Federal felony? Probably. Anyone prosecuted? Not a clue. Need to hide the fact now? Not in the least, unless it makes the anti-gun legislators wise up.
Trying to prosecute someone today (or even the day after the law sunset) for “manufacturing” hi-cap mags is like saying in 1934, after the Volstead Act has been eliminated, that you were going to be prosecuted as a bootlegger. As long as that was all you did, there was no longer a statute under which you could be charged. To charge someone now, for assembling magazines in, say, 2002, is as much a non-starter as charging your great-grand-dad for making bathtub gin.
However, Caspian did not wish to enter into the gray area of magazine repairs. They had a sale of their assembled tubes in the Fall of 1994 (I was there, at the USPSA Nationals. They had crates and cartons of mags and tubes on the tables; buy them while they lasted) and once the tubes were gone, Caspian focused on the components business of the single stack trade.
About the Author: Patrick Sweeney is the author of many of Gun Digest books' best-selling titles, including Gun Digest Book of the 1911, Vols. I & II; Gun Digest Big Fat Book of the .45 ACP, Gun Digest Book of the AR-15, Gun Digest Book of the AK and SKS, Gun Digest Book of the Glock and Gunsmithing: Pistols and Revolvers, among other titles. A master gunsmith, Patrick is also Handguns Editor for Guns & Ammo magazine.
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