Clarification of ATF regulation CFR 27, section 555 (555.141 actually)

dr wogz

Fly caster
Joined
Feb 5, 2009
Messages
8,890
Reaction score
4,845
Location
Land of Poutine!
@Steve Shannon any word form your lawyer friend?

there are two local schools looking to fly in the US soon (Shake down flights / test flights) and they want to be sure they wont get hassled at the border..
 

Steve Shannon

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jul 23, 2011
Messages
8,492
Reaction score
6,919
Location
Butte, Montana
@Steve Shannon any word form your lawyer friend?

there are two local schools looking to fly in the US soon (Shake down flights / test flights) and they want to be sure they wont get hassled at the border..
I would recommend arranging to buy motors on the US side.
I spoke to both my friend and the ATF representative. Coming across the border with reload kits that contain regulated materials listed in legislation is not guaranteed. My suspicions in my post below agreed with the ATF guy’s concerns. It’s a grey area and both Tripoli and NAR have been invited to provide input as the ATF “modernizes” the explosive regulations with respect to rocketry. We should be able to help make the exemption less confusing but we cannot change regulations in any way that conflicts will legislation. Legislation is where BP and igniters are specifically addressed.
That doesn’t mean it’s hopeless, but the NPRM process will take months and it’s anyone’s guess what will happen.
Print out the order and have it ready if you do decide to bring reloads across.

Okay, so Daniel forwarded to me his (and Dr. Wogz') correspondences with ATF and Customs. In both cases the official answer is that motors which use explosive propellants must comply with the three conditions in the exemption in Section 555.141, but APCP motors (APCP only - containing no other regulated explosive materials) are exempt because of the lawsuit.

Also, due to a lawsuit years ago, all motors that only consist of ammonium perchlorate composite propellant (APCP) are exempt (regardless of size). Anything else is a regulated explosive material and would require a Federal Explosives License or Permit (FEL/P) to import.

This seems pretty clear to me.
Steve


I received your below inquiry. The short answer is that some rocket motors are exempt from the Federal explosives regulations, while others are not. There is an exemption for certain rocket motors (listed below). If the subject rocket motors meet all three requirements, they would be exempt from the Federal explosive laws and regulations. Also, due to a lawsuit years ago, all motors that only consist of ammonium perchlorate composite propellant (APCP) are exempt (regardless of size). Anything else is a regulated explosive material and would require a Federal Explosives License or Permit (FEL/P) to import.

27 CFR § 555.141 Exemptions.

(a) General. Except for the provisions of §§ 555.180 and 555.181, this part does not apply to:
(10) Model rocket motors that meet all of the following criteria -
(i) Consist of ammonium perchlorate composite propellant, black powder, or other similar low explosives;
(ii) Contain no more than 62.5 grams of total propellant weight; and
(iii) Are designed as single-use motors or as reload kits capable of reloading no more than 62.5 grams of propellant into a reusable motor casing.
 

Steve Shannon

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jul 23, 2011
Messages
8,492
Reaction score
6,919
Location
Butte, Montana
@Steve Shannon ,

Thanks for your efforts on this!
Thanks, but I just hope we can get some kind of clarity in a way that’s favorable to our use. I’m not holding my breath (well, maybe I am a little). ATF has repeatedly said that they’re limited by legislation and I understand that. It’s great to be involved early on in the process, possibly helping draft our tiny portion of the “proposed rule making” before the NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rule Making).
 

SolarYellow

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Aug 6, 2022
Messages
742
Reaction score
525
Location
First country to put a man on the moon.
We should be able to help make the exemption less confusing but we cannot change regulations in any way that conflicts will legislation. Legislation is where BP and igniters are specifically addressed.
Seems like it would be useful to get CFR § 555.141 Exemptions (b) amended to explicitly allow BP to be used for "sporting and recreational purposes" in the recovery system deployment devices of model or High Power rockets.

I bet my senator, Ted Cruz, would understand that and be willing to tack an amendment to accomplish that onto something.
 

cwbullet

Obsessed with Rocketry
Staff member
Administrator
TRF Supporter
Global Mod
Joined
Jan 24, 2009
Messages
31,875
Reaction score
9,243
Location
Glennville, GA
Seems like it would be useful to get CFR § 555.141 Exemptions (b) amended to explicitly allow BP to be used for "sporting and recreational purposes" in the recovery system deployment devices of model or High Power rockets.

I bet my senator, Ted Cruz, would understand that and be willing to tack an amendment to accomplish that onto something.
That would be a fantastic change. There is not reason for me to have different rules for rockets and hunters or reenactors.
 

Steve Shannon

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jul 23, 2011
Messages
8,492
Reaction score
6,919
Location
Butte, Montana
Seems like it would be useful to get CFR § 555.141 Exemptions (b) amended to explicitly allow BP to be used for "sporting and recreational purposes" in the recovery system deployment devices of model or High Power rockets.

I bet my senator, Ted Cruz, would understand that and be willing to tack an amendment to accomplish that onto something.

We tried the legislative route with Mike Enzi almost 20 years ago. Chuck Schumer deliberately blocked it, not allowing it to leave committee (as I recall - @prfesser was involved and might be able to shed more historical light.)
Also, just so you and others understand how this works, CFR are regulations, created and maintained by administrative agencies to support legislation. ATF and others propose regulations which are then subject to the very onerous process regarding rule making.
Legislation appears in USC. If Ted Cruz took this on and was successful, his work would be reflected in USC, which would then result in changes to CFR. It’s important that everyone understands that nothing can be done in CFR by an administrative agency that conflicts with USC created by our legislators.
 

prfesser

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
May 7, 2017
Messages
3,113
Reaction score
4,199
Location
Murray, KY
We tried the legislative route with Mike Enzi almost 20 years ago. Chuck Schumer deliberately blocked it, not allowing it to leave committee (as I recall - @prfesser was involved and might be able to shed more historical light.)
Not much else to say. Schumer had some photo-ops of himself with large MPR or maybe low-end HP rockets. I guess they were showing how dangerous these things were.

Mike Enzi was only one senator, and it was hard to get much support for something as "dangerous" as high-power rockets. For a while we even paid a lobbyist to attempt to help, to no avail. It was probably a no-go from the beginning.

A legislative attempt today would be even more of a non-starter, what with increases in random violence. Granted that it might be logical/rational but logic ≠ perception.

In any event, I think some people place far too much emphasis on the legality of BP use in rocketry. Opinion: authorities simply Are Not Interested in arresting someone who has a pound or two of BP and uses it for legal rocketry. It doesn't make good press, and it could backfire badly.

What could happen is for someone to also be involved in making bomz or illegal fireworks. Their BP would be assumed to be intended for nefarious purposes and tacked on to the charges.

Best,
Terry
 

dr wogz

Fly caster
Joined
Feb 5, 2009
Messages
8,890
Reaction score
4,845
Location
Land of Poutine!
Remember the context of the original post: That is to get clarification on what is allowed to be brought into the US..

Is it any amount of APCP allowed? only 62.5g of it? None at all? It is vague (despite being "in leagaleese").. And as we've seen, no one has a definite answer, only interpretations / assumptions..
 

Steve Shannon

Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
Joined
Jul 23, 2011
Messages
8,492
Reaction score
6,919
Location
Butte, Montana
Remember the context of the original post: That is to get clarification on what is allowed to be brought into the US..

Is it any amount of APCP allowed? only 62.5g of it? None at all? It is vague (despite being "in leagaleese").. And as we've seen, no one has a definite answer, only interpretations / assumptions..
I’m sorry I didn’t make this clear. Maybe this will help.
Any reasonable amount of APCP for personal use may be brought in. It’s unregulated. There’s no disagreement from ATF there.
I understand that the language of the exemption mentions up to 62.5 g or propellant, but that’s specifically referring to any propellant that is on the explosives list. APCP is no longer on the explosives list, so the exemption is meaningless with respect to APCP. ATF agrees with that as well.

But, some people, including government employees get confused because APCP is mentioned in the exemption. They shouldn’t. The exemption is just not relevant to APCP anymore. The modernization of the regulations should make that clear but it’ll take months for that to happen (and maybe years based on my experience with other NPRMs.) Unfortunately the language in the exemption requires a NPRM to change.

Also, if you’re bringing in something that attracts the attention of Homeland Security it probably doesn’t matter that ATF doesn’t regulate APCP. I shouldn’t have to point that out.

The only grey area with ATF has to do with initiators and BP in motor reload kits. Nobody has hassled us at launches, but bringing them across the border introduces a step of scrutiny.
 
Last edited:
Top