The ATF Director and His Mysterious 75-Round Clip

The ATF Director and his Mysterious 75-Round Clip
The ATF Director and His Mysterious 75-Round Clip

It turns out Joe Biden’s second choice to lead the ATF, Steve Dettelbach, wasn’t lying when he told his Senate confirmation committee that he wasn’t a firearms expert.

Dettelbach appeared Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation, accompanied by Agent Chris, whom the ATF Director described as one of his “leading experts.” From a public relations perspective, neither man did their agency any good. From a civil rights perspective, the interview was extremely worrisome.

As someone who commands armed agents and a take-no-prisoners SWAT team, Dettelbach demonstrated zero command presence. He came across as a typical up-tight bureaucrat who likely irons his PJs before he goes to bed. Rather than a top cop, he looks like the type of guy you’d expect Golden Corral to send to your table after you complained about a roach in the coleslaw.

Dettelbach appeared very nervous, even though this was a friendly show-and-tell interview and not a hostile interrogation. He gestured constantly with his rat-like hands and even started repeating himself, a lot. During the 21-minute interview, Dettelbach used the word right a total of 37 times. In fact, my good friend Mark Walters, host of Armed American Radio, turned Dettelbach’s nervous tic into a drinking game, jokingly telling his listeners they should take a drink every time the ATF Chief uttered the word, right?

Agent Chris wasn’t much better. He struggled mightily just to remove the slide from a Glock – from several Glocks, actually. It’s not as if his boss handed him an 8mm Nambu, a Luger or a Broomhandle. You’d think ATF’s leading expert could remove the slide from the country’s leading pistol.

CBS host Margaret Brennan was quite reasonably concerned for her safety when she saw the table covered in guns that Dettelbach and his leading expert had assembled.

“They’re not loaded?” she asked.

“They’re not loaded,” Agent Chris assured her. “We checked them all before you came.”

“Okay,” Brennan said nervously. In my humble opinion, she should have demanded some plates.

Dettelbach explained that the guns were grouped in pairs. One of the firearms was an NFA weapon; its partner, he said, was an “attempt to get around NFA that ATF has been dealing with through rulemaking and enforcement.”

Agent Chris pointed to a select-fire AK, which was paired with a semi-auto AK equipped with a bump-stock.

“These two things are the same. They operate the same. Both of them can shoot right through this 75-round clip,” Dettelbach told Brennan, while holding up a 75-round drum magazine, which Agent Chris had described just seconds earlier as a 75-round drum magazine. Someone should explain to the good Director the difference between a clip and a magazine, and that there’s a world of difference between a select-fire AK and one with a bump-stock.

Next, Dettelbach showed off a 9mm SBR and a similar weapon equipped with a pistol brace.

“The two weapons are designed to be fired from the shoulder, identically,” he said. “So, we’re treating them the same. That’s all that rule says.”

Dettelbach never mentioned that the manufacturers of the pistol brace, which was originally designed for disabled veterans, received determination letters from his ATF that said the brace was not subject to NFA. He never told Brennan that if 40 million pistol braces were suddenly classified as Short Barrel Rifles by ATF, their owners could have faced federal felonies if they didn’t immediately register their weapons as SBRs. He never disclosed how ATF’s zeal to write and enforce its own laws began in earnest under the Biden-Harris administration or how the ATF – under his leadership – is getting its butt kicked in court as a result.

The two feds showed 3D printed auto sears for the AR and a Glock switch, which converts a semi-automatic Glock to full-automatic. They talked about how easy the sears were to print but never mentioned they are also highly regulated and illegal to possess under most circumstances.

Picking up one of the ARs, Agent Chris said, “This is a privately made firearm,” which his boss quickly corrected. “That’s also a ‘ghost gun,’” Dettelbach said.

After turning their attention to a privately made Glock clone, which had a switch added to the slide, Dettelbach said, “When you have a switch, when you have one of these firearms that’s converted to being fully automatic, that’s not a shoulder firearm, right, that’s a pistol like this, right, I’ve seen these fellows fire them at the range. There’s a huge kick-up. You see people inadvertently shoot up the ceiling at the range, right.”


Throughout the entire interview, there was an M249 SAW with a para stock sitting on the table, perched on its bipod. It was never mentioned. If I had to guess, I’d say it was included because it looks lethal and, to the uninitiated, scary. The SAW could have been a metaphor for this entire dog-and-pony show. Clearly, it was Dettelbach’s intent to scare viewers – to misinform them of the dangers bump-stocks, pistol braces, and “ghost guns” pose. Thankfully, his message missed the mark. All he accomplished was reinforcing what’s becoming a frequently asked question: Do we really need the ATF?


This story is presented by the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project and wouldn’t be possible without you. Please click here to make a tax-deductible donation to support more pro-gun stories like this.

About Lee Williams

Lee Williams, who is also known as “The Gun Writer,” is the chief editor of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project. Until recently, he was also an editor for a daily newspaper in Florida. Before becoming an editor, Lee was an investigative reporter at newspapers in three states and a U.S. Territory. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a police officer. Before becoming a cop, Lee served in the Army. He’s earned more than a dozen national journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. Lee is an avid tactical shooter.

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