The Henry Repeating Arms Axe .410: What the hell is it?

I’m officially confused. Henry Repeating Arms sells the Lever Action Axe .410, which is…

Well, it looks a lot like a short-barrel shotgun. Overall length 26.4 inches, with a 15.14 inch barrel with a smooth bore. But they claim:

Per the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosive’s Gun Control Act of 1968, the H018AH-410 Lever Action Axe .410 is classified as a non-Class 3/NFA “firearm.”

I’m trying to figure out how they got that classification. You may recall that Franklin Armory marketed their Reformation as a non-NFA firearm — it looked a lot like a short-barrel rifle — as not a short-barrel rifle. They got away with it then by noting the 26 U.S. Code § 5845 NFA definitions of shotgun (smooth bore) and rifle (rifled bore) and came up with straight lands — not twisted to provide rifling — firing a bullet from a cartridge. Neither fish nor fowl, it evaded the NFA.

Of course, the ATF eventually caught up with them and decided it was… wait for it … a GCA, non-NFA short-barrel shotgun, and until they come up with forms for it, none can be sold.

Before seeing the full specs, I wondered if Henry rifled their bore, chambered it for .410 shells, and called it a handgun like the Taurus Judge.

But it’s a damned smoothbore.

I asked Henry how they got around the NFA classification. The answer was less than satisfying.

Thanks for contacting Henry, the barrel is not rifled. This firearm does not meet the classifications for a shot gun so legally we are not able to refer to it as a shot gun it is a fire arm (Per ATF’s classification). Hopefully this clears it up a little and if not feel free to give us a call or email back we will be happy to help out.

That doesn’t help. Per 26 U.S. Code § 5845:

(a) Firearm
The term “firearm” means (1) a shotgun having a barrel or barrels of less than 18 inches in length

(d) Shotgun
The term “shotgun” means a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of the explosive in a fixed shotgun shell to fire through a smooth bore either a number of projectiles (ball shot) or a single projectile for each pull of the trigger, and shall include any such weapon which may be readily restored to fire a fixed shotgun shell.

They didn’t call it a pistol either, because that would make it an Any Other Weapon, still NFA. From (e) Any other weapon

a pistol or revolver having a barrel with a smooth bore designed or redesigned to fire a fixed shotgun shell

It’s designed to fire a .410 shell — whether shot or single slug — through a smooth bore. The barrel is less than 18 inches.

How’d they get a non-NFA, GCA firearm classification?

I’m not criticizing; I’m just trying to figure it out. Heck, if the MSRP weren’t so ridiculous ($970.00!) I’d want one.

OK, the one possible NFA loophole I can see is in 27 CFR § 479.11 – Meaning of terms.

Pistol. A weapon originally designed, made, and intended to fire a projectile (bullet) from one or more barrels when held in one hand, and having (a) a chamber(s) as an integral part(s) of, or permanently aligned with, the bore(s); and (b) a short stock designed to be gripped by one hand and at an angle to and extending below the line of the bore(s).

Could the chamber be separate from the barrel (think revolver), but slides out of alignment with the barrel during loading? That would be not “permanently aligned with.” It could be a “pistol,” but not an NFA pistol.

My head hurts. If this doesn’t get reclassified as NFA, and the retail price becomes sane, I seriously want one as a home defense tool.

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