Best letter to the BATF ever

Would a handcranked Gatling gun – powered by a hamster – be considered a machine gun by the BATF? Something Awful will soon find out..

To whom it may concern,

I was discussing the point at which a semi-automatic rifle becomes a machine gun in the eyes of the federal government with a group of gentlemen the other night. More specifically, we were discussing the reasoning behind why a hand cranked Gatling style firearm is not considered a machine gun. In the course of our discussion, we were stumped as to whether a certain modification to that Gatling gun would render it a machine gun or not.

This is the configuration which sparked the debate. We theorized that the hand crank of said Gatling gun could be replaced with a pulley, and a second pulley be attached to the spoke of a hamster wheel with a belt strung between them such that the belt would turn the hand crank when a hamster within the wheel moved. Please see the diagram below for further clarification:
hamster diagram

My question to you is whether the hamster becomes the operator of the firearm at this point. If it does, as it is a living thing, would the movement of the hamster’s feet in the wheel fulfill the requirements set by Title 26, Chapter 53, Section 5845(b) of the United States Code (also known as the “National Firearms Act”) for exemption as a machine gun, specifically the requirement that classifies a “machine gun” as “[…] any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger […],” as more than one footstep per firing sequence would be required on the part of the hamster. If, however, the hamster is classified solely as a power source, and the “single action” is the release of the hamster in the wheel by an individual, would the weapon then become a machine gun? And as a last follow-up question, should the latter scenario prove to be correct, what part of the device would have to be registered? For example, would the hamster require a serial number?

Please clarify this issue for us and respond to


I thank you for your time, and I hope you can resolve this question.




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