He is a man with ideas that most of us could never conjure up in our wildest dreams. Mr. Akins is an inventor, a gifted man with ideas and dreams along the lines of Mr. John Browning, Dr. Richard Gatling, and Mr. Samuel Colt. In my book, that’s pretty solid company!
You may wish to settle back now with an adult beverage, or use whatever other means you use to relax as you read, for this extraordinary man’s plight will anger you as a lawful gun owner.
A recent edition of the Tampa Tribune published a story about Mr. Akins and one of his inventions as well as his plight involving the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE). I read his story with fascination and was incredibly impressed with his fortitude.
Several telephone calls and a lengthy recorded interview have allowed me to bring his incredible journey to the readers of CCM. You may wish to settle back now with an adult beverage, or use whatever other means you use to relax as you read, for this extraordinary man’s plight will anger you as a lawful gun owner.
Mr. Akins has always been fascinated with rapid fire weapons, and spent years reading up on the inventors of such devices. He is a fan of old WWII vintage television documentaries. While watching footage of US warships firing at Japanese Kamikaze aircraft, Mr. Akins took notice of the barrel recoil on the US twin cannons, noticing especially “how one would come back and then the other would come back.” He also observed the barrel recoil on an old 1917 water-cooled Browning machine gun from the front view, and noticed that “the barrel would come back a short distance within the water jacket and then…forward again. That, of course, is what operates the weapon, its recoil.”
Mr. Akins wondered if (read this slowly), “the water jacket could be considered a stock, and if the barrel moved back a short distance, compressed the spring and then came back forward again, why couldn’t you have any firearm that’s trigger attaches to the barrel receiver assembly where it’s all one unit, why couldn’t that take the trigger back along with the barrel, which would remove the trigger from your finger. If your finger was held against a couple of ridges after it pulled the trigger, your finger was then stationary.
When the barrel came back under recoil it would remove the trigger from your finger and then when the spring pressed it back forward again, the trigger would come back forward and contact your finger again, functioning the trigger once again and firing the weapon. That’s how I actually got the idea. That was in 1996.”
Mr. Akins took an SKS rifle, some springs from a Crossman BB gun and a Dremel tool, cleaned out the stock, drilled a hole, and—with a lot more intelligence than I have—tinkered some more and, viola! He took the device out to a friend’s property where he set up a video camera. Bill put his finger on the tip of the screw, “and when I did, it emptied the magazine…at a rapid rate of speed although it functioned the trigger once for each and every shot separately. I was quite happily surprised.” That was the beginning of the Akins Accelerator, a device designed to rapid fire a semi-automatic weapon without turning it into a machine gun under current US law.
Based upon the patent application, Mr. Akins and his partner began prototyping. A metal prototype of an SKS rifle stock was made and sent to the BATFE (ATF).
Mr. Akins then contacted one of the nation’s leading firearm attorneys and asked him for a memorandum of advice advising that his device was not a machine gun, but merely a method for accelerating the rate of fire of a semi-automatic without turning it into a machine gun under federal or state laws. Mr. Akins was told that his device fell under the same category of some other similar devices that have the same functionality, such as the Hellfire. Having received the information he requested, Mr. Akins went forward with a patent search.
As he puts it, “I went to the University of South Florida library and did what’s known as a poor man’s patent search. I searched all through the patent records and much to my surprise nobody had one.” Mr. Akins then contacted a patent attorney in Ohio and had professional drawings of his device completed. He applied for a patent in 1998, and in 2000 was granted his patent from the US government.
At this point, Mr. Akins had spent approximately $10,000 of his own funds, not including his own time. With patent in hand, he began contacting various firearms manufacturers in search of someone to build his device. During this time, his attorney introduced him to someone on the west coast who was interested in his device and its subsequent manufacture. After lengthy discussions, the Akins Group, Inc. was formed in Oregon.
Based upon the patent application, Mr. Akins and his partner began prototyping. A metal prototype of an SKS rifle stock was made and sent to the BATFE (ATF). The ATF then evaluated and tested the prototype and informed the Akins Group, Inc. afterwards that the test fire had resulted in “several screws coming loose from the stock.” The ATF sent it back, claiming that they could not get it to fire more than one shot and that it “wasn’t a machine gun.”
Bill and his partner inspected the returned stock and noticed that there was no damage as described to them by the ATF. In fact, it appeared that the screws in question had been intentionally removed and taped to the stock. His theory is that the ATF “tried to make this not work.”
Wanting more clarification, the partners again contacted the ATF and were told that the Akins Accelerator was not a machine gun. The ATF agreed to put its findings in writing, which they did. I want everyone to hear me correctly: the ATF put into writing their findings that the Akins rapid fire device was NOT a machine gun. They had written that despite the fact that the screws had dislodged, they fully understood its method of operation and the device was not considered a machine gun.
The letter from the ATF stating that the device was not a machine gun, and the written statements that the ATF fully understood the device’s method of operation, satisfied the Akins Group’s attorneys, so the partners proceeded with production. An engineer improved upon Mr. Akins’s device slightly by reducing some friction, which allowed the device to operate on a firearm that produced less recoil. The company then began producing the Accelerator using a Ruger 10/22 stock. They sold around 200 of the devices.
It was recommended that the partners begin using injection molded stocks, and after much discussion Mr. Akins put his property up for a $65,000 loan to produce the molds. The Akins Group had a website, and also began marketing for several months in print ads. The injection molded Accelerators were selling fantastically well. Things were looking up and the company was “in the black” in a very short time.
With money running low, the Akins Group was having a difficult time paying a nationally recognized attorney. But the company pushed forward in its attempts to reason with the ATF.
Things were looking good. Sales of the Akins Accelerator were great. Then the Akins Group received a letter from the ATF in which the company was ordered, under threat of prosecution, to “cease and desist” all sales and to turn over all inventory and their entire customer list.
Keep in mind, the Akins group was not selling a firearm, only an ATF-approved rapid fire firearm accessory. The ATF was now saying that the device that they had twice approved in writing as not being a machine gun was in fact a machine gun. Without a hearing of any kind, the ATF was overruling their previous decision.
Mr. Akins has his theories about what caused the ATF to reverse its original decision and who may have been responsible for the reversal. As this is now a legal case, I will refrain from naming names. Mr. Akins and his partner, after receiving the ATF cease and desist letter, asked the ATF for an explanation. They did not get one, and according to Mr. Akins, they (the ATF) “had dug in their heels.”
The Akins Group attorney sent another letter to the ATF asking that they please review their previous findings and find that the device does in fact conform to the letter of the law, and reverse the decision which halted sales of the Accelerator. We can all guess what happened next: The 14 page letter was answered with a one paragraph response stating that the ATF noted the attorney’s argument but the ATF’s position had not changed.
With money running low, the Akins Group was having a difficult time paying a nationally recognized attorney. But the company pushed forward in its attempts to reason with the ATF. However, the ATF dragged its feet, taking months to respond, thereby effectively shutting down production while the Akins Group was drowning in a cesspool of strong-arm government bureaucracy.
Friction between the partners of the Akins Group began to worsen, as Mr. Akins wanted to civilly disobey what he believed to be unlawful action by the ATF regarding the disassembly of the device. There were threats against them and their customers. The partnership and the company began to fall apart due directly to a government entity that does not appear to be answerable to anyone.
Bill Akins contacted his senators and US representatives, “who would have low level staffers respond with nothing more than what the ATF had already told us.” After complaining to his representative’s staff members, he was told that the office would no longer assist him. Of course, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida has an “F” rating from the NRA regarding his support of American’s firearms rights. Go figure.
The ATF put into writing their findings that the Akins rapid fire device was NOT a machine gun.
It is important to point out that the ATF approved the device based, not upon the caliber of the weapon upon which it was installed, but upon the device’s “method of operation.” Mr. Akins contends that the ATF was lying to the senator’s and congresswoman’s offices, by telling them the device it had approved was not the same as the one the company was selling—when in fact it was.
The ATF is holding its ground, unilaterally destroying a man and his company with no compensation whatsoever, after it had approved their product two years earlier. Bill now does not hear back from his congressional representative or his senators. As he puts it, “Because it’s a firearms issue, they don’t want to touch this issue with a ten-foot pole, especially because it’s a rapid-fire device.” The NRA will offer no support for the same reasons, believes Mr. Akins. It appears everyone is ”Chicken Little” about any device that goes rat-a-tat-tat-tat, even though it conforms to the letter of US law.
The ATF did apologize to Mr. Akins through congresswoman Ginny Brown Waite, admitting they had made a mistake, but they claimed their mistake was that the device should never have been approved in the first place. As Mr. Akins puts it, “So we get no due process of law, no compensation or any hearing of any kind, just arbitrary action.”
As it stands now, Mr. Akins and his partner are no longer in business together. With the support of his wife, Mr. Akins has pushed forward in the face of a rogue government agency which decides to make law, rather than to enforce the laws as Congress has written them.
Through this whole fiasco, Mr. Akins has been forced to the very edge of financial disaster. The action taken against the Akins Group by the ATF has cost Mr. Akins hundreds of thousands of dollars and the last 12 years of his adult working life. Mr. Akins is now surviving on what’s left of his life savings in his quest to right the wrongs perpetrated upon him. He has finally found an attorney willing to take on this bloated government agency.
As I write this, Mr. Akins is pressing forward with his legal efforts against the ATF and gets a “two thumbs up” from me! I’ll keep everyone informed as this case winds its way through the cesspool known as the BATFE.
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