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Tagged: Dan O’Kelly

Daniel O’Kelly – ATF Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow


Part 2 of 2.     Click here if you missed Part 1.

 Daniel O’Kelly spent 23 years as an Agent and Supervisor in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Proof of his rich expertise is he was selected as one of the writers of the new and improved ATF Curriculum still in use today.


Ares Armor Inc.: How do the employees of the ATF view firearms, and the people who carry or own guns?

Dan O’Kelly: “Great question. The truth is you might be surprised. There is a good percentage of ATF people who are pro-gun rights. I know many who are gun collectors, and even some who are NRA members. A large percentage of Agents are former cops, and to my experience they are generally in favor of private gun ownership.”

On the other hand, there are those who are anti-gun, and who equate gun ownership with crime. Since ATF is the federal “gun police” agency, it gets a lot of pressure from Capitol Hill and the White House to make rulings and regulations which restrict firearms. For many of those near the top, they have no choice but to support that agenda or sabotage their career. And in many cases, that agenda flows downhill.

It was always easy to tell who was anti-gun. Those in ATF who are gun-knowledgeable and pro-gun are commonly referred to by their anti-gun co-workers as a ‘Gunstroke.’ That term was used with varying degrees of malice to indicate you’re one of those weirdos who ‘likes to stroke guns’. That of course was all forgotten about when one of the anti-gunners needed you to identify something for them about which they had no clue.


Photo: BATFE Headquarters. Washington, D.C.

Ares Armor Inc.: How do you think the public should view the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives?

Dan O’Kelly: “People obviously have the right to think what they want. But let me supply some ammo here for taking an informed position. Some gun owners and dealers have a steamy hatred for the ATF. If you ask them why, it’s because of something they read or heard which supposedly happened to someone else. And, just like there are pro-gun citizens who don’t believe there should be any limits on guns, there are those in ATF who don’t believe in any gun rights. No one can deny there have been occasional abuses, but that is not something limited to just that agency. As a staunch gun rights advocate, I personally know hundreds of great people among ATF’s ranks.

A great many firearms dealers will tell you they haven’t been inspected by ATF in years, if ever, and if so, they’ve had no issues during their encounters. After I retired from ATF, I spent two years working for the corporate office of the largest firearm retailer in the world. That company, which sells a half-million firearms a year, has a great relationship with ATF.

If you read these accounts objectively, many of the people who hate ATF are angry about something the law will not allow them to manufacture or own. The law which prevents what they want wasn’t written by ATF. Just like the cop didn’t install the traffic light you just ran, although he’s writing you the ticket.

I’ll agree that ATF has contradicted themselves on several issues, and has made some rulings which do not stand up to logic, and we at the IFSA have gone on the record in Federal Court to point out some of those contradictions in an effort to get ATF to correct them. However, ATF has also ruled on several things which many gun owners seem surprisingly pleased about, such as exploding targets, “80% receiver blanks” possessed with completion jigs, the so-called “solvent traps”, etc…

When you see inside the gun industry, and talk with the people from the companies who manufacture firearms, and others like Ares Armor which make upper receivers, lower receivers, and other related products, most of them would tell us they have no real problem with the ATF. They understand it is just a matter of people doing their jobs. They acknowledge there has to be someone enforcing the gun laws.

You need to understand…

It is the leadership at ATF Headquarters who constantly gets contacted by Capitol Hill and the White House. It is those in power in Washington D.C. who are not gun-friendly. President Clinton and even more so, President Obama have proven themselves to be anything but gun-friendly. There is always some new anti-gun initiative coming along.

The ATF is not in a position to argue with the President or Congress. They must do what they are told. Unfortunately, the ATF are the ones who get hated most for it when it’s not even them who is thinking up these anti-gun legislations.

I’ve said it many times before, the ATF people are so busy in their jobs, they don’t possibly have time to dream up new anti-gun laws.”


Photo: Surveillance video of Dylann Roof entering church. Released by Charleston, SC Police.


Ares Armor Inc.: Final question, after the recent Dylann Roof church shootings in Charleston, we knew President Obama would seize the moment for advancing his anti-gun legacy. But now, other politicians who seemed to have been equipped with silencers, are acting like it’s safe to come out again and talk up the need for more gun control. What do you see happening here as it pertains to the ATF?

Daniel O’Kelly: “I’d ask them what it is that they want to prevent, which is not already illegal?

Like always, the President will use the ATF as a political tool for his anti-gun agenda. This kid’s act of shooting up a church is deplorable in itself, but like every mass shooting, it serves to further hinder the rights of the law abiding. Anti-gunners use tragedy as a new angle to do what they have wanted to do all along.

I expect them to try another gun grab as before. And of course they will tell the ATF what to do.

Anti-gunners betray their own foolishness by trying to legislate compliance. Have you seen the businesses with a “No Guns Allowed” sign on the door? Hilarious. Now the people who comply with rules will be unarmed. The fool inside who placed the sign is now even more vulnerable. The person who complies with rules is not the problem.

Let me close wrap up with a personal favorite…

In joining the ATF, during my panel interview with 3 senior officials, one of questions they asked me was, ‘What do you think of gun control?’ I said, ‘Sir, if you can prove to me you’ve gotten all of the other guns, then I will give you mine. But, that ship sailed 200 years ago.’ Surprisingly, they later told me that realistic answer was one of the reasons I was hired.

There are an estimated 290 million guns in the U.S. Let’s say for illustration that they are all outlawed, and as many as 95% have been turned in or confiscated. I don’t believe that you could ever get to that high a percentage point, but even if you did, you would still have over 14 million guns in circulation. But now, 95% of the American population is unarmed and defenseless against the people who don’t care what the laws say and who didn’t turn in theirs. Therefore, gun control is not even a realistic concept anymore from where I sit. You either bear Arms, or are vulnerable to those who do.”


Ares Armor Inc.: Agreed. Well said Sir. Thank you. To learn more about Daniel O’Kelly’s  International Firearm Specialist Academy, visit http://www.GunLearn.com.

Daniel O’Kelly – ATF Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow


Yesterday, was the ATF’s birthday. Today, Ares Armor Inc. proudly turns again to Daniel O’Kelly for his unbiased but unplugged commentary on the ATF. After more than a decade as a Police Officer and Detective, Mr. O’Kelly had 23 years of awards and promotions as a highly-qualified agent and supervisor in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. As an Academy Staff member, he was chosen to be one of the writers of the new and improved ATF Curriculum which is still being used.

Today, as a world-recognized leading gun expert, Dan has taught firearm enforcement to law enforcement professionals around the world. He now runs the International Firearm Specialist Academy.


Ares Armor Inc.: As always, it’s an honor Sir. Thank you for your time. Let’s start by asking if you have you seen the ATF change, and how?

Daniel O’Kelly: “ATF has evolved from issuing revolvers when I came aboard, to Glocks, M4s and Armored Personnel Carriers. The aim of the enforcement has changed to a high degree also. As an ATF Agent, you’re allowed to specialize in one facet of ATF jurisdiction if you wish, be it firearms, bombing investigations, arson, armed organized crime, or a few others. Having been a full-time undercover agent for two years during my prior career on the police department, I specialized in undercover cases against armed drug dealers. When I came aboard with ATF in the late 1980s, the cocaine epidemic was at its peak. So, it seemed like a vast amount of the work we did was going after criminals who carried guns to protect their drug deals, which is a firearm-felony under ATF jurisdiction. I also investigated armed felons and gun traffickers.

The rules were not that strict. To begin an investigation, you were required to file a proposal with your supervisor saying, ‘This is who I’m going to investigate, and why.’ We were given a good amount of latitude in working our cases. That all changed in 1993.”


How a Wacko in Waco Changed the ATF

david-koresh-sinful messiah

In 1993, the self-proclaimed final prophet, David Koresh, led the Branch Davidian religious cult in bearing Arms against an ATF raid of their compound in Waco, Texas. Four federal agents and six cult members were killed in the raid. After a 51-day standoff against the FBI, the compound caught fire. All 80 cult members, including children, died.

Ares Armor Inc.: How did that one tragic incident impact the way ATF operated?

Daniel O’Kelly: “Prior to Waco, if you were doing an undercover drug buy, you would gather a few other agents, and say ‘I’m going to x location to make a buy. The seller is Joe Whoever, and he drives a blue Chevy. I’ll be wearing a wire on channel 6, so grab a radio and hopefully you can hear the conversation. You guys park here. You other guys position yourself there.’ Then, off we would go. Most of the time it went smoothly, but working the Chicago, and Gary, Indiana area, there was more than one operation that ended up in a shootout, car chase or both. The occasional chaos was just an accepted risk.

Then Waco happened.

I still remember an Agent walking into my office and telling me that my friend, Agent Rob Williams, had been murdered during the raid at the compound. Rob had been a classmate of mine during basic training. I remember staring out the window in a daze for hours, trying to get my head around his death. Then I walked into my supervisor’s office and told him I wanted to join the Special Response Team (SRT). ‘So does everyone else’ he said. ‘It’s like the day after Pearl Harbor.’

Politicians and the public wanted heads to roll at ATF for what happened. Heck, everyone that ATF goes after is armed, but no one there believed they’d shoot. It hadn’t been considered the Branch Davidians believed Koresh to be Jesus in the flesh, and that they were all invincible and justified in shooting at us.


After Waco, you couldn’t go out on an operation without a written and approved plan. It required a positive ID of the suspect and everything about him, a map to the hospital, blood types of all involved, phone numbers of supervisors, local law enforcement and other emergency services. We used to call it doing, ‘The phone book,’ because it was so much paperwork. And, you had to have it approved in advance by two levels of supervision.

It only made sense to start using a more prepared approach after we had our eyes opened at Waco by a bunch of lunatics who thought Jesus told them to shoot at us, but it was a big change at the ATF, like night and day.

Prior to Waco, Agents who were not on the SRT only had ATF logo windbreakers and ball caps to wear on raids. After Waco we were all issued Battle Dress Uniforms (BDUs), and in recently years they’ve added helmets and armored personnel carriers.”


Ares Armor Inc.: Speaking of change, what do you make of the idea which surfaces from time to time about merging the ATF into the FBI?

Daniel O’Kelly: “I saw that merger proposed at least 3 times during my career. Even before that, it came so close during the Reagan Administration that some ATF agents transferred to other agencies in fear of losing their job, but the merger still never happened. I recently wrote an article on Linkedin called, Ban ATF, Why? It touched on why you should want the ATF to continue doing firearm enforcement if you are pro-gun, and not the FBI.

At end of the day, there are always going to be gun laws in America. Who do you want enforcing them? The DEA Agents whose experience and training are about drugs? The FBI, which is five times larger with a budget to match? Even if you put ATF under another agency, give them a new boss, or abolish the agency, the Agents aren’t going to be let go, because it still takes the same number of Agents to enforce all the federal laws. As long as there is an anti-gun administration in the White House, the Agents in charge of enforcing gun laws will be pressured by that administration to be anti-gun.”


Enforcing Federal Gun Laws

Daniel O’Kelly: “During my career, the first new federal gun law enacted was the Gun-Free School Zone Act in 1990. Since then, the category of persons with a domestic violence conviction have been added to the list of those prohibited from possessing a gun. I also witnessed a new initiative every few years with names like Operation Trigger Lock, Project Achilles Heel, and others, which focused on enforcing the laws against armed career criminals, armed drug traffickers, and those who used guns in violent crime.

Bureaucracies are a funny thing. Someone once said that the two aims of a bureaucracy are to increase its size and to justify its budget. These initiatives were a way to track our activity and show we were earning our budget. These projects gave the impression we were doing something new or different, but really it was just enforcement of the same laws with a new label on them.

It was also amusing to see the strategic focus of our cases flip-flop every year from a quest for quality vs. quantity. When a new fiscal year began, we would hear the mandate, ‘This year, we are going after quality cases. We want cases involving multiple guns and multiple defendants.’ Then at the start of the next year, we would always hear, ‘Last year, we had quality but our numbers were low, so this year we need numbers. One guy – one gun cases are fine.’ And our direction would switch back and forth contradicting itself every year.


In 1994, President Clinton signed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban pushed by Senator Feinstein, which was enacted for 10 years. (It was formally titled the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act). The law said that if you make a semi-automatic firearm which uses a detachable magazine, it can only have one of the following regulated features, such as:

Telescoping or Folding Stock
Pistol Grip
Flash Suppressor
Barrel Shroud
Bayonet Mount
Grenade Launcher

If a firearm had two or more of these specific features, it could only be sold to law enforcement. The ban prevented nothing but bayonets and grenade launchings. Nothing more than a way to try to make some guns, such as an AR-15, to be politically correct.

When I taught this complex law during seminars I would have to laugh. I’d ask a room filled with law enforcement professionals, ‘How many of you have more than 10 years of experience?’ Hands all over the room would be raised. ‘How many have more than 20 years of experience?’ Most hands would still be up. Then I’d ask, ‘How many of you have ever been called to the scene of a bayoneting?’ The room would burst into laughter. Then I’d ask, ‘How many of you have ever arrested someone for launching a grenade?’ There would be more laughter, and a single hand never went up. I’d close my point with the comment, ‘Well at least no one is pinching their fingers anymore in those folding stocks.’

That Federal Assault Weapons Ban was a classic Washington, D.C. example of people who don’t know anything about guns trying to find a problem to fit their answer in order to get rid of guns.”

Tune in again tomorrow, as Mr. Daniel O’Kelly shares how the ATF views firearms owners, how the public should view inside the ATF, and more.

Former ATF Agent on M855 Ammo Ban Part 3

Ares Armor Polymer 80 Lower Kit

Unplugged: Former ATF Agent Daniel O’Kelly

(Part 3 of 3-Part Series. Click Here for Part 1. Click Here for Part 2.)


Having fun or fighting, time flies. It was one year ago the ATF executed a search warrant, and a raid on Ares Armor locations. Their claim was an investigation into federal firearm violations.

To Ares Armor Founder, Dimitrios Karras, the agents in San Diego County looked similar to scenes from his 8 years as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. “They came into our manufacturing facility with their guns up like they were invading Iraq,” he said at the time.

BATFE Raid at Ares Armor

The March 2014 ATF raid confiscated computers, massive customer lists, and 80% polymer lower receivers. The battle between Ares Armor and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives included shots heard across the country. The legal case landed in U.S. District Court in the Southern District in California.

Daniel O’Kelly, former ATF Agent and world-recognized firearm and ammunition expert, followed the story from his International Firearm Specialist Academy office near Dallas, Texas. He never thought the fight would come to his door.

“I saw what was happening,” said O’Kelly, who spent 23 years in the ATF as an Agent and supervisor. “I said to myself it was just another guy going through the legal system.”

6 Months later, the court-certified expert witness of 25 years, got a call from attorney Scott McMillan. He was asked to render an expert opinion for a case as to whether an item would hold up in court as a firearm. Little did O’Kelly know it involved Ares Armor.

In November 2014, the former ATF Agent submitted a written declaration to Judge, Honorable Janis L. Sammartino. In it, Daniel O’Kelly took a stand for the truth, the 2nd Amendment, and Ares Armor, and against his former employer:

I have arrived at the following opinions summarized as follows:


    1. The 5804 items at issue are not “firearms” as defined in 18 U.S. C. Section 921 (a) (3).

    1. The 5804 items at issue are not a “firearm frame or receiver” as defined in 27 CFR subsection 478.11, which defines a “frame or receiver” as “that part of a firearm which provides housing for the hammer, bolt or breechblock and firing mechanism, and which is usually threaded at its forward portion to receive the barrel.” Assuming for the sake of discussion, even if that unfinished lower receiver had been finished to the state known in the Firearms Industry as a “stripped AR-15 receiver”, that “finished” receiver still would not satisfy the elements of a “receiver” as defined in 27 CFR subsection 478.11, which defines a “frame or receiver” as “that part of a firearm which provides housing for the hammer, bolt or breechblock, and firing mechanism, and which is usually threaded at its forward portion to receive the barrel.”

    1. The 5804 items at issue are not “a frame or receiver,” even without reference to that definition of a receiver set forth in 27 CFR subsection 478.11, and wholly relying on the standards which the ATF has published in prior determination letters, the subject unfinished receiver is an “unfinished” blank based on the criteria relied upon in prior determinations.

  1. The 5804 items at issue are not contraband.

“What they took are known in the industry as 80% blanks”, said O’Kelly. “By the way, the 80% figure is never used by ATF. Unfinished receivers always decided on a case by case basis. The Ares Armor blanks absolutely do not hold up to ATF’s own definition of a firearm receiver. They also don’t hold up for other reasons, such as the “indexing” issue. The so-called “biscuit” area on the inside which they called indexing, is not the right size, and indexing was not the purpose for making it. Also, the indexing issue was also already shot down by the Judge in a federal court. As a matter of fact, the definition of a receiver requires an item to have at least three features. Those being, a housing for the hammer, a housing for the bolt or breechblock, and a housing for the firing mechanism. Even a complete AR15 frame doesn’t have all three.”


Today, Daniel O’Kelly holds the courage and integrity to stand with the law and the truth against ATF members like one in the Ares Armor case. “A particular agent said in his affidavit that AR-15 receivers are the same thing as M-16 machine gun receivers,” said O’Kelly. “That is not true. Even if the receiver blanks at issue were completely finished, there’s a difference both legally and physically, between AR15 receivers and M-16 receivers.”

No one at Ares Armor is celebrating the first anniversary of the ATF raid. But because of it, and the currently proposed ammo ban, it seemed timely to share how even a former ATF insider is calling out the bureau’s bad practices.

All of us, Mr. O’Kelly, certain law enforcement leaders, (and ultimately the federal courts) will shoot down the stretching of firearm and ammunition definitions and facts, for exactly what it is…wrong, illegal, and unconstitutional.

Even some bad apples in the ATF, can’t overcome the core of the truth on “armor-piercing ammunition”:

By definition, the M855 bullet, and even its core, is NOT “constructed entirely from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium;”

The M855 bullet and its core, are only partially made of steel. Therefore, calling it “armor-piercing ammunition” does not apply.

Share your voice using this hashtag in social media:


Former ATF Agent on Ammo Ban

Unplugged: Former ATF Agent Daniel O’Kelly

(Part 1 of 3-Part Series.)


In this Ares Armor exclusive, it was an honor to have Mr. Daniel O’Kelly speak freely with us. Given the Obama Administration proposed ammo ban led by the ATF, it’s a critical time for gun rights in America. Without a doubt, the voice of Daniel O’Kelly should be loud on the subject. After all, he’s a world-renowned gun expert and former ATF agent. Currently, he’s top gun at the International Firearm Specialist Academy.

Ares Armor: Dan, we respect your important work teaching and training professionals and civilians on firearm and ammunition enforcement, technology and compliance. Thanks for taking time with us. It seems g-u-n is in your DNA. Please share a look into your expertise.

Dan O’Kelly: I’ve been a serious student of firearm history and design since I was a kid. I build and collect guns and ammunition. For 10.5 years, I served as a Police Officer and Detective. As an off-duty cop, I worked part-time in a gun store. Since 1981, I’ve been a certified firearm range instructor, and am a factory-trained armorer for 13 gun companies. I’ve taught at law enforcement academies around the world. And of course, I retired from the ATF in 2011 after 23 years as an agent and supervisor. I hope all that didn’t bore you.

Ares Armor: Impressive sir, not boring. Before we touch on the ammo ban, let’s specifically talk ATF. What stands out from serving 23 years?

Daniel O’Kelly: In 1998, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms had a big hiring buildup. So, a mandate came down from the top to throw out the ATF Academy Curriculum from A to Z. Along with a handful of other dedicated and highly-qualified agents, I was chosen to be one of the co-writers of the new and improved ATF Academy Curriculum.

Ares Armor: Beyond personal pride, why is this so important?

Daniel O’Kelly: Prior to us, the firearm tech curriculum was only 8 hours long. We developed a comprehensive program which was 6 days long. The ATF leadership said, ‘6 days? No way. We’ll give it 3 ½ days at most. There is need to know information, and nice to know information. We’ll only give need to know.’ So, they threw away 40% of the important material their chosen team of experts prepared and recommended. So this may explain why for years, the saying goes that on some issues, ‘You can ask several different ATF people the same question, and get several different answers.’ It’s not the fault of those in the field, but at times they’re limited by what they were taught.

Ares Armor: Privately, you’re revered by some ATF peers. But because you’ve had the courage to criticize the ATF, publicly you’re about as popular with the bureau these days as Ares Armor Founder, Dimitri Karras, right?

Daniel O’Kelly: There are good, dedicated, and professional folks at ATF, but some are not pleased with me. They’ve been told not to talk with me. They aren’t happy about some of the truths that have been made known. My attitude is, I share the truth because I am proud to have been a Federal Agent. I’ve done my part for years to share information on firearm technology and rulings honorably, and in good faith. I’ve done so hoping to end the instances of people finding themselves in legal jeopardy only because they were poorly informed, or unable to find answers. I expect the ATF to be run in good faith. Let’s not stretch definitions and the truth. An item either has the features listed in a definition or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t then re-write the definition if necessary. I believe that’s the honest way to operate.

Ares Armor: Do you believe the ATF is behind the currently proposed ammo ban?

Daniel O’Kelly: Absolutely not. Very little firearm legislation is driven by the ATF. They already have too much to do. The Firearm Technology Branch (now Firearms (sic) and Ammunition Technology Division) is way too busy. If the ATF wanted the proposed ammo ban, they could have dealt with this issue years ago. They didn’t.

Next, in our 3-part series, “Unplugged: Former ATF Agent Daniel O’Kelly,” we’ll get into more of his expert opinions on the proposed ammo ban.

To voice your opinion on the ammo ban use the hashtag #FightAmmoBan

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