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HQ 559392

February 2, 1996

MAR-05 RR:TC:SM 559392 KKV


Craig A. Koenigs, Esq.
O'Connor & Hannan
1919 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006-3483

RE: Country of origin marking for barelled actions from Belgium; rifles; firearms; substantial transformation; HRL 558849; C.S.D. 80-111; C.S.D. 85-25; C.S.D. 89-110; C.S.D. 89-118; C.S.D. 89-129; C.S.D. 90-97

Dear Mr. Koenigs:

This is in response to your letter dated August 15, 1995, on behalf of Bricklee Trading Company, which requests a ruling regarding the correct country of origin designation for marking and duty purposes of certain Mauser type barreled actions from Belgium. No sample has been submitted for our examination.


You indicate that your client wishes to import certain Mauser type barreled actions from Belgium in a variety of hunting calibers. We are informed that the barreled actions are completed rifles without rifle stocks. The barelled actions are manufactured in Belgium by E. Dumoulin and Co. from a series of components consisting of trigger mechanisms from England or Belgium, trigger guards from Spain, screws from Belgium and rifle barrels from the United States, as well as incomplete bolt assemblies, bolt stop assemblies and receivers from China.

We are informed that the processes which take place in Belgium to create the barreled actions are as follows:

A. The components of the bolt assemblies and incomplete receivers are gathered together and visually checked for defects and gauged to determine if they meet specifications. In addition, the components are Rockwell tested for heat treatment.

B. After the initial checking and gauging, the various bolt assembly and receiver components are assembled to form the completed bolt assembly units and completed receivers.

C. The bolt assemblies must be fitted to operate properly. Any rough edges on the assemblies must be removed by hand. Once the edges have been filed, the entire bolt assembly operates smoothly. The polishing is done by hand using a series of different grade polishes and fine emery/crocus cloth.

D. The receivers also must be fitted to function properly. The fitting is accomplished by honing machines. Once the receivers have been fitted, they are hand polished in the same manner as the bolt assemblies through the application of a series of different grade polishes and finishing with fine emery/crocus cloth.

E. After the receivers have been fitted and polished, they must have the various markings stamped into the frame. These marks include the manufacturer's marks, the country of origin and the serial numbers.

F. Barrels for the action are fabricated from bar stock and drilled, honed, rifled and chambered by one of three different methods: broaching, buttoning or hammer process. The chambers of the barrels are separately machined and the barrels are threaded and contoured.

G. Once the barrels are fabricated, they are mounted to the receivers, working to tight tolerances to achieve proper head space. Mounting the barrels involves the following steps:

1. The barrel is mounted in special barreling vise (having contoured jaws to mate with barrel contours).

2. A receiver is hand threaded onto the barrel until hand tight.

3. The receiver is brought to "witness" (or correct tightness) by use of a special fitted receiver wrench.

4. The bolt assembly is remounted and the bolt is closed with the head space gauge in place (in the barrel chamber). If the bolt closes to the correct dimension, then the barreling operation is complete.

However, because barrel chambers are traditionally manufactured with "shy" chamber dimensions, usually it is necessary to "finish chamber" by cutting out any excess metal blocking the chamber. This is accomplished by removing the bolt mechanism, inserting a chamber reamer (on an extension handle) into cutting oil and then into the receiver and the barrel chamber. A light cut is made and the reamer is withdrawn. Then, the chamber is cleared of chips with compressed air. Subsequently, the bolt assembly is replaced into the receiver. The head space gauge is placed into the chamber to take the measurement. If head space is correct, then the barreling is completed. If measurement is not correct, then the process must be repeated.

H. Once the barreled actions have been assembled, they are sent to the Belgian Government Proof House in Liege, Belgium to be tested and checked for correct tolerances. The proofing consists of a visual inspection to look for imperfections and a series of test firing with special proof cartridges to determine proper functioning and strength. If the action meets the proofing requirements, the barrel and receiver of each unit is stamped with proof marks and a caliber designation.

I. After the barreled actions are proofed, they are sent for bluing. The complete barreled action is final-polished and racked in bluing baskets which are used to carry the units through the bluing process, which consists of:

1. Vapor de-grease.
2. Hot water rinse.
3. Bluing solution dip and boil.
4. Hot water rinse.
5. Second post-bluing hot water rinse.
6. Dip in water displacing fluid,
7. Dip in light oil and drain.

J. Upon completion of the preliminary assembly, finishing procedures and bluing, the barreled actions undergo final assembly, with the trigger mechanisms being screwed into position and function tested. The trigger guard assemblies are screwed into place and function tested with dummy cartridges. The original bolt mechanism (which is proofed with the barreled action) is remounted.

K. Finally, the barreled actions are packed for consumer receipt. Each barreled action is individually packed in a consumer carton (by hand) and printed with its contents. Each carton is marked with information stating the model, caliber and serial number of the barreled action. In addition, a brochure explaining the use, disassembly, parts list and safety information is placed in each carton. The individual unit cartons are then boxed in master boxes containing six to ten units and prepared for delivery.


What is the country of origin of the completed barreled action that is processed in the manner described above?


Section 304 of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C.1304), provides that, unless excepted, every article of foreign origin imported into the United States shall be marked in a conspicuous place as legibly, indelibly, and permanently as the nature of the article (or container) will permit, in such a manner as to indicate to the ultimate purchaser in the United States the English name of the country of origin of the article. Congressional intent in enacting 19 U.S.C. 1304 was "that the ultimate purchaser should be able to know by an inspection of the marking on the imported goods the country of which the goods is the product. The evident purpose is to mark the goods so that at the time of purchase the ultimate purchaser may, by knowing where the goods were produced, be able to buy or refuse to buy them, if such marking should influence his will." United States v. Friedlaender & Co., 27 C.C.P.A. 297, 302 (1940). Part 134 of the Customs Regulations implements the country of origin marking requirements and exceptions of 19 U.S.C. 1304. Section 134.41(b), mandates that the ultimate purchaser in the United States must be able to find the marking easily and read it without strain.

"Country of origin" is defined in section 134.1(b), Customs Regulations, as
the country of manufacture, production, or growth of any article of foreign origin entering the United States. Further work or material added to an article in another country must effect a substantial transformation in order to render such other country the
"country of origin" within the meaning of this part.

A substantial transformation is said to have occurred when an article emerges from a manufacturing process with a name, character, or use which differs from the original material subjected to the process. Texas Instruments, Inc. v. United States, 631 F.2d 778, 782 (CCPA 1982).

In this case, the processing in Belgium consists of assembly and finishing operations as well as a chemical treatment. In determining whether the assembly of parts or materials constitutes a substantial transformation, the issue is the extent of operations performed and whether the parts lose their identity and become an integral part of the new article. See, Uniroyal Inc. v. United States, 3 CIT 220, 542 F. Supp. 1026 (CIT 1982), aff'd, 702 F.2d 1022 (Fed. Cir. 1983). Assembly operations which are minimal or simple, as opposed to complex or meaningful, will generally not result in a substantial transformation. See, C.S.D. 80-111, C.S.D.85-25, C.S.D. 89-110, C.S.D. 89-118, C.S.D.89-129 and C.S.D.90-97.

Customs has previously discussed the assembly and finishing of firearms in determining whether a substantial transformation has occurred. Most recently, in Headquarters Ruling Letter 558849, dated March 29, 1995, Customs determined Chinese pistol components were substantially transformed into a firearm of German origin after having undergone a complex assembly process in Germany which included the manufacture of two significant components as well as the assembly of more than 40 pieces, chemical treatment, polishing and engraving in order to produce the finished article.

Likewise, in the instant case, the assembly operations undertaken in Belgium are of a highly complex and intricate nature, requiring the expertise and precision of trained technicians to complete the assembly of 28 pieces, so as to ensure compliance with specifications. The failure to comply with these high standards may put the user of the firearm at risk. Upon review, Customs finds that the operations at issue in which the subject parts (from the U.S., Belgium, England, Spain and China) are incorporated into barreled actions substantially transforms the parts into an article of Belgian origin.


The complex assembly of the barelled actions, as discussed above, constitutes a substantial transformation. Accordingly, the country of origin of the barreled actions to be imported into the United States is Belgium. The article shall be marked pursuant to 19 U.S.C. 1304 and part 134, Customs Regulations (19 CFR Part 134).

A copy of this ruling letter should be attached to the entry documents filed at the time this merchandise is entered. If the documents have been filed without a copy, this ruling should be brought to the attention of the Customs officer handling the transaction.


John Durant

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