Surveillance of the IAA Forum


As a current IAA Director and past CICS (Chicagoland International Cartridge Show) and SLICS (St. Louis International Cartridge Show) manager for 10 years, I feel the need to set something right.

In some recent Forum posts and replies, there is a thread that weaves its way through certain comments to the effect that the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), CIA, FBI, etc. are carefully monitoring our Forum in a clandestine attempt to uncover some unpatriotic, illegal, or otherwise undesirable ammunition-information activity. While I have no specific way to know for sure, I believe this idea to be very wrong, although I’m sure some ATF, CIA, FBI, etc. personnel do read the Forum because of their personal interest in ammunition. Several are IAA members. Some friends of mine are current and past ATF and FBI agents. Why shouldn’t they enjoy the Forum?

I believe the idea of government agencies monitoring the IAA Forum may have come about as a result of the outstanding work done by then-IAA-President Lew Curtis, which continues to benefit cartridge collectors worldwide.

After 9-11, there was a very serious threat to the ability of our foreign “non-resident aliens” to participate in the SLICS by bringing a small quantity of live small arms ammunition into the U.S. It’s not hard to imagine how government bureaucrats unfamiliar with our hobby could decide, under the circumstances, to ban the individual non-resident alien temporary importation of small arms display ammunition in their checked baggage. There were some exceptions to the restriction that would have effectively removed the “International” from the St. Louis International Cartridge Show; recognized sporting events such as the Olympics and others, recognized trade shows, and a very few others.

As IAA President, Lew Curtis saw what was about to happen, and he set forth on his own time and expense to come up with a legal way for non-resident aliens to be able to fully participate in the IAA-sanctioned St. Louis International Cartridge Show. Through his relentless personal efforts with ATF, Lew earned official recognition of SLICS as a qualifying IAA-sanctioned event, which meant that with an official invitation from me as SLICS manager to a non-resident alien, he could use that invitation and the show’s status as an ATF-recognized event to acquire a license to bring in his small arms ammunition for display at the show, to the mutual benefit of all involved. Lew told me that one of the key elements of the ATF recognition was the scholarly, serious content of the IAA Forum, in addition, of course, to the outstanding IAA Journal and our status as an IRS-recognized not-for-profit organization.

In other words, the ATF came here to the Forum, carefully looked it over, and saw that it was clearly a part of a valuable organization in the ammunition research field and deserving of official ATF recognition. With that recognition came the ability of our foreign non-resident aliens to participate, next, in SLICS 2011. So when you go to the back of the ballroom at SLICS 2011 and spend some time with the Dutch big-bore group, or enjoy some Swiss chocolate samples (and cartridges) brought in by Dimi and Loli Goulas, or “His Lordship” Martin Golland’s displays from the UK, or enjoy seeing and learning from the wonderful cartridge displays brought down from Canada by Chris Punnett, Will Adye-White, Paul Smith, and others, or Armin Bickel’s German cartridge displays, or those of any of the other “non-resident aliens” who add so much to our hobby, why not also take just a minute or two to thank Lew Curtis, without whose work that would not have been possible? And yes, that work involved having the ATF look over the IAA Forum to see, in part, what the IAA is all about.

Lew is a retired U.S. Air Force General Officer, having served his country on active duty for 36 years. He has been a very active IAA member for 45 years. When he presented his case to the ATF, they listened. U.S. Air Force Generals are not known for their frivolity. Lew put his professional reputation on the line for all of us, including non-resident aliens, and we should, in my opinion, thank him at every opportunity. If we maintain a professional level of posts and replies on the Forum, that will help maintain the IAA’s status as a serious organization deserving of recognition.

Disclaimer: I will be forever grateful that certain Dutch, German, English (who would have thought?), and other foreign collectors were able to provide me with so much information about Gyrojets and other ordnance, so I’m biased in favor of foreign participation in our IAA, its Forum, and its sanctioned show. And as a past SLICS manager, I know I’m biased in favor of what Lew did for “my” show.


Haha - although it is a serious enough topic to discuss and explain (thank you for the thoughtful post Mel), I for one can vouch that no Government agent or agency has ever contacted or scrutinized me. And this, despite my best efforts! One would think that if they had any issue cartridge-wise, that it might be with me since I have so much of the sort of pistol AP cartridges which they maintain an example list of as to what is restricted under federal law in so far as manufacture or import. And I have done some serious poking & prodding all over the internet these past few years. Alas, I have drawn no such interest even after my most recent effort this past year to attract the attention of other collectors (domestic & foreign - including Pakistan & China) on many, many other forums. I can’t even get the government interested my book, which does a better job of explaining their state & federal laws than they do!

I think we can all sleep easy about whatever we do on this forum as far as being monitored. Start talking I.E.D.'s or W.M.D.'s though, and we might have a problem…


All internet traffic is monitored, every singe email any of us ever sends is monitored. Even the ones my wife send to our son saying she hopes he’s wearing the vest she sent him.
Usually just electronically scanned in bulk for key words, on which point I imagine we trip the detector more than most. If you were up to no good you wouldn’t use those key words which rather negates the exercise.

Its all a bit “big brother is watching you” which he is!


To all readers,and members if the IAA Forum,
I would like to take this time to use the IAA Forum to express my personel thanks to Gen. Lew Curtis for all that he has done for the IAA,The Forum,and SLICS,and “Putting His Butt on the Line” for all of us that collect,and are able to attend the “SLICS”.Thank you Sir !!! I shutter to think where we would be if you had not gone to bat for the Cartridge / Ammunition Collecting Fraternity.
And to Mel,thank you for Only super shows,I’ve enjoyed each and every one I’ve been able to attend.
In conclusion ,my hat is off to both Gen. Curtis and Mel Carpenter for a super fantastic,and well done job (Hand Salute , 2)Thank you
Charles.J.Wells (Jack)
SGM. USA. Ret.


Jack, I’m surprised…you do know they’re officers, right? You must really mean it!


Yes John,I know,and yes I ment it ,and my hat’s off to both of them


Mel, I am one of the collectors who visit the Saint Louis show in your country.
For me it is the highlight of the year. Not only showing my items but also seeing my US friends.

Each year I send an application form to the ATF for bringing cartridges to your country.
You cannot know that, but the people working by this Bureau were I communicate with, are very nice, and always willing to help.
Don’t forget, the person who is processing my application form and put his signature under it, only knows that a person, living somewhere in the world, want to enter the US carrying small arms ammunition.
The only security they have is the IAA invitation sends by Vic.

That means to me, that Lew, by explanation what we cartridge collectors doing to your government, the members from other country’s have the opportunity visit the SLIC show.

Thanks Lew.