Federal agents in Hawaii see rise in device that turns pistols into mini machine guns

The size of a quarter, it is illegal to possess — whether or not it is attached to a gun.
Published: Aug. 30, 2022 at 11:21 AM HST|Updated: Aug. 30, 2022 at 8:32 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Hawaii office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives say they are increasingly recovering devices known as Glock switches.

The size of a quarter, it is illegal to possess — whether or not it is attached to a gun. Just having it can result in a 10-year prison sentence. That’s because the switch or auto sear, as it’s sometimes called, converts a semi-automatic pistol into a fully automatic one.

Special Agent Aaron Joseph said it puts innocent bystanders in danger.

Joseph gave Hawaii News Now an exclusive demonstration at the gun range.

With his service weapon he was able to fire 15 rounds in 4.06 seconds.

When Joseph fired the automatic gun, it took half a second to fire the first five rounds before the gun jammed.

Once he got it working again, the last 10 rounds took 1.04 seconds. That’s 15 rounds in less than 2 seconds.

The device, which is not made by Glock, alters the weapon so dozens of rounds can fire with a single pull of the trigger.

The device also makes the gun unpredictable. When Joseph fired, he starts to fall backwards because the attachment causes the gun to rise.

“It surprised me how out of control it became,” Joseph said. “It’s going to fly over the head of your intended target or targets. It’s going to hit innocent people.”

Agents with Homeland Security Investigations say the devices are often made in China and are sent to Hawaii in the mail.

Agents with HSI are also recovering more of them during search warrants and knock-and-talks.

The items are mostly purchased online, through social media, and cost about $20.

ATF Special Agent in Charge Jonathan McPherson said it’s a growing problem everywhere.

“Through the black market, on the street, through illegal traffickers, there’s not any one way that they’re coming in,” McPherson said.

An altered gun has not been used in any recent crimes in Hawaii, but the feds say it’s only a matter of time given how many are turning up in criminal hands.