Although made by various entities and with various names, the AT-22 has always been a homegrown Colorado gun. It was first made in Boulder, Colorado, then operations moved to Trinidad. Later the design was revived by a new company, America West Industries, LLC, located in Eaton, CO.
The AT-22 is a lightweight .22 semi-auto rifle. It was made with a 20 round magazine, although smaller capacity ones have been offered to markets that prohibit larger capacity magazines, and also during the 1994-2004 Federal assault weapon ban. The magazine itself is very similar in design to the magazine for the Armalite AR7 rifle, although it latches in a different manner on the two guns. The AT-22 has always been offered as a closed bolt firing gun, although its design is similar to guns that were originally designed to be open bolt guns and later had the design was converted to a closed bolt one.
In particular the AT-22 uses a striker held in the cocked position by a sear, with two springs, one to drive the bolt, the other to drive the striker. This separation of the striker and bolt into two parts, together with the use of a sear to hold the striker when cocked, is one way designers changed open bolt guns (either originally full auto or semi-auto) into closed bolt models that satisfied ATF that the design was not too easily converted into a machine gun. I have never seen or heard of an open bolt semi-auto version of this gun, or a registered machine gun version, although it was made before 1986, so theoretically registered machine gun examples (either factory made or conversions) could exist.
As originally made the AT-22 has a 17 inch long barrel and a collapsing stock. The barrel is one inch longer than the 16" minimum required of non-NFA firearms because the overall length of the gun with the stock collapsed falls right at 26 inches with it. This keeps the gun from being considered a short barreled rifle (or a pistol) in states that measure overall length with the stock in its closed position, rather than its open position, as ATF does. The barrel is easily removed, it is held in place with a nut that threads onto the end of the tubular receiver. With the stock collapsed and the barrel removed it makes a compact package for transport. In my experience they are reasonably accurate for plinking purposes, and are reliable and fun to shoot.
Here is a scan of the manual for the AT-22 and Mini-AT pistol.
Feather Enterprises was a sole proprietorship trade name registered in 1979 by Lynn Schick. Feather Enterprises changed its name to Precision Ballistics, Inc. with trade name of Feather Enterprises in 1986.
The company changed its name from Precision Ballistics, Inc. to Feather Industries, Inc. in 1987. They were always located on Central Ave. in Boulder, Colorado, first at 2500 Central Ave., then at 2300 Central Ave., Unit K. Mervin L. Chapman was the president of Feather Industries, Inc.
The very first AT-22 guns were marked "Feather Ent. Boulder CO." on two lines. The brown cardboard box listed the manufacturer as Feather Enterprises. The first AT-22 guns used an M16 pistol grip, made by Lone Star Ordnance, rather than the later proprietary pistol grip. They also had an aluminum channel holding the trigger and sear parts, rather than a plastic one. The serial number was marked on the aluminum channel on these early guns, rather than the aluminum tube that holds the bolt and striker. Finally these guns had sights that were made of metal, rather than the plastic on later guns. Here are pics of Feather Enterprises AT-22, serial number A0270 which has these early features. Presumably it was made in 1985, in the first year of production:
Here are some overall pictures of the rifle. The barrel on it is a later barrel, not correct for this early a gun.
These early guns has the trigger frame part marked with the serial number, and being treated as the receiver, and therefore as the "firearm" for legal purposes. However, after Feather started offering the pistol version of the AT-22 (shown below) ATF became concerned that the upper assembly, which was just being treated as a part, not the "firearm" could be swapped between the pistols and rifles, thereby creating a short barreled rifle, which might not have been registered before the swap was made. To appease ATF, Feather started treating the aluminum tube as the receiver, marking it with the serial number. This mean that the short barreled pistol upper was a separate firearm in itself, and the parts to make the rifle into a short barreled rifle were not being sold as parts, but as a legally regulated firearm. All of this is silly of course, since a hacksaw can turn any of the rifles into a short barreled rifle, albeit one that is less elegant than putting the pistol upper on a should stocked lower. In the years since 1985-86 when this issue arose short barreled upper parts are sold without any issue for firearms such as the AR-15, and the criminally minded can easily make an AR-15 style firearm into an unregistered short barreled rifle quite easily. Of course the secondary effect of this change, making the upper receiver the firearm instead of the lower receiver, is that the upper off an early gun could be combined with the lower off a later gun and create an AT-22 with no serial number at all. Given that no serial numbers were removed, altered or obliterated in making such a Frankenstein gun, I don't see a legal problem with this step either. I would have thought that the danger of making unserialized guns would have outweighed the danger of unregistered short barreled rifles, and thus prompted ATF not to pressure Feather into changing the location of the serial number and which part is the "firearm" legally speaking.
On later production Feather went to a white colored cardboard box. Here are some pictures of an AT-22 rifle, SN A1743, probably made in 1986-87. The barrel shown here is the proper one for the early guns, with the threaded on muzzle attachment, and the steps for a bipod right in front of the muzzle nut. As noted on the manual shown in the pictures, it was made in the Precision Ballistics, Inc., dba Feather Enterprises days:
Here is a scan of the Feather Industries, Inc. 1990 catalog and retail price list:
Feather AT-22 rifles were in made several serial number series:
Axxxx where the x was a number.
Bxxxxx where the x was a number.
MOxxxx and MPxxxx (later AWI guns)
Mini-AT pistols had the serial number MAxxxx
Later on the guns were changed slightly, catches to keep the end caps from unscrewing were added. The bolt had slots milled into it, presumably to provide a place for crud to accumulate, allowing it to fire more shots between cleaning. Here are pictures of a AWI made AT-22, with a trigger group housing with Trinidad, CO markings:
A Feather AT-9 was the murder weapon in a notorious California crime. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dana_Ewell
Neat Feather company promotional video from You Tube
At the end of 1994 or so, Feather moved to 37600 Liberty Drive, Trinidad Colorado, with incentives from the county government to relocate to southern Colorado. The move was poorly timed with the Federal assault weapon ban, which banned Feather's AT-22 and AT-9 rifles as they had been originally configured. In particular their combination of a collapsing stock and a pistol grip was prohibited. The guns were redesigned with a non-collapsing wire stock, but by mid-1996 their main creditor sued them (1:96-cv-01265, U.S. District Court, Colorado) to repossess much if not all of their equipment. Feather Industries, Inc. was defunct at that point.
I believe a California firearms company, Mitchell Arms in Santa Ana, CA bought the assets of Feather and announced plans to make and sell the AT-22, AT-9 and a two shot pistol called the Guardian Angel that Feather had announced, but never really produced. However Mitchell Arms went out of business before any of that happened. I have never seen a Mitchell Arms marked Feather product. Sarco Inc. has a supply of boxes Mitchell had made for the Guardian Angel pistol (they come with a guardian angel charm!) but the pistols themselves were never made beyond prototypes, so far as I know.
A new entity, America West Industries, LLC (AWI) was formed in 1997 by
James L. Malone. They ended up with an inventory of the Trinidad
made AT-22 guns and/or parts. Now located in Eaton, Colorado, AWI
markets a number of neat rifles on the AT-22 and AT-9 design. Their web site
at this time (May 2011).
Here are pictures showing the "pre-ban" style collapsing stock, and the current, post-ban style detachable stock. The bottom stock is the current one; the wire the stock is made out of changes diameter partway, to prevent it from collapsing. Instead it snaps in place on the back, or it can be reversed and stowed in the rifle from the front. The pre-ban style stock will fit on current guns, and is available from AWI as of this writing.
Some pictures of the AT-22 pistol, the fairly rare Mini-AT, made by Feather Industries, Inc. This one has the upper receiver tube serialized as the firearm. Note the different front sight. The barrel will not interchange between this model and the rifle.
Here are pictures of a Feather Enterprises Mini-AT pistol, with an earlier style aluminum trigger frame, and the serial number marked on the trigger frame, not the upper receiver tube:
Production statistics for Feather Enterprises and Feather Industries, Inc., per ATF:
PISTOL PRODUCTION HISTORY
* all in .22 caliber.
RIFLE PRODUCTION HISTORY
Year Number of Rifles
1993 no report made to ATF
According to ATF no further manufacturing reports were filed after 1994.
AWI production stats according to ATF AMFER reports
1998 not listed
1999 one .22 pistol, 18 rifles
2000 188 rifles
2001 196 rifles
2002 250 rifles
2003 288 rifles
2004 not listed
2005 511 rifles
2006 277 rifles
2007 127 rifles
2008 127 rifles
2009 111 rifles