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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Disclaimer: I posted this in the gun control section, and not politics for a reason. I wanted to share information about a change that may affect SGW members, or someone they know. If you want to talk about who's responsible for this, go right ahead, but I won't participate in those discussions. I'm happy to answer technical questions about the ruling (based only on my reading of the final rule), but I'm not going to engage in conversations about the politics.

If you own a "pistol brace," you may be soon be a felon.

Let's review.

This is an AR-15 pistol. It has an 11.5" barrel, but it does not have a shoulder stock, and is not intended to be fired from the shoulder. It is NOT an NFA weapon, and possession of this firearm does NOT require registration or a $200 NFA tax stamp;




Now, consider this AR-15. Same gun, but it is equipped with an accessory known as a "pistol brace," a device intended to fit around the shooter's forearm to help stabilize the pistol (wink, wink).




Is the second gun still a pistol or is it a short-barrel rifle that requires a $200 NFA tax stamp? Well, since about 2014, that's a question with no clear answer.

Pistols braces initially received ATF approval based on the idea that they would allow a disabled person to fire an AR-15 pistol, like the one shown above. Of course, AR-rifle enthusiasts recognized the pistol brace as a means of skirting NFA rules and essentially obtaining a short-barreled rifle without the bother and expense of applying for a tax stamp. Gun accessory manufacturers quickly began designing braces that made it easier to shoulder the weapon. The ATF was not amused and has been trying to figure out to put the genie back in the bottle ever since.

On Jan. 13, 2023, the ATF issued a "final ruling" on pistol braces. The ruling hasn't actually appeared in the federal register yet, but once it does, owners of firearm with a barrel less than 16 inches long AND a pistol brace will have 120 days to either:
1.) Register the gun as an NFA short barreled rifle within 120 days (the ATF is waiving the $200 fee)
2.) remove the brace
3.) Destroy or surrender the gun

Once the ruling is published no pistol brace-equipped short-barreled guns can be transferred without NFA paperwork. That applies to private (unlicensed) individuals or FFLs. With a <16" barrel and pistol brace, it's a NFA short-barreled rifle and NFA rules apply.

This is a complicated thing and basically one hot mess. But understand this, if you own such a firearm you have three choices:

1.) You can register the gun within 120 days of the ruling being posted. The ATF is waiving the fee. You basically get a free NFA tax stamp. As long as you apply, you can continue to own the pistol braced gun, even if it takes longer than 120 days to get your stamp (which it will). Your receipt will suffice. Once you get the stamp, you can remove the brace and install a real buttstock. It's a short barrel rifle stamp, not a pistol brace stamp so you're good to go replacing the stock. The downside, is that NFA weapons can only be sold to someone who jumps through the hoops to get their own tax stamp. You can't just pass the trash at a gun show or sell the gun to some guy at a bar.

2.) You can simply remove the brace. With an AR-15 you have the option of using either a pistol buffer tube or a carbine type buffer tube (with adjustment notches), so long as you don't install a stock. If the buffer tube is not required for the operation of the gun (an AK-type firearm, for example) you can NOT have a "buffer tube" or anything else extending back from the receiver.

3.) You can dispose of or destroy the gun. If you read the ATF's final ruling, they don't expect people to do this.

If you own a pistol brace equipped gun, you better get up to speed. You're about to become a felon . . . as in $10,000 fine and/or 10 years in prison felon.

Here's where you start your education:

Factoring Criteria for Firearms with Attached “Stabilizing Braces”

Frequently Asked Questions

A deep dive into pistol braces from the ATF (293 pages)
 

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Now, consider this AR-15. Same gun, but it is equipped with an accessory known as a "pistol brace," a device intended to fit around the shooter's forearm to help stabilize the pistol (wink, wink).

I think this style of "brace" has always created an NFA firearms. Manufactures of these braces have just played stupid over the years while pretending it's designed to be strapped to the forearm and the ATF has largely ignored the issue.

Part of the definition of a short barreled rifle involves "a firearm designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder ". Given it's design/appearance and the thousands of videos showing these firearms being fired from the shoulder, no one would ever convince a jury these "braces" were never intended to be fired from the shoulder.

On the other hand, a bump stock has never created a firearm that fit the NFA definition of a machine gun. I believe the most recent court decision on bump stocks came to the same conclusion.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I think this style of "brace" has always created an NFA firearms. Manufactures of these braces have just played stupid over the years while pretending it's designed to be strapped to the forearm and the ATF has largely ignored the issue . . .
I don’t necessarily disagree, but the fact remains there are at least a few hundred thousand Americans who may soon run afoul of the law.

Right or wrong, the legal status of these things is going to change and current owners need to get informed.
 

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The government isn't going to ever say that a pistol grip + a short barrel + brace = a braced pistol.
Far easier to say that it's instead a rifle.

IMO while brace has alway been an ersatz stock, the rest of the firearm remains a pistol. In my opinion this becomes an order issue. If it starts as a pistol, nothing is going to change it to a rifle as long as the barrel isn't lengthened beyond 16 inches, a permanent stock (not brace is added) and the pistol grip remains.

The ATF is working from the opposite direction and working backwards from the finished product, ignoring the genesis of the firearm, it's components, and redefining what a pistol is based on the brace alone.

It sucks but the ATF is doing what they do, which is making sure that rules are made which they can enforce. Maybe they are ensuring they have jobs to do as they get to define the work.

I would be surprised if there isn't a shooting jacket that has a built-in shoulder brace that fits a universal socket on the back of a pistol.
 

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Thanks for clarifying the law. I’ve been asked about it personally and have not really answered. Although I have heard of it I had no specific information. This is an example of changing the rules without a grandfather clause. Very unfortunate.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for clarifying the law. I’ve been asked about it personally and have not really answered. Although I have heard of it I had no specific information. This is an example of changing the rules without a grandfather clause. Very unfortunate.
FWIW, the ATF addresses the grandfather objection on page 262 of the 293-page document.
 

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The government isn't going to ever say that a pistol grip + a short barrel + brace = a braced pistol.
Far easier to say that it's instead a rifle.
I think they would if the brace did not appear to function with the intent to use it on your shoulder and there wasn't a bunch of videos, including marketing videos, that showed people holding it against their shoulder..

I can't find a picture now but I have seen a photo of an old pistol brace that was 2 steel rods coming off the pistol grip and an angle with a large patch of leather between the rods to rest on the top of your forearm. It was very clearly not designed to be put against the shoulder and would probably cause great pain if someone tried.
 

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So a factory firearm for example a Ruger 556 pistol in factory unmodified condition with a pistol brace will be illegal. The original box and 4473 form it was sold as a pistol. Not a SBR.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
So a factory firearm for example a Ruger 556 pistol in factory unmodified condition with a pistol brace will be illegal. The original box and 4473 form it was sold as a pistol. Not a SBR.
Yes.

Once the ruling appears in the federal register, the owner of such a firearm will have 120 days to either register the weapon or remove the brace.

The owner can keep the pistol but not the brace (unless they register it as a SBR).
 

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I've been following it closely. I see this doing nothing but harming the law abiding folks. The paperwork will be an absolute nightmare for anyone wanting to do a form 1. The ATF's eForm 4 they created, to speed up the process, with a goal of 90 day turn around times is running around 300 days at this point. The ATF is a cruel joke and a waste of the taxpayers money.
 

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I own a braced CZ Scorpion. I also own a dozen or so NFA items.....suppressors, SBR's etc.

If the proposed ruling goes to the Federal Register, I'll go ahead and get my free NFA stamp and throw a sliding stock on it.
 

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The Thompson Center ruling basically covers the pistol brace ban as long as it’s not actually assembled. In other words you can possess rifle and pistol barrels as well as stocks and pistol grips that all fit the same receiver. They just can’t be assembled in an illegal fashion.
 

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The Thompson Center ruling basically covers the pistol brace ban as long as it’s not actually assembled. In other words you can possess rifle and pistol barrels as well as stocks and pistol grips that all fit the same receiver. They just can’t be assembled in an illegal fashion.
Yes and no...you're missing the "constructive possession" part of the law
 

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Putting something in the Federal Register does not magically make it a law and no one is criminally charged with violations of the Federal Register. The Federal Register contains both laws and Executive Branch rules/policy that is not the law.

The National Firearms Act defines a rifle as "a firearm designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder". Modern braces are clearly intended to be multiple use and one of those intended uses is to fire it from the shoulder. A firearm that is remade and intended to be fired from shoulder and has a barrel of less than 16 inches is an NFA short barreled rifle and it always has been.

The National Firearms Act has been in the Federal Register for many years and the ATF and Justice Department needs nothing else to enforce that law. Even though they may publish a clarified intent to enforce a law; there is no requirement that they do so.

I believe nothing in the NFA ever solved a problem and it should be repealed. However, the recent trend of adding "braces" to pistols has always made them NFA short barreled rifles. Until now, the ATF just looked the other way.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Putting something in the Federal Register does not magically make it a law and no one is criminally charged with violations of the Federal Register. The Federal Register contains both laws and Executive Branch rules/policy that is not the law.

The National Firearms Act defines a rifle as "a firearm designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder". Modern braces are clearly intended to be multiple use and one of those intended uses is to fire it from the shoulder. A firearm that is remade and intended to be fired from shoulder and has a barrel of less than 16 inches is an NFA short barreled rifle and it always has been.

The National Firearms Act has been in the Federal Register for many years and the ATF and Justice Department needs nothing else to enforce that law. Even though they may publish a clarified intent to enforce a law; there is no requirement that they do so.

I believe nothing in the NFA ever solved a problem and it should be repealed. However, the recent trend of adding "braces" to pistols has always made them NFA short barreled rifles. Until now, the ATF just looked the other way.

True, but now owners of braces are on notice. And more importantly perhaps, the clock is now ticking on the 120-window to register the things.

And, FWIW, the ruling HAS been posted.
 
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