Brace Yourself: More ATF Opinions

Brace Yourself for more ATF Opinions
| April 24, 2017
Categories: Assorted Ramblings

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Brace Yourself: More ATF Opinions

Matt Stagliano

Equi donati dentes non inspiciuntur.

The phrase means, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”

WikiPedia tells us the first known use of the phrase came from St Jerome’s translation of the Letter to the Ephesians (circa AD 400). What do St. Jerome and present-carrying equines have to do with the ATF? Go ahead, ask.

Glad you asked.

The latest statement from the BATFE regarding pistol braces and what constitutes an SBR or SBS has graciously given us the chance to greet a gift-bearing horse with great teeth — so long as no one screws it up.

Back in 2014, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATFE) corresponded with Sergeant Joe Bradley of the Greenwood, CO police department. In response to his seemingly innocent question about using a brace-equipped pistol they stated shouldering a pistol does not cause the firearm to be reclassified as a short barreled rifle (SBR); an extremely rational, common sense approach to Bradley’s inquiry.

But then Hell broke loose when numerous people in the gun community peppered the ATF with ongoing questions about the legalities of brace-equipped AR pistols, and whether or not they constituted an SBR designation under the National Firearms Act.

Like an annoyed parent being questioned by their child “Are we there yet?” just ten minutes into a long road trip, the BATFE reversed its decision by issuing a second letter. In 2015 it”clarified” its previous statements. The fact that they received numerous questions from firearms owners asking them if they could effectively do an end run around the NFA with the use of a pistol brace compeled the BATFE to address the issue. According to this second, much more detailed letter, the BATFE stressed the importance of intent when considering the usage. It also addressed what constitutes “redesign” of the gun.

You know what they did?

This letter caused considerable confusion (and no little justified aggravation) among the already confused shooting community.

OK, so don’t shoulder a brace. Illogical, given their prior stance, but fine. We try to avoid jail time whenever we can so we went with it.

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That brings us to today. Now there is a new letter from BATFE . This one is directed at SB Tactical. It is not an “open letter” to the public, as was released previously, but rather a direct response to a manufacturer. Here is that letter.


The bottom of Page 2  is where the rubber hits the road:

“With respect to stabilizing braces, ATF has concluded that attaching the brace to a handgun as a forearm brace does not “make” a short-barreled rifle because in the configuration as submitted to and approved by FATD, it is not intended to be and cannot comfortably be fired from the shoulder. If, however, the shooter/possessor takes affirmative steps to configure the device for use as a shoulder-stock­ for example, configuring the brace so as to permanently affix it to the end of a buffer tube, (thereby creating a length that has no other purpose than to facilitate its use as a stock), removing the arm-strap, or otherwise undermining its ability to be used as a brace – and then in fact shoots the firearm from the shoulder using the accessory as a shoulder stock, that person has objectively “redesigned” the firearm for purposes of the NFA. This conclusion is not based upon the mere fact that the firearm was fired from the shoulder at some point. Therefore, an NFA firearm has not necessarily been made when the device is not re-configured for use as a shoulder stock – even if the attached firearm happens to be fired from the shoulder.”

We reckon that’s pretty clear language, but WE ARE NOT LAWYERS. Hell, we can barely follow the Shakespearean plot twists of Law & Order Criminal Intent half the time.

Jeff Zimba, also know as Bigshooterist on YouTube will release a video in the morning that highlights all of the major points of this recent letter and his explanation is as common-sense as we’ve seen. Jeff is a long time gun-rights activist in Maine and has a knack for cutting to the chase.

By no means is this letter from the BATFE a resounding victory for gun rights, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. Reading between the lines, we see this as a significant advancement in positioning from BATFE. The road ahead is still long so we’re going to ride this horse as long as we can.

Just don’t go writing them a letter (or fifty) to further clarify this letter, ok?


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  1. Alex Bird

    “Not necessarily” is the same as saying that crashing a motorcycle without a helmet “won’t necessarily” kill you.

  2. Jeff Zimba

    Thanks guys! This is great news. Moving in the right direction is a breath of fresh air. Onward and upward.


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