ATF Clarifies Legality of AR Pistol Arm Brace Use

By Dean Weingarten

SIG ad from 2013
Dean Weingarten
Dean Weingarten

Arizona – -( Late in 2012, the ATF approved of a device that fit on the buffer tube of AR-15 style pistols. It made one handed shooting of these firearms much easier, and hence more accurate.

(see what ar15 braces also made our list of best AR 15 stock kits in this related article )

The SB15 was invented by a disabled veteran, Alex Bosco. He quickly sold the rights to produce the arm brace to Sig Sauer.

As you can see, the device can also be used as a very short stock for the AR-15 pistol, even though that is not what it is designed for.  Many people have put the brace to this use, as it is much easier to purchase AR-15 pistols and a brace than it is to go through all the bureaucratic and bizarre requirements to obtain a legal short barreled rifle (SBR) or short barreled shotgun (SBS). The legal restrictions on SBS and SBR firearms never made any sense. They only made sense if the federal government put the same restriction on handguns, as FDR attempted to do in 1934. That attempt failed, due in large part because of lobbying by the NRA.

In 2015, the ATF issued an open letter claiming that using the arm brace as a shoulder stock was a “redesign” of the pistol as an SBR.

The pistol stabilizing brace was neither “designed” nor approved to be used as a shoulder stock, and therefore use as a shoulder stock constitutes a “redesign” of the device because a possessor has changed the very function of the item. Any individual letters stating otherwise are contrary to the plain language of the NFA, misapply Federal law, and are hereby revoked.

Any person who intends to use a handgun stabilizing brace as a shoulder stock on a pistol (having a rifled barrel under 16 inches in length or a smooth bore firearm with a barrel under 18 inches in length) must first file an ATF Form 1 and pay the applicable tax because the resulting firearm will be subject to all provisions of the NFA.

The letter is an egregious stretch of the definition of “redesign” and is virtually unenforceable.  Now that the ATF is part of the Trump administration, things have changed. The first substantial hint was a white paper by BATFE second in command, Ronald B. Turk, dated the day of President Trump's inauguration, January 20th, 2017. The paper was leaked to the Washington Post.

In the paper, Mr. Turk indicated that the ATF would be open to removing the “redesign” language form the open letter. From the white paper:

… ATF could amend the determination letter to remove the language indicating that simple use of a product for a purpose other than intended by the manufacturer – without additional proof or redesign – may result in re-classification as an NFA weapon.

SB tactical has now reported the ATF has reversed the position of the 2015 open letter, as suggested in Mr. Turk's leaked white paper. From SB-Tactical:

Sig Sauer Pistol Brace at 2014 Shot Show
Sig Sauer Pistol Brace at 2014 Shot Show

SB Tactical™, inventors and manufacturers of the Pistol Stabilizing Brace®, is excited to announce that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE) has issued SB Tactical a reversal letter containing a sensible clarification of the Bureau’s position on the lawful use of SB Tactical braces.

The new clarification of opinion letter states, “an NFA firearm has not necessarily been made when the device is not reconfigured for use as a shoulder stock – even if the attached firearm happens to be fired from the shoulder. To the extent that the January 2015 Open Letter implied or has been construed to hold that incidental, sporadic, or situational “use” of an arm-brace (in its original approved configuration) equipped firearm from a firing position at or near the shoulder was sufficient to constitute “redesign,” such interpretations are incorrect and not consistent with ATF’s interpretation of the statute or the manner in which it has historically been enforced.”

SB Tactical, along with the law offices of Mark Barnes & Associates, have worked tirelessly for more than two years to correct what they believed to be an inaccurate interpretation of “redesign,” related to the Pistol Stabilizing Brace. “It has always been our belief that the addition of our Pistol Stabilizing Brace benefits shooters, both disabled and able-bodied, and that neither strapping it to your arm nor shouldering a brace equipped pistol would constitute ‘redesign’ of a pistol to a NFA firearm”, said Alex Bosco, inventor, founder and CEO of SB Tactical. “We are strongly encouraged by the ATF’s reversal of opinion and commend their willingness to continually review policy, including their own opinions, to ensure public safety and the fulfillment of their mission.”

There is no logical reason for SBS or SBR firearms to be regulated or restricted any more than handguns and pistols are. This change in interpretation by the ATF makes that abundantly clear. It seems likely the Trump administration will be able to make major reforms in the National Firearms Act.

Removing silencers, SBR and SBS firearms from the cumbersome and expensive bureaucratic controls of the NFA would be a logical and long overdue reform.

It fits well with the Trump agenda of protecting Second Amendment rights and reducing burdensome regulations.

Sig Sauer SBX Pistol Stabilizing Brace
Sig Sauer SBX Pistol Stabilizing Brace

©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.

Link to Gun Watch

About Dean Weingarten;

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

  • 47 thoughts on “ATF Clarifies Legality of AR Pistol Arm Brace Use

    1. These wrist-assist stocks are a sham. It is a rifle stock, nothing more and nothing less. The usual cast of local crackpots and wanna-be’s are carrying these as their concealed carry weapons under many state carry permit laws. Let people have any stock they want without regulation but don’t allow carrying of a short-barreled rifle like this loaded on your person, in a backpack, in your car, in a mall etc.
      This is a rifle, and as such has a much longer effective range, a cartridge that will defeat any body armor short of plates, has a 30+ round capacity, and the nature of being able to be reloaded over and over rapidly. Allowing carry of these is a danger to the public and the ability of law-enforcement to counter. It is a sham. They are rifles, assault rifles.

      1. @DaYelling, So, getting by the “allowing” part for the sake of finding out what is on your mind, what is your point?

      2. Dumbass Yelling,
        Jeez, this is a “we love guns and the 2nd amendment” related site for goodness sake! Those who frequent this site actually understand the need for superior firepower when faced with the same. It’s pathetic we are forced to “go around” government regulations in order to keep ourselves safe from those who would victimize us! Make your worthless, foolish and stupid liberal observations on some other “I’m a clueless victim” forum. Guns, knives, trucks and any other “weapon” don’t kill unless they are manipulated to do so by some media-seeking maniac! Criminals will always get the tools they need to accomplish their dilusional goals! End gun control in every respect… it simply doesn’t work!! Allow every law-abiding American to possess and carry a fully functional SBR and let’s see how successful these mentally deranged cowards become! Your wish to disadvantage law abiding citizens shows how utterly clueless you really are! Seriously, shut the fuck up “dumbass yelling”!

    2. if you own 2-3 ARs and had purchased a short barreled upper (8, 10, OR 14) and assembled a pistol lower and declared as pistol or even bought a sig brace – all purchased legally of course…

      the “intent” to slap your short barrel upper in your rifle stock is there.
      who are you kidding ? the cops or atf will simply say, “prove it to the judge”.
      3-6 months later is when your court date will be scheduled.
      you might end up in jail if it wont go to your favor.
      you “might” get jail time for a day or so while getting bail.
      needless to say, harm is already done.

    3. They saw the can of worms they opened with their redesign theory. If you could turn a pistol into an SBR by shouldering an arm brace then the opposite would have to be true that an actual SBR is not one as long as the stock is not placed against your shoulder. You could expand that logic into hundreds of other firearm related issues if they continued with use equals redesign. Its not a automatic weapon if i never use the giggle switch or its not a high capacity mag if i only put 10 rounds in it or its not a silencer if its not attached to a gun its a metal tube..

      1. Retractable and fixed stocks on a pistol will classify it as a sbr if barrel is less then 16in. There are 8 different pistol style stocks on the market right now. But only the SB tactical company took it up with ATF. So ONLY the SB tacical brace is legal to shoot from a shoulder

    4. So, is there any indication that this decision will be used for other similar products like the shockwave blade or the sig brace?

      1. I got a letter back from atf. Saying my ar pistol with shockwave blade is not considered a disabled device. Simply because shock wave doesn’t want to deal with it. Only the SB Tactical brace is legal to shoot from the shoulder. At least that’s what atf says as of June 3 2017.

    5. The reason that the ATFE is all luvy duvy started with the election of Trump. And which way the wind was blowing to get upwind of that stinking skunk that Yomamma left behind. Witness the early momentum that had all the 2nd Amendment supporters all giddy that is now falling flat and dying on the vine….
      And like any bureacuracy trying to escape a thinning of the fat and excess of years gone by without scruitny or accountability, the white paper that was “leaked” proposed just that. Really chummy. Reasonableness and moderation. Survival. Just like one of the “good ole boys”club in Congress. The retraction of the silly brace regulations is very small potatoes. But just that. Small potatoes.
      The words that ANY gubmit bureaucrat fears is “budget cut”. That is why the green tip ban was quietly YANKED by director jones after Culberson as head of the Appropriations committee told him so in a closed door meeting.
      The real battles are never engaged or fought, much less won. And our literal war to regain out LOST Rights is being lost day by passing day!!! And waiting around. And around. And the definition of insanity is…….
      If we demand REAL change, put the Hearing Protection ACT up in the Senate. Even if it FAILS. There will be a MAJOR cause for pause when those that voted against it go home to face those highly pissed and motivated AGAIN Trump voters. And some are bound to lose. After that, the sky is the limit once the Senate is free of a few more of those traitorous democraps.
      Hopefully, I wouldn’t have to look at Schmuk Shummmers ugly mug then but that is a really loooong shot for sure………

      1. @dj ‘our literal war to regain out LOST Rights is being lost day by passing day!!!’

        Pretty sure that that neither the Founding Fathers, the Second Amendment, nor God have granted you as a human the god-given right to Full Motherfucking Auto!!1!!. Dude, get over this stupid conflict-oriented mentality.
        Full Auto is fun, but ultimately it’s an unnecessary suppressive-fire technique which can be done just fine with Semi and your finger. Spray and pray is a sacrificial cow argument for those who can’t shoot accurately.

    6. @BJI the lower is where the serial number is that is why it has to go to an FFL dealer. You will be ok unless some squirrely law where you live.

      1. Thanks, ov. But could the ATF claim, because the pistol upper came to my house, that I intended to use it on one of my AR rifle lowers to make a short-barreled rifle? Would the fact that I ordered the pistol lower be enough to answer the ATF claim WITHOUT all those legal fees that result from a trial?

        1. @ BJI You never want to put a rifle stock on a short barrel, that’s when it would become illegal, you shouldn’t have any problem unless you suspect the feds are keeping an eye on you or someone would turn you in. But you are small potatoes, unless there is something you are not telling.

        2. INTENT !!! if you do not intend to use the pistol upper on a rifle lower. Don’t have the near each other. That can be seen as intent to use it as a sbr. Not matter what in making Rifle or pistol. I don’t intend to make a sbr so I always have a spare lower with pistol tube attached. If you have a 10.5in upper next to or in the same safe as as ar rifle then atf can claim intention to make a sbr. Just keep it separate until you have a pistol lower. X

    7. I have a question:
      I own AR rifles. If I buy, on-line, an AR pistol upper and a SEPARATE AR pistol lower and the upper is shipped to my home but the lower must be shipped to a dealer will I be in violation if the upper is delivered before the lower?
      OR, to be legal, must I receive both upper and lower from my FFL dealer?

      1. @BJI there shouldn’t be any reason for the supplier sending your upper to notify the gov. Since the AR is component built the lower with the serial is really the only piece that can be traced.

      2. They way I understand it is, if you purchase a complete pistol you can not use that lower on another upper, it has to stay complete because now that lower is registered as a pistol . You can however buy a lower and now it is just registered as a lower and then buy a pistol upper and complete the build and then use that lower on any other upper .
        Are you making a sbr or a pistol? Look up what makes them diffrent, stocks and grips. If your making a pistol make sure you know the difference.

        1. FYI You Can use any length barrel on a pistol. 4in to 25in does not change it from a pistol. Only the stock and forend have to remain as pistol configuration. I make my own lowers from 80% kits and can change it to rifle one day and pistol the next. But cannot mix the rifle stocks or vertical forend grip to the pistol style.

      3. No you will not be breaking any laws. Unless you have it on or near a Rifle lower. Then it’s a sbr and regulated by NFA. Just keep then separate until your pistol lower is in your hands. I buy 10.5 to 14.5 all the time when I see them on sale. I make my own lowers with no ser# from the 80% kits. And can make it a pistol one day then 5 min of work to change it to a rifle. Just don’t mix the stocks.

    8. At Miami Nice57,
      Well, Silencer Shop was sending TRAINLOADS of apps off just before 41F. I ‘m pretty confident that my application is lost in that tidal wave of applications before the cutoff of July 13th. But still the absurdity of this humongus wait begs reform never the less………..we shall see……..

    9. It’s a good step in the right direction for sure.
      These laws are so crazy. Here in Az. Open carry, conceal carry is fine. But you better not have any nunchucks on you or your going to jail. I guess they don’t want you to hurt anybody with nunchucks.

    10. Let’s be honest on two points. What non-handicapped person really wants to strap a gun to their forearm? It would be a tactical liability.

      And, the fact is the rule was unenforceable To get caught an ATF agent would have to witness you shouldering the gun. Even then your lawyer would say he was mistaken. Yes, you raised the gun to eye level and the arm brace was close to your shoulder, but not actually in contact..

      1. I am left eye dominant and when I pick up an AR pistol with an arm brace it simply does not work. I can’t twist my hand to get the thing in front of my left eye. And now I’ve go a cataract growing in my right eye so I actually have to shoot my rifles left handed too. To have a law enforcement agency you HAVE to have laws to enforce NO MATTER HOW FOOLISH OR MORONIC they may be! And you can justify your job by saying “I’m just doing my job”, not matter HOW FOOLISH OR MORONIC the law is you are enforcing. A 15 year old boy and his mother was MURDERED because the father committed the “heinous” act (That’s what a felony is you know, something that is HEINOUS) of cutting a shot gun barrel off with a hack saw. And SOMEONE enforcing that “law” shot his boy in the back and his wife in the head. MAKES SENSE IF YOU ARE A PSYCHOPATH maybe. But us normal people think THIS HAS GOT TO STOP and these “laws’ need to go away. And you enforcers can get a job at Mickey D’s flipping hamburgers for all I give a crap.

        1. @Mark when I was just learning to shoot my dad told me if I could shoot right handed I could shoot left handed. Since he was my dad I believed him. That includes Archery, At our age now it may take more practice but try it. Unfortunately I to am developing a cataract in my right eye my preferred side.

      2. Yes, Hank, you would ultimately be acquitted. HOWEVER, how many THOUSANDS or TENS OF THOUSANDS of $s would it cost you in legal fees?

    11. Yippee!!!!
      Now that I have multiple stamps what heck do I do with all the lowers that were purchased prior to this reversal? Will they be grandfathered?
      Mind you they are awaiting my magic touch of creation locked in a safe all dark and lonely.
      Now if we can do something about the RDIAS.
      Now that would be a hoot!!!

    12. The brace was at least as much of a redesign in the first place as a vertical grip on the same pistol. It’s “ok” to have an angled grip but a vertical one redesigns the pistol into an “any other weapon”. I think that an IQ test needs to be administered to anyone working for the ATF and it needs to be at least 120 to qualify as an agent. AND a common sense test needs to be administered to EVERYONE in the government. If they fail, castrate them so that they will quit reproducing IDIOTS. It is easier for me to conceal a 8″ Desert Eagle then a 10″ AR 15. And the 50 AE Desert Eagle at close range will do a LOT more damage then the AR in 5.56. Now in 50 Beowulf…that’s a different animal. Actually ALL of the NFA needs to go away. The founding fathers wanted the average person to be able to be armed with whatever they could carry so that as a militia member they would be a formidable foe. SO…I want a Stinger missile in my garage just in case the psychos “in control” want to send an Apache after me, or attack my neighborhood church, or maybe a neighbor who cut off a shotgun too short..

      1. In case you didn’t notice there is the NEW Second Amendment of the amended US Bill of Rights… (sorry, we no longer follow “proper procedure” for amending these pain in the ass listed rights)
        A well regulated militia being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed EXCEPT:
        You are buying the firearms for yourself.
        EXCEPT: you are under indictment or information for a felony for which the judge could imprison you for more then one year.
        EXCEPT: you have been convicted of a felony or any other crime for which the judge could have imprisoned you for more then one year, even if you received a shorter sentence including probation.
        EXCEPT: you are a fugitive from “justice”
        EXCEPT: you are an “unlawful” user of or addicted to marijuana or any depressant,stimulant, narcotic drug or any other controlled substance.
        EXCEPT: you have ever been “adjudicated” mentally defective or you have ever been committed to a mental institution.
        EXCEPT: you were dishonorably discharged from the armed forces.
        EXCEPT: you are subject to a restraining order restraining you from harassing, stalking or threatening your child or an intimate partner or child of such partner.
        EXCEPT: you have been convicted in a court of a MISDEMEANOR crime of domestic violence.
        EXCEPT: you have ever renounced your “United States” citizenship
        EXCEPT: you are an illegal alien
        EXCEPT: the firearm fires more then one round with the pull of the trigger
        EXCEPT: the firearms doesn’t have a vertical grip attached if it is a pistol
        EXCEPT: the barrel on a shotgun is not shorter then 18″
        EXCEPT: for sound suppressors
        EXCEPT: the rifle has a barrel no shorter then 16″. (It used to be 18″, but we accidentally sold some 16″ carbines to the public so we had to fix this and so we shortened the length to 16″ to cover our screw up.)
        EXCEPT: if it is a pistol there is no shoulder stock attached.
        EXCEPT: that you store it in a locked container so that you cannot gain access easily (Massachusettes)
        EXCEPT EXCEPT EXCEPT…stay tuned for updated version. We the psychopaths who own you have now concluded that this new 2nd amendment is in force and effect and that you have no rights guaranteed by ANYTHING UNLESS you are in the “big club” which of course you are NOT. So screw your rights. We are in control of your television set, your phone, your computer, your air, your water and especially your pretend rights. Oh, and by the way, just in case you are wondering…we have ENFORCERS for this who are willing to shoot your children in the back, your wife in the head, burn down your church with 17 children inside just in case you think we are kidding.
        One other thing…none of these exceptions apply to us. We are allowed to have whatever we want to kill you and maim you any time we want for whatever excuse we want. Just take a look at some of the wonderful things WE get to have by looking up Dillon Aero on YouTube.

        1. @Mark Are Wow. You are really unhinged. Everyone must be after you. You should put on your tinfoil hat and head to the bunker to hide. The rest of us have shit to do, which doesn’t involve epic whining.

          1. You sir are a pussy.. mark is just pointing out the obvious by referring to actual events. Guess you dont think it can happen to you.

    13. Cal,
      Your statement of “only (sane) choice.” struck a cord. Many of us face degrees of difficulty to even have a choice in these times. I have lived my entire life in Massachusetts and have much experience in that respect.

      Thankfully we are beginning to see some restoration of balance and sanity on the Supreme Court and within the regulatory agencies. The Court alone may not save our Constitutional rights, but it sure could destroy them.
      We all need to speak up directly to our elected officials, and political correctness be damned!!!

      Earl G

    14. Could anyone provide those elusive crime statistics for the SBRs, SBSs and the rationale, logic and reasoning that they are required to be registered as NFA? Why is shorter length a damning qualifying characteristic of registration? Why are they not included in some way with the Hearing Protection Act to eliminate them in addition to cans from the NFA registry? (crickets)
      Also, been waiting on a stamp for my big momma AAC QD Titanium can that is 338 Lapua rated (only 20 ounces!) that was initially purchased on June 6th, 2016 for $ 1435.00. Mostly going to a YEAR wait in just over a month and I already own 4 others already on my schedule A so I’m NOT a newbie when the examiner reviews my latest application AGAIN and again. Why this intolerable, indefensible AGGRAVATING delay. I can go to my dealer and touch it, hold it, caress it, slobber all over it, dream about it but NOT take it home. YET!!!! Another stamp and Christmas all over again in April, May or June????
      Well, in regards to the Hearing Protection Act, I have both my sinaturs and rep (finally!!!!) on board as sponsors. What about yours?

      1. Have you checked your application online? Also check with dealer that sold it to you. They may have misplaced a rejection letter for some missing punctuation.
        Not a newbie either and that happened to me.

      2. Because Capones men were using Short barreled rifle stocked 1928 Thompson machine guns in cars for drive bys. Before that you could order then thru the mail shipped right to your house. Proof that bad guys mess everything up for good people.

      1. A government that can tell you not to put an object next to your cheek is a government that can do as it pleases and a government that should be summarily ignored.

      2. Yes you can use a folding buffer tube with the SB tactical brace. I have two different style AR pistol braces and they are NOT approved for shoulder use. There for would redesign the pistol to a SBR just by shooting it from a shoulder position. It does sound like we are making head way though. Maybe soon we will be able to buy a sbr with suppressed soon without the paperwork. And 9 month wait.

      3. YES it has always been legal to hold it to your cheek hip gut thigh forearm head mouth and crotch. Same as the Shockwave blade and such. But not to your shoulder. Most pistol braces are hard or solid. And are not legalc to be shot from the shoulder. Found that out at a open range in AZ. A ranger tried to take it. I told him to call ATF because he is not touching it. After a few hours he got a call and sped off. Ignorant cops could make it hard on you. So keep paperwork with the gun. The ranger called it a sbr. Witch was wrong it’s a pistol. I think the main beef was I made the lower from a 80% lower with no ser#. And typical uninformed people don’t know it’s perfectly legal to own one in AZ.

    15. Interesting. Wonder if I can now use a folding stock with my Rock River LAR-PDS Pistol? RRA states their kit is “ONLY for use in converting legally registered LAR-PDS pistols to stocked SBRs, and a copy of the Form 1 registration is required to complete the purchase.” When are they gonna make this stuff simple!?! MAGA!

    16. Wow, a common sense opinion from the ATF. Did I just hear the shifting of tectonic plates?!

      Trump was not my first choice for President but on November 8 , 2016, he was my only (sane) choice.

      1. @Cal, Yes, that is exactly what is happening. The BATFE is terrified of being down sized or eliminated under the Trump administration. BATFE is trying to look as reasonable as possible.

        1. In deed.
          The ATF Giveth and Taketh away!
          That’s been the history of the ATF one outrage away from total dictatorship of the 2nd admenment.

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