ATF Clarifies Legality of AR Pistol Arm Brace Use

By Dean Weingarten

SIG ad from 2013
Dean Weingarten
Dean Weingarten

Arizona – -(Ammoland.com)- 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.

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    Darbus Yelling
    Guest
    Darbus Yelling

    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,… Read more »

    Wild Bill
    Guest
    Wild Bill

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

    Sheepdog
    Guest
    Sheepdog

    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… Read more »

    JL
    Guest
    JL

    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… Read more »

    Repo
    Guest
    Repo

    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… Read more »

    Mike
    Guest
    Mike

    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

    JP
    Guest
    JP

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

    Mike
    Guest
    Mike

    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.

    dj
    Guest
    dj

    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… Read more »

    NailDriver
    Guest
    NailDriver

    @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.

    oldvet
    Guest
    oldvet

    @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.

    BJI
    Guest
    BJI

    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?

    oldvet
    Guest
    oldvet

    @ 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.

    Mike
    Guest
    Mike

    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

    BJI
    Guest
    BJI

    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?

    oldvet
    Guest
    oldvet

    @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.

    Produceguy
    Guest
    Produceguy

    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.

    Mike
    Guest
    Mike

    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.

    Mike
    Guest
    Mike

    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.

    dj
    Guest
    dj

    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……..

    Produceguy
    Guest
    Produceguy

    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.

    Hank
    Guest
    Hank

    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..

    Mark Are
    Guest
    Mark Are

    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… Read more »

    oldvet
    Guest
    oldvet

    @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.

    jay
    Guest
    jay

    hose and sent when geen tip ammo was ban told atf they had no athrory to make laws or policy but here we are again, worst yeat fbi resonsable for all the mass shootings all provent trump from changeing the gun laws, i would counsider that ack of war on this country, i dont know if any of u kwow this when jfk was shot 4 people was arested and tryed for war agest this country and they was shot, the atf clames that no person has 2ed admement rights as non has miltatary class guns, is not these words… Read more »

    BJI
    Guest
    BJI

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

    JAMES
    Guest
    JAMES

    vote atf out the state, also state that any atf that stays in said state would be charge with trason, there is 3 parts constution one says we may close any brach of goverment that poses a threat, two we allreay have right to from state milatery with milatery guns, this law being hidden and can be found no where on internet throw it is there, 3ed atf commited treason when they stated that no person has right to own guns as they do not meet the 2ed admement requirements that none are milatery grade, in there own words they… Read more »

    MiamiNice57
    Guest
    MiamiNice57

    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!!!

    jay
    Guest
    jay

    depends on state, and if u can prove when you got them, you just cant state the fack of when u got them, i would consult a lawyer, atf sent me letter even lawyer said was so poorly writen that it made no sence, what atf dose not understand the such pooly writen letters can be used agest them, i dont understand why some laws being hidden from us, some even remove from internet all togather, this is bigger the atf but nsa as well, or fbi, but we the people are the law, not the goverment, but to ack… Read more »

    Mark Are
    Guest
    Mark Are

    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… Read more »

    Bob M.
    Guest
    Bob M.

    Here’s all the clarification that is needed:

    SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED.

    Mark Are
    Guest
    Mark Are

    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… Read more »

    NailDriver
    Guest
    NailDriver

    @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.

    Msteait
    Guest
    Msteait

    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.

    Kerry W Fleenor
    Guest
    Kerry W Fleenor

    NailDriver, While you are entitled to your opinion so is Mark. His opinion just happens to be backed by events which have already occurred thus making his point very valid. You, on the other hand, have made several comments regarding what people don’t need or shouldn’t have and those comments don’t apply to the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment was intended to protect the people from another attempt by their government to enslave them. As such it deliberately did not limit you to single shot muskets which were the predominant weapon of the time but allowed you to be armed… Read more »

    E F Godfrey
    Guest
    E F Godfrey

    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

    dj
    Guest
    dj

    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… Read more »

    MiamiNice57
    Guest
    MiamiNice57

    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.

    Mike
    Guest
    Mike

    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.

    jay
    Guest
    jay

    i have two sbr, bouth leagle, i had a person from gulf war come ask quistons i built them with top parts, was nothing left to chance his words, this person was train sniper, 15 + years, i think would say he is a expert, he said ” i would not own one, first ammo is to heavy for size of barrle, he used 50 cal 20 inch gun, he siad for home defence fine, target dear hunting anything over 50 yeads u need be well train over 100 yeards u need be very well train, he siad something else… Read more »

    Dam
    Guest
    Dam

    Now, clearify for me ! Is it or is it not illegal to use a brace against the cheek? I’m still confused!

    Bob M.
    Guest
    Bob M.

    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.

    MiamiNice57
    Guest
    MiamiNice57

    Seems a light touch to the shoulder we are waiting with baited breath for the analysis

    Mike
    Guest
    Mike

    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.

    Mike
    Guest
    Mike

    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… Read more »

    L.G.
    Guest
    L.G.

    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!

    MiamiNice57
    Guest
    MiamiNice57

    Hopefully soon!!!

    Cal
    Guest
    Cal

    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.

    Wild Bill
    Guest
    Wild Bill

    @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.

    Hank
    Guest
    Hank

    Yeah, like all ATF “decisions” subject to change with little reason or notice. Buyers beware.

    MiamiNice57
    Guest
    MiamiNice57

    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.

    Jim
    Guest
    Jim

    This was exactly my thought as well.
    My suggestion is to fill out the survey to reorganize the executive branch, and recommend getting rid of the ATF.
    https://www.whitehouse.gov/reorganizing-the-executive-branch