ATF Rescinds Prior Methods To Measure A Firearm’s Overall Length w/ Brace

Opinion by Adam Kraut, Esq.

AR Style Pistol with Stabilizing Brace
AR Style Pistol with Stabilizing Brace

USA – -( Recently, I received an email from an individual containing a letter from ATF which was a response to a correspondence requesting the correct method to “measure a firearm with a ‘stabilizing brace’ and folding adaptor.” It was explained that the correspondence was sent in the form of an email over a year ago and that the person had received a response via email shortly after it was sent. This letter was unsolicited and came over a year after the original request and response.

ATF folded brace Letter 2019

In the letter, ATF states that “[Firearms Technology Industry Services Branch] FTISB has previously determined that ‘stabilizing braces’ may be assembled on firearms as accessories…In contrast to stocks on rifles or shotguns…’stabilizing braces’ are merely accessories and not relevant to the classification of a ‘pistol’ under the statutory definition. That is, a folding stock on a rifle or shotgun is included in overall length measurements because the firearm must be ‘designed or redesigned….and intended to be fired from the shoulder‘ to be so classified. The stock is, therefore, an essential element in the statutory definition.”

Based on the letter, ATF is taking the position that because a stabilizing brace is not an integral part of the firearm, it is not relevant to the overall length measurement. Why does this matter?

A number of individuals have been building AR pistols or other similar pistols that have utilized a stabilizing brace. Some have opted to add a vertical foregrip. However, based on this interpretation, those people may find that they have manufactured an “AOW”, which is subject to the restrictions of the National Firearms Act (“NFA”).

To fully understand, it is important to look at the definitions. The term “any other weapon” is defined to include

…any weapon or device capable of being concealed on the person from which a shot can be discharged through the energy of an explosive…Such term shall not include a pistol or a revolver having a rifled bore… (emphasis added).

The term pistol is defined as

A weapon originally designed, made, and intended to fire a projectile (bullet) from one or more barrels when held in one hand… (emphasis added).

ATF has taken the position that once a vertical foregrip has been added to a firearm; it is no longer designed to be fired when held in one hand, removing it from the definition of a pistol, even though ATF previously lost this argument before the Ninth Circuit in U.S. v. Fix, 4 Fed. Appx. 324 (9th Cir. 2001).

Further, ATF has consistently held that the overall length of 26 inches is the breaking point for concealability. Put another way, if the firearm has an overall length of less than 26 inches, it places it into a category of arms that could be considered to be regulated by the NFA depending on their other characteristics. If it has an overall length greater than 26 inches, it could remove it from those class of firearms, again, depending on their characteristics.

AR Style Pistol with Stabilizing Brace Held in One Hand
AR Style Pistol with Stabilizing Brace Held in One Hand

For this particular example, if the pistol has an overall length greater than 26 inches, it is not generally considered concealable for the purposes of the AOW definition (if there was evidence that it were concealed by a person, it could still be considered an AOW). By adding a foregrip to it (per ATF’s current position), it becomes a “firearm” since it is no longer designed to be fired when held in one hand. If the overall length was less than 26 inches, and a foregrip were added, it would be classified as an AOW.

In its letter, ATF specifies that

[m]akers also create an artificial overall length measurement by attaching a folding stabilizing brace. Such a measurement would be problematic because the firearm could avoid classification as an “AOW,” yet retain the conceivability and remain fully functional. Measuring a folding (or telescoping) stabilizing brace would therefore undermine the comprehensive statutory and regulatory design of the GCA and NFA.…The measurement of a folding or collapsible stabilizing brace in the overall length of a firearm creates an artificial overall length that would permit a maker to avoid classification as an NFA “firearm” without a viable design purpose or legal justification.

It goes on to say that even stationary braces cannot be included in the overall length measurement, but the receiver extension can be.

Based on this letter, it is safe to say that ATF is taking the position that firearms equipped with stabilizing braces need to have their overall length measured with the brace folded or to the end of the receiver extension if the brace is stationary and non-adjustable. Adding a vertical foregrip to a firearm that has an overall length of less than 26 inches results in the making of an AOW, which is subject to the National Firearms Act.

If you or someone you know has questions regarding the measuring of a firearm with a stabilizing brace, contact Firearms Industry Consulting Group today to discuss YOUR rights and legal options.

Firearms Industry Consulting Group® (FICG®) is a registered trademark and division of Civil Rights Defense Firm, P.C., with rights and permissions granted to Prince Law Offices, P.C. to use in this article.


Adam Kraut
Adam Kraut

Adam Kraut was born and raised in Chester County, PA. Active in scouting since kindergarten, Adam achieved the rank of Eagle Scout in 2004. After graduating high school, Adam attended SUNY Binghamton where he graduated in 2009 with a major in Political Science concentrating in politics and law. After taking a year away from academics, Adam attended Widener Law School at night while maintaining a day job and graduated in 2014. Adam is an avid firearms enthusiast, whose love for firearms began in Boy Scouts at Camp Horseshoe. Adam’s experience in the firearms industry as the general manager of a Federal Firearms Licensee, who is a Class 3 dealer, gives him a working knowledge of the challenges the industry, licensees and individuals face on a daily basis. Having worked with industry leaders, individual licensees and individuals both from behind the counter and in a legal context, Adam is in a unique position to give advice with insight others may not have. In addition to being active in the courtroom, Adam is politically active to ensure that the Second Amendment rights of future generations continue to be protected. He is the host of The Gun Collective‘s show, The Legal Brief, where he dispels the various legal myths and misinformation in the gun world. In his free time, Adam volunteers with his old Boy Scout troop, cranks out ammunition behind the reloading press, can be found at the range training, enjoys hiking through the woods and cares for his small pack of dogs.

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Personally I am not a fan of bumpstocks or AR pistols but to each his own. I am not sure that writing to the alphabet agency in charge of guns is a smart thing to do. The old saying why kick a sleeping dog comes to mind. If you get them to thinking about guns they might change the rules on you midstream or you give them a reason to look at the laws they have already made. (unlawfully). They are congress way of getting these laws passed without citizens getting mad at their congresspeople.


“First they came for the Jews and I did nothing because I was not Jewish…”


Remember bumpstocks? Yea, this is why that was an important issue. AR pistols could be “reclassified” on a whim. Same with “birds-head” grip equipped firearms such as the Mossberg Shockwave. All those who said, ” I don’t own a bumpstock so it doesn’t matter to me” were shortsighted fools.

Ej harbet

Can o worms not just opened but fired out of a 12 pounder


Yes! I REMEMBER all those asshats whom supported the Bumpstock (firearm accessory) Ban and the Red Flag laws.


How are people still fucking this up.

Alan in NH

So at the risk of opening the other end of the Can O’ Worms, what about the numerous and sundry muzzle devices that may or may not add extra length to the fire arm? Do they count as adding to the overall length or not? A 14.5″ barrel on a carbine must have a pinned and welded extended flash hider to make the minimum 16″ OAL. It seems to me that the definitions of these ‘pistols’ is rather fluid.


Muzzle devices only count if they are pinned and welded.


Who are these people that keep writing letters to BATFE? They only serve to add confusion and opportunity for them to change their minds. If you have a question, study existing law or talk to your local shop owners. It’s not that hard to understand. If you think you’re building something that crosses the line then pay the $200 for the tax stamp and leave the rest of us out of it.

Wild Bill

, Those people think that they can use the letter for evidence of permission in court, like a parental note. Writing letters by the millions to BATFE could serve to overwhelm them, though, and that could be useful. Write a letter wishing, the staff and administration at BATFE, a Merry Christmas or Happy Wednesday. Just keep them busy. BATFE bureaucrats do not really want our input anyway.

Ansel Hazen

Who fires a pistol one handed?

Wild Bill

@Ansel H, It used to be … everyone. You know the “one hand for the horse. One hand for the pistol.” Now, due to modern pistol shooting techniques, no one that has two available hands.
But we must be as clever as our adversaries, and if one handed pistol shooting will serve as a plausible cover story, then …. “Oh yeah, I take my CMMG 9 to the Bullseye competition, every Saturday!!”


“Now, due to modern pistol shooting techniques, no one that has two available hands” — Really? I got news for you, most PROFICIENT handgunners don’t always use two hands unless it is a hand “cannon”, shooting longer range, for competition, and maybe a few other special circumstances. Handguns/pistols were originally designed for single hand use, and those who never train/practice for single hand firing are seriously limiting their effective use of a handgun. Ever wonder why more cops get shot than perps, in most gun fights? Because they are trained to use 2 hands, and to do so causes them… Read more »

Wild Bill

@Rattler, That is the nice thing about the world of shooting, you can use what ever techniques that that you like. Personally, I just shoot the way the Army taught me.


Don’t watch many USPSA or IDPA matches, do you? ALL of the most proficient shooters use two hands unless the stage requirements disallow it. Or you are the only one who considers a 9mm hand gun a “hand cannon.”


Nobody plans on gettin shot in the hand, til they are shot in the hand.

Ej harbet

Europeans 😀


One armed vets, leo’s and others with the right to exercise their 2A rights!!! There ‘s not one of bit jest in that either.