BATFE reverses its opinion on AR pistol braces

The BATFE reversed its opinion on AR pistol braces, according to an opinion [PDF] recently released by the Bureau. The move eases concern by AR-15 pistol owners who have been told the firearm becomes a National Firearms Act (NFA) item—requiring the associated tax stamp and additional background checks—if they shoulder it using a pistol brace/stock.

The March 21 letter, released only this month, is addressed to SB Tactical counsel Mark Barnes. It explains, “To the extent 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.”

No modifications allowed

The letter’s author, BATFE Assistant Director of Enforcement Programs and Services, cautions owners about modifying the pistol brace/stock. “If, however, the shooter/possessor takes affirmative steps to configure the device for use as a shoulder-stock—for example, configuring the device 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. 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.”

The response seems to reverse the bureau’s earlier opinion [PDF] that stated, “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.”

NSSF Shooting Sports Fantasy Camp


I just returned from a three-day trip covering the NSSF Shooting Sports Fantasy Camp in Las Vegas. It was a great event, something every shooter—regardless of skillset—would enjoy. You don’t have to be a skilled marksman to attend. The only requirement is knowing the rules of gun safety and religious adherence to them, always.

Expert marksmanship isn’t mandatory, thankfully (or I wouldn’t have been invited). I’ll be the first to admit I was having real trouble hitting the MGM Targets steel with my Springfield XD. The professional shooters/instructors were helpful in my frustration and fellow students supportive. But, when I heard that “ding” it felt like I hit the lottery. With shotgun and AR I was OK, but I need a ton of practice with a handgun and a lot more than the several hundred 9 mm rounds I lumbered downrange last week.

Trip Ease

Convenient pickup from the airport is included in the NSSF Shooting Sports Fantasy Camp package. If you’ve ever waited in a cab line in Vegas, you understand how nice that is. The return to catch your departing flight is also covered.

So are your meals and lodging. Snacks/drinks/sunscreen are provided at the range. Show up with your guns, and you’re good to go. Shotshells (12-gauge), 9 mm and .223 Rem. cartridges are supplied by sponsors during the event. Loaner firearms are available, but inquire before registering (I brought only my handgun and no one would have noticed if I left it behind).

NSSF Shooting Sports Fantasy Camp, Guy J. Sagi, steel silhouette target, pellets hitting a steel target, Fear and Loading, Raeford, Hoke County North Carolina
There was a lot of steel being clanged during the NSSF Shooting Sports Fantasy Camp in Vegas….notice how deformed the wad was is after striking the target?


I have assignments from several magazines and websites to write up the NSSF Shooting Sports Fantasy Camp. It’s a real smorgasbord for gun writers with a camera. Lots of gear is running fast, professionals in the field can be interviewed and expert advice is dispensed at every stage.

Unfortunately, I was running a gun, well, guns. Standing on the firing line was a blast, but it compromised the time needed to get the kind of quotes and photos readers enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, I got plenty—to the tune of more than 6,000 images, 60 of which may be decent. I always want more when I go to an event like this, though (hint, hint, NSSF, at least one gun writer enjoys third-person reporting).

NSSF Shooting Sports Fantasy Camp Summary

I’ve never been to a shooting event that ran on schedule, always. Meals were served on time and the people I met are the kind of folks I’d invited to a family BBQ, always. Their stories were amazing, from one man on a once-in-a-lifetime trip that included high-speed driving and helicopter schools, to a retired member of the 82nd Airborne. EVERYONE had a story, and for a reporter/photog, that’s a target rich environment where even I can’t miss.

Hat tip to the NSSF Shooting Sports Fantasy Camp team. You put on a great show. And a big thank you goes out to the sponsors, including FIME Group (Rex Zero 1), LWRC, Hornady,Polycase, Sig Sauer, Winchester Ammunition, Blackhawk, Leupold, Birchwood Casey, Apex Tactical Specialties, Sinterfire, Steel Target Paint, NFused, NSSF, Comp Tac, Mossberg and Timney Triggers.

For a look at a few more photos and video, you can take a look my Fear and Loading  YouTube video.


When 911 Goes Dark

The death of a 6-month-old baby last month in Dallas, TX, is another tragic reminder that there are times when 911 goes dark. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and loved ones of that infant, an innocent victim caught in modern-day, cell-phone perfect storm.

When the babysitter got through to 911, the call was on hold for 31 minutes. Undoubtedly, the experts will debate if the extra time it took the mother to return from a funeral and drive the infant to the emergency room made the fatal difference. Finger-pointing won’t bring the child back, though.

Snafu Affected 1.2 Million

I’ll spare you the technical details and simply point you to the article on the incident. There’s no mention of other calls stalled during that time. I’m confident in a city of more than 1.2 million there were grandparents who suffered a stroke, car accidents, robberies, assaults, broken bones, muggings and home invasions. Hopefully the victims of a criminal act had a means of escape or owned a gun and had some training.

The 911 system started taking shape sometime in 1967. Since then it has saved thousands of lives and, unfortunately, lulled two—working on three—generations into a false sense of security. Don’t get me wrong. I could write a book about the number of times the awesome system saved my mother after her stroke.

When 911 Goes Dark

No emergency dispatch system is perfect, though. That’s why we should all be prepared to take the necessary steps to ensure our safety and that of our loved ones until help arrives. Own a first-aid kit and learn how to use it. It probably wouldn’t have helped in Dallas, but it couldn’t have hurt, either.  Even knowing what not to do, in many cases, can be powerful medicine.

Stall forced criminal entry (because law enforcement response can’t always be fast) by installing a solid door on your safe room. Have a plan, and make sure everyone in the family has it memorized. If you have a carry permit, CARRY. The unthinkable never arrives when it’s convenient.

Get training. Refresh often and remind loved ones to do the same. What happened in Dallas is a tragic accident. Unfortunately, some criminals and terrorists eye technological flaws as something to exploit. Add a natural disaster or two and it’s obvious the next catastrophe is coming. Unless you’re prepared, when 911 goes dark, a bad situation can only become worse.