BATFE Reserves its opinion on AR pistol braces, AR-15 pistol, Guy J. Sagi, Fear and Loading, Raeford, Hoke County North Carolina

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.”