News|Firearms|Education

Last Friday, Prince Law Office Blog reported that ATF released a new letter addressing how you are suppose to measure an overall length of a firearm equipped with a stabilizing brace.  An individual contacted the law office in which the individual had received a letter from the ATF which was a response to a question requesting the correct method to “measure a firearm with a ‘stabilizing brace’ and folding adapter.”  Prince Law Office states, “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.” 

The purpose of this post is to break through all the legal jargon and advised you how to properly measure the length of an AR pistol.  Let’s break this letter down and get to the nitty gritty on how to properly measure an AR pistol.

First here is the legal Jargon. 

The Letter States:

[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.

Makers 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.

Alright that is the legal speak from the ATF concerning stabilizing braces. Now, let’s break through it all and get a clear understanding measure AR pistol length.

What does this mean?

Let’s take the the first part of the statement from the ATF and break it down. ATF is saying your shockwave brace or SB Tactical brace on your AR Pistol is not considered in the overall length of the firearm. That the “stabilizing brace” is an accessory to the firearm and not integral to the AR pistol. Since the brace is not integral to the firearm and is consider an “accessory” it is not consider in the overall length of the firearm. 

The ATF continues to explain that if on a rifle or shotgun it would be classified as apart of the overall length of the firearm. That is because the rifle or shotgun is “designed or redesigned…and intended to be fired from the shoulder.” In basic terms means that the folding stock is apart of the design of the shoulder fired rifle or shotgun and  therefore is apart of the overall length of the rifle or shotgun. 

What is the proper way to measure your AR Pistol now?

With the this new information from the ATF the proper way to measure your AR Pistol is from the base of the buffer tube to the muzzle or from the base of the buffer tube to the end of the muzzle device if permanently attached. 

How do we measure folding stabilizing brace? 

If you have a folding stabilizing brace it must be measured in the folded position to find out overall length.  The ATF states “Such a measurement would be problematic because the firearm could avoid classification as an “AOW” yet retain concealability and remain fully functional. Measuring a folding stock (or telescoping) stabilizing brace would therefore undermine the comprehensive statutory and regulatory design of the GCA and NFA.” 

Since the rifle platform in its folded position can cross into grey areas on what is considered an NFA item or non-NFA item the rifle must be measured from the folded position to find out overall length. 

Why it matters

Why this is important you might ask? It is because with this interpretation it leaves the potential of many firearms owners not being in accordance with National Firearms Act. It would call into question anyone who had built an rifle or AR pistol with a stabilizing brace with a vertical grip. 

Before this interpretation change firearm owners would include the stabilizing brace as apart of the overall length of the firearm in figuring out if they could use a vertical grip versus a hand stop. Rifles had to be an overall length of 26 inches to be able to use a vertical grip. With this change of overall length interpretation many rifle owners may have built an “AOW” (any other weapon) unintentionally that would be now subject to the NFA. Those owners would have to adjust their builds to fall in accordance with the 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).

Less than 26 inches Vs. Greater than 26 inches

The ATF has historically considered overall length of 26 inches the breaking point for concealability. So here is the rundown. If the overall length of the firearm is under 26 inches, it places the firearm in a category to be regulated by the NFA. If the overall length is over 26 inches, it would remove that firearm from a category to be regulated by the NFA. 

Now, let’s break this down into the confines of AR pistol. If you have an AR pistol with the overall length under 26 inches it would be consider an “AOW” and fall under the NFA. Which means you would need a tax stamp to put a vertical grip on your AR pistol. Turning it into an short barrel rifle (SBR). If you have an AR pistol with an overall length greater than 26 inches it is not consider concealable for the purpose of the “AOW” definition by ATF. Again, which allows you to put on angled grip or vertical grip. (If there was evidence it could be concealed by a person it would fall under the ”AOW” guidelines). By adding a vertical grip to a rifle with the overall length of 26 inches turns it into a “firearm” no longer designed to be fired from one hand, per ATF.

Conclusion

At the end of the day what the ATF is stating that firearms equipped with stabilizing braces must measure over 26 inches to have a vertical grip. The proper way to measure for 26 inches is from the base of the buffer tube to the muzzle or muzzle device( if the muzzle device is permanent). For a folding stabilizing brace it must be measured from the folding of the brace to the muzzle or muzzle device( if the muzzle device is permanent). If the overall length length results in less than 26 inches it becomes an AOW and is subject to the National Firearms Act. 

What do you think of the new interpretation? Will you have to remove your vertical grip or buy a hand stop now? Let me know in the comments below. 

Thanks for Reading 

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