December 19th, 2020

ATF Issues Notice Regarding AR Pistols — Factors to Consider

ATF BATFE short-barreled rifle AR15 regulations

Do you own an AR-platform pistol, or are you considering purchasing one? Then you should read the Special Notice issued on 12/18/2020 by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) concerning features of these firearms. Basically, the ATF is considering reclassifying many of these guns as “short-barreled rifles” because the attached braces effectively function like a rifle buttstock. For decades short-barreled rifles have been a registered item under ATF rules requiring an application and tax stamp. The ATF is now looking at multiple factors to consider the status of AR Pistols. These factors are listed in the ATF’s recent Special Notice: Objective Factors for Classifying Weapons with “Stabilizing Braces”.

ATF BATFE short-barreled rifle AR15 regulations

Here is text taken from the ATF’s notice in the Federal Register. Take heed — this is only a partial section of the document. You should read the FULL DOCUMENT (PDF Version).

ATF has observed that the development and production of firearms with arm braces has become more prevalent in the firearms industry and, relatedly, that requests for classifications for this kind of firearm design have also increased. Therefore, ATF is publishing this notice to aid the firearms industry and public in understanding the objective design features that FATD (Firearms and Ammunition Technology Division) considers when evaluating firearm samples submitted with a stabilizing brace or similar attachment.

The objective design features ATF considers in determining whether a weapon with an attached “stabilizing brace” has been “designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder” include, but are not limited to:

Type and Caliber. The type and caliber of firearm to which the stabilizing brace or similar item is installed. A large caliber firearm that is impractical to fire with one hand because of recoil or other factors, even with an arm brace, is likely to be considered a rifle or shotgun.
Weight and Length. The weight and length of the firearm used with the stabilizing brace. A firearm that is so heavy that it is impractical to fire or aim with one hand, or so long that it is difficult to balance the firearm to fire with one hand, is likely to be considered a rifle or shotgun.
Length of Pull. The “length of pull” refers to the distance from the trigger to the point at which a stock meets the shoulder. This is a measurement for rifles and shotguns used to accommodate shooters of different sizes. Because an arm brace need only reach the forearm, the distance between the trigger and the back of the brace is generally expected to be shorter than the distance between the trigger and the back of a stock on a weapon designed and intended to be fired from the shoulder. This measurement is not necessarily determinative of the intent of the manufacturer but is used in making an evaluation of the firearm. If a brace is of a length that makes it impractical to attach to the shooter’s wrist or forearm, then that may demonstrate that it is not designed as brace but rather for shoulder fire.
Attachment Method. The method of attachment of the stabilizing brace, to include modified stock attachments, extended receiver extensions, and the use of spacers. These items extend the distance between the trigger and the part of the weapon that contacts the shooter, whether it is a stock or stabilizing brace. Use of these items indicates that the weapon is designed and intended to be fired from the shoulder because they extend a stabilizing brace beyond a point that is useful for something other than shoulder support.
Stabilizing Brace Design Features. The objective design features of the attached stabilizing brace itself are relevant to the classification of the assembled weapon, and include:

— The comparative function of the attachment when utilized as a stabilizing brace compared to its alternate use as a shouldering device;

— The design of the stabilizing brace compared to known shoulder stock designs;

— The amount of rear contact surface area of the stabilizing brace that can be used in shouldering the weapon as compared to the surface area necessary for use as a stabilizing brace;

— The material used to make the attachment that indicates whether the brace is designed and intended to be pressed against the shoulder for support, or actually used on the arm;

— Any shared or interchangeable parts with known shoulder stocks; and

— Any other feature of the brace that improves the weapon’s effectiveness from the shoulder-firing position without providing a corresponding benefit to the effectiveness of the stability and support provided by the brace’s use on the arm.

Aim Point. Appropriate aim point when utilizing the attachment as a stabilizing brace. If the aim point when using the arm brace attachment results in an upward or downward trajectory that could not accurately hit a target, this may indicate the attachment was not designed as a stabilizing brace.
Secondary Grip. The presence of a secondary grip may indicate that the weapon is not a “pistol” because it is not designed to be held and fired by one hand.
Sights and Scopes. Incorporation of sights or scopes that possess eye relief incompatible with one-handed firing may indicate that the weapon is not a “pistol” because they are designed to be used from a shoulder-fire position and are incompatible for the single-handed shooting that arm braces are designed and intended.
Peripheral Accessories. Installation of peripheral accessories commonly found on rifles or shotguns that may indicate that the firearm is not designed and intended to be held and fired with one hand. This includes, but is not limited to, the installation of bipods/monopods that improve the accuracy of heavy weapons designed and intended to be fired from the shoulder; or the inclusion of a magazine or drum that accepts so many cartridges that it increases the overall weight of the firearm to a degree that it is impractical to fire the weapon with one hand even with the assistance of a stabilizing brace.

The ATF concludes: “These factors are based on known stabilizing braces and similar attachments. No single factor or combination of factors is necessarily dispositive, and FATD examines each weapon holistically on a case-by-case basis. …. Moreover, in addition to the objective design features of a submitted sample, FATD also considers the marketing of both the item and the firearm to which it is attached, compared to the manufacturer’s stated intent when submitting an item.”

CLICK HERE for BATFE General Notice in Federal Register Regarding AR Pistols

AR-Platform Pistols — Current Options on the Market

ATF BATFE short-barreled rifle AR15 regulations

If you are interested in learning more about AR-platform pistols with short barrels, has published a useful article entitled: Six Best AR-15 Pistols [2020 Complete & Build List]. That article quickly covers the legal status of such firearms, at least before the recent ATF Guidance document:

So, what exactly is an AR pistol? If you want the complex legal definition of a pistol Check ATF’s Website.

“The short version is: An AR Pistol is an AR-15 that was built from the start to be a pistol — it also has a barrel less than 16 inches in length and does not have a stock. Generally, an AR-15 Pistol will have a stabilizing brace instead of a stock, but that isn’t required.”

ATF Changes May be Coming — And You Must Consider State Laws As Well
However, PewPewTActical notes that: “The ATF is reevaluating its stance on stabilizing braces. Pew Pew Tactical is monitoring the situation and will update our readers if there are any legal changes in the future.” And… the article further cautions: “Double check your state law before embarking on this kind of build, what federally qualifies as a ‘firearm’ or ‘pistol’ might be an ‘assault pistol’ in your state.” SOURCE:

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