Welcome back to the 30th installment of my blog, in which I don’t claim to be an expert, in fact the opposite. I’m a new user to the AR platform and want to share my findings and experiences as I go through and build rifles as well as being the Operations Manager at Tyrant Designs.
**Disclaimer** The following information is for informational use only and not to be taken as legal advice. I’m not a lawyer, I actually have a soul and don’t enjoy lying. Contact the BATFE if you need more information on building your first AR pistol.
I used to think every short barreled rifle I saw was an actual tax stamped SBR. But it was quickly brought to my attention that many of these rifles were actually classified as an AR pistol. To keep it extremely simple, lets clarify what a pistol and what a rifle is. Without getting into the exact legal language, a pistol is a barreled weapon that is held in one hand. A rifle, is a barreled weapon that is intended to be fired from the shoulder. Generally, an AR-15 buttstock is what separates the weapon from being a rifle or pistol.
What is an SBR?
US Code 18 U.S.C., § 921(A)(8) is “a rifle having one or more barrels less than sixteen inches in length and any weapon made from a rifle (whether by alteration, modification, or otherwise) if such weapon, as modified, has an overall length of less than twenty-six inches.”
This modification is regulated by the National Firearms Act. Those citizens that wish to buy or manufacture a NFA item like an SBR must pay a $200 tax stamp and fill out a BATFE application. If you do not want to go through this process and wait and wait and wait for your tax stamp to come in, then you can build yourself and AR pistol.
Building your AR pistol
As I mentioned previously, the defining attribute of a rifle is a buttstock. So essentially, if you made a short AR-15 without a stock then it should be considered a pistol and not a rifle because the intention is to fire weapon from your hand and not your shoulder.
I bet you have seen AR pistols with devices that look like a stock and thought to yourself that these violate NFA laws. To my surprise, I learned that these pistol braces did not violate any laws. A characteristic of a pistol brace is that is has straps that attach to the users forearm and create better stability for the shooter. Since the brace isn’t intended to be fired from the shoulder it is legal to attach to your AR pistol.
Can I shoulder the brace?
The latest opinion letter from the BATFE said that. “Certain firearms accessories such as the Sig Stability Brace have not been classified by the ATF as shoulder stocks and, therefore, using the brace improperly does not constitute a design change. Using such an accessory improperly would not change the classification of the weapon per Federal law.”
Many gun shop owners, and gun enthusiasts still argue if firing the brace from the shoulder constitutes a redesign. There is still no cut and clear definition of what a redesign actually is. No court case has yet tackled this grey area of the law because the BATFE has yet to arrest anyone for it.
More AR Pistol must knows
1. If your AR pistol is less than 26” long than you can not have a vertical foregrip. Not to worry, you can still add an angled foregrip or handstop to your rifle.
2. An AR pistol must be started from a stripped lower receiver. A completed rifle can not be reconfigured into an AR pistol, this would constitute it as an NFA item and would need to be registered with the BATFE. But you can build a pistol from a stripped lower receiver then turn it into a rifle without the same restrictions
Do what feels right. If you are comfortable sifting through all the legal mumbo jumbo of owning an AR pistol then by all means go make yourself one. Just make sure that you are current on all your BATFE restrictions and the legality of said AR pistol. I know some people that have made their AR pistol, then applied for the tax stamp. Once the tax stamp was received, they added a stock onto their pistol and made it an official SBR. Just know that waiting on a tax stamp can take up to a year!