Amid the ongoing confusion amongst braced pistol owners regarding the classification of weapons with stabilizing braces, the BATF, on Sept 7 2021, has finalized the comment period for “The Factoring Criteria for Firearms With Attached “Stabilizing Braces.” The new and contradictory proposed regulations evaluate firearms equipped with a stabilizing brace to determine whether these weapons would be considered a rifle or a short-barreled rifle under the Gun Control Act of 1968 subject to regulation under the NFA act.
Why contradictory? Because
- ATF itself approved the stabilizing brace in 2012
- Disavowed the approval in 2015
- Reversed the 2015 regulation, commenting that the stabilizing brace does not qualify for an SBR, even if shouldered or not.
ATF has yet again opened discussions on stabilizing braces and is inviting comments from people before making final regulations on categorizing stabilized pistols as rifles or SBRs. While your stabilizing brace pistol is still a pistol, away from the legal formalities of an SBR, but it might not be one in the coming months. Before that, it is important that you know the exact difference between a stabilized pistol and an SBR, especially if you are a beginner. This blog will discuss all the technical and legal differences between a stabilizing brace pistol and an SBR. Note that a stabilizing brace is generally attached to AR pistols, AK pistols, pistol version of the pistol caliber carbine, and other pistol-style guns.
Differences between a pistol brace and an SBR
Technically, there is no significant difference between the two firearms but still, a vast difference between the legal technicalities that each of them is categorized differently. For the unversed, let us first elaborate what is a stabilizing brace?
A Stabilizing Brace
Stabilizing brace is a device that attaches to the back of the firearm and helps in stabilizing heavier handheld weapons to shoot with one hand easily. Originally, a stabilizing brace was designed to help a disabled army veteran easily shoot an AR with one hand. The brace attaches via the velcro strap or the loop to the shooter’s forearm for improved performance. It also comes in hook style or a blade style that rests against the shooter’s forearm.
A Short Barreled Rifle
A short-barreled rifle is a firearm with a rifled barrel less than 16 “ and an overall length less than 26”. The main component that differentiates an SBR from a braced pistol is a buttstock. Without a stock, it’s not an SBR, it’s a pistol. A buttstock or, simply stock, is a device that is also attached at the end of the firearm to shoulder the weapon for stability and control. The stock can be fixed, folding, or telescoping. It can also be detached from the firearm. The stock is made with either wood, metal, or polymer.
- The significant difference between a stabilizing brace pistol and an SBR is the use of the stabilizing device. A short-barreled rifle is attached with a stock that the shooter shoulders when firing using both hands. On the other hand, a stabilizing brace on the pistol is attached to the shooter’s forehand for stability, control, and accuracy. Both the devices help in getting better control on the weapon and taking precision shots.
- ATF keeps changing its stance on the purported use of the stabilizing brace. As per ATF, you cannot shoulder the brace like a stock as it changes the intended use of the firearm and classifies the pistol as the SBR. This clear yet unclear rule from ATF keeps changing from time to time. Sometimes, ATF says shouldered or not, it does not alter the intended use and vice-versa.
- Although the barrel length is the same in an SBR and a braced pistol, it is the buttstock that puts the firearm under the SBR category and the firearm with the attached stabilizing brace under the pistol category.
- To acquire an SBR, you need to pay a $200 tax fee and go through a proper background check and paperwork to get it registered with the ATF while getting a pistol and attaching it to the stabilizing brace does not require any major paperwork or tax fee. You can get the pistol brace in no time, but getting an SBR will generally take around a year for all the formalities to get done.
- Since the pistol brace is not registered with the ATF, you can easily carry it anywhere, but the SBR cannot be taken across the state lines without the permission of the ATF. You need to fill the form 5320.20 to take permission from ATF to transport your SBR across state lines.
- It is illegal to do any modifications to your stabilizing brace, even replacing set screws with thumb screws. You will be treated as a felon if found guilty of doing so, as any modifications to the pistol brace redesigns the pistol and changes its intended purpose, turning it into an SBR.
- You cannot use a vertical foregrip on your pistol because it turns the firearm to be fired with both hands and changes the intended use of the pistol. This will classify the pistol as an ‘AOW’ (any other weapon), putting restrictions on transporting it across state lines, just like an SBR.
All the responsible braced pistol owners bought the firearm when it’s legal. If ATF decides to classify it as a rifle or a short-barreled rifle, you wouldn’t have any other option than to get your braced pistol registered or dispose of it. We suggest getting it registered as ATF has waived off the $200 tax stamp for those who get it registered, if the rule is imposed.
Every shooting lover or the owner of a legal braced pistol opposes this proposed rule. One such oppose was seen on June 10 from Attorney General of Texas, Ken Paxton, who opposed the proposed rule calling the move as unconstitutional. On the other hand, many people also feel it might be a violation of our second amendment act too.
The 90 days comment period keeps the future of pistol braces under the dark cloud. If the proposed rule comes into existence, the pistol owners will go through a long procedure to get the firearm registered. At the same time, it would be a lengthy procedure for ATF to register more than 4 million pistol braces floating in the US market.