History of Pistol Braces with the changing Gun Laws in the US

History of Pistol Braces with the changing Gun Laws in the US

The Pistol stabilizing brace is one of the most unfortunately infamous recent innovations in the gun industry. It makes heavier handheld firearms stable for the user to shoot with one hand. Pistol braces were originally invented to allow better control of the weapon by wounded veterans and to take more accurate shots. They were approved by the ATF to make handling firearms easier for people in need, like these veterans or smaller framed folks. 

In his latest address, President Biden urged Congress to pass new gun control laws, citing recent mass shootings. Obviously, the firearms community stands against the illegal use of guns with stabilizing braces. Being part of the firearm industry, we also recognize the important invention a stabilizing brace is for use in shooting competitions, self-defense, or recreational shooting.

While a lot is going on at present with the pistol stabilizing brace, let us revisit the history of gun laws relating to this upcoming legislation and the invention and meteoric rise of pistol braces over the past decade.

The 1934 NFA Act.

In 1934, under the leadership of President Roosevelt, Congress passed the National Firearms Act (NFA). The NFA act is applicable even today and regulates specific categories of firearms based mostly on the features and dimensions of the guns. 

  • It states that all automatic weapons that can fire continuously without manual reloading will come under the machine-gun category and are regulated with proper background checks. 
  • Any weapon fired from the shoulder and has a rifled barrel length of 16 inches or more will come under the rifle category. 
  • Any firearm with a buttstock and barrel length less than 16 inches or with an overall length (OAL) of less than 26 inches (including stock) will be a short-barreled rifle. This will be regulated with a $200 tax, special tax stamps, and background check.
  • A shotgun with less than 18 inches barrel length will be considered a short-barreled shotgun and regulated with the same taxes and background check.

Forearm as a Stabilizer for Bushmaster Arm Pistol.

One of the first firearms to specifically use the forearm as a stabilizer was the Bushmaster Arm Pistol. In 1968, a multi-purpose weapon was invented with a bullpup layout that had the magazine behind the pistol grip and a rotating body around the barrel.  This firearm was designed as a compact personal defense weapon for US Air Force pilots for use in the planes. After initial testing, the USAF rejected the firearm for being inaccurate. Later, Gwinn Firearms took over the Bushmaster arm pistol and improvised the weapon with AR-15 and M16 components to redesign it into a fully automatic firearm. Its semi-automatic, civilian legal production began in 1972 and continued till 1988, evolving the pistol slightly over the years.

Gun Control Act of 1968

In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Gun Control Act that saw a ban on interstate shipments of firearms and ammunition to private individuals. It also stated a ban on selling guns to minors, drug addicts, and mentally ill people. This act also focused on granting licenses to gun dealers and the need for keeping accurate records of firearm sales. It put a ban on importing surplus firearms made in a foreign country, except the ones meant for sports shooting.

The 1994 Assault Weapons Ban (AWB)

Under the leadership of President Bill Clinton, the assault weapons ban came into effect in 1994. It stated a ban on assault weapons (also called today, Modern Sporting Rifles (MSR)) and large-capacity magazines for use by civilians. The ban was, however, passed only for ten years. 

Just before the ban, Olympic Arms modified the basic AR-15 to make its pistol version, called the OA-93. With the ban in effect around the same time, the OA-93 could not be released because it had the elements of being an ‘assault pistol.’ This prompted Olympic Arms to again modify the OA-93 and develop the OA98 that excluded all the aspects of being an ‘assault weapon.’ The OA98 did not have the barrel shroud and threaded muzzle. Its weight was reduced from 71 to 48 ounces to categorize it for normal civilian use. 

This revolutionary change to comply with legislation paved the way for AR pistols, and other rifle chambered pistols.

The Invention and Approval of Pistol Brace 

In 2012, Army veteran Alex Bosco invented the pistol stabilizing brace and sent the design to ATF for approval. The ATF approved the pistol stabilizing brace for use on an AR15 pistol. Later, Alex Bosco formed ‘SB-Tactical’ and started producing and selling pistol braces for many other pistol combinations (AR-style, AK style, etc), free from NFA restrictions. This revolutionary invention was welcomed by many and pistol braces sold in huge numbers. 

Later, in 2015, the ATF disavowed the approval, citing reasons that the pistol brace, when shouldered, changes the intended use of the firearm and turns the pistol brace into a buttstock. The ATF later reversed this decision in 2017 after a two-year battle with SB Tactical to approve the stabilizing brace once again.

Market Leaders in Pistol Braces and Pistols that accept the Brace

From 2012-2020, there were at least ten new additions to the pistol brace market. Many companies like SB-Tactical started manufacturing and evolving pistol braces to adjust to the users’ wants and needs. These products were developed following the legal guidelines set forth by the ATF in combination with industry leaders. The massive increase in the sales of pistol braces also saw an increase in the production of pistol caliber carbines, classified as pistols, that could accept a brace.

ATF attempts to classify the Braced Pistols as a Short-Barreled-Rifle

In December 2020, ATF brought forward the legal opinion to reclassify braced pistols as Short Barreled Rifles. Due to previous laws, there was a required 90 day comment period after this opinion was brought forward. This allows citizens to voice their opinion directly on a matter through the mail, in person, or over the web. 

This comment period was shortened to 14 days, (which may or may not have been legal) and led to a temporary rescinding of this reclassification. The comment period was also started during the Christmas holidays. Some people have stated that this was done to lessen the amount of “thought” that commenters might have, and reduce the overall amount of comments in general. This was potentially done to strengthen the ATF’s case on the matter. Despite this, the comment period garnered over 70,000 comments in a few days, most of which were negative on the ruling. Before the end of the month, the agency decided not to pursue this issue any further at that time.

F5 MFG Introduces the Cyber Arm Brace

In early 2021, F5 MFG introduced the Cyber Arm brace to use with the modular brace system on AR15 pistols and every firearm with an AR pistol buffer tube. The Cyber Arm brace helps the shooter stabilize their pistol and gain control over the weapon to take perfect shots on target. F5 MFG proudly makes this pistol brace in the US using state-of-the-art 5 Axis CNC manufacturing and utilizing Armor Black Cerakote (other colors coming soon). The Cyber Arm has an ergonomic design and is compatible with the MBS brace attachment from F5 MFG. The device comes in aluminum and nylon.

The Current State of Stabilizing Brace

On April 7, President Joe Biden announced six steps the administration will undertake to address gun violence. President Biden said that the justice department would issue a proposed rule to make clear when a device marketed as a stabilizing brace effectively turns a pistol into a short-barreled rifle, subject to the requirements of the NFA. This statement defined a 60 day period for the Justice Department to outline the regulations, which will be posted for a 90 day comment period. President Biden also stated arguably that these actions do not impinge the Second Amendment under any circumstance.

For more information on this subject, stay tuned for our next post.


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