ATF pens letter on 'redesigning' handgun with stabilizing brace


The legal way, so to speak, to use a stabilizing brace. (Photo: The Firearm Blog)

Shouldering a handgun equipped with a stabilizing brace is not allowed, without the correct paperwork, of course, said the federal agency tasked with regulating the gun industry.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives published an open letter Jan. 16 clarifying its stance on handgun stabilizing braces after receiving inquiries concerning the proper use.

“Any person who intends to use a handgun stabilizing brace as a shoulder stock on a pistol … must first file an ATF Form 1 and pay the applicable tax because the resulting firearm will be subject to all provisions of the [National Firearms Act],” said Max M. Kingery, acting chief of the ATF’s firearms technology criminal branch, in the letter.

Kingery said the pistol stabilizing brace was neither designed nor approved to be used as a shoulder stock, so using it as a shoulder stock constitutes a “redesign” of the device because “a possessor has changed the very function of the item.”

“Any individual letters stating otherwise are contrary to the plain language of the NFA, misapply Federal law, and are hereby revoked,” he added.

Although there is no legal definition of the term “redesign,” the ATF uses the common meaning derived from Webster’s Dictionary, “to alter the appearance or function of.”

“When the device is redesigned for use as a shoulder stock on a handgun with a rifled barrel under 16 inches in length, the firearm is properly classified as a firearm under the NFA,” he said.

Moving forward, the ATF will retain the original classification of the stabilizing brace penned November 2012 as an item intended to improve accuracy with an AR-type pistol by having the user strap his or her forearm into the brace.

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