The ATF Issues Statement On Stabilizer Braces — Pistols With Braces “May Be Short Barrelled Rifles” After All But Still No Clarification

By staff

The ATF has posted their position on stabilizer braces in the Federal Register today, and opened the issue up for public comment for the next fourteen days.

Gun owners have followed this topic closely after the ATF had once again declared something to be legal but then changed their mind without any explanation, making thousands of Americans into criminals overnight for owning something that was now illegal.

The Nuts And Bolts Of Quicksand

The ATF’s posted document essentially said:

  1.  Some people are using these braces to make their pistols into rifles.  We don’t like that.  So we’re going to take this on a case-by-case basis to see if somebody’s brace makes their gun into a short-barrelled rifle or not.
  2.  Because SOME AR pistols with stabilizers braces would fall under the purview of the National Firearms Act (1934) and/or the Gun Control Act (1968), those owners would need to register their AR pistols and braces with the ATF through the same process as they would if they bought a suppressor, machine gun, short-barreled rifle, or short-barreled shotgun.
  3. We have no definition or set of criteria for what makes a some AR pistols and stabilizer braces into short-barrelled rifles.  We’ll know it when we see it.

Of course, the ATF doesn’t like that some users were using the braces to shoulder their weapons.

According to the ATF document:

ATF’s longstanding and publicly known position is that a firearm does not evade classification under the NFA merely because the firearm is configured with a device marketed as a “stabilizing brace” or “arm brace.” When an accessory and a weapon’s objective design features, taken together, are not consistent with use of the accessory as an arm brace, that is, not to stabilize a handgun when being operated with one hand, such weapon, configured with the accessory may fall within the scope of the NFA, particularly where the accessory functions as a shoulder stock for the weapon.

The Brace Industry Fired Back

Meanwhile, SB Tactical, the inventor of the most common stabilizing braces, roared back at the ATF for their actions:

“The document is a thinly veiled blueprint for the largest firearm registration–and ultimately potentially confiscation– scheme in U.S. history,” the company said in their response to the ATF’s document.

In their response, SB Tactical points out that they have asked multiple times over several years for the ATF to issue more clarification on what they’re looking for in braces.

Like any smart business, they want clear-cut guidelines so that their customers can buy with confidence — not worrying that the ATF will show up at their door.

The company’s statement said that this ‘clarification’ is anything but.  Instead, the recently posted guidelines increase the confusion while drastically upping the power dynamic in the government’s favor.

The grotesque inadequacies of this document render this “guidance” worse than meaningless. By stating that “no single factor or combination of factors is necessarily dispositive,” the regulated public is left guessing. Which calibers are ok? What is the weight or length of pull limit? What accessories can be mounted on a pistol? By failing to define the criteria, the ATF is codifying its holistic “we’ll know it when we see it” approach to determinations that create confusion and serve as little more than a power grab. It does nothing other than create uncertainty and confirm that ATF does not want to be held accountable. It claims limitless power to assess products under a “holistic” approach that gives the agency maximum discretion and Americans minimum protection.

Signaling to Sleepy Joe

It seems obvious that the ATF is jumping all over this issue and that of “ghost guns” because they’re virtue signaling to Joe Biden that they’re willing to enforce whatever draconian gun control he might have in store for gun owners.

Not that the ATF listens to anybody but the politicians who sign their funding checks, but the the ATF is accepting comments here on the topic of stabilizer braces.