The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) recently finalized a new regulation, which is set to reclassify guns with stabilizing accessories as short-barrelled rifles, not pistols (e.g. AR pistols fall in this category). The agency issued the final draft (known as Final Rule 2021R-08F) on Friday, January 13, 2023, regarding the attached stabilizing braces for firearms. This rule clarifies the agency’s position on how these devices should be regulated under federal law.
We will take an in-depth look into what this rule changes; as an owner of weapons falling in this category, what do you need to do and what happens if you do nothing? Let’s dive in.
New ATF rules on braces
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has issued the final rule 2021R-08F regarding attached stabilizing braces for firearms. Final Rule 2023R-08F clarifies the definition of a rifle as a firearm with a barrel of 16 inches or longer, designed to be fired from the shoulder, including any accessory or component that provides a surface for shoulder firing, as long as other factors indicate the weapon is meant to be fired from the shoulder.
If the barrel is shorter than 16 inches and the firearm is equipped with a brace, it is considered a short-barreled rifle under the new regulations. The ATF states that the ruling does not apply to braces used as intended for individuals with disabilities and not for shouldering purposes.
This means that the firearm would be subject to all of the regulations and restrictions that apply to pistols, including background checks and record-keeping requirements. Additionally, if the attached stabilizing brace is re-configured or used in a manner that turns the firearm into a rifle or shotgun, the firearm would be subject to regulations and restrictions that apply to those types of firearms.
So, what are the stabilizing braces?
Stabilizing braces are attachments that can be added to firearms, such as pistols, to provide additional support and stability for the shooter. They are designed to be held against the shooter’s forearm, rather than against the shoulder, and are intended to aid in accuracy and control when firing.
A stabilizing brace is an accessory that attaches to the firearm and allows it to be fired from the shoulder, does not change the classification of an AR pistol to an SBR. However, the addition of a buttstock to an AR pistol would change its classification to an SBR, as the latter are defined as firearms with barrels under 16 inches and a buttstock for shouldering. SBRs are regulated by the ATF under the National Firearms Act.
Brace vs. buttstock
A buttstock is a firearm accessory that provides a shoulder rest and support for the shooter. It is attached to the rear of the firearm and helps the shooter control and stabilizes the weapon while firing. The buttstock may also include a compartment for storing ammunition.
A stabilizing brace, on the other hand, is also an accessory attached to a firearm, usually a pistol, to aid in stability and control while shooting. It provides support for the shooter’s wrist and arm, allowing for a more stable hold and improved accuracy.
The key factor is the usage of a brace and a buttstock. A buttstock is designed to be placed against the shoulder to better control the recoil of a rifle, but it is not fixed to the shooter. On the other hand, a pistol brace uses Velcro to attach to the shooter’s forearm and offers stability when firing an AR pistol.
Factoring criteria for firearms with attached “stabilizing braces”
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has issued Factoring Criteria for Firearms with Attached “Stabilizing Braces”. These guidelines issued by the ATF help determine whether a firearm with an attached stabilizing brace is considered a “rifle” or “short-barreled rifle” under the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), or a “rifle” or “firearm” subject to regulation under the National Firearms Act (NFA).
The criteria include the overall weight and length of the firearm, as well as how the stabilizing brace is used by the shooter. The criteria are used by the ATF to evaluate firearms with attached stabilizing braces on a case-by-case basis and to determine whether a firearm is classified as an SBR, which would require it to be registered and taxed under the NFA, or whether it is classified as a firearm that is not subject to the NFA.
AR pistols vs. SBRs
An AR pistol is an AR-style firearm that meets the definition of a pistol as outlined by the ATF. Due to some ambiguity in the Gun Control Act, AR pistols can exist in a grey area between pistols and short-barreled rifles (SBRs). To be classified as an AR pistol, the firearm must have an overall length of fewer than 26 inches and a barrel length of 16 inches or less, and it cannot have a buttstock or vertical foregrip.
The Final Rule 2023R-08F defines a rifle as a firearm that has a barrel of at least 16 inches in length and is intended to be fired from the shoulder. This definition includes any attachments, parts, or components that enhance the ability to fire the weapon from the shoulder, as long as it also meets the other criteria listed in the definition.
It is important for gun owners to familiarize themselves with this new rule and understand their responsibilities when it comes to attached stabilizing braces.
The ATF’s final rule on attached stabilizing braces is a step in the right direction to ensure firearm safety and legality. It will help prevent the illegal use of these devices and protect the public from potential harm
ATF pistol brace rule effective date
Individuals and businesses who are going to get affected by this rule, have 120 days to comply once the final rule on attached stabilizing braces is published in the Federal Register. This means that from that date, the new regulations outlined in the rule will be in effect and will apply to all firearms with attached stabilizing braces.
It is important for gun owners to familiarize themselves with the new rule and understand their responsibilities when it comes to attached stabilizing braces before the deadline. They should also be aware that state laws may be different and they should also check their local laws before making any purchase or modification to their firearms.
Who gets affected by the final rule on attached stabilizing braces?
- Unlicensed Possessors
- FFL Importers or Manufacturers under the GCA that ARE Qualified under the NFA Class One Importer or Class Two Manufacturer SOT
- Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) not under the NFA as a Class One Importer or Class Two Manufacturer SOT
- Certain Governmental Entities
What options do I have?
Since the Final Rule on Attached Stabilizing Braces going to impact millions of firearms with braces, owners of these firearms need to take action before the deadline (i.e. within 120 days after the ATF’s final rule on attached stabilizing braces is published in the Federal Register). ATF has given a few options to the owners of affected firearms.
Register your firearm with the ATF -Owners of firearms with “stabilizing braces” or similar attachments can have their firearms registered within 120 days after the date of publication of the Final Rule in the Federal Register/Permanently remove and dispose of, or alter, the “stabilizing brace” such that it cannot be reattached/Have the short barrel removed and attach a 16-inch or longer rifle barrel to the firearm./Turn in your firearm to your local ATF office./If you do not wish to comply with any of the options, destroy your firearm.
What if I do not comply with new ATF rules on braces?
If you own a firearm that is affected by this rule and you do not wish to take any action about it, you will essentially be breaking a federal regulation. For example, if you have a pistol with an attached stabilizing brace, you need to take action and register it or remove the brace or surrender the gun to the ATF. If you choose to do nothing and keep your firearm as it is, it automatically becomes an unregistered weapon and may attract legal consequences.
In the case of illegal weapons, if the ATF one is in your possession, you could face federal criminal charges. The penalties for possession of an illegal firearm can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case, but they can include fines and/or a prison sentence. For example, unlawful possession of an unregistered SBR is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment or $10,000 in fines, or both. (26 U.S.C. 5861(d), 5871).
It is also important to note that, depending on the state you are in, additional state charges may apply. It is important to consult with a criminal defense attorney if you find yourself facing charges related to illegal firearms.
List of ATF-approved pistol braces
The ATF does not maintain a list of “approved” stabilizing braces for firearms. However, the agency has issued guidelines on what constitutes a “stabilizing brace” and how they should be regulated under federal law.
According to the ATF, a stabilizing brace is defined as a device that is designed to be attached to the forearm of a user and is intended to improve the accuracy and control of a handgun when fired with one hand.
- Tailhook MOD 1
- Tailhook MOD 2
- Gear Head Works Tailhook
- SB Tactical FS1913
- SB Tactical FS1913A
- SB Tactical SBA3
- SB Tactical SBA4
- SB Tactical SBPDW
- SB Tactical SBX-K
- SB Tactical SBX-K
- SB Tactical SBX-K
- SB Tactical SBM4
- SB Tactical SOB
It’s important to note that this is not an exhaustive list, and new braces may be added or removed from the market, it’s recommended that you check with the manufacturer and/or ATF for the most up-to-date information.
ATF gun ownership laws
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is the federal agency responsible for enforcing laws related to firearms and explosives in the United States. The agency has a number of laws and regulations that govern the ownership, possession, and transfer of firearms in the country. Understanding these laws is essential for anyone who wishes to own or possess a firearm.
Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA)
One of the key laws related to gun ownership is the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA). This law regulates the manufacture, importation, and distribution of firearms and ammunition in the United States. It also defines who is prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm. The GCA makes it illegal for certain categories of individuals, such as convicted felons and individuals with restraining orders, to possess or own firearms. This law also requires firearms dealers to be licensed by the ATF, and it requires them to keep records of firearms sales.
National Firearms Act (NFA)
Another important law is the National Firearms Act (NFA). This law regulates certain types of firearms and accessories, such as machine guns, silencers, short-barreled rifles, and shotguns. These items are subject to additional taxes, registration, and background check requirements. The NFA also makes it illegal to possess or transfer these items without proper registration and payment of taxes.
Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act
The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act is another federal law that regulates firearms. This law requires federally licensed firearms dealers to conduct background checks on individuals who wish to purchase firearms. This law also established the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is used by firearms dealers to conduct background checks. The background check requirement applies to both private and commercial sales of firearms.
The ATF also enforces laws related to the importation of firearms and ammunition into the United States, as well as the export of firearms and ammunition from the United States. There are also regulations on the possession of firearms in certain locations, such as schools and government buildings.
It’s important to note that these federal laws and regulations apply to the possession and transfer of firearms, but states and municipalities may have their own laws and regulations, so it’s important to check with local authorities as well. Additionally, the laws and regulations are subject to change and it is the responsibility of the firearm owner to stay informed and abide by the laws.
Understanding the ATF laws related to gun ownership is essential for anyone who wishes to own or possess a firearm. These laws are in place to ensure that firearms are used safely and legally and to protect the public from potential harm. It is the responsibility of firearm owners to be aware of and comply with these laws and to stay informed of any updates or changes.
ATF’s final rule on attached stabilizing braces is going to impact a large number of firearms that have stabilizing braces attached. These firearms with braces are going to get reclassified overnight and require you to take an action. Owners are required to register their firearms that fall in this category or remove/alter the “stabilizing brace” or surrender it to the ATF or destroy their firearm if they do not want to go with any other option.
Final rule 2021R-08F is being seen as a step towards implementing more gun control by the Biden administration. The new rule is aimed at ensuring that firearms with attached stabilizing braces are regulated in a consistent and appropriate manner under federal law. It will also help prevent the illegal use of these devices in criminal activities and ensure the safety of the public.