On November 14th Black Aces Tactical received a determination letter from the Firearms Technology Industry Services Branch (FTISB) regarding their recent submission of what at first glance appears to be a SBS or AOW. Black Aces Tactical was hoping to have the item classified as a “firearm” thus removing it from the purview of NFA entirely.
The SigTac SB15 arm brace has caused quite the controversy since its introduction and much to the delight of those in states where SBRs are illegal and those who don’t wish to go through the process of obtaining a NFA firearm. Some contend that the arm brace is a “loophole” or a way to “cheat” the system but the law supports ATF’s determination that the arm brace was never designed or redesigned with the intent for it to be shoulder fired. The determination letter that accompanies each arm brace states that “We find that the device is not designed or intended to fire a weapon from the shoulder.”
In March of 2014, Sergeant Joe Bradley of the Greenwood Police Department received a reply from the Firearms Technology Branch (FTB) in response to his question which asked, if an AR-15 type pistol was fired from the shoulder, would it cause the pistol to be reclassified as a Short Barreled Rifle. FTB responded that it would not and that it had previously determined that firing a weapon from a particular position (like placing the buffer tube to one’s shoulder) does not change the classification of the weapon. It further asserts that ATF did not classify the SigTac SB15 arm brace as a stock so its improper usage would not change the weapons classification.
So what’s all the buzz about this new letter from the FTISB to Black Aces Tactical? Black Aces Tactical submitted a sample which they say had an overall length of 27 inches. The sample had a SigTac SB15 arm brace attached as well as a vertical foregrip to the left side. On page 3 of ATF’s response, the FTISB explains what would make a pistol an AOW but since the OAL was greater than 26 inches and NOT concealed on a person, the sample was excluded from being classified as an AOW.
FTISB classified the sample as a “firearm” as defined by the Gun Control Act of 1968 and not a “firearm” under NFA, which is what Black Aces Tactical was after. However, FTISB states that should the weapon be concealed its classification may be changed. What’s more troubling is what comes next.
“Should an individual utilize the SigTac SB15 pistol stabilizing brace on the submitted sample as a shoulder stock to fire the weapon from the shoulder, this firearm would then be classified as a “short-barreled shotgun…because the subject brace has then been made or remade, designed or redesigned from its originally intended purpose.”
This seems to be a complete contradiction of its earlier determination that when shouldering an AR-15 type pistol, with or without the brace, the classification of the firearm remains the same. So what changed? Nothing.
Unfortunately for ATF, it seems to have missed an important definition in the National Firearms Act. One of the definitions of a “firearm” is a shotgun with a barrel length of less than 18 inches or a weapon made from a shotgun if the weapon has an overall length of less than 26 inches or a barrel less than 18 inches. A shotgun is defined as “a weapon designed or redesigned…and intended to be fired from the shoulder…” Since the sample was never intended to be fired from the shoulder and is not a shotgun, then it surely cannot be a firearm under the National Firearms Act which would exclude it all together from becoming a short barreled shotgun.
Is it possible that ATF has now changed its position on the SigTac SB15 arm brace and is getting ready to issue a determination letter which would result in an individual shouldering an AR-15 type pistol with the brace converting the firearm into an illegal short barreled rifle?
If so, ATF has apparently chosen to ignore the definitions found in the National Firearms Act again. Attaching the brace to a buffer tube and shouldering it is not “making or remaking” nor is it “designed or redesigned ” from its originally intended purpose. ATF even stated in its determination letter that comes with every SigTac Brace that it “does not convert that weapon to be fired from the shoulder.” A rifle is defined as “a weapon designed or redesigned…and intended to be fired from the shoulder…” If ATF is planning to issue a determination letter similar in nature as applicable to AR-15 style pistols, ATF will have failed to reconcile that under NFA an AR-15 style pistol cannot be defined as a “firearm” as it doesn’t meet any of the criteria! An AR-15 style pistol was never a rifle and as such even with a SigTac brace attached falls outside of NFA’s regulation.
I’ve requested the first two pages of the letter along with more information about the sample which was provided to ATF for the determination. While the determination letter is specific to the sample provided, it is possible that Black Aces Tactical has opened Pandora’s box with regards to the SigTac SB15 arm brace and its future, but the law does not support the transformation that ATF suggests.