ATF Rescinds Prior Methods to Measure a Firearm’s Overall Length when Equipped with a Stabilizing Brace

Late yesterday, I received an email from an individual containing a letter from ATF which was a response to a correspondence requesting the correct method to “measure a firearm with a ‘stabilizing brace’ and folding adaptor.” It was explained that the correspondence was sent in the form of an email over a year ago and that the person had received a response via email shortly after it was sent. This letter was unsolicited and came over a year after the original request and response.

In the letter, ATF states that “[Firearms Technology Industry Services Branch] FTISB has previously determined that ‘stabilizing braces’ may be assembled on firearms as accessories…In contrast to stocks on rifles or shotguns…’stabilizing braces’ are merely accessories and not relevant to the classification of a ‘pistol’ under the statutory definition. That is, a folding stock on a rifle or shotgun is included in overall length measurements because the firearm must be ‘designed or redesigned….and intended to be fired from the shoulder‘ to be so classified. The stock is therefore an essential element in the statutory definition.”

Based on the letter, ATF is taking the position that because a stabilizing brace is not an integral part of the firearm, it is not relevant to the overall length measurement. Why does this matter? A number of individuals have been building AR pistols or other similar pistols that have utilized a stabilizing brace. Some have opted to add a vertical foregrip. However, based on this interpretation, those people may find that they have manufactured an “AOW”, which is subject to the restrictions of the National Firearms Act (“NFA”).

To fully understand, it is important to look at the definitions. The term “any other weapon” is defined to include

…any weapon or device capable of being concealed on the person from which a shot can be discharged through the energy of an explosiveSuch term shall not include a pistol or a revolver having a rifled bore… (emphasis added).

The term pistol is defined as

A weapon originally designed, made, and intended to fire a projectile (bullet) from one or more barrels when held in one hand… (emphasis added).

ATF has taken the position that once a vertical foregrip has been added to a firearm, it is no longer designed to be fired when held in one hand, removing it from the definition of a pistol, even though ATF previously lost this argument before the Ninth Circuit in U.S. v. Fix, 4 Fed. Appx. 324 (9th Cir. 2001).

Further, ATF has consistently held that the overall length of 26 inches is the breaking point for concealability. Put another way, if the firearm has an overall length of less than 26 inches, it places it into a category of arms that could be considered to be regulated by the NFA depending on their other characteristics. If it has an overall length greater than 26 inches, it could remove it from those class of firearms, again, depending on their characteristics.

For this particular example, if the pistol has an overall length greater than 26 inches, it is not generally considered concealable for the purposes of the AOW definition (if there was evidence that it were concealed by a person, it could still be considered an AOW). By adding a foregrip to it (per ATF’s current position), it becomes a “firearm” since it is no longer designed to be fired when held in one hand. If the overall length was less than 26 inches, and a foregrip were added, it would be classified as an AOW.

In its letter, ATF specifies that

[m]akers also create an artificial overall length measurement by attaching a folding stabilizing brace. Such a measurement would be problematic because the firearm could avoid classification as an “AOW,” yet retain the conceivability and remain fully functional. Measuring a folding (or telescoping) stabilizing brace would therefore undermine the comprehensive statutory and regulatory design of the GCA and NFA.…The measurement of a folding or collapsible stabilizing brace in the overall length of a firearm creates an artificial overall length that would permit a maker to avoid classification as an NFA “firearm” without a viable design purpose or legal justification.

It goes on to say that even stationary braces cannot be included in the overall length measurement, but the receiver extension can be.

Based on this letter, it is safe to say that ATF is taking the position that firearms equipped with stabilizing braces need to have their overall length measured with the brace folded or to the end of the receiver extension if the brace is stationary and non-adjustable. Adding a vertical foregrip to a firearm that has an overall length of less than 26 inches results in the making of an AOW, which is subject to the National Firearms Act.

If you or someone you know has questions regarding the measuring of a firearm with a stabilizing brace, contact Firearms Industry Consulting Group today to discuss YOUR rights and legal options.

 


Firearms Industry Consulting Group® (FICG®) is a registered trademark and division of Civil Rights Defense Firm, P.C., with rights and permissions granted to Prince Law Offices, P.C. to use in this article.

47 thoughts on “ATF Rescinds Prior Methods to Measure a Firearm’s Overall Length when Equipped with a Stabilizing Brace

  1. And when exactly did they intend to publish this material change so it’s not a state secret?

    I guess it took awhile to craft the justification,such as it is..but what possible purpose is served by keeping it a secret.

    Should we now assume as a matter of course that periodically filing FOIA request is our only hope of knowing what the current ATF interpretation is?

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  2. This seems to be followup to the Toledo case, and clarifies their “unpublished industry standard.” So I guess it’s good to have an actual definition. The whole concept is silly, but it’s not defined, not play as they come.

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  3. Your valiant attempt to clarify the length issue did not overcome the ATF’s obfuscatory prowess. It seems counter-intuitive that overall length of less than 16″ (however that is measured, which is still unclear) means it is not a pistol and greater than 16″ means it is. Plus their seeming exclusion of anything with a rifled barrel from consideration doesn’t make sense. I built an AR-15 pistol with a 10.5″ barrel, angled foregrip (not vertical) and Shockwave blade brace. If I assemble the brace fully collapsed, the measurement from muzzle crown to brace end is less than 16″ and partially extended (most comfortable position) it is more than 16″. So, is it illegal in the former case and legal in the latter? Your opinion appreciated.

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    1. Sorry, I meant overall length of 26″, not 16″. I saw on another blog that someone spoke with an ATF rep who advised that the distance from the trigger face to the rear of the brace must be no more than 13.5″. Mine is 13.25″. But I wonder if that is a new requirement?

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  4. Is there an ATF opinion letter that actually states that vertical foregrips are bad and angled foregrips are okay? That seems to be the common wisdom.

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  5. I dont care, Im not going to comply with tyrant’s edicts and “opinions” regardless, I highly suggest everyone else do the same, the only reason this craps stands is because of complacency. The Second Amendment protects the First and with more and more infringements that target the average gun owner and not criminals it only points out that the Government is out for control over its population and not its best interest. All proposals for any action against the Second Amendment should be seen as an act of war on the Citizenry, Government infringing on the only insurance policy against Government is a conflict of interest and anyone doing so should be convicted of treason.

    The NFA and the ATF both exceed Congress’ Authority under the Commerce Clause, even without the Second Amendment they are Unconstitutional.

    “Tyranny is defined as that which is legal for the government but illegal for the citizenry”

    “All laws which are repugnant to the Constitution are null and void.” Marbury vs. Madison, 5 US (2 Branch) 137, 174, 176, (1803)

    “No state shall convert a liberty into a license, and charge a fee therefore.” (Murdock v. Pennsylvania, 319 U.S. 105)

    “If the State converts a right (liberty) into a privilege, the citizen can ignore the license and fee and engage in the right (liberty) with impunity.” (Shuttlesworth v. City of Birmingham, Alabama, 373 U.S. 262)

    “Where rights secured by the Constitution are involved, there can be no rule making or legislation which would abrogate them.” Miranda vs Arizona, 384, US 436 p. 491.

    “Aware of the tendency of power to degenerate into abuse, the worthies of our country have secured its independence by the establishment of a Constitution and form of government for our nation, calculated to prevent as well as to correct abuse.”
    –Thomas Jefferson to Washington Tammany Society, 1809.

    “If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so.” – Thomas Jefferson

    “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty”

    But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. – Thomas Jefferson

    “The general rule is that an unconstitutional statute, though having the form and the name of law, is in reality no law, but is wholly void and ineffective for any purpose since unconstitutionality dates from the time of its enactment and not merely from the date of the decision so branding it; an unconstitutional law, in legal contemplation, is as inoperative as if it had never been passed … An unconstitutional law is void.” (16 Am. Jur. 2d, Sec. 178)

    Under federal law, 18 USC 242, it is illegal for anyone under the color of law to deprive any person of the rights, privileges or immunities secured by the U.S. Constitution, and under 18 USC 241 it is illegal to conspire to violate such rights. It is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. This could be applied to local, state, or federal law enforcement or military personnel who abuse the rights of citizens. Every state has a similar law.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Adam — does this impact measuring rifle OAL? The pistol issue is obvious but what about a 16″ barreled rifle with less than 26″ OAL folded but > 26″ unfolded?

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    1. you didn’t read the article did you?
      by definition a rifle has a stock, a pistol brace is not a stock. This letter addresses pistols with braces and overall length based on the pistol brace vs buffer tube. Has nothing to do with barrel length or rifle stocks.

      from the second paragraph of the article: “…a folding stock on a rifle or shotgun is included in overall length measurements because the firearm must be ‘designed or redesigned….”

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    2. Rifles are designed (and defined) as being made to be fired from the shoulder.
      As indicated in the article above, the – Federal (your state mileage may differ) – measurement is with the stock unfolded/open/un- collapsed.

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  7. Hello, thank you for your time in this article. Great knowledge to read and understand. I have some pictures of measurements I took on a AR firearm

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  8. So that photo you have of the person weilding that weapon is either a felony or a classification of weapon not even affected by this ruling whatsoever. That is a firearm with less than a 16″ barrel with a foregrip attached. That is not a pistol by the ATFs own regulations that is an SBR. That weapon is a form 1 registered firearm umder the NFA or it is an illegally owned unregistered SBR which is a BIG NO NO. Stop spreading misinformation people like you are the bane of second amendment supporters everywhere.

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    1. Read the article, don’t just look at the pretty pics.
      If the overall length from the fixed muzzle device to the end of the buffer tube is over 26″, that guns fine.
      If its not, then its no good per the “new” ruling. The picture was probably taken before the ruling so it was fine at the time.
      Either way, maybe you can identify the owner by the hair on his arm or something and call the ATF tip line and turn him in like a good peasant?

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  9. So, i am confused. A ar-15 pistol with out a pistol brace, but has a folding buffer tube, fold or unfold to measure the length?

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  10. So at first blush, this seems to obviate the whole “length of pull” of 13.5” arbitrary concern some have. It seems that if a brace’s measurements (now according to the letter) don’t come into play on the ultimate OAL measurements of a pistol, then how can it be used to determine LOP?

    It seems one can have whatever length receiver extension or folding-brace-extension is preferable, because it doesn’t change the firearm length- it’s merely an accessory not factoring into LOP or OAL. Thoughts?

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  11. Appears the ATF isn’t really sure what it’s rules are. Perhaps all gun rules by them and Congress should be declared null and void, since they ALL violate the “shall not be infringed” part of the Second Amendment.

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  12. That sure is a lot of infringing going on there….seems like a recall something written somewhere rrgarding the government and gun rights and no abridging or infringing which means to stop by degrees…lotta stopping by degrees…just saying seems like the government is being just a bit oppressive.

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  13. They’re saying you can’t have it both ways. It’s either a pistol or a rifle but can’t be both. You can’t attach a folding or collapsing brace to a pistol and measure the overall length with the brace extended to get out of creating an AOW because you stuck a vertical foregrip on it. If it’s a pistol the brace isn’t an integral part of the firearm because if it was then it wouldn’t be a brace and would be a stock making it an SBR. So don’t put a vertical foregrip on your pistol or do what Ray suggests and do whatever we feel like and let them try to take us all in.

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    1. Sorry, not a rifle, meant to say, It can’t be a nice short pistol with a accessory brace one day and then the next, to get out of making an AOW, after you added a vertical foregrip, the brace is now treated as an integral part of the weapon and included in the overall length measurement to make it still a pistol but > 26″ so it’s not concealable. If the brace is an integral part of the weapon then it’s a stock and you have an SBR. Or it’s not and if you stick a vertical foregrip on and the overall length, sans “accessories”, is < 26" it's an AOW. So leave the vertical foregrip off.

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  14. Thank you for your valuable work.

    I do have two questions however: When will angled foregrips be reclassified? And what weapon classification does ATFE assign when I grasp my G19 with both hands?

    “The term pistol is defined as

    A weapon originally designed, made, and intended to fire a projectile (bullet) from one or more barrels when held in one hand… (emphasis added).”

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  15. How is it that in the years since the passage of the NFA, with the ATF making these types of ruling, has it not been struck down as unconstitutionally vague? If a law needs to be constantly explained isn’t it, by definition, vague?

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  16. We have all decided to stop asking questions and getting more regulation. For the love of God, POTG, follow the “rules”…

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  17. Fuck the ATF. Its absolutely a travesty that our grandfathers could order BARs and tommy guns in the mail, and we are being harassed about foregrips and overall length. As free Americans we have the right to keep and bear arms, and that right shall not be infringed. The ATF is not your friend and shouldn’t EVER be consulted. Build what you want, put coat hangers in your ARs build suppressors our of maglights and oil filters, build sub 16′ platforms. We are free Americans and we will not let some asshole bureaucrats dictate our god given rights.

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  18. That’s fine. They want to play this game?

    I had a vertical fore grip on my pistol, and had been breaking the upper from the lower for transport. Now, I have removed the VFG and I’ll just go back to folding it and conceal carrying with a mag in and one chambered.

    Want to keep playing games? Come by my house.

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  19. That’s fine. They want to play this game?

    I had a vertical fore grip on my pistol, and had been breaking the upper from the lower for transport. Now, I have removed the VFG and I’ll just go back to folding it and conceal carrying with a mag in and one chambered.

    Want to keep playing games? Come by my house.

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  20. No notice to the public, how do they expect us to comply when they dont make am official statement. A statement in a private letter to am individual isnt law.

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  21. How did they decide on 26″? even 18″ is hard to conceal without going full Matrix trench coat. Try an 18″ IWB and you’ll walk like a pirate with a peg leg.

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  22. I think one of the most important outcomes of this decision is being overlooked: Remington Tac-14s and Mossberg 590 Shockwaves are now considered AOWs if they’ve been outfitted with the M4-style SB Tactical braces. Since the receiver extension on these kits is not an essential part of the firearm, its measurement would not be included in the overall length. The OAL would end at the grip, and I’m pretty sure that an M4 style grip does not extend far back enough like the Shockwave grip to bring the OAL to 26″. This would change the classification from firearm to a smooth bore pistol, which is an AOW. I’ve mentioned it to SB Tactical on social media, but they have not responded or taken any action on this.

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  23. How about the Gun owners of this country figure out how to dismantle the unconstitutional ATF through legal means.

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  24. Does this letter/ruling apply to the Mossberg Shockwave or Remington Tac-14 with a brace as it’s a “firearm” and not a pistol or shotgun? I recently replaced the “Raptor” bird-head grip on a Shockwave with a brace. No vertical foregrip, though.

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  25. Would this decision affect replacing the birdshead grip on a Mossberg Shockwave / Remington TAC 14 with a pistol brace kit (folding or non-folding)? My understanding has been that installing an extension+brace on one of those “firearms” with 14″ barrels is what would keep the OAL over 26″ the way the birdshead grips do. I do not own one yet, but have been wanting to buy one.

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    1. I made a comment on this topic on July 9. It seems to me that a brace kit on a firearm of this type would reclassify it as a smooth-bore pistol, which is an AOW. I’m assuming this based on the receiver extension not being an essential part of the firearm, unlike an AR, but I could be wrong.

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      1. Joe/Dan – That’s my concern as well regarding overall length. FWIW, I emailed SB Tactical, and they said as long as I don’t replace the fixed buffer tube with something folding, I’m OK. They should know, but of course, they’re the seller. Hopefully they’ll put something up on their website better explaining their reasoning.

        I’ve also noticed that Remington still has their Arm Brace TAC-14 model on the website, and online retailers are still selling them. You think they’d pull them if it were a problem, but the design of their receiver extension that holds the pistol grip is a bit longer than what you see for the Mossberg. If the specs on the website are correct, and measuring what’s on the screen, it would appear the length from the end of the barrel to the end of the receiver extension (but before the buffer tube) is ~24.7″. Just close enough that errors in measurement could put it over 26″.

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