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What in the ATF is Going On?! The Latest on the ATF Pistol Brace Rule and SBR Amnesty

The flip-flopping, inconsistency of the ATF surrounding the final rule is giving gun owners a headache. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) issued a formal notice on December 18, 2020, and sought to reclassify AR-style pistols equipped with stabilizing braces as NFA items. The rule was withdrawn only to be later reinstated AGAIN by proposed rule 2021R-08: Factoring Criteria for Firearms with Attached Stabilizing Braces. The rule was adopted as 2021R-08F on January 31, 2023, but gave gun owners a grace period that has now come and gone, or has it? Are you as confused as the ATF yet? Attorney Tom Grieve breaks it down.

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(2015) - Open Letter on ATF Pistol Brace Rule

ATF periodically publishes Open Letters to the industries it regulates to remind or assist licensees with understanding their regulatory compliance responsibilities under the laws and regulations administered by ATF.

“These items are intended to improve accuracy by using the operator’s forearm to provide stable support for the AR-type pistol. ATF has previously determined that attaching the brace to a firearm does not alter the classification of the firearm or subject the firearm to National Firearms Act (NFA) control.”


(March 21, 2017) - Did the ATF just Flip Flop? The Reversal of the ATF’s Open Letter

“The Open Letter made it clear that stabilizing braces are perfectly legal accessories for large handguns or pistols. However, when employed as a shoulder stock with a firearm with a barrel less than 16 inches in length, the result would be making an unregistered firearm. Your letter challenges the legal correctness of this latter conclusion and asks that the ATF disavow it.”


(January 17, 2023) - Polk County Sheriff Brent Waak Defends Wisconsin Citizens

“As the Elected Sheriff of Polk County, Wisconsin, and the guardian of my citizens constitutional rights, I am writing this letter to inform you that the recent rule changes pertaining to pistol braces is a government overreach. This is unconstitutional to allow my citizens of over 10 years to purchase this type of firearm and then with the strike of your bureaucratic pen, potentially make my citizens felons.”


(April 23, 2023) - The ATF's Responds to Sheriff Waak

“In addition, with respect to Sheriff Waak’s concern about law-abiding citizens becoming felons, the Final Rule does not criminalize the possession of “stabilizing braces,” nor are persons who were in possession of an unregistered short-barreled rifle equipped with a “stabilizing brace” as of January 31, 2023, prevented from retaining their NFA firearm. In exercising its enforcement discretion, the Department has determined that if a person is in possession of a weapon with a “stabilizing brace” that falls within the NFA’s definition of “firearm,” they can continue to possess and use it if the statutory requirements are followed.”


(Now) - Where Does That Leave Us?

All individuals who possess such a firearm may register that firearm in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record no later than May 31, 2023, on an ATF Form 1, without paying the $200 making tax.

Who’s Affected By The ATF’s Final Rule on Pistol Braces

The newly enforced pistol brace rule impacts tens of millions of gun owners including:

  • Unlicensed possessors (those with an unregistered SBR)
  • Non-Class one or Class 2 FFLS (i.e., dealers or manufacturers)
  • Some qualified FFL importers and GCA manufacturers
  • Some government entities

Factoring Criteria for Firearms with Attached “Stabilizing Braces”

The DOJ published the factoring criteria for firearms with attached “stabilizing braces”, which was posted in the Federal Register. The publication occurred on January 31, 2023, and was effective immediately, but also granted a 120-day “grace” amnesty/compliance period. The amnesty period ended on May 31, 2023. So what definitions did the ATF go with?

“The Department of Justice (“Department” or “DOJ”) is amending the regulations of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF”) to clarify when a rifle is designed, made, and intended to be fired from the shoulder. Specifically, under the Gun Control Act of 1968 (“GCA”) and the National Firearms Act of 1934 (“NFA”) the definition of “rifle” shall include a weapon that is equipped with an accessory, component, or other rearward attachment (e.g., a “stabilizing brace”) that provides surface area that allows the weapon to be fired from the shoulder, provided other factors, as described in this preamble and in the amended regulations, indicate that the weapon is designed, made, and intended to be fired from the shoulder.”

Mock v. Garland - FPC Lawsuit Challenging the ATF's Pistol Brace Rule

Summary: Federal lawsuit challenging the ATF's pistol brace rule.

Plaintiffs: William Mock, Christopher Lewis, Maxim Defense Industries, LLC, and Firearms Policy Coalition

Defendants: Attorney General Merrick Garland, United States Department of Justice, ATF Director Stephen Dettelbach, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives

Litigation Counsel: R. Brent Cooper and Cody Wisniewski

Docket: N.D. TX case no. 4:23-cv-00095, Fifth Circuit case no. 23-10319 |

Are FPC and GOA Members Exempt from the Rule?

The Firearms Policy Coalition won an injunction from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in the Mock v. Garland case that affirmed the rule will not apply to FPC members. However, there are broadly 3 classes of members. Does the injunction cover all 3?

1) People who were members of FPC when FPC filed their lawsuit
2) People who were members of FPC when the injunction was ordered
3) People who became members after both 1 and 2 above.

FPC claims the injunction covers all 3 categories, but the question remains. Similar lawsuits such as GOA v. ATFBritto v. Garland and others could set court precedents when they conclude. For a small fee, it’s possible you may be exempt by joining the following organizations:

Firearms Policy Coalition
Gun Owners of America

How to Comply With ATF Pistol Brace Rule and SBR Amnesty

  1. Remove the short barrel and attach a 16-inch or longer rifled barrel to the firearm.
  2. Permanently remove and dispose of, or alter, the “stabilizing brace” such that it cannot be reattached.
  3. Turn the firearm into your local ATF office:

    Area Supervisor
    1000 North Water Street, Suite 1400
    Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202

    Voice: (414) 727-6200
    Fax: (414) 727-6201

    View Map

  4. Destroy the firearm.

How Do I Register My Weapon with E-form 1?

The AFT has published a NFA Form 1 submission guide, specific to ATF final rule 2021r08f.

Can I just take the pistol brace off of the firearm and be fine?

Maybe yes, maybe no. Learn more from Attorney Tom Grieve. 

If I register the weapon via e-form 1: can I switch other uppers?

Yes. Learn more about this from Attorney Tom Grieve. 

Can I put a 16" or longer barrel on my pistol & leave the brace on?

Yes, but you still need an overall length of 26” or greater. Be careful how your jurisdiction takes these measurements too.

If I register the weapon via e-form 1, can I unregister the SBR later & convert it back to a "normal" pistol?

Yes. This is acceptable.

If I register the weapon via e-form 1, can I use an NFA gun trust?

Most likely no. You will need to e-form 1 to yourself as an individual, then form 4 to your trust later upon return of form 1.

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