Yes, I am late to the game on actually reading the March 2017 ATF letter clarifying the use of stabilizing braces. It’s been on my to-do list for some time and I finally did. I do think this is very helpful – notably:
With respect to stabilizing braces, ATF has concluded that attaching the brace to a handgun as a forearm brace does not “make” a short-barreled rifle because in the configuration as submitted to and approved by FATD, it is not intended to be and cannot comfortably be fired from the shoulder.
With that said, folks need to bear in mind the very next paragraph:
If, however, the shooter/possessor takes affirmative steps to configure the device for use as a shoulder-stock – for example, configuring the brace so as to permanently affix it to the end of a buffer tube (thereby creating a length that has no other purpose that to facilitate its use as a stock), removing the arm-strap, or otherwise undermining its ability to be used as a brace – and then in fact shoots the firearm from the shoulder using the accessory as a stock, that person has objectively “redesigned” the firearm for purposes of the NFA.
So what this means is if you put a brace on a pistol, use it as-is. Do not remove the Velcro straps, stick foam in the brace to make it solid, and/or attach the brace in such a way that it is permanently so long that it could not connect to the forearm.
I always recommend that people read guidance directly for themselves. Here is a link to a PDF copy of the letter so you can do so: Reversal of Stabilizing Braces – ATF-letter – March 2017 — please note I changed the file name when I saved it but the content is all original.
All in all, I think this is a much needed clarification overall. Just bear the customization clause in mind when you are building, or modifying, your weapons.
Yes, for the record, I do not like the fact that short-barreled rifles or shotguns need special regulation per the NFA but the braces do provide an option for folks. Also, please note that I am not a lawyer and this should not be construed as legal advice.
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