Rumor on the web today is that there’s trouble in SBR paradise. Shouldering the arm brace (most notably the SIG-Tac SB15–the single most significant firearms invention of the young decade) may soon make that legal AR pistol an illegal short barreled rifle .
Let’s begin with the intended use of the brace. It is an arm brace. As such, the flappy wings envelope one’s forearm and it can be strapped in place. It works like this, but it isn’t much fun to use. The SIG Brace, when used as intended, makes AR pistols far more stable, but users have a harder time reaching the gun’s controls. The use of the brace, like this, isn’t in jeopardy.
But–and this is one of those huge buts–there’s more to the story. The brace is perfectly suitable as an improvised shoulder stock. Ok. Chill out. I guarantee someone has already hit the comment button to light my ass up over the fact that I’m calling attention to the fact that people are using the SIG Brace as a stock. That’s fine. You can go on commenting, and I hope the weather is nice in whatever La-La-land you live in.
The BATFE knows that folks are doing this. I’d even bet there are BATFE agents who own AR pistols with SIG Braces. They’re that popular. The BATFE even opined about the brace in question: “Accessories such as the Sig Stability Brace have not been classified…as shoulder stocks and, therefore, using the brace improperly does not constitute a design change.” Sounds logical to me. “We [the BATFE] do not classify weapons based on how an individual uses the weapon.”
The braces on the market now are designed as arm braces, but they’re used as improvised shoulder stocks. This makes the gun much more safe, much easier to control, much more effective, and much more realistic. But it means you don’t have to register what is functionally a short barreled rifle. And that’s the rub. Uncle Sam wants you to tell him about your SBR (the registration process), and pay him a token of gratitude ($200 for a tax stamp) for allowing you to own something you should damn-well be able to legally own, regardless.
But now, a new opinion from the ATF
Yesterday, news spread about a letter to Eric Lemoine, owner of Black Aces Tactical–a company who had designed a shotgun that used the arm brace concept. They asked the ATF to rule on the matter. And this is what Acting Chief of the BATF’s Firearms Technology Branch Max Kingery wrote in reply: “The submitted weapon, as described and depicted above … is not a ‘firearm’ as defined by the NFA provided the SigTac SB15 pistol stabilizing brace is used as originally designed and not used as a shoulder stock. […] However, 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.’ ”
If shouldering the brace on a short shotgun suddenly makes it an NFA regulated short barreled shotgun, then it stands to reason that shouldering the brace on an AR pistol might now be construed in the same way.
So–we wait. For now, anyhow, we are all still legal shouldering our pistols. But will it last?