The ATF is clarifying its position with regard to stabilizing braces, the popular accessories. Because they are accessories, the ATF will not include any added length from a brace to the overall length of a firearm.
Basically, the ATF is treating braces the same way it does muzzle devices. It is saying that braces aren’t essential gun parts and, therefore, they do not contribute to the overall length of a firearm.
This is important because a firearm may be just another unregulated gun, or it might qualify as an NFA-regulated “Any Other Weapon” or AOW depending on its characteristics and accessories.
While it can be time-consuming to make and register an AOW, making one without registering it with the ATF can put someone in a very uncomfortable legal position. We’re talking a serious fine and 10 years in prison.
“[The] 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 [the] ATF previously lost this argument before the Ninth Circuit in U.S. v. Fix,” explains 2A legal expert Adam Kraut.
Since adding a forward pistol grip to a handguard is so easy and popular, the ATF wants to make sure people know that it’s fine adding a forward pistol grip to a gun that’s over 26 inches in length but not to one that is under 26 inches in length.
Why 26 inches or longer? According to the ATF, that makes it too long to conceal under the AOW definition. As our friend Mr. Kraut goes on to explain:
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.H/T: PrinceLaw.com
By adding a forward pistol grip to a pistol, the ATF assumes that the builder is making an arm designed to be shot with two hands, meaning it no longer a “pistol” as defined by the agency.
What does this mean for gun owners? Measure your AR pistol without the brace installed. If its total length 26 inches long or longer, enjoy a forward pistol grip if you like. (For the sake of measuring firearms, buffer tubes count as integral gun parts.) If it’s under 26 inches long, that means you’re stuck using angled grips, or bipods, or lanyards…just not vertical foregrips.
Still have questions? Best thing to do is contact an attorney. Mr. Kraut comes highly recommended.