ATF Weighs in on Firearm Braces Once Again

The ATF does not count braces as part of a firearm’s overall length. This is important for those who like to outfit their AR pistols with vertical foregrips. If your AR pistol is under 26 inches, without the brace, you cannot add a vertical foregrip unless you first register it with the NFA as an AOW. (Photo: Kraut/ATF)

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.

Sig Sauer's AR-15 Pistol Brace
Braces like these are popular shooting accessories, not critical firearm components, rules the ATF. (Photo: GunsAmerica)

“[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.


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.

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About the author: Max Slowik is a writer with over a dozen years of experience and is a lifelong shooter. He has unwavering support for the Second Amendment and the human right to self-defense. His ambition is to follow Thomas Paine, as a journalist by profession and a propagandist by inclination.

{ 22 comments… add one }
  • KO June 19, 2020, 12:29 pm

    Wouldn’t the buffer tube on either an AR pistol or Shockwave be counted towards the length?

    I see the twisted logic that the brace itself could be slid back to exaggerate a weapon’s length, but the tube cannot.

  • Patrick August 30, 2019, 1:31 pm

    Depending upon the order in which the parts were assembled, you could have three identical guns, one an ordinary firearm, the other a short-barreled shotgun, and the third an “any other weapon”.

    What does any of this have to do with violent crime?

    It’s so much easier to arrest someone who owns a vertical forend than to go after a homicidal terrorist.

  • Ej harbet July 25, 2019, 12:33 pm

    Shall not fkn be infringed!

  • Randy July 13, 2019, 9:10 pm

    You’re absolutely right you cannot add a vertical foregrip. However you can add an angled foregrip.

  • DaveGinOly July 12, 2019, 10:40 pm

    THAT is a most interesting question! Seems the ATF is not consistent in the application of their nomenclature and how that nomenclature alters a firearm with respect to the law.

  • Shawn July 12, 2019, 8:49 pm

    What about things like the mossberg shockwave? Does this change rulings for arm braces on these as well?

    • KO June 19, 2020, 12:22 pm

      I was wondering this as well.

  • Gerald Butler July 12, 2019, 6:00 pm

    Everytime the Motards in a given area of the country elect a reprobate minded human to office, and sense shit rolls down hill, you get like minded humans hired at these agencies.

  • Cam July 12, 2019, 4:12 pm

    I may be wrong, it happens a lot but didn’t the ATF say a couple months ago they would no longer be writing opinions?

  • JAMESZ28 July 12, 2019, 3:13 pm

    My only concern is how this relates to putting a brace on a Shockwave or tac 14, BC the brace is used to get it to the 26 inch total length?

  • RSConsulting July 12, 2019, 12:27 pm

    Without entertaining the great debate about whether or not we should EVEN HAVE any of these regs.

    Fact of the matter is – IF YOU BUY A FIREARM AS A PISTOL – you CANNOT PUT A VERT GRIP ON IT.

    If you BUILD IT AS A PISTOL (less than 16″ barrel), then you can’t use a VERT GRIP.

    Not sure why this is SO DIFFICULT to understand.

    Firearms sold by THE MANUFACTURER’S AS PISTOLS, will ALWAYS BE PISTOLS. They are not meant to be shouldered and held with two hands (or a second hand that is not on the pistol grip itself). Unless you want to tax stamp them.

    Similarly – I’ve yet to hear of a case where someone got locked up for shooting a brace that was shouldered. Not saying it never happened, just that I’ve never heard of it

    But the more attention we bring on ourselves – the MORE WE’LL RECEIVE. How many times do we have to be told NO, to putting a vert grip on a pistol?

    Same thing goes for stuff like bump-stocks. Now, while I subscribe to “don’t give an inch/no compromises” philosophy when it comes to gun regs – aside from the fact that these were made illegal with no compensation or grandfathering, the fact is they’re plastic pieces of GARBAGE. Never owned one, because my binary triggers shoot faster and more accurate with (almost) zero additional effort. But unless I’m laying down suppressive fire, they’re only good for wasting tons of ammo (and having fun doing it).

    The BEAR IS THERE (ATF), quick poking it – and it’s less likely IT WILL TRY AND BITE YOU.


  • Rangemaster11B July 12, 2019, 11:26 am

    Wouldn’t the forward grip be an “Accessory:” also?

  • Clint W. July 12, 2019, 10:39 am

    The law and it’s enforcement belong to the government, in some cases they have taken this in violation of the Constitution, any 2A supporter knows this better than any other citizen in the US. How they interpret it, we just have to bend over and take it. A long time ago, I read an article in Playboy, of all places. I remember the picture (no she was not naked) with the article, it was an NRA membership card on top of an ACLU membership card and said if you belonged to the ACLU, you should also belong to the NRA. I also remember one part of the article clearly, it was discussing the owner of ‘Oki Dog’ in California, a hot dog stand owned by an Okinawan. Due to the violence in the area, think it was LA, the police forced him to close at 10PM. Of course he did, but the author asked him why so compliant. The Okinawan replied by pointing to his left shoulder, and his right hip, indicating the badge and the gun and said, “When you have these, you can do anything you want”. The ATF has the power, they can do anything they want.

  • Evan July 12, 2019, 10:18 am

    This foolishness only goes to show that even if the NFA doesn’t deserve to be shot down for violating the Second Amendment (and the NFA unequivocally deserves to be shot down as a blatant violation of the Second Amendment), the bit about SBRs is unconstitutionally vague, and has no business being law.

  • Deadmeat99 July 12, 2019, 9:41 am

    STOP writing letters to the ATF. When will you Fudds learn that the less stupid questions you ask the less tyrannical answers you will receive?

  • Geo Ling July 12, 2019, 9:31 am

    Man! Talking out of both sides of their mouth like a boss! And I agree with Trevor. Only congress is constitutionally authorized to make laws, even then they are specifically limited. This whole issue is outside of their authority.

  • JJ July 12, 2019, 8:14 am

    STOP writing letters to the ATF.

    • I Love Liberty July 17, 2019, 7:49 pm

      The sheep will not listen to you. They will keep asking this tyrant organization questions by letter because they are used to be ruled over by them.

  • Bobby howell July 12, 2019, 7:44 am

    So does that mean a stock on an AR rifle isn’t included in its overall length. Same basic design…

  • Donald Walker July 10, 2019, 3:36 pm

    Short answer is they cant, but they are allowed to do so because congress allows them to, and not one persone or agency like the NRA has ever challenged them in court for that spicific reason

  • Jaque July 10, 2019, 11:58 am

    The firearm laws in the US are written to entrap gun owners. They are confusing and nonsensical. And they clearly violate the most important restraint placed upon the government, the 2nd Amendment. Perhaps an expert in in Constitutional law can explain to us non lawyer gun owners how the government can violate the 2nd Amendment over and over again, and be backed up by the courts Only the government gets to change the meaning of “not be infrigined”.

  • Trevor Teague July 10, 2019, 9:30 am

    Since when does any agency have the authority to make law or to change or rewrite laws to fit an agenda?

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