More Confusing Info on Legality of Pistol Braces from ATF

Following a FOIA request, the ATF released this letter stating that only two SB Tactical pistol braces have been approved.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the BATFE or just ATF, turned over documents as part of a request that may have profound implications for gun owners nationwide. According to the letter, a wide range of pistol braces have not been certified by the ATF, meaning they are stocks.

This could mean that a huge number of firearms fit with braces are not actually pistols, but short-barreled rifles or SBRs, subject to taxes, registration and other restrictions. Anyone in possession of an unregistered SBR may face serious charges.

“This letter is to inform SB Tactical that certain products currently marketed and sold by SB Tactical have not been evaluated nor approved by the Bureau,” reads the letter. “It has come to the attention of FTISB,” the Firearms Technology Industry Services Branch, “that all of SB Tactical ‘braces’ are being marketed and evaluated and approved by ATF as ‘pistol stablizing braces,’ although, in most cases no evaluations or classifications have ever occurred.”

The ATF letter points out that the FTISB has only ever approved two SB Tactical braces, the MPX PSB and the original, but discontinued SB15. One curious detail is that the letter is dated July 18, 2018, and is not a recent memo.

SB Tactical since released other letters from the ATF clearing the braces, like this, for use on non-NFA-regulated firearms. (Photo: SB Tactical)

This leaves the gun industry in an uncomfortable, uncertain position, along with countless numbers of gun owners and gun manufacturers who made, bought, sold and use stabilizing braces in good faith. SB Tactical responded and included several examples of letters approving various pistol braces.

“SB Tactical is aware that in response to FOIA requests from third parties, ATF has released internal documents that confirm the existence of an effort to malign and reclassify products used by millions of law-abiding Americans,” reads their statement. “Among those documents is an incomplete, redacted criminal evaluation that SB Tactical has never seen before and which contains multiple inaccuracies.”

See Also: Honey Badger SBR Decision Put on Pause, A Possible Reason for Classification

“Contrary to the letter’s baseless accusation about SB Tactical’s marketing, SB Tactical has never and would never mislead its customers,” they say. “SB Tactical has been working with ATF and DOJ for years and has sought determinations from the agency about the status of its products as applied to particular firearms.

“ATF’s false and irrelevant statements are sadly consistent with an activist and lawless ATF that refuses to engage SB Tactical or manufacturers on the legal status of accessories used by millions of Americans.” SB Tactical urges gun owners to reach out to their representatives and the Department of Justice even in this ongoing election season.

Following the announcement from the ATF that the Honey Badger Pistol was not a pistol, but in fact, an SBR, it seems like the rumors of an ATF going after pistol braces may be true. Still, without any formal guidelines, it is not clear if this is a real attempt to criminalize and regulate pistol braces or if it is just more confusion from a cryptic agency.

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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.

{ 19 comments… add one }
  • Ted November 30, 2020, 5:08 pm

    This is total unadulterated BS ! If they approved the other braces, that work exactly the same, then what exactly is the issue ? This is more complicated BS from an agency that is out of control.

  • Norm Fishler November 30, 2020, 11:35 am

    As I see it, this latest communication from our friends at ATF is to spread confusion and uncertainty as widely as possible throughout the shooting community. If no one knows what’s going on, few, if any will be ready to move out on an uncharted course.

  • Roman1307 November 30, 2020, 7:58 am

    I’m a gun enthusiast and collector, so by no means an expert or legal eagle. Maybe it’s as simple as they want to collect money. Changing the law again would force everyone who owns a braced firearm to pay SBR taxes. What better way to quickly make millions of dollars. Just a thought.

    • Bobo December 4, 2020, 11:36 am

      Only if people comply with the ruling and pay the “required” tax – I kinda doubt that most will

  • Gerry November 30, 2020, 6:43 am

    What most articles like this fail to explain is that this latest attack on Honey Badger (and extrapolated into an attack on ALL pistol braces) is that it originated not from the ATF’s management but from a field office. IMO it signals an out of control agency with no one running the entire bureau. As far as I know, ATF is still working under an acting director and not a permanent one, which may account for this “lawlessness” within the bureau. From where I’m at, I prefer to see where this goes before someone snaps a knot in someone’s butt and takes control of this bureaucratic mess.

  • Kane November 27, 2020, 1:36 pm

    Defund BATFE and stop the bureau’s systematic policies of entrapment.

  • Steve November 27, 2020, 1:22 pm

    The memo from the ATF proves beyond a doubt that their rules are completely arbitrary and capricious. The courts should have an easy time ruling against them. Unfortunately, the courts are full of activist judges. Hopefully, the new USSC will rule in favor of We the People.

  • survivor50 November 27, 2020, 12:14 pm

    Seriously… Which one of you has actually STRAPPED a firearm on your wrist/forearm… For WHAT reason… And how did you manipulate all the controls… And WHY ???

    (I’m getting images of a stripper with an M-16 strapped to her leg for some strange reason… Grindhouse… Tarentino and Weinstein…)

    • RSConsulting November 30, 2020, 8:05 am

      I did (strap one on – damn, sounds like something in a porn movie).

      Don’t know which side of this argument you’re actually on – but I think we can all agree that 90% of owners shoulder the brace.

      I also believe, that braces will be considered “low hanging fruit” by a new admin, and one of the first things to go, by an easy “change of opinion”.

      Remember – firearms/accessories manufacturers submit a “sample” to ATF’s “technical division”, for an “opinion” on where that piece of hardware falls under the GCA. And opinions do shift with the political winds.

      An “opinion” does not make a particular item “legal” (or illegal) – it simply decides where it falls out under current law.

      In the case of bumpstocks – which was another “low hanging fruit debacle”, raised by the idiot Vegas Shooter – since you cannot “manufacture or register” a new select fire weapon for civilian ownership post-1986 – they have to be trashed.

      In the case of braces – they can simply be removed (assuming they aren’t “integral”, as some are) – and DISPOSED OF (boating accident anyone?) – and the firearm is once again a pistol, not an SBR.

      But if the “brace thing” extends to outlawing all of them (or forcing SBR registration) – then simply having one in the same physical space as the firearm it can be installed on – makes that firearm an SBR.

      This is something we’ve “gotten away with” for awhile – and something we likely will NO LONGER GET AWAY WITH in a future gun-control-crazy-administration, as it will be something that can be outlawed with ONE PHONE CALL from DOJ to ATF.

    • Ted November 30, 2020, 5:14 pm

      The whole premises of an SBR ruling is stupid on face value since you can hide a longer barrel pistol under your jacket or shirt already ! so, take a AR pistol WITHOUT a brace that is totally legal right now, add an “unapproved brace” and it turns into an SBR ? This is someone that has a bug up their a$$ about people having AR pistols.

  • Norbert November 27, 2020, 10:59 am

    So why not just disassemble the BRACE from the Pistol and just keep the brace locked up in a separate cabinet

    • RSConsulting November 30, 2020, 8:26 am

      Because under the law – simply “locking it up in a cabinet” doesn’t cover it – unless that cabinet is NOT IN THE SAME PHYSICAL LOCATION AS THE FIREARM IT CAN BE INSTALLED ON.

      This is similar to having select-fire FCG parts. They don’t have to be installed in the weapon, the weapon DOESN’T EVEN HAVE TO BE CAPABLE OF FULL AUTO FIRE – to be a machine gun. THE MERE POSSESSION OF THE PARTS MAKES IT A MACHINE GUN.

      Same with drilling the “magic 3rd hole” in your receiver (we’re talking AR pattern guns” here). You’re allowed to have an M-16 BOLT CARRIER in an AR – and THAT’S IT.

      If, for some reason – ATF (or any LEO) comes to your place with a warrant, and finds a brace in a locked cabinet – and the firearm it can be installed on, in the same physical location – it MIGHT AS WELL BE INSTALLED ON THE FIREARM – because you WILL BE CHARGED THE SAME AS IF IT WAS.

      Likewise – select fire FCG’s are NOT ILLEGAL TO BUY OR POSSES – as long as you don’t have a weapon they can be installed in. Which is not to say I don’t (or do) have a couple of sets buried in a few locations around town, or I don’t have a “3rd hole jig” (totally legal), or the rear shelf in my lowers aren’t milled down (again, totally legal – even though most manufacturers leave the shelf in to make conversions more difficult) – and if it ever came to SHTF, it would take less than 30 minutes to convert.

      Yeah – I got a little far afield on the select fire comments – but it’s along the same vein of practice legally.

      I have 3 or 4 pieces (SIg MPX & MCX), and a couple of home-builds, that would need to have the braces go “bye-bye (to another physical location), if this became a fact (the banning of braces).

      But again – SHTF – ATF is the last thing we’re going to be worried about.

      Whether or not they’re going to do an “incremental death by 1,000 paper cuts”, or just go FULL ON RETARD – remains to be seen. MUCH HANGS IN THE BALANCE OF THE 2 GA SEATS. They cheat and get those (and they WILL) – and they can run everything they’ve always wanted to through (and they WILL) and SCOTUS may be able to help us in the “back end” (MAYBE).

      At this point in the battle (braces) we have VERY LITTLE AMMO to fight with. Because of the way ATF is setup – rendering “opinions on classifications” – it’s very easy for them to change their minds – with very little recourse for “the people”.

      I think the bumpstock ban was a wrong idea on principal. It was throwing “them a bone”, on an accessory that didn’t really have all that much widespread use (versus braces). I didn’t object too strongly, because I knew it was a political move (and because I didn’t own one – I prefer BINARY TRIGGERS -which aren’t federally banned YET).

      Back to the original premise of the response though. If braces are banned – REMOVE IT AND TAKE IT TO YOUR OFFICE – or GIVE IT TO A FRIEND/RELATIVE that doesn’t own a weapon it can be installed on. Otherwise – YOU CAN BE CHARGED FOR POSSESSION OF AN SBR.

      I don’t make the rules – I JUST KNOW WHAT THEY ARE…

      Rick

    • ted November 30, 2020, 5:16 pm

      They have a term called constructive possession. If all the parts are in the same house, then according to them, it already IS , because you have the ability to assemble it. Stupid, but that is the way they see it.

  • Robert Lee November 27, 2020, 9:41 am

    Pretty obvious what’s going on here… communist takeover demands disarmament of citizens so we have a deep state agency deligitmizing lawfully bought weapons that can then be searched for, confiscated and the owners punished. Just the start of the fun and games…

    • David Hill November 28, 2020, 8:23 pm

      Not obvious. Just obvious where you get your ‘news.’ Communist takeover?!? Bwa hahaha! What a crock. Funny how what is clearly a stock (some have cheek welds) is somehow loopholed into being a pistol ‘brace.’

      • RSConsulting November 30, 2020, 8:42 am

        Not going to go full-on-commie-takeover here. But if you don’t agree that the left is so far left there is no such thing as “moderate” – than we know where YOU get YOUR NEWS FROM.

        And yeah – we all laugh at “getting over” on having a brace/stock – and those days might be coming to and end soon (as well as pretty much everything in my vault – which were NAMED SPECIFICALLY on the 2018 GCA that went nowhere – but may end up getting PASSED by a Biden WH and both houses of congress in D hands).

        The left has wanted to disarm the general population for a LONG TIME. And the 2A was designed, so that the government would not grossly overstep the limitations on its power. A simple read of both the federalist and anti-federalist papers, illuminate why our founding documents have this important amendment in our Bill Of Rights.

        The Constitution doesn’t convey power TO THE GOVERNMENT – IT LIMITS ITS POWER. The Bill of Rights doesn’t GIVE US ANYTHING – it tells them THAT WHICH THEY CANNOT TAKE.

        And take they have, chipping away on a daily basis – not just at the 2A – but EVERY RIGHT WE HAVE.

        Both chipping away at OUR RIGHTS – while using those same rights to excuse aberrant behavior by the media and big tech. Much of which on the “false sense of security” of keeping us safe from terrorism (Patriot Act – which authorized GROSS VIOLATIONS of 4A-8A).

        Remember – the “current rock stars” of the left (Bernie/AOC/etc.) are AVOWED SOCIALISTS. And socialism is just a PRETTY WORD FOR COMMUNISM.

        So in a sense, they ARE TAKING OVER. Some of them believe their own BS – others are simply parroting a deeper agenda. Our education system has been co-opted – and our youth weren’t taught the “critical thinking skills” that we were. Social/Mass media – has been geared towards “evoking emotions’, and these kids go burn stuff down based on FEELINGS (not on FACTS).

        If the last 4 years haven’t amply demonstrated HOW MUCH TROUBLE WE’RE IN – then your seat in the cattle car awaits. Maybe not next week/month/year – but we are inexorably headed there.

  • TexDad November 27, 2020, 9:19 am

    There’s an erroneous logical jump early on in this article: the assertion that braces not “certified”, you mean evaluated, by ATF are stocks. That’s not true. Submittal to ATF FTB prior to selling a product is voluntary and in this case is done to limit the possibility of legal challenges in the future.

    Can a supplier make their own determination of a product based on previous determinations from ATF? That’s exactly what has happened with most braces that have come to market after the first few were evaluated by ATF.

    Realize to prosecute Joe Schmoe for owning an illegal SBR under the guise of a brace-equipped pistol, Joe’s defense is going to require ATF to answer some hard questions about the subjectivity and inconsistency in their determinations regarding braces. How is the average man to know which firearms are restricted and which are not?

    It’s much easier for them to make life hard for manufacturers of firearms and firearm accessories, who unlike Joe, are required to keep a license from ATF in order to continue to operate. So here we are.

    • Robert Lee November 27, 2020, 11:06 am

      This is true and the way things work in a civilized society governed by equal application of the law. Unfortunately we have a 2 or 3 tiered system now. Us = guilty, socialist/communist = not guilty, governing overlord = laws don’t apply…

    • Ted November 30, 2020, 5:18 pm

      HOWEVER, JOE will still have been arrested and have legal issues to deal with, even if Joe ultimately wins his case.

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