Yesterday the internet came alive with the news that the folks who control what guns and related gear you can own and what you can do with them changed their mind – again – on the subject of pistol stabilizing braces. Countless sources proclaimed the SB Tactical/Sig Brace was THE story. Not true. There’s more to the story.
The point of a pistol brace is to provide the shooter with a way to safely shoot a firearm defined as a “pistol” using extra support. The original SB Tactical brace was launched targeting AR-15 pistol owners. I’ve owned a couple and still own one. It gave owners something more than a buffer tube hanging out the rear end of the AR pistols (and it can be adapted for a broad variety of other pistol builds). The idea was that you’d strap it to your arm, but it sure begged to be shouldered from time to time. No problem, said the ATF, but then they changed their mind. Shouldering it amounted to a “redesign” of the firearm into a Short Barreled Rifle (SBR) which officially made the user a bad person.
As of yesterday, April 25, 2017, that changed. It appears SB Tactical’s favorite law firm has been communicating with the ATF (BATFE) resulting in the big reversal. Huge kudos to that group! Shouldering your braced pistol is no longer taboo, generally speaking. But there’s more you need to know, straight from the ATF:
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…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…that person has…”redesigned” the firearm for purposes of the NFA. – BATFE
So don’t be dumb is the message I take away. Don’t be sneaky, as the ATF continues: “…an item that functions as a stock if attached to a handgun in a manner that serves the objective purpose of allowing a firearm to be fired from the shoulder may result in ‘making’ a short-barreled rifle, even if the attachment is not permanent.”
Great news all around, but many on the interwebs parroted each other saying this was an SB Tactical deal. While that’s true, it’s just part of the story. Via phone, I spoke with Marty Ewer, owner of Shockwave Technologies, maker of the Shockwave Blade Pistol Stabilizer. I’ve never owned a Blade stabilizer, but used one once. It’s another good product in the category.
Marty reached out to the ATF for clarification. The agent he spoke with confirmed that the new ATF opinion applies to all pistol stabilizing braces currently on the market. Moreover, the new stance supersedes prior letters and opinions published by the ATF relating to pistol stabilizing braces. So, if you have an old ATF letter saying you’ve screwed up royally if you’ve shouldered your pistol brace, it’s no longer worth the paper it is printed on. Bravo, ATF! Logic wins the day!
Shockwave published some more specific information you will find useful, maybe even important, based on their conversation with the ATF.
By “permanent affixing,” ATF considers that to be adding permanent Loctite to the large set screw that secures the Blade into the dimples in the KAK tube. As long as you don’t red Loctite the set screw in place, ATF considers it to be “temporarily placed” and “perfectly okay to shoulder.” (He didn’t beat around the bush on this topic.)
“Length of pull”—for lack of a better word regarding pistol braces—begins to enter a “gray area” above 13.5″. Above 13.5″ begins “to enter shoulder stock area.” (His words. I believe this has to do with the “comfortableness” aspect.) On an AR-15 pistol, the “length of pull” for the Blade is approximately 13.13″, so no issues there. But if you use the Blade on a firearm that requires a large adapter of some sort, please make sure that you only use the dimples up to the point that you remain below the 13.5″ length. Stay below 13.5″ and according to ATF, it’s okay to shoulder a Shockwave Blade.
I also visited with Paul Reavis, owner of Gear Head Works, maker of the new Tailhook Brace. I own an early MOD 1 version, reviewed and videoed here. His takeaway: “The latest letter confirms that the ATF could not enforce the ‘open letter’ and that it all boils down to intent. Consumers need to understand that this still isn’t permission to replace a tax stamp with a pistol brace for intentions to make a SBR. The end user must still INTEND to use a brace for its designed purpose. They just don’t have to fear prosecution for an occasional or random shouldering of a brace.”
Per Shockwave, the ATF was overwhelmed with calls yesterday and sees the need to give a broader, inclusive kind of statement, letter, something, to stop the phone ringing. So yes, we’re eagerly looking forward to that while recognizing we don’t really need it.
This is a great win for logic, for freedom, and for website traffic in some cases. See related stories below for other brace info. Do you have a brace? Care to share your thoughts? Comments below are open and no login is required.