New felony: ATF now forcing federal registration of popular short rifles

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has reportedly changed a key gun measuring standard that is reclassifying popular rifles if they have a stabilizing brace.

In an ATF letter obtained by firearms legal expert, attorney Adam Kraut, the ATF is no longer allowing rifle measurements to include some collapsible stocks with “stabilizing braces,” meaning that many popular sporting rifles will now be under their standard length and subject to the National Firearms Act (NFA) regulations.

Rifles fitted with a stabilizing brace that once measured more than 26″ overall length (exempting it from NFA regulations) are now not allowed to include the brace in its overall length measurement, meaning if it now falls under 26″ under the new measurement, they are now subject to NFA regulation.

“In contrast to stocks on rifles or shotguns…’stabilizing braces’ are merely accessories and not relevant to the classification of a ‘pistol’ under the statutory definition. That is, a folding stock on a rifle or shotgun is included in overall length measurements because the firearm must be ‘designed or redesigned….and intended to be fired from the shoulder‘ to be so classified. The stock is therefore an essential element in the statutory definition,” the ATF said in the letter obtained by Kraut.


It has been standard for rifles with collapsible stocks to be measured with the stock extended. The stock was considered an essential component of the gun, so its measurement would be included.

Previous measuring guidelines from the ATF declared guns “not subject to the provisions of the NFA” when they are manufactured with “barrels that are 18 inches in length and the overall length of the firearm, with stock extended, is more than 26 inches.”

However, the new rule now reverses that standard for guns fitted with stabilizing braces despite their similarity to a collapsible stock — because they are not used primarily to fire the gun from the shoulder.

“Measuring a folding (or telescoping) stabilizing brace would therefore undermine the comprehensive statutory and regulatory design of the GCA and NFA,” the ATF insisted in the letter.

Any short rifle built with one of these stabilizing braces is now considered an “any other weapon,” a category of weapon that is supposed to encompass all weapons that can’t be classified as rifles, shotguns, or handguns.

“Any other weapons” (AOWs) are subject to the registration and fee requirements of the NFA. Weapons regulated by the NFA include “a weapon made from a rifle if such weapon as modified has an overall length of less than 26 inches or a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length,” according to the ATF.

Gun owners who don’t register their NFA guns are committing a felony, and there are likely millions of gun owners who will be committing a felony if they don’t register their newly reclassified guns with stabilizing braces.

Numerous gun makers manufacture such weapons, commonly referred to as an “AR Pistol” or other names like the Uzi or a CZ Scorpion. The guns are manufactured with Picatinny attachment rails similar to the AR-15, but in various calibers.

The classification appears contradictory, however, because guns with a stabilizing brace have the characteristics of a pistol. The ATF describes pistols as those intended to be fired in one hand, and pistols with a rifled bore are exempted from the AOW classification.

Only when a shoulder stock is “removed” should it be considered an NFA weapon, per ATF’s explanation.

Legal precedent has already been established in United States v. Fix, 4 F.App’x. 324 (9th Cir. 2001) that aftermarket modifications cannot alter the original classification of a pistol.

The new classification will likely be challenged, as these guns are now classified the same as concealable, hidden guns like the “knife gun” and “umbrella gun,” and are required to be registered with the federal government just the same as fully automatic machine guns are.

*see full story by American Military News