ATF Letter on Shoulder-firing an AR Pistol

| April 4, 2014 | 3 Comments

I’m a big believer in the AR pistol concept. It is a very short, maneuverable firearm. It does not require the additional expense, wait and waiving of rights associated with an NFA item. Also, many states (including mine) have restrictions on carrying loaded rifles on your person or in a car, but carrying a loaded handgun is fine (either with or without a permit, depending).

Depending on the length of the buffer tube and the body of the shooter it is possible, and quite comfortable, to shoot an AR pistol by putting the firearm against your shoulder.

This has led some to think that doing so is illegal, as “pistols” are usually fired with the arms at least partially extended.

Sergeant Joe Bradley of the Greenwood Village, CO police department wrote to the ATF for clarification, and they sent back a response on March 5, 2014. A scanned PDF and photos of the document were posted to today and while I never thought this was a legitimate legal question, now there’s an ATF opinion on it.

The short story is the ATF rules on physical characteristics of a weapon, not the usage of a weapon. As such, they do not consider shouldering an AR pistol to turn it into an SBR.

Thanks to reader J.C. for the tip.

You can download the ruling on this Google Drive, or directly from me in case that link goes to shit.


About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.
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3 Comments on "ATF Letter on Shoulder-firing an AR Pistol"

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  1. Charles says:

    3rd. of four documents to fold up and keep on your person when wandering around with (or operating on a firing line) with your suitably outfitted AR pistol.
    I’m certainly glad that the air has been cleared on that touchy subject. Whew!

  2. Michael says:

    could you clarify why am AR pistol with a short stock is legally still a pistol, but a glock with a “glock stock” becomes an SBR?

    • Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd says:

      Hi Michael — an AR15 pistol means that it was built from a lower that was never assembled into a rifle, and does not have a stock on it. For example, my .300 AR15 Blackout pistol was made from a brand new, stripped lower with the intent to be a pistol, and the SB15 and SBX arm braces from SIG were put on with the intention for being used as a forearm brace, not as a device meant to implement firing from the shoulder. It doesn’t have a stock according to the ATF, and is therefore still a pistol.

      The Glock is an SBR (and registered with the ATF as an NFA item) because the enclosures have an appendage that’s designed to be used as a stock.

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