New ATF Technology Chief’s Letter About AR Pistol Braces on Shotguns

| November 20, 2014 | 4 Comments

Yesterday, Shooting Sports Retailer published an article entitled : “COULD THIS MEAN THE END OF THE SIG BRACE FOR AR PISTOLS?” The focus of the article was a response from the ATF technical branch sent to Black Aces Tactical in regards to attaching a vertical foregrip to a shotgun made from a “virgin” receiver and adding an SB15 brace.

In short, the ATF opinion penned by Max Kingery, Acting Chief, Firearms Technology Industry Services Branch stated that

However, should an individual utilize the SigTac SB15 pistol stabilizing brace on the submitted sample as a shoulder stock to fire the weapon from the shoulder, this firearm would then be classified as a “short-barrel shotgun” as defined in the NFA, 26 U.S.C. 5845(a)(1) because the subject brace has then been made or remade, designed or redesigned from its originally intended purpose.

There are several issues with the letter, especially with the section quoted above. I’m still trying to get information on Mr. Kingery, as it appears that he was promoted from Assistant Chief to Acting Chief sometime this year. His opinion is in direct contradiction to his predecessor, Earl Griffith. Mr. Griffith clearly stated in March of this year that using an SB15 from the shoulder was NOT a reason for classifying a weapon as a short barreled anything.

FTB classifies weapons based on their physical design characteristics. While usage/functionality of the weapon does influence the intended design, it is not the sole criterion for determining the classification of a weapon. Generally speaking, we do not classify weapons based on how an individual uses a weapon.

Well shit! Now that there’s a “new sheriff in town,” does this change the ATF’s stance on using the SIG Brace? Possibly. Let’s look at an additional factor in Mr. Kingery’s statement:

We caution further that this classification pertains only to this type of firearm and its classification under Federal law.

This could mean that the ATF will not undo their approval of the SB15 on an AR15, fired from the shoulder or not. It’s an interesting hedge by Mr. Kingery, and I wonder if he is aware of Mr. Griffith’s prior statement — or the amount of money SIG has brought to bear on their brace line and their aggressive legal challenges against prior ATF rulings.

I don’t think this would be logical at all, but as I’m fond of saying, “if it made sense, it wouldn’t be a gun law.”

I’ve been writing that the ATF’s letter from 2012 about the AR15 pistol brace was not a guarantee that a similar brace could be used on anything but an “AR-type” (ATF’s words) firearm. Since researching, writing about, and using the SB15 and SBX braces, two things are clear:

  1. The firearms industry has been putting AR buffer tubes on many non-AR-type firearms and selling them. The company that makes the SB47 (AK47-style) brace ships the ATF’s letter for the SB15. They’ve been selling the SB47 for years without incident.
  2. The ATF has not gone after any of these manufacturers or retailers. Yet.

I mailed a letter to Active Chief Kingery this morning, and we’ll see what kind of response we get.



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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4 Comments on "New ATF Technology Chief’s Letter About AR Pistol Braces on Shotguns"

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  1. Cymond says:

    I’ll be waiting anxiously for the reply, especially how they can justify contradicting themselves yet again. Just one more ATF flip-flop for the record.

  2. B R Kurtz B R Kurtz says:

    Note that this ruling came after a letter was sent to BATFE. This is a case where somebody asked for permission instead of forgiveness and got neither. Honestly it’s hard to say who’s more stupid the manufacturer or the new boss at BATFE. One should have known it was only a matter of time before they said NO and the other might have wanted to get up to speed on prior rulings

  3. Kobie says:

    What was the contents of the letter you sent?

    • Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd says:

      I asked the Acting Chief to defend his recent bulletin versus the multiple bulletins issued by two former chiefs which contradict his bulletin.

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