Pistol Braces That Evade Federal Restrictions on Short-Barreled Rifles

Stabilizing braces are devices that allow a shooter to convert an assault pistol (for example, AK and AR assault pistols) to a short-barreled assault rifle without complying with the strict standards of the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA). Under the NFA, rifles with barrels less than 16 inches must be registered as well as meet additional criteria. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has sanctioned the use of assault pistol braces–despite the legal and public safety implications. ATF has issued a series of rulings and opinions on braces since 2012.

In 2017, ATF wrote a letter clarifying that attaching a brace to a pistol did not convert the gun into a short-barreled rifle. The letter reviews the history of the agency’s opinions on braces. Read the March 21, 2017 letter here.

The 2017 letter referenced a 2015 ATF Open Letter. Read the “Open Letter on the Redesign of ‘Stabilizing Braces’” here.

In response to ATF’s actions sanctioning the use of braces, the gun industry is aggressively marketing assault pistols equipped with braces as well as selling braces as separate components. The industry openly brags about how the braces are a way of evading the NFA’s registration requirements.

Sig Sauer later touted ATF’s ruling allowing the use of braces. Read the Sig Sauer statement here.

Ruger AR-556 assault pistol used to kill 10 in a Boulder, Colorado supermarket in 2021
Anderson AM-15 assault pistol used to kill nine and wound 27 in Dayton, Ohio in 2019

UPDATE: In January 2023, the Department of Justice issued a final rule to make clear that when manufacturers, dealers, and individuals use stabilizing braces to convert pistols into rifles with a barrel of less than 16 inches, commonly referred to as a short-barreled rifles, they must comply with all laws regulating those rifles, including the National Firearms Act (NFA).

In June 2023, the U.S. Senate rejected a resolution to block the new stabilizing brace rule. The House had passed the resolution.