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ATF Rule 2021R-08F – Stabilizing Brace Rule Explained

Posted on June 23, 2023 in

On January 31st, 2023, the ATF published its new stabilizing brace rule into the federal register. Under this rule, previously law-abiding individuals who relied upon 10 years of ATF interpretations that support the legality of pistol braces became felons overnight.

However, the ATF provided a 120-day grace period where individuals affected by the rule can come into compliance with the law without fear of prosecution and without having to pay a $200 making tax. While the rule itself is fairly straightforward, misinformation abounds on the internet. Accordingly, we will update this page frequently with FAQs.

What is a stabilizing brace?

As everyone knows, attaching a stock to a firearm with a rifled barrel less than 16” long and or with an overall length of less than 26” creates an SBR. However, in 2012, a company sought and obtained ATF approval to add a “stabilizing brace” to an A.R. 15 style pistol. This brace strapped to a user’s forearm and provided additional stability to the pistol.

These braces are particularly helpful for individuals with shoulder and arm disabilities that prevent them from utilizing both hands to discharge a firearm. And for 10 years, the ATF was perfectly happy to allow disabled and non-disabled firearms enthusiasts to build AR and AK style pistols with these stabilizing braces.

What does the rule say?

The rule classifies nearly all firearms equipped with a stabilizing brace as a short barreled rifle if:

  1. The rearward attachment provides sufficient surface area that allows the weapon to be fired from the shoulder; and
  2. The other factors indicate the weapon is designed, made, or intended to be fired from the shoulder.

What are these other factors? Simply put, they look at the functionality of the rifle. Specifically, whether the weapon has a length or weight consistent with similarly designed rifles; whether the length of trigger pull (measured from the center of the trigger to the center of the rearward accessory) is consistent with similarly designed rifles; whether the weapon is equipped with sights or scope that require an eye relief only obtainable from shouldering the weapon; whether the surface area that allows the weapon to be fired is from a buffer tube or other necessary component for operations; the manufacturer’s promotional materials; and information demonstrating the “likely use” in the general community.

Let’s be honest – that’s extremely vague, rather broad, and quite difficult for the average gun-user to understand. Thus, we recommend not trying to analyze whether your firearm meets the exceptions and instead just assume that it will be classified as an SBR.

I have a braced pistol – what do I do?

Thankfully, the ATF has made the process of complying with the NFA relatively painless. There are four main ways to comply with the NFA:

  1. Destroy the firearm or forfeit it to the ATF
  2. Remove the brace and destroy it
  3. Replace the short barrel with a 16” barrel
  4. Register the firearm with the NFA

I want to go with Option 4 – How do I register my firearm?

Of the four options, registering the firearm is really the best route – especially if you already possess NFA items. Luckily, the ATF has made registering these newly-defined SBRs relatively painless.

First, you will fill out ATF eForm 1 – application to make a firearm.

Second, you will submit two copies of fingerprints, two passport photos, and trust documentation (if applicable) to the ATF.

Third, you will mail a copy of the application to your Chief Law Enforcement Officer.

Fourth – you will wait for approval. eForm 1’s are taking less than 45 days at the moment.

Do I need to engrave my newly registered SBR?

Generally when an SBR is manufactured, it must be engraved with specific information about the “manufacturer” – name, city and state. However, the ATF is allowing newly registered SBRs that fall under the stabilizing brace rule to adopt the original manufacturer’s engravings – thus, you do not need to engrave your new SBR that is registered under the new stabilizing brace final rule.

I have a trust or LLC to manage my NFA items – what do I do?

Anyone – or any entity — that possesses a firearm affected by the rule is eligible for the “free” tax stamp. However, you must demonstrate that you, the trust, or your LLC “owned” the item prior to January 31st, 2023. This is typically demonstrated with a bill of sale or an assignment sheet to the Trust or LLC.

Additional questions?

If you’ve got questions about this rule, how it affects you, or how to come into compliance, don’t hesitate to reach out to the expert firearms attorneys at Stone Rose Law today! We are happy to offer free consultations to prospective clients.