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How to Legally Possess a Short Barreled Rifle or Short Barreled Shotgun

Posted on June 23, 2023 in

At Stone Rose Law, our expert firearms attorneys frequently get asked how to legally possess a short barreled rifle or short barreled shotgun. While the process is generally simple, misinformation abounds in this area of firearms law.

What is a Short-Barreled Rifle or Short-Barreled Shotgun?

A short-barreled rifle (“SBR”) is any firearm with a rifled barrel that has an overall length of less than 26 inches and/or a barrel length shorter than 16 inches, that is intended to be fired from the shoulder.

A short-barreled shotgun (“SBS”) is a shotgun – i.e., a shoulder-fired weapon that fires shotgun shells — with a barrel length of 18 inches and/or an overall length of less than 26 inches.

The National Firearms Act

The National Firearms Act of 1934 regulates the possession of numerous classes of firearms, including short-barreled rifles and short-barreled shotguns. Pursuant to the NFA, these items must be registered and the appropriate making or transfer tax paid prior to transferring or manufacturing these regulated firearms. A making or transfer tax for a short-barreled rifle or short-barreled shotgun is $200.

Making a Short-Barreled Rifle or Shotgun

To make a short-barreled rifle or shotgun, the person intending to manufacture the firearm must complete an ATF Form 1 – Application to Make Firearm. They will be required to submit fingerprints and passport photos, payment for the $200 tax stamp, as well as notify their Chief law enforcement officer. Note: The Chief law enforcement officer is generally the chief of police of your city, the county sheriff, or the State Attorney General. The Chief law enforcement officer is not required to respond to  the notification in any way.

It is important to note that you may not manufacture or assemble the SBR or SBS until you receive the approved form 1 and tax stamp. Doing so places you in violation of federal law and runs the risk of criminal prosecution.

Purchasing a SBR or SBS

The process to purchase an SBR or SBS is very similar to the process for making one. Instead of an ATF Form 1, you would complete an ATF Form 4 – Application to Transfer firearm. You will submit this to the ATF along with fingerprints, passport photos, and payment for the $200 tax stamp, along with chief law enforcement officer notification. Just like with a Form 1, the Chief law enforcement officer is not required to respond, approve, or take any action whatsoever with the notification.

At this point, the SBR or SBS will remain in the possession of the seller – typically an FFL but potentially a private seller. You may not take possession of the SBR or SBS until you receive the approved form 4 and tax stamp.