This article was written by Arsenal Attorneys' Firearms Technology Expert Rick Vasquez, for informational purposes only. Contact Arsenal Attorneys with your questions about firearms law.
For pistol grip firearms designed to fire shotgun shells, and with the invention of the arm brace designed for rifle caliber pistols such as the AK and AR pistols, there is much confusion on what is the proper classification of these firearms. Such a firearm could appear to be a “short barreled rifle” or a “short barreled shotgun”, either of which would create concerns about proper registration and handling.
To properly understand the opinions ATF has provided on these firearms, the definitions of ‘firearm’ under the Gun Control Act (GCA) and the National Firearms Act (NFA) must be studied carefully. Certain commercially-produced pistol-grip/palm-grip firearms do not fall within the definition of a “shotgun” under either the NFA or the GCA. Although these firearms shoot shotgun ammunition, their use of pistol-grips in lieu of buttstocks means they cannot be “shotguns” under the NFA or GCA because they are not designed or intended to be fired from the shoulder. Provided that the overall length remains at least 26 inches, the length of the weapon’s barrel is immaterial. Such weapons are classified simply as “firearms” and are still subject to all of the provisions of the GCA.
Under the provisions of the GCA, an individual can legally reduce the barrel length of a pistol-grip firearm of this type, to less than 18 inches, as long as the overall length of the firearm remains at least 26 inches. However, a shotgun that once had a buttstock attached but had the barrel shortened to less than 18 inches and a pistol grip added would then be classified as an NFA firearm, as a “weapon made from a shotgun.”
According to the GCA, the term “shotgun” means a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of an explosive to fire through a smooth bore either a number of ball shot or a single projectile for each single pull of the trigger.
As defined in the NFA, 26 U.S.C. Section 5845(a), the term “firearm” includes:
(1) a shotgun having a barrel or barrels of less than 18 inches in length;
(2) a weapon made from a shotgun if such weapon as modified has an overall length of less than 26 inches or a barrel or barrels of less than 18 inches in length;
(3) a rifle having a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length;
(4) a weapon made from a rifle if such weapon as modified has an overall length of less than 26 inches or a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length;
(5) any other weapon, as defined in subsection (e).
The term “any other weapon” (AOW) as defined in Section 5845(e) includes any weapon or device capable of being concealed on the person from which a shot can be discharged through the energy of an explosive. In terms of AOWs, ATF has a longstanding policy setting an overall minimum length of 26 inches as the determining factor on whether a weapon (other than a pistol or revolver) is capable of being concealed on a person. No such policy has been established for a minimum length standard on a barrel, even though 18 inches exists as the standard for barrels elsewhere in the GCA.
A firearm that has never had a buttstock attached and has only been assembled and distributed as a pistol-grip firearm designed to fire shotgun ammunition, can never be classified as a “short barreled shotgun” or “weapon made from a shotgun,” regardless of the modifications performed. However, this pistol-grip firearm would be properly classified as an AOW if the overall length is reduced to less than 26 inches. If only the barrel were reduced below 18 inches in length but the overall length remained more than 26 inches it would remain only a GCA firearm, and not an NFA firearm. Conversely, a pistol-grip firearm that, at some point, had a buttstock attached, is properly classified as a “weapon made from a shotgun” when either the overall length falls below 26 inches or the barrel length falls below 18 inches. This creates a situation in which legal possession of a firearm depends only upon whether that firearm has ever had a buttstock attached. See below.
• Description: Weapon originally manufactured with a pistol-grip in lieu of a buttstock
• Barrel Length: 17 inches
• Overall Length: 27.5 inches
• Classification: GCA “Firearm,” not a NFA firearm, despite the 17-inch barrel
• Description: Shotgun originally manufactured with a buttstock. The buttstock has been removed, a pistol grip added and barrel length reduced.
• Barrel Length: 17 inches
• Overall Length: 27.5 inches
• Classification: NFA “Weapon Made from a Shotgun” (barrel less than 18 inches)
A new variant is called a “Palm grip” versus a pistol grip:
AK and AR pistols (and other types) with an arm brace attached are still classified as a handgun. Through several different written opinions ATF has concluded that the arm brace is not a stock, therefore, a handgun with an arm brace is not designed to be fired from the shoulder. Consequently since it is not a butt stock, a pistol with an arm brace is classified as a handgun, not an SBR.
For the Federal Firearms Licensee, the issue now becomes how this firearm should be recorded in an A&D book and on the 4473. ATF has taken this into account and updated instructions on the 4473. Review instructions on page 4 “section B, Question 16 types of firearms”, in this instance it should be “other”. Additionally, Section D Questions 27 “Type of Firearm”; To accurately identify these firearms, entries regarding the “Type” of firearm may be recorded as “Pistol (Palm) Grip Firearm,” “PGF,” or “PG.” In addition, this firearm type may be recorded as “Other.
As of June 5, 2017, law abiding citizens of Marylanders are free to possess Tasers and stun guns. Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh signed the ordinance repealing the city’s ban in response to litigation by Arsenal Attorneys.
Arsenal Attorneys initiated its lawsuit, Baran v. Baltimore, in January against the City of Baltimore as well as the Maryland counties of Howard and Baltimore. Leah Elizabeth Baran, the lead plaintiff in the case, was nearly killed by a vicious attack by a former boyfriend, who has threatened to finish the job when he is released from prison. Ms. Baran wished to possess and carry a Taser for self-defense because Maryland’s restrictive policies make it too difficult to obtain a permit to carry a firearm.
Howard and Baltimore Counties promptly repealed their electronic weapons bans earlier this year after being served with the lawsuit. Initially Baltimore City expressed its intent to oppose the litigation and Ms. Baran’s right to self-defense. At the time, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said “we are not interested in folks acquiring Tasers or guns.” Apparently the strength of Arsenal Attorneys’ case reached the Mayor, and the very next day the City agreed to repeal its ban and end enforcement of its ban pending repeal. The city also agreed to pay Arsenal Attorneys’ reasonable lawyers’ fees and costs in bringing the lawsuit. On May 20, 2017, the firm received a check from the City of Baltimore in the amount of $24,900 in settlement of the suit.
Residents and visitors to Baltimore may now carry Tasers and stun guns in the city. Electronic weapons, however, are prohibited in schools and government buildings in Baltimore. Possession is also prohibited to persons suffering from a mental disorder with a history of violence to themselves or others or persons subject to a protective order.
BREAKING NEWS--ARLINGTON, VA: Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee will be appearing as an honored guest at the National Capital Friends of NRA banquet on Thursday, May 18 in Arlington, VA at the Sheraton Pentagon City. Advanced purchase of tickets is required.
Sheriff Clarke has been a strong national champion of the Second Amendment and of the law enforcement community. He currently serves as a member of the National Rifle Association's (NRA) board of directors.
In February of this year, Sheriff Clarke published the book, "Cop Under Fire: Moving Beyond Hashtags of Race, Crime Politics for a Better America."
Sheriff Clarke has become a hero
to Americans for his service, leadership, and
tenacious defense of the US Constitution.
The National Capital Friends of NRA is a community of Second Amendment supporters in the metropolitan Washington, DC area. Their primary purpose is fundraising for public interest grants under the auspices of the NRA Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. This year the Friends of NRA program celebrates its 25th Anniversary. Over those years, more than 20,000 Friends of NRA events nationwide have raised nearly $800 million to be used for public interest grants.
Recipients of NRA Foundation grants include youth shooting programs, law enforcement, conservation groups, hunter safety activities, the National Firearms Museum, and numerous other educational programs. Much of the money raised at Friends of NRA events is allocated to grants within the the local committee's state.
The National Capital Friends of NRA banquet will feature a VIP reception, dinner, and auction. Other honored guests expected to attend are Congressman Dave Brat, Virginia Delegate Dave LaRock, National Sheriffs' Association Executive Director Jonathan Thompson, Arsenal Inc. CEO Vartan Barsoumian, GEMTECH CEO Ron Martinez, Silencer Shop CEO Dave Matheny, Research Director of the Independence Institute Dave Kopel, and activist Martha Boneta.
Congressman Brat will receive an award for his leadership as a founding member of the Second Amendment Caucus in the US House of Representatives.
Tickets may be purchased at: https://www.friendsofnra.org/eventtickets/Events/Details/48?eventId=54219
For press and other inquiries, call 703-291-3312.
Arsenal Attorneys is proud to announce internationally renowed firearms expert Rick Vasquez has formally joined the firm's team of experts. Rick will provide non-attorney consulting services to the firm's clients, including private individuals, manufacturers, and governments worldwide.
"Rick Vasquez has provided high value guidance to Arsenal Attorneys' clients who are concerned with compliance with ever-changing, complex firearms regulations," said Arsenal Attorneys' Managing Attorney Matthew Bergstrom. "We are proud to formally make him a member of our team."
Rick is a leading specialist in firearms technology, regulations, and tactics. He is available as a technical consultant, expert witness, security advisor, tactical instructor, and compliance specialist.
Previously Rick spent 15 years with the BATFE, where he served as acting Branch Chief of the Firearms Technology Branch (FTB). Prior to ATF, Rick served as a firearms instructor in the Diplomatic Security Service. During his distinguished career as a US Marine, Rick served as a weapons instructor and as detachment commander of the Marine Embassy Guard in Moscow.
Here is a small sample of Rick's accomplishments and skills:
Contact Arsenal Attorneys to discuss how we can help you with your technical or legal matters related to firearms.
The conviction of former Marine Hisashi Pompey is the latest reminder of the importance of understanding different states' firearms laws before traveling.
Over six years ago, Pompey, a Virginia resident and Marine Corps military policeman, had visited New Jersey--armed. Unbeknownst to Pompey, the gun he legally owned and carried in Virginia was unlawful to possess in New Jersey. He was arrested after his friend allegedly took Pompey's holstered pistol following an altercation at a night club. Pompey was charged and a jury convicted him of felony possession of an unlawful firearm. He was due to report to jail just over a week ago for a mandatory minimum sentence of three years in prison. Fortunately, Governor Chris Christie commuted his sentence; however, as a convicted felon, Pompey may not possess a firearm without a pardon by the New Jersey governor.
To learn more about this case, and to see an interview of Arsenal Attorneys' George Lyon, see this video from Channel WUSA-9 in Washington, DC.
We continue to receive questions about 'solvent traps' ostensibly sold as kits attached to a gun's muzzle to catch cleaning materials and debris. In January of this year ATF stepped up enforcement by shutting down solvent trap companies because, ATF alleged, they had intended the solvent traps to be silencers. Like wrist braces, Can Cannons, and silencer wipes, this is another case of ATF flip flopping. The public must stay informed about ATF policies. An item assumed to be legal to buy today, could later be recategorized as an NFA firearm requiring registration.
ATF issued a letter explaining its enforcement was based on 'constructive intent.' Here is an excerpt:
The stated intent of a solvent trap is to catch and trap gun cleaning solvent during bore cleaning operations commonly performed on firearms. Solvent traps do attach to the muzzle of a firearm but do not have any design features intended to allow a bullet to pass through them. Since as originally manufactured they are not intended to silence, muffle or diminish the report of a portable firearm they are not silencers as defined in 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(24) and thus also are not firearms as defined in 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(3) or 26 U.S.C. 5845(a)(7).
However, if the solvent trapped was redesigned or utilized to assemble a device for silencing, muffling or diminishing the report of a portable firearm or if intent was demonstrated to use the device for silencing, muffling or diminishing the report of a portable firearm, the solvent trap would be classified as a “firearm silencer” as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(24) and as a “firearm” as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(3)(C) and 26 U.S.C. § 5845(a)(7).
This issue demonstrates the burden on the public to keep alert of changes in ATF policy. To stay informed about firearms law and regulations, subscribe to Arsenal Attorneys email newsletter by completing the subscription form at the bottom of our home page. You can also follow us on Facebook.
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