The ATF Pistol Brace Guidance Is Wrong | regular guy guns

We saw it coming a mile away – the big news of the past few days of course is the proposed rulemaking by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE) regarding the common firearms accessory – the pistol brace.

In a nutshell – it’s bad news for gun owners, regardless of whether one owns a pistol brace-equipped firearm or not.

As we’ve been over in the past, the pistol brace has proven a popular accessory for the owners of large pistols, whether they be AR-style, AK-style, or otherwise. The idea is to help the user stabilize the firearm against one’s arm using a contact point or a strap. This is especially beneficial to disabled users, which is actually how they got their start.

And yes, some people shoulder them, which the ATF has ruled is perfectly legal, since it doesn’t constitute a modification of the device – “situational” use other than the designed use was/is kosher.

However, recent determinations by the ATF on specific pistol braces have stirred the pot.


Back in October, the ATF determined that the Honey Badger Pistol by Q LLC was in fact an short-barreled rifle (SBR), and thus subject to the provisions of the National Firearms Act of 1934. As we’ve been over, the NFA was the first major push for federal gun control, and subjected things like machine guns, supressors, and SBRs to registration and taxation requirements.

Despite not having a stock, the ATF ruled that the Q Honey Badger was an SBR, for vague and inexplicable reasons. Unfortunately, the ATF can do this, and usually gets away with it. Rulemaking powers are accorded to executive branch agencies, and most of the time it doesn’t brook much notice. Rulemaking by an executive branch agency is only supposed to offer clarity on laws, not take the place of legislative processes. The idea is to say something like “Purple shirts are illegal by law, plum is a variant of purple so that’s illegal too…” not “Purple shirts are illegal, red is purple if you view it on the third Sunday after the Winter Solstice when it’s really cloudy and you’re drunk…”.

The Honey Badger Pistol is functionally and cosmetically similar to many other large AR pistols on the market, but for some reason, the ATF is declaring it an SBR. The ATF is declaring red to be purple, and they’ll shoot you if you try to say otherwise.

With all that controversy, the industry tried to play nice, and ask for clear guidance on what constitutes a brace.

The ATF finally dropped a proposed “determination” this past Thursday.

It made the situation worse.

In the pre-internet days, obscenity cases used to be a big thing. They still are, kind of, but the First Amendment has a lot of teeth to knock most obscenity charges back. However, there was, and still isn’t, a national standard for obscenity. One of the most famous Supreme Court obscenity cases, Jacobellis v Ohio, ruled that a film, Les Amants, was not obscene. However, the Supreme Court could not come up with a concurrent majority opinion, so the Justices ruling favor of Jacobellis (the theatre owner), all had their own opinions. The most famous one was Justice Potter Stewart’s line, with regards to obscenity – “I know it when I see it…”

There was no definition for obscenity, other than a “gut feeling” that something was obscene, but only to the viewer.

The ATF’s rambling determination is just that – a pistol brace-equipped firearm that they are examining can become an SBR because they “know it when they see it”.

The criteria which could turn your pistol into an SBR is all over the place, and exists in a fog of “maybe”. Toss an optic on your braced pistol? It could become an SBR. Or not. Put a drum magazine in the magwell? That could do it. Or not. You can read the whole entire insult here.

Furthermore, the ATF even cagily admits they may be talking out of of their butts:

The contents of this document do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way.

But yet, they are proposing this to be a “yardstick” to determine whether braced pistols are SBRs or not.

Even worse, the ATF is proposing that pistol brace-equipped firearms that fall afoul of their ‘keen’ judgement be given a path to legality in the form of tax-free NFA registrations. Yeah, their ‘bone’ is to give everyone a free Form 1 stamp, and encourage the biggest attempt at a federal gun registration in history.

This is the real crux here. The ostensible reason for the ATF to try and NFA-ize pistol braced weapons is for some so-called “public safety” benefit. The classic lie of gun control is “public safety”.

Gun controllers love to argue that a gun registry prevents crime somehow. Registered or unregistered, I don’t think a criminal shooting someone cares. Just because the gun is on some Fed database isn’t going to deter them from opening fire.

Registries are just a catalog that gives the government a handy pick-up list for if and when they ban the private ownership of firearms, and attempt a mandatory confiscation, compensated or otherwise. Registration leads to confiscation. Yes, they want your AR-15.

Look at Canada. They recently used a “rulemaking” process to ban most semi-automatic weapons up there. And they had a convenient shopping list due to the national gun registries up there. Owners of ARs and other like-minded rifles got nasty notes in the mail, explaining that in the near future, the guns would have to be surrendered.

Registry or no registry, people still shoot each other in Canada, by the way.

Again, the ATF is seeking to flip the definition of something to fit it within the existing NFA laws. They know that actually getting a law drafted and passed to reclassify or ban pistol braced firearms would be fraught with peril. It would have to be written, passed by Congress, signed by the President, and then survive court challenges to actually take effect.

However, if they can change the definition of a word or a phrase, they can fit whatever they want into existing laws no problem. Red becomes purple and because purple was severely restricted 80 some-odd years ago, now red is too. Because red is purple. And they really want to know where all the red things are, despite the legal prohibitions on creating such a list.

Doesn’t make sense, right?

It’s wretched executive brance excess, and we’ve been bitten by it before. If you recall, President Trump directed the ATF and Department of Justice to ban bump stocks, without the hassle of legislative processes. In an 157-page document, they declared a piece of plastic to be a machine gun.

We’re still fighting the bump stock battle in court by the way. Which is part of the problem. If we get put on the ropes with the brace issue, it’ll be years before we can even get close to a positive legal resolution. We need to fight back, now, lest millions of us get caught in legal limbo waiting for a court decision, or are rendered felons like the untold numbers of people who never turned in their bump stocks. Yes they are out there, just being quiet.

Do you want to be declared a felon just because you own a funny chunk of metal/rubber/plastic and Velcro?

Primary Arms

At this point in the game, the pistol brace guidance proposal is live on the government’s federal register website, which means it’s open for commentary by any interested member of the public.

I know, it’s a hot-button issue and we’re all pretty keyed up over it. It’s the biggest gun registration sham in US history, and we’re not gonna take it. Trust me, I want to go all out. I want to insult their mothers. I want to compare them to what my dog left on the street earlier. But that’s not gonna get you anywhere, and they will delete comments with profanity. Everything else, they have to, by law, review and respond to.

Commenting guidelines:

  • Keep it rational and polite. State your case, use proper grammar, and if you are referencing things, be prepared to cite them.

  • Don’t use copy-paste form letters. The system can detect them and will not only toss your comment out, but anything it resembles as well. Use other comments for guidance, sure, but type your own words.

  • You have every right to submit an anonymous comment, but I have a sneaking suspicion they may put less weight on those. If you’re worried about being on a list, don’t worry too much – you’re already on a list by reading blogs like mine and looking for gun shit on the internet. Welcome aboard.

  • Tell all your friends about this travesty.

  • Write your local Congresspeople about this. If they are anti-gun, couch it in general terms of executive overreach.

  • Most importantly, get this done by midnight Eastern US Time of January 4th, 2021. You have a few days off for Christmas, get to commenting.

This is one of those moments where we really have to put the pedal to the metal and fight. Because it won’t stop unless we do so. This isn’t about whomever is in the White House. This isn’t about Congress. This is essentially about a rogue government entity making things up as they go along, and unfortunately we the people bear the brunt of their policies, which aren’t law, but they are acted upon and enforced as if they are. Last time I checked, rule by decree was a feature of a dictatorship, not a functional Constitutional Republic.

The ATF, by definition, has no place in our Republic. By fighting back against this decision, we can emphasize that we’re done with their nonsense.

Oh, and FYI – don’t hold off on buying a pistol brace or pistol brace-equipped gun. The more people who have these things, the better our cause becomes. Treat yourself this Christmas and indulge.

The industry is rallying, the people are rallying. We got this. Remember when we flooded the ATF and got them to shelve “re-classifying” M855 ammo?

Be Pro-2A, not merely pro-gun.

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