ATF issues 120-day grace period, point system for pistol braces

Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 5:37 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 24, 2023 at 5:45 PM CST
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WASHINGTON D.C. (WSAW) - On Jan. 13, Attorney General Merrick Garland signed ATF final rule 2021R-08F, “Factoring Criteria for Firearms with Attached ‘Stabilizing Braces,’” amending ATF’s regulations to clarify when a rifle is designed, made, and intended to be fired from the shoulder.

The rule has been proposed by the ATF since June 2021, but now has been signed, it becomes the most recent in a list of ATF guidelines and rulings regarding firearms with stabilizing braces. The new rule outlines factors that determine whether a firearm is considered a “rifle” or “short-barreled rifle,” also known as an SBR, under the Gun Control Act of 1968, or a rifle or firearm subject to regulation under the National Firearms Act of 1934.

The rule comes two weeks after the en banc Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated the attempt to treat bump fire stocks as machine guns.

According to the ATF, a rifle is considered to be a weapon that is fired with an accessory or component that allows the weapon to be fired from the shoulder. The rule does not affect stabilizing braces that are designed to allow a person to fire a weapon that stabilizes it with the use of their forearm in a type of sling or brace. It does, however, affect braces that allow anyone to fire the weapon from the shoulder.

The NRA stated that the new rule will then amend the current definition of what a rifle is, adding that the length and width of a firearm with a shoulder-fired component such as a brace would be consistent with the length and width of similarly designed rifles. The NRA also said that the new rule seems as though the ATF will decide on a case-by-case basis whether a firearm will be subject to the NFA.

What is clear, is that gun owners will face felony charges if they have a brace on their firearm without registering it as an SBR or rifle. There are a few ways to “convert” the weapon though to make it legal again.

The easiest and quickest way would be to disassemble the brace from the firearm and destroy it. The NRA states that for those who choose to remove the brace, it must be altered or destroyed to where it cannot simply be reinstalled. The NRA also said that this is a strange claim because the ATF does not have the authority to regulate braces once they are removed from a firearm.

Typical shoulder-fired pistols have a barrel length of up to 12 inches, another option then is to remove the “short barrel” from the firearm and exchange it with a barrel that is longer than 16 inches. Owners would then have to file an ATF Form-1 to register it as an SBR.

Does this defeat the purpose of having a compact 9mm firearm? Yes, but there is no way around it according to the NRA which stated that it still plans to fight the ruling.

Whichever option owners choose, the rule allows for a 120-day period for manufacturers, dealers, and individuals to register tax-free any existing NFA short-barreled rifles covered by the rule. After those 120 days, then a tax payment of $200 would take effect.

The official version of the final rule will be how it is published in the Federal Registry and will go into effect on that day.

For owners that are unsure about whether they need to register their firearm or destroy their brace in accordance with the new ATF ruling, ATF Worksheet 4999 (see below) utilizes a point system to determine whether attaching a brace is allowed on your current firearm.

For questions regarding the application of the final rule, contact the Firearms Industry Programs Branch at For technical questions regarding firearms, contact the Firearms and Ammunition Technology Division at

New point system to be used by ATF on pistol braces.
New point system to be used by ATF on pistol braces.(ATF)
New point system to be used by ATF on pistol braces.
New point system to be used by ATF on pistol braces.(ATF)