There has been considerable discussion online about the new pistol arm brace that SIG SAUER was showing off at the NRA Annual Meeting this past weekend, specifically some concerns that the ATF will rescind their approval of the device, and I wanted to get to the bottom of the theories and rumors. Over the past couple days I’ve talked with people “in the know” about this new product and its legal implications, and I wanted to put to rest some of the myths and misconceptions about this product, the ATF’s technology branch and possible legal implications.
When a product is sent to the ATF’s technology branch to be investigated (as in, when an inventor wants some feedback on the legality of a product), the only thing that can be considered is the stated specific intended use of the product. They cannot contemplate possible mis-uses of the product, they can only evaluate it based on the designed usage. And should that product be mis-used by the consumers, they cannot take retroactive action based on that mis-use.
From what I can see, this product hasn’t changed at all since it was originally sent to the ATF for approval. Even though the pictures of the original design look more orange-y in color, according to what the designer has posted online it was made from a tough rubber-like compound. At the NRA Annual Meeting, that same description (tough rubber-like compound) applies to the final iteration of the product as well. So even though the color changed, nothing about the product (from the material to the overall shape) has changed. Therefore, since it is the same product that was given the green light by the ATF, they will not reconsider their approval.
That’s what people seem to be most concerned about, that the ATF will re-consider their approval and possibly rescind it. The fear mostly comes from the old Akins Accelerator issue, when the ATF issued a letter of approval to the inventor and then later classified his final product as illegal. In that instance, however, the design of the device (a spring kit, like the current generation of bump fire stocks, but one that automatically moved the rifle forward without the user applying pressure) changed significantly between when it was submitted to the ATF and when it hit the shelves. The version submitted to the ATF was perfectly fine, but the commercial version was apparently unacceptable. Anyway, that’s the ATF’s story and they’re sticking to it.
In this case, we have a device that is nearly identical to the one submitted for ATF approval. And even if people do actually start using the thing as a stock, how is that any different from using the buffer tube like a stock? How many people who own a pistol AR-15 have put that little buffer tube up to their shoulder and fired it? If the ATF hasn’t re-classified the AR-15 pistol (or even just the padded buffer tube) as a rifle already, it doesn’t really make sense for them to do it with this new device either.
What we have here is a device that was intended expressly to help people aim and fire pistol AR-15s and similar handguns. In fact, the designer stated that the original intent was to allow some disabled veterans who owned such firearms to aim and fire them easier. And based on that good faith statement of purpose, the ATF approved the device. The device is being marketed in that same manner, and the accompanying instruction manuals will no doubt emphasize the proper usage. And in the eyes of the ATF, if a designer and manufacturer produce and market an acceptable product, it isn’t a reflection on the product itself if the end users mis-use their device.
In short, while this absolutely looks like a stock, and can be used as such, these guys have gone the distance to lay the legal groundwork such that the ATF cannot go back on their statements and make these illegal. Even if they did start going on a crusade against NFA-defying devices, the bumpfire stock would be the canary in the coalmine; not something produced by a company that employs a battalion of lawyers.
There is, however, a way for this device to become illegal. Politicians, should they become suitably peeved at this affront to some “common sense” ideal, might try to get it banned in their areas. However, there are currently no such restrictions that I know about, and the process to get such a law enacted would be much longer and typically open for public scrutiny. Even then, banning this specific device would definitely be very low on their list of gun control priorities.
In short, this wrist brace is here to stay.