Ask the FFL: A Lapsed Federal Firearms License and a Rifle with a Pistol Brace

ask the ffl

An actual AR pistol with arm brace (Nick Leghorn for TTAG)

Richard F. of Fort Lee, New Jersey writes in with a couple of questions:

I had an FFL while on active duty with the USAF around 1987. I let the FFL lapse. Is there a way to renew it now?

The answer is no, you can’t renew it. You’d need to re-apply, get a new license and do everything from scratch. Your local ATF field office can help you with questions if you’d like to enter the wonderful world of firearms retailing.

The second question is as follows:

I am inquiring as to the classification of a potential build based on the below parts:

1-16” barreled upper receiver chambered in .300 Blackout; approx. OALs open 35”, closed 32.5”

2-AR Lower Receiver (Multi-Cal), to be transferred as “Other” or “Rifle”

3-SB Tactical SBPDW Brace

This build, following the use doctrine, is intended to be fired from the shoulder and not one handed or single-handedly, though it could be done, if desired, with some difficulty due to barrel length.  The overall intent is to build a rifle.  The question is, using the parts above, when put together does that classify the weapon as a firearm, rifle, or pistol?  I await your response before I begin this project.  Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation and response.

This is a strange one, and to address the elephant in the room up front – why would you put an arm brace on a rifle? Arm braces aren’t designed to be used as a rifle stock. If the overall intent is to build a rifle, why not simply put a rifle stock on it?

The 16″ barrel lets you attach a rifle stock and have…a rifle. In the proposed configuration, it wouldn’t be a rifle – since rifles have stocks. Nor would it be a firearm since the barrel is at least 16″ and the OAL is over 26″.

You’d functionally have a pistol with a 16″ barrel and an “overall intent to build a rifle,” but it really wouldn’t be understood to be a pistol since most pistols are barrels less than 16″. Nor would it be a rifle, since rifles have stocks.

My advice: if you really want to build it this way, for a precise determination that holds legal standing that would actually apply, contact the ATF Firearm Technology Branch – [email protected] – Voice: (304) 616-4300 Fax number: (304) 616-4301

If you submit the question in writing (I suggest you do), they can give you an answer that will actually apply to you.

Note that ATF rulings and correspondence are only valid for the person to whom it is addressed.


If you have a question for an experienced federal firearms licensee, send it to [email protected] with ‘Ask the FFL’ in the subject field.


  1. avatar LarryinTX says:

    .300 Blk? Change the barrel to 10.5″ and call it a pistol, and be done. What are you trying to prove?

    1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

      This whole thing so stupid I hardly know where to start.

      1. avatar Guest says:

        Seriously. Pointless article.

      2. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

        YuP,why even bother as it is that nonsensical.

    2. avatar Andrew Lias says:

      People practically (some times do) give away standard stocks. Fit a stock when it’s virgin, it becomes a rifle you’re done or buy a barrel, fit the brace and the short barrel and boom it’s a pistol.

  2. avatar Tom T says:

    If I saw the handle off my upright vacuum cleaner, is it still a vacuum cleaner or a dustbuster?

    1. avatar Widdler says:

      My wife would call it a divorce.

  3. avatar Geoff PR says:

    “Richard F. of Fort Lee, New Jersey writes in with a couple of questions:”

    Mr. Richard Feder, you deserve to live in New Jersey.

    (According to Roseanne Roseannadanna, of course…)

    1. avatar Rick the Bear says:

      That the first place my mind went!

      Once, I knew a guy named Feder that actually had a brother, Richard, in Fort Lee.

    2. avatar crndl says:

      well, as my grandmother hosanna roseannadanna used to say, “it’s always something…”

      1. avatar Geoff PR says:

        “it’s always something…”

        3:15 in –

        1. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

          @ Geoff PR says:

          “it’s always something…”

          Post of the day !

  4. avatar JR says:

    @Hank Could you make an article to address a similar question? I live in NY, stating that up front, and there are FFL’s in the state selling AR15’s as “other firearms” (see link below) that supposedly get around the SAFE ACT because the ATF cannot classify them as rifles or pistols.

    I guess I have 3 questions concerning this:
    1. Are they actually even legal in my state?
    2. As a consumer, is the “burden of proof” up to me (in case I’m pulled over by the police) to prove I’m not breaking any laws? I wouldn’t assume an FFL is going to sell these knowingly breaking state laws and risk their FFL in doing so.
    3. Is the subject matter such a grey area that, even if it is technically legal, it’s not worth the hassle in owning one simply just given the possibility law enforcement could deem it to be illegal if they are not aware of all the reasons why it is actually an “other firearm” and not an “assault weapon”.

    I know the short and the long answer is to find a “free” state to live in, but that’s not always an option if you have a good career and other reasons that make it difficult to leave.

    1. avatar Kenneth says:

      The real answer is to work to get the NFA repealed. A law that no one(not even the ATF in charge of it) can figure out how to obey is useless and stupid. If it’s impossible to comply with the law, then the only alternative people have is to ignore it.
      Note that in this case, even the “ask the FFL” editor doesn’t know the answer. Note also that he refers the question to the ATF, and notes that whatever answer they give applies only to that one individual. The next guy who asks the same question might get a totally different answer, and that one would apply only to that guy.
      If that’s “equal treatment under the law” I’ll eat a ten ton banana. With habaneros and ghost peppers.

    2. avatar Ansel Hazen says:

      I think if you go to the Delta Defense site and read their correspondence with the ATF it should be clear that what they are selling is 100% legal. It’s there in B&W so if a member of the NY gesta-popo should question your ownership tell them molon labe motherfucker.

  5. avatar dwb says:

    You want to be an FFL, but you also want to put a brace on a gun with a 16″ barrel and OAL of at least 32″?

    Say no to the brace, get a proper stock which will accomplish the same thing (and may even be cheaper).

    And say no to the FFL, your stupidity is going to get you into trouble sooner than later.

    1. avatar Tarzan says:

      You’re the only dumb one. In a lot of places a pistol can be carried in a vehicle. So if it has a pistol brace on it it is still a pistol. Just has a long barrel. And it shows the complete stupidity of these type of gun laws. Thinking outside the box is for smart people. You keep being a sheep and do as your told. Now pick up that can

      1. avatar dwb says:

        perhaps, but definitely not in NJ!

      2. avatar Chris Mallory says:

        Living in a state that limits what firearms you can carry in a vehicle is the definition of a sheep.

  6. avatar Harley says:

    A one person that wants a rifle?

    1. avatar Harley says:

      A one ARMED person that wants a rifle.

  7. avatar GS650G says:

    If the former FFL lives in New Jersey he should forget about buying guns until he moves to a free state.

  8. avatar machnu1 says:

    Zero respect for folks that run 16” 300BLK firearms, same to those that run 26” HBAR 223 chambered varmint guns. It’s pointless and stupid. It goes against the design of the cartridge, which this person is ruining.

    1. avatar Bcb says:

      I don’t know about the 26” 223 bit. Would make for a fine fast no recoil varmit/ target gun.

      1. avatar Anymouse says:

        The .223/5.56 is derived from the .222, which was a popular varmit and target round at the time. A .223 26″ HBAR seems like a perfectly reasonable choice for a day at a prairie dog town, not for a patrol vehicle or CQB. The 26″ barrel is at the limit of some .223 loads and actually decreases velocity, but it’s still an improvement for most.

  9. avatar Chas Malone says:

    In some states and places it’s illegal to have a loaded long gun in your vehicle, but it’s OK to have a loaded pistol. If you only have a 16″ upper and a pistol brace is available, then putting a brace on a 16″ upper is not so weird.

    1. avatar dwb says:

      this guy is from NJ, dude. It illegal to have anything. In some places like DC (not sure about NJ) its illegal to even have a spent shell casing from an unregistered gun.

  10. avatar Erik says:

    You dummies fell for that question? The dude answered It with: “My intent is to build a rifle.” Well congratulations on your new RIFLE.

  11. avatar BradP says:

    Wait, so the FFL that was shitting on kitchen table FFLs gets his own column?

  12. avatar Cpt Jack says:

    I went to the Delta Level Defense site to figure all this out. Didn’t help too much. “It’s not a rifle because it doesn’t have a stock” “It’s not a pistol because it has a gangster grip”. “It’s not an SBR because it has a 16″ barrel”. “It’s not an AOW because it’s longer that 26”. My take is this:

    1. NFA (like all gun laws) is goofy and stupid
    2. BATFE has made it double plus goofy and stupid with their illogical interpretations and their silly one off this is legal this isn’t letters.
    3. NFA should be repealed.
    4. If you are trying to pull some weird crazy stuff to get around the weird crazy NFA or local gun laws, you probably need a letter from your masters at the BATFE saying you can pull it.

  13. avatar Joe in CT says:

    By ATF ruling, if it is over 26″, doesn’t have a stock, and has a forward grip it is neither a rifle, a pistol, or an A.O.W. It becomes simply an “other”. Legal, no stamp required under fed regulations. These are being sold here in CT because the state outlawed rifles and pistols, but overlooked “others” in the anti assault weapons law.

  14. avatar Dustin says:

    Hank the FFL wrote:
    “In the proposed configuration, it wouldn’t be a rifle – since rifles have stocks. Nor would it be a firearm since the barrel is at least 16″ and the OAL is over 26″.”

    It would still be a “firearm”. If it was not a “firearm” then you could buy it without an FFL. There is no maximum barrel length for a pistol. If the original poster assembled the AR15 lower with a Sig brace/Shockwave bade/Thordsen, the intent is to build a pistol. If you keep adding longer barrel lengths to a non-stocked lower it will remain a pistol until the overall length is > 26″ then is becomes a “firearm”.

    Look up the Franklin Armory XO-26, it has a Sig Brace, 11.5″ barrel and since it is > 26″ long it is a “firearm” not a “pistol” or “rifle”. You don’t need a $200 tax stamp – it is just a normal Title I firearm.
    Since it is not a “pistol” you can add a vertical forward grip to the firearm.


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