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The AR-15 buffer tube is the universal attachment point for aftermarket stocks. Just about everyone makes an AR-15 compatible shoulder stock, and even newer piston-driven guns that don’t need a buffer are being designed with an adapter to allow the use of existing stocks. For those with firearms like AK-47 pistols, adapters are available to allow you to mount an AR-15 buffer tube so you can then add an AR-15 stock or brace to your gun if you want. According to a new letter from the ATF, though, it appears that bolting a buffer tube to your AK-47 pistol might now be considered “manufacturing” a short-barreled rifle, and therefore illegal without a tax stamp . . .

A petitioner to the ATF wanted to know the answer to a smattering of questions about the legality of various configurations of firearms, but the lead-off question is probably the most important. They wanted to know whether adding a buffer tube to an AK-47 pistol would constitute the manufacture of a National Firearms Act regulated item, specifically a short-barreled rifle.

The ATF responds:

The buffer tube on an AR-type pistol serves a legitimate, vital function in the operation of the weapon system, and is not considered to be a shoulder stock. In contrast, a buffer tube or receiver extension is not designed or intended to be attached to an AK-type pistol; instead, it is designed and intended to facilitate installation of a shoulder stock.

Use of a buffer tube on an AK-type firearm that has no use for such an item may be evidence that the weapon is intended to be fired from the shoulder. Therefore, adding a buffer tube to an AK-type pistol, where the barrel is less than 16 inches in length, would result in the manufacture of a “firearm” as defined in 5845(a)(3). However, if an AK-type pistol were to utilize an AR-type buffer tube to facilitate the attachment of a (sic) SB-15 stabilizing brace accessory, a “firearm” as defined in 5845(a)(3) would not be made and consequently lawful to possess.

I smell a whiff of common sense and logic, but there’s also a strong overtone of WTF. The ATF says it’s OK to attach a buffer tube to an AK pistol if you then immediately attach an SB-15 stabilizing brace to the gun. It’s still a pistol, since it was designed and intended to be fired with one hand as a pistol legally should. But that creates an interesting legal situation.

When you have your AK-47 handgun, everything is OK — it’s a handgun. When you attach your buffer tube, it magically then becomes a short-barreled rifle. Because obviously that buffer tube serves no other purpose. Then, when you slap an SB-15 brace on it, all your sins are forgiven and the gun once again becomes a handgun.

As Alex Bosco, CEO of SB Tactical points out, there’s a legal sequence required. FIRST you have to put brace on the buffer tube and THEN put the brace-equipped buffer tube onto the firearm. If you put the buffer tube onto the pistol first and THEN attach the brace, you have created an NFA item – however momentarily (as per United States vs Thompson Center Arms).

That may somehow make sense from the ATF’s perspective, but in terms of practical usage there’s a little bit of confusion. Do you need a tax stamp to transit through the NFA-regulated middle position of an AK pistol with a buffer tube on you way to a pistol? How about if you intend to use the buffer tube as a chin weld device, which is perfectly OK? As always, there are more questions than answers.

Anyway, good news: the ATF officially consider the SB-Tactical brace legal. Chocks away!

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    • Never has been. For years the ATF has stated that this sort of misuse is totally fine. The buffer tube on an AR pistol serves a necessary, functional purpose and there’s no incorrect way to use a pistol that turns it into a rifle. Rifle/pistol has always been defined by design, not use. Until this SB15 thing started muddying the waters, when the ATF claimed that shouldering it IS redesigning it.

      • They have backpedal on the pistol brace misuse the past few months. It is not o.k. according to them. Don’t let them see pics or videos of you doing it.

    • I also have to question why the ATF didn’t clarify between pistol-specific buffer tubes and rifle buffer tubes. It has long stood, at least if I recall correctly, that on an AR pistol you should (must?) use a buffer tube that cannot accept a shoulder stock. That means a smooth “pistol” buffer tube rather than a mil-spec or commercial AR-15 rifle/carbine buffer tube that has the mechanism (rectangle ‘rail’ part on bottom) allowing a stock to be installed on it. The existence of a “buffer tube” on a gun like this does NOT mean it can “facilitate installation of a shoulder stock” if it’s a “pistol” tube.

      • I think the issue here is that with an AR-15, a buffer tube is an unavoidable consequence of the design. Gun won’t run without one. What you do (cheek weld, etc.) with that buffer tube is not something the ATF is going to get too concerned about. Yes, you CAN do the cheek weld – semi-shoulder thing, but anyone who has shot an AR-15 this way knows that it’s not something you are going to do all the time.

        The AK (and for that matter the Sig 55x line of rifles) doesn’t require a buffer tube to function, therefore, there is no “legitimate” reason to put one on other than to attach a stabilizing brace (and that’s something that’s a relatively recent addition. So, from the ATF’s perspective, the only reason (besides the SB-15/47) to have a buffer tube is to attempt to use it in a manner consistent with an SBR and thus it is illegal.

        The internal logic is sound when understood in the context of the NFA. The problem is that the NFA is BS and should have been repealed many years ago.

  1. So if I go buy a buffer tube by itself and don’t install it on anything, do I now own a rifle?

    • No, but if it’s a buffer tube designed to be attached to an AK style rear trunnion, and you also own an AK pistol, you might be at risk to get popped for constructive possession.

      • The same logic could lead to prosecution if you own an AR pistol (with a barrel under 16 inches) and you buy a rifle buffer tube and stock. The Supreme Court ruling said that if all you can do with the parts available is make something illegal (I’m paraphrasing) then you may be prosecuted.

    • I think I’ll install a buffer tube on the trailer hitch of my truck.
      Then I will truely have…..

      Wait for it….

      A truck gun.

      Good grief. The stupid is strong with the ATF.

  2. Are antis deliberately goading the ATF by asking asinine questions like this?

    I’d think most gun owners understand any inquiry to the ATF will be viewed as “illegal for contrived reason X.” So why ask.

    • I was wondering the same thing while reading this. I’m pretty sure the ATF is using their replies to letters sent to their tech division to simply sow confusion in the hopes it may result in a de facto ban on items they dislike, but don’t technically violate the law. People really should stop writing them letters and start using common sense. The writing is definitely on the wall that the ATF is entering a new phase of activism, and who knows how much farther they are going to take their administrative bans.

      • There is very little that is common sense or logical about how the ATF delivers many of its opinions. I myself have gotten an opinion that contradicts previous opinions and rulings from the ATF. How are we as gun owners supposed to know which way the wind is blowing that day at the ATF? How are we supposed to be able to unravel, in exactly the same way the ATF does, is the byzantine language of the NFA, GCA, etc without asking them how they interpret and apply it? How does it not make sense to ask the ATF since ultimately, the ATF has say on how they will enforce and apply the law? Common sense can land you in prison with a mandatory stay; I do not blame any gun owner for asking the ATF a question to try and avoid that possible outcome from using common sense.

        The problem is not gun owners asking questions that fall into a gray area the size of Alaska, the problem is the delegated power the ATF has and the existing structure of laws that don’t make sense and are nearly impossible to digest and apply consistently. Stop treating the symptom as the cause.

      • Or, flood them with inquiries that pin them down more and more on minute details until they step on their own peckers multiple times making their positions unenforceable. 😉

    • The goal here is to force them into making more and more ridiculous rulings, such that 1) the idiocy becomes apparent, and 2) more people who think they are not affected by ATF because what they do is not “wrong” find out that they actually are affected.

      For example, I send them a request to clarify whether, per their SB decision that invokes “intent”, firing a Glock 17 while holding it in two hands makes it an AOW, since the definition of handgun in the law is “fired with one hand”. Imagine the effect if they respond that, yes, it does and you need a tax stamp. There would be several million more angry people overnight, screaming at their congresscritters to do something.

      • Law Enforcement train to use both hands when firing a pistol. I’m pretty sure if people search they can find A.T.F. advisory standards on shooting hand positions with pistols. ie strong hand vs weak/ support hand, thumbs together, or thumbs pointing etc, All my tactical training is a two handed affair, unless of course CQB with an injury or just shooting maylay whilst smelling dirty poopie finger… Who knew my little vintage Luger was a SBR! Nifty!!

  3. Stop asking the ATF questions. It only serves to legitimize them and you know damn well no answer will be a good answer.

    Do whatever you want and as long as you keep your mouth shut there’s only a .00000001% chance you’ll ever be caught and or prosecuted by some short-bus bureaucracy.

    • To paraphrase War Games the only way to win their stupid ass game is not to play it. Ignore them and they’ll eventually die off like a neglected house plant.

      • Okay edit: I have painting on the brain. I read ‘house plant’ as ‘house paint’ But my comment still stands 😉

        I am a house painter and I speak from experience when I say that yes, neglected house paint will eventually fall off. But like the ATF, it will mostly stick on, look like crap and mess your day up.

        Better get the knives out and scrape it off. Or just burn the house down and start over.

    • For what – to strap on your arm so you can hold 9 lbs out in front of you with one hand and fire aimlessly at paper? (because you sure as hell can’t shoulder it, and you sure as hell can’t fire it at steel). If you really want one, you’d have to SBR it for it to be worth half a shit. At that point, you might as well put a side folder on it and not a brace.

      • I’m not sure I buy their whole “don’t shoulder it” rule.

        Can they actually rule how you fire a normal glock style pistol? Couldn’t I awkwardly “shoulder” a glock and fire it with two hands?

        If they rule the brace is legal, then I am not sure they could actually go after anyone for firing the pistol in anyway they like.

        • >> Can they actually rule how you fire a normal glock style pistol? Couldn’t I awkwardly “shoulder” a glock and fire it with two hands?

          It’s actually even worse than that. According to the NFA, a pistol is defined as a firearm designed and intended to be fired with one hand. Applying their logic wrt the brace to pistols, if you do shoot it with two hands, you’re “redesigning it” as something that is no longer a pistol. And since it (normally) has a short barrel and short overall length, that something is AOW – and you need a tax stamp.

          I did write them a request for clarification on this, specifically bringing up Glock as an example. I haven’t heard back. I think they realize that this is the only natural consequence of their stance in the SB letter, but they also realize that following up on that will result in a huge outcry way beyond anything they had so far (because it would include not only staunch pro-gun folk, but also pretty much everyone doing IPSC, IDPA and similar shooting competitions, and many low-key gun owners), and so they’re basically trying to pretend that the elephant is not in the room.

          I wonder if there’s any way to force their hand on this… if they really did try to ban two-hand shooting of firearms, and the fact that this is indeed in the law books (and it is!) came up, this could provide a good excuse for an overall re-examination of NFA and GCA in the legislature, and maybe we can get rid of a bunch of other stupidities in there along the way.

  4. Trying to find sneaky loopholes is what got us into the mess we’re in now with the 855 ban. Instead of trying to play “GOTCHA!” in court to be “allowed” to have an SBR in the form of a “pistol” wouldn’t it make more sense to fight to have ALL arbitrary restrictions taken off of firearms???

    I’ll repost something from another post here because it applies… Instead of fighting for freedom from ALL unreasonable restrictions on firearms(barrel length, O.A.L., S.B.R.,carry restrictions) as a group it seems they(we) went for the loophole victory with a public win in the Sig brace battle instead.

    It was a sharp stick to the eye of not only the ATF(& really big fires) but to the grabbers in general. Did no-one see this type of sneaky retribution coming? If the Sig brace didn’t exist would there even BE an issue?

    The restrictions on barrel length and the seemingly arbitrary differentiation in rules between pistols and rifles should have been the subject from the beginning. I don’t remember anywhere in “SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED” where it says unless it’s too short, long, big, small, imported, homemade…etc.. The Sig brace loophole “allowing” people to have SBRs by calling them “pistols” would have been a non-issue had the REAL argument been our target from the outset.

    • 100% agreed. Easy for me to say from an SBR-friendly state but I always viewed this Sig Brace “victory” as an own-goal… Instead of working to repeal NFA 1934 everybody seemed content with an expensive, floppy not-a-stock-exactly. The ONLY real victory here is the inflammation of your everyday Joe McShooter that bought a Sig-brace equipped AR Pistol and now has restricted legal usage… Hopefully it will pull more “mainstream” shooters into the NFA fight, as the recent silencer boom has seemed to do.

    • It’s still a good thing, because by finding that loophole we forced them into more and more contrived reasoning to defeat it – and that reasoning has a side effect in that it spills over to other stuff, making it more ridiculous as well. The more that happens, the more obvious it is to the general public that the laws that ATF is tasked to enforce are poorly written and don’t actually do what politicians have been telling them all the time they do.

      • I agree totally with the premise but it doesn’t hold water unless truth and fact are involved in the equation. When the ATF is backed at all cost by groups capable of re-writing the narrative(and the facts) on a daily basis with the complicity of the media the game changes completely.

        The condition white crowd doesn’t give a damn about the truth as long as they’ve got plausible deniability and it gets them closer to their goal. Add those to the scumbags who know damn well how dishonest the tactics are and still support the policy to further their agenda and we have a MASSIVE hurdle to overcome. Those two distinctly different groups of people also happen to vote(for the most part) for the same party that supports the ATF disarmament agenda.

  5. So, this must be what it looks like when a gov’t agency throws a temper tantrum.

  6. What if it’s an SB-47 and not an SB-15 on an AR buffer tube? That brace is complete with no scary middle ground of buffer tube on receiver sans brace…


  7. So remember folks always buy the brace/tube combo pack to avoid the ATF kicking down your door in middle of the night.

    Why do people want to poke the ATF with questions?

    • Why do we continue to put up with the EXISTENCE of the ATF? Billions of dollars a year, for what? The laws they “enforce”, or create out of whole cloth, are capricious and near meaningless, accomplish absolutely nothing of value to anyone. This is a great example, but how about “why 16 inches?”. Is there some magic that comes into play at 15.99 inches? It is all total nonsense, and acts as an excuse for a bunch of goofballs armed with unlimited varieties of weapons at enormous cost to run around with inadequate training or oversight, committing more crimes than they stop. If they disappeared tomorrow, it would be 75+ years late. And our crime figures would not budge.

  8. Ok, firstly I’get never seen an AK “pistol” with the trunnions for a stock. They are almost always removed/not installed such that if you want to install a stock, you’ve actually got to weld/rivet the grunions on. I would guess that’s far more serious sign of ‘intent’ to make an SBR. Secondly, the SB-47 brace that’s made for an AK pistol attaches at the pistol-grip as one piece. There’s a metal fork that gets sandwiched between pistol grip and receiver to hold the brace in place. There’s no need to go out and find a way to attach an AR buffer tube to out an SB brace on an AK pistol. This is an idiot trolling the ATF. Nothing to see here.

    • I have sent a letter to ATF with this very question (well, to be more specific, not whether it is illegal, but whether it would be construed as “redesigning” the pistol into an AOW, requiring a tax stamp). We’ll find out eventually.

  9. Yeah, I’m a bit lost on this. Why would somebody want to use the buffer tube as an attachment for an AK? Wouldn’t you use one of the braces that’s designed for the platform? I think they attach via the pistol grip screw. EDIT: just like Jomo said.
    Seriously, who are the assholes that keep sending the ATF questions? If you’re concerned enough to take up this kind of letter-writing campaign, then just buy the damn stamp!

  10. I’m going to zip-tie some to my biceps. Have you bought your tickets?

    TO THE GUN SHOW!!!!!

  11. I have an idea about this. While trolling around the intranet looking at these things,(SB47, sounds like a cool bill) I have seen where people want to “extend” the arm brace and are using some sort of buffer tube to do it. I can’t remember what AR tube they are using though. Leave it to “johnny bolt-on” to just have to post about this stuff, now somebody noticed. &^%$^& mall ninjas!!!!

    Hey bring back the other AK pic! That one was cooler!!!

  12. As I understand from US vs Thompson-Center Arms (1992), this ATF instruction conflicts with what the Supreme Court said. In that case, the Thompson Contender was sold as a pistol (10″ barrel, pistol grip) with a carbine conversion (rifle stock and 16″ barrel). It was basically ruled to be legal and not constructive possession as long as at no point in time you assembled it as a SBR (10″ barrel with rifle stock), even if only momentarily. Essentially, you got a situation where:

    Pistol (Legal) -> change to 16″ barrel (Legal) -> change to rifle stock (Legal) -> Carbine (Legal)
    Pistol (Legal) -> change to rifle stock (Illegal SBR) -> change to 16″ barrel (Legal) -> Carbine (Legal)

    However, by this guidance, that second option is no longer illegal. They are saying that:

    Pistol (Legal) -> add buffer tube (Illegal SBR) -> add arm brace (Legal) -> Pistol (Legal)

    If the temporary illegal SBR configuration is OK for an AK pistol, then why not for a Thompson Contender? Alternatively, if the temporary configuration isn’t OK for a Thompson Contender, then why would it be for an AK pistol?

  13. The SB47 is already just a non permanent buffer tube. You can thread out the “pistol” tube and install a standard tube after removing a small roll pin.

  14. the “trick” here is that all the pistol units with buffer tubes manufactured to date, and in the future become SBR only, thus NFA controlled. this makes them less salable, which is the intention of the government. now add the hassle of the ammo ban (and it will be banned as a lead to banning almost all ammo, regardless of calibre), and choke-off one entire genus of firearm.

  15. Clearly the ATF intends that you stick the brace on the buffer-tube before you attach the tube to the receiver…hehe.

    At the end of the day, the ATF has overstepped itself (once again) and has decided it can regulate behaviors and postures, instead of just equipment design.

  16. I have a better Idea, Let’s flood the ATF with letters asking if you can shoulder the SB 15 brace. I know we have the answer and we can’t, but We can at least keep them busy flooding them with letters and emails about it,. Get creative send separate letters for the AK, the AR, the CZ skorpion, the UZI Pro, the Galil, etc.

  17. Can someone PLEASE explain to me the ATF’s logic behind making SBRs weapons that need to be controlled, especially when bullpups are not and some very powerful pistols are more concealable? This whole thing just doesn’t make sense to me and it gets more absurd with every passing minute!

    • I’ll take a whack at explaining that one….

      Rule-making for the sole purpose of justifying the existence of their entire agency through emotional misdirection.

      In simple terms… Making rules to make morons FEEL safer so they keep getting a paycheck.

      If you hand me a firearm that’s smaller(SBR), quieter(silenced), imported from evil Russia within the last week and home made(“ghost gun”) that shoots armor piercing depleted uranium exploding titanium coated heat seeking wonder bullets it would still do the same exact thing as any of my other firearms do…. Hit targets on a gun range. Making rules against ANY of the traits I listed above can only by definition effect the LAW ABIDING citizens who need no such restrictions in the first place.

      Where’s that “common sense” those moms keep squawking about???

      • Thanks Shawn. They don’t call the government a bureaucracy for nothing. NFA – I know the basis I just don’t understand the logic, or lack thereof. Yup, it’s all about job security and following orders. Zeig Heil!

        “Common sense is not so common.”

        “We don’t let them have ideas. Why would we let them have guns?”
        Joseph Stalin

        “This year will go down in history for the first time a civilized nation has full gun registration, Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future”-
        Adolf Hitler, 1935

        “The strange American ardor for passing laws, the insane belief in regulation and punishment, plays into the hands of the reformers, most of them quacks themselves. Their efforts, even when honest, seldom accomplish any appreciable good.”
        H. L. Mencken

        “We are going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good.”
        Hillary Clinton

        “On the morrow of each conflict I gave the categorical order to confiscate the largest possible number of weapons of every sort and kind. This confiscation, which continues with the utmost energy, has given satisfactory results.”
        Benito Mussolini

        “All political power comes from the barrel of a gun. The communist party must command all the guns, that way, no guns can ever be used to command the party.”
        Mao Tse Tung

        “What we need to do is change the way in which people think about guns…in the way in which we’ve changed our attitudes about cigarettes…really brainwash people into thinking about guns in a vastly different way.”
        Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States

        “If I could have banned them all – ‘Mr. and Mrs. America turn in your guns’ – I would have!”
        Dianne Feinstein

        “All we ask for is registration, just like we do for cars.”
        Charles Schumer

    • The ATF did not make SBRs a controlled category. The Congress did when they enacted NFA. ATF is an executive agency that is created to enforce that law (and others that came after it, like GCA).

      Most of this stupidity stems from the inconsistent, vague law itself, not from ATF bureaucracy (the latter merely exacerbates the issue when they keep changing their interpretation).

  18. When I read these things I am convinced the ATF has a captive monkey in a room with two buttons, “LEGAL” and “ILLEGAL”. They then show that monkey flash cards of things they want rulings on. Whichever button the monkey hits, that’s today’s ruling.

  19. Yay. So I can put a Sig Brace on an AK – only if in the right sequence – but still can’t shoulder it. Color me excited.

  20. So they’re implying that you cant have multiple AK47 pistols with tubes on them and which you have ONE brace that you share between them. Fvck that stupid.

  21. Just look at all the fools here deriding lawful behavior, while suggesting we go underground and perform illegal acts. Disgusting. Maybe we really aren’t worthy of these freedoms after all…

    • That dichotomy shouldn’t exist in the first place. None of the rules make any sense nor should most of them be regarded as legal restrictions in any sane world. None of the SBR crowd should be advocating breaking, skirting or ignoring the law in any way because those laws should not exist. The freedom we do deserve is the freedom not to be infringed upon unjustly in the first place.

      The infringement and arbitrary regulation is the root cause of the problem, NOT(in my opinion), the people who deserve to be free of those unfounded regulations.

    • Individuals gun owners can make statements that indicate that all gun owners may not deserve freedoms after all. Got it.

  22. The entire notion that this unelected bureaucratic body needs to be consulted on whether something is Legal in order to exercise Unalienable Rights (…shall not be infringed) is the epitome of a Third World Banana Republic.

    Legal today…illegal tomorrow.

    Keep telling yourselves that you’re free!

    • +1

      It’s almost as if we are to live to follow their rules. The body of laws is so complicated that it’s truly impossible to simply live your life obeying the Golden Rule in America today. The amount of knowledge necessary to stay “legal” is sickening.

  23. So buffer tube = bad
    buffer tube with stabilizing brace = good

    Better not leave those projects unfinished gentlemen, it’s against the law. 51% is god – the law is the word of god – and the ATF are angels sent from god to help us.

    Also – remember – sternum brace or abdomen brace – not shoulder brace.
    Shoulders = bad. Sternum/abdomen/kneecap/backside fold of your knee = good.

  24. You can’t spell “WTF” without a TF.

    Somebody, like oh I don’t know, our elected officials, really need to take them to task over these laws-by-fiat.

  25. Following the illogic that led to ATF trying to ban cetain 5.56 ammo due to the existence of AR15 pistols, would it not seem likely that their next step would be to say that due to the existence of AK47 pistols, all AK47 ammo that can pierce soft body armor is banned?
    And what about AR10 pistol? Eff it,ban all .308 and 7.62×51.
    See the chain? You know Bummer does.

  26. This would seem to be at odds with ATF logic regarding the EP Armory 80% lower last year. ATF (incorrectly) believed these lowers had the fire control cavity milled prior to filling with a different color polymer (as opposed to the true method of injecting the polymer into a mold containing the “biscuit”).

    So, to apply the same logic:
    “When you have your [80% lower], everything is OK — it’s [not] a handgun. When you [mill the fire control cavity], it magically then becomes a [firearm]. … Then, when you [fill the fire control cavity], all your sins are forgiven and the gun once again [ceases to be a firearm].”

  27. There could be a blog dedicated entirely to the ATF’s various nuanced statements on the pistol brace.

  28. They will now go to ban 7.62X39 ammo. As it now can go through soft body armor from a pistol. Look out for it.

    • The definition of “armor piercing”, according to the law that ATF are trying to enforce in strange ways, has nothing whatsoever to do with the ability to penetrate soft armor, or any other kind of armor.

  29. There’s only so many times I can do a *face palm* before it starts to actually hurt……

  30. Shouldering a brace should be normalized to the point where it resembles 922r in nature. Technically speaking it is only an opinion letter…

  31. Can someone educate me on what falls under “ak-type?” Can I attach a buffer tube to a 10/22 stock?

  32. SB Tactical braces are ugly. Shockwave Technologies Blade stabilizer for the win.

  33. Let’s face it, there are simply so many laws infringing on our actual right to keep & bear arms that you should just rightly consider all firearms illegal via our owners and stop bothering LOL

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