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“Most people” including, of course, the ATF. Here’s the section from my article on the proposed pistol brace “guidance” where the whole one-handed thing came up:

But let’s now look at two aspects of federal law. First, what is a “pistol,” anyway?

Pistol. A weapon originally designed, made, and intended to fire a projectile (bullet) from one or more barrels when held in one hand, and having (a) a chamber(s) as an integral part(s) of, or permanently aligned with, the bore(s); and (b) a short stock designed to be gripped by one hand and at an angle to and extending below the line of the bore(s).

Revolvers, for the record, are later defined as a subset of the pistol category with a rotating, chambered cylinder.

The definition above is from the 1934 National Firearms Act. There have been some minor re-writings since (1968 Gun Control Act), but I quoted the NFA to point out that we have now defined pistols as guns designed to be fired when held in one hand for 86 years.

Aspect one: nowhere in the definition of “pistol” is any mention of weight or length. Sorry, but ATF does not get to invent restrictions in the law that do not exist. If I want to shoot a pistol with a one-meter-long barrel (and I have) I’m fully within my legal rights to do so, and for no reason whatsoever does it depart from the definition of “pistol.”

Aspect two: This is just stupid. No one teaches one-handed pistol shooting anymore (outside of competitions where one-handed shooting is part of the game or as a plan B due to injury or extreme proximity to one’s target). No one has since the 70’s.

Every law enforcement and military organization plus defensive and competitive shooters and trainers for all of these groups began phasing out the entire concept of operating handguns one-handed beginning in the late 50’s when the Weaver stance was developed.

Including the ATF:

RIP doggo
RIP doggo
RIP doggo
RIP doggo
RIP doggo
RIP doggo

All photos above are from ATF’s Instagram feed. Incidentally, if you’re looking for a good time I highly recommend reading the comments on practically any photo whatsoever in the agency’s feed, but particularly any photo containing a dog or a fire.

Is ATF in violation of remanufacturing these pistols into SBRs because they were purchased with the clear intent of firing them with two hands? I think not. But since intent is apparently all that seems to matter to ATF, perhaps it should prosecute its agents and armorers.

At any rate, pretending to regulate handguns based on this entirely outdated definition is absurd on its face. Looking at precedent, ATF absolutely does not and has not regularly regulated handguns based on this definition.

For instance, a pistol is still a pistol even if it has a squared-off trigger guard with serrations specifically designed to provide purchase for the shooter’s support hand. A pistol is still a pistol after the addition of an AFG, or Angled Forward Grip, which ATF determined are not forward grips despite the fact that they are, in fact, very obviously forward grips. A pistol is still a pistol if it has a handguard, which I think we understand is thusly yclept due to, you know, the expectation that it’s gripped by one’s hand in order to operate a pistol two-handed.

No one shoots a pistol one-handed anymore, including ATF, and the idea that it’s acceptable to craft determinations, rules, and laws around this outdated, absurd concept is so stupid on its face that it’s entirely ignored by ATF except when it feels like using it to further even more absurd restrictions on our rights.


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    • But remember your lessons from swim class back in high school: A drowning person in a panic is a danger to everyone.

  1. Could this be the soft underbelly of the NFA`34?

    What if we insisted that:
    – IF the ATF’s interpretations of SBRs (and bump-stocks) are correct,
    – THEN the ATF is failing to enforce the NFA`34 on all handguns.

    So, ATF, what are you going to do about this? Are you really going to insist on everyone paying for a $200 tax stamp for every handgun in civilian hands? Are you really going to process the paperwork to authorize handgun owners to cross state lines with their handguns? Will SCOTUS uphold the application of the NFA`34 to handguns in light of Heller and McDonald?

    Or, can you explain to us why handguns are NOT SBRs if they are designed to be fired with two hands (and are, in fact, fired with two hands in the overwhelming majority of cases)? We handgun owners have a right to know whether and why we are in compliance with the NFA`34.

    And, then, can you reconcile your stance on handguns with your position on pistol braces (and bump stocks)?

    • Mark, there is your national handgun registry. They’ll just grant an amnesty period for everyone to send in their paperwork, with no tax. They have done this a couple of times in the past. I think the last one may have been after the GCA 68.

      Remember, the NFA was originally supposed to apply to handguns. Hence the SBR/SBS stuff. They thought “Well, people are just going to cut down the barrels on rifles and shotguns to make them handier.” So they did something about it. Then a bunch of legislators got cold feet over the possibility of being lynched and handguns were removed.

      • More so, when is enough going to be enough and everyone realize that NFA items are laws made that help no one but hold back everyone.
        Nearly every NFA item is on there because they were afraid of it, not because it was an actual problem.

        Making laws to protect you from something that hasn’t actually affected you is asinine and a blatant misuse of the law.

        Silencers and SBR’s are easy to acquire today and blood doesn’t run in the streets. The time to rethink old laws is now.

    • One distinction is quite clear: handguns are involved in about 100x more annual deaths than rifles.

      If ATF really cares about preventing “gun violence”, typical leftist “correlation = causation” nonsense supports the conclusion that turning pistols into something riflish automatically makes them safer!

  2. i shoot ’em all one handed and off handed, not so much magnums.
    (what’s wrong with me?).

  3. Writers got to write something. If it’s a pistol or a revolver I doubt the ATF & Really Big Fires agency cares how many hands you use to shoot it.

  4. On a side note, I totally disagree with no one learning to shoot one handed anymore. What if you get shot in the hand or sustain some other hand injury? People now act like shooting a pistol one hand is some kind of taboo or dangerous. It has its place.

    • Every time I practice I shoot two handed. But I reserve part of the session for one handed shooting with my left and right hands. I’m a rightie. You never know what may happen.

      When I shoot single action revolvers I always shoot one handed. Just seems right.

      • I always shoot about 1/4 of my ammo with my non dominant hand.
        It usually at the end of a long shooting session.
        You might be surprised at how good you can get.
        I separated my right shoulder last year and am glad I practiced this for years.
        My shoulder is 90% but for a few months my right arm was useless.
        Shooting two handed or right handed was out, I could barely lift my arm.
        We take a lot of things for granted and shooting is one of them.
        I’m back to my old self even though my shoulder might hurt the next day.
        Always practice shooting a handgun one handed, right and left.
        Your life might depend on it one day.

    • I believe that the author is saying that primary pistol shooting is taught with a two-hand grip. One-hand shooting is only taught as a backup method.

  5. I’ve always wondered what’d happen if someone designed a handgun with the bore below the grip. Not merely a Kriss Vector (which does raise the question though), but all the way down so the chamber is fed from above. Basically just an upside down “pistol”, but designed to fit your hand upside downy like that.

    In my mind my ugly contrivance and the common two-handed handgun don’t fit the US Code definition for SBR, Pistol or AOW, just a non-NFA firearm, just like a benchrest “rail”-gun. But good luck convincing anyone else.

      • The CFR says the stock of a pistol extends below the bore, so the entire grip would have to be above it. I suppose Arnold’s minigun in terminator 2 kinda has that look (but not in predator where the support hand is below). But I’m thinking something otherwise small and pistoly. It would be idiotic, difficult to aim and recoil something awful, but an interesting way to play with the definitions.

    • mountocean,
      I think it would have awful muzzle flip in the opposite direction unless there were other major changes.

      Muzzle flip is a moment, a product of recoil force and the distance separating the vertical center of the recoiling mass from the vertical center of support – which would still be around the thumb unless both the grip configuration and operator training were significantly altered.

      • Oh for sure, it would be one of the worst weapons ever created. But I think the mockery of the NFA (or whatever) would make up for the horror of shooting the stupid thing.

    • Why do I keep thinking I would shoot myself in the knee with that thing? It also brings up the question of a right handed shooter – where would they holster it? Right or left – Due to the forward-raking angle of the “stock-on-top” design With a stock handle coming up out of the top, it might actually bring up some new quick draw implications though!

      Please let the record show that once these are designed and produced that I, Mr. Mortimer Beetroot Plimpton, was the first one to refer to it as an “SOT” pistol.

  6. I’ll usually drop my weak arm and take several one-handed shots during a shooting session. I also have been known to fire two handguns at once alternating left / right / left as a sighting exercise. While it’s admittedly a waste of ammo for the most part, I do have a lot of ammo, I’m free, and I figure it to be another muscle to exercise and enjoy the challenge.

    Another thing I do is repeat the old Military PPC – Practical Pistol Course to see if I can still requal “Expert” after 3 decades.

    • Yes! Arguments as to the stupidity of the AOW law (vertical foregrip makes it an AOW, but hook on the front of the trigger guard doesn’t) are just as valid, but ranting about SBRs rather than AOWs makes the piece look as ignorant as the average “gun violence prevention” activist.

  7. As part of my training on the range. I shoot exclusively one handed from the draw up to a 2 handed grip. In a defensive situation the time wasted coming to a full 2 handed grip can be the difference in living or dying. This is especially important when the attacker is within 10-15 feet. I typically can hit (MOM) Minute of Man center mass 95% of the time before reaching a full 2 handed grip within that range. I use a paper target 14×18 inches with a 6 inch band down the middle denoting center mass. It may sound funny, but it works for me. Besides who cares what (any) government Bureaucracy or Politician decides. If YOU truly believe YOU have a 2nd Amendment Right. You should have the Courage to Stand Against Anyone who wishes to Take IT away. Regardless of the Consequences. Otherwise YOU never deserved it to begin with. PERIOD…

    • My left hand is significantly weaker than the right. Whole left side is. I tried shooting with left & it sucked badly. I hope when shtf I have my rifle!

      • Had the same issue some time back. Bought a small rubber ball to squeeze while watching TV or reading a book. While I don’t have the grip of 30 years ago. It did help overall and allowed for a better shooting experience left handed.

  8. I’ve found shooting large caliber handgunms using my feet to hold the gunm and my tail to pull the trigger quite discomforting.

  9. The NFA, GCA, etc. need to be repealed (because they are de facto unconstitutional – no matter what the activists in black robes, including Scalia, say) and the ATF needs to be abolished.

    A firearm is a firearm is a firearm. With appropriate training and practice, you can accomplish the same results with .22 pocket revolvers that you can with AR-10s with a 30-round detachable magazines.

    • Yup.
      I believe at the time when all those Shall Not Be Infringed laws were passed life was very difficult and We The People couldn’t see what was going to happen down the line.
      A person might go back to Wyatt Earps “you cant have firegunms in the city limits” as unconstitutional
      And it was.

  10. Has there ever been a case testing the NFA on grounds of vagueness ala Chicago v. Morales? I think needing an entire government agency to determine the meaning is way beyond the standard that case sets.

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