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Firearms traditionally built as rifles such as the AR-15 and AK-47 have been made in pistol configurations for decades. For the most part, they were an oddity or range toy as they had no stock, a rather uneven weight distribution and most gun owners purchased them for the novelty of having something different.

Within the past decade a product known as the pistol brace emerged as a component for increased gun safety. As they grew in popularity, firearm manufacturers realized a new market for what was usually a rarity and braced pistols often outsold rifles in certain circumstances.

Although the device was approved by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE or ATF), there were a series of rulings warning shooters to not shoulder the brace in the manner of shooting with a rifle stock or the shooter would be in violation of the National Firearms Act (NFA) and the pistol would be considered a short barreled rifle (SBR). A few years later the ATF rescinded this ruling and suggested that occasionally shouldering a brace was not illegal.

However, that all seems to have changed now. The ATF under the direction of US Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Biden Administration proposed a new regulation to be entered into the Federal Register declaring pistols equipped with braces to be registered as SBRs. Although a free registration period that waives the $200 tax is allowed for a 120-day period, going forward these firearms will need to be transferred or manufactured with a tax in the amount of $200.

One alternative to this registration is to remove the brace from the firearm with no option to add a brace so there is no confusion that the pistol may be considered an NFA item.

What is a pistol brace?

A firearm stabilizing brace or pistol brace is an attachment to a pistol that allows the shooter to strap to his or her arm a pistol based on the style of an AR-15 or AK-47.

Early braces attached to the buffer tube of an AR pistol and were mostly made of rubber with Velcro based attachments to strap to the shooters arm. Some later braces were made mostly of a hard polymer and attachments were often optional or in some cases not offered.

What is the purpose of a pistol brace?

Large frame semiautomatic pistols that have a lot of weight positioned toward the muzzle due to the materials used in construction of the pistol or rely on a magazine well in front of the pistol grip can be heavy and difficult to fire effectively with one hand. The brace helps distribute the weight and balance the weapon system while attaching it to the arm to provide stability.

How did pistol braces originate?

Pistol-stabilizing braces were designed for the sake of disabled combat veterans who may have lost an arm in service to our country so that they could have support to fire one of these pistols. Many in the firearms industry saw an opportunity to go beyond the original intent of the brace and offered up designs that may have been closer to a traditional stock, albeit with a shorter length of pull.

What are the advantages of a pistol brace?

As originally intended, the pistol brace was a genuine safe way for combat veterans who may have lost an arm to shoot a large-scale pistol. The later versions allowed the shooter to be more accurate with such a pistol because there was enough surface area on the brace to achieve a decent cheek weld and fire from the shoulder.

Can you shoulder a brace?

Although ATF published a ruling saying that shouldering a firearm with a stabilizing brace was not allowed and encroaching into the territory of SBRs and the NFA, a later rule seemed to negate this and for good reason. The SBR definition and its classification under the NFA has always been one that is incorrect and an affront to the second amendment rights to keep and bear arms.

The original intent of the NFA was to ban short barreled shotguns, semi-automatic and machine guns. “Rifles with a barrel length of less than 18-inches” was added to the NFA during its drafting in 1934. In the years since, this decision has been revised a few times by the Legislative branch. The first instance was an exemption for rimfire rifles with a 16-inch barrel and later all rifles with a barrel length less than 16-inches after the US government sold millions of M1 carbines as surplus to the civilian market. The rifles in question had barrel lengths of 16-inches as well.

The reasoning for this ban was an issue of concealability. The National Rifle Association, in its first attempt at political lobbying, worked to get handguns removed from the purview of the NFA. While they were successful in this regard, they did not see a need to remove the portion about short barreled long arms.

At any rate, under the previous ruling, it was temporarily allowable to shoulder a braced pistol. However, the Final Rule seems to change that entirely.

Are Pistol Braces Allowed? What We Know About the Recent ATF Final Rule

Because of the Second Amendment it is difficult for the federal government to ban firearms. However, the precedent set by the NFA allows the ATF to determine if a particular firearm is one that can be restricted under the NFA. The proposed Final Rule has determined that these pistols may be considered SBRs if equipped with a brace.

The Justice Department’s 293-page document, although rife with contradictions and murky at times, goes as far as to limit the weight of the firearm, the optics and other accessories used and the surface area of the brace in question.

Law-abiding citizens have a few choices here: Leave the firearm as-is and register it with the ATF for free during the grace period, remove the brace and alter the firearm so a brace cannot be used, destroy, or surrender the brace-equipped firearm.

This is very similar to the ATF’s final rule on bump stocks where the bump stock was considered a machinegun  with the exception that no registration was permitted. That ruling was recently overturned in a Federal District Court and could be on its way to the Supreme Court for a decision of nullification. The same may hold true for the issue regarding pistol braces as far more brace-equipped firearms were sold than bump stocks. The bump stock decision took four years to finally flesh out what the bump stock actually is as defined by the courts.

How to remove a Pistol Brace

You may want to remove a pistol brace for two obvious reasons under the new rule. The first is if you do not want to register your pistol as a free SBR with the ATF. You would have to remove the brace and alter your firearm not to accept a brace to be compliant. The second reason would be if you do register your pistol as a short-barreled rifle and want to replace the stabilizing brace with a more standard stock.

There are a number of brace configurations, and they are made for more than just AR pistols. Yet they most often use the AR buffer tube in some way. The easiest way is to undo the mounting hardware and slide the brace off the tube along with replacing the lower receiver extension (buffer tube) with an extension that does not provide any locking mechanism for a stock or brace

If you are working with an AK or HK style pistol with a brace, there are other options that require modifications specific to that platform.

In case you have a more obscure type of brace that is an integral part of the buffer tube, you would need to remove the entire brace. On an AR pistol you should follow the manufacturer’s instruction manual for your particular pistol with regard to removing the brace for maintenance and replace it with a proper length buffer tube.

Some manufacturers have offered braces for conventional handguns that consist of a polymer shell to encapsulate the pistol. In these instances, the entire shell may be removed or simply the rearward attachment for the brace.

U.S. Arms Company Pistols

U.S. Arms Company manufactures a line of top-quality AR pistols such as the M4 UTAW Champion 300 Blackout AR Pistol and the M4 UTAW Champion 5.56 / 223 AR Pistol. The Champion Series is the main platform used to showcase the bleeding edge technology and what U.S. Arms Company is capable of building.

These AR pistol configurations are available in four different Cerakote AR-15 finishes that enhance the weapon’s durability and aesthetics.

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