I just received an interesting letter of clarification from ATF

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The Annoyed Man
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I just received an interesting letter of clarification from ATF

Postby The Annoyed Man » Tue Oct 03, 2017 9:46 am

I sent a letter to the NFA branch of ATF yesterday via email seeking clarification on multiple short barreled uppers in different calibers for my SBR, which is registered in .300 Blackout. My concern was whether or not ATF had a required procedure on the books for reregistering such a firearm, or requiring listing other calibers, etc. There was one paragraph in their reply which I will put in red which I found VERY interesting.

Here is my original email to them:
Subject: Regulations concerning Short Barreled Rifles

Hello,

In January of 2016, I submitted a Form 1 online to register a Short Barreled Rifle to my trust. The form was approved on April 27, 2016. The serial number in question is XXXXXXXXX. The description is for a 10.5” barreled AR15 rifle chambered in .300 Blackout. I realize that it is perfectly legal for me to mount a 16” or longer barreled upper receiver on this registered lower receiver, as barrel lengths longer than 16” are not limited by the NFA (even though the lower receiver itself remains registered as an NFA item). However, I have a question that I can’t seem to find the answer for anywhere, and I don’t want to jeopardize the legality of my current NFA registration.

Is it permissible for me to build a second short barreled upper receiver chambered in a different caliber (say, .223 Remington, or .458 SOCOM) to be used with that previously registered lower receiver, so long as the barrel length remains 10.5” or longer, and the overall dimensions with the stock extended is no shorter than the registered length provided for on my Form 1? In other words, would it be permissible for me to build a 10.5” barreled upper in 5.56x45mm NATO for example, and mount it on that registered lower, so long as none of the other registered dimensions change? The only change would be the diameter of the bore, and therefore the diameter of the bullet fired from that bore.

OR, would it be necessary for me to go through the entire registration process again, to reregister that lower receiver for a new caliber?

I hesitate to undertake such a thing without receiving guidance from you, as I want to stay on the right side of the NFA laws.

Thank you for any help you can give me with regard to this question.

Truly yours,

The Annoyed Man
Grapevine, Texas

This morning, I received ATF’s reply:
Mr. Annoyed Man:

This is in reply to your recent email to the Firearms Industry Programs Branch (FIPB) Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) seeking information on your registered short barreled rifle (SBR). Specifically you wish to know if you may obtain additional barrels for this rifle in various lengths and calibers.

As way of background:

A "rifle" is defined as "a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of an explosive in a fixed metallic cartridge to fire only a single projectile through a rifled bore for each single pull of the trigger" (18 U.S.C. 921(a)(7).

The National Firearms Act (NFA) defines "short barreled rifle" as a rifle having one or more barrels less than sixteen inches in length (26 U.S.C. § 5845(a)(3)).

Also, the NFA defines “firearm,” in part, as—

“…a shotgun having a barrel or barrels of less than 18 inches in length….” (See 26 U.S.C.
Section 5845(a)(1).)

Finally, the NFA defines “destructive device” in part as “any type of weapon by whatever name known which will, or which may be readily converted to, expel a projectile by the action of an explosive or other propellant, the barrel or barrels of which have a bore of more than one-half inch in diameter”…(see 26 U.S.C. 5845(f) )

Although the short barrels are the "prohibiting feature" within the definition which determines if a rifle is an SBR barrels themselves regardless of their lengths are simply firearms parts and thus their domestic possession and sale is unregulated.

Put another way, although the barrels are the prohibiting feature it is the rifle or more correctly the rifle receiver which is the registered item.

As you possess a registered SBR you may have as many barrels in whatever lengths and calibers you wish as long as that barrel does not cause the firearm to meet the definition of a "short barreled shotgun" or destructive device as each is defined above.

We suggest notifying our NFA Branch in writing of the additional barrel lengths and calibers so that they may modify the record of your registered SBR to reflect the additional lengths and calibers.

We thank you for your inquiry and trust that the foregoing has been responsive.

Michael S Knapp
Program Manager
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Firearms and Explosives Industry Division

First, I would like to say that the response only took 24 hours. When I had originally submitted the message, an autoresponder informed me that a response could take up to 90 days, so I was really pleased that it took just a day.

My original understanding was that I could probably get away with a second barreled upper, so long as the barrel length remained no shorter than 10.5”, since that determined the overall length of the weapon as originally registered. But the above paragraph in red seems to make it plain that the length doesn’t matter. I could have a barrel shorter than the original 10.5”, and that would not change the legal status of my SBR. The fact that the reply is signed by the Program Manager seems to lend weight to that assessment.
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"I don't carry because of the odds, I carry because of the stakes."—The Annoyed Boy
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SigM4
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Re: I just received an interesting letter of clarification from ATF

Postby SigM4 » Tue Oct 03, 2017 10:38 am

My understanding has always been as highlighted in red. In fact I have several uppers that I swap out with on my registered 8.5" .300 BLK lower (most notably a 9.25" dedicated .22 upper). That said I do have three other registered SBR lowers for uppers of various lengths.

I've always heard the argument that you should never go shorter than the registered length, but as your letter points out it's a none-issue. I've also heard you should register the lower in the configuration it will spend the most time in (caliber, length, etc...), but can't find anything that's ever been quoted to that end, more likely it's just a "best practice".

I say all this to illustrate that sometimes we like to make things more complicated than they really are. Good for you for asking for clarification though, as NFA violations are not something I want to mess around with.

Now, what new uppers are you building? I have a PSA lower that I SBR'd and built into my budget .300 BLK gun (no sense in spending too much $ on a toy). At the time I built it though I did so with the full expectation that I would use it as the base for multiple other "toy" uppers (such as the .22). My other SBR'd lowers all wear dedicated uppers.
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Re: I just received an interesting letter of clarification from ATF

Postby The Annoyed Man » Tue Oct 03, 2017 10:50 am

SigM4 wrote:Now, what new uppers are you building? I have a PSA lower that I SBR'd and built into my budget .300 BLK gun (no sense in spending too much $ on a toy). At the time I built it though I did so with the full expectation that I would use it as the base for multiple other "toy" uppers (such as the .22). My other SBR'd lowers all wear dedicated uppers.

I actually wasn’t thinking of going any shorter, but I have a 10.5” .300 Blk, and wanted to build another 10.5” upper in 5.56. The reason for not wanting to go below 10” is because AAC won’t warranty a can that is attached to a barrel shorter than 10” because there’s not enough pressure disappation in the shorter barrels, and it can damage the can. And, I was also seriously thinking of something really heavy, like a .458 SOCOM, or .50 Beowulf. But for now, a 10.5” 5.56 is probably my next project. But all of those are on hold right now because I have a serious yen to build a 20” M16A4 replica.
"Give me Liberty, or I'll get up and get it myself."—Hookalakah Meshobbab
"I don't carry because of the odds, I carry because of the stakes."—The Annoyed Boy
"Id aegre et in omnibus semper."—Quod Homo Aegre


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Re: I just received an interesting letter of clarification from ATF

Postby ninjabread » Tue Oct 03, 2017 6:13 pm

SigM4 wrote:My understanding has always been as highlighted in red. In fact I have several uppers that I swap out with on my registered 8.5" .300 BLK lower (most notably a 9.25" dedicated .22 upper). That said I do have three other registered SBR lowers for uppers of various lengths.

It's the same rule for AR pistols.
This is my opinion. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

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Rhino1
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Re: I just received an interesting letter of clarification from ATF

Postby Rhino1 » Tue Oct 03, 2017 6:39 pm

I had 300BLK AR pistol with Sig brace. When the ATF started crawfishing on their position a few years ago, I submitted a Form 1 to convert to an SBR. I shoot carbine matches regularly but Subsonic 300 BLK is $1 per round (also have suppressor on it) so wanted a 556/223 short barrel upper to shoot more affordable ammo. I thought I was OK since the serial number is on the lower but checked with my Gun Trust Attorney who confirmed.
The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.


MaduroBU
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Re: I just received an interesting letter of clarification from ATF

Postby MaduroBU » Fri Oct 13, 2017 9:21 am

I think that another interesting question regards constructive possession. Say you and a friend go to the gun range to shoot your ARs. You bring your various short uppers and have one mounted on your NFA registered SBR. Your buddy, who has a non-NFA lower, uses >16" barrels on his rifle. In that instance, you have a pile of uppers which, if added to his firearm, would constitute a federal crime. Presuming that you are actively using one of your short barrel uppers at any given time, would the presence of uppers which, if added to your friend's AR be illegal, constitute constructive possession for your friend under any circumstances?

I ask because while I have no interest in SBRs, I love my cans and a situation in which a fellow shooter has a threaded barrel rifle or pistol while I use a can or take the can off of my weapon to mess with/use a holster with my normal barrel/clean/ et c. scares me. The three scenarios that I can envision are a.) as long as somebody has a stamp for the NFA items, the authorities need to actually see another person illegally using the NFA item to constitute a violation of the NFA b.) having "more items than you can use" in addition to folks around you who could, if they so chose, use one of your uppers with their non-NFA receiver may under certain circumstances constitute constructive possession or c.) with cans the discussion is irrelevant because the can, not the gun, is the NFA item.

In a similar vein, what if you have a pistol with a Pic rail and a vertical foregrip (VFG)? Does that always constitute constructive possession of an AOW (any other weapon)? If you have a pistol and a rifle with Pic rails and a VFG, is that alright? If so, does the VFG need to be attached to the rifle so long as the pistol is in your immediate possession (which becomes truly awkward if both weapons are, say, in your safe)?

I raise the questions as a thought experiment, and to demonstrate how the interpretation of even seemingly clear statutes can very rapidly become subjective and confusing.


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Re: I just received an interesting letter of clarification from ATF

Postby jason812 » Fri Oct 13, 2017 9:51 am

MaduroBU wrote:I raise the questions as a thought experiment, and to demonstrate how the interpretation of even seemingly clear statutes can very rapidly become subjective and confusing.


I have another one to ponder...

The ATF wrote:
A "rifle" is defined as "a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of an explosive in a fixed metallic cartridge to fire only a single projectile through a rifled bore for each single pull of the trigger" (18 U.S.C. 921(a)(7).



I thought smokeless powder was a propellant not an explosive. Does this mean modern rifles do not fall under the "rifle" definition? Because they are not "rifles" does this mean barrel length doesn't matter?

I know the answer to these but it makes you wonder...


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Re: I just received an interesting letter of clarification from ATF

Postby rentz » Fri Oct 13, 2017 9:54 am

before submitting for my sbr stamp several years ago i consulted with a class 3 dealer i had purchased from previously who was very knowledgeable.
what i was told is that you can put any upper in any configuration or length on the registered lower but you must ALWAYS be able to return it to the exact registered configuration.

Which led me to making my application for a 5.56 instead of .300bo because i would always have a 5.56 upper anyway


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Re: I just received an interesting letter of clarification from ATF

Postby SigM4 » Sat Oct 14, 2017 8:15 am

MaduroBU wrote:I ask because while I have no interest in SBRs, I love my cans and a situation in which a fellow shooter has a threaded barrel rifle or pistol while I use a can or take the can off of my weapon to mess with/use a holster with my normal barrel/clean/ et c. scares me. The three scenarios that I can envision are a.) as long as somebody has a stamp for the NFA items, the authorities need to actually see another person illegally using the NFA item to constitute a violation of the NFA b.) having "more items than you can use" in addition to folks around you who could, if they so chose, use one of your uppers with their non-NFA receiver may under certain circumstances constitute constructive possession or c.) with cans the discussion is irrelevant because the can, not the gun, is the NFA item.


So long as you are nearby you are still considered "in possession" of your cans. Heck you can let your buddy mount the can on his gun and go to town with it so long as you stay in the same shooting bay or on the same firing line (provided the line isn't ridiculously long). The intent is that you can't loan one to a buddy to take without you being around, or say on one side of a deer lease while you're on the other. So long as you're in the immediate proximity you're fine.

As to the point of "more than you can use" at once, again it's a non-issue. If constructive possession were to be interpreted that way you'd never be able to go to the range as long as anyone else was around.
Success always occurs in private, and failure in full view.


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