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Defining a Firearm

Rifle; 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 to fire only a single projectile through a rifled bore for each single pull of the trigger. 27 CFR 478

Under the new regulation, this definition will include: includes any weapon with a rifled barrel and equipped with an attached stabilizing brace that has objective design features and characteristics that indicate that the firearm is designed to be fired from the shoulder, as indicated on ATF Worksheet 4999. National Register page 5111

The ATF and Department of Justice feel that rifle caliber pistols are too unregulated and easily concealed which make it easier to use in the execution of a crime or mass shooting. Boulder CO 2021 and Dayton OH 2019 are the two examples that were given. Short barreled rifles (SBR’s) take longer to obtain because of the ‘Form 1’ process to get them approved and the additional checks that need to be done to obtain them.

What is worksheet 4999? This form is intended to differentiate between a “true” pistol (firearm) and an SBR assigning a point value between zero and four to assess the firearm incorporating a stabilizer brace is an SBR or Firearm.

  • 1 point: Minor Indicator (the weapon could be fired from the shoulder)
  • 2 points: Moderate Indicator (the weapon may be designed and intended to be fired from the shoulder)
  • 3 points: Strong Indicator (the weapon is likely designed and intended to be fired from the shoulder)
  • 4 points: Decisive Indicator (the weapon is designed and intended to be fired from the shoulder)

The new regulation and form 4999 have mostly clear definitions of what can and cannot be included in the features of a braced firearm when when it changes from a firearm into an SBR or rifle.

Here is a basic breakdown of the form 4999 and some of the reasons for the defining characteristics:

Section One: overall characteristics
Weight of more than four lbs or 64 ounces. Anything lighter could only be classified as a pistol but must not have stabilizers because it is light enough to be fired one handed.
Overall length must be between 12-26 inches otherwise it’s pistol sized and doesn’t need a brace or rifle sized and needs a stock and would be considered a rifle.

Section 2: this is dealing with mostly the stabilizing braces or why comes out of the back of a pistol length rifle.
Accessory design– the pistol brace cannot have similar characteristics to a regular existing stock design. Any form of adjustability like a stock, sling mounts (because existing stock have QD mounts in them)
Rear Surface area– pistol braces will have more points assigned the more substantial they are. Fin type would be a point, braces approximating the same size as a normal stock would be two points, braces clearly meant (with enough surface area) to be shouldered would be three points
Adjustability– this is either or. If it is not adjustable, that would be zero points. If it is adjustable, it would be two points.
Stabilizing support- this determining factor add points to any brace if you cannot secure it to your arm, which is the intent of the brace. A) Counterbalance which utilized a piece that goes under the arm and along the inside or outside of the forearm using the weight of the pistol to apply pressure to push the brace against the arm. This is the only type that does not have to have a strap and won’t count as any points unless you can fold up the lower part that goes under the arm which would only add one point to the total. B) Blade type will count for two points unless it has a strap for attaching to the forearm which would reduce the points to zero. C) Cuff type braces will only count as zero points for fully wrapping the forearm, one point as long as it can be partially wrap the forearm, and if it doesn’t have a strap at all it will count as two points. D) Split stock braces which are essentially stocks that are split but have to ergonomic way to strap to the forearm will count as three points.

Section three: deals with items designed for a rifle or physical characteristics of the pistol length rifle.
Length of pull– this is the distance from the trigger to the end of the pistol or rifle (center of the shoulder stock). The shorter it is the less likely it is to be able to be shouldered. If the length of pull is 13 1/2 inches or more it is considered a rifle. This is the full four points, but there are three lesser categories for it to fall under for it to accrue less points, but each is a minimum of a point unless it is under 10 1/2 inches.
Attachment method– buffer tubes come in a variety of sizes. When the pistol brace is attached to different buffer tubes, it can signal that the pistol was meant to be a rifle in a pistol aesthetic. Pistol length buffer tubes are a single point. Rifle length or PDW rails are two points. Adding a folding adapter or spacers indicate that the length of pull is elongated and count as two points. There is another three points for modifying a stock to incorporate a brace. On the 4999 form it lists “slant” as to signifier which would be three points.
Stabilizing brace mods or configurations– if you don’t have a strap to secure the brace to your arm, you will get points as this indicates that the brace is not used as a brace and instead for shouldering. If the strap is there, but too short or made of elastic, then those count as less points but still accrue points. Any modifications that change the brace into a stock automatically get four points.
Peripheral devices– Anything that can be added and used as support for a second hand or the pistol itself add points such as a handguard stop, bi-pod, or a ‘secondary grip.’ Not having sights, backup iron sights, or red dot sights with a magnifier that can be flipped to the side all count as two points. Any scope or sight that requires you to get your eye close to it count as four points because you would need two hands to get it close enough to your eye to use them which would classify the pistol as a rifle. Any unloaded pistol weighing over 120 Oz is deemed too heavy to use a brace and is automatically awarded four points.

TL;DR- The noose is tightening around the neck of the Pistol AR. If it can’t be shot one handed, you likely have an SBR according to the new regulation.

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Almost Complete- 80% changes

If you aren’t current in the latest firearm news, there are two new regulations that were proposed and likely to be adopted this year. I’m going to (to the best of my understanding) cover what I’ve gathered on both- splitting it up over two different posts dedicated to each. PLEASE comment and let me know what you think or if you understand it differently. 80% lower receivers and marking firearms is the post for today.

Ghost Guns and You or How Criminals Ruin it For Everyone

First some stats from the ATF which is behind the push for the change to the regulations.

From January 1, 2016, through March 4, 2021, ATF could only complete traces of suspected PMFs recovered by law enforcement to an individual purchaser in approximately 151 out of 23,946 attempts, generally by tracing a serial number engraved on a handgun slide, barrel, or other firearm part not currently defined as a frame or receiver, but recorded by licensees in the absence of other markings.

You might be saying to yourself “Self? How does this affect us? We aren’t criminals or involved in criminal activity!” Which, if you are, then read on.

Basically, criminals are exploiting the current loophole that allows law abiding people the opportunity to purchase 80% lower receivers directly from dealers or the origin manufacturers. FFL manufacturing dealers can sell them but if they are used to make a complete firearm or are completed to 100% need to be marked in accordance with current regulations. Privately Made Firearms (PMF) are not held to the regulation.

Their intent is made clear in the newest edition of the Federal Register found here (pg 5110)

The intent of this rulemaking is to consider technological developments and modern terminology in the firearms industry, and to enhance public safety by helping to stem the proliferation of unmarked, privately made firearms that have increasingly been recovered at crime scenes.

Bottom line is that people are using these “Ghost Guns” in crimes or have them in general with no way to trace them to an FFL that provided them, a “straw man” that purchased them, or a theft where they were obtained. Now, the ATF and Department of Justice are trying to combat this with this new regulation.

The ATF currently has no requirement for these devices to be marked by private individuals and they are not illegal as found on their website:

Receiver blanks that do not meet the definition of a “firearm” are not subject to regulation under the Gun Control Act (GCA). ATF has long held that items such as receiver blanks, “castings” or “machined bodies” in which the fire-control cavity area is completely solid and un-machined have not reached the “stage of manufacture” which would result in the classification of a firearm according to the GCA.

Confused yet?

In order for the ATF and DOJ to proceed with the regulations they have also had to get definitions redefined and approved. This is mostly due to the fact that “receiver blanks” are not defined as firearms the same way completed firearms or other serialized parts are. This regulation would have the manufacturers of the “receiver blanks” mark the 80% complete components like a completed firearm. per the Federal Register filing:

A firearm, including a frame or receiver, assembled or otherwise produced by a non-licensee without any markings by a licensee at the time of production or importation is defined as a “privately made firearm (PMF)” in the proposed rule. Under the proposed rule, FFLs would be required to mark PMFs within 7 days of the firearm being received by a licensee, or before disposition, whichever first occurs. Licensees would have 60 days to mark PMFs already in inventory after a final rule becomes effective. FFLs would have the option to mark their existing PMFs themselves. Both FFLs and non-FFLs would have the option to contract with an FFL, such as a gunsmith, for this purpose, dispose of them, or send them to ATF or another law enforcement agency for disposal.

Again, most of this applies to the incomplete lower receivers and frames that can be purchased without having to go through an FFL to transfer the firearm to the owner (or other FFL.) It seems like they are trying to leave all other definitions alone and maintain the current marking standards.

One important goal of this rule is to ensure that it does not affect existing ATF classifications of firearms that specify a single component as the frame or receiver.

ATF believes that the majority of the industry currently complies with these requirements, so the cost would be minimal. While the new definitions would mostly affect new designs or configurations of firearms, manufacturers would still be able to receive a determination or a variance on the design from ATF.


In a nutshell, the DOJ and ATF are trying to curb the use of non-marked firearms in crimes and be able to track firearms in a more consistent fashion. The new regulations is intended to redefine some components but retain the markings standards that have already been in place.