What about Braces?

Large format pistols are nothing new. Managing the recoil of these firearms can be a challenge for the average Joe. If you add some type of physical limitation, things can get way past uncomfortable in a heartbeat.

Clever American designers saw an opportunity in this scenario. The innovation was to create a rear extension that could be fitted onto the large format pistol that would extend past the hand and wrist and over the forearm, thus providing more strength and support via the forearm. A novel solution! Folks with disabilities, which often included veterans, now had a viable way to enjoy shooting more firearms with stability and accuracy. Granted, this was not a large population of shooters. But it was a happy population of shooters!

In short order, many folks without these physical challenges saw an opportunity.  Although the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) had reviewed these devices and determined that they were merely accessories, some enterprising folks noticed that the design also allowed the brace to be shouldered, much like a rifle. In theory, this created the potential for a shooter to be firing an unregistered short-barreled rifle (SBR), a type of firearm that is regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA) and the Gun Control Act of 1968. Letters were sent in to ATF for an opinion.

The ATF was immediately backed into a corner and originally opined that “occasional shouldering” was not an issue. Unfortunately, a lot of people were shouldering the braced pistols, and they were shooting that way most of the time. They were pushing back hard on the regulations and that corner ATF was stuck in got smaller and smaller.

Social media became rife with images of folks using the braces as SBRs. Manufacturers advertised their pistols with braces being shouldered as SBRs. Cue the cries saying, “You have to do something.”

The ATF, at the instruction of several White House administrations, has been trying to rein in braces. Why? Because they have become a de facto way to “get around” the NFA and registration requirements for SBRs (and shotguns). Yes, the original intent of braces was to assist disabled shooters to safely fire guns. But that absolutely became a de facto fig leaf.

Consequently, the ATF has been working on a new set of regulations for braces to quantitatively determine when a brace is and is not something that creates an SBR. Iterations of a giant flow chart/scorecard system have been floating around. Pretty much every run through the scorecard results in an SBR. That’s because pretty much all braces are used to create SBRs that get around NFA requirements. What are the final rules (supposedly scheduled for December 2022 release) going to look like? Great question, with no great answers.

Something to ponder:

If you had a magic wand. A very powerful magic wand. And with one tap you could remove all short-barreled rifles and shotguns from the NFA… Would there ever be another brace sold? Probably not many. Their reason for existence would revert back to the original idea of being an aid to physically challenged shooters. The viability of continued production would likely shrink dramatically, as well.

Well, it will take Congress to take SBR’s and SBS’s off of the NFA. And that isn’t going to happen any time soon. So, where are we at? There will more than likely be some iteration of new regulations that affect braces and those that own them. There may be amnesty registration for these if folks choose to go legit. That amnesty may also include a free tax stamp for the registration (though counting on that is not recommended). Exactly what this will all look like remains to be seen.

As always, the best recourse is to elect people to Congress that will support gun rights with common sense removal of bad legislation. This is a classic example.  There is no real additional danger inherent in the possession and use of SBRs and SBSs (or suppressors, for that matter). They should not be a part of the National Firearms Act. Let’s elect men and women to the House and Senate who would support this rollback!

Do you want to learn more about the brace situation?  Here’s an excellent video featuring Stephen Halbrook, a recognized expert on these things: Four Boxes Diner