ATF Targets Stabilizing Braces

posted on August 26, 2021
Stabilizing Brace

In June, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) published a notice of proposed rulemaking that would make nearly all firearms configured with a pistol stabilizing brace subject to the National Firearms Act, requiring taxation and registration of millions of lawfully acquired firearms. The proposal represents a dramatic shift in ATF treatment of pistol-stabilizing braces.

The new rule would implement a points system akin to the method used for determining the legality of imported handguns. Brace-equipped firearms would be required to weigh more than 4 lbs. and measure between 12" and 26". Braces installed on firearms meeting those parameters are examined for certain features, and the firearm itself is examined for similar features. Factors include whether or not a brace appears similar to a certain stock design or how the brace is attached to the host firearm. On the ATF-provided worksheet, the features are assigned an arbitrary number of points. Exceeding a pre-determined number of points would make the pistol in question subject to NFA regulation.

The new factoring system makes it nearly impossible for any brace-equipped pistol to avoid classification as an NFA-regulated firearm. Arbitrary evaluation criteria, such as whether or not the brace has a “rear surface useful for shouldering the firearm” gives gun owners no clearly defined parameters. Additionally, ATF doesn’t acknowledge that this rule reverses nearly a decade of assurances that the addition of a stabilizing brace does not create an NFA-regulated firearm.

An open-comment period gives gun owners the opportunity to communicate with the ATF and share their thoughts on the issues, ambiguities and difficulties associated with such a proposal. The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action provides a resource for NRA members and gun owners looking to add their thoughts to the register. Comments will be accepted on the proposal up to and including Sept. 8, 2021. To learn more about how to make your voice heard on this issue, visit


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