New ATF Rules and Pistol Braces


On Friday, January 13, 2023, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, or ATF submitted and had signed by the Attorney General new rules and criteria for the use of pistol braces.

Over the last several years, millions of legal gun owners have purchased AR-style pistols or firearms with barrels that do not meet the current 16-inch standard set for by the ATF. To assist them in the use of these firearms, they have installed a pistol brace. A pistol brace is an item that generally includes a strap of some kind and attaches to the user’s forearm to assist in the use of the firearm.

The new rules examine a number of different aspects of both the brace you choose to use and the firearm it is being on. This new rule is similar to the withdrawn rule and the attached Worksheet 4999 in July of 2021. While that rule was withdrawn, this new set of rules follows much if not all of the same factors.

The Factors that the new rules examine are:

  1. Surface Area of the Brace that Would Allow for Shouldering

Here the ATF specifically calls out several common models and brands, including; SB Tactical, Q Firearms, and Sig Sauer. Saying that where there is the surface area that would allow the weapon to be fired from the shoulder, the following factors should be examine

  1. The Weight and Length of the weapon. First, the ATF considers whether the weapon has a weight or length consistent with similarly designed rifles. This means that many popular “pistol configurations” of known rifle designs are going to be considered a rifle regardless of whether there is a stock or a brace.
    • When examining the length of the weapon, the ATF seems to have focused on popular rifle configurations, therefore, if your weapon is the same length as a produced rifle, the ATF will likely find it to be a rifle. There is no set number where “x-length = rifle” but instead you look at other popular rifle models to make this determination, this is a new factor not found in the prior Worksheet 4999.
    • When examining weight, we can look at former ATF literature to get an idea of where they may come down on a particular weapon. According to Worksheet 4999, an overall weight greater than 120 ounces tends to make the ATF think the weapon is indeed a rifle and not a pistol.
    • The Length of Pull. Next, the ATF considers the length of the pull. The new ATF rule states that if the length of pull “allows for the placement of the firearm’s shouldering device against the shooter’s shoulder while also ergonomically allowing the shooter to engage the firearm’s trigger,” that the weapon is a rifle. Looking at Worksheet 4999 we can see that a length of pull with the brace in the farthest position longer than 13.5 inches would tend to make the ATF think the weapon is a rifle and not a pistol.
    • Sight or Scope. The next factor to examine is the sight or scope. Here the ATF focuses on the accessory itself and not on the overall weapon in total. The new ATF rule says that if there is a sight or scope with limited eye relief or a magnifier with limited eye relief, then the weapon is indeed a rifle. This means that LPVO scopes and many common magnifiers are an accessory that would make your AR-Pistol a rifle.
    • Rearward Attachment. This factor is aimed squarely at AR-Pistols. Many common AR platforms are driven by what is called a direct impingement system, where the gas from the expended round is used to cycle a spring and weight in the rear of the gun which drives the bolt carrier group. According to the ATF, a key factor is if the surface area which would allow the weapon to be shouldered is created by this buffer tube attachment. While they do state the caveat that a 6 to 6.5-inch buffer tube may not be designed and intended to be shouldered they stop at that length. This leaves out many popular AR buffer tubes that are available in stores.
    • Marketing by the Manufacturer. Finally, the ATF is also including in this evaluation the marketing of the manufacturer. Meaning, that for weapons that are commonly marketed as rifles, or pistols that are often shown to be used as rifles, the ATF is going to often look at the weapon as a rifle, regardless of your individual use.


First, the ATF has given everyone in possession of these pistol braces 120 days to come into compliance with the new rule. There are two main ways that you can come into compliance with the new rule.

  • You can register your current “pistol” as an SBR. If you file the e-form within 120 days of January 13, 2023, the ATF is waiving the $200 tax that is usually associated with this action.
  • You can “destroy” the pistol brace. This means that you remove the brace and make so that it cannot be attached to any other weapon. It is important to know that this does NOT automatically mean that your weapon is fine, under the new rule your weapon may still be a rifle.

If you have any questions about the new ATF rule or any other firearm-related legal questions, please reach out to the lawyers at Jetton and Meredith today.