Pistol Brace Ban Updates | Are Pistol Braces Legal Now?

Are pistol braces illegal now? Or are they legal?

The status of pistol braces in the United States has seen significant legal challenges and court rulings. A pivotal moment came on November 8, 2023, when the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a nationwide injunction, effectively halting the ATF’s rule that classified pistols with braces as short-barreled rifles, which are heavily regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA). This injunction temporarily preserves the legality of pistol braces across the nation, regardless of previous affiliations with specific groups or injunctions.

The ATF had previously categorized braced pistols as short-barreled rifles in January 2023, which would have required owners to register them under the NFA, facing potential felony charges for non-compliance. This classification was met with widespread opposition, including lawsuits from Wyoming and 24 other states, gun rights groups, and firearms companies, arguing that the rule was an overreach of the ATF’s regulatory authority.

Given the current legal landscape, pistol braces are legal for the moment, thanks to the Fifth Circuit’s injunction. However, this situation remains fluid, with the possibility of further appeals by the ATF. Gun owners, retailers, and manufacturers are advised to stay informed on the latest legal developments and to consult with legal counsel when making decisions regarding pistol braces.

Pistol Brace Ban Updates and How the ATF is losing

AR Pistol Brace Ban Updates

Before we get into the pistol braces themselves, let’s get a handle on the pistol brace ban.

There is a lot of valuable information in the following updates that you should know if you have an AR pistol brace.

11/09/2023 – Are Pistol Braces Legal Again?

Nationwide Pistol Brace Injunction granted by the Northern District of Texas court (Britto v. ATF).

Find pistol braces in stock by heading over to our article Which SB Tactical Braces are (ATF Approved). We just updated that article with in-stock links!


The Fifth Circuit issued a preliminary injunction (for FPC and its members & Maxim Defense customers) blocking brace ban enforcement against plaintiffs in Mock v Garland. Here is a summary of what the Judge put forth in the 38-page ruling.

The ATF’s own regulatory analysis concludes that the Final Rule has effectively reclassified 99% of all pistols with stabilizing braces to NFA rifles. Through seminal Final Rule adjudications, the ATF has already reclassified a whole host of specific weapons platforms and commercially available braced firearms to NFA rifles. Upon review of this record in conjunction with Plaintiffs’ declarations, there is no doubt that the Final Rule will subject both FPC members to criminal liability for currently possessing each of their braced pistols. The moment the Fifth Circuit’s injunction dissolves, Mock and Lewis will become felons because their braced pistols have become unregistered SBRs under the Final Rule’s reinterpretaton of the NFA.

He continued on with the following statement that could open up the ATF to a slew of lawsuits and further injunctions as it pertains to the NFA regulating short-barreled rifles.

The conduct of acquiring, attaching, and maintaining rearward attachments, such as a stabilizing brace, serves to "make the pistol more stable and [thus] the user more accurate." Id. And as explained earlier, "[a]ccuracy, in turn, promotes safety" in the real-life exercise of armed self-defense. Id. The successful performance of armed self-defense entails not only deterring or neutralizing life-threatening perpetrators, but also preserving innocent life and preventing bodily injury to others as much as possible. Users directly advance these fundamental ends of self-defense when they modify "lawfully bearable pistols" with a "rearward attachment—whether as a brace or a stock."

Here is the best part…

Accordingly, the Court ORDERS that the Government Defendants—the Attorney General of the United States; the United States Department of Justice; the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives—and each of their respective officers, agents, servants, and employees—are hereby:

1)ENJOINED from implementing and/or enforcing against the Firearms Policy Coalition, Inc. and all of its members the provisions in 27 C.F.R. §§ 478.11 and 479.11 that the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has determined are unlawful; Case 4:23-cv-00095-O Document 92 Filed 10/02/23 Page 37 of 38 PageID 110238

2)ENJOINED from implementing and/or enforcing against Maxim Defense Industries, LLC and any downstream customers of Maxim Defense Industries, LLC (including all direct consumer purchasers and all intermediary distributors, dealers, retailers, and OEM purchasers of Maxim Defense products, and any of their respective customers) the provisions in 27 C.F.R. §§ 478.11 and 479.11 that the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has determined are unlawful;

You can read the full 38-page ruling HERE.

RELATED – Which SB Tactical Braces are (ATF Approved)


The countdown is nearly over: May 31st, 2023 marks the end of the grace period for the ATF Pistol Brace rule, signaling the commencement of enforcement action. It is also the final deadline for utilizing the eform website to submit your form 1s during the “amnesty" period. However, along with this deadline comes some new recent alternatives.


The ATF pistol brace rule requires compliance by May 31st. Failing to comply will result in your pistol/sbr being considered contraband, making you a target for state and federal law enforcement. If you do comply, you will be engaging in the NFA process, which brings along the risk of potential legal consequences and the various ways that can lead to imprisonment if you make any mistakes.

The following video serves as an explanation of the available options and provides a guided tour of their respective meanings.

UPDATE 02/10/2023

The National Rifle Association announced the filing of an NRA-backed and supported lawsuit challenging the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ unlawful rule on stabilizing braces.

Additionally, SB Tactical, in conjunction with the Firearms Regulatory Accountability Coalition, B&T USA, Rick Cicero, and a massive coalition of states (26 to date), has filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The lawsuit is challenging the legality of a federal rule that reverses a decade of relied-upon agency precedent and retroactively bans or forces the registration of millions of pistols equipped with stabilizing braces, contrary to federal statutes enacted by Congress.

UPDATE 01/13/2023

The ATF has released its final rule regarding pistol braces and the firearms they are attached to, and it’s just as bad as we expected.

The new rule change is long, sitting at just 293 pages making it difficult for the average American citizen to read and interpret.

The meat of the issue however is simple, if you own an AR-15-style pistol with a brace, the ATF may now consider it an SBR, subject to all the tyrannical policies and regulations that come with that.

The ATF was gracious enough however to allow for a 120-day amnesty period, in which you can register your firearms, destroy your property, or surrender your freedom to them.

However, Congress still has the means to address this and other oversteps, by using the Congressional Review Act and calling into question these actions and the lack of statutory authority that this agency has to make them.

UPDATE 12/30/2022

We’re STILL waiting for the ATF to drop the new rule as it relates to firearms with attached stabilizing braces.

According to our sources, it now looks like the rule is going to drop sometime next month, January 2023.

The lawsuit of the Second Amendment Foundation vs ATF filed in the northern district of Texas is a lawsuit to challenge the ATF’s gross overreach into the world of pistol braces.

Both parties have requested to meet and file a joint status report on February 27th, 2023. So even though they have indicated that it is going to drop in January, they are not even having another joint status report until the end of February.

There is some speculation though as to when the ATF might ‘quietly’ drop this new rule and that speculation is Friday, January 13th. Why? Because it’s a 3-day weekend for the MLK holiday which is observed on the 16th. That is expected to be a slow news cycle weekend meaning not many people are going to be paying attention to what’s going on. Stay tuned!

UPDATE 12/8/2022

The AR Pistol is a platform that millions of Americans have legally purchased for recreational shooting and home defense. Not to mention that the ATF deemed AR pistols to be legal for decades and now all of the sudden want to reverse course and reclassify them as unlawful short-barreled rifles. But hey they were nice enough to provide us with options (see the previous update below).

If this looming pistol brace ban comes to fruition, how likely is it that the ATF will show up to confiscate your AR pistol? That depends.

It depends on how much information you’ve given to the ATF via form 4473 (section A and section C). This is the information that the FFL records in the form. Our personal information is found in section B of form 4473.

The transferring FFL has to record certain information in section A. That information includes the manufacturer & importer, model, serial number, type of firearm, and the caliber or gauge.

In section A, when we purchase a firearm, the FFL has to describe what type of firearm is being purchased. The choices are pistol, revolver, rifle, shotgun, receiver, frame, or other.

ATF pistol brace ban. Form 4473.

Additionally, in section C, the FFL is given only one of three choices. Those three choices are handgun, long gun, or other.

ATF pistol brace ban. Form 4473.

With that information, here is how the ATF could possibly trace a particular firearm back to you.

Let’s say you went to your local FFL to purchase a complete AR pistol with an attached stabilizing brace. In section A of form 4473, the FFL is going to record the type of firearm as ‘pistol’. That in combination with the model and serial number is enough to indicate to the ATF that you’ve purchased an AR pistol with an attached stabilizing brace.

Continuing on with section C, the FFL is going to choose the option ‘handgun’ since in section A it was recorded as a ‘pistol’. Both sections are going to corroborate for the ATF that this is most likely an AR pistol with a brace.

However, if the AR pistol came as a serialized lower receiver, the recorded information in sections A and C is a bit different. Different enough that it does not provide the ATF with enough information to know what type of firearm this may be. In section A the type will be recorded as a ‘receiver’. Section C will be recorded as ‘other’ since it is neither a pistol nor a long gun at the time of purchase.

Regardless if the receiver has a rifle stock attached to it or a pistol brace, it’s not a completed firearm which is why it is recorded as ‘other’.

Maxim Defense MD15 Lower Assembly

at Maxim Defense
Prices accurate at time of writing

UPDATE 10/25/2022

ATF Rule 2021R-81 will be published in December and effective the following April (120 days). As it currently stands, you do NOT need to destroy your stabilizing braces. Although this is subject to change upon the publication of the final ruling.

The ATF mentions 5 different options to deal with the impending actions of the new rule.

If you possess an AR15 pistol with a stabilizing brace and a barrel length of less than 16 inches, that would qualify as an SBR as indicated on ATF Worksheet 4999. You will need to take one of the following actions before the effective date (April 2023) of the final ruling.

  1. Permanently remove or alter the brace such that it cannot be reattached
  2. Remove the short barrel and attach a 16-inch or longer barrel
  3. Destroy the firearm
  4. Turn the firearm into your local ATF office
  5. Complete and submit ATF Form 1 along with the $200 tax payment

For more in-depth information on these 5 options, watch the following video.

UPDATE 9/16/2022

Although the final ruling on pistol braces won’t be until December of 2022, The ATF has quietly leaked the soon-to-come amnesty period for those in possession of a braced AR. What that means to you is that when and if this new ruling even becomes law you will have a set period of time to submit paperwork and photos of your braced AR and not have to pay the tax stamp for it to qualify for an amnesty registration. 

Worst case scenario, if this did become law (which it shouldn’t) there is a 120-day period between when a law is signed and when it becomes enforceable. You can also plan on a lot of lawsuits being filed against the ATF.

I’m sure, by now, that you’ve all heard about the ATF pushing for a new AR pistol brace ban.

Even though this is a known thing, it can also be very confusing to cut through all the noise and truly understand what’s going on. We’re here to help shed some light on these murky waters.

So where does the ATF stand on braced AR pistols? Let’s first revisit the difference between pistol braces and rifle stocks. From there we will get into the newly proposed points system, what it means to you, and what your options are.

Is the ATF Banning Pistol Braces?

Pistol Brace vs Stock

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of confusion about what makes a pistol brace a pistol brace and not a rifle stock because they look pretty similar when you’re looking at a fully assembled firearm.

Pistol Brace

So, to make things a little simpler, an AR pistol brace has a hole in it and typically has a Velcro strap that’s intended to wrap around the arm. A pistol brace doesn’t actually have to be velcroed to your arm though, it just has to work as a brace, meaning it can sit against your arm providing an additional point of contact to stabilize the firearm.

Maxim Defense Picatinny Rail Brace

at Maxim Defense
Prices accurate at time of writing

Is shouldering a pistol brace legal?

Yes, the short answer shouldering a pistol brace without a tax stamp is legal by federal standards. However, let’s get a little deeper into the legalities because who doesn’t like doing that?

As we said (as of this publication), shouldering a pistol brace does not make it an SBR, which means you don’t have to purchase a tax stamp and register it with the NFA.

What makes a pistol brace illegal?

Re-configuring your pistol brace to be a shoulder stock could get you in a little bit of hot water.

What does re-configuring a pistol brace look like, according to the ATF’s open letter? Glad you asked.

Examples, as given by the ATF:

  • Permanently affixing the brace to the buffer tube so that its length serves no other purpose but to be fired from the shoulder as a rifle stock.
  • Removing the arm strap (Undermining the brace’s ability to act as a brace)

Again, you must do things like this and ALSO shoot it from the shoulder-fired position. These are also just examples from an open letter and have not become legally binding—as a reminder, this could change after we get this article published.

What pistol braces are approved by the ATF? Check out this article on SB Tactical braces and how they’ve worked with the ATF to develop ‘approved’ pistol stabilizing braces.

Rifle Stocks

Now that we’ve covered what makes a pistol brace a pistol brace let’s look at what makes a rifle stock a rifle stock. The short answer, it’s intended to be fired from the shoulder to absorb the recoil.

Yes, you can technically fire just about any weapon with one hand—safely, comfortably, and accurately…that’s a different story, and it’s not how the gun gods determine the difference between tax stamp-worthy and non-tax stamp worthy.

As soon as you place a rifle stock on anything that has a barrel length less than 16-in., then you’ve created yourself an SBR, and you better had received your tax stamp before you did it, or you’re committing a federal crime.

Maxim Defense Picatinny Rail Stock

at Maxim Defense
Prices accurate at time of writing

The big difference, rifle stocks were not intended to act as a brace that sits on or against your forearm. They’re intended for shoulder-fired use, and when you start shortening your barrel so that it falls outside of the "rifle" definition, you are, in turn creating an SBR.

Now that we’ve covered what makes a pistol brace a pistol brace let’s look at what makes a rifle stock a rifle stock. The short answer, it’s intended to be fired from the shoulder to absorb the recoil. As soon as you place a rifle stock on anything that has a barrel length less than 16-in., then you’ve created yourself an SBR rifle, and you better had received your tax stamp before you did so, or you’re committing a felony.

For more detailed information on the differences and the legalities that separate the two, visit our article on The Difference Between an AR-15 Pistol and a Short Barrel Rifle (SBR).

AR Pistol Laws and the ATF | Are They Making Pistol Braces Illegal?

Is the ATF Banning Pistol Braces

The following rule (proposed June 7, 2021) outlines the factors ATF would consider when evaluating firearms equipped with a purported "stabilizing brace" to determine whether these weapons would be considered a "rifle" or "short-barreled rifle" under the Gun Control Act of 1968, or a "rifle" or "firearm" subject to regulation under the National Firearms Act.

There has been, however a bill introduced into the Senate to prevent the ATF from going after pistol braces and firearms attached with braces. That is bill S4069 which is known as the Pistol Brace Protection Act. The bill is set to eliminate subjective standards, which is how the ATF crafts most of its papers; subjective and open to interpretation.

Which SB Tactical Braces are ATF Approved?

AR Pistol stabilization braces have been around for almost a decade (debuting in 2013). In the past several years, they have gone from living in a very narrow niche to being featured on firearms from nearly every major manufacturer.

Because of their inherent design, pistol braces have become the bane of the ATF’s existence, for really no reason, other than to put the squeeze on law-abiding American citizens.

While there has been some back-and-forth at the ATF about shouldering a brace, it should be noted there is no legal prohibition from doing this as you would a stock. According to the ATF, you’re allowed to have ‘brief’ contact with the shoulder. Until they decide it’s not ok….again.

The true advantage of the pistol brace is circumventing the National Firearms Act paperwork associated with Short Barreled Rifles.  With a pistol brace installed, an AR15 with a barrel length shorter than 16 inches isn’t an SBR that requires a $200 tax stamp anymore, it’s a pistol.

SB Tactical has been at the forefront of the AR Pistol Brace debate with the ATF and DOJ, encouraging them to provide clear guidance to the public on what constitutes a brace and the standards to which they are measured.

SB Tactical has submitted the SBA3 brace to the ATF for review, but they have still not issued a statement or letter on it. Although SB Tactical has not given up attempting to continue discussions, the ATF has, more or less, gone dark on them.

Knowing the reputation of SB Tactical and the fact that they are willing to work alongside the ATF and DOJ regarding these laws and regulations, leads me to believe the braces they manufacture are well within the legal guidelines of a pistol brace. In addition to that, the ATF has never asked them to stop manufacturing and selling pistol brace products. So get them while you still can.

Which SB Tactical Braces are ATF Approved?

SBA3 AR Pistol Stabilizing Brace

Designed for all platforms capable of accepting a mil-spec carbine receiver extension, the SBA3™ is 5-position adjustable, dramatically enhances versatility, and features a minimalist design with an integral, ambidextrous QD sling socket.

SBA3 Brace Specifications

  • Fit: All platforms capable of accepting a mil-spec carbine extension
  • Length: 6.75", 7.6", 8.25", 8.75", 9.5"
  • Weight: 6.75 oz
  • Width: 1.8"
  • Cavity Depth: 6.0"
  • Strap Width: 1.0"
  • Color Options: Black, FDE, OD Green, Stealth Gray

SBA4 AR Pistol Stabilizing Brace

Designed for all platforms capable of accepting a mil-spec carbine receiver extension, the SBA4™ is 5-position adjustable and features an integral, ambidextrous QD sling socket.

SBA4 Brave Specifications

  • Fit: All platforms capable of accepting a mil-spec carbine extension
  • Length: 7.5", 8.25", 8.8", 9.5", 10.25"
  • Weight: 10 oz
  • Width: 2.25"
  • Cavity Depth: 6.75"
  • Strap Width: 1.0"
  • Color Options: Black, FDE, OD Green, Stealth Gray

Which is Better SBA3 or SBA4?

The SBA3 brace and the SBA4 brace are both great AR pistol braces. The major differences between the two are that the SBA3 brace weighs less, is shorter, and slimmer than the SBA4 brace.

The SBA4 brace on the other hand is more rigid. The QD attachment points on the SBA4 are located toward the front of the brace rather than toward the rear like they are on the SBA3, and just as with the SBA3 brace, there are attachment points on both sides of the brace.

What Happens If These New Regulations are Passed into Law

Should the proposed regulations pass and go into law, gun owners would see a few things change in regard to ownership of these platforms.

Under the new ATF brace rule, you have a few options.

  • Permanently remove the stabilizing brace and convert the firearm back to a pistol
  • Swap out the barrel to be 16-inches or longer
  • Turn the firearm into your local police department. Oh hell no!
  • Pay the $200 tax stamp and keep it in an SBR configuration

So basically your options are to have a non-braced AR pistol, have a standard rifle, or pay the $200 tax stamp on the SBR rifle. Not the best options to choose from.

Maxim Defense, however, has developed a Pistol System that allows you to run an AR Pistol by going to a buffer tube solution.

Maxim Defense Pistol System

The Maxim Defense Pistol System is an alternative to the AR pistol brace. With the new proposed regulations by the ATF, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to build an AR pistol and keep it legal. With all the gray area verbiage it can be frustrating not knowing if your new AR or AK pistol is legal to own or if you’re unknowingly committing a felony.

The ATF, as stated above, said “This proposed rule would not affect "stabilizing braces" that are objectively designed and intended as a "stabilizing brace" for use by individuals with disabilities, and not for shouldering the weapon as a rifle." If that is the case, then the Maxim Defense Pistol System is your answer to staying legal.

The installation of the Pistol System takes less than 15 minutes, and you don’t have to worry about the gray area with pistol braces any longer.

As the ATF zeroes in on more draconian AR pistol laws, now is the time to make the move to the Maxim Defense Pistol System.

Table of Contents

  • AR Pistol Brace Ban Updates
  • 11/09/2023 – Are Pistol Braces Legal Again?
  • 10/03/2023
  • 05/30/2023
  • 05/18/2023
  • UPDATE 02/10/2023
  • UPDATE 01/13/2023
  • UPDATE 12/30/2022
  • UPDATE 12/8/2022
  • UPDATE 10/25/2022
  • UPDATE 9/16/2022
  • Pistol Brace vs Stock
  • Pistol Brace
  • Is shouldering a pistol brace legal?
  • What makes a pistol brace illegal?
  • Rifle Stocks
  • Is the ATF Banning Pistol Braces
  • Which SB Tactical Braces are ATF Approved?
  • SBA3 AR Pistol Stabilizing Brace
  • SBA3 Brace Specifications
  • SBA4 AR Pistol Stabilizing Brace
  • SBA4 Brave Specifications
  • Which is Better SBA3 or SBA4?
  • What Happens If These New Regulations are Passed into Law
  • Maxim Defense Pistol System

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *