Short barrel rifles (SBRs) are a popular choice for many gun enthusiasts, but owning and operating one comes with a set of legal responsibilities.

In order to comply with short barrel rifle laws, it is important to understand the regulations set forth by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

SBR rifles are defined as rifles with barrels shorter than 16 inches or an overall length of less than 26 inches.

In order to legally own an SBR, an individual must first apply for and receive a tax stamp from the ATF. The application process can take anywhere from several months to upwards of a year and requires a thorough background check.

Additionally, SBRs are subject to the same regulations as suppressors or machine guns, meaning they are prohibited in some states. It is the responsibility of the owner to ensure they are in compliance with all state and local laws.

Complying with Short Barrel Rifle Laws
Don’t let the cold weather stop you from training with your MD15! ⁠

This blog will provide a comprehensive guide on how to legally own and operate a short barrel rifle.

What Is a Short Barrel Rifle

A short-barreled rifle is defined by the National Firearms Act of 1934 as a shoulder-fired, rifled firearm, made from a rifle, with a barrel length of less than 16 inches or an overall length of less than 26 inches, or a handgun fitted with a buttstock and a barrel shorter than 16 inches in length.

An SBR is regulated by the ATF as a Title II weapon.

In the absence of local laws prohibiting ownership, a private citizen may own an SBR, provided it is registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

A $200 tax is paid prior to taking possession of or creating the firearm.

Requirements for owning a short barrel rifle under the NFA

In the United States, owning a short barrel rifle (SBR) is regulated by the National Firearms Act (NFA).

To legally own an SBR, an individual must first obtain a tax stamp from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and pass a background check.

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What is the NFA

The National Firearms Act (NFA) is a federal law in the United States that regulates the manufacture, transfer, and possession of certain firearms and weapons, known as “NFA firearms.”

These include machine guns, suppressors, short-barreled rifles and shotguns, and any other weapon (AOW).

The law was passed in 1934 in response to the rise of gang violence and the use of NFA firearms during the Prohibition era.

The NFA imposes a tax on the manufacture, sale, and transfer of NFA firearms, and requires that individuals and entities engaged in the business of dealing in NFA firearms must be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

What is an SBR Tax Stamp

Now, I know what some of you are thinking, a $200 tax stamp isn’t much of a deterrent. Maybe not, but it was back in the day when this law was first implemented.

$200 was such a high price to pay that most couldn’t afford it and would either be law-abiding citizens and not own this sort of weaponry, or they’d be non-law-abiding citizens, and they’d do what they were planning to do in the first place.

Because even back then, just as it still is today, more laws didn’t stop bad people from doing bad things.

What makes this deterrent so funny is that the price has never gone up, and $200 has become attainable to many people.

Now, it’s the confusing legal jargon and complex forms that act as your deterrent.

ATF Forms | Form 1 vs Form 4

It’s actually pretty simple to choose the right ATF form. Here are the two rules of thumb to help you remember which form to use.

Use ATF Form 1 if you want to make your own NFA item. For example, if you have an AR pistol and want to convert it to an SBR, you’d need to complete Form 1.

Use ATF Form 4 if you’re taking ownership of an NFA item in the form of an individual registration, gun trust, or corporation. Basically, if you’re shopping online or walk into a gun store and wish to purchase an SBR, you’ll need to submit a Form 4.

Penalties for non-compliance with NFA laws

Any type of non-compliance with NFA laws is straight-up a felony.

So if you decide that you don’t want to spend an extra $200 and wait months for an SBR and just swap out a brace for a stock, congratulations you’re now a felon. It’s NOT worth it.

States That Don’t Allow SBRs

The states that don’t allow SBRs include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.

If the state is not mentioned in the list above, civilians should be able to own an SBR, however, laws can change without us knowing, so do your homework before traveling across state lines or purchasing online.

Additional Restrictions on SBRs | Forward Grips

Basically, if you’ve already got a legally registered SBR you can use whatever type of forward grip that you want.

Where it gets weird is if you have an AR pistol. If you put a vertical forward grip on an AR pistol, it turns it into an AOW or SBR. You can, however, put an angled grip on an AR pistol without violating any federal rules and regulations.

If you wish to add a vertical grip to your AR pistol, then you need to submit a Form 1 to the ATF with those intentions.

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Hopefully, this information has cleared up the very ambiguous subject of short barrel rifle laws a little.

If you’re still a bit confused, give it a few reads and try not to think about the logic behind all of this nonsense.

Is it worth it to file additional paperwork, pay the $200 tax stamp, and wait months on end for a firearm that can accomplish the same thing as an AR pistol?

Let us know in the comments what you think!

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