2014 could easily be called the year of the AR-15 pistol brace. The Sig SB15 was one of the biggest innovations to hit the AR pistol market probably, well, ever.
When the braces first came out, it was generally believed by most people that it was legal to fire these arm braces from the shoulder. A subsequent ATF letter seemed to confirm those beliefs.
However, recently an ATF letter issued to a shotgun manufacturer who included the brace on a shotgun with a shorter barrel seemed to indicate that the ATF was starting to look at how the pistol braces were being used. However, as people rightly pointed out, that shotgun would have been considered an AOW even without the brace, so that was a little different.
Now, another “brace” type product has just been approved by the ATF. The Shockwave Blade just got an ATF approval letter in the mail and posted it on their website yesterday.
Like the recent shotgun letter, this letter seems to show that the ATF may be backtracking on their original “intent and use” decisions. The new letter states the following [emphasis added by the ATF]:
Based on our evaluation, FTISB finds that the submitted forearm brace, when attached to a pistol is a “firearm” subject to the GCA provisions; however, it is not a “firearm” as defined by the NFA provided that the Blade AR Pistol Stabilizer is used as originally designed and NOT as a shoulder stock.
Of course, as everyone knows ATF letters only apply to the individual products they are referencing. However, it is an interesting datapoint that might show a general change in position from the ATF on forearm braces. I’m not trying to tell anyone what is/is not legal or trying to read the ATF’s mind, just passing along data points.
Here is the letter in regards to the Shockwave Blade:
Here is the letter in regards to the previously mentioned shotgun:
Here is the ATF approval letter to that made a splash earlier this year that declared it was legal to shoulder an AR-15 pistol equipped with the SIG Brace: