Question about barrel length legality.


August 22, 2003, 10:51 AM
Ok now before I start I just want everybody to know that I don't plan on taking a hacksaw to my shotguns nor do I plan on making any illegal firearms based on current laws. I have a purely academic question so no repeats of the select fire thread please.

Ok so on shotguns under current law I cannot own one with less then an 18.5 inch barrel unless I pay the SBR $5.00 and fill out a mountain of paperwork and submit to a probe and GPS tracking installation to my forehead. I got this.

Now if somebody makes a shotgun barrel (hack saw, new production whatever) that is less then 18.5 inches but it is not installed on a receiver is this illegal. For example you own an 870 with an 18.5 inch barrel or 24 inch or whatever. You also own a 14.5 inch barrel for an 870 but it is not installed etc. Is the barrel itself illegal or does it only become illegal once it is attached to a firearm receiver. Is owning both the receiver and short barrel a crime like owning full auto M16 parts and an AR15 is a crime.

What got me to thinking about this was the thread about WACO/Ruby Ridge. If you were a gun smith and somebody asked you to cut a barrel down to 18.5 inches legally would you not only cut the barrel without ever attaching it to a firearm just in case you were .003 of an inch off. Just as a CYA.

Once again I don't advocate breaking the law, no matter how stupid a law might sound. I just don't understand how all this stuff happened to Randy Weaver. Could he not have just cut the barrel and placed all responsibilty on the person receiving the barrel to follow all laws etc. For example, sure I will cut you a 14 inch barrel but before you install it you must contact the BATF and fill out X, Y and Z paperwork etc. to make it legal.

So is having just a barrel under 18.5 inches illegal?

Just curious and many people know that I am a stickler for following firearms law and I have written quite a few letters to the BATFE to clarify things and have always erre'd on the side of the law, so please don't jump on me saying "Look that evil troll is a BATF agent just looking to arrest all of us. or "Look that evil terrorist is trying to learn how to make a baby killer." Neither is the case.:D


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August 22, 2003, 10:54 AM
The length for a short barreled shotgun is 18" for the barrel and an overall length of 26".

Under current ATF rules, you can possess the barrel <18" or the shotgun (receiver). If you possess both and it is not registered as a SBS/AOW, even if not attached, you are in violation.

August 22, 2003, 11:27 AM
So if one goes to a gunsmith can that gunsmith legally cut you a barrel to whatever length you wish. After which you would legally apply for the SBR/AOW paperwork or would you have to have all the paperwork in place to show the gunsmith etc.

Thanks for the reply.


August 22, 2003, 11:44 AM
It doesn't really matter which order you go in, as long as the short barrel isn't in the house with the shotgun until the paperwork clears.

And remember, an AOW costs $200 to manufacture, but $5 to transfer. You might save some money buying an existing AOW instead of making a SBS/AOW.

August 22, 2003, 11:47 AM
I am not really interested I was just curious really since it is technically perfectly legal if you dot all of your i's and cross all of your t's.

I was curious as to how a gunsmith would handle something to that effect.

Thanks again,

August 22, 2003, 01:25 PM
I would think that the average gunsmith would NOT cut a barrel off to less than 18".
Simply put, WHY would anyone ask to have a shotgun barrel cut to less than 18" UNLESS they intended to put it on a gun. Nobody is going to use it for a flower vase, and the gunsmith HAS to know that.

Although it may be legal, gunsmith's have to have a Federal Firearms License to be in business, and nobody is going to risk ANY problems with the BATF or local law enforcement that might cost them the license.

This is nothing different than work many 'smith's get called on to do, and which get turned down.

In past years, I've been asked to remove the barrel block from a DEWAT (De-Activated War Trophy Submachine gun.
Although it's not illegal to drill out an automatic weapons barrel and restore it to useful condition, it's what the owner may do with it that counts.

If a 'smith restores a barrel, and the owner then puts it on an illegal weapon, the 'smith will likely wish he didn't, even if he comes out Ok at the end.

August 23, 2003, 02:16 AM
Shades of Randy Weaver, I think than anyone asked to cut down a shotgun barrel shorter than 18" is gonna be really suspicious.

August 23, 2003, 01:00 PM
I was under the impression that a short barreled gun (AOW) had to come that way from factory, keeping the good citizens from hacksawing their barrels less than 18" (which is measured from breech face with a dowel). But I never did get a straight answer from the gun cranks I talked to, and I never did understand the legalize that BATF puts out.

August 23, 2003, 01:47 PM
A Short Barreled Shotgun (SBS) is a shotgun that was manufactured with a shoulder stock attached and then had the barrel cut to <18" or an overall length <26". A Short Barreled Rifle (SBR) is the same, but with a <16" barrel length. Once the shoulder stock has been attached, the receiver can be registered as a SBS/SBR, but can never be registered as an AOW.

An Any Other Weapon (AOW) is a shotgun or rifle receiver that has never had a shoulder stock attached and falls within the above measurements. It also applies to having a foregrip installed on a firearm designed to be fired with one hand.

With the SBS/SBR/AOW, you can do the paperwork and once approved, you can manufacture your own weapon by replacing the barrel, cutting it down or having a gunsmith cut it down for you.

So you can buy one of the Mossberg 500s with pistol grip, register it as an AOW and put a <18" barrel on it.

August 23, 2003, 04:22 PM
I see a lot of posts regarding the "AOW" rules and fees. Here's the Q&A from the BATF website:

(M3) What is the tax on making an NFA firearm?

The tax is $200 for making any NFA firearm, including "any other weapon."

There you go. It is my understanding that the "AOW" rules were intended for factory made short barreled collectors weapons such as the Marble Game Getter and the Ithaca Auto-Burgler. Some gun makers or modifiers latched on to the idea that if a shotgun came from the factory without a butt stock, it could be converted to an AOW with only a $5 fee. That may or may not be true, but I would sure want to get a ruling from the BATF before I laid my money down.

August 23, 2003, 04:39 PM
On the same topic:
Is a 14" Benelli Super 90 an AOW or a class 3 shotgun?
There's one at a shop near here and I wondered if it would be a 5 or 200 dollar transfer.

August 23, 2003, 06:26 PM
The thing with AOW is that yes, they do require the $200 tax to manufacture. But once they are made and registered, they require only a $5 transfer fee each time they change owners. Everything else is $200 a pop.

14" Benelli Super 90 an AOW or a class 3 shotgun?

Depends on how it started life and was registered. If it has/had a shoulder stock attached, it is a SBS requiring the $200 tax stamp. If it has never had a shoulder stock attached and was registered as an AOW w/ 14" barrel, it's $5.

August 23, 2003, 10:52 PM
Due to the design of the Benelli, it has a butt stock and always had a butt stock. (There is a tube that holds the main spring and also fastens the stock to the receiver. It's much like the 1100 and 11-87) Since it always had a butt stock, it will always be a short barrel shotgun and is subject to the $200 transfer fee.

Again, if you doubt this, write a letter to the BATF and see what kind of reply you get.

August 23, 2003, 11:57 PM
Since the Benelli can be used with a folding stock, there is obviously a way around that problem. Just need one that never had the stock attached.

And even if you couldn't get around it, this type stock would work and keep the AOW status.

August 24, 2003, 02:40 AM
OK, I assumed that the question was regarding a M1-Super 90. The folding stock is on a M3T. Maybe Benelli made a M1-S90 with a folding stock, but I have never seen or heard of one.

It comes down to this.....You can wish and guess about what is a Class 3 firearm or an AOW all you want to, but most of the BATF agents that I have met don't have much of a sense of humor. Hell, you can have anything you want, just be ready to pay the price one way or the other. In my opinion this whole thing is an exersize in futility.

A guy walks into a gun shop and lays an 870 on the counter. The barrel has been cut to 12" and the stock cut just behind the grip. The guy asks, "What's this worth?" The clerk replies, "10 to 20". True story.

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