Fast question


lead slinger
August 15, 2011, 12:08 PM
Can you with out getting in trouble have a ar pistol (.223)upper with no lower in a safe with a standard ar rifle (.223)

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August 15, 2011, 12:12 PM
I know in Idaho you can. I believe that the upper is considered parts unless installed on a receiver.

August 15, 2011, 12:17 PM
Tricky question. First off ... there's "can you?" and "will you?"

Possessing component parts that are legal to possess otherwise, but that can only be assembled in an illegal configuration can get you in trouble.

Possessing those same components and the other components necessary that they could be assembled in legal configurations is generally o.k.

I'd say you'd be about as close to "borderline" as possible in having a full rifle and a pistol upper with no pistol lower...but who's going through your gun safe to check?

IMHO, it is risky and could get you a lot of hassle, but isn't probably actually breaking the law. (I won't be at your trial to testify to that, though ... ;))

Why not wait until you have your Form 1 stamped and returned to pick up the shorty upper?

Aaron Baker
August 15, 2011, 02:24 PM
Ahh, Sam, but what about the new ATF interpretation of being able to switch between pistol and rifle configurations?

It seems to me that if you built your AR15 rifle in this scenario, and so it started as a "receiver," not a "rifle" or "pistol," then you could legally switch back and forth between it being a rifle and a pistol. (Same would be true if it started life as a pistol, but not if it started life as a rifle, according to the ATF's new interpretation.)

So in that scenario, then the pistol-length upper only gets installed when you've got the lower receiver configured with a pistol-style buffer tube, not a rifle-style buffer tube with stock. All legal.

Or, on the other hand, as you point out, when the ATF going to be inspecting the contents of your safe?


August 15, 2011, 02:35 PM
In Michigan, you'll be hit with "creative possession" or "constructive intent" or whatever it is.

As we don't allow SBR's, you're looking at a bad time.

But as was said, who is looking through your gun safe?

August 15, 2011, 03:38 PM
Aaron, but I though a pistol buffer tube wasn't required for an AR-15 pistol to be ... a "pistol." Further muddying the waters.

Seems like one possibility would be that -- IF -- you'd bought the AR-15 reciever as an "Other Firearm" (stripped lower) or a pistol you could have on hand both pistol and rifle uppers, and a full butt stock, and all of that could be used in legal configurations.

Maybe. :) Don't have a test case yet. Any volunteers?

August 15, 2011, 03:49 PM
The law is so ambiguous and they just fill in the blanks with whatever they are thinking of at the time.

Yes, you probably could be charged with constructive posession. Unless they changed something recently, that is how I remember it.

CYA, the best thing to do is to get a pistol lower (if you are building a pistol --just have them sell the receiver to you as a pistol. I guess you can check "other" but I've always thought it could sold as such). If you are building an SBR, I would have waited until I had the papers to get the parts.

Once you register an NFA item, I thought they COULD come and inspect your safe? Am I wrong, or does this just not happen?

On the other hand, if the parts are stored separately (give it to your buddy that doesn't have an AR) then all is good. No BS conspiracy laws or anything.

August 15, 2011, 03:52 PM
Unless they changed something recently, that is how I remember it.
Yes, they DID change something recently.

Aaron Baker
August 15, 2011, 04:39 PM
Sam, I think you're right--you don't technically need a specialized "pistol" buffer tube. When I had my pre-SBR configuration set up, I used a normal buffer tube and a short upper in pistol configuration built on a stripped lower. Of course, that was just while I was waiting for the tax stamp to arrive.

But it was my understanding that any buffer tube is acceptable for a pistol build, which means that in the example given, you can go back and forth, so where's the constructive possession?

If you had ONLY a pistol configuration set of parts, then you might be in trouble from a constructive possession standpoint if you also had the stock that fit on your particular buffer tube. But now that we can switch back and forth (as logically, we should be able to), I think there's a lot less constructive possession going on in people's safes than there was before.

And I do believe that many, many Americans contain the ingredients necessary for the ATF to make a case of constructive possession, especially if they're owners of multiple AR15s. The only people that get caught are people that the ATF catches for something else. The constructive possession is a "tack on" charge. Because otherwise, why is the ATF examining the contents of your gun safe?


lead slinger
August 15, 2011, 05:40 PM
i have no reason for the atf to swing by my house. i just been tossing the idea around of building a pistol ar and didnt want to have any problems

Aaron Baker
August 15, 2011, 06:29 PM
As a lawyer, I would always caution people to follow the letter of the law, lead slinger, so there's certainly no harm in asking. But it also bears thinking about the practicalities of a situation sometimes, too.

Pistol ARs can be fun. Now we just need to get the ATF to realize that adding a forward grip doesn't change the original design of a pistol (and therefore doesn't make it an AOW) and we'll have TWO rational ATF rulings in one year. :)


August 15, 2011, 06:31 PM
And open the MG registry and it will be three! Hey...I can dream.

Bartholomew Roberts
August 15, 2011, 06:39 PM
Can you with out getting in trouble have a ar pistol (.223)upper with no lower in a safe with a standard ar rifle (.223)

If you originally purchased the "Standard ar rifle" as a rifle and it was so marked on the Form 4473, then what you are describing would be considered "constructive possession of an unregistered NFA weapon (a short barrelled rifle)" by ATF and is illegal. The reasoning behind this is that the parts are in "close proximity" and the only configuration you can possibly assemble is an NFA weapon (a short barrelled rifle).

However, due to the recent 2011-4 ruling (, if you originally purchased the "standard AR rifle" as an AR pistol or a stripped lower, and it was so marked on the Form 4473, you would be OK, since while it is never legal to convert a rifle to a pistol without the appropriate paperwork, ATF has now decided it is OK to convert a pistol to a rifle and back. You can see the ATF's reasoning regarding stripped lower's in the ruling above.

An important point to remember, the two things the ATF looks for in "constructive possession" is that the parts are in "close proximity" to each other and that there is no legal configuration of the parts. To give an example of a potential gray area in this new ruling, let's say I rejoice in the new ruling and go out and buy an AR pistol. I throw it in the safe with all of my AR rifles that were purchased as rifles. I decide to take advantage of the ruling by changing the pistol over to a rifle and head out to the range. I leave the short-barrelled pistol upper in the safe since I don't plan to use it and kiss the wife and kids on my way out. If the ATF picks that particular moment to look in my safe, then there is a short-barrelled pistol upper in close proximity to a bunch of rifle lowers. There is no legal configuration that can be made from those parts. Would the ATF consider that constructive possession based on the 2011-4 ruling? I don't know; but in the past ATF has taken that kind of hardline stance on constructive possession.

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