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How Does My Lower Become A Pistol/SBR

Discussion in 'NFA Firearms and Accessories' started by Deadeye95, Sep 23, 2013.

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  1. Deadeye95

    Deadeye95 Member

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    I'm serious...I don't know the procedure and the last few times I've asked (not here), all I get is wise answers from "experts" who state that I am supposed to know all this. But I don't. What I really want to know is : how do I take a standard AR-15 lower and later acquire a short barrel upper, OR a pistol buffer assembly and legally build either a SBR or a AR Pistol. What markings are supposed to be on the lower, is it a different kind of lower, or just what is done for me to have the weapon that I want, legally. I do know that I don't get an upper that will fit before I get the paperwork whatever it is, done, but I don't and can't find out what that is. I know, I can go to ATF but I would like to know what I am talking about prior to doing that. If I have not sounded like a complete ignoramous here, can someone help me out with this info. thanks in advance, a lot.

    Deadeye95
     
  2. Shamus MacD

    Shamus MacD Member

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    feel free to correct me if im wrong. (i bought my lowers as pistols) but you either have to buy a complete pistol lower (registered as a pistol) or buy a stripped lower and have it classified as a pistol. a rifle registered lower can never be a pistol?
     
  3. Arizona_Mike

    Arizona_Mike Member

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    First a rifle always a rifle. First a pistol, can go back and forth. First a "firearm" can become a pistol or rifle and go back and forth.

    Mike
     
  4. RyanM

    RyanM Member

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    What makes it a pistol receiver is purchasing it virgin, with no stock having ever been fitted to it up to that point (other parts, like the fire control group, pistol grip or even an entire upper, are fine), and declaring it as a pistol (or "firearm" I guess?) on the FIRST form 4473 that is EVER filled out for that receiver, and all subsequent ones. If it's ever declared as a rifle on a 4473, it can no longer be used as a pistol unless registered as an SBR.

    No markings or anything need to be on the receiver for a pistol, and you can pretty much use any lower you like (as long as there's no integral stock, of course). You may want to buy a pistol-marked AR receiver anyway, in case of idiots. I've heard that some FFLs may refuse to let you declare a receiver as a pistol unless it's so marked, because they don't understand the law.

    An SBR can start out its life as anything you want, and needs to be engraved with the standard:

    Name
    City and state
    I am a wombat

    The ATF has said both ways regarding changing a pistol into a (standard) rifle. Sometimes they say you can swap a pistol back and forth, other times they say that once a pistol is changed into a rifle configuration, it must remain a rifle for the rest of eternity. And, in order to follow the letter of the law, make sure you do not put the stock on before the short barrel is removed.

    I've also heard mixed reports as to whether yanking the stock portion off a standard carbine buffer tube is legal for a pistol.
     
  5. Sam1911

    Sam1911 Moderator Emeritus

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    Couple of issues to clear up. A bare lower receiver transfers as an other "Firearm." Not a pistol or a rifle.

    Yes, if you buy either a bare lower or a pre-built AR-15 pistol, you can configure it as a pistol (<16" barrel, no stock), or a rifle (>16" barrel and a stock), or an other "Firearm" (No stock, but overall length greater than 26") and swap back and forth at will, so long as you do not put a stock and a short barrel on it at the same time.

    There is no reclassification or other form to fill out or anyone to notify if you want to do this. (Unless you have unusual state laws.) You just do it.

    Now, if you ever want to configure it with a stock and a short barrel, you have to fill out the BATFE's Form 5320.1 ("Form 1") to "Make and Register" an NFA Title II regulated firearm. You'll need to have your lower reciever engraved with your name and location, and can have a new serial number engraved as well. You'll need to get some fingerprints done and pay $200 and wait about 6 months to a year before you can assemble your rifle in the SBR configuration.

    The same process actually applies as well if you start with an AR-15 rifle with a stock on it. If you want to build that into a pistol, you will have to first register it as a Title II firearm, just like if you wanted to make it into a short barreled rifle. Doesn't make a lot of sense, but that's what you have to do because of the poor way the original 1934 National Firearm Act was written.
     
  6. dogtown tom

    dogtown tom Member

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    Lotsa misinformation in this thread already........

    AR pistol- just attach an upper and you have a pistol.
    SBR- Wait until your Form 1 (tax stamp) comes back and then attach a shoulder stock to your pistol.



    Same lower as any other AR. Once your Form 1 has been approved you engrave the lower OR barrel with the manufacturers name, city & state (thats you).



    No you most certainly CAN have that short barrelled upper as long as its on a pistol or there is a lower receiver around that could be built into a pistol.

    Go to AR15 and read the stickies on how to Form 1 a firearm.


    You're wrong:D
    While your lowers may have been transferred to you that way prior to 2008, ATF Form 4473 changed it to handgun, long gun or other firearm as options on "type of firearm". The instructions in the 4473 clearly define frames and receivers as "other"...........as they do not meet the definition of handgun, rifle or shotgun.

    There is no such animal under federal law as a "pistol lower" or "rifle lower"....just lower.



    Nope. You had it correct until that last sentence. A frame or receiver built into a rifle cannot "go back" to pistol.......as it was never a pistol to begin with.


    Nope.Nope.Nope.:banghead:
    There is no such thing as "pistol receiver".



    Again nope. Read the 4473. Read the ATF FFL Newsletters. Read the ATF Rulings (specifically 2011-4)

    Completely, wholly and totally incorrect.




    If that happens, ask them to read the stinkin instructions right there in the 4473.......if they continue to refuse call your local ATF office.


    Not exactly. ATF held for decades that "once a rifle, always a rifle". The Thompson Center case ended that. Read some ATF regs and the Ruling letter from two years ago.
     
  7. Telekinesis

    Telekinesis Member

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    It was on the internet, it must be true!!! :D

    I've actually thought about doing something like that whenever I get around to my next SBR project. More to try and trip someone up if they actually take the time to read my engravings than anything else.

    OP, if you're just starting off with a SBR project, I would recommend taking a stripped lower and pairing it with the short barrel of your choice and a pistol buffer tube (giving you a pistol). Then once your form 1 comes back you can put a stock on the gun. It's probably the best way to get exactly the set up that you want.
     
  8. RyanM

    RyanM Member

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    Huh. The last time I bought an AR lower actually was in 2008 (and it was marked as a rifle on the 4473 or whichever number form). Never shopped around for another one, so that's probably why my info is out of date.
     
  9. Aaron Baker

    Aaron Baker Member

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    Seems like you've got "mostly" good information in this thread. Dogtown tom's summary is the best so far. Nevertheless, I can't help but summarize my understanding of the state of the law as well...

    Stripped lowers are transferred on the 4473 as "other," not as a pistol or rifle. There's no option to instruct the dealer to transfer it as something else, so if you run into a dealer who won't transfer a lower as "pistol," there's no problem. But the more important point is that the 4473 doesn't "register" your lower as a particular configuration. It simply describes its current state of being. If it's configured as a pistol, it's transferred as a pistol. If it's configured as a rifle, it's transferred as a rifle. If it's stripped, it's transferred as other.

    (If, as I describe below, the gun in question was originally built as a pistol, then gets configured as a rifle, sold to another person through a dealer, transferred as a rifle on the 4473, and then the new owner makes it a pistol again, I believe this would be legal. And the ATF would have to prove a gun was not a pistol before it was a rifle to have a successful prosecution, so it's really a moot point--unless it came from the factory as a rifle, they won't be able to.)

    The ATF's current interpretation of the law is correct under the Thompson Contender case. If a receiver is manufactured and sold as a rifle, it's a rifle and will always be a rifle unless you file a Form 1 to make it into an SBR. If a receiver is manufactured as a pistol, it can be turned into a rifle by adding a long barrel and buttstock, and then returned to pistol configuration--and thereafter you can swap back and forth as much as you like as long as it's never an accidental SBR while you're in the process of swapping components.

    Now, if it comes from the factory as a stripped lower, you have two choices: make it into a rifle first, in which case it must always be a rifle, or make it into a pistol first, in which case it can then be made into a rifle, and then back and forth as outlined above.

    Under federal law (state laws are a different story), there is zero requirement for engraving a receiver with words like "rifle," "pistol," or "SBR" in order to identify how it must be configured. In fact, even if a lower receiver is marked "pistol," it can be made into a rifle. The markings don't matter.

    Now, to make an SBR, you can start with any type of receiver, no matter how it's configured. Fill out the Form 1, pay the $200 tax, wait 6+ months, and then you can configure as an SBR. Either the lower receiver or the barrel must be engraved with your name, city and state. People usually engrave the lower on an AR15. You do NOT have the option of creating a new serial number if the lower already has one--the ATF insists that you use the current serial number unless you're manufacturing an SBR from a hunk of aluminum, in which case there isn't one and you can make one up.

    Once an AR15 lower is registered as an SBR, you can put any length barrel on it that you want and use any caliber. The ATF wants to be told if you make a permanent change from the information you listed on the Form 1, but if you have the "original" upper as listed on the Form 1, you can have any number of additional uppers in different lengths and calibers. Only notify the ATF if you get rid of that upper.

    Slightly complicating matters as well is that your lower IS NOT an SBR when it's not actually configured as one. So if you remove the buttstock or put on a 16"+ barrel, it stops being an SBR temporarily. At that point you can cross state lines without notifying the ATF, or you can sell it as a Title I (non-NFA) firearm. The ATF would like you to notify them if you sell a registered receiver in Title I configuration so that they can remove it from the registry, but that's not legally required.

    Oh, and you can use any buffer tube for a pistol build. Can be a "pistol" buffer, carbine buffer or rifle buffer tube. Doesn't matter. However, if you have a stock that can be attached to that tube, you run the risk of being prosecuted for "constructive possession" of an unregistered short-barreled rifle if the ATF catches you with both parts in close proximity.

    I think that covers my understanding of the law. Dogtown tom, Sam1911 or RyanM, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

    Aaron
     
  10. Sam1911

    Sam1911 Moderator Emeritus

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    Well, the question all this raises is, is it not almost a completely moot point?

    Build your bare receiver into a pistol -- then it can be either at any time. Ok, got that.

    Build it first into a rifle -- well technically it is now "once a rifle, always a rifle." Understood.

    But...say you build it first into a functional "Other Firearm." E.g.: a stockless weapon over 26". In other words, a PGO Ar-15.

    Well now what? It is, from the transfer paperwork view, no different from a bare lower. They're both "Other Firearms." The only difference is whether you ever, once, perhaps, slid a M4 stock onto that tube.

    But even if you did, at some point it wasn't there, so haven't you then built a non-rifle firearm already? So haven't you met the required standard that you first construct a non-rifle (pistol?) firearm?

    After all, there's no limit on how long a pistol's barrel can be.

    Though, of course, I suppose you could make a stockless Buntline type SAA revolver with a barrel long enough to go over the 26" overall length (wow!) and maybe that could (would? must?) transfer as an "other firearm" as well. The 4473 instructions don't answer that question.

    So...all that to say, does the "pistol" you first build have to be shorter than 26" overall in order to qualify your new gun for first-built-as-a-pistol status? Or can you just leave off the stock for a >.< second and, presto?

    And while we're at it, just how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, anyway?
     
  11. Aaron Baker

    Aaron Baker Member

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    Good points Sam.

    For that matter, in what order are the components assembled at the factory? If I buy a Rock River Arms complete AR15 rifle, and they put the stock on last at the assembly line, was it a pistol or "other firearm" first at some point?

    I am of the firm opinion that as long as you didn't buy it as a complete rifle, you're good to build it as a pistol. And once you've done that, you're free to swap it back and forth all you want.

    And, as you point out, if you build a rifle from a stripped lower, as long as you slide the stock on last, you've built it as a pistol first.

    The ATF is extremely unlikely to ever be prosecuting anyone for this.

    Aaron
     
  12. Sam1911

    Sam1911 Moderator Emeritus

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    :) I'm of the same opinion. The prosecution of such a thing, regardless of what the official letter says, would induce an agent to lay his head on his desk and sigh long and loud -- perhaps with a gentle thumping and a murmured, "why me?"

    :D
     
  13. Arizona_Mike

    Arizona_Mike Member

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    Dogtown Tom, I believe I am absolutely correct. I was talking about a complete firearm of the type Sam mentioned not a virgin receiver firearm.

    If you take a virgin receiver and build it first as a rifle it is always a rifle (like I stated). If you build it first as a pistol, it can go back and forth. If you build it as a firearm that is neither a pistol or rifle (no stock, vertical foregrip, OAL >26" so as not to be an AOW) it is a complete firearm. Like a pistol it was first built with no stock, but the ATF does not consider it a pistol because it does not meet the statutory language of being designed to hold in on hand.

    Basically, you would be a fool to put the stock on virgin lower before you put the upper on it (or an even bigger fool to admit it).

    Sam, there is no barrel length or OAL length to a pistol. It is the presence or absence of a vertical fore grip that distinguishes between pistol and firearm. If you are concerned that the ATF position was pistol specific, put the upper on first, followed by the vertical foregrip, followed by the stock.

    Mike

    PS. Does anyone know how Thompson Contender kits containing all the parts are transferred? As a pistol (I assume)? Has anyone ever had an issue reselling a complete Thompson and the FFL not allowing you to transfer as a pistol?
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2013
  14. Sam1911

    Sam1911 Moderator Emeritus

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    What? It is? Never heard that one before.

    The standard I've understood as somewhat compelling was the concealability measure of a 26" overall length. That's how, for example, an "Other Firearm" PGO shotgun is distinguished from a Title II smoothbore handgun firing a shotshell, which two might be exactly the same gun firing the same cartridge, and less than an inch different in length.
     
  15. Arizona_Mike

    Arizona_Mike Member

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    Sam, I meant to say between "pistol and firearm", not "pistol and rifle". I fixed it above.

    Consult the Franklin Armory XO-26 letter to see what I was talking about: http://www.franklinarmory.com/XO-26_Letter__c_.pdf

    Smoothbores are handled much differently! See the Shockwave Technology letter #3:
    Page 1: http://i33.photobucket.com/albums/d90/rusticarts/RedactedPg1.jpg
    Page 2: http://s33.photobucket.com/user/rusticarts/media/redactedPg2.jpg.html

    Whether the PGO shotgun is a shotgun or a smoothbore pistol is probably not settled. I'm sure the ATF would consider it an AOW either way regardless of the foregrip type if it were under 26" OAL. It is only the length that keeps it from being an AOW.

    Mike

    PS. There is so much weirdness but clearly Congress never intended intent to make a not a pistol/not a rifle/not a shotgun category.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2013
  16. Sam1911

    Sam1911 Moderator Emeritus

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    Ahhhh, I see what you/they are saying. Yes in that case if there was a vertical forgrip it CAN'T be a pistol. Right.

    The funny thing about the shotgun letter is that they can't seem to make a determination on the object itself: "...IF it otherwise satisfies the definiton of an AOW, AND there is evidence that the firearm in question was actually concealed on a person." :rolleyes:

    We'll know what it is by what you might have done or not done with it? Sheesh, that'll stand up!
     
  17. Aaron Baker

    Aaron Baker Member

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    Oh, and don't even get me started on the "not a pistol if it has a vertical foregrip." The language is "originally designed" to be fired from one hand. If you add the vertical foregrip as an aftermarket part, then it's still originally designed to be fired with one hand.

    But since the ATF doesn't agree with me, my Glock doesn't have a VFG. :)

    But I'm of the opinion that if you had a 26"+ pistol and later add a vertical foregrip, it's still a pistol.

    Maybe the Franklin Armory XO-26 becomes a firearm not a pistol, since they are the manufacturer and it was "originally designed" with the VFG.

    Oh, the ATF and their interpretations.

    Aaron
     
  18. dogtown tom

    dogtown tom Member

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    Close, but wrong.;)

    http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&SID=036e43f0fe52e9755568501247861cfa&rgn=div8&view=text&node=27:3.0.1.2.3.2.1.1&idno=27
     
  19. Aaron Baker

    Aaron Baker Member

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    Ah, yes, that's how handgun is defined. However, pistol is defined:

    So I guess the real question is which one is relevant to whether a firearm becomes an "any other weapon" when ceasing to be something else?

    Edit: and by way of answering my own question, 26 USC Section 5845, where "any other weapon" is defined says:

    So it defines AOWs in terms of not including pistols or revolvers. Doesn't mention the term "handgun." Which means that if a pistol is, under its definition, "originally designed" to be fired with the use of one hand, adding a VFG doesn't change its original design. You can't change the original design through the addition of any parts.

    Aaron
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2013
  20. tepin

    tepin Member

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  21. Aaron Baker

    Aaron Baker Member

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    Your response is not particularly helpful. If you read the thread, it's clear that we already know that angled=okay/vertical=not okay is the ATF's interpretation.

    The ATF's own letter provides the definition of AOW, which excludes "pistols." And it provides the definition of "pistol," which refers not to how a firearm is designed or re-designed, but how the firearm is "originally designed." As I said, I believe the ATF's interpretation is legally incorrect.

    Aaron
     
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