Continuing thoughts about the legality of short barreled rifles...

This is a discussion on Continuing thoughts about the legality of short barreled rifles... within the Defensive Rifles & Shotgun Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; We discussed this in another thread, but since then I've heard yet another opinion on the subject. The issue is, since you must specify a ...

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    Continuing thoughts about the legality of short barreled rifles...

    We discussed this in another thread, but since then I've heard yet another opinion on the subject.

    The issue is, since you must specify a barrel length on the BATFE application, are you restricted to that specific barrel length? So what's at stake if you do get caught? Well, if you're prosecuted, you're going to lose a bunch of money in legal costs. If you're found guilty, you will give up the right to own and shoot any gun. So while the risk may be low, the stakes are extremely high.

    Here's some of the reasoning I've seen/heard presented in reference to this:

    1- the chances of having a problem by changing the barrel length on a SBR are slim...

    This really has nothing to do with if it's legal or not ; it deals only with risk, not legality. This goes to the low risk, extremely high stakes (if you get caught).

    2- An inquiry to the BATFE and response from the BATFE says (and I believe this), that you can put a 16 inch barrel on a SBR for hunting. That's what the letter specifically says; it was referenced in my 300 BO thread as I recall.

    Some have interpreted this to mean you can change barrel lengths on a SBR - there is absolutely no evidence from the BATFE that this interpretation is valid. In fact, according to the letter from the BATFE, you can make a SBR 'legal' by putting a 16" barrel on it, but the letter in no way states you can change a 11" barrel to a 14.5" barrel. It just doesn't say that.

    3- According to a dealer here in town that deals with SBRs and suppressors, says his understanding, based on a guy he deals with that'd been into this for a long time, says you can put a longer barrel on a SBR but you can't put a shorter barrel on an SBR than you specified on the form. His recommendation is you always specify the shortest barrel you can, because you can always go longer, but, he says, you can't LEGALLY go shorter than specified on the BATFE form.

    Again, there is absolutely no indication or evidence from the BATFE that this is true - nothing. I'm suspicious that this 'guy' got his information from the aforementioned BATFE letter stating you could put a 16" barrel on a SBR and concluded that in that response the BATFE is making a blanket statement saying you can put any length barrel on a SBR as long as it's not shorter than the length specified on the BATFE form. That's not what the BATFE said. What they said is you can put a 16" barrel on an SBR, notice by doing so, it is no longer an SBR. Also, the BATFE clearly approves the 16" barrel and no other length either shorter or longer.

    4- I've been changing barrel lengths for years and never had a problem.

    You haven't been caught yet. Doing something for years that's illegal simply doesn't make something legal or illegal and having done something illegal for years, and I'm not saying it is illegal, will only make things worse in court. The stakes are: you lose your right to own firearms.

    So, I'm still looking for a definitive answer, absent of opinions and what we want it to be. What we need is clarification from the BATFE.
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    This sounds pretty accurate, but since I work for a company that makes NFA class II and III firearms and accessories, I can check with the ATF "approval" folks who OK our designs on NFA gear. I'll let you know what I hear back.
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    I have spoken directly to them about this plus there are ATF opinion letters floating around. It's not complicated. As long as you can change the rifle back to the length specified, you're all good. If not, they consider it nice if you send them a notification letter.

    Over the years, I've never been asked for my paperwork. NEVER. In many states, only federal LE have the authority to even ask for your paperwork. Most local LE don't even know what they're looking at let alone how to interpret it.

    It's been made clear over the years many times that as long as you have the original configuration and can change it back, it is not a problem.

    It's really not complicated at all. It's the people trying to read into it that make it complicated. They want their $200. Use common sense after that.

    There is a definitive answer. You just aren't accepting it. I think I speak for most NFA owners when I beg you to not be the guy that was so obsessed with small details that he got the ATF to stop allowing AAC and other suppressor companies to take another manufacturer's suppressor in for service and stamp that serial on a new suppressor then destroy the old one.

    this was something many would appreciate now but it's no longer an option because people couldn't leave well enough alone.
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    Agree. It's not complicated
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    Quote Originally Posted by GlassWolf View Post
    This sounds pretty accurate, but since I work for a company that makes NFA class II and III firearms and accessories, I can check with the ATF "approval" folks who OK our designs on NFA gear. I'll let you know what I hear back.
    That would be great!
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    Quote Originally Posted by jonconsiglio View Post
    I have spoken directly to them about this plus there are ATF opinion letters floating around. It's not complicated. As long as you can change the rifle back to the length specified, you're all good. If not, they consider it nice if you send them a notification letter.
    Here's the problem Jon, my concern is about doing something based on your talking to the BATFE and by some turn of fate I wind up being prosecuted by the BATFE for some change I've made. In order to use what you were told by the BATFE in court, I would have to provide dates, BATFE names that you've talked to, and what they said. I could have you testify, but if you couldn't produce more than "I talked to them" it wouldn't mean a thing, especially if a BATFE representative got on the stand and says that's not something we would say, he misunderstood the BATFE's remarks.

    This is not about it being complicated, it's about what the BATFE ruling is, and written evidence of that position. Othewise we have nothing to stand on in court.

    I have asked repeatedly to see some of "those letters" that are floating around, but no one has been able to produce one. The only one that came close was the one that said you can legally put a 16" barrel on a SBR. It said no more than that. So where are all these floating letters? I've searched the internet and have yet to find one. I've found plenty of unsupported opinions, but no written support from the BATFE.

    Quote Originally Posted by jonconsiglio View Post
    ...Over the years, I've never been asked for my paperwork. NEVER. In many states, only federal LE have the authority to even ask for your paperwork. Most local LE don't even know what they're looking at let alone how to interpret it.
    That has nothing to do with what the law is or what the BATFE's opinion is; that merely suggests we can 'work' outside the law if there's any doubt because it's not likely we'll get caught.

    Quote Originally Posted by jonconsiglio View Post
    ..It's been made clear over the years many times that as long as you have the original configuration and can change it back, it is not a problem.
    That's what I want to hear; but where's the written BATFE opinion on that, that I could take to court if necessary to defend my actions?

    Quote Originally Posted by jonconsiglio View Post
    ...It's really not complicated at all. It's the people trying to read into it that make it complicated. They want their $200. Use common sense after that.
    Yes, it is complicated. Show me a written opinion from the BATFE that says I can change the length of a SBR to a shorter barrel. If it weren't complicated we wouldn't be having this conversation; i could simply do a search and find the documentation.

    Quote Originally Posted by jonconsiglio View Post
    ...There is a definitive answer. You just aren't accepting it. I think I speak for most NFA owners when I beg you to not be the guy that was so obsessed with small details that he got the ATF to stop allowing AAC and other suppressor companies to take another manufacturer's suppressor in for service and stamp that serial on a new suppressor then destroy the old one.
    The reason I'm not accepting it Jon is because if I had to go to court to defend changes I made, I have no documentation from the BATFE.

    Jon maybe I'm misreading you, but you seem to be asking me to not rock the boat because we may find out what everybody thought and wants to be legal is not and there's no documentation from the BATFE to support this issue.

    I'm not doubting what you say, I'm asking for documentation - there just doesn't seem to be anything more than "this is the way everybody sees it", "i've always done it that way", etc. Can you imagine going to court and me saying Jon told me I could and he spoke to some BATFE agents whose names we don't know and we have nothing in writing or any evidence of what was said or even if the conversation took place?

    I want to be able to change barrels at will on a SBR as bad as anyone, but I just want to be able to defend my actions, in court if necessary, with more than we currently have.

    I'll go this far though, if Glasswolf comes back with answers that concur with you, I will accept that as reasonable justification.

    OTOH, what if his findings don't agree with the way we've always thought it?
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    You aren't registering the barrel. You are registering the Recievers so that it can accept barrels that are less than the legal limit. It's the very reason that the lower must be engraved as an SBR , so that it is evident that it is legal. Once it as registered as such, there is no set barrel length. The barrel length on the form is so that the ATF knows what it is for tax purposes.

    The reality of it, once the tax is paid, they don't care what you have on it.

    Several yeas ago when I got my Class 02 SOT, I had many conversations with them about these very things on a daily basis. The summary of it was, if you are legal,that's all they care about.
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    I'm not concerned about what you accept, I'm concerned about you pushing an issue that is widely accepted by almost all including the guys I personally know at AAC and KAC.

    I'm telling you, pushing an issue with the ATF can never end well. It can only end up worse for us.

    The issue with suppressor serial numbers started by some dude saying "yeah, I believe AAC is fling it, but I just want to know for sure!" Now, no suppressor company can re-stamp a serial (this also applies to lowers now as well) because someone couldn't leave well enough alone.

    I've been playing this game for many years and have never seen anything good come out of this. My paperwork says 10.5", but I guard the life of my clients with anything from a 9" 300blk to 14.5" 5.56. One who is a government official.

    I am telling you that this is direct from the ATF. It's in the handbook or website q&a. What more do you want, inscription on stone from the head of the ATF? I agree that could be nice, but it will undoubtedly be followed by new policy.

    A good way to help understand this is to do a search of any arrests on barrel length. I can guarantee you won't find any.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jonconsiglio View Post
    I'm not concerned about what you accept, I'm concerned about you pushing an issue that is widely accepted by almost all including the guys I personally know at AAC and KAC.
    That's fine, now show some documentation from the BATFE that could be used in court or do you think your above statement is a good enough defense in court.

    Jon, you've made a lot of statements about what is and where to find it, but you never come through with any documentation. You continue to ask me to accept what you say as legal and binding in a court, it is not. You talk about conversation with manufacturers - that's not legal support in any form.

    Quote Originally Posted by jonconsiglio View Post
    ...I'm telling you, pushing an issue with the ATF can never end well. It can only end up worse for us.
    Nobody is pushing anything with the BATFE; I'm trying to find documentation that defines what I will have to abide by if I get a short barreled rifle.

    Quote Originally Posted by jonconsiglio View Post
    ...The issue with suppressor serial numbers started by some dude saying "yeah, I believe AAC is fling it, but I just want to know for sure!" Now, no suppressor company can re-stamp a serial (this also applies to lowers now as well) because someone couldn't leave well enough alone.
    You need to calm down a bit Jon, this is not about that at all. Asking for documentation regarding BATFE regulations regarding SBRs is not pushing anything.

    Quote Originally Posted by jonconsiglio View Post
    ...I've been playing this game for many years and have never seen anything good come out of this. My paperwork says 10.5", but I guard the life of my clients with anything from a 9" 300blk to 14.5" 5.56. One who is a government official.
    That's a practice, not legal opinion, not a defense in court, doesn't even indicate whether it's legal or not, it just states what you do. What I'm asking for is documentation that explains what I can and/or cannot do with a SBR.

    Quote Originally Posted by jonconsiglio View Post
    ...I am telling you that this is direct from the ATF. It's in the handbook or website q&a.
    I want to see it. How can that be so hard to understand? That's what this entire thread is about, is there documentation, and where can it be found?

    I must say though, it is kinda strange that out of two threads where this has come up, NO ONE has posted any documentation from the BATFE. It seems that if there were written documentation and it's so easy to find, someone would post it here.

    Quote Originally Posted by jonconsiglio View Post
    ...A good way to help understand this is to do a search of any arrests on barrel length. I can guarantee you won't find any.
    Not being able to find such a case doesn't mean it hasn't happened, doesn't suddenly make it legal, and that would not be a useable legal defense.

    Jon, this isn't about upsetting the apple cart, it's more about learning exactly what the apple cart is. If what you're saying is true, and I've never questioned that, then I'm simply asking for written documentation. Does that seem unreasonable?

    It's kinda funny that we are often advised not to depend on the internet buzz, and yet that seems to be exactly what is implied hear - it's legal because I say it is. I'm not questioning your opinion, I'm asking for BATFE documentation - like the letter that says you can put a 16" barrel on a SBR.

    But you say this is on the BATFE website FAQs or in their handbook? Do you have a copy of the handbook? Have you ever seen the handbook you refer to?
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    Quote Originally Posted by HotGuns View Post
    You aren't registering the barrel. You are registering the Recievers so that it can accept barrels that are less than the legal limit. It's the very reason that the lower must be engraved as an SBR , so that it is evident that it is legal. Once it as registered as such, there is no set barrel length.
    There is a set barrel length, it's the one you put on the form. I don't know how much that means to the BATFE, but they do make you specify the barrel length.

    Here's what bothers the heck out of me. First I want to be able to change barrels like anyone else. I was all good with this until I realized I had to specify a barrel length. I wondered, if I'm registering a receiver for a SBR, why do they need a barrel length? It does seem logical though, that a SBR is an SBR - why would the BATFE care one way or another - they probably don't care.

    Quote Originally Posted by HotGuns View Post
    ...The barrel length on the form is so that the ATF knows what it is for tax purposes.
    Doesn't it specify SBR on the form?

    Quote Originally Posted by HotGuns View Post
    ...The reality of it, once the tax is paid, they don't care what you have on it.
    Yeah, probably so.

    Quote Originally Posted by HotGuns View Post
    ...Several yeas ago when I got my Class 02 SOT, I had many conversations with them about these very things on a daily basis. The summary of it was, if you are legal,that's all they care about.
    By legal, I take it you mean, properly registered and approved, rather than barrel length specifics of the SBR. Well that's the way I want it to be. I just don't want to do anything to jeopardize my right to own and shoot guns, above all, not over a few inches of barrel.

    Every time I get comfortable with this, I come across a new legal opinion on the matter. The latest being that you can legally put a longer barrel on a SBR, but not a shorter one. This opinion comes from a manufacturer of class III devices as well. His advice is to put the shortest barrel you ever intend to use on the form for the barrel length, then you can legally put a longer barrel on it.

    The problem is, he didn't just make that up; apparently he has done some research into the matter. If he's right, there's a simple solution - specify the shortest barrel you can.
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    Continuing thoughts about the legality of short barreled rifles...

    You are asked to inform them of barrel length change. It is not required unless the change is permanent. Since the platform is so modular, a barrel change by definition is not permanent.
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    Quote Originally Posted by munch520 View Post
    You are asked to inform them of barrel length change. It is not required unless the change is permanent. Since the platform is so modular, a barrel change by definition is not permanent.
    That's my understanding as well, but where do I find documentation for that other than the internet 'word of mouth' so to speak. I mean somebody had to get this information some how, where does it come from?
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    Firearms - Frequently Asked Questions - National Firearms Act (NFA) - Short Barreled Rifles and Shotguns | ATF


    One thing that I have found out about legal "opinions". They aren't legal, they are just opinions and a surprisingly high percentage of them are wrong. Even the ATF cant get it right all the time.

    Tangle, I know that you are an engineer and that engineers worry about stuff because that's what they do.
    The last thing you need to do is worry about swapping out your barrel. If you have a lower that is registered as an SBR, that's all that matters. Put a 10",12",14", or even a 6" on it, no one cares.

    Yeah, you have to specify a length on the paperwork because they wont have a clue what you are wanting to register it for if you don't tell them. Once its approved, "SBR" means any barrel under the length of 16 inches for a rifle, 18" for a shotgun.

    I've included a link up top to the ATF website that you need to read. Click it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tangle View Post
    I want to see it. How can that be so hard to understand? That's what this entire thread is about, is there documentation, and where can it be found?
    If you're that worried you need to get a get a lawyer and go over your state laws and your specific circumstance with him.
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    Quote Originally Posted by HotGuns View Post
    Firearms - Frequently Asked Questions - National Firearms Act (NFA) - Short Barreled Rifles and Shotguns | ATF


    One thing that I have found out about legal "opinions". They aren't legal, they are just opinions and a surprisingly high percentage of them are wrong. Even the ATF cant get it right all the time.

    Tangle, I know that you are an engineer and that engineers worry about stuff because that's what they do.
    The last thing you need to do is worry about swapping out your barrel. If you have a lower that is registered as an SBR, that's all that matters. Put a 10",12",14", or even a 6" on it, no one cares.

    Yeah, you have to specify a length on the paperwork because they wont have a clue what you are wanting to register it for if you don't tell them. Once its approved, "SBR" means any barrel under the length of 16 inches for a rifle, 18" for a shotgun.

    I've included a link up top to the ATF website that you need to read. Click it.
    Thanks HotGuns!!! I'm on my way to the link now!
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