March 2, 2024
AR15 SBR PSA AKV Pistol IMG Jim Grant

U.S.A.-( I’m hearing too many rumors over pistol brace criminalization to ignore this distinct and real possibility.  I’ve lost my perspective somewhat on what ‘regulations’ some agencies are willing to enshrine.  With each significant question I’ve faced in my life, I’ve pondered two things.  First, whom do I seek to serve with my actions?  Second, who ultimately, are the beneficiaries of the intended outcome?  I seriously doubt these are the kinds of ethical quandaries ATF considers with their regulations.  Simply translated, our pistol braced weapons might well be on the chopping block.

If perfectly legal pistol braces and being slated for criminalization, there are some obvious things to consider.  First and foremost is pushback on our part.  I’m a decent and moral American, as are you.  At every turn when our ‘rulers’ seek to wave a magic wand and make our goods and actions illegal, we should voice our thoughts.  Send letters, write emails, make calls to ATF, and flood your elected officials in the House and Senate with those same communications with your outrage.  It is vital to offer them the expectation they’ll act on your behalf.  Why?  Because you vote and their action or inaction on this will influence your next ballot.  There are no shortages of advocacy groups you can join to help in this fight.  The fight comes first, always.  Our plight is continual and if you’re not part of the solution, by definition you’re part of the problem.  So, get on board.

However, there is always the possibility our efforts may not come to fruition.  ATF may attempt making legal pistol brace owners criminals.  Thus, we’re always wise to have a contingency at the ready.  We may face a really tough choice on what to do with an AR or AK style “pistol” or anything utilizing a pistol brace.  We should explore those options and consider them fully.

I own and operate Controlled Chaos Arms.  While I have a manufacturing FFL, I’m considered a ‘dealer’ for the purposes of ATF business when it comes to a Form 4, which is a transfer of an NFA item.  As a dealer, I can transfer from my inventory an NFA weapon to you an individual, trust, or corporation through this Form 4 submission.  However, as the owner of your pistol, you can register this yourself through an ATF process called the Form 1.

I’ve been thinking about this long and hard.  In the case that the pistol brace goes the way of the dodo bird, we have some choices to consider.  As it appears you could dismantle the weapon and wait to see what happens.  You could sell, destroy, or be done with that arm brace component.  Another option would be to register it as an SBR (Short Barreled Rifle) with ATF through the Form 1 process and remit your $200 per weapon (serial number).  Or…  You could attach a vertical grip to your former pistol, rendering it an AOW (Any Other Weapon), and remit your $200 as well.

Why?  Because ATF defines a pistol as ‘designed to be held and fired by the use of a single hand’ and when you add a second vertical grip the ATF claims that the weapon is now designed to be used by two hands.  Amazing huh?  The addition of a piece of aluminum or plastic to an existing pistol makes it something completely different.  We need more ATF regulations and definitions, don’t we? (#rollingeyes)  There is a bright side to the AOW route though, as the TRANSFER of an AOW is $5, not $200.  But to MAKE either the SBR or AOW it’ll cost your $200 smackers for the tax stamp.

How does one Form 1 a weapon?

You’ll need to mark the weapon permanently according to ATF specifications.  Engraving, casting, stamping, or impressing of the information you’re required to mark the firearm comes with specifications.  The depth of the engraving cannot be less than .003” deep.  Additionally, the print size can’t be smaller than 1/16 inch.  This means that if your cousin owns a laser in his print shop that is capable of making plaques for your golf outing winners, but can nearly be wiped off by a brush of your thumb from the side of your AK receiver, it won’t pass muster.  I know lots of people who take their stuff into a laser engraver and it does not adhere to the strict guide put forth by ATF.  Find some specifics on page 3 HERE.

If you have a weapon that someone else manufactured, you are simply the ‘maker’ of the NFA weapon.  In which case you’ll need to label it accordingly along with your locale.  Here’s an example:

Joe Blow


Joe Blow Trust (when you’re using a trust instead of an individual filing)


Town, State (state abbreviations are acceptable and common)

More information is required if you built up an 80% unit though or you have a weapon with no markings on it.  You’re the manufacturer now in a sense, not the maker, so the engraving list gets longer.  In addition to the markings above, you’ll need to add:

SN:  0001 (the “SN” serial number designation along with the number)

CAL:  9MM  (the Caliber and number)

MODEL:  AR-14 (There’s no reason this part can’t be fun)

Your information needs to be identical on the Form 1 and the weapon.  I can’t stress this enough.  I have a Type 07 Manufacturing FFL and I can assure you if you want problems with ATF a great way to achieve this silly goal is to have your form information vary from your markings.  You need to mark the places where you’d find a standard marking on everything else.  Don’t screw around and mark a pistol slide, or the top cover of an AK, or AR upper receiver.  You want the frame, lower receiver, main receiver, etc.  That’s the ‘gun’ as far as ATF is concerned and that’s the proper choice of items to mark.  HERE is ATF info on marking.

One final note on markings…  In Title I land, you’ll find no shortage of weapons marked “multi” these days.  However, in NFA-ville, there is no such thing.  NFA weapons are specifically marked, as this registration follows the weapon around forever.  Any change from what the national registry reflection, will need to be communicated to ATF.  So, you can’t put “multi” down for your caliber.  If your caliber is 5.56mm, then mark your firearm as such, and your Form 1 should reflect that.  If you change the weapon configuration from a 10.5” stick in 5.56 to a 10.5” in 300BO, you need to contact ATF and have the registry updated.  They can advise at that time on marking, as I’ve had two customers tell me they were not advised to change their weapon markings and many others that did.  The same goes for tech changes.  If your weapon is a 5.56 with a 10.5” stick and you change to a 5.56 with a 12” stick, the barrel length and overall weapon length are now different from the specs in the national registry, thus an update from you is necessary.  When you play in the NFA things are very specific and alterations are fine, but require communication from you.

Don’t shirk your responsibilities for this or you can be in real trouble.

Let’s go over how to submit your Form 1.  You can download that document HERE if you like and fill it out in paper format.  It looks like a pain in the rear end, but it really isn’t.  After you do one or two, you’ll be an ace and won’t take issue with it.  I’ve seen applications to become members of some churches that are more exhausting.  Or, you can utilize the ATF eForms page and do the work through the internet.  Always take a moment when using the internet to thank Al Gore for his invention.  I know I do.

Once you arrive at the eForms page, you’ll need a User ID and password, so head to the bottom of the page and hit the green button where it says, “Register” to get started.  Simply fill it out and begin.  Here’s the skinny though…  Unlike everyone else on the internet, ATF can’t make their portal work well and it is down weekly for maintenance.  This is not me hacking on ATF for fun and profit.  This is the truth.  DO NOT ram and jam your way through screens.  Once you have clicked a button, take a break as the system fires up the squirrels necessary to spin wheeled cages and make the magic happen.  If you force your way through each field thinking repeated clicks on a button will help, you’re set up for disappointment.  Also, do yourself a favor and don’t even bother to use the system on Wednesdays.  Not a joke.  Wednesday is quite literally scheduled weekly maintenance for that site and portal.  You will accomplish little more than high blood pressure by an attempt at a Wednesday submittal.  Granted, I haven’t actually attempted a Wednesday form submission for several months, but I’d be shocked to find it working since the framework and backend don’t appear to have been updated since Methuselah was knee-high to a grasshopper…

I’m told by customers the eForms fly through.  My definition and theirs are quite different in terms of what “fly” means.  I know with certainty there is no reason an eForm can’t take one business day to process.  The rest of the world does it, so ATF can.  But they don’t.  So, my buddies are tickled when they see an eForm clear in a month or a little more.  Paper Form 1 submissions are taking about 4 months as of the date of this article.  When you compare this against Form 4 submissions from the 2016/2017 era, when I had some languish for a year and a half, this sounds pretty good.  When I can import a belt-fed machine gun, have it chopped to satisfy DOJ, and get it transferred through customs and to me quicker than Joe Blow can register his new SBR or AOW, there’s a fundamental flaw in the system.  But, that’s a squabble for a future article.  Maybe sometime I should sit down with an ATF official and ascertain what the nature of the problems are on their end.  Who knows, I might be able to help.

The instructions on the forms are pretty straight forward.  You’re told how to fill out the documents with a long list of instructions and definitions.  If you’re paper filing, the location to mail is at the top of the document under a thick black line.  All you have to do is cough up the bucks, adhere to all your state and local laws, and remember I’m no lawyer – just a hell of a gun plumber, shower singer extraordinaire, and writer.

About Michael Ware:

Michael is a Christian husband and father to two children. He owns and operates Controlled Chaos Arms, a premier custom weapons shop in the Midwest. He serves as Chairman of the board of Directors at the Iowa Firearms Coalition. The pursuit of truth drives him in research and his writing.

Michael enjoys shooting, hunting, and fishing throughout the Midwest and Rockies. An avid outdoorsman and tireless supporter of all Second Amendment virtues, he can be found in his gun shop, in a tree stand with his kids, or on Capitol Hill lobbying in support of Freedom and Liberty at any given time.

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