The Firearm The Accused Boulder Shooter Bought Looks Like A Rifle, But It’s Regulated Like A Pistol
But there are differences. The pistol version has a barrel that is about six inches shorter, and the total weight of the gun is six pounds, about a pound lighter than the rifle version. If it came with a stock on the gun, it would be a short barrel rifle. The pistol variant, however, comes with a “support” that looks like a stock, but is designed to be strapped to the forearm. According to gun experts, it is illegal to fire it like a rifle with the clamp pressed against your shoulder.
Rick Vasquez, former ATF firearms enforcement officer in the ATF’s Firearms Technology Division and owner of Rick Vasquez Firearms, who conducts advice and training, said there were two good reasons someone might want to buy the pistol variant.
“One way is very simple: ‘I just want one,'” said Vasquez, who is based in Winchester, VA. “The other answer would be, ‘Well, if it’s a pistol, it’s shorter and great fun to shoot at range.'”
Most people don’t need a longer rifle barrel that would provide more accurate long-range shots to shoot at targets 25 meters from the shooting range, Vasquez said.
“The undeniable fact remains, that shorter ARs are more fun,” said an enthusiastic review of the AR-556 pistol on a popular YouTube channel, TFB TV. “It handles like an AR and shoots like an AR.”
No matter. Gun variants of the AR-15 are almost as popular as the AR-15 itself.
“It’s incredible,” said Vasquez. “I mean, there are different variations. If it looks like a rifle and can be made into a pistol, then it was made into a pistol. “
Pistol variants of rifles are not to be confused with short-barreled rifles. These have been strictly regulated since the Great Depression, also because they were identified as the weapon of choice for gangsters from the prohibition era.
“Short barrel rifles have been regulated since the Federal Law on National Firearms (NFA) of 1934. Before you own one you have to pay a special tax and go through a registration process (through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives), ”said David Kopel, Gun Law Expert and Research Director of the Independence Institute.
And there would be more paperwork if the owner of a short-barreled rifle wanted to drive across state borders.
A pistol variant avoids these regulations.
Attempts have been made to regulate what constitutes braces on a pistol, and to define which braces are essentially a stock and which are legitimate braces to aid in firing a variant of the pistol with one hand. ATF briefly opened a comment period for new rules, but abruptly withdrew it five days later without further action.
ATF noted that the original “intent of the armrest was to make one-handed shooting of the AR15 pistol easier for those with limited strength or mobility due to a handicap, and to reduce bruising on the forearm when shooting with one hand.”
In practice, however, the braces are often used as a shaft.
ATF also noted that if the strut is not used properly, the weapon can be considered a short-barreled rifle and is subject to strict NFA regulations, “especially if the accessory acts as a shoulder stick for the weapon,” according to the repealed instructions from ATF.
ATF did not respond to a request for comment.
Firearms trafficking groups welcomed the move to stop any efforts to create new guidelines.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation said it had long sought advice from the ATF on “objective criteria” for gun manufacturers, but “Unfortunately, the guidelines proposed by the ATF last week did little to remove the ambiguity associated with subjective ones Criteria exists, ”read a December 23, 2020, NSSF press release.
Still, braces “shouldn’t be used like stocks,” said Vasquez, the former ATF agent.
It’s not clear that the Boulder King Soopers shooter used the braces as a shaft. But “if that person used it as a supply for the commission of a crime, then he is actually using a short barrel rifle, not a pistol.”