What is an SBR? It’s important to know the distinction. You might be a straight edged “rule follower”, building your AR-15. Get a serialized lower, buy the parts from a reputable dealer. You put a barrel on your rifle less than 16 inches and a collapsible or fixed stock.

You’ve broken the law. How? Read on – we’ll get you compliant.

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What is a short barrel rifle (SBR)

A short barreled rifle is a rifle whose rifle barrel’s length is less than 16 inches and/or has an overall length of less than 26 inches. If your barrel is less than 16 inches and a stock, you’ve gone the SBR route. If has an overall length of less than 26 inches with a stock, you’ve got an SBR.

Why does the SBR exist?

The term SBR is classified in the national firearms act as a barrel length less than 16 inches and/or an overall length of less than 26 inches. The term SBR was created by the ATF to identify rifles that fit these criteria with your typical stock.

The main idea (by the government) about an SBR is that it’s easier to conceal and more dangerous to the public. Sure – a 10 inch barreled SBR is more concealable than a 16 inch M16A2.

However, politicians have decided it’s more deadly – not just because of the length. But also from some fictitious reasons about it shooting faster, holding more ammunition, or other false reasons they’ve come up with.

What is the law regarding short barreled rifles

Again, the laws regarding SBR’s are:

If the rifle barrel length is less than 16 inches and has a stock

and/or

the rifle has an overall length of less than 26 inches,

it’s an SBR.

National firearms act (NFA)

We aren’t lawyers. Neither is ReFactor tactical, but their article Size Matters | Short Barrel Rifle (SBR) Laws gives an excellent history about the Gun Control Act, NFA, and other cases. Read it to see how we got to where we are today.

Who governs the rules regarding NFA firearms and the firearms industry

The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives enforces the rules they establish. However the Department of Treasury governs the tax stamp for these otherwise prohibited firearms.

Looking at everything the National Firearms Act has done, you’ll see the NFA is not just about SBR’s. It is also about suppressors, machine guns, and other weapons and explosives.

What is considered a normal rifle?

So what rifle can you build or purchase without a tax stamp and additional background check?

Minimum barrel length of 16 inches

Get a barrel that’s a minimum of 16 inches. You can also get a barrel with a “pinned” and welded muzzle device that makes the barrel permanently 16 inches. What, what?

There are barrels that measure 14.5 inches and have a pinned and welded muzzle device. The total of both parts makes the barrel length a total of 16 inches.

The muzzle device MUST be pinned and welded though. The idea behind this is that you cannot remove it and have a less than 16 inches barrel. It keeps you compliant, without the temptation of removing it.

Overall length of less than 26 inches

Any rifle that’s measures less than 26 inches is also considered an SBR. National Gun Trusts says to measure with the buttstock collapsed – using this as your shortest measurement helps keep you compliant.

If the measurement from buttstock to tip of the rifle is less than 26 inches, you have an SBR and need a tax stamp. If greater than 26 inches and has a 16 inch or longer barrel (or 16 inches total barrel length with a pinned & welded muzzle device) then you’re out of the SBR territory.

The current exception to the rule: AR pistols

An AR pistol is an AR platform upper and lower receiver with a pistol brace instead of a buttstock. These are used by many gun owners to skirt the current ATF rules.

What is a pistol brace?

A pistol brace’s original design was originally intended for use by disabled shooters to shoot AR platforms.

It’s a hot topic right now with shooters and the government. Of course the original reason for the brace was to give disabled shooters the opportunity to shoot these platforms.

Many people use them to skirt the ATF’s SBR barrel length rules. These rifles with pistol braces aren’t referred to as SBR’s, they’re referred to as an AR pistol.

How to purchase a short barreled rifle

If you’re building a short barrel rifle with a normal stock, you’ll need to register it with the ATF before using it (or else it would be illegal).

Read: Best Barrels for an AR-15 Build

Who can sell short barreled rifles

To purchase a manufacturers SBR, you’ll need to purchase it from a Class 03 dealer.

These gun dealers pay a special tax to the IRS for the opportunity to sell these firearms. Class 03 dealers can also deal in automatic weapons and silencers. The transfer fees (if purchasing from someone else) are usually a bit higher than normal FFL transfer fees.

Can you build a short barreled rifle

National Gun Trust has an excellent ATF Form 4 walkthrough guide. I used this guide to build my first SBR.

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