The gun world received a shock last week as the Boston field office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) sent a cease and desist letter to New Hampshire firearms manufacturer Q demanding that they cease selling their Honey Badger AR-15 pistol. According to the letter, the ATF’s technical branch had reclassified the pistol as a short-barreled rifle (SBR), and thus Q was violating the law in selling the Honey Badger as a pistol.
The letter has gun owners up in arms, and has many fearing that their pistols may similarly be reclassified, particularly since the ATF letter demands that Q submit samples of their other pistols, including one using the popular SBA3 arm brace. One of the greatest developments in the gun industry in the past few years has been that of pistol braces, which allow gun owners to purchase or build rifle-actioned firearms with barrels less than 16” long without having to go through the onerous, time-consuming, and expensive process of registering their firearms as National Firearms Act (NFA) items.
The explosion in popularity of AR-15 pistols has led to an increase in popularity of other pistols, such as AK-style pistols and other newer firearms both from domestic and foreign producers. The increased popularity of pistols is due in part to the increasing realization that short-barreled firearms in rifle calibers are more compact, easier to carry, and more convenient for home defense. That has also led to more development of ammunition geared towards those firearms that makes up for the loss of ballistic performance due to the shorter barrels.
One might ask what the difference is between an AR-15 pistol with, say, a 12” barrel and an AR-15 rifle with a 12” barrel. The answer is really nothing, save for the legal classification. The AR-15 with an arm brace is a pistol, while the AR-15 with a stock is a rifle. The only real difference is that shouldering an AR-15 pistol isn’t nearly as comfortable.
The development of arm braces has helped many to realize that the NFA and federal firearms classifications are really meaningless and pointless. After all, if the federal government could arbitrarily declare semiautomatic firearms fitted with bumpstocks to be machine guns, then the government’s definitions really don’t make any sense. And in this way, increased popularity of AR-15 pistols has led to more support to repeal the NFA and its outdated restrictions.
The publication of this letter so close to the election is a shot across the bow, and an indicator of what we can expect during a Joe Biden administration. Many are speculating that this is ATF’s way of pushing the envelope, fully expecting a Biden victory, and getting out ahead of things to spearhead the Biden gun control agenda. Normally when such a reclassification occurs, notice would be expected to come from the ATF’s tech branch, not from a random field office.
While the Trump administration is looking into what took place, it may not matter if Biden wins next month. But now gun owners can see what’s at stake, as millions of gun owners may be made into felons overnight. If Joe Biden wins, gun owners may be forced to choose between their guns or their lives.
Image: Q LLC