As expected due to the Executive Action ordered by President Biden, the ATF has recently published their proposed rule change on classification of braced pistols.
Long story short, it's terrible and you MUST be prepared to comment on it when the comment period opens to prevent it from going into effect.
I've prepared a video going over my thoughts on it as well as my personal thoughts that I'll be putting into my comment. Video Link
My comment and thoughts can be found below. If you feel like I've made some valid points here, please feel free to use my general thoughts in your comment, but do not copy/paste what I've provided below, as the comment will not be counted.
"I am an amateur firearm designer and builder. I ensure that all of my designs and builds are compliant with codified law and guidance by the ATF. Prior to this proposed rule change, the rules regarding braced pistols and firearms were not difficult to follow. This proposed rule ensures that compliance is impossible, due to vague or non-specified descriptions, arbitrary weight and length requirements, and several other major issues. It works as a de-facto pistol brace ban, hindering all braced pistol owners, but especially those that are differently-abled and unable to properly exercise their 2nd Amendment rights without a braced pistol. A few of the issues that I’ve come across in a brief review of this proposed rule are:
A. The reasons that these specific weights were chosen are not explained clearly enough in the proposed rule. A long, but under 64 oz pistol may be difficult for a handicapped shooter to use properly, requiring the use of a brace. Perhaps the shooter has limited grip strength in which to hold an otherwise lightweight gun, necessitating the use of a brace to properly hold and operate it. Should this person be forced to use too heavy of a firearm that they can’t safely control?
B. Weight with accessories removed. Are you considering the brace as an operational or non-operational accessory? This is not clear in the proposed rule.
C. Arbitrary length determination. Again, this Length measured with all “non-operational” accessories removed. What is determined to be a non-operational accessory and what is an operational accessory?
1. Accessory design – What is the standard to determine whether a stabilizing brace is “not based on a known shoulder stock design”? What are the exact factors to determine whether it is based on a known design or not? Is it cosmetic? Functional? Who makes the determination whether a brace is “based on a known shoulder stock design”? The examples provided rule out almost every brace on the market using “features known to be on a stock” such as the extremely overreaching “incorporating a hardened polymer type material”. That is the vast majority of braces on the market. Adding a sling attachment point is also a stock like feature in that exhibit. Yet, in exhibit C with a Shockwave Blade type brace accessory, both made of a hardened polymer type material and with a sling attachment point, it is not penalized as being “based on a known shoulder stock design. Your examples aren’t applied consistently. How can a designer plan for your arbitrary determination?
2. Rear surface area – Vague descriptions are used in the proposed rule. What exactly is the surface area permitted in each of these levels. Using descriptors of “minimized “ or “useful” are vague and cannot possibly be accommodated when designing an accessory. What is useful for one person may be minimized for another. Without clear, objective measurements here, compliance is impossible. What all are considered a feature to prevent the use as a shouldering device (i.e. the referenced QD sling attachment port at the rear of the stabilizing brace)? Would a simple sling loop extending 1mm from the rear of the brace, breaking up the solid rearmost portion suffice? Clear guidelines must be provided.
3. Adjustability. Is adjustability only determined with front and back movement (i.e. to increase or decrease the Length of Pull) or is the ability to fold the entire brace to the side out of the functional plane when not deployed for use counted as being “adjustable”? Some braces are able to rotate around a central axis on the mount, is this counted as being "adjustable"? Again, this is vague and unable to plan for with the current language.
1. Length of pull. The previous maximum allowed Length of Pull of 13.5” was a clear, easily followed guideline. The new versions penalize people with different biology, forearm length, joint strength, etc. This should be simply 0 points for any LOP under 13.5”, and an automatic 4 points for any LOP over 13.5”. If someone needs a brace with a maximum LOP of 13.0” due to their arm length or other biological feature that they can’t control, they are penalized harshly on this worksheet.
2. Attachment method. Confusion remains. For example, a 65 oz 12.5” pistol type firearm with a rear picatinny mount built into the frame or “chassis” of the firearm. The pistol brace has a side folding, picatinny mount equipped hinge to facilitate mounting between the brace arm and the body. This hinge is required for the use of the brace itself to allow the firearm to be used both with the brace deployed and with the brace folded to the side. The hinge is not unnecessarily long to be considered a “folding adapter extending length of pull”. Would this be counted against its total score? The worksheet and proposed rule is vague and doesn’t have this possibility included, meaning it is impossible to plan for this eventuality. In addition, “attachment method creates an unusable aim-point (slant)” is again, vague and inconsistent with firearms in proper use. On the above referenced firearm, the pistol style sights are impossible to properly aim with the brace strapped to the shooters arm, if the rear of the chassis didn’t have a 5 degree downward slant and the brace arm itself having a further 5 degree slant, providing a combined 10 degree slant when deployed and in proper use. The brace has been designed accordingly to provide the proper arm strap engagement angle in this use. Would this be penalized, as the ONLY way to properly aim this handgun is with the slant mounted brace? How many degrees are too many? Is a 1 degree slope on a mount enough to be penalized?
3. Elastic material strap. In order to allow the braced firearm to be shot by a variety of shooters, elastic material is sometimes used so that the entire strap doesn’t need to be reconfigured from shooter to shooter. Having this be a penalty is ridiculous and penalizes shooters of different sizes. The ability to easily adjust the brace to fit the shooter is a requirement given that the shooter may only have one functional hand. Elastic makes this simple in most cases, necessary in others, and having this be a penalty could be considered a violation of the ADA. In addition, the qualifier of being “too short to function” is extremely vague as different forearm sizes exist. What may fit on a child shooter will obviously not fit on a body builder, yet a small strap may still be considered fully functional depending on the shooter. Do you intend to measure the forearm of the firearm owner to issue a maximum/minimum allowable strap for that specific person? What if they lose weight or gain muscle?
4. Peripheral accessories.
A. Presence of a hand-stop. Sporadic, incidental, or situational use of two hands while shooting a pistol type firearm is a common occurrence. Having a device in place to prevent injury to a shooter by accidentally putting their hand in front of the muzzle should not be penalized. A hand-stop is a safety feature and should not be penalized. Certain devices that are cosmetically identical to hand-stops but are marketed as “barricade rests” exist to brace the firearm against a barricade in practical shooting. Would this device be penalized as well?
B. Presence of “rifle type” sights. What are considered “rifle type sights”? The worksheet states Back-up/flip-up sights, but what about the existing carry handle type sights on an AR type pistol, for example, which are functionally identical to back up sights? What about diopter type peep sights commonly found on a competition shooting pistol, which are commonly found on rifles as well? AK style tangent sights which come from the factory on some Browning-style pistols? Like with Part 2., Section 1., who makes the arbitrary decision on what is considered a “rifle type” sight, when no such classification actually exists, and sights ranging from simple notch and post sights up to high precision diopter sights exist on both rifles and pistols?
C. Optic eye relief specifics. What is the allowable eye relief for optics? The worksheet states that it is for sights with eye relief “incompatible with one-handed fire”. People have different arm lengths. What may be perfect for one shooter may be too short or too long for another. What is “limited eye relief”? A scope that is branded and sold as a pistol scope may have an 18” eye relief scope, it may be 12”, it may be 20”, or it may be 8”. Different shooting postures exist and therefore, different scope eye relief exists. Which of these are allowable without penalty, despite the fact that they are all marketed as pistol scopes? Without a specific guideline of a maximum allowable eye relief, this is vague and impossible to plan for.
D. Presence of a bipod/monopod. Several hunting or target type pistols come with a bipod as a factory addition. This can help shooters of all ages and abilities shoot safely allowing a static support on what may be a heavy firearm. I cannot fathom why this is a penalized feature.
Overall, this proposed rule does not serve to reduce violent crime. It will, however, lead to an increase in accidental injuries or deaths due to making previously safe firearms objectively worse at actually being controllable and able to hit their target. This proposed rule will, at best, lead to literally millions of gun owners becoming felons due to having their firearm in a previously allowed configuration that will change overnight due to extremely vague, improperly defined, and arbitrary configuration rules. At worst, this proposed rule will be a disaster for safety. While there are an extremely low number of deaths attributed to brace equipped firearms currently, making firearms less stable for shooting is a massive range safety issue. Contrary to media belief, the vast majority of guns are fired safely at the range by the hundreds of millions of gun owners. This is where guns are used. Millions of these firearms are brace equipped pistols. Making them less stable, accurate, and controllable while shooting will lead to accidental injuries and deaths far exceeding the number purported to be intentionally caused by them.
The proposed solutions to this rule change are equally unreasonable.
1. An owner may remove and destroy or discard of their brace type accessory, an item which was legally purchased for use approved by the ATF, without compensation for money spent on the approved item. By your own estimations, this will rob lawful firearm owners of approximately $283 million dollars.
2. They may file for a Form 1 SBR tax stamp. There is no grandfathering or financial offset for this tax stamp for an owner that wishes to remain legally compliant with this rule change. If every brace owner does this, it will cost lawful gun owners approximately $240 million dollars.
This rule change must not be allowed to proceed as written. "