Making an SBR from a Pistol

Clients often intend to file a Form 1 and manufacture a Short Barreled Rifle from what is a pistol. Once the Form 1 is approved, the manufacturing bit is easy. Just add a stock.

However, what is more difficult is figuring out what to engrave and where. The what, name of manufacturer and location, is required by the BATFE. (And they are even so strict as to require a set depth for engraving!) The where however is firearm specific and a bit trickier.

The manufacturer, that’s you or your trust, must engrave the firearm, which in the eyes of the BATFE is the frame or receiver. For an AR-15 this is the lower receiver. Easy, and it allows you to swap out uppers.

For a Broomhandle Mauser this is the pistol itself. (Note: Don’t go engraving a historic firearm without doing your research. There are exceptions for curios and relics that qualify.)

The difficulty appears when you use a modular stock meant to fit on many firearms. For example the Sig Sauer Adaptive Carbine Platform (ACP). On first pass, you will want to engrave the ACP itself. But this is the stock, and the BATFE will not accept this! Instead you must engrave the frame or receiver of the firearm you actually intend to use in the ACP. (And that pistol will still be an SBR in the eyes of law even without the ACP.)

In summary, research before you manufacture to ensure you engrave the frame or receiver. When in doubt, or if you just need a second opinion, reach out to a professional firearms attorney. I have helped many South Carolinians with a Form 1, and I would be happy to help you determine your options and which option will give you the greatest flexibility.

Manufacturing via a Form 1

Many times I am asked about how a trust (or the settlor) can change an AR-15 rifle into a legal Short-Barreled Rifle (SBR). The process is easy, albeit long and exact.

If your Trust wishes to manufacture a NFA firearm rather than purchase one, it will need to file a Form 1. The Form 1 must be filed, approved, and returned before manufacturing (i.e. converting) the firearm. The fee for the Form 1 filing is $200.

The Form 1, which can be found on the BATFE webiste, must be submitted with a copy of the trust and assignment sheet, a certification of US citizenship for the submitting trustee, and a check to cover the transfer tax. Unfortunately, you should expect to wait nine or so months currently to have the form approved.

For Form 4 transfers I advise trustees to leave the item off of the trust assignment sheet until the BATFE approves the transfer. However for Form 1 manufacturing the title 1 firearm (or block of steel / aluminum if you are really ambitious!) can, and should, be assigned to the trust before manufacturing begins. (Arguably this could be at any time, but I suggest assigning the firearm before submitting the Form 1).

Once you have received the approved Form 1 and begin manufacturing the firearm you must engrave the firearm with the caliber or gauge, make, model, name of the manufacturer, i.e. the Trust, and city, state in which the manufacturer is located. You should use the full name of the trust rather than abbreviations. The BATFE currently requires a minimum depth of .003 inches for the engraving, but I caution anyone manufacturing to verify the current requirements to manufacture before pursuing a Form 1. Due to the exactness of engraving requirements, I highly recommend taking your firearm to a Class III licensed manufacturer to have the engraving completed.

It is worth noting that the manufacture of machineguns for civilian use has been illegal since May 19, 1986, and the BATFE will not approve any request to manufacture a machinegun. (In the event the ATF does mistakenly approve such a form, they will confiscate the firearm once they realize what has happened.)

As always, if you find yourself confused or need of guidance, reach out to someone with experience. It will make the process much simpler!

Barrel Length on a Short-Barreled Rifle

When making a short-barreled rifle via a Form 1, you must specify the minimum length of the barrel and of the rifle. Once the form is filed, this length is difficult to amend, and can be downright impossible once the rifle has been transferred to a new owner. Thus it is critical to get this length right the first time.

What is the right length for your gun? That depends on what you want to use it for. However, that is a different question than what is the right length to record on the Form 1. As noted earlier, this is a minimum length. The rifle, overall and / or the barrel, can be longer than the minimum length, but it can never be shorter. For this reason it is normally best to record on the Form 1 the absolute minimum possible length at which the rifle can function.

It is worth noting that unlike with a conventional rifle, on a SBR the overall length is measured with the stock collapsed to its minimum length. On many AR-15s and other modern rifles, collapsible stocks are the norm, and several inches of rifle length can be lost by collapsing the stock.

A reputable manufacturer of NFA firearms will know these subtleties and manufacture the rifle accordingly. When in doubt, it is always best to deal with someone well versed in the laws and regulations of NFA firearms. Should you choose to make your own NFA firearm via a Form 1, remember that a Trust can be the manufacturer, and list the shortest possible length you may wish to make.