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Tech Spec: V20N4

By Rick Vasquez

Shotgun VS. Firearm


Certain commercially-produced pistol-grip shotguns and firearms made from a shotgun receiver with butt extensions, do not fall within the definition of a “shotgun” under the National Firearms Act (NFA) or Gun Control Act (GCA). These smooth-bored firearms, designed to fire shotgun shells, are made with pistol-grips in lieu of buttstocks, and are not “shotguns” under the NFA or GCA. This analysis and conclusion is because they are not made from a system designed or intended to be fired from the shoulder. Provided that the overall length remains at least 26 inches, the length of the weapon’s barrel is immaterial. Such weapons are classified simply as “firearms” and are subject to all of the provisions of the GCA.

Under current law, if a person has a pistol grip firearm with a smooth bored barrel over 18 inches in length and an overall length exceeding 26”, that person can legally reduce the barrel length of a pistol-grip firearm to less than 18 inches. This modification cannot result in a firearm with an overall length of less than 26 inches. However, a shotgun that once had a buttstock attached but had the barrel shortened to less than 18 inches and a pistol grip added will be classified as an NFA firearm. A shotgun, having been designed and manufactured to be fired from the shoulder, having a barrel length of less than 18 inches, requires classification as a “weapon made from a shotgun.”

Regulations and statutes pertaining:

This classification is confusing, and it is important to understand the regulations to determine how the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) reached this classification. Especially since the design for the SIG Arm Brace, that is now being attached to shotgun receivers that appear to be “AOWs” or “weapons made from a shotgun”. According to the GCA, the term “shotgun” means a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of an explosive to fire through a smooth bore either a number of...


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