What Is a Pistol Brace?

  • by Casy Smith
What Is a Pistol Brace?
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*Disclaimer* None of the following content should be considered legal advice regarding the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) new factoring criteria on what firearms are considered short-barreled rifles. We will be taking a look at the federal decision. State, county and city laws can vary on these firearms and accessories. No legal decisions should be made solely on this content. Please consult a legal expert for more information.

A pistol brace (also known as a stabilizing brace or arm brace) is a rear-mounted gun accessory that allows you to strap your handgun to your forearm for added stability. The brace uses Velcro to attach the firearm to a person's arm, further stabilizing the gun. While pistol braces may resemble a stock, they are not designed to be placed against your shoulder for stability

Now that your main question is answered about what a pistol brace is and its basic definition, continue reading to learn more about AR pistols, short-barreled rifles, and legality surrounding pistol braces. Hopefully this information can help you decide if pistol braces are worth considering in a self-defense capacity.

History and Background of Pistol Braces

The history and background of pistol braces begins with one single concept: stability. Stability is essential to reducing recoil and increasing accuracy when you are in a self-defense situation. This is especially true when relying on a handgun for self-defense, as you can't rely on the rest of your body to stabilize your weapon.

To add stability, firearm manufacturers and accessory companies created ways to make the pistol easier to aim and fire, especially one-handed. To do this, some manufacturers added features to handguns that led them to take on the look and feel of an assault rifle. These pistols became known as AR pistols. 

As this AR pistol genre grew in popularity amongst gun owners, firearm manufacturers and accessory producers began creating accessories to give people more stability when firing. To avoid being labeled a "short-barreled rifle" and adding a layer of legal complexity to ownership, in 2012 firearm companies created a way to stabilize an AR pistol on your arm without raising it to your shoulder: the pistol brace. 

What Is an AR Pistol?

An AR pistol (also known as an AR-15 pistol) is a semi-automatic pistol that has been modified to look and feel more like a tactical rifle than a traditional handgun. While an AR pistol resembles a rifle, it is still considered a handgun. Some traits you will see on AR pistols include: 

  • A handguard under the barrel for more stability while firing. 
  • Magazine loading in front of the trigger rather than in the handle like a traditional semi-automatic pistol. 
  • An upper with more railing for accessories like scopes, red-dot sights, flashlights and other optical accessories.
  • A rifle-style charging handle to check the chamber, rather than a handgun slide.
  • A rear-facing, smooth buffer tube.

Now that we've covered some of the most prevalent traits of an AR pistol, let's look at one of the most popular accessories for this type of handgun. 

How Does a Pistol Brace Work?

As previously described at the beginning of this article, a pistol brace (also known as a "stabilizing brace") is a rear-mounted accessory that works by allowing you to strap your handgun to your forearm for added stability.

Some patents for the modern handgun brace discuss how these braces are especially advantageous for individuals with physical disabilities or other challenges. For many, the pistol brace became a popular attachment for their AR pistols as it added stability without being considered a short-barreled rifle. Let's cover what the ATF defines as a short-barreled rifle.

What Is a Short-Barreled Rifle?

As outlined in the Gun Control Act of 1968, the ATF defines a short-barreled rifle (SBR) as a rifle with a barrel length of fewer than 16 inches, a rifle with a total gun length of fewer than 26 inches, or a rifle that has been designed or redesigned, made, or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder.

These firearms are legal to own in some states but require a $200 transfer fee for ownership. SBRs also have more restrictive travel rules than pistols or long-barrel rifles. It's essential to know the laws of your state and any state you travel to regarding your firearm

Pistol braces could possibly be illegal based on failure to adhere to the ATF’s latest regulations. The legality of pistol braces is not a simple “yes” or “no” because for many years, pistols with braces were not considered SBRs due to the intended function of the brace. 

Now, any AR pistol accessory, conversion kit, or modification turns your pistol into a short-barreled rifle if it adds a comparable rear-facing accessory with the surface area of a stock, like a brace. It's essential to review your state's laws about SBRs to see if you are affected.

Is The ATF Banning Pistol Braces?

Yes, the ATF is banning pistol braces in that there are very limited options for legally keeping a pistol brace. If you have a firearm with a pistol brace that isn't registered as an SBR, here are your  options listed by the ATF:

  • Register your firearm with the ATF as a short-barreled rifle
  • Remove and destroy the pistol brace
  • Turn the firearm into the local ATF office

It’s important to note that AR pistols are still considered pistols as long as they don't have a brace or stock. The buffer tube is not considered a stock since it doesn't have the requisite surface area to be placed against the shoulder.

    Making Sure You Have the Essentials for Self- and Home-Defense Situations

    While laws may change, your ability to quickly respond to threats and defend yourself and your family doesn't have to. A flashy firearm or piece of equipment can't replace self-defense training and a solid home defense plan. Practicing firing and dry-firing with your concealed carry weapon can help you land shots. 

    One of the best ways to stay ahead is through firearm staging with concealment furniture and decor. A good concealment flag can give you a tactical advantage while keeping your firearm out of the hands of little ones or intruders. Browse our selection of excellent concealment options today.

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