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  • Post last modified:January 10, 2024

Brace vs stock is all about staying legal with your firearms. The ATF law states that:

A braced AR pistol becomes an SBR if its barrel is under 16 inches and overall length is less than 26 inches. 

ATF allows separate accessory sales for braces, but they can't be on firearms with barrels under 16 inches without proper NFA paperwork and transfer.

Pistol Stabilizing Brace

gear head works tailhooks brace

Brace is often called pistol stabilizing brace.  A pistol brace attaches to the gun's rear, enabling one-handed firing. It secures to the forearm with Velcro to enhance firearm stability during firing.

It's particularly favored by disabled shooters. Beyond its appeal, braces offer comfort to gun owners who find full-length, shouldered rifles challenging, enabling them to enjoy AR-style firearms.


A buttstock aids in managing rifle recoil against the shoulder but isn't attached to the shooter. In contrast, a pistol brace secures to the shooter's forearm using Velcro, enhancing stability during AR pistol firing.

magpul ctr stock

If not for the ATF rules, honestly no one will buy a pistol brace.

Pistol braces offer versatility and accessory choices for stabilizing AR pistols without the need for a buttstock or the associated SBR classification.

A stock can be put on a long gun that has at least 16" barrel length (Not include the muzzle device unless its pinned and welded).

AR Pistols

In simple terms, an AR pistol doesn't have a stock, and its barrel is shorter than 16" of an standard AR style gun that fits the ATF's pistol definition.

geissele super duty ar pistol

The Gun Control Act leaves some room for interpretation, so AR pistols fall in a somewhat unusual category between pistols and short-barreled rifles.

As long as the firearm is shorter than 26 inches overall and has a barrel less than 16 inches, and doesn't have a buttstock or vertical foregrip, it's classified as an AR pistol.

MP5K pistol with red dot sight

But remember, you can't put a buttstock on an AR pistol.

Pistol braces can go on an AR pistol without classifying it into a short-barreled rifle. Physically, the gun still operates the same. It would still be considered a pistol for legal definitions. 

However, this ruling has face some challenges and changes since 2020, because it looks like a stock.  The latest ruling actually legalize the use of pistol brace in late 2023

Short Barreled Rifle

An SBR is also a firearm with a barrel under 16 inches, just like an AR pistol.

However the use of a buttstock is legal, and the SBRs are subject to the National Firearms Act and are regulated by the ATF.

mk18 with cloud defensive rein

To own one, a gun owner must go through a whole ATF process, which includes filling out paperwork, undergoing a background check, getting fingerprinted, and paying a $200 tax to the ATF. It's very popular for people to register under a trust. Check out SilencerCO to create a trust

atf form 1 example

After a waiting period, the gun owner eventually gets a tax stamp, which allows legal ownership of the SBR. The user can carry his or her SBR within their legal state without being bothered by local officials if paper work can be shown to prove legal ownership. However, as a law biding citizen I will get the right paperwork 

zeroing mk18 elcan specterdr

The waiting period can vary from a few months to up to a year, depending on the ATF's workload.

Common FAQ

What Can I Own When My State Ban SBR?

If your state ban SBR like California, then you can't even file the tax stamp to get one. Please check your local law to verify because some states make this simple YES or NO question very confusing.

Can I Attach A Stock To My AR Pistol Without Filing Any ATF Paperwork?

No you can't not. If you're caught by someone who strictly follows the rules, you might end up reported or facing consequences.

Can I Attach A Stock To A Pinned & Welded 16" Rifle?

Yes, a pinned and welded 16" AR15 pistol or a pistol caliber carbine can install a stock. In that case, it's just a regular rifle based on ATF's definition.

Can I Travel Across State Lines With My AR15 Pistol With A Brace?

Yes, you can travel across legal states with your AR15 pistol or other pistol braced firearms. The kicker is that once you file the pistol to become a official SBR, then you need to file ATF form 5320.2 before traveling. I always file at least 2 months before so I get the approved letter back before traveling or moving.