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Thread: AR project legal question?

  1. #1
    Boolit Buddy
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    AR project legal question?

    Hello Everyone,

    I have been looking around at what to build for my first DIY AR build. In my wandering I stumbled across folks building AR's with short barrels and suppressors. I am getting the bug to build one in .300 Blackout.

    Please help me understand what I can legally do.

    As best I understand, the disassembled parts are not a firearm EXCEPT for the receiver. So, I should be able to take parts and pieces to a non-FFL machine shop and have work done as long as there is no lower receiver involved in the work.

    Is this correct?

    I also have questions about the legalities of converting rifle to pistol or pistol to rifle and swapping various uppers and lowers. If I remove the buttstock from my AR carbine can I run a pistol upper then swap the original upper and reinstall the stock?

    Thanks.

    S.

  2. #2
    Boolit Buddy nelsonted1's Avatar
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    You will soon have a lot of answers. One that I know is you can't legally turn a rifle into a pistol- a rifle is always a rifle a pistol can become a rifle but not back to a pistol- generally speaking. Buy an ar15 receiver and keep only what is considered pistol parts on the reciever. for example: No long barrel. No carbine stock. You are good then. Someone will flesh this out for you.

  3. #3
    Boolit Buddy
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    Gonna have to sit back and watch this one unflod.... My local BATFE inspector was confused, she got me confused and the district agent got confused. Needless to say, you can't legally make a SBR without having the tax stamp in hand.

  4. #4
    Boolit Grand Master popper's Avatar
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    A purchased rifle lower will always be a rifle. A purchased pistol lower will always be a pistol. You may put a rifle upper on a pistol lower, not the other way around. A barrel less than 16" on a rifle is an SBR - period and needs tax stamp. Pistol barrel may be any length BUT overall length greater than 21" (?) is a problem - to remain a pistol (only in pistol carry situations) - kinda grey area that varies with state's laws.
    Solution? Purchase as 'other' on Fed form. Legally if you put a rifle stock on it, it's a rifle, SBR or not. Can you convert an 'other' back? Carefully!
    Confused yet?
    OK, 300 BO works great in carbine or pistol but I advise a 10" min. barrel. I do have a 'slow' load about 12-1400 fps for fun.
    Pistol gas is usually hard on everything unless you get adjustable gas block. I have separate carbine and pistol (with brace), shoot supers only. I have real pistols for their proper use. I would only do 30 Hamr/40WT in carbine.
    Oh, building is easy with hand tools, hand guard (usually) has barrel nut, many are changing to allow use of a standard large wrench vs the Mil pin style. Hand guards aren't cheap so select carefully! You do need a upper fixture to hold the upper when tightening the nut.
    Last edited by popper; 03-16-2020 at 03:20 PM.
    Whatever!

  5. #5
    Boolit Man skrapyard628's Avatar
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    You can not legally install a short barrel (less than 16") on a firearm that was originally built as a rifle (more than 16" barrel) without registering it as an SBR and getting a tax stamp.

    If you buy/build a pistol then that opens up a few windows.

    From all of the bits and pieces of info I found I stick to the formula below. Keep in mind that IANAL and I dont work for the ATF, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn a few times.

    1. Buy a stripped lower receiver.

    2. Build lower receiver as a pistol with a brace

    3. Buy short barrel upper, install on receiver and take a photo for records. (photo not really needed, but I keep it with my paperwork and it has a date stamp to show it was built as a pistol)

    4. Buy long barrel upper (if you want to) and install onto pistol lower with brace.

    Edit to add: Keep your pistol build OAL 26" or less. Anything longer than 26" and youre probably better off changing the brace to a stock and making a rifle.

    Thats it for me.

    AFAIK there is no limit on barrel length for a pistol. So the long barrel on the pistol lower would be ok. The only muddy area with the long barrel on the pistol lower w/brace is if people are going to be finicky about shouldering the brace while firing it. If that bugs you then add step 5.

    5. Install rifle stock on lower receiver and keep the long barrel upper on it.

    Supposedly you only get into deep doo doo from building as a rifle first and converting to a pistol afterwards. And/Or from installing the short barrel upper on the lower when it has the rifle stock on it.

    To my understanding once it has been built as a pistol you can readily convert it to a rifle, and then back to a pistol if you want to.

    And you are correct about having any machine work done on parts. As long as the part being worked on is not the serialized receiver then any machine shop can work on them.
    Last edited by skrapyard628; 03-16-2020 at 03:40 PM.

  6. #6
    Boolit Buddy
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    Quote Originally Posted by skrapyard628 View Post
    You can not legally install a short barrel (less than 16") on a firearm that was originally built as a rifle (more than 16" barrel) without registering it as an SBR and getting a tax stamp.

    If you buy/build a pistol then that opens up a few windows.

    From all of the bits and pieces of info I found I stick to the formula below. Keep in mind that IANAL and I dont work for the ATF, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn a few times.

    1. Buy a stripped lower receiver.

    2. Build lower receiver as a pistol with a brace

    3. Buy short barrel upper, install on receiver and take a photo for records. (photo not really needed, but I keep it with my paperwork and it has a date stamp to show it was built as a pistol)

    4. Buy long barrel upper (if you want to) and install onto pistol lower with brace.

    Edit to add: Keep your pistol build OAL 26" or less. Anything longer than 26" and youre probably better off changing the brace to a stock and making a rifle.

    Thats it for me.

    AFAIK there is no limit on barrel length for a pistol. So the long barrel on the pistol lower would be ok. The only muddy area with the long barrel on the pistol lower w/brace is if people are going to be finicky about shouldering the brace while firing it. If that bugs you then add step 5.

    5. Install rifle stock on lower receiver and keep the long barrel upper on it.

    Supposedly you only get into deep doo doo from building as a rifle first and converting to a pistol afterwards. And/Or from installing the short barrel upper on the lower when it has the rifle stock on it.

    To my understanding once it has been built as a pistol you can readily convert it to a rifle, and then back to a pistol if you want to.

    And you are correct about having any machine work done on parts. As long as the part being worked on is not the serialized receiver then any machine shop can work on them.
    Thank you. The machine shop question was one of my primary concern.

    I have done enough research that I understand that BATF will accept a 10" barrel with a 6" flash hider or suppressor PINNED AND WELDED to the barrel is accepted as a 16" barrel.

    I am still a little confused about the subject of swapping uppers and lowers. If I build a lower from a stripped or 80% lower receiver what uppers can I use with it? There will be no documentation of it being a rifle, SBR or pistol.

    If I build a lower with no stock is it a rifle or a pistol? If I install a stock and decide that I don't like it and take it off, have I committed a crime?

    Thanks Everyone for your input.

  7. #7
    Boolit Buddy
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    If you build a lower with a 10 inch barrel --it becomes a pistol, it will always be a pistol.

    If you build a lower with a 16 inch or longer barrel it is a rifle-- it will always be a rifle.

  8. #8
    Boolit Man skrapyard628's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PNW_Steve View Post
    Thank you. The machine shop question was one of my primary concern.

    I have done enough research that I understand that BATF will accept a 10" barrel with a 6" flash hider or suppressor PINNED AND WELDED to the barrel is accepted as a 16" barrel.

    I am still a little confused about the subject of swapping uppers and lowers. If I build a lower from a stripped or 80% lower receiver what uppers can I use with it? There will be no documentation of it being a rifle, SBR or pistol. If you ever plan on installing a barrel less than 16" on it then the best bet is still to first build the lower as a pistol using a pistol buffer tube. Barrel length on the pistol doesnt matter as long as you keep the OAL of the finished pistol build with the upper installed under 26"OAL then your initial build is OK. Having no documentation of how the firearm was first built is kind of a grey area. Thats why I take pictures with date stamps and keep it with my receipts.

    If I build a lower with no stock is it a rifle or a pistol? If I install a stock and decide that I don't like it and take it off, have I committed a crime? Just start with a pistol buffer tube. If you first install a rifle/carbine buffer tube then you built a rifle and it can not legally be converted to a pistol.

    Thanks Everyone for your input.

    And as a standard disclaimer; I am not an expert. Just some guy also trying to stay on the right side of the law with the "wonderful" world of ATF regulations.

  9. #9
    Boolit Bub
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    buy a cheap lower and fill the paper work as OTHER not a rifle or pistol then learn what you can do as far as your build.

  10. #10
    Boolit Buddy
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    Quote Originally Posted by skrapyard628 View Post
    You can not legally install a short barrel (less than 16") on a firearm that was originally built as a rifle (more than 16" barrel) without registering it as an SBR and getting a tax stamp.

    If you buy/build a pistol then that opens up a few windows.

    From all of the bits and pieces of info I found I stick to the formula below. Keep in mind that IANAL and I dont work for the ATF, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn a few times.

    1. Buy a stripped lower receiver.

    2. Build lower receiver as a pistol with a brace

    3. Buy short barrel upper, install on receiver and take a photo for records. (photo not really needed, but I keep it with my paperwork and it has a date stamp to show it was built as a pistol)

    4. Buy long barrel upper (if you want to) and install onto pistol lower with brace.

    Edit to add: Keep your pistol build OAL 26" or less. Anything longer than 26" and youre probably better off changing the brace to a stock and making a rifle.

    Thats it for me.

    AFAIK there is no limit on barrel length for a pistol. So the long barrel on the pistol lower would be ok. The only muddy area with the long barrel on the pistol lower w/brace is if people are going to be finicky about shouldering the brace while firing it. If that bugs you then add step 5.

    5. Install rifle stock on lower receiver and keep the long barrel upper on it.

    Supposedly you only get into deep doo doo from building as a rifle first and converting to a pistol afterwards. And/Or from installing the short barrel upper on the lower when it has the rifle stock on it.

    To my understanding once it has been built as a pistol you can readily convert it to a rifle, and then back to a pistol if you want to.

    And you are correct about having any machine work done on parts. As long as the part being worked on is not the serialized receiver then any machine shop can work on them.
    Thank you. The machine shop question was one of my primary concern.

    I have done enough research that I understand that BATF will accept a 10" barrel with a 6" flash hider or suppressor PINNED AND WELDED to the barrel is accepted as a 16" barrel.

    I am still a little confused about the subject of swapping uppers and lowers. If I build a lower from a stripped or 80% lower receiver what uppers can I use with it? There will be no documentation of it being a rifle, SBR or pistol.

    If I build a lower with no stock is it a rifle or a pistol? If I install a stock and decide that I don't like it and take it off, have I committed a crime?

    Thanks Everyone for your input.

  11. #11
    Boolit Grand Master
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    It's easier to stay on the right side of the law if you don't get real close to the line between the right side and the wrong side.

    While I don't disagree with the above interpretations of the existing federal law, I have to ask, "what is to be gained by getting so close to the edge"?
    Something is either legal or not and close to illegal is still 100% legal - but why go there?

    If you build something that is legally a pistol but looks a lot like a short barreled rifle, do you really want to rely on your own photographs and records to defend yourself against a potential felony charge? I would rather spend $200 for a tax stamp now, than to spend tens of thousands of dollars in the future for attorneys, bond, and missed work while still risking a conviction.

    I want gun owners to exercise their rights freely but sometimes I think we invite the devil in.

    Just my opinion.
    Last edited by Petrol & Powder; 03-16-2020 at 06:51 PM.

  12. #12
    Boolit Buddy
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    I built my 300 BO rifle with a 10 inch barrel and suppressor pinned and welded making it longer than 16 inches. I didn't enjoy the first 200 and didn't want to pay another 200 for an SBR.
    "EXPERT= Ex is a has been, spurt is a drip under pressure" Unknown

  13. #13
    Boolit Buddy McFred's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PNW_Steve View Post
    Please help me understand what I can legally do.
    You're asking a bunch of random people on the internet legal advice? If you're concerned about adhering to the ATF Boogie Man's rules (that change on a whim, regardless of Constitutionality) then you should probably ask them directly so you have something other than "I was told on the internet..." to tell the prosecution when you get bent over the table:

    https://www.atf.gov/firearms/qa/can-...tering-firearm

    https://www.atf.gov/firearms/qa/can-...tering-firearm

    You can even send them a letter asking questions and they'll reply in kind giving you a record that will hold up in court.

    Keep your bunghole tight and don't believe everything you read on the internet.
    Last edited by McFred; 03-17-2020 at 08:42 AM. Reason: links

  14. #14
    Boolit Man skrapyard628's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Petrol & Powder View Post
    It's easier to stay on the right side of the law if you don't get real close to the line between the right side and the wrong side.

    While I don't disagree with the above interpretations of the existing federal law, I have to ask, "what is to be gained by getting so close to the edge"?
    Something is either legal or not and close to illegal is still 100% legal - but why go there?

    Just my opinion.
    I do agree with trying not to toe the line of the law excessively. Realistically the only reason I chose not to go the route of getting a stamp and paying the $200 is that I live in Illinois.

    Illinois doesnt allow us lemmings to have an SBR unless we jump through some strange hoops for the states entertainment. Here in Madiganistan we first need to have a C&R license and then the so called "loophole" that allows us to register a SBR falls into the category of rifles used for historical re-enactments.

    My choices were building an AR pistol with a brace vs. jumping through hoops and then building an SBR for "historical re-enactments".

  15. #15
    Boolit Grand Master popper's Avatar
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    Yup, forget if 21 or 26" total length, with a brace collapsed. It is 26.
    If you buy a receiver choices are pistol, rifle other. Specify other if you don't know which you want to do on Fed form. That is the official doc. Don't know what machining you want to do. Get an un-asssembled lower, declare it, get trigger/pin kit and build. Flash hider doesn't need to be welded or pined. Have no idea what you want a machine shop to do, if they work on lower at all it must be thru a FFL/gunsmith! If you make/complete a lower (so called 80%), you must do the work - aka,making a ghost gun? If I install a STOCK and decide that I don't like it and take it off, have I committed a crime? Yup. Brace - nope.
    Whatever!

  16. #16
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    You WANT your lower to be classified on the 4473 you fill out as OTHER. That said, you can build either pistol or rifle, of course if you choose pistol, max. barrel length and length OAL will have to be observed. Once you build a rifle, if it is ever described as a rifle, it will stay a rifle and you cannot then re-fit it as a pistol. If it remains described as other, I *think* you can do with it what you want, as long as it remains described as other.
    Got a .22 .30 .32 .357 .38 .40 .41 .44 .45 .480 or .500 S&W cylinder that needs throat reaming? 9mm, 10mm/40S&W, 45 ACP pistol barrel that won't "plunk" your handloads? Shoot me a PM! Also on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Cylinderhone-756429174391912/

  17. #17
    Boolit Buddy
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    I'm going to echo the advice above, but say it a little differently.

    the lower is the only piece with the serial number and considered a firearm. everything else is just parts and can be shipped to your home w/o an FFL.

    The key to staying on the right side of the law, to me, is the buffer tube. Only combine a pistol buffer tube with a pistol upper, only a rifle tube with a rifle upper, And no vertical grip on the pistol uppers!

    What I do is build the lower as a pistol first, complete with upper and take a picture with the serial number visible. If I want to convert from there then it's take off the upper, change the buffer tube, then add a matching upper. If you ever mis-smatch the buffer tube and upper (without a stamp) its an illegal firearm.

    also follow the advice and mark "other" on the form.

    This should keep you on the right side of the Federal law. your local laws may change things.

  18. #18
    Boolit Buddy
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    Thank you Everyone for all of your help.

    It looks like the idea of having one well put together lower to serve multiple uppers will not play. One rifle lower and one pistol lower will allow careful swapping while making sure that I don't put a pistol upper on a rifle lower.

    I think that I am going to start with a rifle.
    It will be. 300 Blackout
    8" Suppressor form 1 built from solvent filter kit.
    A 10" barrel with an 8" suppressor pinned and welded to the barrel making a legal 17"barrel

    I should wind up with a nice length, internally surppressed carbine.

  19. #19
    Boolit Bub
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    Quote Originally Posted by PNW_Steve View Post
    Thank you Everyone for all of your help.
    It looks like the idea of having one well put together lower to serve multiple uppers will not play. One rifle lower and one pistol lower will allow careful swapping while making sure that I don't put a pistol upper on a rifle lower.
    Build one Form 1 SBR lower and then you can do whatever you want. You're already gonna buy a stamp for your suppressor...Might as well just make it two.

    There are lots of ways to get in trouble with NFA stuff, so make sure you study the rules before you begin. Don't rely on advice from random internet people to keep you out of jail.

    My main piece of advice re the Form 1 stuff is this: Don't start work on ANYTHING until you have the approved form in hand.

  20. #20
    Boolit Grand Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by PNW_Steve View Post
    Thank you Everyone for all of your help.

    It looks like the idea of having one well put together lower to serve multiple uppers will not play. One rifle lower and one pistol lower will allow careful swapping while making sure that I don't put a pistol upper on a rifle lower.

    I think that I am going to start with a rifle.
    It will be. 300 Blackout
    8" Suppressor form 1 built from solvent filter kit.
    A 10" barrel with an 8" suppressor pinned and welded to the barrel making a legal 17"barrel

    I should wind up with a nice length, internally surppressed carbine.
    I don't know and I'm just asking - but will those combinations violate Illinois law ?

    Federal law doesn't trump state law - either sovereignty (and sometimes both) can prosecute you.

    You must be in compliance with both federal & state law.

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BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
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GC Gas Check