Are Pistol Braces Legal Again?

With the November 8, 2023, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision, pistol braces are back — at least for now.
Are Pistol Braces Legal Again?

As many retailers know, the legality of the pistol brace has been something so business cringeworthy and legally entertaining that it deserves both a stiff drink and a movie documentary crew. Even though we might not all be lawyers, for me, it has been a fascinating and educational journey into our legal system. As of early November 2023, there has been a temporary outcome that most attorneys have noted allows for us to all start producing, selling, and using pistol braces again. We are, of course, suggesting you consult your own legal counsel.

As of November 8, 2023, the January 31, 2023, ATF “ban” was ruled unlawful and overreaching. The court expanded the original injunction of the ATF rule (by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals) to a nationwide injunction. Even if you were not part of the original Firearms Policy Coalition FPC membership or Maxim Defense customer base and original injunction, everyone is now covered under the nationwide injunction, which states that pistol braces are not within the scope of the ATF or NFA regulatory power during the injunction period. This injunction is not permanent until a final decision is made by the Supreme Court, and the ATF has the right to (and many think they likely will) appeal the decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. In the interim, we can seemingly enjoy the benefits of the injunction as if it was 2022 again.

The initial January 31, 2023, ATF pistol brace rule announcement said that it was never illegal to make or sell pistol braces, but only regulated braces when attached on a pistol for use, possession or sale. Throughout this ordeal, many manufacturers and retailers continued to manufacture and sell pistol braces, but suffered from greatly reduced sales.

According to Cynthia Shala, GM for Shockwave Technologies LLC, “The Shockwave family is extremely thankful to our customers and supporters through this whole ordeal. As a small business, it is so great to have had such an amazing outpouring of support and love from so many. We appreciate the many amazing organizations, such as GOA [Gun Owners of America], who support companies like us, and citizens of this great country. We have always continued to make our Blade Pistol Stabilizer product line throughout this, and the team is excited to kick up production now that AR pistol manufacturers are coming back. We focused heavily on development of new products and are excited for their release in 2024.”

As of the Fifth Circuit Court November 8, 2023, national injunction, most retailers are again pulling out the stock of pistol braces, slipping them on pistols and pushing out specials to clear out 10-month-old inventory.


A Brief Brace History

It is impossible to sum up the last 12 years of pistol brace history, but we’ll try to hit the highlights. In 2012, Army veteran Alex Bosco invented the pistol-stabilizing brace and was provided official ATF approval for the design. Alex Bosco formed SB-Tactical and started producing pistol braces for a variety of firearms and firearm manufacturers. Obviously, many other manufacturers joined in with their own versions. The history of pistol braces then starts to get a bit interesting, as millions were sold. To date, an estimated 40 million pistol braces have been sold since 2012, with an estimated value of over $6 billion dollars.

Naturally, many owners intentionally or unintentionally shouldered the braces instead of using them as originally designed. This started to catch the attention of the ATF. At the same time, thousands of customers and other manufacturers started inundating the ATF to obtain their own approval letters, and with that annoyance, the ATF started to backtrack on its original 2012 and other pistol brace approval determinations.

Then began the back-and-forth dance of whether pistol braces were legal or not legal and can or cannot be shouldered — and the random determinations escalated to a point where the ATF noted they would not regulate use. This was a quiet period where pistol brace sales surged, with almost every manufacturer globally offering pistol-braced pistols and shockwaves. Then a few horrible people used pistol-braced guns for mass shootings, and their use became a politically charged topic, where the ATF was mandated to regulate pistol braces by the executive branch.

On January 31, 2023, the ATF published a politically driven ruling which noted that attaching a pistol brace to a rifle with a barrel under 16 inches would make that firearm an NFA short-barreled rifle (and thus subject to additional regulation and tax). Industry-wide and on the consumer side, many lawsuits were filed. Due to the legal process requiring focus on only a few summary points at a time, many cases were lost; however, obviously, a few were won. The result of nearly 11 months of legal battles is the Fifth Circuit Court November 8, 2023, injunction and ruling that the ATF pistol brace regulation is unlawful. With the full force of an injunction preventing regulation, prosecution, arrest and enforcement of regulations on pistol braces behind them, manufacturers, retailers and customers are again back to manufacturing, selling and using pistol braces. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed that this becomes permanent.

NOTE: COLE Publishing is not providing legal advice and recommends seeking legal counsel before making any business or personal decisions regarding manufacture, sales, use or possession of pistol braces. The information in this article is current as of its writing in early December 2023, but circumstances are subject to change as further rulings are issued.




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