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Pistol Kits: Beware or You’ll End up Afoul of the Law!

By Woody published on in General, Legal

As Independent Program Attorneys for Texas Law Shield, the lawyers at Walker & Byington, PLLC receive all sorts of questions about modifying firearms. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for people to already be in violation of the law by the time they call us. One recent trend is the installation of a “carbine conversion kit.” Can you drop your handgun into one of these kits legally, or are you potentially violating the law? First, we have to understand what exactly is regulated, and what isn’t, before learning about how the conversions work.

What’s Regulated?

There are types of firearms that are regulated by the National Firearms Act. These regulations prohibit an individual from possessing certain types of firearms without first registering that item with the ATF and paying the appropriate tax. Commonly used handguns and rifles are not governed by the NFA; short-barreled rifles, however, are regulated. In other words, short-barreled rifles require registration with the ATF and a tax to be paid, while handguns and rifles do not. What’s the difference between a handgun, a rifle, and a short-barreled rifle?

Rock Island Armory RONI 1911 TCM Pistol

The Rock Island Armory RONI 1911 TCM Pistol to Carbine Conversion Stock, $551, converts an RIA A1 or A2 1911 pistol into a compact rifle within seconds. Fits A1 and A2 GI Serrated TCM Pistols. If you own a host pistol and install this product, your pistol will become a short-barreled rifle. You must first register your pistol with the ATFE using ATFE Form 1. Photo courtesy of Rock Island Armory.

These three firearm terms are defined under federal law in 27 CFR 478.11. A handgun is any firearm which has a short stock and is designed to be held and fired by the use of a single hand (while many of us use a second hand for safety or additional control, this is not considered to be firing with two hands). Conversely, a rifle is defined as a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder.

A short-barreled rifle is any rifle, or any weapon made from a rifle, with one or more barrels less than 16 inches in length, or the overall length of the rifle is less than 26 inches. This overall length includes any collapsible or folding stocks at full extension, and is measured from the extreme ends of the rifle. The exception is if the stock is easily detachable, in which case it is measured without the stock.

So, to determine what kind of item you have, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is it designed to be held and fired by the use of a single hand? If yes, then you have a handgun. If not, go on to question 2.
  2. Is it designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder? If yes, go on to question 3.
  3. Does the barrel measure at least 16 inches in length? If not, you have a short-barreled rifle. If yes, go on to question 4.
  4. Does the item have at least an overall length of 26 inches? If not, you have a short-barreled rifle. If yes, you have a rifle.

Now that we have those definitions out of the way, let’s look at how these conversions play out.

Rifle to SBR

If you turn your rifle into a short-barreled rifle, you have committed a crime unless you received ATF approval and paid the appropriate tax. So, unless you’ve gotten your tax stamp from the ATF, don’t saw off your barrel or stock if it is shortens the overall length under 26 inches.

Handgun to SBR

If you take your handgun and turn it into an item that is designed to be fired from the shoulder, and it doesn’t meet the 16-inch-barrel-length requirement or 26-inch overall-length requirement, you have created an item that meets the definition of a short-barreled rifle. This item will need to be registered with the ATF and have a tax paid before conversion, just like the rifle to short-barreled rifle conversion.

Handgun to Rifle

This is a perfectly legal transition to make, that requires no NFA compliance or registration. You are simply moving from one non-NFA firearm to another.

Rifle to Handgun

Think this is another legal conversion? Think again! This creates a short-barreled rifle, and requires prior approval by the ATF and a tax paid. Why? Because of the pesky definition of a short-barreled rifle. It includes any weapon made from a rifle, that doesn’t meet the 26 inches overall or a 16-inch barrel length. Therefore, if you take your rifle down to handgun size, you’ve created a short-barreled rifle!

Handgun to Rifle to Handgun

We know that handgun to rifle is legal; and we just saw that taking a rifle to a handgun (which is actually an SBR) is regulated. What happens if you turn your handgun into a rifle, then back into a handgun? Nothing, it’s perfectly legal! These can seem confusing for good reason, but the ATF clarified why they have taken this stance.

Ultimately, the weapon was born into the world as a handgun; it was then modified into a rifle, and back into a handgun. Therefore, it isn’t a weapon “made from a rifle,” but is instead originally a handgun. Even if this doesn’t make sense, just remember that how a weapon is born into the world matters. If it’s born as a handgun, you can turn it into a rifle and then back into a handgun. If it’s born as a rifle, turning it into a handgun creates an NFA-regulated item.

Honorable Mention: Handgun to AOW

One final wrench to throw in the works: What happens if you add a vertical foregrip to a handgun? We know the definition of a handgun is a weapon designed to be fired with a single hand, and that a rifle is designed to be fired from the shoulder. However, this item is not designed to be fired with one hand, as it has a foregrip, and is now designed to be fired with two! It isn’t a rifle, because it isn’t designed to be fired from the shoulder either.

So, what exactly is this Frankenfirearm? Per the ATF, it is considered an “Any Other Weapon” or AOW that must be registered with the ATF and have the appropriate tax paid.

TCM Roni Pistol Shell

Now that we are all masters on conversions, let’s look at a real-life example: the TCM Roni Pistol Shell. This conversion kit allows you to open a compartment, drop your pistol in, close the compartment, and essentially finish conversion. The overall length of the item is 22 inches with the shoulder stock extended, and the barrel is just a few inches long. If you put your pistol in this kit and close the compartment, you have created an item that meets the definition of a short-barreled rifle, and you are committing a crime if you haven’t previously registered the item with the ATF and paid the appropriate tax.

Accordingly, there is a warning on the TCM Roni Pistol Shell purchase page that a pistol, if converted, becomes a short-barreled rifle.

Compare this to the Glock Roni Civilian Pistol Carbine conversion kit, with a 16-inch barrel and 27 inches in overall length. This would be perfectly legal!

The world of firearm conversions can become convoluted and in it, you can potentially incur criminal consequences — so make sure you know what the law is before converting your firearm!  ~ by Gordon Cooper, Contributing Legal Editor for Texas Law Shield and an attorney at Walker & Byington.

Source: http://blog.cheaperthandirt.com/pistol-kits-beware/

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Naples Gun Shop & School | 347 Airport Road N, Naples, FL 34104 | (239) 285-4011

 

Reviews

Naples Gun School - 5 stars Great class!! There was a lot more hands on instruction than the class that I had in Tennessee. David was knowledgeable and entertaining. Good insights on Florida law. My wife will be taking the class shortly. Thanks David. Kevin 9/15/2018

  I thoroughly enjoyed the concealed weapons class on 8/11/18. The class went beyond my expectations. Dave you are an awesome instructor and made the class fun. I would highly recommend Naples Gun Shopping and School! Thanks for sharing your knowledge! - Teresa Cannon

David is an excellent instructor. The class is excellent and exceeded my expectations with information on the laws of Florida, and as well to carry properly, load the weapons as well as placement of holding weapons. If your looking to buy a weapon he is the man to go to. I personally bought my firearm from. - Carlos Casiano

Naples Gun School - 5 stars  Martha Hohenthaner

Naples Gun School - 5 stars  This was a very good class. I did not have to take it, as I am a Veteran, however it is a good idea. I learned a lot about Florida Law I did not know. It will in the long run help keep you out of trouble. David was very patient with my wife when we live fired, because she has arthritis and had a hard time pulling the trigger in double action mode. Good Job David thanks so much..Joseph Hohenthaner

Naples Gun School - 5 stars  The class was engaging and as fast paced as it can be. The instructor was knowledgeable and worked well with a class spanning all the levels of experience and age you can imagine. I also felt it was fairly priced, especially as you just had to bring yourself and an ID - all other supplies were, er, supplied.Cliff Elam 

Naples Gun School - 5 stars  Naples Gun Shop & School gets an A+ in my book! David and Ginny were great. I took the CWP class today 7/21/18. Both are extremely knowledgeable and easy to talk to. David is one of the best instructors that I have had the pleasure of meeting. I highly recommend Naples Gun Shop & School. Best prices, Great training, and easy to deal with. I will definitely be returning to do further business. Thank you David & Ginny....see you soon!Nicholas Lupo

Naples Gun School - 5 stars  I've been a repeat customer for FFL transfers with Naples Gun School for quite some time. Dave's customer service and knowledge are second to none. After speaking with Dave for a few moments, you start to feel as if you have known him for quite a while. I look forward to continuing my business when the new location opens. - Robert Boyette

I really enjoyed the class yesterday, and it was very nice to meet David and Ginny. David is very knowledgeable, helpful, and best of all: has a sense of humor. I was more nervous than I thought I would be because this was the first time in my life that I've ever shot a semi-automatic weapon. David lives and breathes this stuff and his presence and ease with weapons was very calming for me when I was at the range. Ginny was also very supportive throughout the whole class. Thank you guys so much! It's a pleasure and I will be back to purchase supplies from you! - Shenandoah Webb

Naples Gun School - 5 starsTook the 3/31/18 class and loved it! Dave was very informative and his laid back teaching style made the 4 hour class fly by. Would recommend this class to anyone interested in a CWP. Thanks Dave and Ginny! - Kelly Gardner

Naples Gun School - 5 stars I’d like to thank The Naples Gun School for the time and effort they took in order to help me become a more responsible hand gun owner. By taking your CCWP class on 3.31.2018, I’m honestly a better person today than I was yesterday. Your course is not only interesting, but informative as well. The time we had together flew by. Throughout the whole process, they were calm and patient with every student. Especially after everyone seemed to drop their cartridges on the floor during the revolver training portion of the program. I highly recommend Naples Gun School to anyone that’s interested in becoming a CCWP holder. And I definitely will use their services by purchasing all my gun needs through their establishment. David & Ginny, thank you so much. I had a wonderful time!Chris Shaffer

Naples Gun School - 5 stars This class kept me very interested, informed and didn’t even realize 4 hours went by! Would recommend everyone to take this class! - Douglas Shaffer

Naples Gun School - 5 stars - Lurybella Lora Trejo

 

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