Any Other Weapon (AOW): The NFA Catch-All

    Even the most experienced “stamp collectors” can be missing the coveted $5 red stamp. While making and transferring National Firearms Act (NFA) controlled items like Short Barreled Rifles (SBRs), Short Barreled Shotguns (SBSs), Silencers and Destructive Devices (DDs) require all the requisite BATFE paperwork AND $200, the price to transfer Any Other Weapons (AOWs) is only $5. But is an AOW really a bargain?

    A ShoRT BARrel FOR Five dollars? I’M In!

    Slow down, skippy. The tax paid to TRANSFER an AOW is only five dollars. However, if you want to MAKE an AOW, the normal $200 NFA tax applies.

    What is an AOW anyway? Let’s discuss.

    NOTICE: The legal waters surrounding the National Firearms Act are treacherous. This article is not intended to be a guidebook and I am not your guide. You are responsible for knowing all your local, state and federal laws before embarking on any NFA adventures.

    ATF’s definition of an AOW:

    BATFE – https://www.atf.gov/firearms/firearms-guides-importation-verification-firearms-national-firearms-act-definitions-any

    Any Other Weapon”

    26 U.S.C. § 5845(E)

    For the purposes of the National Firearms Act, the term “Any Other Weapon” means:

    • Any weapon or device capable of being concealed on the person from which a shot can be discharged through the energy of an explosive;
    • A pistol or revolver having a barrel with a smooth bore designed or redesigned to fire a fixed shotgun shell;
    • Weapons with combination shotgun and rifle barrels 12 inches or more, less than 18 inches in length, from which only a single discharge can be made from either barrel without manual reloading; and
    • Any such weapon which may be readily restored to fire.
    • Such term shall not include a pistol or a revolver having a rifled bore, or rifled bores, or weapons designed, made, or intended to be fired from the shoulder and not capable of firing fixed ammunition.

    Other relevant legal definitions:

    18 U.S. Code § 921 – Definitions

    (3) The term “firearm” means (A) any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; (B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon; (C) any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; or (D) any destructive device. Such term does not include an antique firearm.

    (5) The term “shotgun” means a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of an explosive to fire through a smooth bore either a number of ball shot or a single projectile for each single pull of the trigger.

    (6) The term “short-barreled shotgun” means a shotgun having one or more barrels less than eighteen inches in length and any weapon made from a shotgun (whether by alteration, modification or otherwise) if such a weapon as modified has an overall length of less than twenty-six inches.

    (7) The term “rifle” means a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of an explosive to fire only a single projectile through a rifled bore for each single pull of the trigger.

    (8) The term “short-barreled rifle” means a rifle having one or more barrels less than sixteen inches in length and any weapon made from a rifle (whether by alteration, modification, or otherwise) if such weapon, as modified, has an overall length of less than twenty-six inches.

    Clear as mud, right? I’ll try to explain.

    Any weapon or device capable of being concealed on the person from which a shot can be discharged through the energy of an explosive.

    Here’s where AOW’s actually get their name; the above statement includes any device that fires a bullet or shot that is not a pistol, shotgun or rifle. Buttstock with a rifled bore? RIFLE. Buttstock with a smooth bore? SHOTGUN. Designed to be fired with one hand? PISTOL. Not in one of those categories? AOW.

    And remember, once a rifle or a shotgun, always a rifle or a shotgun.* Meaning you can’t turn your AR15 rifle into a pistol (no stock) with a short barrel (less than 16″ long). You will need to register it as SBR, whether or not it has a stock or not.

    *Pistols that started life as a pistol, can be turned into a rifle and back to a pistol as long as the rules of the NFA are followed. 2011 ATF Ruling Here.

    IMG_4405

    Case in point, the ATF defines a pistol as ‘designed to be held and fired by the use of a single hand’. So, if you were to add a vertical fore grip to a pistol, legally it is no longer a pistol*. It’s an AOW because it is now designed to be fired with TWO hands.**

    **As long as the pistol has an overall length (OAL) of 26″, adding a VFG does not change its status to an AOW.

    I know, confusing right? Son of a…

    Example – Adding a VFG to this pistol makes it an AOW.

    IMG_4377

    Yes. This is an AOW.

    Similarly, a shotgun is legally defined as a firearm with a shoulder stock and a barrel with a smooth bore. A shotgun with a shoulder stock and a barrel with a length less than 18″ is an SBS. However, a 12 gauge pump action with a pistol grip instead of a shoulder stock and a barrel shorter than 18″ is an AOW***, provided it didn’t start its life as a shotgun. What does it mean to “not start life as a shotgun”? Simple: It must have never had a shoulder stock.

    ***If the OAL is 26″ or more, it’s a ‘Pistol Grip Only’ and not an AOW or Shotgun.

    Crystal clear? G*ddamn it!

    AOW example, the Serbu Super Shorty:

    Serbu

    Serbu Super Shorty – AOW

    Everything else, if not defined as a rifle, shotgun, pistol or destructive device is an AOW. Here are some unique examples:

    AOW

    Pen Gun. Credit: James D. Julia auctioneers.

    IMG_4364

    Knife gun.

    IMG_4371

    Phone Gun

     

    IMG_4373

    Wallet Gun

    IMG_4368

    Flashlight Gun

    IMG_4369

    Cane Gun

    IMG_4375

    Palm Gun

     

     

    IMG_4362

    Credit: ATF

    There is also a smaller segment of AOW’s that include firearms that have combination shotgun/rifle barrels with an overall barrel length more than 12″ but less than 18″ and a shoulder stock option.

    Example:

    IMG_4378

    POP QuIZ HOTSHOT. Classify the following firearms:

    IMG_4379

    1.

    IMG_4380

    2.

    IMG_4381

    3.

    IMG_4382

    4.

    IMG_4384

    5.

    1. Pistol (The Taurus Judge has a rifled barrel)
    2. Pistol (An angled foregrip is not the same as a VFG)
    3. “Pistol Grip Only” (The OAL is over 26″ but no shoulder stock – NOT a shotgun or AOW). *if factory configuration
    4. Firearm (VFG and the OAL is over 26″) *if factory configuration.
    5. Unknown (If it started life as a shotgun, it’s an SBS; otherwise AOW)

    Here’s the deal: At the time the NFA was created, modular weapons with two-pin upper receivers, railed forends and pistol stabilizing braces didn’t exist. These ancient laws and regulations are probably the most confusing and misunderstood in the firearms world. So it is probably best if we go ahead a repeal them.

    For now, here’s my two-cents worth of advice:

    1. If you want something like the Serbu Super Shorty pictured above, pay the $5 to have an AOW transferred to you.
    2. If you have a shotgun that you want to make into a Serbu-type weapon, spend the $200 to make a SBS and build whatever configuration you wish. (Making an AOW costs $200; you might as well go the SBS route at this point.)
    3. If you want a pen gun or cane gun, spend the $5 to have one transferred to you.

    When all else fails, consider a new hobby. I hear watercolors are a satisfying way to express your artistic emotions – just paint all the guns you want. It’s the only way to make sure you are complying with all of the arcane US gun laws – especially those concerning AOWs.


    Thanks to BigWaylon for the fact check.

    Pete

    Editor In Chief- TFB
    LE – Silencers – Science
    [email protected]


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