Recently The Freedom Shoppe in Connecticut was visited by the ATF over possible NFA violations. According to Victor Benson, proprietor of The Freedom Shoppe, the ATF is measuring his firearms with the brace folded and declaring his firearms as illegal AOWs.
Based on this post it seems that the ATF may be interpreting NFA regulations differently than previously seen in the past. The problem arises when a firearm is measured: It has been established by ATF’s Firearms Technology Branch (FTB) that a firearm’s Overall Length (OAL) is measured with the stock or brace fully extended. But apparently, some ATF representatives are implying that it is when the brace is folded.
I spoke with Mr. Benson and he confirmed that 20 armed ATF agents came with a search and seizure warrant in March. Unfortunately, The Freedom Shoppe is part of a converted garage attached to his home so agents went through his entire house. The ATF took a number of firearms and customer records. They have since sent out letters notifying past customers to turn their firearms in to the ATF.
Is OAL measured with a stock or brace folded?
I spoke with Alex Bosco, CEO of SB Tactical and inventor of the pistol stabilizing brace, who says a firearm’s overall length is always measured with the brace (or stock) opened or extended. When Bosco received approval for his line of braces, he spoke with the heads of the ATF’s Firearms Technology Branch to make sure his products complied with ATF and NFA regulations. All of SBTactical’s models have been approved and their samples were always measured with the brace extended and deployed. Remember the opinion reversal by the ATF on the use of SB Tactical Braces? In that letter, there was a specific segment about “creating a length”.
This only refers to a certain “length” that would make a brace into a stock. The new SBA3 brace is a 5 position adjustable brace. The reason it is only 5 position is due to this specific “length”. By staying at the fifth position, the brace stays under the length that would be deemed a stock. If the ATF is measuring firearms with the brace folded, then what is the whole point of measuring the brace length with regards to making a brace or a stock?
Take a look at this excerpt from SB Tactical’s approval letter for their MPX adjustable brace. They measured OAL when the brace was fully extended.
I measured my MPX pistol and sure enough, it is about 25 inches when fully extended.
With the brace collapsed it is about 20 inches:
But what does all this have to do with folding braces? Well if overall length is measured when an adjustable brace is fully extended then it should apply to when a brace is opened and deployed, not when it is folded.
Hang on, some of these issues are only for Connecticut
The Freedom Shoppe is located in Connecticut and what they make concerns residents of Connecticut. Take a look at the Connecticut Assault Weapon Regulations Sec. 53-202a.
Sec. 53-202a. Assault weapons: Definitions. As used in this section and sections 53-202b to 53-202k, inclusive:
(1) “Assault weapon” means:
(A) (i) Any selective-fire firearm capable of fully automatic, semiautomatic or burst fire at the option of the user or any of the following specified semiautomatic firearms: Algimec Agmi; Armalite AR-180; Australian Automatic Arms SAP Pistol; Auto-Ordnance Thompson type; Avtomat Kalashnikov AK-47 type; Barrett Light-Fifty model 82A1; Beretta AR-70; Bushmaster Auto Rifle and Auto Pistol; Calico models M-900, M-950 and 100-P; Chartered Industries of Singapore SR-88; Colt AR-15 and Sporter; Daewoo K-1, K-2, Max-1 and Max-2; Encom MK-IV, MP-9 and MP-45; Fabrique Nationale FN/FAL, FN/LAR, or FN/FNC; FAMAS MAS 223; Feather AT-9 and Mini-AT; Federal XC-900 and XC-450; Franchi SPAS-12 and LAW-12; Galil AR and ARM; Goncz High-Tech Carbine and High-Tech Long Pistol; Heckler & Koch HK-91, HK-93, HK-94 and SP-89; Holmes MP-83; MAC-10, MAC-11 and MAC-11 Carbine type; Intratec TEC-9 and Scorpion; Iver Johnson Enforcer model 3000; Ruger Mini-14/5F folding stock model only; Scarab Skorpion; SIG 57 AMT and 500 series; Spectre Auto Carbine and Auto Pistol; Springfield Armory BM59, SAR-48 and G-3; Sterling MK-6 and MK-7; Steyr AUG; Street Sweeper and Striker 12 revolving cylinder shotguns; USAS-12; UZI Carbine, Mini-Carbine and Pistol; Weaver Arms Nighthawk; Wilkinson “Linda” Pistol;
(ii) A part or combination of parts designed or intended to convert a firearm into an assault weapon, as defined in subparagraph (A)(i) of this subdivision, or any combination of parts from which an assault weapon, as defined in subparagraph (A)(i) of this subdivision, may be rapidly assembled if those parts are in the possession or under the control of the same person;
(B) Any of the following specified semiautomatic centerfire rifles, or copies or duplicates thereof with the capability of any such rifles, that were in production prior to or on April 4, 2013: (i) AK-47; (ii) AK-74; (iii) AKM; (iv) AKS-74U; (v) ARM; (vi) MAADI AK47; (vii) MAK90; (viii) MISR; (ix) NHM90 and NHM91; (x) Norinco 56, 56S, 84S and 86S; (xi) Poly Technologies AKS and AK47; (xii) SA 85; (xiii) SA 93; (xiv) VEPR; (xv) WASR-10; (xvi) WUM; (xvii) Rock River Arms LAR-47; (xviii) Vector Arms AK-47; (xix) AR-10; (xx) AR-15; (xxi) Bushmaster Carbon 15, Bushmaster XM15, Bushmaster ACR Rifles, Bushmaster MOE Rifles; (xxii) Colt Match Target Rifles; (xxiii) Armalite M15; (xxiv) Olympic Arms AR-15, A1, CAR, PCR, K3B, K30R, K16, K48, K8 and K9 Rifles; (xxv) DPMS Tactical Rifles; (xxvi) Smith and Wesson M&P15 Rifles; (xxvii) Rock River Arms LAR-15; (xxviii) Doublestar AR Rifles; (xxix) Barrett REC7; (xxx) Beretta Storm; (xxxi) Calico Liberty 50, 50 Tactical, 100, 100 Tactical, I, I Tactical, II and II Tactical Rifles; (xxxii) Hi-Point Carbine Rifles; (xxxiii) HK-PSG-1; (xxxiv) Kel-Tec Sub-2000, SU Rifles, and RFB; (xxxv) Remington Tactical Rifle Model 7615; (xxxvi) SAR-8, SAR-4800 and SR9; (xxxvii) SLG 95; (xxxviii) SLR 95 or 96; (xxxix) TNW M230 and M2HB; (xl) Vector Arms UZI; (xli) Galil and Galil Sporter; (xlii) Daewoo AR 100 and AR 110C; (xliii) Fabrique Nationale/FN 308 Match and L1A1 Sporter; (xliv) HK USC; (xlv) IZHMASH Saiga AK; (xlvi) SIG Sauer 551-A1, 556, 516, 716 and M400 Rifles; (xlvii) Valmet M62S, M71S and M78S; (xlviii) Wilkinson Arms Linda Carbine; and (xlix) Barrett M107A1;
(C) Any of the following specified semiautomatic pistols, or copies or duplicates thereof with the capability of any such pistols, that were in production prior to or on April 4, 2013: (i) Centurion 39 AK; (ii) Draco AK-47; (iii) HCR AK-47; (iv) IO Inc. Hellpup AK-47; (v) Mini-Draco AK-47; (vi) Yugo Krebs Krink; (vii) American Spirit AR-15; (viii) Bushmaster Carbon 15; (ix) Doublestar Corporation AR; (x) DPMS AR-15; (xi) Olympic Arms AR-15; (xii) Rock River Arms LAR 15; (xiii) Calico Liberty III and III Tactical Pistols; (xiv) Masterpiece Arms MPA Pistols and Velocity Arms VMA Pistols; (xv) Intratec TEC-DC9 and AB-10; (xvi) Colefire Magnum; (xvii) German Sport 522 PK and Chiappa Firearms Mfour-22; (xviii) DSA SA58 PKP FAL; (xix) I.O. Inc. PPS-43C; (xx) Kel-Tec PLR-16 Pistol; (xxi) Sig Sauer P516 and P556 Pistols; and (xxii) Thompson TA5 Pistols;
(D) Any of the following semiautomatic shotguns, or copies or duplicates thereof with the capability of any such shotguns, that were in production prior to or on April 4, 2013: All IZHMASH Saiga 12 Shotguns;
(E) Any semiautomatic firearm regardless of whether such firearm is listed in subparagraphs (A) to (D), inclusive, of this subdivision, and regardless of the date such firearm was produced, that meets the following criteria:
(i) A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has an ability to accept a detachable magazine and has at least one of the following:
(I) A folding or telescoping stock;
(II) Any grip of the weapon, including a pistol grip, a thumbhole stock, or any other stock, the use of which would allow an individual to grip the weapon, resulting in any finger on the trigger hand in addition to the trigger finger being directly below any portion of the action of the weapon when firing;
(III) A forward pistol grip;
(IV) A flash suppressor; or
(V) A grenade launcher or flare launcher; or
(ii) A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has a fixed magazine with the ability to accept more than ten rounds; or
(iii) A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has an overall length of less than thirty inches; or
(iv) A semiautomatic pistol that has an ability to accept a detachable magazine and has at least one of the following:
(I) An ability to accept a detachable ammunition magazine that attaches at some location outside of the pistol grip;
(II) A threaded barrel capable of accepting a flash suppressor, forward pistol grip or silencer;
(III) A shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely encircles, the barrel and that permits the shooter to fire the firearm without being burned, except a slide that encloses the barrel; or
(IV) A second hand grip; or
(v) A semiautomatic pistol with a fixed magazine that has the ability to accept more than ten rounds; or
(vi) A semiautomatic shotgun that has both of the following:
(I) A folding or telescoping stock; and
(II) Any grip of the weapon, including a pistol grip, a thumbhole stock, or any other stock, the use of which would allow an individual to grip the weapon, resulting in any finger on the trigger hand in addition to the trigger finger being directly below any portion of the action of the weapon when firing; or
(vii) A semiautomatic shotgun that has the ability to accept a detachable magazine; or
(viii) A shotgun with a revolving cylinder; or
So, according to Connecticut law, The Freedom Shoppe may have been making firearms outside of the assault weapons ban purview. These firearms appear to take advantage of the restrictions and work around them by being anything other than a pistol or rifle. According to the Connecticut Assault Weapon definitions above, it bans a broad section of pistol and rifles. However, The Freedom Shoppe may be converting pistols into firearms by making them over 26 inches and with vertical grips. But without input from the ATF, it will be nearly impossible to understand the reasoning behind the apparent seizures.
Below are some examples of what The Freedom Shoppe made for customers. These are NOT examples of the firearms in question but an illustration of the compliant firearms made to satisfy Connecticut state law.
The firearms in question are their FM-16 which is an Extar EXP556 with a barrel extension and folding brace along with their CZ Bren and CZ Scorpions. Take a look at the video below of their FM16 NON-NFA firearm. Interestingly, they are using a Shockwave Blade. While it looks like the shooter is shooting it from the shoulder, it doesn’t appear to have an arm strap. Remember, that is something ATF mentions in their reversal letter about “removing the arm strap” and then shouldering the firearm.
The CZ Scorpion below is a random image I grabbed off Google Images to illustrate what a folded brace on a scorpion looks like. Imagine this with a pinned barrel extension and vertical foregrip.
The other issue at hand is the use of muzzle devices which the ATF deems are suppressor components.
Now I am not entirely sure why The Firearm Shoppe “firearms” need to have the vertical grip. I surmise it establishes them as not being a pistol if it has a vertical grip? But the overall length already establishes them as Firearms and not pistols based on ATF’s definition of a Firearm. If we accept the apparent double standard that the ATF may be using and measure overall length with a folded brace, these firearms are now in violation of the NFA as unregistered AOWs. Removing the vertical grip and reverting the firearm back to pistol status would make them illegal per the Connecticut AWB – but that is a separate issue altogether.
Obviously, state law is different from federal law. But there is some legal overlap, and in this case, it is probably affecting the sale of The Firearm Shoppe’s products.