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Posted: 5/4/2003 6:14:41 AM EDT
The recent popularity of carbine conversion kits has got me thinking...  What is a pistol, legally, with one of these kits installed?  Is it still a pistol or is it now a rifle?  It seems to me that by legal definition, it is a rifle.  If that's the case, what are all the legal ramifications? Here's a couple of thoughts/questions:

-Does that mean that once you install a carbine conversion kit, you can't legally put it back into pistol configuration?   Based on past rulings, the ATF says converting from a rifle->pistol is bad juju (reference opinion that says you can't build an AR-15 pistol using a receiver already built as a rifle - they say it would considered an SBR).  

-If it is legally a rifle, can one ship it via USPS?  What about states that have different laws regarding private transfers of rifles vs. pistols?

-If it is now a rifle, has anyone ever done a parts count for imported pistols to see if the resulting firearm is 922(r) compliant?  I.E., conversion kit for a Glock?

-If it is still legally a pistol, I'm sure the resulting firearm + kit is over 50oz in most cases, making it illegal under the AWB.

Any thoughts?  Seems like a big can o' worms to me...

Link Posted: 5/4/2003 7:59:49 AM EDT
Link Posted: 5/4/2003 8:59:49 AM EDT
So, given those definitions (esp. the remade, redesigned, etc.) and the ATF's previously established views on converting a rifle to a pistol (i.e., can't be done), then anyone who installed a carbine conversion onto one of their pistols and then put it back into pistol configuration is now walking around with an unregistered SBR, correct?

Link Posted: 5/4/2003 5:24:34 PM EDT
Link Posted: 5/5/2003 6:55:17 AM EDT
The strange thing is that you can make the pistol into a rifle, and back again into a pistol with no problem. You can't make a rifle into a pistol and then back again.

The rifle with a short barrel is an SBR. There is no law against having a longer barrel on a pistol. Now AWB regulations are a different matter when it comes to AR's and the lowers for them.
View Quote

Right, there's no law against a longer barrel - the differentiating feature between a pistol and a rifle seems to be that the rifle is intended to be fired from the shoulder.  

If I throw one of those carbine conversions on a 1911 (with a stock, now made to be fired from the shoulder), it seems that by the legal definition, I now have a rifle -

[i](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.[/i]

The fact that the definition explicitly says "redesigned" and "remade" seems to suggest that the legal status of a firearm (from pistol to rifle) can change at any time, regardless of how it left the factory or what its original configuration was intended to be.  The conversion from pistol->rifle isn't what I'm questioning - it makes sense that this is allowed as you are generally going from a more restricted firearm to one with lesser restrictions.   The question is going back, from rifle->pistol.

ATF letter relating to this:

Oct 29 1992
Dear Mr. XXXXX:

This refers to your letter of October 1, 1992, in which you inquire about the legality of manufacturing a handgun which utilizes a rifle
type receiver.

26 U.S.C. Chapter 53 # 5845(a)(4), the National Firearms Act (NFA), defines the term "firearm" to include a weapon made from a rifle if such weapon as modified has an overall length of less than 26 inches or a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length.

Utilizing the receiver of an existing rifle for the purposes of manufacturing a handgun would constitute the making of a firearm as defined above. Individuals desiring to make such a firearm must first submit an ATF Form 1, Application To Make And Register a Firearm and pay the applicable $200 making tax.

If an individual were to obtain a rifle type receiver that had [b]not previously been utilized in the assembly of a rifle[/b], a handgun could be made and not be subject to the provisions of the NFA. Verification must be obtained from the manufacturer of the receiver to establish its authenticity.

We trust the foregoing has been responsive to your inquiry. If we may be of any further assistance, please contact us.

Sincerely your,
Edward M. Owen, Jr.
Chief, Firearms Technology Branch

So... putting these together - if "redesigned, ... remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder" is what makes a rifle a rifle, and if a receiver that "had not previously been utilized in the assembly of a rifle, a handgun could be made and not be subject to the provisions of the NFA" (which seems to say that a receiver that was previously utilized in the assembly of a rifle [i]is[/i] subject to the NFA - I can't find it right now, but I believe another letter suggested such would be considered an SBR, which is where that reference came from).   This seems to say to me that once in rifle configuration, it cannot legally be put back into pistol configuration, regardless of what it originally started out as.

The only difference in the situation presented in the letter above and my specific question is that the letter references a "rifle-type" receiver. But does the type of firearm the receiver is traditionally built upon really matter, since it essentially the features added to the receiver that determine what its legal status is?  I think that perhaps that this language was only included as it was in the original question submitted to them.

The reference to the AWB was that [i]if[/i] the firearm is still considered a "pistol", the total weight must be under 50oz.

Let say that you can legally move back and forth from pistol to rifle, provided the firearm started its life as a pistol.  What implications do you think this has WRT shipping?  Could a non-licensee ship a 1911, for example, in carbine form USPS and then the end receipient legally put it back into pistol configuration?  My state, PA, allows private transfers of long guns, but not pistols.  Could I sell the same 1911 in carbine form privately, and the seller legally convert it back into pistol form?  If the answer is no, does the firearm legally remain a "pistol" even when in carbine form with the legally defining features of a rifle?  If that's the case, isn't the "pistol" required to be under 50oz total unloaded weight per the AWB, even when in carbine form?

Not trying to be difficult, and am just doing this more as an excercise of the mind as I don't own one of these conversions - man do these things make your head spin sometimes...  

Link Posted: 5/5/2003 6:45:36 PM EDT
Link Posted: 5/6/2003 4:36:18 PM EDT
The carbine conversions I don't believe would fall under the AWB because they don't have enough features even in rifle form to qualify as an AW.
View Quote

It is not classified as an AW because the magazine is located in the grip of the pistol.
Link Posted: 5/6/2003 7:23:52 PM EDT
Link Posted: 5/7/2003 6:51:30 AM EDT
It is not classified as an AW because the magazine is located in the grip of the pistol.
View Quote

But the handguards present on the carbine conversions would likely be classified as:

(iii) a shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely encircles, the barrel and that permits the shooter to hold the firearm with the nontrigger hand without being burned;

I guess it all still depends on whether or not it is still considered a "pistol" for legal purposes even when in carbine form.


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