A short barrel rifle (SBR) is a shoulder-fired, rifled firearm with a barrel length of less than 16 inches (40.6cm) or overall length of less than 26 inches (66.0cm), and these firearms are regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE) as a National Firearms Act (NFA) firearm. Unless specifically prohibited, American citizens can own SBR’s as long as they are registered with the BATFE and a $200 tax is paid prior to taking possession of the firearm.
It is a felony to possess a SBR unless it is registered with the BATFE to the person who possesses it, and the tax has been paid. BATFE notification is required when transporting a SBR across state lines, by filing a form 5320.20 in advance. Keep in mind, though, that states can restrict SBRs, so before you travel to another state, make sure that state does not prohibit them.
Q: What is the registered part of a Short Barreled Rifle (SBR) or Short Barreled Shotgun (SBS)?
While a receiver alone may be classified as a “firearm” under the Gun Control Act (GCA), SBRs and SBSs are classified in totality under the National Firearms Act (NFA). A firearm that meets the definition of a SBR consists of a rifle that has a barrel less than 16 inches in length. A SBS consists of a shotgun that has a barrel less than 18 inches in length. The serialized receiver is recorded for registration in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record (NFRTR).
Q: I possess a properly registered SBR or SBS. I intend to strip the receiver and remove the barrel prior to selling the receiver. Is the bare receiver still subject to regulation under the NFA as a SBR or SBS?
A stripped receiver without a barrel does not meet the definition of a SBR or SBS under the NFA. Although the previously registered firearm would remain registered unless the possessor notified the NFA Branch of the change, there is no provision in statute or regulation requiring registration of a firearm without a barrel because its physical characteristics would make it only a GCA “firearm” pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(3)(B). If the subsequent owner buys the receiver as a GCA firearm and installs a barrel less than 16 inches in length (SBR) or 18 inches in length (SBS), the firearm would be subject to a $200 making tax and registration under the NFA by the manufacturer or maker of the SBR or SBS. Because registration depends upon the stated intent of the applicant, there is no provision to allow registration of a NFA firearm by anyone other than the maker or manufacturer.
Q: If I remove the short barrel from the registered SBR or SBS, is the receiver still subject to NFA transfer and possession regulations?
If the possessor retains control over the barrel or other parts required to assemble the SBR or SBS, the firearm would still be subject to NFA transfer and possession regulations. ATF recommends contacting State law enforcement officials to ensure compliance with state and local law.
Q: Does the installation of a barrel over 16 inches in length (SBR) or 18 inches in length (SBS) remove the firearm from the purview of the NFA? If so, is this considered a permanent change?
Installation of a barrel greater than 16 inches in length (SBR) or 18 inches in length (SBS) will remove the firearm from the purview of the NFA provided the registrant does not maintain control over the parts necessary to reconfigure the firearm as a SBR or SBS.
Q: Is it necessary to send notification to ATF and receive acknowledgement that the SBR or SBS has been removed from the purview of the NFA before it may be sold as a GCA firearm?
There is no requirement for the possessor of a registered NFA firearm to notify ATF that the firearm has been removed from the purview of the NFA. However, ATF recommends the possessor notify the NFA Branch of such changes in writing so that the possessor is not mistakenly identified as the owner if the firearm is later used in a crime. If, at the time of transfer, the firearm does not meet the definition of a SBR, it should be transferred without filing the NFA transfer application and without payment of the transfer tax.
Q: If I remove the short barrel from my SBR or SBS, may I move the firearm across state lines without the submission of ATF Form 5320.20, Application to Transport or to Temporarily Export Certain Firearms?
If the registrant retains control over the parts required to assemble the SBR or SBS, the firearm is still be subject to all requirements of the NFA. ATF recommends contacting law enforcement officials in the destination state to ensure compliance with state and local law.
Q: May the short barrel on an SBR or SBS be replaced with a long barrel for hunting or other purposes, with the intent of replacing the short barrel?
Yes, and you will not be required to again register the firearm before replacing the short barrel. ATF recommends written notification to the NFA Branch when a firearm’s configuration is permanently changed or removed from the purview of the NFA.
Q: May I transfer the receiver of a short-barrel rifle or shotgun to an FFL or to an individual as I would any GCA firearm?
Yes. A weapon that does not meet the definition of a NFA “firearm” is not subject to the NFA and a possessor or transferor needn’t comply with NFA requirements. The firearm is considered a GCA firearm and may be transferred under the provisions of that law.
Q: Who is responsible for notifying the NFA Branch when I transfer the GCA firearm to a FFL or another individual?
There is no requirement that the transferor or transferee of a GCA firearm notify the NFA branch of a transfer or that either party determine whether the firearm was previously registered under the NFA. There is no also no requirement for the registrant or possessor of a NFA firearm to notify ATF of the removal of features that caused the firearm to be subject to the NFA; however, ATF recommends the owner notify the NFA Branch in writing if a firearm is permanently removed from the NFA.
Q: How do I properly record the sale or disposition of a receiver that is registered in the NFRTR but is no longer a NFA firearm? Will ATF Industry Operations Investigators be aware that the NFA firearm (SBR or SBS) no longer exist?
A FFL should note a disposition in the A&D record only when the firearm is transferred out of his/her inventory. Title 27 Code of Federal Regulations, part 478.125 does not require an annotation declaring that a firearm is a GCA or NFA firearm. Any such notation would be at the FFL’s discretion. If the firearm is subject to the NFA at the time of transfer, the licensee is required to comply with the applicable transfer and possession regulations. Any inventory report should reflect the firearms currently registered to the FFL under the NFA. Therefore, ATF recommends written notification to the NFA Branch when a firearm is removed from the purview of the NFA.
Q: If removal and destruction or disposition of the short barrel removes the firearm from the purview NFA, is there a minimum time period the barrel must remain unattached for the firearm to not be regulated under the NFA?
The temporary removal of the barrel for repair or change of caliber does not remove a NFA firearm from the purview of the NFA. If the registrant maintains control of the parts required for assembly of a SBR, he or she must maintain the registration as a SBS or SBS regardless of the length of time that the barrel is unattached.
Q: May a FFL or an individual legally possess the parts to manufacture an SBR or SBS as long as no firearms are actually assembled?
A FFL (Type-7 or Type-10) who pays the Special Occupational Tax (SOT) may possess parts required to assemble NFA firearms. A non-licensee or FFL who has not paid the SOT is required to register any NFA firearm via an ATF Form 1 (5320.1) prior to acquisition of the parts required to assemble such firearm.