first published on April 26, 2017 by Tim
On April 24th we learned that the BATF had issued a new letter to SB Tactical saying, in essence, that shouldering their products was not in violation of the NFA. The ATF called out specific features and said as long as none of these features were altered by the end user, the brace was in fact legal to shoulder. Here is a copy of the April 24th 2017 ATF letter:
Upon release of the letter sent only to SB Tactical by the BATF, the owner of a competitive product manufactured by Shockwave posted this to his website:
I see a couple of problems with this post. First, it looks suspiciously similar to a post made by Shockwave after the 2015 open letter was released prior to SHOT Show. An open letter addresses the entire industry, not a specific company or product. However, in an effort to stop the loss of sales the 2015 letter caused, Shockwave posted the following comment to their website under the guise of an official sounding press release.
The 2015 open letter said, in essence, that shouldering any brace would constitute the manufacturing of an illegal SBR. It wasn’t product specific as it was issued to the entire industry in what is known as an open letter. This distinction is important because there are individual letters given to persons or companies that only cover them or their products with the official opinion offered by the BATF. They do not cover the entire industry like an open letter does.
Shockwave posted the above “press release” then removed it when the community called them out on the dishonest post. Thanks to the Way Back Machine his post is saved for posterity. It shows what seems to be a common theme with Shockwave — they are willing to say anything to keep sales moving.
The next problem I have with this post on the Shockwave website is that the BATF has a procedure for getting approval for products or having questions answered. The process does not include making phone calls to the ATF and getting a verbal “it’s ok” confirmation from a “really nice gentleman”, aka agent.
Let’s say for a moment that Marty, the owner of Shockwave, was being completely honest about having called the ATF and having spoken to a “really nice gentleman” at the Technical Branch who broke protocol and issued a verbal approval. The problem I see is that the ATF doesn’t routinely do that and I know for a fact a verbal “it’s ok” from a random agent on the phone has absolutely no legal value should you find yourself in court. Only a written letter from the ATF is considered a formal decision on any given question submitted to them. All inquires must be submitted in writing and in response the ATF will issue an official letter from the Technical Branch on letter head.
I suspect Shockwave is scurrying to get an ATF letter to match the one issued to SB Tactical. As of right now, Shockwave is in possession of a letter that specifically says that their Blade product cannot be legally shouldered. Here’s their current ATF letter downloaded from their own website:
As you can clearly see, the current letter from the ATF to Shockwave regarding the Blade, and to my knowledge the only letter Shockwave is in possession of, clearly says;
Based on our evaluation, FTISB finds that the submitted forearm brace, when attached to a pistol is a “firearm” subject to the GCA provisions; however, it is not a “firearm” as defined by the NFA provided the Blade AR Pistol Stabilizer is used as originally designed and NOT used as a shoulder stock.
The ATF’s position seems pretty clear to me. If you shoulder the Blade and use it in an unintended fashion, you are in possession of a SBR that isn’t registered.
With all of that said, my position on the subject hasn’t changed regardless of manufacturer or the product. I believe the Blade is in fact legal to shoulder because the ATF has ruled by installing it on a pistol it does not change the classification of the firearm; it’s still a pistol in their view. I do not believe you can misuse a pistol in such a way as to redesign it on the fly and without tools to become a SBR. This is true of SB Tactical braces and Shockwave braces.
I am not a lawyer, and my comments here aren’t meant to be legal advice. However, I believe the ATF would have a very hard time proving in court that you redesigned something by touching it to a body part. I’ve continued to shoulder my braces even after the 2015 open letter and will continue to do so as I see fit or when the urge strikes me to do so.
My point is that Shockwave has a history of telling little white lies to protect their market and to damage the business of their competitors. That type of behavior leaves a bad taste in my mouth and I can’t personally support it.
If Shockwave desires their own ATF letter saying the Blade can legally be shouldered, then they need to follow in SB Tactical footsteps and go through the proper channels so they can properly protect their customers.
It’s also worth mentioning that as of this writing a legal battle continues between SB Tactical and Shockwave over SB Tactical’s patent. SB Tactical contends that Shockwave has infringed on their patent with the Blade product.