Foregrips and Bump Stocks: What You Need to Know about Custom Guns in Virginia

The following is a video transcript.

We regularly get questions regarding the modification of firearms in Virginia. These questions range from general “Can I modify my gun” questions to questions about very specific modification. I want to address some of the more common questions that we get.

Can My Gun Modifications Be Used Against Me?

The first question is, “Will modifications to my everyday carry gun be used against me in court if I am in a defensive shooting?” The answer here is every attorney’s favorite response: it depends. I cannot tell you one way or another if your modifications will be used against you. But I can tell you if you do not modify your weapon, it is a non-issue.

However, I carry a Glock with some modifications because I like the way it handles with a few subtle changes. While a prosecutor may argue modifications to a weapon might show something about your intent, as a defense attorney, I would argue the changes are irrelevant, and in legal speak are more prejudicial than probative. This means I would argue the prosecutor should not be able to mention your modifications to a jury because the mention of them is more likely to turn the jury against you rather than prove anything.

I would recommend against modifications which present violent or vulgar sayings on your weapon. While I know of a case where a defense attorney was able to keep a violent saying on his client’s weapon from being mentioned by the prosecutor in the courtroom, it is not an argument I want to make. In my opinion, vulgar and violent sayings are best left off weapons.

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Vertical Foregrips On Handguns

The second question revolves around vertical foregrips on handguns. If a pistol was modified to add a vertical foregrip on the front of the weapon, it will now be legally classified as an any other weapon (“AOW”) by the ATF and will require you to pay for a tax stamp. Vertical foregrips are legal to own, as long as they are not placed on a handgun.

The definition of a handgun is a weapon which is intended to be fired by one hand, so the addition of a vertical foregrip makes it so the weapon is now intended to be used with two hands. This modification changes the weapon from a handgun to an AOW, and it is now a prohibited weapon unless you obtain the proper documentation.

Bump Stocks and Binary Triggers

A final modification question which occasionally comes up is about adding things like binary triggers or bump stocks to a weapon in order to speed up their rate of fire. Bump stocks are now illegal and considered contraband. Bump stocks had to be destroyed or surrendered prior to March 26, 2019, in order to avoid criminal liability. This is because the ATF did what many consider to be some “wand waving” to include bump stocks in the definition of a machinegun. With no grace period to register them, all bump stocks became illegal in March. Binary triggers are a different story and are still considered legal under federal law, as are several other similar modifications.

As a final reminder, any modification that would allow a weapon to shoot more than one round per pull of the trigger is considered an illegal making of a machinegun and is illegal under both federal and Virginia law.

If you have any other questions regarding firearm customization, contact U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.

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Comment section

2 comments on “Foregrips and Bump Stocks: What You Need to Know about Custom Guns in Virginia

  1. I think any law that infringes on the ability and access to what ever weapons law abiding people want to own for their self defence is anti constitutional and should be repealed all across this country totally. Crafting laws that that do nothing to actually make us safer for some people can feel safe is wrong. Nobody has any special right to to dictate to me or anyone else how best I should or can defend my or my families lives or with what I can or can’t defend myself and family with. Guns are less dangerous and more humane then other forms of defending yourself. Would our elected leaders rather have a population of people still walking around with daggers and swords to cleave eachother with versus a gun or guns? Democrats don’t get to strip my constitutionally protected god given rights because they think I don’t need a gun to defend myself and my family with because they wanna make some other people feel safer. Because at the end of the day someone feeling safe will never trump my right to actually be safe with a gun and training with it. No matter what your political leanings are nobody has special rights that give them the ability to strip anyone elses right to defend themselves how we want to and with what we want to use to do it because someone anyone else doesn’t feel safe.

  2. Good article.

    I’d like to see one that discusses the proposed changes to Virginia law once the Democrats take control of the entire legislature in January. From what I’ve read in the bills they have ready to introduce as soon as they take over, they intend to make a criminal out of everyone who still has an AR-15 after June, 2020. I thought the Heller decision said government can’t prohibit firearms that are in common use throughout the population, and there is no rifle that is in more common use than the AR-15.

    How can this be constitutional? What am I missing?

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