Rifle to SBR
If you turn your rifle into a short-barreled rifle, you have committed a crime unless you received ATF approval and paid the appropriate tax. So, unless you’ve gotten your tax stamp from the ATF, don’t saw off your barrel or stock if it is shortens the overall length under 26 inches.
Handgun to SBR
If you take your handgun and turn it into an item that is designed to be fired from the shoulder, and it doesn’t meet the 16-inch-barrel-length requirement or 26-inch overall-length requirement, you have created an item that meets the definition of a short-barreled rifle. This item will need to be registered with the ATF and have a tax paid before conversion, just like the rifle to short-barreled rifle conversion.
Pistol to rifle conversion
This is a perfectly legal transition to make, that requires no NFA compliance or registration. You are simply moving from one non-NFA firearm to another.
Rifle to Pistol
Think this is another legal conversion? Think again! This creates a short-barreled rifle, and requires prior approval by the ATF and a tax paid. Why? Because of the pesky definition of a short-barreled rifle. It includes any weapon made from a rifle, that doesn’t meet the 26 inches overall or a 16-inch barrel length. Therefore, if you take your rifle down to handgun size, you’ve created a short-barreled rifle!
Pistol to Rifle to Handgun
We know that handgun to rifle is legal; and we just saw that taking a rifle to a handgun (which is actually an SBR) is regulated. What happens if you turn your handgun into a rifle, then back into a handgun? Nothing, it’s perfectly legal! These can seem confusing for good reason, but the ATF clarified why they have taken this stance.
Ultimately, the weapon was born into the world as a handgun; it was then modified into a rifle, and back into a handgun. Therefore, it isn’t a weapon “made from a rifle,” but is instead originally a handgun. Even if this doesn’t make sense, just remember that how a weapon is born into the world matters. If it’s born as a handgun, you can turn it into a rifle and then back into a handgun. If it’s born as a rifle, turning it into a handgun creates an NFA-regulated item.
Honorable Mention: Handgun to AOW
One final wrench to throw in the works: What happens if you add a vertical foregrip to a handgun? We know the definition of a handgun is a weapon designed to be fired with a single hand, and that a rifle is designed to be fired from the shoulder. However, this item is not designed to be fired with one hand, as it has a foregrip, and is now designed to be fired with two! It isn’t a rifle, because it isn’t designed to be fired from the shoulder either.
So what exactly is this Frankenfirearm? Per the ATF, it is considered an “Any Other Weapon” or AOW that must be registered with the ATF and have the appropriate tax paid.
TCM Roni conversion kit
Now that we are all masters on conversions, let’s look at a real-life example: the TCM Roni Pistol Shell. This Roni conversion kit allows you to open a compartment, drop your pistol in, close the compartment, and essentially finish conversion. The overall length of the item is 22 inches with the shoulder stock extended, and the barrel is just a few inches long. If you put your pistol in this roni kit and close the compartment, you have created an item that meets the definition of a short-barreled rifle, and you are committing a crime if you haven’t previously registered the item with the ATF and paid the appropriate tax.
Accordingly, there is a warning on the TCM Roni Pistol Shell purchase page that a pistol, if converted, becomes a short-barreled rifle.
Compare this to the Glock Roni Civilian Pistol Carbine conversion kit, with a 16-inch barrel and 27 inches in overall length. This would be perfectly legal!
The world of firearm conversions can become convoluted and in it, you can potentially incur criminal consequences — so make sure you know what the law is before converting your firearm!
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