Our essential guide to Short Barrel Rifles (SBRs) can serve you whether you are new to SBRs or a seasoned veteran. This is a living document and will continue to be updated to become the ultimate Short Barrel Rifle resource for anyone looking for more information on SBRs.
This guide has not been updated to cover the ATF final rule 2021R-08F, “Factoring Criteria for Firearms with Attached ‘Stabilizing Braces,’. We will update it soon but are waiting to see what the legal system does with the final rule.
Disclaimer: This article is meant for informational purposes only. We do our best to provide accurate and up-to-date information, but for legal reasons, we cannot guarantee accuracy. Laws and policies can change rapidly, but we do our best to keep this article updated when things change.
What is a Short Barrel Rifle?
The federal legal definition of a short-barrel rifle:
18 U.S. Code § 921 (a) (8)The term “short-barreled rifle” means a rifle having one or more barrels less than sixteen inches in length and any weapon made from a rifle (whether by alteration, modification, or otherwise) if such weapon, as modified, has an overall length of less than twenty-six inches. - US Code, House.gov
Best Short Barrel Rifles
How to Make a Short Barrel Rifle
Most SBRs come in the form of a standard AR-15. Since anyone can purchase AR-15 parts, you can construct your very own AR-15 SBR.
The flexibility of building your own SBR is nice, but a factory-built SBR can be purchased directly from a dealer. These two methods of getting an SBR are handled in two slightly different ways.
If making or assembling an SBR from parts, you acquire individually, you first need to have the serialized lower receiver. You would then need to fill out an ATF Form 1 via paper or using the ATF eForms.
If you are building your own SBR, make sure you have all the tools you need for building your AR before you get started.
How to Buy a Short Barrel Rifle
Buying an SBR is a similar process to making your own SBR. The form you will file with the ATF is slightly different (ATF Form 4). Plus, engraving is not required for your SBR if purchased from a dealer.
What is ATF Form 4?
The official name of an ATF Form 4 is Application for Tax Paid Transfer and
Registration of Firearm, which in laymen’s terms means it’s a fancy Form 4473 (the standard form you fill out when you purchase a firearm from a dealer).
A Form 4 is what is used to transfer an NFA item from a dealer/trust/corporation/individual to another. It must be sent into the ATF for approval and a $200 tax included with the form.
What is an ATF Form 1?
An ATF Form 1 title is the Application to Make and Register a Firearm.
This ATF form allows you to take an existing firearm and convert it to an SBR or other type of firearm. It goes through the same process and until it’s approved the SBR can not be built or made.
How long is the wait?
The wait is one of the worst parts of buying an NFA regulated item. The wait times vary between filling methods. If the item is registered as a trust/individual/corporation, it can also have an impact on the amount of time it takes for your stamp to come in.
Your SBR will have to wait at the dealer, often referred to as NFA Jail, until your stamp is approved and returned to your dealer.
Short Barrel Rifle Laws
SBR’s are regulated extensively by Federal law, also known as US Code, and those laws are typically regulated and enforced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, but not enforced exclusively by them.
What is the NFA?
You’ll often hear people talk about the NFA, or National Firearms Act, which is the law that governs the sale, manufacture, and purchase of Short Barrel Rifles.
The NFA was passed in 1934 and sometimes is referred to as the National Firearms Act of 1934.
States that Don’t Allow SBRs
Let’s face it, not everyone loves freedom, so there are some states that simply don’t allow SBR registration at all. Here are a few states that do not allow SBRs or have restrictions on them.
|California||Curios & Relics Only|
|District of Columbia||No|
(State law has further restrictions)
What is an SBR Tax Stamp?
The government can’t infringe the second amendment to the Constitution (allegedly). Gun grabbers and haters within the government have long created loopholes to restrict gun rights.
To do this, they assumed the power of the IRS along with the government’s ability to tax and added a tax to certain classifications of weapons and firearms. This is probably the only way they were able to circumvent the second amendment o the US Constitution.
Short Barrel Rifles are regulated by the ATF and require a $200 tax stamp, but I wouldn’t use it to mail a package. The NFA or National Firearms Act granted this authority to the ATF.
Do I have to renew my tax stamp?
No, you only have to pay the $200 tax stamp fee once. If you keep that item forever you’ll never have to pay the tax again.
If you ever sell the item the buyer will have to complete a Form 4 and pay $200.
I often tell people looking to buy an SBR to buy one you’ll be happy with forever because the transfer costs and wait aren’t going to be worth it for an individual to buy it from you used.
What Kind of Case for a Short Barrel Rifle?
Long Barrel vs Short Barrel Rifle
Why do I need a short barrel rifle? Well, simply put, it has some advantages over a “long barrel” or a 16″ barrel rifle. If you are using a rifle for a home defense weapon, a short barrel rifle gives you mobility in tight areas.
An SBR is much easier to maneuver in tight spaces such as your home’s hallways so it’s a clear winner for close quarters.
Ballistics is another reason why you may pick a short barrel or long barrel rifle. I won’t dive too much into the ballistics, as I’m not qualified. There is a pretty big difference ballistically when shooting 16″ 5.56 rifles vs. SBRs.
Lastly, I’ll mention suppressing the rifle. A 16″ barrel rifle with a full-length suppressor comes to a nearly 22″ barrel. This makes the gun extremely long and unbalanced. A lot of weight is strapped to the end of the barrel, making accuracy suffer greatly, depending on the weight of your can, of course.
If you want to suppress your rifle, I highly recommend getting a short barrel rifle to go along with it.
Best AR15 Short Barrel Rifle
This is often a question you’ll get from someone new to the SBR game. The obvious reason is they want the best. But the reality of it is there is no “Best” catch-all option. Each SBR should meet the needs of the specific person shopping for it.
Buying something because it was recommended to you by someone who doesn’t have the same priorities, body structure, or taste is a disappointment waiting to happen.
My suggestion to find the best short barrel rifle for you is to identify your wants and needs for this rifle purchase. Then visit some gun stores, hold and shoot your friends’ rifles, and make an educated decision.
Common SBR Calibers
You can make an SBR out of nearly any caliber out there, but what it comes down to is does it ballistically make sense? Another question to ask is what length barrel makes the most ballistic sense for the round I plan to use?
Short Barrel Rifle Cases
Cases for short barrel rifles are becoming more prominent since the AR pistols and SBRs are becoming more popular. Here at Lynx Defense, we even created a discreet SBR case just for SBRs and AR pistols. We highly recommended discreet SBR cases, and we even wrote a full article on them.
How Long is the Wait for an SBR?
The wait time varies and can take between a month to twelve months or longer. There really is no telling.
However, an independent website called NFA Tracker allows people to submit their wait times and view a running log for other users.
Can you carry an SBR in your car?
Yes, you can carry an SBR in your car.
However, it is important to note that any NFA weapon, your SBR, legally must remain in your possession so if you are not in the vehicle or driving the vehicle you could be in legal trouble.
Keep in mind securing your SBR is extremely important and you don’t want to end up in legal trouble if it’s stolen or found to be not in your possession.
Can I take my SBR out of state?
Legally it’s up to the ATF and there is an application to transport NFA firearms form that you must fill out and submit to the ATF.
States that don’t allow SBR’s will most likely lead to a denial from the ATF on your transportation request.
I’m moving with NFA firearms what do I need to do?
The same form you would use to travel with your NFA firearm you will need to fill out to permanently move with your NFA Firearm.
Hopefully, you are moving to a state that allows you NFA items as that could cause a denial from the ATF.
The form you need to fill out to move with your NFA items is located on the ATF website called Application to Transport Interstate or to Temporarily Export Certain NFA Firearms (ATF Form 5320.20).
Do I have to carry my tax stamp with my SBR?
No, not really.
As with most of these answers there always seems to be a “however” clause. An ATF agent or a designee of the Attorney General can require the owner of a short barrel rifle to show proof of registration as stated in 26 US Code 5841(e).
However unlikely that request might be it’s still important to know that you could be required to show proof of registration.
What do I need to build an AR-15 SBR?
Good question! You need all the parts to build a fully functioning AR-15 and we may list those in detail later but the most important thing to get started is the AR lower receiver.
The reason for that is you cannot file your Form 1 to register an SBR until you have the serial number of your lower.
Once you have the serial number you can then eFile your Form 1 and get the slow NFA process rolling.
Can I get a tax stamp for an unserialized gun (a.k.a ghost gun)?
No, the ATF Form 1 requires you to submit the gun’s serial number.
Therefore, you cannot register an unserialized gun, or a “Ghost Gun, as an SBR.
What is the difference between an SBR AR-15 and an AR15 Pistol?
The main difference between an SBR AR-15 and an AR15 Pistol is the ever-contentious buttstock. An SBR features a buttstock with an adjustable buffer tube, while an AR-15 Pistol has a pistol stabilizing arm brace. AR-15 Pistols are meant to be fired with one hand using the stabilizing arm brace.
Again, this article is meant to be a living document, and we will continue to update it as new regulations come out about short barrel rifles. If you notice anything inaccurate or something has changed, be sure to leave a comment below so we can get it fixed!
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