The Ultimate Short Barrel Rifle Guide

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.

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?

Short Barrel Rifle in Case

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

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.

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.

StateAllowed
CaliforniaCurios & Relics Only
District of ColumbiaNo
New YorkNo
HawaiiNo
MarylandKinda
(State law has further restrictions)
New JerseyNo
Rhode IslandNo

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.

What Kind of Case for a Short Barrel Rifle?

We recommend either one of our tactical rifle cases or our purpose-built SBR case, The Bureau. The Bureau case provides covert concealment of your SBR in any environment.

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″ barreled 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 is 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.

AR15 Pistol Carry Case

Best AR15 Short Barrel Rifle

This 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?

  • 300 Blackout
  • 5.56mm / .223
  • 6.5 Grendel

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, we even wrote a full article on it.

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, there is an independent website called NFA Tracker that 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?

It depends.

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.

Do I have to carry my tax stamp with my SBR?

No, not really.

As with most of these answers their 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 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!

8 replies on “The Ultimate Short Barrel Rifle Guide

Share your thoughts