Pistol Stabilizing Braces
There are only a few achievements in the firearm industry that can truly be considered revolutionary. Most of the time these items are fads and only popular at the time they were invented. However, some are so game-changing they rock the industry so much that it changes federal policy for the good. One such example is the pistol stabilizing brace. Specifically the SB Tactical stabilizing brace.
Just a mere six years ago large pistols like that AR-15 pistol were a niche within a niche. Less than a handful of manufacturers made AR-15 pistols. They were not well received simply due to the fact that they were difficult to shoot. Sure you could add a stock after you filed Form 1 along with a passport photo and a copy of your fingerprints to the ATF. Oh and don’t forget the $200 dollars in taxes you need to pay for your Tax Stamp. Then you wait several months for the ATF to approve your request to put a stock on your pistol. Now you have a registered Short Barreled Rifle (SBR). Sure the Tax Stamp is an inconvenience and the cost is considered prohibitive to some, while some people have issue with submitting and requesting the federal government for anything. So unless you wanted to spend the money SBRing your AR-15 pistol, they are relegated to range toy status.
SB Tactical’s Alex Bosco
Well at the same time USMC and Army veteran Alex Bosco returned to the States. He went to a shooting range with a disabled combat veteran. This veteran had difficulty controlling the firearm they were shooting. There had to be a better way. That is when Alex came up with the pistol stabilizing brace. It was a rubber like material that slides over a pistol buffer tube. There are two wings that straddle the shooter’s forearm and a velcro strap secures the brace. Without the brace holding an AR pistol with one hand is awkward. The balance is terrible and most of the weight is past your hand. The brace helps carry this weight on your forearm.
Alex founded SB Tactical and submitted his pistol stabilizing brace to the ATF to make sure it does not alter the pistol. Remember, adding a stock to a pistol makes it an SBR and without the approval and tax stamp, it is a felony to make them. ATF evaluated the pistol stabilizing brace and approved it. Since it was made of a soft material it was not suitable for shouldering and therefor was not considered a stock.
In 2013, with his ATF approval letter, Alex shopped the stabilizing brace to various firearm manufacturers. The first two companies to adopt the pistol stabilizing brace was Century Arms International and SIG Sauer. Century Arms International use of the brace was not as well-known as SIG Sauer. SIG launched their line of SIG AR pistols with the infamous “SIG Brace”. For years people assumed SB of SB Tactical stood for SIG Brace.
In March 2014, the ATF issued a second letter stating that “for the following reasons, we have determined that firing a pistol from the shoulder would not cause the pistol to be reclassified as an SBR: FTB classifies weapons based on their physical design characteristics. While usage/functionality of the weapon does influence the intended design, it is not the sole criterion for determining the classification of a weapon. Generally speaking, we do not classify weapons based on how an individual uses a weapon.”
This is when a paradigm shift occurs in the firearm industry. The floodgates open and nearly every manufacturer of AR-15 starts rolling out their own version of an AR pistol. Of course stabilizing braces were not exclusive to AR style firearms. SB Tactical made a brace for AK pistols as well as braces for HK and CZ firearms.
Shouldering the Brace
Everything seemed to be going great until too many people submitted questions to the ATF about shouldering a brace. Then in 2015 ATF issued an OPEN LETTER about the use of a stabilizing brace as a shoulder stock. They issued this letter just before SHOT Show in January 2015 that resulted in widespread confusion and legal concerns in the firearms industry. The letter stated that, “the pistol stabilizing brace was neither ‘designed’ nor approved to be used as a shoulder stock, and therefore use as a shoulder stock constitutes a ‘redesign’ of the device because a possessor has changed the very function of the item.”
2015 and 2016 were dark times for the brace industry. A couple of competitors had entered the market and while they have received their own approval letters for their designs, they do not have the same language as SB Tactical’s approval letters. The OPEN LETTER was addressed to the public. Whereas approval letters only apply to the specific entity mentioned within. There was some confusion at the time. Some competitors tried to distance themselves from the OPEN LETTER stating that “Stabilizing Brace” mentioned in the letter does not apply to them as that corresponds directly to SB Tactical. Far from the truth.
For 2 years after the OPEN LETTER, Alex Bosco spent a significant amount of personal time and money on lawyers to clarify the OPEN LETTER with the ATF Firearms Technology Branch (FTB). The FTB are the guys in charge of making the decisions that make up the OPEN LETTER. They have to be the ones to clearly define what makes a pistol and what makes a rifle. Two years SB Tactical and their layers went back and forth with the ATF and to their credit, a miraculous event occurred. After further review of their products in March 2017, the ATF issued a private letter to SB Tactical that their previous 2015 interpretations were incorrect.
Stabilizing Braces in the Present
It is now over a year later and the world of stabilizing braces is going strong. As mentioned earlier, there is only a handful of industry changing accessories that are so amazing that they dominate the market. Almost every firearm manufacturer offers a product with a brace. In some cases, the brace has led and influenced firearm development. It opened the market to many new options of firearms that might not have been made or imported. Pistols can be imported into the US without needing 922R compliance. This is not the case regarding rifles.
The CZ Scorpion Evo 3, The H&K SP5K (civilian version of their MP5K) and even the CZ Bren pistol have become extremely popular. However, they would not be as popular if they did not have a brace option. SB Tactical makes dedicated braces for those weapon systems.
Their latest brace, the SBA3 is a five-position adjustable brace that is a hybrid of polymer and rubber. It comes with a Mil-Spec carbine buffer tube so you can install it on your pistol AR-15 of choice. Normally Mil-Spec carbine buffer tubes have six positions but due to the length set by the ATF regarding braces, the SBA3 does not use the sixth position, therefore, it stays within the legal limit of braces.
The industry would be stagnant if it were not for the hard-earned groundwork that SB-Tactical laid out in the past six years. We would not have seen the industry explode with pistol ARs and other large frame pistols if it were not for them.