Every day the clock ticks down on the 120-day armistice on pistol braces. The ATF filed their new brace rule in the Federal Register on the last day of January. The new rule declares that essentially any braced pistol is now, magically, a short-barreled rifle. This flies in the face of numerous approvals and opinion letters.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, it’s time to fight. Fight like hell to protect this extreme overreach. With that in mind, I sat down with Alex Boscoe, the founder and owner of SB Tactical. He was kind enough to speak with me for nearly an hour. We covered the history of SB Tactical, attempts in the past to reregulate braces, and the current situation.
The American Dream
One of the first things we talked about was the beginnings of SB Tactical. I wanted to get a feel for the company, who they were, and what they did. Alex is both a USMC and US Army veteran and shooting enthusiast. I remember being on ARFCOM back in the day and seeing the first brace. It wasn’t quite refined like today’s braces and reminded me of a carved sponge.
Alex developed the brace to assist disabled shooters in better controlling their firearms. He has a personal anecdote of going to the range with a disabled vet and having the range officer tell his friend to stop shooting due to control issues. The first brace came to be in 2012, and the ATF gave him the thumbs up. Alex began producing the braces with All-American construction.
By 2014 the company had an exclusive sales agreement with Sig Sauer to produce the SB-15. Obviously, this was beneficial to the small company, but it did later create a branding issue. In a rather humorous story, Alex detailed how they had to launch an entire marketing campaign to stop people from calling it the Sig brace.
It’s worth noting in 2014, the ‘Bradley’ letter was also published, stating that firing a weapon from the shoulder does not change the classification of the weapon. It specifically says that using the brace improperly does not constitute a design change.
The American Nightmare
Government getting in the way of small American businesses—it’s a tale as old as time. Shooters were flying high with braces, which were being produced for numerous platforms in multiple configurations. Braces were flying off the shelves, and then it all came to a stop in 2015. In just a few years, a lot had changed at the ATF and with the White House’s priorities.
Alex talked about how easy it used to be to call the ATF and talk to the Technology Division. That was put to bed coming into 2015. President Obama began rolling out gun control that was not approved by congress and enacted a number of executive orders and directives. One of these was appointing B. Todd Jones as director of the ATF.
In 2015, under the leadership of B. Todd Jones, they issued an open letter in 2015 stating that placing the brace against your shoulder redesigned the pistol to become a rifle. Overnight it hampered brace sales. People were concerned they could be targeted as SBR owners. American gun owners are among some of the most law-abiding people in the United States, and they weren’t going to risk their Second Amendment rights over a misunderstanding.
This represented one of the first big challenges to brace ownership. Alex went from business owner to activist, and began lobbying politicians and speaking with lawyers. He did the smart thing and began to use outreach to better educate the general public on what a brace is and how it can be used. He also spoke out against the ATF creating law by executive fiat.
For two years, he struggled against the ATF, and finally, something happened. President Trump was elected. The winds changed at the ATF. The access Alex had had in 2012 to the ATF seemed to reappear, and he was able to convince the ATF that their letter was flat-out wrong.
Alex and SB Tactical began asking for specific parameters that would turn a brace into a stock. He worked with Mike Sullivan, the former director of the ATF, to establish guidelines everyone could work within.
This is where guidelines involving length of pull and surface area came from, and SB Tactical ensured the braces they were producing were within that parameter. If you’ve ever wondered why the SBA3 has five positions instead of six, now you know.
Things seemed fine, but then Trump lost the 2020 election. An incoming Biden had gun control on his mind. This led us to talk about the brace situation, and I asked why braces. Alex quickly reminded me that it wasn’t just braces. 80% lowers, and frames were also targeted by the incoming administration. Braces and 80% lowers were seen as low-hanging fruit that could be targeted by the executive branch without the need to pass a new law.
While the ATF acted under the guise of public safety, they could only find two incidents in which a braced firearm was used in crime. Two in ten years of production with no evidence, they made the weapon any more dangerous than an unbraced firearm.
Not So Low Hanging
Braces might have been seen as low-hanging fruit, but in reality, that seems to be a grave understatement. Maybe it delivered an ATF employee a kudos for identifying them, but they were far from low hanging. In their latest published rule, the ATF was forced to conduct a study to see the impact the rule would make. They claimed this would affect three million gun owners.
I asked Alex if he believed that number to be correct. He nearly laughed at the idea. The ATF did an impact study and only used data up to 2019. They did not take 2019 into account, nor did they take 2021 or 2022. Why is this relevant? Those years saw a massive uptick in firearm purchases. They were some of the best years on record for the gun industry. Ignoring them skewed results.
Alex stated over 2.5 million braces were sold in those three years. He knows their study is severely skewed because his company alone has sold way more than three million braces. That’s not factoring in the braces from Shockwave, Gear Head Works, and about a dozen other companies. Not to mention the Chinese fakes hitting the market.
Changing the Rules
If you remember, months ago, the ATF released this point system. That system was a nightmare. It was contradictory and about as clear as mud. Gun owners responded en masse. The end result was the ATF seemingly agreeing their point system was ridiculous and getting rid of it altogether and just basically declaring every brace an SBR.
Alex pointed out that the SB Mini was specifically blessed by the ATF in the point’s ruling as kosher, but a mere three months later, it’s not and now makes your pistol an SBR. That’s how quickly and easily they made their decision. This creates a level of ambiguity that seems impossible to work with. Alex educated me on the rule of lenity that says if something is ambiguous, it cannot be enforced.
FRAC, SB Tactical, B&T, wounded warrior Rick Cicero, and 26 states have filed a lawsuit against the ATF. SB Tactical and B&T are both asking for a preliminary injunction to the rule because it causes both companies irreparable harm. They aren’t going to sit there and take this drastic overreach. Alex informed me that ATF officials were being subpoenaed to examine the potential weaponization of the executive branch.
Alex points out that this is not just a Second Amendment issue. It’s an issue that should have bipartisan support. Congress should be furious that the ATF is passing de-facto laws. That is their position in our republic, and the ATF is seemingly ignoring this pillar of our representative democracy. The executive branch cannot create a rule that has criminal implications because that’s not a rule. It’s a law.
We deviated into what could the average Joe do to help fight this ridiculous brace rule. Alex said simply, “Do something, do anything.” He advised everyone to write to their representatives. He even advised me to donate to your favorite gun rights group. SAF, GOA, and FPC are all doing good work.
He also said FRAC, aka the Firearms Regulatory Accountability Coalition, is the best representative of the firearms industry and could use our support. He also mentioned something I did not know. The NRA has pledged to pay for half of the entire lawsuit, which is a massive contribution. A lot of people have had issues with the NRA, but this is a great step forward and will be a massive aid to the lawsuit.
Winning This Thing
What’s important to remember is that this is a fight that never ends. Do not become complacent. Our rights are at stake. Not just Second Amendment rights, but if unelected bureaucrats are allowed to reign supreme, then our democracy is done for. Have you contributed? If so, share below the best you’ve found to help preserve our republic.