February 2011

ATF Details on ‘Shoulder Stocks’

At the urging of GT Reader Kelleher, we get way into the weeds of NFA, SBR, and C&R regulations. Also, Reader Landers details what’s he’s done so far to get his Diamondback pistol to work.

Re "Shoulder-Stocked Oldie Pistols: Hi-Power

and Broomhandle," January 2011

I have recently acquired a 1911 pistol with shoulder stock and correct mainspring housing, so I found your test on shoulder-stocked pistols to be quite timely. My understanding is that attaching a shoulder stock to a handgun changes a legal firearm into an illegal short barrel rifle. A police officer/friend I talked to agreed. I ordered a 16-inch barrel, so I should be legal. My stock has no markings on it, and the only info that I can find stated that it was made in the 1970s for covert operations. There may be some nuances in the law that I am not aware of. Perhaps Gun Tests could clarify this for future buyers/owners of such accessories.


—Lee Kelleher
Meadview, Arizona

From Kevin Winkle, FFL and one of the magazine’s product coordination editors: Lee, we are not lawyers, and readers need to check the law in their locality. My response only addresses Federal law—state law could be more restrictive. The general rule is that if a pistol has a shoulder stock attached, the barrel length must be 16 inches and the overall length should be at least 26 inches, or it falls under National Firearms Act rules and requires a Short Barrel Rifle permit. Some firearms are exempt from that rule, such as the Broomhandle Mausers and Hi-Powers. To qualify, the gun may need to be manufactured before a certain year and/or be within a certain serial number range. It also appears from my reading of the exemption that the stock has to be of original manufacture (same time period of the gun). So it looks to me that even if you have a gun that qualifies, but you put a replica stock on it, you are breaking the law. Our test guns qualified for the exemption, and no state laws were more restrictive.

According to

Federal Firearms Reference Guide ATF Publication 5300.4, published in September 2005, "If a person has a pistol and an attachable shoulder stock, does this constitute possession of an NFA firearm?" Answer, quoted from the Guide: "Yes, unless the barrel of the pistol is at least 16 inches in length (and the overall length of the firearm with stock attached is at least 26 inches). However, certain stocked handguns, such as original semiautomatic Mauser "Broomhandles" and Lugers, have been removed from the purview of the NFA as collectors’ items." Then this, in the agency’s Firearms Curio and Relics List ATF Publication 5300.11, from December 2007: "SECTION III: Weapons Removed From The NFA As Collector’s Items And Classified As Curios Or Relics Under The GCA. The Bureau has determined that by reason of the date of their manufacture, value, design and other characteristics, the following firearms are primarily collector’s items and are not likely to be used as weapons and, therefore, are excluded from the provisions of the National Firearms Act. Further, the Bureau has determined that such firearms are also curios or relics as defined in 27 CFR 478.11. Thus, licensed collectors may acquire, hold, or dispose of them as curios or relics subject to the provisions of 18 U.S.C. Chapter 44 and 27 CFR Part 478. They are still ‘firearms’ as defined in 18 U.S.C. Chapter 44."

Our two test guns were on the curio or relics list, so they were exempt from the current NFA short-barrel regulations: "Browning Hi Power pistols, 9mm having tangent sights graduated to 500 meters, slotted for shoulder stock, having S/Ns less than T200,000 etched vertically on the right side of slide, barrel, or frame and bearing crest of Emirates of Muscat & Oman, or mirror image of such crest, accompanied by original detachable wooden flat board shoulder stocks. Canadian, Inglis No. 1, Chinese Contract, Hi Power pistols, cal. 9mm parabellum, having a tangent rear sight adjustable from 50 to 500 meters, slotted for shoulder stock, and having the letters C in the S/N and accompanied by original Canadian mfd. detachable wooden holster/shoulder stock." The second gun’s curio language describes it as: "Mauser, Model 1896 semiautomatic pistol accompanied by original German mfd. detachable wooden holster/shoulder stocks, all semiautomatic German mfd. variations produced prior to 1940, any caliber. Mauser, Pistol-Carbine, model 1896, 7.63mm, with shoulder stock and 11-3/4" to 16" barrel." Again, these are federal regulations, and your state’s laws may be more restrictive.


Unbelievable! My wife owns a Broomhandle, one of the commercial 9mms, and it is her favorite plinker. Every month, she looks through your magazine at all the new stuff and jokes, "Still haven’t reviewed the C-96, I see." Hers, with the 10-inch barrel, groups about 3 inches at 25 yards. One observation, however, is that you should have mentioned that the BATF does not in general approve of attaching a stock to a pistol. It gets murky with collectibles. The C-96, some Lugers, and the Hi-Power are OK if it is the original stock. In one "opinion" by the BATF, a German made C-96 can have a "faithful reproduction" stock. Spanish and Chinese made Broomhandles cannot.


—Bruce Krohn
Los Lunas, New Mexico

Re "Pocket-Sized 380 ACP Pistols: S&W, Taurus,

and Diamondback," January 2011

Enjoyed the article on the pocket 380s. However, you have not tested what I believe is clearly the best of the bunch, the Kahr P380. I have fired many of the small pocket 380s, and the Kahr P380 outperforms all of them, in my opinion. Would be very interested in seeing your opinion. —Bill Blackmore

We are looking at doing another 380 pistol matchup in 2011. Lots of interest in these guns. Another way we might do the comparison is to pit small-profile 9mms versus the small-profile 9mm Shorts. —Todd Woodard


The timing of your 380 ACP comparison was perfect. I recently sent my 380 Diamondback to the manufacture under warranty because of misfeeds. I put 100 rounds through the pistol hoping it would correct itself. After a good cleaning, I put another box of 50 rounds through the pistol with 12 misfeeds. I noticed the firing pin protruding on several of the misfeeds, with the rear of the casing becoming stuck under the firing pin, stopping the round from chambering. Other times, the casing would be caught under the ejector, not allowing the round to chamber. I tried several different types of rounds and brands.

Two weeks ago I got it back from the manufacturer, which stated the extractor spring had been changed. I thought that the firing pin must have had a burr, which would explain why it would not retract every time. But this was not addressed.

So, out to the target range to see if the problems had been rectified. Unfortunately, not! The first misfeed was under the ejector, and the second misfeed was under the firing pin. Then, I experienced a new problem. I thought I had miscounted when I pulled the trigger on the sixth and last round, but no bang. I ejected the sixth round, and the firing pin had lightly struck the round, leaving a small mark—but not enough to ignite the round. After the misfire, I took it back to the safe and picked up your latest issue. I was surprised that you were comparing this exact weapon, and that you were having the same problems. I, too, own the Body Guard and Taurus handguns, and I have not had any issues with either one.

I gave the Diamondback back to my dealer to send in one last time. Like you, I liked its accuracy, feel, concealability, and looks, but no one can sacrifice reliability when your life may depend on it. You gave it a D- and hoped that the company would fix the problems so it could be rescored. Well, on my gun, the first time they did not fix the problem, so I give it an F. I will follow up and let you know if they get it right this second time, because I am sure other readers would like to know. This is my first year to be a subscriber to Gun Tests, and I always look forward to the next issue. Good stuff.

—Sam Landers
Lafayette, Louisiana

Gents, starting with the old Woodsman, all my early autopistol experience was with single actions, and as a result I’ve never been able to figure out the fashion—can’t bring myself to call it a need—for DA autos, with their various and complex mechanisms and bad-to-indifferent triggers.

So when I read something like your review of the three 380 pocket pistols in the January 2011 issue, part of me always wonders why writers who know far more about guns than I’ll ever know simply accept DA as a given. To me it’s as odd as—well, suppose the "automatic revolver" concept had caught on in the early 1900s, and most revolvers now depended on recoil to rotate the cylinder! Our fathers rejected such unnecessary mechanical elaboration, and I claim DA autopistols belong in the same category.

For that matter I’ve always considered an exposed hammer superfluous on an automatic. Am I right in believing that Browning’s first design for what became the 1911 had a concealed hammer? Better if he’d stuck with it, I say. Give me simplicity: An autopistol should be an arm you carry with its concealed hammer cocked, and locked by a large positive thumb safety; its trigger pull should be short, crisp and the same for every shot.

Once every 10 years I have to get this off my chest. Thanks for all your good work.

—Bill Befort
Grand Rapids, Minnesota


Re "A Trio OF M14s: Springfield, Fulton

Armory, Polytech Custom," December 2010

The M14, aka M1A, was designed for the 7.62mm NATO cartridge (and NATO chamber) and not a 308 Winchester. These cartridges are different, the chambers are different, and in some cases ammunition not interchangeable. The M14, aka M1A, is also designed for a specific chamber and port pressure, with a narrow range. 308 Winchester ammunition in general is not appropriate for an M14, aka M1A, and in some cases unsafe. I can assure you that after 36 years of NRA High Power Rifle National Match shooting exclusively with both the 308 Winchester and 7.62mm NATO rifles, that brass preparation (due to chamber length) and powder selection (due to port pressure on the M1A) is very different and extremely important for long-term proper care of a M14, aka M1A. —Tom Struzzieri


Mr. Struzzieri, you are, of course, entirely correct. If anyone wants an all-purpose rifle to handle either or both of these very similar cartridges, it ought not to be a gas-driven semiauto such as the M14 variants. —Ray Ordorica


Re "Downrange," January 2011

There are more Brian Aitkens who now sit quietly in jail (and a few have done their time, too). These innocent gun owners, some of whom bravely risk their liberty, sacrifice so much for simply being in possession of a gun. You, the writers of a gun publication, should continue to ensure they are never forgotten. Sometimes a patriot is an innocent person who suffers in jail for something that should remind us of the Bill of Rights. So, thanks for mentioning Brian Aitken.

A while back, one of your readers told you he was not subscribing anymore because he’s too old and has too many guns. That was sad. I have too many guns, too. Gun Tests is the only publication I buy.

—Brock Barnes

Modern Tommy Gun

Does anyone make an AR or similar carbine, that is chambered for 45 ACP or 9mm? Add a drum magazine and we would have a modern-day Tommy Gun. If there are some, it might make for an interesting test.


­—Paul Etzler

Probably a better way to go is a conversion kit. We checked on Brownells.com to find Rock River AR-15 9mm upper receiver assemblies that sell for around $500. There’s an A2 kit (#739-000-012) and an A4 kit (#739-000-013) for the 9mm. But RRA offers complete rifles, too, in 9mm (LAR-9) and 40 S&W (LAR-40). Olympic Arms has several versions, including the K10 (10mm), K40 (40 S&W), K45 (45 ACP), and K9 (9mm). So there are plenty of rifle candidates. The drum magazine is trickier, since it has to adapt to the AR-15 magwell. Interesting idea, which the

Gun Tests readership probably has some leads on already. —tw


Why Always Comparisons?

Question for you: why is it that it always has to be a comparison of some sort in Gun Tests? Why can’t you do a straight-up gun test every once in a while, and let us know what you think? I was thinking specifically of the new Rossi Ranch Hand. I mean, what could you compare that to? I’d love to have one just for the fun of it, but I’m not sure I could justify having it just to keep in the safe. Speaking of Rossi, how about the Circuit Judge? A 410 shotgun you fire like a revolver. Sounds sweet. Also, the Kel-Tec PMR-30 semiauto 22 WMR that has a 30-round magazine. Would be interesting to know what you think of all these.

—Jim Leftwich
Columbus, OH


We occasionally do one-gun tests as Special Reports or as sidebars in comparisons of similar guns. We prefer to do comparisons because we’re looking for reasons to buy, or not buy, guns, and it can be difficult to make those decisions without context—that is, other guns in the class. —tw


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