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Short-barreled rifle (SBR) is a legal designation in the United States, referring to a shoulder-fired, rifled firearm with a barrel length of less than 16 inches (40.6 cm) or overall length of less than 26 inches (66.0 cm). In the United States, an SBR is an item regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) as an NFA firearm. In the absence of local laws prohibiting ownership, American civilians may own an SBR provided it is registered with the BATFE, and a $200 tax is paid prior to taking possession of or creating the firearm.
The regulation of short-barreled rifles was the result of the National Firearms Act of 1934 which also imposed restrictions on short barreled shotguns and machine guns. Originally handguns (and any other short, concealable firearm) were to be included as well. Thus, the reasoning for regulating SBRs and SBSs was specifically to prevent circumvention of the handgun restrictions via transforming a legally purchased rifle or shotgun into a much more concealable handgun. However, handguns were ultimately removed from the NFA prior to passing it, leaving behind the SBR and SBS regulations unintentionally since purpose-made guns of this kind were uncommon and had very little lobby interest. Many legal experts regard these regulations as obsolete artifacts of the old legislation, since handguns are both legal and widely available in the United States.
Overall length is measured between the extreme ends of the gun, along a centerline which passes through the middle of the barrel. For rifles fitted with folding or telescoping stocks (such as U.S. Carbine M1A1), US Federal guidelines state that measurement is made with the stock unfolded as intended for use as a rifle; exception is made for rifles with easily detachable shoulder stocks, which shall be measured with shoulder stock detached. Some states such as California and Michigan measure overall length with the stock folded. Barrel length is measured from the end of the muzzle to the front of the breechface, typically by inserting a measuring rod into the barrel. Barrel length may partially comprise a permanently attached muzzle accessory (such as a compensator or flash suppressor).
SBRs may be created by trimming down a larger rifle, by building a rifle with an original barrel shorter than 16 inches, or by adding a shoulder stock to a handgun which is fitted with a barrel shorter than 16 inches, thereby legally redefining it as a rifle rather than a handgun. Each of these processes must legally be accompanied by BATFE registration. Certain old handguns originally available with shoulder stocks, such as original broomhandle Mausers or Lugers, made before 1946, more likely to be valued as curios or relics than as weapons, have been removed from federal SBR restriction but may be restricted under local gun laws. Certain "trapper model" rifles originally factory-made before 1934 with barrels under 16 inches have similarly been removed from federal SBR restriction (the BATFE publishes a Curios and Relics List of models and serial number ranges). While SBRs on the Curio & Relic List are not "firearms" regulated under the 1934 National Firearms Act, they are still "firearms" regulated by the 1968 Gun Control Act.
In the United States, it is a federal felony to possess an SBR without paying a $200 tax to the BATFE. BATFE notification is required when transporting an SBR across state lines; this is accomplished by filing Form 5320.20 in advance of the travel date. One must be cautious not to take an SBR into a state where the SBR is prohibited. One can take an SBR through a state where the weapon is prohibited when on a direct route and have prior approval from the BATFE with a Form 5320.20. One must be careful not to take an SBR into international waters, as there is a proper procedure to return with the SBR to the United States.
Purchasing a short-barreled rifle is accomplished by filing a BATFE Form 4, Application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration of a Firearm, and paying a $200 tax. A short-barreled rifle must be transferred by a Class 3 or a Class 2 SOT dealer. When an individual wishes to build a short-barreled rifle, he or she must beforehand submit a completed BATFE Form 1, Application to Make and Register a Firearm, along with $200 for payment
- "US Code, TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 44 > § 921 > a > 8".
- BATFE Curio and Relic List.
- "International Travel with Class 3 Firearms".