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Interesting guide, at the ATF site. I note that there’s not pretty little picture of a handgun with vertical grip.

12 Responses to “AOWs”

  1. Tam Says:

    I promise I will contribute to your defense fund if you put a VFG on a pistol and post up a picture.

  2. SayUncle Says:

    I’m in Tennessee. I’d win the court battle. But it’s not worth the hassle and money.

  3. Paul Says:

    The ATF use the ‘need to know’ rule. You only need to know about the vertical grip rule if you break it.

    Then they will tell you as they raid your house at 2 AM in the morning.

  4. John Smith. Says:

    Of course you would win. Problem is the atf would go on ignoring the law since this was settled long ago…

  5. John Smith. Says:

    They try to make things simplistic on those pages. I would love to see them put the shoestring machine gun explanation up….

  6. Sigivald Says:

    It’s “any other weapon” because the GCA defines a “handgun” (eg. pistol) as a firearm “… designed to be held and fired by the use of a single hand”.

    (See here for ATF’s letter on VFGs, which references 18 USC 921 and 26 USC 5845.)

    Combine that with 26 USC 5845 defining AOW as “The term “any other weapon” means any weapon or device capable of being concealed on the person from which a shot can be discharged through the energy of an explosive…” and “…Such term shall not include a pistol…”, and you get “pistol + VFG = AOW”.

    Since such a thing is “not meant to be held and fired by the use of a single hand” and is also “concealable on the person…”.

    I think the reason that the ATF doesn’t mention it there is that it’s outside of the mindset of “stuff that actually gets made as an AOW and sold as one” – pistol + VFG isn’t exactly common.

    It’s a minor omission, and not actually telling. The law, for once, really does say what the ATF says it does, on this one.

    (Uncle: Is there some TN precedent here I’m unaware of that makes the US Code not apply?

    It sure looks like a VFG on a pistol really would make it fit the US Code definition of an NFA-regulated AOW.)

  7. SayUncle Says:

    been a few court cases where judges ruled that something is not an AOW just because ATF says it is.

  8. Will Says:

    The Beretta 93R has a factory fore-grip on it. Being select-fire, I assume it doesn’t need an AOW clasification, even though it is a pistol?

  9. Sigivald Says:

    Uncle: Indeed – but it sure seems like in this specific case it would be an AOW under the plain text of the US Code.

    It is, after all, “concealable on the person” and “from which a shot can be discharged”, and with the foregrip presumably not “intended to be held and fired with one hand” (otherwise, what’s the grip FOR?).

    That would seem to definitely make it an AOW.

    Will: Correct, it’s a machine-gun under the NFA, and thus not an AOW.

  10. Paul Says:

    Say isn’t something ‘inteneded’ supposed to be what the shooter ‘intends’ to do with the weapon?

    A vertical foregrip CAN be used two handed, but so can a regular pistol with only it’s single grip.

    But an awful lot of people, including LEOs, train to shoot with TWO HANDS ON THE GUN. So are they all AOW cause they INTEND on using two hands on the gun?

    And say, were not the first pistols ever made so big they had to use two hands to hold them?

    But of course, logic isn’t an ATF strong suit as evidence by their gun running activities.

  11. Geodkyt Says:

    Paul, that’s not quite accurate.

    First, a “pistol” or “revolver” has _A_ grip below and at an angle to the axis of the bore. ATF says that the word “a” means that Congress intended the singular only.

    Second, even though a “pistol” or “revolver” MAY be shot with two hands for more stability, it is designed to be held and fired with one hand. Just as your typical rifle is designed to be fired offhand, but MAY be benchrested.

    Third, the earliest pistols do not even qualify as guns under federal gun control laws (although, when used as a weapon, they may be classed as guns for the purposes of other crimes — an empty squirtgun is a “gun” if you use it to rob a bank).

    Fourth, you are confusing “handgonne” with “handgun”. The original handgonnes meant ANY gun that a man could readily lift and fire, inclduing what were basically 1″ + bored cannons mounted on poles. That would be why they were also called “handcannons”.

    Fifth, even if some odd variations that turn up in the past are considered as if they were modern metallic cartridge guns (and thus considered guns under federal gun control laws), they generally would end up being classed as “Short Barrelled Rifles” or “Short Barrelled Shotguns”, with quite a few meeting the definition of “Destructive Device”. Yes, I have seen photos of what looks like a sawed off wall gun with a pistol grip, that would have taken two hands to lift and aim. It probaly WAS a sawed off blunderbuss or wallgun — and was likely being used as a swivel gun at sea, not a handheld gun. Nor would I consider it either a “pistol” nor truly “concealable”.

  12. Tam Says:


    The Beretta 93R has a factory fore-grip on it. Being select-fire, I assume it doesnt need an AOW clasification, even though it is a pistol?

    When it comes to tax stamps, full-auto is trump. A machine gun is any gun that “shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.” It doesn’t matter how long or short the barrel is or whether it’s smoothbore or rifled, or whether it has a shoulder stock or not.

    All that being said, I think there are only, like, three transferrable 93Rs in the country anyway, so the point is sorta moot. 😉

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