Gun customization and personal modifications are very popular. So, the common questions are:
“What can you do to your own firearm?”
“Is customization of your firearm legal?”
“What can or can’t you modify?”
“What is the law regarding suppressors, binary triggers, ghost guns, and bump stocks?”
Let’s dive into those questions.
It is perfectly legal to customize your own firearm with certain exceptions. You can’t make changes to an existing, unregistered firearm that would turn that firearm into a National Firearms Act item, unless you properly register the firearm to be modified with the ATF and pay the tax before it’s modified.
Modifying a Short Barrel Firearm
Under both federal and Georgia law, short-barreled shotguns, known as sawed-off shotguns in Georgia, have a barrel length less than 18 inches and an overall length less than 26 inches. A short-barreled rifle is any rifle with a barrel length less than 16 inches and an overall length of less than 26 inches. Short-barreled firearms are popular to modify and to build. An individual can do this if they properly registered the firearm to be modified into a short-barreled firearm with the ATF and paid the tax before it’s modified. Once approved, a person may alter or produce a short-barreled firearm and must engrave any legally required information on the receiver of the firearm such as manufacturer, location, etc.
A customizable alternative to a short-barreled rifle is the AR pistol. AR pistols may have the look of an NFA registered firearm, such as a short-barreled rifle, but maintain the legal definition of a pistol by virtue of design. While they have a barrel length of less than 16 inches and an overall length less than 26 inches, because the firearm is designed to be fired with one hand, it is considered a pistol, not a rifle. In designing an AR pistol, recent decisions of the ATF indicate you may have a barrel well short of the mandatory 16 inches and customize your AR pistol by adding a folding or telescoping arm brace.
With such configuration, you can even fire the pistol from the shoulder without redefining that pistol as a rifle. However, adding a rifle stock or a vertical foregrip to the pistol would reclassify it as a short-barreled rifle and require filing for an NFA tax stamp. Now, I can’t stress this enough: be very careful modifying AR pistols.
Suppressors, Binary Triggers, and Ghost Guns
What about suppressors? It’s lawful to purchase and to possess them with a tax stamp. Binary triggers? Not an NFA item, but some states have banned them at the state level. Binary triggers are lawful in Georgia. What about ghost guns? Those are pistols or rifles made from parts or kits that have no serial number. So long as they otherwise do not fall within the definition of an NFA item, ghost guns are lawful to make and use so long as the builder does not sell the gun.
As of March 26, 2019, it is a violation of federal law to possess a bump stock. Those who possessed a bump stock on that date were required to surrender them to the ATF or to destroy them. Failure to comply with this new rule is a federal offense punishable by up to 10 years in federal prison and up to a $250,000 fine for each bump stock in your possession.
So, here’s the long and the short. You can customize and modify your firearms, but you must be very careful when doing so. Know the law and its limitations. For any other questions regarding customizing your firearms, please call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.
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