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Does 922(r) apply when building an SBR from an imported pistol?

John Pierce

Staff member
May 5, 2006
I received a call last week from a client who was planning to SBR a swiss pistol and wanted to know whether the US-made parts requirement of 922(r) would apply.

His concern is understandable since this is yet another area where the ATF seemingly changes their opinion with each letter they issue.

So what is 922(r)? When people refer to 922(r), they are actually referring to the requirements of 18 USC 922(r) and 27 CFR 478.39.

These requirements are part of the Gun Control Act of 1968 which makes it a crime “for any person to assemble from imported parts any semiautomatic rifle or any shotgun which is identical to any rifle or shotgun prohibited from importation under section 925 (d)(3) of this chapter as not being particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes.”

To see if a build based upon an imported pistol would be covered let’s break down the elements of this offense. In order for a build to be prohibited it must:

Result in a semiauto rifle or shotgun …
Which is identical to any rifle or shotgun prohibited from importation under 18 USC 925(d)(3) as not suitable for sporting purposes.
Since we are presumably talking about a semiauto pistol, any resulting short-barreled rifle will satisfy the first requirement. That leaves us with the question of whether the resulting SBR is ‘identical to any rifle or shotgun prohibited from importation under 18 USC 925(d)(3)‘.

Among other things, 18 USC 925(d)(3) says that a firearm is prohibited from importation if it meets the definition of firearm in 26 USC 5845(a) and in that code section we find that SBRs are in fact prohibited from importation.

Therefore … it seems clear that 922(r) does apply when building an SBR from a pistol.

However … even the ATF has not always held this position. In a 1994 letter we find the following:

Read the rest of the post (with embedded copies of the ATF letters) at My Law Practice Blog


Jan 14, 2012
earth's crust
ATF letters have no legal affect. Rely on them at your own risk.

I read the ones in the linked web page.

Classic gov't ...