Consumer Information

How to Build a Short-Barreled Rifle (SBR)

Add a stock and get your tax stamp returned and you have an SBR.

A short-barreled rifle or SBR is legally defined as a “shoulder-fired, rifled bore” firearm with a barrel shorter than 16 inches or a firearm that has an overall length of fewer than 26 inches. An SBR is considered a Title 2 restricted firearm. It falls under the 1968 Gun Control Act of the National Firearms Act. You will also hear these Title 2 restricted items called Class 3 weapons. A suppressor is also considered a Class 3 item.

A Title 2/Class 3 item is legal to own in most states, but it must be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE). The process of obtaining a Class 3 firearm requires paperwork, fees, and a lot of patience (for the waiting time while your request is processing).

SBR Paperwork

Before purchasing the items that are necessary to make your gun an SBR, you must first fill out an Application to Make and Register a Firearm form, called Form 1. This is your application to register your intent to build an SBR. If you already have all the pieces to make an SBR without filling out and receiving back the proper paperwork, you are in violation of the Gun Control Act and could be charged with unlawful possession of a Class 3 weapon, often referred to as constructive intent.

SAM7SFK-72 - 7.62x39mm caliber SBR

Filing Options

First, consider whether you will file your paperwork as an individual, trust, or corporation. If you file as an individual, the SBR only belongs to you. It requires passport photos, fingerprints, and a signature from a chief law enforcement officer. If you choose to have a trust or a corporation own the SBR, visit a lawyer who specializes in firearms law to legally set up a trust for you. A trust does not require photos, fingerprints, or a signature. There will be costs associated with creating a binding trust, but it is the best route to go if you are planning on owning more than one Class 3 weapon or item.

You must mail a $200 tax fee with your Form 1 application no matter which route you choose. The fee goes towards a “tax stamp” that shows you legally own the Title 2 firearm. A Form 1 is not very extensive and looks much like Form 4473 you fill out when buying a gun. Further, it comes with easy-to-read instructions.

Another form you must complete is the Certification of Compliance with 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(5)(B) that proves you are either a legal citizen or resident of the United States.

Other SBR Requirements

After the paperwork is received by the ATF, your information will be processed through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is the same system used when you purchase a firearm.

Your short-barreled rifle’s receiver must also have your name engraved on it. There are legal requirements on the depth of the engraving, so your local trophy shop might not match those requirements. I recommend using Ident Marking Services, but some local FFLs offer this service.

10.5” AR-15 SBR

A copy of your paperwork and tax stamp must be with your Class 3 weapon at all times. If you plan on crossing state lines with it, you must fill out the Application to Transport Interstate or to Temporarily Export Certain National Firearms Act (NFA) Firearms. You must have approval from the ATF before traveling with your SBR.

Conclusion: Owning an SBR

Receiving your paperwork and tax stamp is a slow process. However, have patience. Owning an SBR is worth it, not only for the fun factor, but it can make an excellent home defense gun.

The Century Arms Zastava PAP M92 pistol is ready to build into an SBR. All you have to do is add a stock. An AR pistol also makes a great option to convert into an SBR. With a stock, these firearms become Short-Barreled Rifles, but get your paperwork back from the ATF first!

Do you own an SBR? Tell us about it in the comments section.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in November of 2012. It has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and clarity.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (65)

  1. Don’t own a SBR…yet. Own a PPSh-43C replica. Have the parts needed to, after some machining which makes it legal to own the parts, will allow the existing “locked close” folding shoulder stock to be unlocked and unfolded. Planning on trying to go “amnesty and free stamp” route 1st and if rejected will then “pay” Uncle Sam his fees to complete my SBR.

  2. I SBR’d a Kalashnikov USA KP9 to put the folding stock on it and a Omega 9K suppressor. It was worth the investment and wait for the pleasure of being able to shoot without earpro outdoors on my acreage and store it nicely in a small package. Can’t thank the Kim Firm/KF Armory in Alpharetta, GA for the legal setup of trust and forms for making it easy to lawfully own what should be an ordinary right.

  3. I think your info is a little dated. Chief Law Enforcement signature is no longer needed. Also, each member of a trust needs fingerprints sent in. This was changed under the Obama administration, because of his criminals using trust propaganda. It was July 1st 2016 I believe.

  4. So what you guys are saying is that EVERBODY who owns a Legal AR-15 Pistol, AND a Legal AR-15 Rifle, are Felons for Creative Intent. Because they could easily take the buttstock off the Rifle, and put it on the Pistol, thereby creating a SBR at will. That is the most INSANE thing I have ever heard!!!!!!!!!

  5. Currently, to electronically file a form 1, your wait time is about a month if using a Trust.

    I have 4 SBRs and 2 cans.

  6. There are several errors in this How-to that will mislead someone new to the BATFE paperwork.
    The trust itself requires only a notarization to execute, but there must be a Form 5320-23 filled out for each responsible person named in the trust and that requires fingerprint cards and passport photos each time the trust applies for a tax stamp. The local Chief Law Enforcement Officer is only notified and no signature is involved.
    Your information is probably from the old, pre-2016 process for applying for an NFA firearm.
    Also, your status as a citizen or non-citizen is part of the Form 5320-1 application and there is no additional documentation required.
    An excellent reference can be found in the walk-through guides on the web site. They will walk you through the whole process.

  7. It’s my understanding that it’s legal to have all the parts to build a SBR as long as you don’t assemble before receiving your tax stamp. As for the engraved name and address on the receiver, I’ve been told that this is now longer necessary since you must have your paper work on hand when in possession of your SBR. If I’m wrong in my statement, please refer me to a site where this can be verified.


    1. Half right. No engraving needed. You can’t have the pieces before the stamp without committing a felony.

    2. Not true. Being that the only required part to turn your AR15 into a SBR is a Rifled Barrel that is less than 16″ long. It is legal to own the parts as long as they are not installed on a rife with a buttock. (i.e. AR15 Pistol) The moment you install the barrel onto a rifle with a buttock you are violation of the law.

  8. Great article. on Thanks for the info, you made it easy to understand. Just in case anyone needs to fill out a ATF forms, I found a blank forms in this site PDFfiller. This site also has some tutorials on how to fill it out and several related forms that you might find useful. Here is a link to the blank ATF form 4473 that I was able to fill out

  9. @gossipninja…

    Things to worry about in a gunfight…

    #1. Survive the gunfight.

    #2. Everything else….

    Seriously the mindset of some people is so flawed.

    1. The receiver is made by Century so the original manufacturer would be Century Arms or if made by someone else whoever’s name, city, state are stamped on the receiver.
      When we build AK’s from parts kits we are the manufacturer even though every part except the receiver comes from someone else.

  10. Thanks Eric! Excellent! That sounds more like the more detailed route my Class 4 manufacturer buddies go. (I’ll read the link when I get more time)

  11. Found it:

    The ATF procedure for measuring barrel length is to measure from the closed bolt (or breech-face) to the furthermost end of the barrel or permanently attached muzzle device. Permanent methods of attachment include full-fusion gas or electric steel-seam welding, high-temperature (1100°F) silver soldering, or blind pinning with the pin head welded over. Barrels are measured by inserting a dowel rod into the barrel until the rod stops against the bolt or breech-face. The rod is then marked at the furthermost end of the barrel or permanently attached muzzle device, withdrawn from the barrel, and measured.

  12. @Eric:
    Thanks for your barrel measurement specification. [Post #35] That will be very helpful to readers here. When I was in the market, was the bad old days, when there was little information, and even when their was, the agents and other law enforcement personnel just did it by guess work. It was always a hassle arguing with officials on these kind of things; but it was the reality of that time.

  13. To add to this though; it would probably be a good idea to carry some kind of identification with you to show you are an executor, co-executor, or some kind of officer of the corporation at all times you are transporting legal NFA weapons in any jurisdiction. This will keep you covered enough that at least tort law could get you satisfaction if some CLEO gets in a pissing contest with you.

    For those of you not familiar with this GCA -’86 term CLEO = Chief Law Enforcement Official – this can be anyone from a city attorney/chief of police to the head of the state investigation division, or even a Federal Law Official.

  14. Thanks Eric! That actually a pretty good idea, because otherwise you end up carrying a copy of your form 11 everywhere you go to prove the legality of your firearm. My family was thinking of doing that before we got rid of my mother’s NFA weapons, and it would have made it way better to keep them if she died. We already have an LLC in our family however, so we would only need a rider tacked on to do the same thing. An LLC is way better if you wan’t to shield yourself from these nasty liabilities that Liberal lawyers try to collar gun owners with. In fact, I’d never start another gun business without it.

  15. For anyone interested in the gun trust route, is offering a cyber Monday special of $299 for setting up a gun trust. You don’t get to ask extra questions (i.e. legal support) with this route, but you do get a gun trust. I have no affiliation with, I just happened to go by the website just now.

  16. Ric Antonio,

    I don’t know how big your bank is, but ACE folders seem to be pretty solid. There are others, but ACE has a modular system with several folding stocks to choose from, and probably makes a good starting point.

  17. JCitizen,

    The BATFE specifies how they measure barrel length in, I believe, the NFA handbook I gave the link to above. IIRC they put a dowel rod in the muzzle, push it in until it stops (against boltface), mark the rod at the muzzle, then withdraw the rod and measure to the mark.

    If it is not in the NFA Handbook, it is on the BATFE website someplace, probably in the FAQs.

  18. @Chris:
    Near as I know you are correct Chris – however almost every Class 4 manufacturer that I know always either machine or weld a flash suppressor onto the 16″ barrel to hedge their bets. It seems like some of them got in a pissimg match with the BATF over disagreements to where barrel length starts. Some of the clueless regulators were starting it at the mouth of the chamber and some of them where ever the receiver ended, etc., etc. I think you catch my drift.

  19. In reading some of the earlier post I see a remark that the Yugo PAP M92 is easily and read for SBR conversion. Does anyone have any thoughts regarding side folding stocks that aren’t cheap (flimsy), won’t break the bank, and look good on an SBR?

    Thanks Eric and Wzrd1 for your feed back on my question!

  20. noticed that the statement of = or lessthen 16″ is incorrect….it is less then 16″
    so barrels of 16″ are not an sbr….just sayen….
    am i wrong???

  21. @Ric Antonio, thanks as well. Knowledge is power. Knowledge of the law and how the BATFE misinterprets it is even greater power. 🙂
    I was busy reading the .pdf’s from that site, then a few other odd topics from BATFE.
    Might run a spider on the site, just to be sure I have the latest and a chronological list of changes.
    For, I learned a long time ago, trust no-one. Not even oneself. Get documentation.

  22. It is always good to keep in contact with your local state legislators; however – in my experience my local legislator, chief law enforcement officials, and even the local BATF agent, know very little about the NFA laws! I had better luck studying the law myself! However – usually your state NRA board should be familiar with at least one local state congressman/senator that does know quite a bit about the local laws. I’ve had much better luck contacting the NRA folks that are on the up and up, on who’s who in their home jurisdictions.

    I wish anyone checking on local law all the luck in the world – be sure to take most of what you find out with a grain of salt, because the ignorance is rife anywhere you go on this subject. Everyone in these positions are just as subject to the brainwashing that Hollywood and the news media put out there; just like non professional laymen. So keep an open mind and stay optimistic, because chances are, you will be right about your hunches, and they will be wrong.

  23. According to the NFA Gun Trust Blog, Nevada has no restrictions on NFA firearms.
    That said, the entry was from 2008. Another attorney site for Nevada also mentions the same, as long as one has one’s BATFE tax stamp for said weapon(s).

    Still, if you are a Nevada resident, you can check with your state representative for up to date information.

  24. Hi John;
    I wish I could help you, but Nevada law is something I know nothing about. Perhaps there others here that might send you in the correct direction?

  25. Ric Antonio,

    There is no doubt that you need ATF approval before you can legally possess ALL the parts to assemble an SBR. It is not a problem to have the pistol itself; but if you also have a stock that can be attached to the pistol, even if it is not attached, you are looking at “constructive possession,” which is illegal without the tax stamp and related paperwork.

    The ATF has published the National Firearms Handbook (as I understand it, at the urging of the NFA Trade and Collectors Association). It is an online handbook only, no paper copies. You can find it here:

  26. Ric:

    I see no reason why you couldn’t go ahead and file your paperwork – however, if you were to also own any Krinkov parts kits, you could be putting yourself in jeopardy if any overly zealous law enforcement were to misjudge your intent. As long as all you own is the pistol, and no shoulder stocks laying around – I can’t see any negatives.

  27. What if you already own a Zastava pistol, can you still file the tax stamp request and then aquire the rest of the SBR items after being approved? Just wondering because the article advised that you get approval before getting the parts, Is this stipulation a hard and fast rule or is there an allowance for those of us that have the pistol?

  28. @ SplitHoof-I wholeheartedly agree with your statement,and if the pundits are right in their estimates, Obama may have the oppurtunity in his 2nd term to appoint at least 2 more Supreme court judges.If they are as liberal as the ones he has already appointed,then the 2nd admendment is in trouble.It scares me to no end that we could have a Supreme court that feels our constitution is outdated and needs to be totally revised.

  29. I agree with what you are saying but I live in two states. I have a Nevada ID because I have a California DL. I want to know what is the law when it comes to Nevada??? I would and I do like to build my own Ar’s myself. The are a great fun and very clean if you know how to build. I am just a person that wants to do a short barrel for a 9mm round or my choice a .45 round. If you have any info on that on the Nevada side if this talk please feel me in before I start to buy everything then get shut down in the last steps of the build. Thank you for the info so far. John Sarno.

  30. I fear that you are right about court appointments. In my view, that will be the most far reaching aspect of His Majesty’s Second Installment. It may take many years to reverse the damage that I fear is heading our way.

  31. The interesting thing about California and other states that try to totally prohibit NFA weapons, is that if anyone would bring suit against them, and go all the way to the Supreme Court, they would lose under the Commerce clause. Every time this has happened it has been this same result.

    That is – unless Obama gets more liberal jurists appointed to the court.

  32. I’m no lawyer, but my reading of the ruling on the ATF website regarding length requirements for a non-Class 3 rifle is that the barrel length must be 16″ or greater. The ruling states that a weapon with a barrel length less than 16″ is considered a NFA Class 3 firearm. The CTD author above has interpreted the rule to state that barrel lengths of 16″ or less are considered Class 3, incorrectly in my opinion. The following link contains the ATF ruling from 04-2011:

  33. John,
    I am very sure that a private California resident is totally prohibited from constructing, having possession of, or owning any SBR or for that matter, any suppressor (the entertainment industry does in fact have methods whereas they may have these). An individual employed by an authorized government agency can be issued such items, but those items remain the property of that agency, and subject to their strict policies. If anyone else out there knows this to be incorrect, please cite some examples.

  34. One minor correction…
    Legally your local trophy shop CANNOT perform NFA engraving of a registered receiver. Under [27 CFR 478.11] this is defined as gunsmithing and subsequently requires a federal firearms license.

    Also ensure that the method of engraving meets the minimum dimensional & depth requirements. Most CO2 lasers are not sufficient & although they may deliver a nice end result, they only etch the surface. A fiber laser or a rotary bit cnc type engraving machine will give the best results and keep you legal.

    We at Armor-Hyde perform a number of NFA markings for our region (Louisville, KY) and we are a licensed FFL.

  35. Tim, the other advantages of a trust are: Any member of the trust can lawfully use the NFA weapon with out the supervison of the purchaser. This allows you to pass the weapon on to your children, provided they are leagally allowed to possess the item in question(ie proper age and such). It also allows you to share items with friends that are in the trust. Also, the background check is run on the trust, not the members.

  36. Tim,
    If your firearm is owned by a trust or corporation, you can make your children, grandchildren, etc. members of that corporation. As such, they would then be partial owners of the firearms subject to the policies of the corporation. When you die, the other members of the corporation can elect a new CEO and determine policies after that. So the corporation is a great way to allow others to legally use your firearms or pass them down to successive generations with minimal paperwork. The easiest thing to do is to establish an LLC. Since you can also use a LLC to shield your personal assets from liabilities arising out of business, it is a good idea anyways. If you are likely to get sued for your business activities, then you might want a separate LLC for your firearms just so that you can’t have those taken from you as the result of legal action agains the corporation. A corporation looks like a living person in the eyes of the law, but can go on indefinitely until the corporation is dissolved. Also, doing this process with a LLC and a gun trust keeps your name off the ATF and local LE radar.

  37. I’ve seen several articles about getting class 3 firearms. What I want to know is how to comply with laws after you own one. I’ve read that you have to register every place you are going to use, or stay over with your SBR. I’ve also been told that ain’t true. If I go to a range, or stay in a hotel etc. do I have to file paperwork to do so?

  38. What are the advantages to the trust or corporation other than those already stated. I am buying class 3 weapons mainly for investment and legacy purposes. If those items are owned by a trust or corporation is it easier to sell them or pass them down to future generations? Thanks for the information, it’s all very helpful.

  39. Build your SBR with a pistol stock amd 6 months later when you receive your paper work ( TAX Stamp) then replace the rifle stock of your liking on and your good to go!
    No need to lay idol when you could be playing….

  40. I can’t vouch for Zastava, but many of these partially foreign made pistols/rifles are actually either totally built in the US completely of US made parts, or largely built in the US and have very few foreign parts. This has become quite common since the regulation you mention first came out, but was partially sunset since then.

    I have owned cless 3 firearms in the past and I always won every argument I had with the BATF of that day. I’m a little rusty now, but I could always catch up on the ’86 law pretty easily. Fortunately our state overwhelmingly put our regulations directly in line with the Federal guidelines I was already familiar with, so it is easier for me to remain compliant for the future(providing Obama harassment doesn’t increase)

  41. If you built a .338 AR, a .45 ACP is trivial.
    The .338 stresses a weapon frame far more than a mere .45 ACP round by a LOT.
    As in jackhammer stresses vs an engineer hammer stresses.

  42. I want to thank for this info on what you need to built a short barrel AR. I’m looking into building a short barrel .45 cal short barrel Semi auto AR–15. I would like to get more info on the short barrel. I built an AR-15 Semi Auto already and an AR-.338. But I want so bad to build the AR-15 in a .45 caliber. So please if you could send me as much info on this build and how I can make it legall. Sincerely yours John Sarno

    John E. Sarno
    802A Bidwell St.
    Folsom Ca. 95630

  43. @gossipninja, that is pure, distilled BS.
    Let’s review the “case” you outline.
    “So, there my client’s family member was, earning a hard earned living as a murdering, raping, burglar and he was gunned down by OBSCENE firepower of (whateverinhell you used) in his own home, which should be sacrificed at the MINIMUM of show of force of presence of an intruder!”
    I grew UP in a duty to retreat state where such trials ended at initial stages with the jurist.
    The ONLY time there is a problem is if the idiot is on the ground and you shoot them.

    CAN there be a nuisance trial? Yes, it’s also a recoverable injury, as one begins a counter case naturally. YOU recover all expenses, they eat dust and pay out every cent to pay for your inconvenience.
    Does THAT remedy work well? Not well, but well enough. As such things have only RARELY went to get to even have a judge KNOW about the case, let alone a jury.
    And frankly, use a 2×4, baseball bat, 9mm, 155mm howitzer, no difference in a nuisance suit. The only way to avoid it is to give your family and home and life to them, on those occasions.
    YOUR notion is a rejection of self-defense. A totally unnatural “defense” in any nation of this planet.

  44. As for the 922(r) compliance don’t quote me on this but it would be something to look at. Once you “MAKE” an SBR by filing the form 1 with the ATF you are the Manufacturer therefore it might be argued that that SBR is manufactured in the USA then not requiring 922(r) compliance at all. Maybe.

  45. So in trying to answer my own question from other sources, it appears that the answer is “yes, 922(r) compliance (the “10 foreign parts”) is required if you convert a pistol made of foreign parts into a SBR.”

    The preponderance of my reading seems to indicate that once a object becomes a “rifle” then all the regulations pertaining to “rifle” apply. If it is a short-barreled rifle, then NFA rules apply in addition to, not in place of. Thus if you build a rifle that could not normally be imported because of the “non-sporting purposes” BS, you must have no more than 10 foreign parts from the regulation-specified list.

    Thus the sentence from the article “The Century International Arms Zastava PAP M92 pistol is ready to build into an SBR. All you have to do is add a stock” is true on its face, but it would not be a legal rifle to own, even with ATF approval for a SBR.

    I would love to find out I am wrong on this, but it doesn’t appear so, and the article should give readers a heads-up on this issue.

  46. I don’t think it matters what you use, you’re going to get sued period. I’ve heard the tales of using HP and or handloads would get you in more hot water from the opposing attorney, but the reality is that it has not been used in a case.

    Factory ammunition should be used because it’s all new components done by professional. It’s more reliable and has been tested more than any home reloaded could get close to.

  47. I would caution against using an SBR or any non-factory, non-standard firearm for home defense. Even with castle doctrine in many states, you are typically not shielded from civil liability if you need to defend yourself or your family. If you are sued, all choices you make will be questioned.

    I was always told to use factory ammo that says “personal defense” on it as scumbag lawyers have successfully screwed over honest citizens in “wrongful death” claims saying they used the wrong ammo. -Oh you used FMJ that is military ammo for killing, oh you used reloads, you made custom “killer bullets,” Oh you used hollow points, Aren’t those the same as CopKiller bullets? –
    Yeah most gun owners know it is total BS but the sheeple do not. Heck many people think all AKs and ARs are Full-Auto and can mow down a shopping mall in one swing of the arm.

  48. Taking the Zastava M92PV pistol as an example: if one files the legal documents necessary to add a stock and make it an SBR, does one run into any 922r compliance issues? As far as I know, 922r compliance is not an issue for pistols, so this pistol is composed completely Zastava (foreign) parts, is it not? Does the compliance requirement come into effect if it is converted to an SBR?

    I sincerely hope the answer is no, but do you know for sure?



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