According to letters from the ATF Firearms Technology Branch, the division responsible for answering technical questions on ATF regulations and firearms law, a lower receiver only becomes a rifle once a rifled barrel is placed upon it.
First, the original question and some definitions:
Let’s understand the question, which paraphrased is “Can someone take an AR-15 lower receiver that has a shoulder stock on it, but has never been made into a full rifle, and use it to build a pistol?”
This question is directly related to whether or not a complete lower receiver (an AR-15 lower receiver with a shoulder stock, that has never been made into a rifle) is a rifle or still considered just a receiver or “Other” firearm.There are specific requirements for making a “weapon made from a rifle” which requires a lot more paperwork. So if the receiver is a receiver, you just buy it and build it, but if you are making a pistol from a rifle – that’s re-making or re-manufacturing the firearm.
The second page of the ATF’s official letter more directly answers our lead question:
The last full paragraph spells it out – “Further, the stocked receiver described in your question is not a rifle as defined in Federal firearms statutes because it never contained an attached rifled barrel.
Put simply, until the receiver has an attached rifled barrel, it is not a rifle. That leaves a lower receiver that has never had a rifle upper attached to it as a receiver or “other” firearm. The receiver can then only be transferred to an individual in accordance with federal, state and local laws concerning receivers.
Federal law requires receivers/AOW (any other weapon) to follow these rules:
- Cannot be transferred to anyone under the age of 21
- Must be transferred to a citizen of the state in which the transfer takes place