Home >> Rifles >> ATF: Putting a Stock on an AR-15 Lower Does Not Make it a Rifle

ATF: Putting a Stock on an AR-15 Lower Does Not Make it a Rifle

AR-15 Receivers and Rifles at RAM Arms in DurhamMany hobby builders ask the question “when is my AR-15 lower receiver a rifle?” The answer is not what many internet forums and even some gun shop staff profess.

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:

ATF Letter on Lower Receiver as Rifle

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.

READ:   Government Actions Cause Citizens to Spend More on Shooting

The second page of the ATF’s official letter more directly answers our lead question:

AR-Receiver Letter-page2

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

About Rich

Rich Mitchell is the President and CEO of Anomalous Media and Editor-in-chief of Conservative Daily News. Rich is also a competitor in Skeet, sporting clays, 3-gun, Steel Challenge and USPSA.


  1. If an AR 15 reciever does not have a pistol grip would it be considered legal in CT?

  2. Great post! Have nice day ! 🙂 wctpt

  3. Can anybody verify this ATF letter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *