What is an SBR?
hope this finds you well. there was a recent article where a picture of confiscated firearms showed the presence of a 'Short Barreled Rifle' in this case an AR-15 with a barrel less than 16" and an OAL of less than 26". there seemed to be some confusion over the legality of the rifle in question, so I wanted to take a second to define it.
under federal law, an SBR is: 18 USC 921 :(a) As used in this chapter— (6) The term “short-barreled shotgun” means a shotgun having one or more barrels less than eighteen inches in length and any weapon made from a shotgun (whether by alteration, modification or otherwise) if such a weapon as modified has an overall length of less than twenty-six inches. ... (8) The term “short-barreled rifle” means a rifle having one or more barrels less than sixteen inches in length and any weapon made from a rifle (whether by alteration, modification, or otherwise) if such weapon, as modified, has an overall length of less than twenty-six inches.
27 CFR 478.11 : Short-barreled rifle. A rifle having one or more barrels less than 16 inches in length, and any weapon made from a rifle, whether by alteration, modification, or otherwise, if such weapon, as modified, has an overall length of less than 26 inches.
in the case of the picture shown, the rifle configured with a standard adjustable m4 style stock, and a short barrel constitutes an SBR, which is an NFA controlled item, and as such, is illegal to possess without a tax stamp and being registered with the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record (NFRTR.)
there is some confusion, it seems, as to one specific part too, when it comes to this class of gun: changing it out of the NFA governed configuration does not automatically remove it from the NFRTR, and as such, were it originally registered as an NFA item, and the parts removed, it would still have to be removed separately from the NFRTR to completely remove it from that purview.
so in summary, under federal law, an SBR is a rifle which has a barrel with a length of less than 16 inches and an OAL of less than 26, and is an NFA item registered with the NFRTR.
now california has it's own laws which pertain to SBRs:
As used in Sections 16530 and 16640, Sections 17720 to 17730, inclusive, Section 17740, Article 1 (commencing with Section 27500) of Chapter 4 of Division 6 of Title 4, and Article 1 (commencing with Section 33210) of Chapter 8 of Division 10 of Title 4, "short-barreled rifle" means any of the following:
(a) A rifle having a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length. (b) A rifle with an overall length of less than 26 inches. (c) Any weapon made from a rifle (whether by alteration, modification, or otherwise) if that weapon, as modified, has an overall length of less than 26 inches or a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length. (d) Any device that may be readily restored to fire a fixed cartridge which, when so restored, is a device defined in subdivisions (a) to (c), inclusive.
(e) Any part, or combination of parts, designed and intended to convert a device into a device defined in subdivisions (a) to (c), inclusive, or any combination of parts from which a device defined in subdivisions (a) to (c), inclusive, may be readily assembled if those parts are in the possession or under the control of the same person.
what this means is that even if you bought an AR pistol, and put a rifle stock on it, you've then created an SBR under CA and federal law.
even if the rifle were changed to have a 26" OAL it would still fall under the CA AW rules:
(a) Notwithstanding Section 30510, "assault weapon" also means any of the following: ... (3) A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has an overall length of less than 30 inches.
further People v Rooney essentially made the criteria for measurement more strict in CA than federal law, which states that the measurement is made with the stock closed, not open, so you cannot simply extend the stock and defeat the length requirements, nor can you simply go out of state, build the SBR and bring it back in, because while they may be federally legal and not SBRS, they fall under that criteria in CA.
it's important to note that SBRS require special tax stamps and permits under both state and federal law, and CA has constructive possession laws, so simply possessing a regular AR, and the short barrel, is enough to be a violation of the law, even if they aren't assembled, if you do not possess the subsequent 'ar pistol lower' ..meaning if you have the parts and put it on a rifle that was registered as a rifle, then you've created a short barreled rifle.
further, you cannot build an AR pistol in CA as it's considered 1) an assault pistol, and 2, when registering the lower in the DROS, it's registered as a long gun. technically sales of AR lowers fall under the category of 'long gun-other' and are registered as such, under california law, as it is not possible to purchase a frame for a pistol and construct one via parts, as it would fall under the category of unsafe pistol, meaning it is not certified by the state.
anyways, when approaching ARs and working with these short barrels be absolutely sure you're on the right side of the law, as , if it ever started life out as a rifle, you cannot put pistol parts on it, and similarly if it's a pistol configuration, you cannot legally put it into a rifle configuration.
as always,stay safe, train hard, and happy shooting.