Beretta 92 - Langdon Kit

Langdon Tactical’s Beretta 92 “Trigger Job in a Bag”

Beretta 92As a child growing up during the 80s, it’s no surprise my first “gun crush” (and likely MANY others like myself) was a Beretta 92. Martin Riggs and John McClane did for Berettas what “Dirty Harry” Callahan did for S&W Model 29s. It wasn’t until relatively recently that I finally picked up one. Now, there are three in my safe. They seem to multiply.

My first Beretta was a 92G. Anyone will tell you, once you go “G”, you never go back. For those of your not familiar, on “G” models the safety lever acts only as a decocker. When my father passed away, I inherited his M9A1. It was completely stock and I intended to leave it that way.

After a while the thumb safety started bugging me, so I order the “G” conversion kit. While I was at it, I figured I’d drop in the seemingly-mandatory “D” spring as the factory trigger pull, well… stunk. And while I was at it, might as well bling it up with some Wilson Combat grips, steel guide rod.

So much for keep it stock!

About this time Ernest “Ernie” Langdon with Langdon Tactical Technologies came out with his Trigger Job In A Bag. Touted as equivalent to 90 percent of his custom gunsmith work, it had my attention. When it comes to gunsmithing, Ernie is to Berettas what Bruce Gray is to SIGs. For $165, it was almost a no-brainer decision.

Langdon Tactical’s Beretta 92 Kit Includes:

  • Wilson Combat Ultimate Trigger bar
  • Elite II hammer
  • Sear
  • Sear Spring
  • Trigger Spring
  • Hammer Strut
  • Wilson Combat Reduced Power Mainspring of your choosing. (12, 13, & 14 pound are the standards options listed – I went with the 12 pound spring.)

Beretta 92 - Langdon Kit(The trigger bar, hammer, hammer strut, and sear come pre-polished and stoned.)

I’ll be honest, before the kit showed up, the extend of my gunsmithing skills had been installing Apex Tactical trigger kits into M&Ps and the occasional deep Glock cleaning. I was a little… anxious, you might say about taking the Beretta all the way apart. However, watching Ernie’s YouTube installation video and one or two others made installation a breeze. I’d venture to say that Berettas are one of the easier pistols out there to work on. Start to finish, installation took me about 45 minutes – and that was including multiple rewinds of the videos.

Langdon Tactical lists the expected trigger pull weights post-install with their corresponding mainspring weight as:

Double Action:

11# : 5.3 to 6 pounds
12# : 5.6 to 6.4 pounds
13# : 6.3 to 7 pounds
14# : 7 to 7.5 pounds
16# : 7.2 to 8 pounds

Single Action: between 3.5 and 4 pounds.

Installation Results – Beretta 92 with Langdon Tactical’s “Trigger in a Bag”

I decided to go with the 12 pound mainspring since shoot the pistol in IDPA. (It’s been stated that you can potentially run into primer ignition issues if you go below 12 pounds.)

I’m here to tell you, his kit isn’t 90 percent of a custom trigger job; it’s more like 98 percent! If you own a Beretta 92, you need to buy this kit!

The double action pull came in at 6.8 pounds, and single action was exactly 3.5 pounds. This was down from the factory pulls of 11.3 pounds and 6.6 pounds, respectively. There was zero, and I do mean zero, stacking in double action mode. To say it was smooth would be an understatement. The single action pull with crisp and clean, with no over-travel.

One thing I didn’t mention was that my 92G was worked on by another well-known Beretta gunsmith, and I’ve shot a few “slicked up” ones as well. I’m here to tell you, LTT’s “Trigger Job In a Bag” is literally a close as you can get to a custom trigger job, without having to ship your pistol off. Yes, it’s that good!

On top of that, it’s probably the best value for a trigger job out there. Just to give you an idea of what an insane deal this is, the parts and springs alone come to almost $130. So for an extra $35, you’re getting professionally polished parts from the leading expert out there on Berettas. I’ll take that every day of the week and twice on Sundays!

Just like Apex triggers kits are “must haves” for my M&Ps, Langdon Tactical’s “TJIAB” is now a “must have” for any future Beretta. If you own a Beretta, you really owe it to yourself to pick one of these up. Trust me, you won’t sorry.

Closer Look – Grayguns P-PAK Self Defense version

More than two years ago, Grayguns released their first action enhancement drop-in kit. It was designed for the SIG Sauer® P-Series traditional double action (DA/SA) pistols. Bruce Gray wanted to provide buyers an excellent “trigger job” without having to send the pistol off to the team in Oregon.

The introduction of the original P-Series Perfection Action Kit (P-PAK) was very well received. It led to a relationship with SIG Sauer where Bruce’s P-Series Precision Adjustable Intermediate Trigger was included in the inaugural launch of SIG’s Legion pistol series. The trigger was provided to SIG by Grayguns and installed in all DA/SA Legion pistols including the P229, P220 and P226 manufactured prior to last summer. Newer models have the same trigger design, licensed to SIG, and manufactured by SIG.

Last fall, Grayguns released the second generation P-PAK. It was redesigned from the ground up to incorporate SIG’s short reset trigger system. The kit’s price was also reduced, and a variety of options are available. First, you can select from a competition or self defense version. The primary difference is the sears, but the competition kit also includes a couple of performance spring updates.

Next up is your trigger. The kit will work with the stock SIG trigger that comes with your pistol. Many will want to take advantage of one of three options to suit your own preference.

You can select the same trigger provided with the Legion pistols featuring over-travel adjustability (P-SAIT), the Dual Adjustable Straight Trigger or the Dual Adjustable Curved Trigger.

Kits can be installed by enthusiasts familiar with the pistol’s inner workings. OpSpec Training features an armorer’s DVD that will help you with the installation. You can also have a local SIG armorer install the package.

As I mention in the video, the real benefit after installation is the smooth and lighter double action pull. Any stacking or hesitation previously experienced is pretty much gone.

The most expensive part of the kit is the hammer. It’s a beautifully machined part designed to last a lifetime that is obviously expensive to manufacture. The hammer does help a bit with smoothness, but for those looking for a less expensive option, Grayguns is offering their Short Reset Trigger (SRT) Kit. The SRT Kit – like the P-PAK – is designed to reduce reset travel by 70 percent when matched with a Grayguns trigger. It comes with the self-defense version of the sear and again, you can select the trigger based on your preference.

The Self Defense or Competition Kit is available at the Grayguns website for $240, with triggers available between $39 and about $50. The SRT Kit is $70.

P-PAK Gen2 Video Review

Simunition Training

Simunition training, where the rubber meets the road

For longer than I probably care to admit, I thought I had a good grasp of what I’d do if the SHTF. Some of you may have thought the same thing, or heard the proverbial lines “If someone breaks into my house I’m gonna (insert tactics here)…” or “If I get into a gunfight I’ll…”

I’m here to tell you, unless it’s actually happened to you, you have no idea. Outside of armed combat, I’d offer the next best thing is Simunition® training.

Simunition TrainingFull disclosure, I’m high drag, low speed and have never pulled a gun in anger in my life. I shoot competitively and would consider myself a decent shot. That being said, my first sims class was an eye-opening experience. It’s all fun and games until you have to go up against the likes of Jerry Jones, Michael Wray, and Bruce Gray – and oh yeah, they get to shoot back at you!

If you’ve never heard of or experienced force-on-force training with non-lethal training ammunition, think paintball on steroids. Sims uses conversions kits of real life pistols/rifles and a proprietary marking round. They are very accurate at distance, and trust me, you’ll know if you get hit.

Inside Simunition Training

My first sims class was right after I joined the OpSpec ranks. It consisted of five scenarios, all based off of actual real-world situations. While I don’t want to give away too much (and the curriculum has changed a bit), I can tell you that skinning the smoke-wagon isn’t always the best choice. No one wants to hear “Congratulations, you’re going to jail for shooting an unarmed man.”

The force-on-force portion of the class built on two days of learning “tactics” – how to slice the pie, conventional and unconventional shooting positions, light discipline and the like. The culmination of these two days ends with you against two SWAT operators and a multi-time international shooting champ, who’s also a deputy sheriff.

As I mentioned before, not every problem is solved with the gun. It’s more a “thinking” class than a “shooting” class. The motto of our class was “Stupid Should Hurt.” If you were stupid (not applying what you were taught), the hurt would come in the form of catching a sim round or two.

What was amazing was the things I did not do. I vividly remember my first round in the shoot house. Sight alignment and trigger control went right out the window. In a world where you’re held accountable for every round that leaves your firearm, that’s not a good thing. As things progressed, you get a little used to it. But some of those “oh here’s what I’ll do” things just didn’t happen – I was too dealing with the adrenaline, my heart going 180 bpm, trying to process things, all while trying to avoid being shot. I’ll say it will give you a newfound respect for first responders and combat veterans.

As a minor aside, one thing that has stuck with me over all these years is just how heavy a fully loaded Glock 19 can be. Holding it out at arm’s length for 10+ minutes while clearing a shoot house makes a 30oz gun feel like 50lbs.

Honestly, I’m quite surprised force-on-force classes aren’t more popular. I personally think it’s one of  the best training classes anyone who carries a gun can take.

Find out for yourself.

The Myth of Trigger Finger Placement

“What difference does it make if it means you can press the trigger straight to the rear?” I have never found a reason to doubt Jerry Jones, but just for a second, I thought he couldn’t be right.  We all know that the middle of the first pad of the index finger is the only place the trigger can be properly indexed, right?  Still, I had the data points backing Jerry’s argument from my range time that very day.  The proof was on the paper.  Using what would be considered by many as an incorrect trigger finger placement, I tightened my groups substantially.   After decades of intellectual inertia, I gave myself permission to experiment.

I started by using the largest (and least comfortable) grips on my M&P pistols.  Then, I pushed my finger in on the trigger to nearly the first knuckle and found success.  With this in mind, I went to a snubby revolver school taught by Chuck Haggard at the Rangemaster Tactical Conference.  Chuck went as far as to encourage students to use the first knuckle of the firing digit to properly execute a trigger press on those tiny wheelguns.  I went even further and used the second (middle) phalanx  of my index finger.  The results were amazing.  I could suddenly shoot a J-Frame revolver at 12 yards almost as accurately as I could a duty pistol.

Granted, this article will likely give some readers an old-fashioned case of the vapors, but consider this:  Were everyone the same, instructors could teach shooting techniques like the imagination-deprived architects of seemingly every new middle-class, cookie-cutter housing addition.  However, the human design does not allow for that luxury.  Consider yours truly as an example.  I am slightly less than 74 inches tall with a 36 inch inseam and my, “wingspan” is 79 inches.   From finger tip to fingertip, I am five inches wider than I am tall…and I ain’t exactly short.   My hands are very large.  In fact, I have never met another human being with hands longer than mine who wasn’t at least five or six inches taller than me.  Considering all this and that firearms aren’t generally designed for lower primates, isn’t it possible that what works for less malformed folks doesn’t work for me?

I know.  I know.  “It works for me,” is an expression widely criticized by firearms and use of force experts, but I don’t think that is an appropriate assessment of what we’re discussing here.  The simple fact is that using, “too much” trigger finger does, indeed, work for me.  It may very well work for you, too.  If your trigger control isn’t exactly what you want it to be, experiment a little with your finger placement.

Be safe and appropriately dangerous.

Policy Regarding Single Stack Pistols In Advanced Classes- Effective 01/01/2018

There has been much conversation of late about  single stack and M1911 style pistols in our advanced classes.  This conversation was driven by several events in some of our advanced classes that led to questions being asked about suitability.  Several problems arose due to reliability issues, due to capacity, and lack of familiarity on the part of the end user.

Most of our advanced classes are built around double stack 9mm pistols.  Some strings of fire require upwards of 80 rounds.  This requires a lot of reloading and often takes away from what the student is tasked with learning in the particular string.  Due to this, we gave a lot of thought about the suitability of single stack pistols in our APOC, APM, and MOAC classes.

Then a student came along with a single stack 9mm M1911 in a recent class.  He was a true student of the gun.  He brought enough magazines to finish the courses of fire.  During lunch and at night he was cleaning and lubricating his pistol.  A change in policy would do him and students like him a great disservice.

Effective 01/01/2018, single stack pistols will still be allowed in our advanced classes.  This is with the caveat that the student understands before the beginning of the class that the line will not wait on him/her.  We welcome the student of the single stack gun.  However,  we can not slow down the pace of an advanced class for students that bring a single stack gun as a choice and not a way of life.

All my best and Happy Holidays,

Jones

The Bump Drill

Bruce Gray discusses the Bump Drill at an OpSpec Training class in June 2017. The class was held at SIG SAUER Academy, in Epping, N.H.

Marksmanship Matters

Marksmanship matters. What a catchy slogan. The older I get, the more I agree with it. The older I get, I also have less tolerance with some of the BS that is being put out in the industry that passes for training. Matter of fact, I think that the training industry is about due a shake up. Social Media seems to be littered with some really horrible stuff. Everything from instructors who seem to have a want and need to make sure that they post something, and then tell everyone that “I don’t care if you like it or not” to tactics that are down right scary. In the saturated training market, everyone is trying to find a niche.

That latest niche seems to be vehicle tactics. I see a lot of handgun instructors teaching vehicle tactics these days. And most of what I see has ZERO application in rural Kentucky, let alone on a crowded street in Memphis. A lot of what is being taught is flash in the pan. It looks cool. It often is a good tactic for use as a contractor overseas. It has zero application for the American Law Enforcement professional or for the armed citizen. But, it sure is fun.

The other is the two yard line guys. The one that boast the impressive splits and blinding draw times with a compensated Glock with an RMR. Most of those classes are organized practice sessions. And they can be a lot of fun.

So, you have to asking yourself. Is Jones becoming one of those crusty guys that posts stuff on social media and screams out “I don’t care what you think, get off my lawn!” Nope. Not in the least. My point is that the above are examples of classes that aren’t really training you for skills that are transferable to other tasks, and aren’t marksmanship heavy. They are fun. But not the heavy lifting necessary to become better.

Marksmanship wins fights and trophies.

How many times have you heard an instructor or personality say something along the path of “That is some good shooting. You don’t want to stack all of your bullets in one place.” I usually do a double take and ask why. The usual answer is “To do more damage to your attacker”.  almost have to wonder if those who use this line of reasoning are just trying to be nice to the student. Because guess what? You’ll be moving, your attacker will be moving, the bullets are going to spread out on their own. The shooters that have the skill to drive the rounds to a specific spot on the target are naturally going to fair better than those who spread their rounds around.

Then there are those who cross their arms and claim that shooting distance is not a self defense skill. They claim for a wide range of reasons. Some include the lack of being able to justify the shooting, “statistical gunfighting” (meaning the thrown around statistics of 1-3 feet, 1-3 seconds, 1-3 rounds “average” gunfight), etc. Active shooters don’t play by statistics. Some do their work up close and personal. Some from a distance. Why not be equally prepared? Plus, a shooter that is well versed in a 1.75 second draw at 25 to a solid A zone hit, can pretty much drive the round to which eye socket he/she prefers at 7 in half the time. The skills directly transfer, despite what social media tries to claim.

Gents, the most important thing you have is between your ears. Having the right mindset goes a long way to managing an effective training plan. Don’t let the glitz and glamour of organized practice at the two yard line or vehicle tactics (or any other highly specialized skill) pull you away from the most basic of skills. Making hits on demand. Aim Small. Hit small. Solid fundamental marksmanship must be mastered. If you are serious about it, you must be able to summon up these skills upon demand under any conditions. Yeah, go out and take classes that are fun occasionally. Just don’t lose sight of what matter.

5th Generation Glock 19

Photo Courtesy of Glock

Glocks are boring. I’m not saying they’re “boringly reliable.” They’re just boring. Black, blocky and blah. They are also the majority of the law enforcement/self-defense market because they work exceptionally well. Some of the best pistols in the family collection are Glocks which will never be surrendered by trade or sale. My Gen 3 M20, for example, is a trusted companion on long hikes. A few weeks ago, Glock released their 5th Generation pistols to the public. Being neither a fan nor a hater of the brand, here is a review a Glock 19 Generation 5.

What’s the Difference?

There’s no reason to waste anyone’s time with the weight, barrel length, etc. on a Glock 19. Let’s just skip that part. Despite their popularity, some folks have reservations about Glocks to this point. The most common concerns voiced about Glocks are stocks (grip), magazine well and slide stop. Glock addressed those issues and more with this latest iteration. Glock made over twenty design modifications in its 5th Generation pistols, but the top five are finish, barrel, grip, magazine well and slide stop.

Photo Courtesy of Glock

Finish

The Gen 5 Glocks sport the new nDLC finish. I don’t know what that means. I’m not sure there was anything wrong with the old finish, but this one is reported to thwart rust and scratches better. It’ll be a while before I can give this feature an honest test, but I’ve never minded my Glocks showing hard work in the form of the occasional exterior ding.

Barrel

A big change in the Gen 5 series is the addition of the Glock Marksman Barrel. The rifling and crown have been modified to improve accuracy. I never thought there was a problem with Glock accuracy, considering their intended purpose. Still, more is better. If the reader wants to delve deeper into the transition from polygonal to a more traditional barrel rifling, he or she will have to read articles from smarter folks. Considering the most common uses of defensive pistols, this seems like small stuff.

There’s a Fine Line Between a Groove and a Rut

One of the big problems many shooters, including this one, have had with the Glock pistol in general is the slick grips. The finger grooves of the Generation 3 models were not an improvement for many of us. The Generation 5 pistols have not only a grooveless grip, but a reverse stippling which greatly aids in purchase. This is a big improvement to me. I can grip this pistol like none of my other Glocks.

Flared Magazine Well

Another complaint I hear about Glocks in general is the magazine well. Personally, I have always had difficulty during reloading drills with them. This Gen 5 G19 is much better in that regard, but still not quite as good as one might hope. The sides of the magazine well are flared, but the front/rear are still pretty abrupt. Some shooters index the side of the magazine well for their reloads and some use the rear. I’m in the latter group. Those in the former will love this improvement.

Ambidextrous Slide Stop

It’s fairly certain that experienced, wrong-handed folks (I kid) have figured out how to manipulate the slide stop before now. Still, we see novice lefties struggle with locking the slide on Glocks. There will be no excuse with the Gen 5’s with its mirrored lever.

Range

Despite the craptastic plastic factory sights (which Glock knows any serious shooter will replace anyway), I was able to muster a 2.87” five-shot group with Federal 124 grain HST +P at 25 yards. The worst group of the day was 3.24”, which still isn’t bad for a mediocre shooter on a hot, windy Oklahoma afternoon. Both were shot from the prone position without benefit of a mechanical rest. The groups all patterned about two inches above my point of aim. A few of us shot a 50-round box of the HST plus about 200 rounds of mixed FMJ’s and old defensive ammunition including Remington Golden Sabre 124 grain +p and Corbon 100 grain Pow’r Ball. The pistol functioned perfectly.

Fans and Haters

Glock fan boys (and girls) and haters are equally unwise in my eyes. There is no such thing as “perfection.” Gear doesn’t love you back, so you had better be certain your emergency equipment actually functions as it should and that you are proficient in its use no matter how enamored you are with a particular brand. On the other side, shunning the most well-tested, critiqued and mainstream pistol platforms in the world is myopic. The 5th Generation seems to be quite an improvement to me. Skepticism is necessary in product reviews but today, I am holster shopping.

 

Sometime you have to tell Tactical Ted to take a hike – the story of it’s OK to look at the holster when you are holstering.

We all know a Tactical Ted.  He’s the dude that is yelling tactical truisms when you are on the range.  DON’T LOOK AT THE HOLSTER, KEEP YOUR FOCUS DOWN RANGE ON THE BAD GUY.  YOU HAVE TO KEEP BOTH EYES OPEN OR YOU’LL MISS HIS BUDDY.  RELOAD AT ARMS LENGTH TO KEEP YOUR FOCUS ON THE BADGUY.

Now, someone, somewhere instilled this stuff in Ted’s brain housing group like the importance of brushing your teeth, chasing girls, and drinking beer.  Ted screams it at every opportunity.  It is a way of life to Ted to the point that the takes joy in screaming it at his student’s like the sadistic sensei from the Karate Kid.  (the good one, not the  crappy PC remake).  Let’s examine a few things, shall we?

First off, the whole “DON’T LOOK AT THE HOLSTER” thing?  Look at the holster if you want.  It’s ok.  I’ll go as far as telling you that bad things aren’t going to happen in that half second that you look down to ensure that the gun goes back in the holster.  Remember, there’s no race back to the holster.  These Instagram dudes that post the videos from the two yard line?  Yeah, you’ve seen them.  They are at the two yard line.  They draw and put two rounds (supposedly) somewhere on a realistic bad guy target in a blinding speed.  They then jerk the gun back, bobs their heads back in forth like the plastic dog in the back window, and jam the gun back into the holster?  Mongofail.  There is no race back to the holster.  None.  If/when I go back to the holster, I’m doing it on my terms.  I have either A- put a bad guy down, B- holding one that has given up at gunpoint or C- I’m holding an unknown trouble such as a doorway or the like.  Completely no race back to the holster.  In most of those circumstances, another officer is going to have a gun out, when I go back to the holster.  Guess what?  I won’t die if I need to look at the holster for that half second to make sure it goes in.  Tactical Ted is wrong again.  In 21 years of LE, I can think of MAYBE one instance where I might need to holster up in a hurry.  Only one.

KEEP BOTH EYES OPEN OR YOU’LL DIE.  Yeah, no.  Ted often forgets here that the most important thing here is……….wait for it………putting bullet mass on target.  Yep, not reading an eye chart.  Yelling at people to keep their eyes open if they are having vision problems is negatively effecting their ability to put bullet mass on target.  Or maybe they are lazy and don’t want to put the time in learning to shoot with both eyes open.  Who cares.  Most people that I know that don’t shoot with both eyes open do so because of their vision.  And I’m good with it.  My job as an instructor is to teach them to hit stuff as fast as they can.  The dudes/dudettes that are just being lazy or resistant to a better technique?  Me yelling at them over their eyes isn’t going to help them or me.  As far as missing the bad guy’s buddy, that’s why we scan before we holster.  You know, scan and actually look at stuff instead of the range theatrics of jerking the gun back, bobbing the head back and forth, and jamming the gun in the holster.

RELOAD THE PISTOL AT ARMS LENGTH OR YOU’LL DIE.  This one I have a bit of problem making fun of.  I went to a distinguished school by a great instructor.  He teaches this.  The instructor, who’ll we’ll anonymously call Flint, is an all around great guy.  He still teaches to load the gun at arms length.  At the end of the class, he was again a class act.  He caught me in the shoot house and thanked me for trying to do stuff his way.  Class act all the way around.  But, I can put it on the timer, under stress and load the gun faster pulling it back.  More over, I can put students on the timer and it’s faster. Your dentist doesn’t work on you at arms length, unless you have really bad chronic halitosis.  Your dentist works on you up close, where he has power and dexterity.  The dexterity to drive that pick thingy through the top of your head from a molar.  KEY POINT-  That half second that you look at the magwell during  the reload?  You won’t die.  Ideally, we don’t want to stand out in the open and reload the gun at slide lock that we practice on the range.  We want to be moving, or behind cover/concealment.

We all know Tactical Ted.  It is far worse for many of us when it is SGT/LT/CAPT/MAJ Tactical Ted.  The next time you see Ted, remind him that putting fast hits on target is what matters.  Can you/should you train to shoot with both eyes open?  Yes, but it isn’t the end of the world if you can’t.  Can you/should you train to be able to holster without looking at the holster? Best I can say is OK.  In a perfect world, yes.  But, I’ve missed the holster before while working the street.  Yeah, holster is in the same place, but not the same angle because of how my body is positioned behind cover.  I know of no one who has died from taking that half second to look at the holster on the way back, and beings there is no race back to the holster, this surely pisses Ted off for some reason.  Can you/should you train to load the gun at arms length?  No.  It is faster to pull the gun back and load it.  I can’t find any documentation of any armed citizen or copper dying because they pulled the gun back to load it.

Don’t be a Tactical Ted.  Be Specific.  Be Fast.  Be Accurate.  Pay attention to the things that matter.  Hitting stuff fast.  Putting the gun in the holster like there is no race.

The Arm Brace Debacle(s)

Seller’s remorse is something most firearms enthusiasts suffer from on occasion. Such was the case with my SIG SAUER® P556. For those unfamiliar, the P556 is a pistol version of Sig’s 556 model semi-automatic gas piston rifle chambered in 5.56 mm. The design lends itself well to a Short-Barreled Rifle (SBR) conversion.

That was the intent of this purchase. Under federal law, a rifle is a shoulder-fired firearm with a barrel of at least 16 inches and an overall length of at least 26 inches. Any rifle with a shorter barrel or overall length is an SBR and is subject to the restrictions of the NationalFirearms Act. I was excited about the project and was perfectly willing to pay my tax and wait for the proper paperwork to be filed.

However, between the mandatory frame engraving, optional legal trust, $200 tax stamp, the criminal legalities of “Constructive Possession,” and all the other legal nuances, I began to get worried. Still, only one of the regulations was truly scary. It’s a federal offense to take an SBR out of its registered state without filling out paperwork and waiting for approval. I was concerned what might befall my wife or daughter if something happened to me and they decided to move out of state without fully understanding the legal requirements.

I couldn’t stand the thought of my girls being held legally responsible for my choices. Granted, the P556 is a fun pistol to shoot, but my primary intention for its purchase was to convert it to an SBR for SWAT and patrol use. The gun did not fit into department policy as a rifle or a pistol in its factory form. With no practical reason to keep it, I sold it and continued to use the more traditional M-4 size rifle with a 14.5-inch barrel (plus flash hider which brings the barrel length to just over 16 inches) at work.

Invention/Introduction

In 2013, Sig somewhat quietly introduced the SB-15 Pistol Stabilizing Arm Brace. It was designed by Alex Bosco of SB Tactical, a veteran of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, to help people with limited mobility enjoy the AR-15 pistol platform. It should be noted that Sig donates $3.00 for every brace sold to Honored America Veterans Afield (HAVA).

This brace slides onto the buffer tube of a traditional AR-15 style pistol and then wraps around the shooter’s forearm which allows him or her to hold the pistol more steadily.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) had ruled in November of 2012 that installing the SB-15 on a pistol does not violate any laws, in itself. Sig sent out documentation of this ruling with each SB-15 it sells. After Sig Sauer put this handy device into large scale production, the shooting public was quick to notice that the arm brace could be used to shoulder fire an AR-15 style pistol.

It wasn’t intended for that use, but the potential was pretty obvious. A lot of us held our breath and our dollars at that point waiting for the other shoe to drop. In March of 2014, the ATF responded to a direct inquiry asking if shouldering a pistol with the SB-15 brace would re-classify it as an SBR. The now highly-circulated letter states firing a pistol from the shoulder does not change its intended purpose and is, therefore, legal. I began to regret liquidating my P556.

Shortly after that, some law enforcement agencies approved the use of AR-15 style pistols for duty use as long as it was equipped with an approved arm brace like the SB-15, and the officer could successfully pass the carbine qualification course with it. I considered buying an AR pistol and adding the arm brace. I even bought most of the necessary parts.

The Party’s Over (or is it?)

On January 16, 2015 just a few days before SHOT Show, the ATF released yet another letter which can be found on the BATF website. That letter seems to very clearly prohibit the use of the SB-15 as a shoulder stock and is obviously contrary to at least two previously released letters. The letter was clear in that contradiction when stating, “Any individual letters stating otherwise are contrary to the plain language of the NFA, misapply Federal law, and are hereby revoked.”

Obviously, the whole thing is confusing. How does the law change two or three times without legislative intervention? Well, it didn’t. It’s just that the agency in charge of interpretation misled the firearms owning public at least once or twice. The problem is now: we don’t know which one to believe.

I stopped by the BATF booth at SHOT Show 2015 to inquire further. We first spoke to an agent who quickly punted us to another agent who, in turn, booted us to one of their attorneys. It was the opinion of the attorney that merely installing a brace on a pistol, thereby allowing it to be shouldered, made it a short barrel rifle and subjected it to NFA controls.

That information was even more restrictive than what the letter indicated. He directed me to, “read the letter” which I told him I had just done 24 hours prior. One of the agents was quick to point out that there were several letters sent out by BATF and not just the three I was aware of. What?  I asked the attorney if shouldering just the buffer tube would have the same legal effect. He said he didn’t want to, “get too far afield” in our conversation and added that his agency was not in the business of hurting innocent people or law enforcement officers.

To paraphrase, there was a mistake on their part and they were just trying to clear it up. I asked if all of those who had taken part in Internet videos shouldering AR pistols with SB-15’s had committed prosecutable offenses. He again said BATF was partially culpable for this confusion and that he, personally, did not see the need to begin prosecutions. The attorney added, though, as the letter becomes common knowledge, that possibility could become more of a reality. At this point, my friend began tugging at my shirt as an indicator that the conversation had run its course. I left more confused than I had arrived.

To be fair, it was obvious on that first morning of the show, people had been throwing rocks at those poor folks at the BATF booth. We found them both professional and gracious. We thanked them for their time.

And Yet Another 180

On March 21, 2017, the BATF seems to have, once again, reversed their opinion. This letter seems to state that the addition and use of an arm brace is perfectly lawful. I think I’ll be waiting for some sort of legislative action before I break out the credit card. I’m not sure how this situation could ever be un-clustered without clear language from the legislature.