Pennsylvania Rifle/Pistol Barrel Length Laws

Good afternoon all. I’ve tried researching online what the laws are in Pennsylvania related to Barrel length of a Rifle and Pistol. More specifically, Im looking to purchase a 450 Bushmaster Complete Upper, the barrel length is 10.5 inches. With what I’ve seen online, anything less then 16 inches is considered a pistol and takes certain a certain tax stamp, so paperwork to be filed. I’ve seen varying information about the whole situation, so I’m asking here. I’ve already got a Diamondack DB-15, its barrel is 16 inches, and am looking to change out the conplete Upper with a 450 bushmaster complete upper that has a 10.5 barrel. What exactly is the law in Pennsylvania and required, if anything, so that I keep it all legal? Thanks ahead of time for any and all help and advice!

You need to research the ATF’s rules and regs regarding barrel length, not Pennsylvania state laws as the ATF is the agency that makes/enforces those laws, not Pennsylvania. I suggest starting here and wade through the federal rules

Which firearms are regulated under the NFA? | Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (


Ok, thank you, i definitly will go there shortly.

I don’t know if PA has any specific regulations that apply but changing a firearm that was considered a rifle when originally purchased into a firearm that would meet the definition of a short barreled rifle would be a big no no under federal law without going through the proper procedures and paperwork and paying the required tax. If you successfully go through that process without accidentally becoming a felon you then would not be allowed to take the firearm out of PA without special permission from the government.

All curtesy of arbitrary classifications and barrel length numbers signed into law under the NFA.


An ATF/NFA tax stamp approval via a Form 1 to create and register a short barrel rifle (SBR). That is the federal requirement.


Thanks for the info.

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Thank you very much to those who commented, the information is greatly appreciated! Although, as corrupt as the system is, that includes the ATF, so the government still has their ways of getting information on individuals, including firearns information, I’d prefer not to help them out and give them any infornation outside of information already being required to give when purchasing a firearm. Granted, a lot of us have very poor boating skills, so we have a ton of firearms that are somewhere under water and eroding away. Either way, I’ll just purchase an AR Pistol Lower, so as to stay legal without having to file paperwork with the ATF. I’ll just have to fight the urge to go boating with this one. Thanks all again.


That is probably an OK idea at the moment. Some people like to take a photo of their build to prove that it was originally built as pistol and not converted from a rifle. Especially good idea if you choose to build your pistol from an “other” receiver. You will also need to keep an eye on ATF changes as they seem to feel they can change definitions whenever they want to make whatever they want suddenly illegal even after telling everyone in writing that it was perfectly legal. Braces seem to be legal again for the moment but you can never be sure these days as they change their guidance and regulations moment to moment.

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Small thing but be aware that purchasing new, there is no such thing as a “pistol lower” or “rifle lower”. It’s…convoluted.

The only way to buy it as a “pistol” is to buy the whole gun, the lower with a pistol length upper on it, so with a brace or a bare stock as deemed by law. If you buy a lower without an upper, it is technically an “Other” and is not yet a rifle, pistol, or anything else, merely an “other”

So buy a “virgin, stripped” (lol) lower, just a blank lower, and make sure you assemble it into a pistol configuration before you do anything else with it.

My understanding is you could then change it to a rifle, and back to a pistol again…but if you did rifle first, you could not change it back to a pistol same as you can’t with the one you have now.

None of it is logical but that happens with illogical control laws


True, it wont have a brace or stock, so for now im thinking shoukd be ok. But, ill look more into it.

As with most illogical laws there is also a “gotcha”; constructive possession.

If you own a complete AR rifle and AR pistol you “could” be construed to be in “constructive possession” of an illegal SBR simply because you could swap uppers. If you only own an AR rifle and an “extra” pistol upper you ARE in constructive possession of an SBR. If you own a pistol and and an “extra” rifle upper as long as you don’t change or have available a 'stock" you would likely be OK. If you have a random “stock” laying around you are again in “constructive possession” of and SBR.

Let all that sink in and figure out how to own a rifle and a pistol AR at the same time.




Yeah, unfortunately some good points. As of right now, id rather have another complete firearm than a extra lower or upper, regardless of it being a “pistol” or "rifle, so ill just make sure, as i did earlier by verifying this through a reputable FFL, as long as the lower and upper i purchase are both pistol upper and lower, thats, as of right now legal, as long as theres either a brace, as of now, or nothing, no stock. Its funny though, and by funny i dont mean hahaha funny, i mean pathetic funny, that the government can change around meanings and definitions without forewarning, but theyll prosecute a person at the drop of a hat, the person trying very hard to do the legal thing. Sick bastards!

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Have either of these happened (conviction), or been prosecuted/attempted?

I could see, maybe, there being something to a person who owns only a rifle lower, yet has a complete short barrel upper, though I’m not aware of any cases being prosecuted for that, it kinda makes sense…being a problem to have both a complete rifle and a complete pistol doesn’t make sense so I’d be really curious to see an example there

(not that laws/prosecution has to make sense…but so far that I can find that latter there is internet ‘wouldn’t it suck if’ so far)

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Well, by whats on the books now, and again, i realize the government can and will stoop to new lows of trying to go after somebody, who is folliowing the law, im sure theyve done it already. They can kiss my ass, im doing whats necessary to legal by their cutrent standards, so if they choose to change, thats their problem.

That is irrelevant as what @Craig6 stated is correct. Do you want to be the test case? I don’t.

There is no law against owning an AR pistol and an AR rifle, and nobody seems to have ever been charged for doing so

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The operative word you left out was “yet”. No one thought many things that people are currently charged with would happen, either.

Is it okay to own a rifle and also own a saw? One could cut an inch off the barrel.

I’m not a lawyer, but I wouldn’t worry about something that is legal and nobody has ever been charged with (owning an AR rifle and also owning an AR pistol) despite untold thousands/hundreds of thousands/millions? who do so

That whole pistol brace thing would kind of be a moot point if we were going to not own an AR pistol and also a rifle at the same time because of constructively possessing an SBR

Exactly how i feel. As it stands. Its legal to own an AR pistol and An AR rifle. I figure as long as i dont start swapping uppers and lowers, by the cutrent laws, Im ok.

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Not at all a valid comparison. You asked if anyone has be charged. I stated, not yet. As we have seen the rough-shod treatment of our rights, one can reasonably concur, they will do what they believe they can get away with. Does Waco and Ruby Ridge, Fast and Furious, etc., have any meaning, reference or bearing as to what they can and might do?