how to register a sbr

How To Register a SBR

Are you currently looking to purchase a short barreled rifle, otherwise known as an SBR?

If so, you’re probably acutely aware that it’s not exactly as easy to own one as it is most firearms. That’s because SBRs are tightly regulated under Federal law. 

To be clear, it is possible to own one, but only if you register it first and go through a few hoops in the process.

In this article, we’ll define exactly what type(s) of firearms classify as an SBR, and then we’ll go over the process you’ll need to follow to legally own one.

What is an SBR?

registering a sbr

SBRs are formally classified and regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934

The NFA defined an SBR as any rifle with a barrel length of under 16 inches and an overall length of under 26 inches. 

With that definition in mind, the following firearms are legally classified as SBRs:

  • Any shoulder-fired rifle with a barrel length of less than 16 inches or an overall length of under 26 inches. There’s no ambiguity here. If a rifle is a lesser length than those figures, it’s an SBR under the NFA. 
  • Any shoulder-fired shotgun or smoothbore firearm with the same overall and barrel lengths. The same rules apply. 
  • Any semi-automatic pistol that has a shoulder stock attached to it or the ability to attach a shoulder stock in any way. An example is the AR-15 pistol, irrespective of whether it is chambered for a rifle or pistol caliber. 

The reason why SBRs are tightly regulated under the NFA is because they are inherently much easier to conceal on a person (such as under a jacket or trench coat) than a longer rifle or shotgun. They are more compact and easy to wield in tight conditions than longer rifles and shotguns as well.

You’re probably wondering what the legal requirements are to own an SBR…

What Are The Legal Requirements To Own An SBR?

sbr with silencer

It is possible to legally own and possess an SBR, but to do so, you must comply with each regulation that has been set by the NFA as well as any state laws that are applicable to you.

Under the NFA, you must meet the following criteria if you want to own any firearm that legally classifies as an SBR:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Be either a United States citizen or a legal resident of the citizen 
  • Live in a state that permits ownership of an SBR 
  • Pay a tax stamp fee (worth $200)
  • Submit a passport-style photo 
  • Submit fingerprints 
  • Complete a background check 
  • File Form 1 for SBR
  • Register the firearm with the ATF

The following states either prohibit SBRs outright or require further requirements in addition to those set under Federal law from the NFA: 

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey 
  • New York 
  • Rhode Island 
  • Washington

It is ultimately your responsibility to confirm whether your state or jurisdiction permits SBR ownership and what the additional requirements are if so. 

Once you’ve confirmed that you can legally own an SBR in your jurisdiction, you can proceed with the process of registering it with the Federal government. 

What is the Process For Registering My SBR?

sbr registration

The good news is that registering an SBR with the Federal government is not as intimidating a process as you may have thought. 

You will need to follow these steps:

  1. Set up an account with the ATF eForms website
  1. Fill out and E-File:
  1. AATF Form 1 For SBR (if you need to register a new SBRfirearm), AND/OR
  1. Form 4 for SBR (if you need to transfer an SBR when buying from a dealer)
  1. Attach passport-style photos and submit scanned fingerprints; the easiest way to get your fingerprints scanned is to use a silencer shop kiosk at one of your local FFL dealers)
  1. Pay the $200 tax stamp fee, which can be done using the eForms portal; you must confirm that your payment has been received before you can proceed
  1. Now you need to be patient as you wait for the ATF to review your application while conducting a background check; most approval times take a few months 

Once you have been approved, an email will be sent to you containing a PDF file of your approved form and tax-stamp. You must print out a hardcopy and keep it with your firearm at all times. This serves as the proof that you legally own the weapon and that it has been registered. 

A good idea is to keep this hard copy in your rifle case with the firearm, so it goes wherever the rifle goes. 

If you are ever questioned by an ATF officer, you will need to present proof that the SBR is legally owned by you and registered to you as well. For example, if an ATF officer happens to be at the same shooting range as you and sees you shooting an SBR firearm, he or she may walk up to you and ask for you to present this proof. 

You’ll be glad to hear that once your background check and tax stamp have been approved, they remain approved for as long as you maintain compliance with the NFA regulations. 

If you ever want to sell your SBR to another individual, they will need to undergo the same process as outlined above before you can officially transfer the firearm over to them. 


An SBR is a great firearm to go with if you want a firearm that is compact, nimble, and suitable for close-quarters self-defense while offering you superior firepower than a handgun. 

With the above information in mind, you now know the process you need to follow to order an SBR legally. 

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