I recently went to my local gun shop to do a firearms transfer, and while there, I glanced up and saw a shotgun that immediately caught my eye. It was a 12-gauge, pump-action shotgun with an odd-looking pistol grip and a barrel that was clearly shorter than the ATF’s required 18-inch length. Traditionally, this type of weapon would be considered an AOW (Any Other Weapon) under the National Firearms Act (NFA), which is used to regulate weapons and accessories such as short-barreled rifles, suppressors and other similar items. This requires the buyer to purchase a tax stamp from the ATF and be subjected to a lengthy background check and waiting process before they can take ownership of it. However, when I inquired about it to the shop’s owner, I was surprised to discover that this was NOT the case – the weapon is legal to own for any person 21 years of age or older who passes a standard background check, with no tax stamp or enhanced waiting period required. When I asked about this, I was informed that the ATF had recently determined that this particular firearm did not meet the criteria required to categorize it as an AOW under the NFA. The Self-Defense Weapon That Doesn’t Require A Firearms License! Technically, a shotgun is defined as a smooth-bore weapon designed to be fired from the shoulder; with a pistol grip installed straight from the factory, it does not meet this definition. Consequently, if it isn’t legally a “shotgun,” it cannot be classified as a “short-barreled shotgun,” either. According to the ATF’s finding letter to Mossberg (dated March 2, 2017), this new shotgun is classified as simply a “firearm” under the Gun Control Act (GCA), and has the following features:
- 26 1/2 inches overall length.
- 12-gauge, 14-7/16 smooth-bore barrel.
- “Bird’s head” grip from factory (never had a shoulder stock attached).
- 5-shell magazine capacity.
- 35 pounds.