Sunday, March 12, 2023

ATF Brace Ban Options - Thordsen Cheek Rest - Part 2

 ATF Brace Ban Options - Thordsen Cheek Rest

This is my Part 2 of these ATF Brace Ban option articles, but the background is worth repeating. Over a decade after the ATF’s 2012 express written approval of pistol braces and after reportedly over 40M were sold, in Jan 31 the ATF decreed pistol braces were now banned. The decision sent highly concerned shockwaves around the country to law abiding owners that what you legally purchased yesterday was not necessarily legal today. If the decree is not shut down, you will need some options which are not an arm brace or shoulderable attached device. That is still a murky area with lots of undefined language like “shoulderable”, “surface area”, “functional extension”...etc which all have no quantitative measurements defined. Kind of like saying your car is illegal if it “could fly” which is not reasonable as it can have “some path of flight” after being driven off a cliff.

[UPDATE] - This whole ATF Brace thing is starting to unwind in 100 directions... some good, some bad.  I have consulted with a number of attorneys and all are advising to wait until the final rulings come out and to either become a Maxim Defense customer or join FPC - Firearms Policy Coalition to be a party to the current injunctive protection allowing ownership. I am both a FPC member and also Maxim customer which I do hope provides a level of protection.

ATF also has added to their site that braces must be destroyed or permanently altered and that non-operational parts could be considered braces as well which is in direct opposition to a supreme Court Ruling on Thompson Center Contenders from 1992 and what they noted in late January... and if you are a FPC or Maxim customer/member this "should" give you protection...I don't know at this point.

Just a week ago, it looks like the ATF issued a decision that Thordson brace covers and cheek rests constitute surface area for shouldering and are illegal, but have conversely noted in the Jan 31, 2023 degree that a buffer tube is not sufficient surface area. - Please use the below article content at your own risk noting that this entire brace ban is a very legally fluid situation. AT THIS TIME I CANNOT SUGGEST THAT ANYONE ATTACH ANYTHING TO AN FIREARM IN ANY MANNER OR CONFIGURATION.

According to the ATF, pistol arm braces which people may inadvertently shoulder are “in scope” of the decree, however buffer tubes and extensions which “do not have sufficient surface area” to shoulder (whatever that means) are not in scope of the ruling (at this point). If you have an AR, AK or other similar build which has an attached pistol buffer, compliance of the decree is as simple as removing the brace or installing an upper with a 16”+ barrel. According to a number of manufacturers, all are noting straight tubes/extensions and cheek rests are still completely out of scope according to the ATF’s Maxim and Thordsen cheek rest letters and are conspicuously unlisted as part of the ATF decree. 

Here are some “should be legal” Thordsen Customs cheek rest options according to what we know. At the very least these options should become an example of you attempting to comply with the ATF decre

Thordsen Customs

Throughout the years Thordsen Customs has helped firearms owners become compliant with the ever changing landscape of arbitrary gun laws at the Federal and State levels. One of the products which people know Thordsen Customs from is the featureless (and futuristic looking) stock for the AR15 which effectively transforms the evil pistol grip rifle into a featureless hunting rifle style stock.  The company also has a number of other products such as capacity limited magazines. Thordsen Customs also has a long history of offering a variety of pistol cheek rests which can fit both pistol and carbine buffers. Similarly, Maxim Defense also offers an aluminum adjustable cheek rest in their specialized buffer short buffer assembly. The cheek rest offers the shooter an option to rest their cheek on the buffer tube more comfortably, thus improving accuracy and enjoyment of the firearm.  Thordsen and Maxim both have approval letters from the ATF and neither product seems to be notable in-scope of the arm brace ban of Jan 31.

I had the opportunity to install and test out a few of Thordsen Customs cheek rests and buffer tube covers as options to replace removed pistol braces. Although Thordsen does offer full kits which also include a pistol buffer tube, most kits are available as simple slip-on kits that do not require any modification or removal of the buffer tube. Generally most of these kits can be installed in under ten minutes. The company offers several options that include:

  • Buffer Tube Cover - Standard with No QD mounts

  • Buffer Tube Cover - Enhanced with side QD swivel mounts

  • Cheek Rest w/ Wider MFT Cheek Rest - Standard with No QD mounts

  • Cheek Rest w/ Wider MFT Cheek Rest - Enhanced with side QD swivel mounts

  • Cheek Rest w/ Slim  CAA Cheek Rest - Standard with No QD mounts

  • Cheek Rest w/ Slim  CAA Cheek Rest - Enhanced with side QD swivel mounts

  • Cheek Rest w/ Medium Thordsen Cheek Rest - Standard with No QD mounts

  • Cheek Rest w/ Medium Thordsen Cheek Rest - Enhanced with side QD swivel mounts

  • All versions are offered in a variety of colors

Buffer Tube Covers

The Thordsen Buffer Tube covers are a nice looking upgrade to an otherwise bare pistol or carbine buffer tube at only 3.5oz. The cover looks great and adds a little length to the overall buffer tube but protects it from damage and offers a cover that is a bit warmer feeling on the cheek than an ice cold or red hot piece of aluminum. I especially like the Enhanced level kits  which feature the Enhanced Buffer Tube Cover as the base of the build and include left and right QD swivel mounts. I featured the Buffer Tube Cover on the ultralight custom blue camo Aero Precision build. This was a good fit for this ultralight build and still affords great use of the pistol.

Cheek Rests - CAA Left, MFT middle, Thorsden Version lower Right

Cheek Rest w/ MFT, CAA, Thordsen Cheek Rest Options

Both Command Arms and Mission First Tactical have been supply partners with Thordsen since their first cheek rests were introduced. Essentially the Thordsen Buffer Tube cover is designed to receive the snap-on accessory cheek rests from CAA, MFT and Thordsen’s own Cheek Rest. All provide good uniquely different options. 

The MFT version is the widest overall and provides onboard A123 battery storage and an overall wider profile cheek rest. The caveat with the MFT is that it does not provide full folding when used in conjunction with the Law Tactical Folding Stock Adapter, where the CAA and Thordsen cheek rests do lay flat with this accessory. The MFT version is shown on the unmounted fixed buffer adapter for picatinny rails.

The CAA is what I call the slim width in the group and overall is the most compact option while still providing a very comfortable cheek rest shown on the silver custom PWS build.  Thordsen’s own cheek rest option is the medium width option and is currently being produced with industrial 3D printing (read that as very high production quality) until they have finalized the injection molding process. The Thordsen version was installed on the custom Aero Precision with Geo Fractured camo. Thordsen also offers a fixed picatinny rail mount adapter for buffer tube compatibility on large format pistols like the MPX/MCX and similar rear picatinny rail pistols.

Final Thoughts

Though there are some legal decisions being made around the legality of the ATF pistol brace ban pre-May, these Thordsen Cheek Rests are options if you want to assure you are attempting to be compliant. More importantly, for those who chose to carry a AR pistol or similar format firearm in a vehicle which has a high likelihood of being inspected by LEO, the most prudent course of action is to have that firearm equipped without a brace and with something that reduces questioning such as a cheek rest or simple buffer tube cover. It is my confirmed opinion that 99% of LEO have no freaking clue about actual firearms laws and what is and is not legal as far as large format pistols go. During a traffic stop and “lawful with cause” search is not the time to have a six hour discussion while handcuffed on the legality of how you have configured your AR pistol. The Thordsen Cheek Rests and Buffer Tube covers are a great option to potentially reduce those inspection headaches and debates around the current legality of pistol braces.

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