What defines what a shotgun is?

Discussion in 'Firearms' started by Tinkerhell, Dec 13, 2006.

  1. Tinkerhell

    Tinkerhell Active Member

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    Not sure if this is the right thread but it brings to mind a question for me as an 'legally' inexperienced gun owner.

    What defines what a shotgun is?
    I have a standard single shot .410 shotgun that my dad got me when he was teaching me how to hunt.
    We have all seen the over/under dillingers that hold two .410 shells.

    In my mind the gun should be defined by what it shoots meaning that my old squirrel gun & said dillinger would both be a shotgun. But I don't think that's actually true.
    I know I would consider the dillinger to be the more dangerous of the two even if I cut the barrel down & sawed off the stock to make/fit a pistol grip. No matter how much you cut it down the action & break on the "shotgun" are going to make it much longer (harder to concel) & heavier than the dillinger. Most of the dillingers I've seen I could hold in my hand & you would never know it.

    Sorry if this is an old question that has poped up before, but I am new to GPO and, well, there are very few dumb questions...
     
  2. Malum Prohibitum

    Malum Prohibitum Moderator Staff Member

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    No such thing as dumb questions.

    The United States legal code, 18 USC 921, defines the shotgun as "a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder, and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of the explosive in a fixed shotgun shell to fire through a smooth bore either a number of ball shot or a single projectile for each single pull of the trigger."
     

  3. Malum Prohibitum

    Malum Prohibitum Moderator Staff Member

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    From Wikipedia (consider the source):

    :wink:
     
  4. gunsmoker

    gunsmoker Lawyer and Gun Activist

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    Pistol-Shotguns

    This is a good question. The "legal" answer will sometimes depend on state law, too, not just federal law. Even under federal law, it is absurd how guns have to be classified as one thing or the other, when such classifications are hard to make on certain types of guns, and when the guns end up in a classification that is very different from another gun nearly identical, with just some subtle differences.

    Keep in mind that if a pistol just so happens to fire shotshells, that's fine, so long as it fires a regular caliber handgun ammo too. All those .410 derringer pistols (so named after a real man named "Deringer," though now we use an extra "r." It's certainly not "Dillinger" -- he was an outlaw from the 1920s) who was not associated with any particular type of gun) also fire .45 Long Colt cartridges.

    If you were to make a handgun that fired 20 or 12 gauge shotshells, you'd be making a so-called "Class 3" weapon regulated by the NFA (National Firearms Act), and it would be called an "Any Other Weapon." It would also technically meet the definition of "Destructive Device," but the AOW classification is more specific and appears to be what Congress intended to be applied to short shotguns that don't have, and never had, a shoulder stock.

    A shotgun that has, had, or was orginally designed to have, a shoulder stock cannot be made into an AOW or a handgun. If you cut the barrel down and replace the stock with a pistol grip, you will have manufactured a "short barreled shotgun." All of those NFA weapons require a special $200 tax stamp to make, but once they have been made and registered, subsequent buyers can get the AOW for a $5 fee, whereas the short-barreled long guns and the destructive devices always carry a $200 transfer tax.
     
  5. gunsmoker

    gunsmoker Lawyer and Gun Activist

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    Short Shotgun

    Oh, and the difference between a regular "shotgun" and the NFA-regulated $200 tax mandated "short barreled shotgun" is that the regular shotgun must have a barrel (including the chamber, if the chamber is an integral part of the barrel) of at least 18" in length, and an overall length (including the action and any stock or grip) of at least 26."

    That's another reason why you can't take a double-barreled .410 sporting shotgun and saw the barrels down to about 6" and bob the wooden stock down to a pistol grip, and call it a "derringer" handgun. You will have created a "short barreled shotgun" even though your finished product might be identical to one of those derringer pistols you mentioned!
     
  6. Malum Prohibitum

    Malum Prohibitum Moderator Staff Member

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    Re: Pistol-Shotguns

    Oh, come on! These laws make perfect sense!

    A cut down gun is the criminal's "weapon of choice" due to its concealability. SO, if you have a shotgun that is short in the barrel, there is a $200 tax. If you make it even shorter, with no shoulder stock, then the tax is reduced to $5.

    Oops!

    Oh, let's try a another one. Your typical AR-15 or AK-47 variant with a short barrel is subject to the $200, presumably because it is so short and concealable. If you shorten it even more by making it without a shoulder stock, then is is a pistol and there is no NFA tax . . .

    Oops! I guess that one does not make sense, either.

    :lol:
     
  7. Macktee

    Macktee New Member

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    Re: Pistol-Shotguns

    It may not make sense but now I think I understand why some AR-15s are considered to be rifles and some are considered to be "pistols". Thanks
     
  8. Malum Prohibitum

    Malum Prohibitum Moderator Staff Member

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    Re: Pistol-Shotguns


    Yes, but what if you have a shoulder stock somewhere?

    http://armsandthelaw.com/archives/2008/ ... _shoul.php

    Ruling on shoulder stocks
    Posted by David Hardy · 29 August 2008 08:29 AM
    District Court ruling, in pdf, here. Defendant, a reservist, has two handguns (one a semiauto, one a registered full auto) and two shoulder stocks that would fit either. The shoulder stocks double as holsters, and he has one handgun in each when ATF raids him (on other grounds, which turn out to be a legal mistake). Government argument is that the semiauto plus the stock in which it was holstered equal an unregistered short-barreled rifle. The District Court says no -- using the Thompson Arms test, the two stocks had a purpose other than an illicit one, namely being fitted legally to the full auto.

    The government has appealed, but it looks like a sound ruling to me. What saved him was having a registered full auto that took the stocks. What might put him in danger is having the semi-auto holstered in one of them (even tho under Thompson Arms, that should make no difference).

    Permalink · National Firearms Act · Comments (5)
     
  9. Malum Prohibitum

    Malum Prohibitum Moderator Staff Member

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    From the comments section:

     
  10. 45_Fan

    45_Fan Active Member

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    That came out of the wayback machine. I learned something, I didn't realize anybody stateside actually wound up with a registered VP70 with the fun bits.

    Still shudder to think what they cost when you can find them though.