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· 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.
 

· Lawyer and Gun Activist
Joined
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30,174 Posts
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!
 
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