Avoiding The Unintentional Illegality

The case that inspired this column concerned a man in his late 20s who became interested in guns and bought a couple. He discovered he enjoyed shooting recreationally, and liked the security of the concealed carry permit he had just acquired. He decided to buy a third gun, purely for plinking.
In this case, the third time was not the charm. His first two purchases were solid, affordable choices as all-around firearms of their type: a .357 Magnum revolver, and a 12-gauge, slide-action shotgun. He decided his third purchase should be purely for fun: something challenging to shoot, maybe even a conversation piece.

He chose a very reliable .223 rifle design, adapted by its manufacturer to be a pistol with a 9-inch barrel. The one he bought came with Picatinny rails, and the eager new gun enthusiast was in the mood to accessorize. He bought a red-dot optical sight. Then, he asked for a bipod. The gun shop salesman showed him a vertical foregrip, which turns into a bipod at the touch of a button. Cool! The customer loved it, and the store clerk installed both accessories for him as the young man reached for payment.

Yeah, I know. You saw it coming, didn’t you?

That’s because you’re a firearms industry professional, and you know the ins and outs.

Unfortunately, the young customer was a new gun enthusiast just buying his third firearm. Like a stamp collector acquiring his third stamp, he didn’t know the ropes yet.

A “dedicated bipod” would have been perfectly legal on the .223 semiauto pistol, as they are on other similar firearms that come from factories so equipped. Unfortunately, the operative term in “combination vertical foregrip and bipod” is vertical foregrip. While the useful little vertical foregrip would have been perfectly legal on an AR-15 rifle, it is prohibited under federal law to have a second vertical foregrip on a pistol. That attachment put the gun into the Any Other Weapon (AOW) category.

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