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When Are Sawed-Off Shotguns Legal? When They’re a Shockwave

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In the Old West, you wouldn’t be surprised to see a sawed-off shotgun used as a form of defense as far back as 1897. In the early days of America, it was difficult to protect yourself, and desperate times called for desperate measures.

There are certainly parts of the country where it’s still crucial to have some serious protection for your home and property, and shotguns are often the weapon of choice. Unfortunately, shotguns with a barrel shorter than 18 inches are technically illegal — unless you have a specially taxed permit from the ATF. Individual states may make a determination on the legality of these weapons.

One manufacturer, however, seems to have found a slight workaround to this law in the form of a unique self-defense weapon that was designed for close quarters work: the Mossberg Shockwave.

When you see a picture of a Mossberg Shockwave, you’ll likely harken back to the trench guns of WWI. The blunt-looking, matte black look appears almost ageless while still seeming quite modern as you examine the details. Mossberg recently introduced the newest member of the Shockwave family in the 590 Nightstick, which incorporates a small amount of wood in the stocks and forend strap. The weapons are available in a 12-gauge and 20-gauge variety, all of which look — to say the least — extremely lethal.

The story gets tricky when we actually try to classify the weapon. While the Shockwave technically has a barrel length of 14.375 inches, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has designated the weapon as a “firearm” according to the Gun Control Act (GCA). The ATF did not classify the weapon as a Class 3/NFA firearm, which would cause purchasers and sellers to have to take additional steps before the weapon could change hands, such as the excise tax.

While these federal laws are fully in effect, each individual state can also put additional requirements in place before the weapon can be sold or even block its sale completely based on the shorter barrel. This federal regulation goes all the way back to 1934 with the original National Firearms Act against sawed-off shotguns. The ATF has ruled that only the more recent Gun Control Act passed in 1968 will be used to regulate the weapon, so only a standard background check is required as with any other type of pistol or shotgun.

While the Shockwave generally gets a pass in legislation, one place that it is more closely looked at is in the province of concealed carry. If one of the Mossberg Shockwave 590 weapons were to be concealed under a coat or shirt, the general consensus from the community is that it could easily change the legal classification of the weapon to lean more towards a sawed-off shotgun standing. Replacement of the pistol grip with a shoulder stock could also cause the ATF to take a closer look at your purchases.

What’s important to keep in mind is that there are a number of different regulations around weapons, some of which are confusing and contradictory. In this case, Mossberg has been very careful to post the letter from the ATF directly on their website, so there is a high level of clarity around the Mossberg 590 Shockwave, at least.

~ Ready to Fire News


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