View Full Version : can a t/c contender rifle be made into a pistol

November 6, 2004, 06:35 PM
if the right barrel and forearm are used? is the pistol/rifle the same frame? tia

629 shooter
November 6, 2004, 07:48 PM
Sure - same frame , that is part of the appeal of the TC. Can go from rifle to handgun in a few minutes.

November 6, 2004, 08:36 PM
And perfectly legal, according to a court decision. One warning: Resist with all your might the urge to experiment and don't install the carbine buttstock onto the frame before you remove the pistol length barrel. The ATF is hiding in the bushes, hoping you'd do that :)

December 28, 2005, 09:58 AM
the barrel have to be before you can put a butt stock on a contender ?

December 28, 2005, 10:09 AM

When was that court decision? I talked to T/C last year and they were still talking about registering the receiver for conversions.

December 28, 2005, 11:04 AM
I don't know why you would want a single shot rifle (ok .410 included) with less than 16" bbl with a buttstock anyway, and I assume that was not the original poster's intent.

But, yes the frame is the same.

December 28, 2005, 11:31 AM
T/C won a court case against ATF about a decade ago, making it legal for you to use any frame either as a pistol with ANY length barrel, and/or, with a barrel OVER 16" in length, with a shoulder stock as a carbine. Switching is acceptable, just don't put the butt-stock on the frame before you take off the pistol barrel. No, it DOESN'T make sense. Remember, the law is an ASS.
I have two frames, one a dedicated pistol frame which is stored with the three pistol length barrels I own; and one frame which is permanently assembled to a carbine barrel and butt-stock which is cased with two accessory carbine barrels. I did this as a precaution before the court case was decided, and continue to do it today.
I wouldn't advise storing Contenders or carrying them in a case with shoulder-stock, frame and pistol barrels together, even though un-assembled, and even if you have pistol grips in there too. Just to be on the safe side, keep your pistol kit separate from your carbine parts, and you are unlikely to be hassled by the ignorant.

December 28, 2005, 03:49 PM
A 2003 ATF letter responce stating outright that no you can't convert a weapon that left the manufacturer with a serial number registered as a rifle
into a pistol.

Gun legislation is pretty much always restrictive ( you have less options ) You can convert a pistol into a rifle but not the other way around.

If your not happy about NFA law contact your congressman.

December 28, 2005, 04:00 PM
Don't ever buy a used Contender because you don't know if it started life as a rifle or a pistol,

December 28, 2005, 04:02 PM

A short barreled rifle (SBR) is defined in the law as: 26 U.S.C. sec. 5845(a) * * * * (3) a rifle having a barrel or barrels less than 16 inches in length; (4) a weapon made from a rifle if such weapon as modified has an overall length of less than 26 inches or a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length; * * * The NFA law also defines "rifle": 26 U.S.C. sec. 5845(c) "The term 'rifle' means a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned or made or remade to use the energy of an explosive in a fixed cartridge to fire only a single projectile through a rifled bore for each pull of the trigger, and shall include any such weapon which may be readily restored to fire a fixed cartridge. Thus you can see why a machine gun is not also a short barreled rifle; it is not a rifle. And you can see why a barrel is not subject to regulation, or registration, in itself. It is a barrel, it cannot discharge a shot. A receiver alone is also not a short rifle; a short rifle is only a complete weapon that fits into the length parameters outlined. ATF takes the position that this definition includes any combination of parts from which a short barreled rifle can be assembled. And they said this included a set of parts with dual uses. In the Supreme court case of U.S. v. Thompson/Center Arms Co., 504 U.S. 505 (1992) ATF said a set consisting of a receiver, a 16"+ barrel, a pistol grip stock, a shoulder stock, and a barrel less than 16 inches long was a short barreled rifle. The idea of the kit was that you needed only one receiver, and you could have both a rifle and pistol in one gun.

While making a pistol out of a rifle is making a short rifle, ATF has approved of converting a pistol into a rifle, and then converting it back into a pistol, without "making" a short barreled rifle when it is converted back into a pistol; that was not an issue. See, for example Revenue Rulings 59-340, 59-341 and 61-203. T/C made one set on a Form 1, then sued for a tax refund, claiming the set was not a SBR, unless it actually was assembled with the shoulder stock, and short barrel, something they instructed the purchaser of the set not to do. The Supreme court disagreed with ATF, and agreed with Thompson/Center. The Court said that a set of parts was not a short barreled rifle, unless the only way to assemble the parts was into a short barreled rifle. As this set had a legitimate, legal, use for all the parts it was OK. However they also approved of lower court cases holding that the sale by one person, at the same place, of all the parts to assemble an AR-15, with a short barrel, was sale of a SBR, even if they weren't assembled together at the moment of the bust, and had in fact never been assembled. See U.S. v. Drasen, 845 F.2d 731 (7th Cir. 1988). This was because the only use for the parts in that case was a SBR. If the person in that case also had a registered M-16, then there would be a legitimate use for the SMG barrel, and there shouldn't be a problem. And the Court agreed, of course, that a fully assembled rifle with a barrel less than 16", or an overall length of less than 26" was also subject to registration. Although it was not addressed in the case, the rule is that an otherwise short barreled rifle that is very easily restored to firing condition (readily restorable); e.g., one missing a firing pin, but for that pin one may substitute a nail or other common object, is also subject to the law.


December 28, 2005, 04:03 PM
I think you can contact Thompson Center and have them look up the serial number to see if it did start out as a pistol.

Reading the court case above I see that TC is allowed to sell a combination of parts in a kit but the court did not authorize turning a fully assembled rifle into a pistol. I was even told by a TC customer service person once that if they sold it originally as a rifle it couldnt legally be converted to a pistol without doing the ATF NFA tax paper and paying $200 for a short barreled rifle stamp.

December 28, 2005, 05:38 PM
Federal Pen because you did not know the used Contender you bought started life as a rifle . Sounds to stupid not to be true. Man this country is @@@@@@ up, is it not ?

December 28, 2005, 06:08 PM
Uhhh, and WE voted THESE people into office?? Thomas Jefferson must be rolling over in his grave.

December 28, 2005, 06:15 PM
If you can get Congress to eliminate the National Firearms Act and the Gun Control Act, then you could do virtually anything to your guns.
The law abiding are the only people that follow gun laws. Gun laws don't stop crime. If your not a felon, you shouldn't be restricted from anything firearm wise.

December 28, 2005, 06:20 PM
Amen Expedition, well put

December 28, 2005, 08:18 PM
Here's the Supreme Court re: T/C Contenders.
Also note that no Contender is ever sold *as a rifle*. The guns are sold as a frame and pistol grip/forend. Barrels (whether short or long, and shoulder stocks) are sold separately.
I suppose it's conceivable that a frame assembled as a carbine with long barrel and buttstock might have been sold second hand as a 'rifle' and could arguably be prohibited from 'conversion to a pistol'. But if the gun were bought new as a frame, a separate pistol barrel and a carbine kit , I don't see how any law is broken. And neither did the Supreme Court.

December 28, 2005, 09:31 PM
With all due respect,

The court rulled in favor of TC.
This allowed TC to sell kits that the ATF previously figured could become short barreled rifles. The court saw that the parts alone were not a problem.
Assembling parts into any restricted firearm is a problem. TC contenders are not immune to gun regulations. The receivers are serial numbered from the factory as either rifle or pistol. If you purchase a pistol receiver you can switch your confiduration to a rifle. If you purchase a rifle receiver you cant switch to a pistol configuration. I have been over this a few hundred times before and the ATF has not changed there position since that letter was sent. http://www.handgunhunt.com/tech/t29/index.html
Slabsides please call Thompson Center and ask for your self whether they serialize there receivers as pistols or rifles.
Thompson/Center Arms
Farmington Rd
Rochester, NH 03867

December 28, 2005, 09:33 PM
I thought I wasn't nuts.

Hey Slabside, check T/C's website for the cool Contender rifle page.

I do think there is a way of getting T/C to re-register your rifle receiver as a pistol, though. Call 'em.

December 28, 2005, 09:37 PM
I called and asked about that before. Answer I got was call the ATF.
Atf will register your serial number as a short barreled rifle for $200.

Serial numbers are kept in an ATF database with a description of the weapon. If an agent ever has to check a weapon found the agent can just call the number in with the manufacturer name and/or importer-import number for imported guns.

December 28, 2005, 09:44 PM
I do think there is a way of getting T/C to re-register your rifle receiver as a pistol, though.

Unfortunately, nope. ATF maintains that once a rifle, always a rifle. Kinda like you can make an AOW out of a shotgun that left the factory with a pistol grip only, but not one that came out with a shoulder stock. Totally stupid. Who cares what something used to be...what matters is what you are turning it into.