Is Cutting A Shotgun Barrel Legal?

Long story short, cutting a shotgun barrel under 18 inches without NFA registration is illegal. In the United States, it's illegal to posses a sawed off shotgun unless the firearm has obtained proper NFA paper work and paid $200 tax stamp.

The legal definition of a short barrel shotgun has an overall length less than 26 inches with a barrel less than 18 inches.

What Happens When You Shorten A Shotgun

short barrel shotgun

Most shotgun shell powder can burn up inside a 16" barrel. The barrel length does affect range and accuracy, and the user will experience a big fireball at the muzzle on a shorter barrel from all the unburned gun powder.

The pellet pattern however will spread wider coming out of a shorter barrel let's say a 14" barrel.

Cutting A Barrel Or Buy A Short Barrel?

Buying a new barrel is much easier and affordable than going to a gunsmith. The original barrel could potentially be sold for money instead of just cutting it.

benelli m4 barrel

Purchasing a new barrel for ease, legality, and the ability to switch back to the original configuration if needed.

Another reason not to cut a barrel is that it permanently remove the choke, and it cost more money to rethread the barrel for the choke. Some users advocated for the simplicity and low cost of cutting the barrel, especially if the gunsmith's fee is minimal. However, the technical demands of doing it correctly, including ensuring proper bore alignment and maintaining legal requirements.

How To Apply For Short Barrel Shotgun NFA Tax Stamp

Here are steps you must follow to apply for a short barrel shotgun permit. The permit is only for one serialized item, so pick your project carefully.

atf form 1 tax stamp

Under an NFA Gun Trust, or as another legal entity. We suggest purchasing your NFA Tax Stamp through an NFA Gun Trust for enhanced future flexibility. Skip this step if applying as an individual or another legal entity.

Step 1

We recommend creating a trust through Silencer Shop to order a NFA gun trust, and let their legal team do all the work for you.

You must then date, sign, witness, and notarize the trust before proceeding to step two.

Step 2

You need to buy your NFA Firearm next, which could be any of the following: Short-Barreled Rifles (SBR), Short-Barreled Shotgun (SBS), Silencer, Machine Gun, Any Other Weapon (AOW), or Destructive Device. If you're manufacturing or making one of these NFA Firearms, remember that you cannot complete this process until the ATF approves your Tax Stamp.

If you want to turn your existing shotgun into a short barrel shotgun, you need ATF 5320.1 Application form to make and register a firearm. This is also called the Form 1.

Form 4 is where you want to buy a factory short barrel shotgun.

Step 3

Complete your ATF 5320.1 Application to Make and Register a Firearm paperwork:

Use our ATF Paperwork walk-through guides to assist you in this process:

  • ATF Form 1 5320.1 
  • ATF eForm 1 5320.1 
  • ATF Form 5320.23 

Filling out the ATF Form for your applicable tax stamp, guided by the form descriptions above.

Completing an ATF 5320.23 Responsible Persons Questionnaire for each responsible person if applying under an NFA Gun Trust or as a legal entity.

Obtaining one 2"x2" passport photo and two FD-258 fingerprint cards for each responsible person in the application. Individuals applying alone need only provide these for themselves. For those included in our NFA Gun Trust, this applies to the settlor and any named co-trustees.

Step 4

Check each line to ensure correctness and readiness for ATF submission, alleviating your stress.

Common reasons for ATF paperwork return include missing endorsements, unacceptable payees, omitted checks with applications, incorrect payment amounts, credit card errors, incomplete transferee information, missing serial numbers, use of obsolete forms, and other unspecified issues.

Step 5

Submit your ATF Paperwork to the ATF and the CLEO [Chief Law Enforcement Officer]:

Finally, package your ATF paperwork and submit it to the ATF and your identified CLEO, as outlined in your paperwork from step 3. We recommend using a mailing service that provides a tracking number to confirm your paperwork's arrival at the ATF.

Step 6

Your $200 tax payment will be taken from your bank account, but this doesn't mean it's approved. You still have to wait

Step 7

Upon final approval you will receive your tax stamp via mail or email if you do this through ATF's eform. Another way is to let your FFL receive all the paperwork then contact you especially when you buy a NFA item from them.

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