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The Incredible AOW – Any Other Weapon

aow serbu super shorty

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Imagine going to your local range and approaching the firing line with a small case. Most assume what’s inside is a large pistol, the package is that small. You unzip the case and pull the weapon out. It looks like a shotgun with a barrel that’s 8-10” long  (the whole package is about as big as a magnum revolver). You fire off the first shot, a 12-gauge slug, then, using the fore grip, you pump another round in the chamber, shooting off two more until the weapon is empty. Your target, at ten yards, has three ragged 12-gauge slug holes dead center. As you smile and set down the still smoking weapon, you’re tapped on the shoulder.

Behind the legions of curious onlookers, an off-duty policeman asks you why you’re in possession of what he calls a short-barreled shotgun (SBS), and wants an explanation pronto, before you wind up in handcuffs. You casually reach inside your range bag and hand him your Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) tax stamp and registration, and inform him that the weapon isn’t a short-barreled shotgun at all – it’s an AOW, which stands for Any Other Weapon.

If you’re new to AOWs, you’re probably just as confused as the officer would be upon seeing what clearly looks like a pistol grip Remington 870 or Mossberg 500 with a folding fore grip and a barrel that’s impossibly short – 8-10” or less. It looks like a shotgun. It fires standard shotgun rounds. How can it not be a shotgun? Well that’s where a curious wrinkle in BATF regulations emerges.

The BATF, in their official guidebook (and in United States Code), has the following definition of an AOW:

26 U.S.C. § 5845(E)

For the purposes of the National Firearms Act, the term “Any Other Weapon” means:

  • Any weapon or device capable of being concealed on the person from which a shot can be discharged through the energy of an explosive;
  • A pistol or revolver having a barrel with a smooth bore designed or redesigned to fire a fixed shotgun shell;
  • Weapons with combination shotgun and rifle barrels 12 inches or more, less than 18 inches in length, from which only a single discharge can be made from either barrel without manual reloading; and
  • Any such weapon which may be readily restored to fire.

Such term shall not include a pistol or a revolver having a rifled bore, or rifled bores, or weapons designed, made, or intended to be fired from the shoulder and not capable of firing fixed ammunition.

How to hide your guns, and other off grid caches…

If you are intrigued by this, you’re not alone. In plain English, what the BATF is saying is that a smooth bore shotgun that is capable of being concealed upon the person, and cannot be fired from the shoulder is an AOW! So why then is an ordinary short-barreled shotgun, i.e. a shotgun with a barrel length of under 18” a restricted weapon? Why is the possession of an ordinary shotgun with a short barrel an offense that could get you ten years in a federal prison? Simple – because a short-barreled shotgun has a shoulder stock and is designed to be fired from the shoulder. An AOW is the exact same weapon, but with no shoulder stock, and is not designed to be fired from the shoulder, and that’s the difference. We know, it sounds ridiculous, but such is federal law at times.

Keep in mind that there are other types of AOWs, such as pistols with fore grips and a whole host of other weapons like pen guns, knife guns, and wallet guns, but for the purposes of this article, we’re focusing on shotguns only.

Don’t Make Your Own

Even though AOWs exist, this isn’t to say you can take you trusty Mossberg or Remington, detach the shoulder stock, and saw the barrel down. That’s a great way to get an all expenses paid trip to Club Fed. The BATF has a procedure to purchase such weapons, and it must be followed. While the following does not constitute legal advice, this is generally what needs to happen:

  1. Realize that AOWs are NFA (National Firearms Act) weapons. This means that they are grouped and controlled in the same manner that machine guns and other NFA weapons are.
  2. Realize that AOWs are created as such by a Class 07 Federal Firearms Licensee and manufacturer, and are not simply cut down shotguns. Simply cutting down a shotgun to less than 26” overall makes a short-barreled shotgun, while an AOW is a receiver that starts life as an AOW, and is always an AOW.
  3. Pick the model of your choice from the store. The Serbu Super Shorty is one of the more popular ones.
  4. Pay for the weapon.
  5. Fill out an ATF Form 4, and submit your application to register an AOW in your name along with the tax stamp fee of $5.
  6. Wait 6-10 weeks for the ATF to send you back your tax stamp and certificate, and then take your new AOW home.

It’s more or less that simple, and very possible in most states.

Who Needs An AOW?

Well no one needs one, but now that we’ve introduced you to the amazing coolness and sheer awesomeness of having a shotgun that’s the length of your average revolver, don’t you want one? Realistically, shotguns that short have no real tactical purpose other than as sheer intimidators. While their stopping power would literally be off the charts at close range, they would be even more range limited than a normal shotgun, and they carry few rounds. But an AOW isn’t about practicality. It’s a weapon you own because you can, and because it’s fun. Go give one a try!

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  1. Hand-cannon ?

  2. Of course, if you want to keep a low profile — so that you’re not the first person on the top of the Weapons Confiscation List prepared by a rogue government — you’ll not expose yourself to the extra scrutiny just for a little fun with things that go boom. If you’re like me, you own firearms that have no paper trail or whose paper trail ended long ago, such as weapons formerly owned by a deceased relative. The main reason I have not obtained a concealed weapon permit is to keep myself off the short list.

    It is true that I remain defenseless at times for not being armed, but the numerous places I visit — stores, schools, government offices, etc. — that have “No Weapons Allowed” signs would force me to not only remain unarmed in the places where I would be most vulnerable, but also to leave my weapon(s) behind in my car. I don’t like the idea of leaving my weapons in places that would give thieves a bonus should they happen to break into my vehicle.

    In “peaceful” times, I am taking a calculated risk by going unarmed. What are the chances that my life is up-ended by a criminal as opposed to a police officer? I was thinking some of you might say that a criminal might end my life, not just up-end it. But really, these days, it seems an almost even chance that your life could end at the hand of an errant police officer.

    In times of chaos — which today could swiftly escalate to a full-on bloody civil war, I won’t be worrying about the legality of carrying a weapon without a “permit.” No, I will simply arm myself, because there will be no civil law to stop me from doing so.

    I will admit that I do not go out much. I go out only of necessity and remain at home most of the time. I avoid places where people congregate, not only because I don’t like throngs of people (State fair? Not gonna happen, ever!), but because the “religion of peace” finds such places target-rich environments. When I do go out, I am hypersensitive to my environment. Being situationally aware is the key to safety. Using a firearm is a last resort. The first resort is to stay as far away from trouble as possible. If trouble comes to me, however, it will only be surprised for a millisecond.

    • Well put…….

    • There are nearly 13,000,000 concealed carriers in the US. There are nearly 100,000,000 gun owners. You’d put yourself on a list so long it would make absolutely zero difference.
      And if you think that paw-paw’s shotgun and over-under is going to do you a lick of good in the new world order, you’re lying to yourself.

    • Mike Scarborough

      When that “rogue government” gets here, and it eventually could, you will have much bigger problems than hiding your guns or staying off certain confiscation lists. You probably won’t want to stay in your current home anyway. You will either cooperate with the new normal, or you will fight it. I wouldn’t let that stop me from exercising whatever freedoms I still have left. If I want an AOW, i’ll go get one.

  3. Sadly Wumingren, you mirror my thoughts and those of many others. I do like to joke around, but things are starting to get very serious. The asshats-in-charge are getting ready to start another war, one that we really don’t need or can stand. I grieve for our country and the principles that our ancestors sacrificed so much for. Can’t even go to the store now without wondering if you’ll make it back home. Said it before, Gentlemen and Gentlewomen – prepare to defend yourselves……….

  4. Michael E. Stora, Ph.D.

    NFA weapons don’t get much attention at my gun club. Where the heck do you live?
    Your Form 1 or Form 4 is confidential taxpayer information and according to a retired LEO I shoot (machine guns) with, when they call the ATF with a serial number of an NFA weapon, they get a very terse “we (are/are not) interested in it.”

    I’ve made several NFA weapons on Form 1s, so why “Don’t Make Your Own”? Sure it’s $200 instead of $5 to make one but doing your own work you may break even and even learn some things.

  5. Creative analysis . For my two cents , if your business is requiring to merge PDF files , my colleague came across reference here

  6. Oh how silly. Up here in Canada under the firearms act any firearm that is not a semi-auto can have barrels as short as 8 inches so long as the overall length of the gun is more than 24 inches. While I don’t have a carry permit because of the hoops that have to be jumped through I do have a Norinco coach gun with 12 inch barrels that goes into my pack when bow hunting. No muss, no fuss, no $200 tax stamp. I also have a Ranch Hand with a 12-inch barrel. Because it’s longer than 24 inches, up here it’s a short rifle not a handgun meaning no paperwork.

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