Wallet Holsters

May 27th, 2012

NFA Wallet Holster

Somebody at the local gun shows has been selling these things, and it could create a potential problem for the unwary buyer. You see, that's not an ordinary pocket holster. Thanks to the National Firearms Act of 1934, it's been imbued with special powers necessitating registration and taxation.

What makes it different? It's designed so that the gun can be fired without removing it from the holster. As such, it falls under the same restrictions as cane guns, Stinger pens, and the infamous H&K MP5 briefcase. Walking around with your gun in one of these is treated with the same gravity as owning an unregistered machine gun.

I'm not being snarky here. True, you've known me to be facetious in the past. It's a personality quirk of mine, but I am not being a snickerpuss here.

26 USC § 5845 (e) vaguely defines the concept of an "any other weapon (AOW)" as follows:

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 shall include any such weapon which may be readily restored to fire. Such term shall not include a pistol or a revolver having a rifled bore

The last sentence exempts regular handguns*, but the logic is that the handgun becomes a different device when its nature is concealed. This ATF newsletter [pdf] clarifies their thinking on the issue: if the holster conceals the nature of the weapon and the weapon is capable of being fired from within it, it qualifies as an AOW.

Now, does that make regular pocket holsters illegal? No. Those aren't designed to allow firing the gun without removing it, so they're not at issue.

There are holsters on the market that allow the gun to be fired from within, but they don't conceal the weapon completely. Those seem to be legal, if not advisable from a safety standpoint. It's the combination of features that makes it an AOW.

You can own a pistol, and you can own one of those silly holsters, but if you combine the two, you're manufacturing an NFA weapon. It's like Pop Rocks and Dr. Pepper, except with jail time. You have to pay a $200 tax stamp, file for a Form 1, and wait for ATF approval if you want to do it legally. Yes, it's really that absurd.

If you got shammed into buying one, don't stick a gun in it. If you should run across the guy who sold it to you, demand your money back, and inform him that he's placing people in potential legal jeopardy. There's no way he doesn't know what risk he's putting his customers through.

* When Homer Cummings drafted the NFA in 1934, he intended for handguns to be among the weapons registered and subject to a $1.00 tax. To quell opposition, the language on handguns was excised in committee.

2 Comments
  1. CharlieDelta wrote, running Mozilla Firefox 12.0 on Windows 7

    I will have to look for these wallet holsters the next time a gun show comes to town. I'd love to drill the guy with questions regarding the legality of the wallet holster and see what he says. Not that I'm interested in buying one, because I'm not, but people selling things like this without divulging important information such as '26 USC § 5845 (e)' deserve a public shaming and/or tongue lashing at the very minimum.

    Being that I live in this liberal mecca where our gun shows are watered down with Tijuana jewelry and cheap Chinese-made holsters, I highly doubt I would find someone trying to sell one of these anyway, but it's worth looking into…

    Comment on May 30, 2012 @ 3:38 am

  2. Chase wrote, running Mozilla Firefox 12.0 on Windows 7

    Thank you for this post. I saw photos of those pocket "holsters," and I thought, "Why would you want a pocket holster that doesn't cover the trigger (the PRIMARY FUNCTION of any holster), and that makes it harder to draw the gun?"

    Comment on May 30, 2012 @ 10:05 pm

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