Former CIA Officer Jason Hanson Reveals...

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Mailbag Monday

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I’m considering buying an AR-15 pistol. I know nothing about them. Are they legal to own without a special permit? Do I need a federal firearms license to be legal?

-From Josh J.

Answer: The short answer is no, at least for now.

AR pistols are AR-15 rifle platforms that have a shorter barrel and a “pistol” buffer tube that does not allow for the attachment of traditional stock. Essentially, they’re a pistol built on an AR-15 receiver.

The National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA) defined any rifle with a shoulder stock and barrel less than 16 inches in length and 26 inches in overall length to be a “short barreled rifle” and required a citizen to fill out a Form 4 and pay a $200 NFA Tax Stamp.

However, an AR pistol allows the shooter to have the size, weight and maneuverability of a short barrel rifle but without the NFA regulations. Basically, an AR pistol can have a brace, but cannot have a regular stock.

But this could all change in December of 2022. The ATF is attempting to change the laws related to pistol braces. If the new law takes effect, it could make a pistol brace on an AR-15 pistol illegal.

In that case, you would have to remove the stabilizing brace or pay a $200 tax stamp to get a federal license to own the weapon.


I’m a female and live alone in a retirement community. I do not own any guns. I’m looking at getting a Taser. The company that sells them to police departments also makes a civilian version. Is this a good idea?

-From Patsy B.

Answer: The thing about a Taser is it can only fire one cartridge at a time. Therefore, you would need to reload with another cartridge, which means removing the first cartridge, rendering it no longer effective.

In other words, hitting multiple attackers with multiple cartridges is not very realistic since the cartridge that is in use would be the only one delivering a shock.

However, Tasers also have a “drive stun” capability where the Taser is held against the target without firing the projectiles and causes pain without incapacitating the target.

Basically, once you fire your Taser cartridge you would then be able to use the Taser like a stun gun and make direct contact with your attacker.

So, while I’d much rather have a gun, this is certainly better than nothing and a solid option to go with.


My home had a small garage fire. It came very close to reaching my ammunition stockpile. What would happen if thousands of 9mm rounds were consumed in a fire? Will it melt it down?

-From Gary T.

Answer: During a fire, ammo will most likely explode, but without a gun containing the ammo, there’s nothing to stop or direct the pressures created by the cartridge igniting.

The popping noise people hear when ammunition is burning is usually not the bullet flying around, but is the cartridge burning, regardless of what you may have seen in the movies.

So, you’re in a lot less danger than you think you are. In the best-case scenario, you would store ammo in a fireproof safe.


What is a bullpup shotgun? Are they better than traditional shotguns?

-From Craig C.

Answer: The biggest advantage to bullpup shotguns is that they are shorter than other shotguns with similar barrel lengths. Some shooters feel that bullpups are easier to maneuver since they are lighter and shorter.

Another thing is that bullpups are faster to your shoulder. What I mean is, the reduced weight and length mean you can get the shotgun on target quicker compared to other shotguns.

Overall bullpup shotguns are easier to carry and handle for long periods of time. If you are looking for a new shotgun, I would check out a bullpup design to see if you like it.


My girlfriend just started a new job at the mall. This is her first time working in a retail setting. In the event of an active shooter situation should she just get down and hide? Is it bad to stay put and wait for the police?

-From Parker P.

Answer: This is a complicated decision that needs to be made on the scene. While staying out of the way of the trampling masses is always a good idea, it’s impossible to know if there will be any secondary attacks or effects.

For instance, if a bunch of gunmen are headed your way, you don’t want to stay where you are. (Unless you think you can take them all down, then certainly do it.)

My point is, you really won’t know if there is one shooter or three shooters and hiding isn’t the best option if the gunman is headed your way.


I am completely new to guns. In fact, I shot a gun for the first time last month. My question is, if I buy a gun, which is the best gun for left-handed people?

-From Kelly F.

Answer: For new shooters, I recommend trying a Glock, more specifically, I like the Glock 19. Overall, Glocks are a great gun for beginners and the 19 is a good compact size frame.

My wife and I each own a Glock 19 and they can be used for concealed carry or home defense.

Also, Glocks have internal safeties. So, there’s no fumbling around to switch an external safety designed for a right-handed shooter.

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