AR pistols are still a little misunderstood. Here's what you need to know.
I know what you're thinking, "I thought AR-15s were rifles. How can there be a pistol?" For the most part, you're right.
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.
This video looks into how these guns are described, their legalities, and what shooting one means in the big scheme of things.
AR Pistols and the NFA Definition
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" (SBR) and required a citizen to fill out a BATFE Form 4 and pay a $200 NFA Tax Stamp. In 1934, $200 was a lot of money and was viewed by many as a back-door gun control measure, among other things.
The AR pistol was developed to get around that NFA restriction since tax stamp waiting times are still longer than most would prefer.
An AR pistol allows the shooter to have the size, weight and maneuverability of a short barrel rifle or SBR, but without the NFA regulations. It's a short AR-15, but with a different buffer tube and no stock. Shouldering an AR pistol is next to impossible (or at least uncomfortable, with the elimination of the buttstock), and they're meant to be fired like a typical handgun, with one hand with your arm extended.
Pistol barrel sizes are usually 7 inches or 10.5 inches, which gives the shooter a vast amount of flexibility in close-quarters shooting, making this a great home defense firearm. It also saves on storage and transportation due to its small size.
Keep in mind, this is how federal law applies to AR pistols. State-by-state regulations may be different, so make sure you've done your homework before deciding to own and possess one.
The Arm Brace Factor
Thanks to Sig Sauer's production of their Pistol Arm Brace, shooters can have the look and feel of an SBR, but without the cost and hassle of a tax stamp.
This stabilizing brace, copied and released by more manufacturers after its introduction, made it easier for the AR pistol to be held and fired like a typical pistol. Not everyone operates their AR pistol this way, but it's how the law intends them to be.
When I was working in a gun store we carried completed 516 pistols from Sig Sauer and they, ironically, came with a certified letter from the ATF saying that they were pistols and didn't need a tax stamp. Whether you buy a Sig Sauer 516 pistol or just the pistol brace, you are approaching an AR pistol. The original intention from Sig Sauer to is put your arm through the brace and hold it like a pistol.
Advice on the AR Pistol Front
Please keep in mind that we are in no way providing legal advice, and are merely making suggestions based on our own experiences. Do with it what you may.
The legacy of the AR pistol is not without its flaws. Such a short barrel length means that there is also a very short gas system (Check this out for a further explanation of AR rifle gas systems). The shorter gas systems cause the firearm to be over-gassed. This means the gasses cycle faster than in a normal rifle, which causes more recoil and louder operation. Pistol systems require an H2 or H3 buffer to offset harsh operation, but it only helps a little.
Over-gassing will degrade the components of the pistol faster than a normal length gas system. If you are going to go for a pistol build, I recommend buying higher-grade parts than what you would have gotten away with in a rifle-length system.
I recommend a Mil-Spec 7075-T6 aluminum lower receiver versus a commercial 6069-T6 aluminum receiver. The Mil-Spec on is nearly twice as hard on the Rockwell scale and will hold up better than the commercial. This means that you will be paying a premium in order to extend the life of your pistol, yet you will have your firearm longer.
In conclusion, the AR pistol is a great way to have an SBR without the tax stamp and the wait. Even though it is classified as a pistol, be sure to check out your local and state laws regarding AR pistols.
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