The AR pistol was long viewed as a gimmick – a range toy, or a builder’s quirky delight that served little practical purpose. The global war on terror has changed that perspective. Elite operators use SBRs and compact weapons for close-quarters combat.
They realized all that barrel length and size served no benefit in these combat environments, but compact firearms that weighed much less and provided greater maneuverability without sacrificing much accuracy were perfect. So, why exactly might you want an AR pistol? Let’s break down why they’re so great for so many reasons.
The AR Pistol is Great Home-Defense Gun
The full-size AR 15 rifle is not necessarily the best defense weapon when it comes to close-quarters combat. With the ATF dictating a minimum barrel length of 16” barrels and overall length of 26”, maneuvering in hallways and through bedroom doorways can pose a challenge. AR 15s also provide plenty of velocity and they could over-penetrate.
That ain’t the case with the AR pistol. Slower velocities translate into fewer chances of over-penetration and collateral damage. The .223 and 5.56 rounds are also quite capable of some serious trauma at close range, even still. What’s more, that compact profile and short barrel make getting into the high-ready shooting position and quick target acquisition super quick and easy, and you won’t get hung up trying to turn a corner in a hurry.
The AR Pistol Sacrifices Little Accuracy
Go on Google, type in “AR pistol max effective range”, and you’ll find a bunch of ignorance, a lot of whiny forum users, and plenty of uninformed (or just plain wrong) opinions. We don’t recommend bothering with all that.
What we do recommend is watching actual, proven footage of AR pistols shooting accurate shot groups. At 100 yards, shooters with reputations to protect and evidence to show are frequently hitting tight shot groups and punching through 2x4 blocks with ease. Many are hitting 200 yard targets consistently.
The 10.5" upper is favored by SOCOM for its compact profile and medium-range (100- to 200-yard) accuracy
Does velocity in an AR pistol dip well below the optimal 2,700- to 2,900-ish feet per second that a typical AR rifle puts out? Below 10”, yes. Even at 7.5”, does that mean anything for the average shooter who goes to their favorite 100-yard range? Nope. Does that also prove that an AR pistol is an effective defense weapon at realistic distances? Yep.
You Can Shoulder an AR Pistol
We’ve beaten the dead horse into glue with this topic, but it’s so important to consider when building an AR pistol: One can legally shoulder an AR pistol with an attached stabilizing brace – like the Sig Brace or KAK Shockwave.
Our AR Pistol Kits include the KAK Shockwave, making each finished pistol as stable as possible
That means you can enjoy the same standing and prone shooting stances with an AR pistol that you’ve come to know and love with your favorite AR rifle. That also means you’re getting just about the same exact level of comfort and accuracy in your pistol when it comes to cheek weld and sight picture.
There’s no “Special Paperwork” for AR Pistols
AR pistols get a bad rap. Many falsely label AR pistols as “SBRs”, “NFA guns”, or “Class III stuff” (which isn’t even a real term).
AR pistols. Require. Absolutely. Zero. Extra. Paperwork.
They are 100% legal to own in the same vein that an AR rifle is – you buy it at the counter, you pay for your NICS check, and you’re out the door.
That is unless, of course, you’re way cooler than most gun owners and you build your AR pistol in your home. Guess what? Doing that requires no extra paperwork, either. In fact, in most states you don’t need any paperwork at all to build an AR pistol (or rifle, for that matter).
That’s because shipping an 80% lower to your front door and machining it into a finished lower receiver requires no paperwork itself. All the other parts you use to build an AR pistol aren’t considered firearms, either. That fully built upper? Not a firearm. The lower parts kit? Also not a firearm.
And fixing a pistol brace to your pistol does not make it an SBR. Doing so also does not trigger some magical, unexplained need for some strange FFL paperwork. Anyone who says otherwise is wrong.
There is also no minimum length required when building an AR pistol. Want to make yours as compact as possible? Try the Dolos QD Barrel System. It'll let you break your AR in half by separating the barrel, handguard, and gas system from the upper as one piece. It's tool-less and takes about 5 seconds to install and uninstall, making it perfect for an AR truck gun or
All The Good, Nothing Bad
The AR pistol sounds like something that’s too good to be true: It’s accurate, lighter in weight, cooler in looks, more fun to carry around and shoot, and you can shoulder it without getting a visit by the ATF – even if you install a brace.
The AR pistol is not any less functional for the average shooter than any AR rifle. Most ranges, public, private, or otherwise, top out at 100 yards. Even beyond 100 yards you can still enjoy shooting your AR pistol. Hell, make it a challenge to hit steel at 300 yards, plenty of folks have managed.DISCLAIMER: If you are new to the world of DIY gun building, you likely have a lot of questions and rightfully so. It’s an area that has a lot of questions that, without the correct answers, could have some serious implications. At 80 Lowers, we are by no means providing this content on our website to serve as legal advice or legal counsel. We encourage each and every builder to perform their own research around their respective State laws as well as educating themselves on the Federal laws. When performing your own research, please be sure that you are getting your information from a reliable source.