AR-15 pistols are popular for several good reasons. The ability to have a compact firearm with the performance and ergonomics of the AR-15 rifle is very attractive for those looking for potent vehicle or home defense options. AR pistols carry specific reliability, performance, legal and training issues.
For many pistol users, the AR15 pistol makes a lot of sense economically and for personal defense. Theres no hassling with the paperwork and waiting time as if you were purchasing a rifle.
A key thing to remember is that it is a pistol even if you have a 14 inch barrel on it and train it as such. Put it through the rigors of scenarios for home defense and vehicle defense.
One method with the use of a sling can help stabilize the AR15 pistol for quick accurate shots, you perform this by doing the point and shoot.
What’s your take on the AR15 pistol?
Alright, now I’m gonna talk a little bit about AR-15 pistols. Now AR-15 pistols are getting a real resurge in popularity. There’s a lot of companies building the pistol uppers, there’s a lot of people doing different things with the back end of the pistols, and there’s a lot of interesting things going on as far as peple training with them and using them, and realizing that there’s some huge benefits to the compact AR platform, the ability to fire an AR-15 essentially, the same exact thing is going on with the bullet, as long as you’re getting enough muzzle velocity out of your shorter barrel, this is very much like the SBRs, the short-barreled rifle.
Ballistics that people talk about, we’re talking about 6in, 7in, 7.5in, 10.5in, 11in, 12in, anything under 16inches here in the US is considered a short-barreled rifle. But as soon as you put a stock on this, it becomes a big issue as far as the law. Now it’s not ‘illegal’, but you do have to jump through a lot of hoops, you gotta pay a little extra money, you gotta wait a long time, and there are some states where that option doesn’t even exist. So for a lot of people, the AR pistol makes a lot of sense because it gives you a lot of the benefits of a compact platform shooting that 556 round, out of a barrel that is shorter than we would normally get out of a carbine with a collapsed stock. So that’s the advantage.
Now, here’s the thing, as far as SBRs go, I don’t own one. I’ve never bothered to jump through the hoops of any of the NFA -the National Firearms Act- type suppressors, Short-barreled rifles, fully-automatic firearms, I just don’t see a big enough advantage for me from a defensive standpoint to go through the hoops just to have it as a novelty, just to have it in my collection.
AR Pistols on the other hand are something that I’ve been dealing with since the 90s, since during the original Assault Weapons Ban, looking at how to build an AR-15 platform pistol that was reliable. That was the big issue. You used to have the short 3-inch buffer tubes, sometimes you had an over-the-top kind of situation, but we couldn’t have any breaks, we couldn’t have any kind of muzzle break, flash suppressor, anything on the end during the assault weapons ban period, so there were a lot of things that made it just not very a reliable option, not to mention the fact that there weren’t a lot of very reliable systems as far as the combinations of the gas systems and the buffer tubes that we could rely on so that we could have a gun that we knew was gonna work for vehicle defense, personal defense, home defense. So it wasn’t much of an option.
Fast forward into the 2000s, I actually did a big writeup in SWAT magazine about AR pistols and particularly focusing on one that was made out of carbon, so it was actually a polymer gun, and it was a short-barreled six-inch fluted barrel, very rigid system, and again not much going on as far as a long buffer tube.
Well the new thing that’s happened now in the last 5-6 years is, a resurgence in interest in the AR pistol with extended buffer tubes, so this longer buffer tubes, obviously with some padding back here, and barrel lengths of ten to twelve inches, making sure that we’re still getting the velocity that we want to get the bullets to perform properly, perform like rifle bullets should: either reliably expanding, or tumbling when they hit the person that we’re shooting at trying to stop them from hurting us around our vehicle, inside of our homes. It’s not very likely that you’re going to be carrying this as a personal defense tool under a jacket or something like that. But where we get into some trouble, where we get into some confusion, is in the proper use of the AR-15 pistol.
Now if you go back and look at that SWAT magazine article, what you’re going to see is some pictures of me talking about using this as a personal defense tool or especially like in an executive protection team setting, where you’re extending and pushing this gun out against the sling, whether it’s a bungee sling or a standard sling like this one, pushing out and getting some tension there so that you get some stability as you reach out to full extension. Now that’s certainly a viable method and it works really well with these. Originally as it was shown to me in the Agent K series MP-5 the K version, very small version that has the pistol grip, very short version, and you could drive that out, that MP5, against the sling, and shoot it very very well. And obviously, set up with a red dot optic like this it gives you a very great option.
So that’s the primary way that people are taught to shoot these, and it’s the primary way that people who have shot guns like this for a long time. So let’s take a look at how that’s gonna work. We go ahead and load and chamber, and I’m just gonna go ahead and stand here, I’m gonna drive out– this is a very typical kinda home defense, maybe a vehicle defensive distance. In fact, this is further than it would be, maybe across my bedroom, if I had to defend myself with this type of firearm. I drive out, I see my dot, when I see my dot, I fire a shot. No problem. I drive out, I can manage recoil, multiple shots, and you can see: not bad grouping, and relatively fast. Drive out again, I hit a magazine change, the same as I do with a regular AR, I insert, I reach back and pull, and you’ll see that this time, what I’ve done is I’ve switched to a smaller magazine. Obviously a big part of this gun is the compactness, right? So a smaller magazine, a 20-round magazine, as long as your gun works reliably with them it can be a great option for this pistol, especially if you’re keeping it for vehicle defense, if you’re securing anyone inside a vehicle, this can be a great option with a smaller magazine.
Now here’s where it comes to the interesting moment. the padding, the different things that you’ll see, different configurations back here, can make it awfully tempting to take this pistol and put it up against your shoulder and get a good cheek weld and shoot it just like a rifle. And that’s where the gray area is. And honestly, it’s something I’m concerned about for our community and for the industry as a whole, different attachments and paddings and butt stock-looking things are absolutely coming from the BATFE with letters saying ‘You can attach this to a pistol and not be in violation of the law’, my concern is that, in US code and many state laws, one of the descriptors of a rifle includes ‘the intention to shoot the firearm from the shoulder’.
So if I all of a sudden were to say to you ‘hey, here’s how you shoot this thing, you push it up against your shoulder, your chest, you put your cheek down on it, and that’s how you bring the gun up and shoot it’, well essentially, if this is why you buy it, if you buy it to do that and you go out and train with it, and I’m telling you as an instructor that this is how you do it, then I think that clearly changes the intended use of the firearm from being a pistol, something that you shoot out from your body, to something that you shoot up against your body. So until I see a letter from the BATFE that says ‘no no no, it does not constructively create a rifle if you intend to shoot this thing from your shoulder’, that’s not something I’m willing to teach. Now that would be four points of contact, that would be the traditional rifle ‘one, two, three, four’ points of contact when I come up to my cheek. However, pistol shooting can involve maybe three points of contact. So if we look at the letter of the law, we can realize that we can’t put it up against our shoulder -Or chest area I’m sure would be an extension of shouldering this device- maybe I can put my cheek on this and get three points of contact. And I’ve seen other instructors do this as well.
There are some devices which attach to the chin which I’m not a big fan of, it doesn’t seem like that’s a great idea. Obviously if I’m breathing, my chin, my mouth is moving. But I can put this up to my cheek. Let’s say I wanted to take a shot at the head and I put my cheek up on the gun, now I can take that shot with a little more stability. So as opposed to kinda hip-shooting this thing or kinda free-floating it, we’re taking it off the sling and just driving out holding it like this in this kind of a situation, which certainly could work, I could fire a shot into the chest this way and get a good hit. This way I can pull the gun back in, put it up against my face, obviously stop talking, fire that shot into the head area. So that’s one way to get a little more stability without having to worry about the shouldering issue.
So AR pistols, I think absolutely, a modern, good, viable option for home defense, maybe for a good vehicle gun, but be careful how you train with them, be careful how you build them, make sure obviously that you’re complying with all the laws, that you’ve got a lower that can be built as a pistol, that you aren’t taking something that was sold to you as a rifle and changing its configuration completely to make it a pistol. Lotta things to worry about when it comes to the AR pistols, but I think they’re absolutely worth worrying about, because it absolutely is a viable defense system.
Sources: Personal Defense Network, Rob Pincus