By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters
The AR platform is the most popular in these United States, at least unless misguided “do-gooders” have their way. While plenty of people want a more compact version, not everyone wants to deal with getting an SBR stamp from the ATF, so the AR Pistol platform was created as a workaround.
They’ve gotten mighty popular, with more and more gun companies offering them to consumers.
The pitch is that because they’re so compact, they can easily fit in a vehicle and are more maneuverable in cramped quarters. Many models have a folding stock feature that allows them to be made short enough to fit in a backpack, perfect for a bugout bag in case the zombies attack or if you find yourself pursued by a biker gang led by a bodybuilder wearing a hockey mask.
Are they the most perfectest long arm in the HISTORY OF EVER?! No, not really, but there’s a heck of a lot to like. If you’re wondering whether or not to take the plunge, whether as a vehicle-stored quasi-long gun for emergencies or home defense firearm, or stored in a backpack in case you need to escape from New York (see what I did there?) there are a few pros and cons to be aware of.
First, you can’t add certain accessories. The way the law works regarding AR pistols is that for the gun to be legally classified as a “pistol” the buffer tube cannot be equipped with an adjustable stock. Instead, it must only be adorned with a brace.
If you add a collapsible stock, like you’d find on basically every other AR-platform gun, that’s technically a Short Barreled Rifle, which requires an SBR stamp from the ATF. A vertical forward grip is likewise verboten unless you have the tax stamp OR if the pistol is more than 26 inches in overall length.
The brace issue is, well, it gets strange. Most braces are designed for use by putting your arm through a loop or resting against the crook of the elbow. Granted, they look like they’re made to be shouldered, and a lot of people did shoulder them despite there being a significant gray area in the NFA.
The ATF, by 2014, had stated that shouldering a brace was just fine. They changed their mind in 2015 and declared in their Open Letter doing so to be a “modification” of the gun (since shouldering the brace was outside intended use) and thus required an SBR stamp to do. Then, in 2017, they once again changed their mind and stated that incidental or occasional use of an arm brace as a stock in and of itself was not an NFA violation unless the brace was modified for use only as a stock.
In short, unless you want to get the stamp for an SBR, only put a brace on, even if you use the brace to shoulder the weapon.
Some definite pros in favor of the platform are compactness. They are smaller, lighter, and vastly more maneuverable than a typical AR-platform rifle. This much is true. Also, .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO is not such a hard-recoiling round that it isn’t controllable, even if the gun isn’t shouldered. .300 AAC Blackout will kick a little more, but not too much.
If you asked me, I think .308 Winchester/7.62mm NATO is best used in an actual rifle for best results, but that’s just my silly opinion. Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments. It can be done, but at some point you want equipment that’s as easy to run as possible. .308 is a breeze in a bolt gun, but will be a right handful from a light gun with a short barrel and less than a full stock.
Long-range capability could be considered a con, but that’s a little unrealistic. Most people have in mind for these guns is more of a close quarters firearm or perhaps out to modest ranges in between the range of a shotgun and that of an actual intermediate rifle.
Accuracy at long range actually isn’t an issue if you use a properly zeroed optic, but your trajectory tables are going to change a bit due to the reduction in velocity from having a shorter barrel. Therefore, learn the trajectory with your gun and load, and you’ll be able to reach out and touch things at 300 yards.
Other drawbacks are that AR pistols can be a bit more finicky than their full-size brethren, especially when running a suppressor. Granted, this is partially down to the individual gun (lemons happen) the operator (clean your darn gun, Bubba) ammunition (you went with cheap steel case again, didn’t you?) and so on, but they have been known to have a few more hiccups.
As far as compact home defense guns go, it’s definitely a great pick for that application. In fact, there are few that are more ideal outside of a compact shotgun or a pistol-caliber semi-auto carbine. Add a light, maybe a red dot, and you have a darn good home defense gun.
It definitely works as a car or truck gun, and in fact makes an ideal candidate for this application. If you need to “fight your way to a rifle,” an AR pistol stores and conceals quite easily.
Granted, and maybe this is a good discussion for another time, I don’t know how practical that is for the armed civilian. For police officers, the concept has been proven time and again, but remember that police officers basically work out of their cruisers; they’re usually not far from it. You, on the other hand, probably are.
As far as a backpack gun, this much is up to you. It’s a novel concept, and of course takedown guns are nothing new (I’m dreaming of a Brow-ow-ning…) and an AR pistol, especially with a folding brace (NOT A STOCK!) will definitely fit in most backpacks. Exactly how much good that does the typical armed civilian in the real world I don’t know, but it will do that.
So, it’s definitely a good weapon platform for the armed civilian in a home defense role and as a car gun and bugout bag takedown gun. So long as you know what you’re getting to.
Sam Hoober is a Contributing Editor to AlienGearHolsters.com, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit aliengearholsters.com.