AR15 Pistols & SBRs

In the world of the AR15, there are several different variations of the famous rifle platform. The AR15 is easily the most individually customizable weapon platform on the market today. A gun owner can buy or build their AR15 into a nearly limitless personalized weapon to suit any purpose that one might need for their rifle. But the AR15 is not limited to just being a reliable rifle, shooters can turn this powerhouse weapon into what the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (BATFE), or the ATF as it is better known, into a pistol as well.

Definition of AR15 Pistols & SBR

So, what determines if an AR15 is a pistol or a short-barreled rifle? The main determining factors are the overall length and the length of the weapon’s barrel. To be legally classified as a rifle, the ATF states that the AR15, or any rifle, must have a barrel length of 16”. Anything shorter than that and the weapon will fall into two different categories: a pistol or a short-barreled rifle, or SBR. The biggest difference between the two is what the AR15 has for a buttstock. A short-barreled rifle is defined as a weapon with a barrel length shorter than 16” that also has a buttstock attached to it. But take that same weapon with a barrel shorter than 16” and remove the buttstock or attach an arm brace to it instead of the buttstock and that same weapon is legally a pistol. In short, to be considered a pistol, the weapon must have an overall length shorter than 26”, a barrel length less than 16”, and does not have a vertical foregrip attached to the handguards or a buttstock at the rear of the weapon.

Legality of AR15 Pistol Braces & SBR

The AR15 pistol brace is the determining factor and key difference between a legally owned AR15 pistol and the heavily regulated SBR. The pistol brace, or stabilizing brace, sits at the rear of the AR15 instead of the traditional buttstock. There is usually some type of strap that can be wrapped around the shooter’s forearm to stabilize the AR15 pistol while shooting. The benefit to these stabilizing braces is that they allow a shooter with disabilities to easily fire their weapon and still maintain control of the weapon while doing so. These stabilizing braces are also useful to disabled shooters who choose to add one to their rifles as well, not just for weapons with barrels shorter than 16”.

In a legal sense, the AR15 pistol must be able to be fired with one hand and not tucked into the shoulder like any other rifle would be fired. On the other hand, the short-barreled rifle is allowed to have a vertical foregrip attached to it and can be fired from the shoulder. However, SBRs are considered NFA items, meaning that they require a tax stamp from the ATF to be considered legally owned. Configure an AR15 into a short-barreled rifle without going through the process of applying for an NFA item and you will find yourself running afoul of the National Firearms Act and with that comes severe fines and possibly lengthy prison time for breaking federal firearms laws. It should not be understated that the laws and regulations regarding what constitutes a legally owned AR15 pistol are subject to change, so what may be legal today could be considered illegal tomorrow.

Benefits & Drawbacks of the AR15 Pistol

The AR15 pistol definitely has some benefits to its design. Because of its shorter overall length and profile, using an AR15 pistol as a go-to home defense gun is a solid option. The smaller profile of the weapon is ideal for more confined spaces like hallways and inside the home. It is much easier to maneuver and handle than a rifle with a 16” barrel. The one drawback to this is that, due to the shorter barrel length, an AR15 pistol is exceedingly louder than that of a rifle of the same caliber. A 5.56x45mm NATO round is sharp and loud when fired from a rifle, but it is deafening when fired from a shorter barrel. This is where using suppressors, or silencers, is an added benefit to the platform.

To mitigate this, an AR15 pistol chambered in .300 BLK may be a better option for home defense use since that caliber tends to have a lessened sound profile than the 5.56mm NATO round. Plus, the .300 BLK round can be bought off the shelf in either supersonic or subsonic ammunition. Whichever way you decide to go, whether with an AR15 pistol, rifle, or an SBR, just be sure to research the latest changes to ATF regulations. Rules and regulations can change suddenly so it is best to be sure that you are keeping in compliance with all federal requirements with your firearms. And for the best deals at one of the leading gun auctions sites, Gunspot is the best place to go to find a great deal on your next AR15 pistol or your next SBR.

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