> TEOTWAWKI Blog: Reader Question: AR-15 Pistols



Reader Question: AR-15 Pistols


I've been reading your blog for quite some time and thoroughly enjoy the information you put out. I did a quick search of your blog and couldn't find anything specific about AR pistols. What is your opinion of them? 

My interest was peaked when I read about one of the character's AR pistol in "You Took Away Tomorrow", and now I am looking to possibly get one of my own, possibly starting off with a Kel Tec PLR 22 since it allows me to try it out without breaking the bank.

AR pistols are interesting really only due to some of the silly federal firearms laws and ATF rulings here in the U.S. 

Ideally, you would just have a short barreled rifle (SBR) with a normal stock - but, that requires a ATF approval, $200 tax stamp and so on. And, in most states you cannot legally carry a concealed rifle, SBR or not.

AR pistols allow you to have an "almost SBR", without having to go through the ATF/tax stamp process. You still have the buffer tube, which you can use for that important third point of contact. You get the short barrel and handy size.

The ATF has also recently ruled that 'arm braces' intended to stabilize shooting an AR pistol one handed are not stocks. Yes, you can put one of these on and AR pistol and it is still just a pistol and 100% legal per the ATF. I'm on the fence about whether or not these braces are too good to be true/likely to lead to trouble OR if they'll be legal and on the 'ok' list for the long run.

And, because an AR pistol is legally/technically a just pistol, if you have a carry permit, you may be able to legally carry a concealed AR pistol...just like you could legally carry a Glock or J-frame. 

Know your local laws. And 'legal' doesn't always mean 'good idea.' Despite being legal, a run in with an LEO while carrying an AR pistol around in a backpack is probably not going to be as simple as a quick, pleasant conversation.

So, an AR pistol is an interesting niche due to ATF rulings.

In YTAT, Jack used his AR pistol much in the manner I see them being useful - during a disaster situation, for low profile/vehicle operations, where law and order is still somewhat in effect and you're concerned about staying legal. That is a fairly narrow niche.

You could also use one as a home defense weapon - the shorter barrel/handier size being a virtue indoors, though the shorter barrel 5.56 would not be gentle on your ears. A 9mm AR pistol would probably be better for this purpose. You would want to think through the ramifications and potential legal complications if you did ever use an "evil black, short barreled military pattern assault pistol" in a home defense situation.

I have zero interest any other 'pistol' versions of rifles...an AK pistol, for example, lacks the buffer tube to use as an improvised stock, making it heavy, awkward, loud and generally inaccurate to use (though they to make a 'brace' for AK pistols, too - if you want to go down that path). 

Specifically, the Kel-Tec guns fall into the same camp of heavy, awkward, loud and generally inaccurate...and they are Kel-Tecs, which have a generally horrible reputation. If you want something as a range blasting toy though, then have at it. 

Useful Links:

Jerking the Trigger - AR-15 Pistols - Clearing up Misconceptions 

Gabe Suarez used to have a couple good blog posts on AR pistols up on Warrior Talk News, but it looks like it is down/in transition right now, and my Google-fu is weak. This product page, though, shows two techniques for making use of the buffer tube.

The ARFCOM AR Pistol forum has a wealth of information, FAQs and so on. Your best bet for a deep dive.


  1. Ya an AR pistol would really be a silly thing if it weren't for the regulations that spawned its creation. Any of the gun laws regarding "short barreled rifles" are just beyond my comprehension. A SBR is exactly what you'd want in a home defense situation--accuracy and firepower of a rifle but its small and maneuverable too. There's a reason the SEALS where using them when they assaulted Osama's compound in Pakistan. And you can get a snubnose revolver without a problem--if short barrels are so evil why isn't a s&w j-frame? For SBRs I really just don't get the gun grabber logic (an oxymoron I suppose). Ideally you'd want a suppressor on there too but that's a whole other instance of federal stupidity.

    1. "A SBR is exactly what you'd want in a home defense situation"

      Rifles of any kind are a concern to me in home defense. Don't want a round going through the walls and killing my kid on the other side of the house, or for folks who live in a apartment situation it could be even worse. Only scenario would be living in the country, and preferably alone where a rifle would be optimal. If I'm in a firefight in my own home, before SHTF, my handgun and a couple spare clips by the nightstand and the couple handguns placed in various spots in the home should suffice.

      Just something to think about, when I was single I didn't think about stuff like that. Kids, neighbors etc being in the line of fire. Now they are things that are a concern to me with a family.

    2. Everything punches through interior walls. Birdshot on up.

      There is some belief and testing that some specific 5.56 loads will drag/shatter more readily on hitting a wall - certainly less so than larger rifle rounds or something like a 12 gauge slug. One of the reasons m4s have become the go to for most entry teams.

      But, if you don't have a clean shot, you should not take it. Something to think through.

    3. Buy Hornady TAP ammo for CQC. Devestating round that doesn't over penatrate (a tree branch will cause it to fragment). I'm a big fan of SBR or ar pistols for HD, ammo/componet compability, capacity and the fact that a 223 round has a velocity at 300 yards equilivent to a 357 at the muzzle. Get a proper muzzle break and you can shoot them accurate 1 handed out to 50 yards and with an optic and forearm brace as a stock you can hit targets out to 300 yards.

    4. It is more than a belief Alex. Test after test have shown a 9 punch through more layers of sheet rock than a 5.56. Again the best weapon is what you have in your hands when you need it.

    5. 3rdman -

      I said 'testing', didn't I ? :)

      Admittedly, I haven't done a whole ton of research on the matter!

  2. I can't seem to find a use for an AR pistol in my situation as much as I have tried thinking about it. They would be a niche firearm, so much so I can't make the investment in it. Watching people fire them as a pistol is just awkward because they are so long and heavy compared to a handgun, and watching them trying to shoot it as a traditional AR without the butt stock isn't much better. Accuracy isn't there on them without a stock. Every time I see someone on the range they are just spraying and praying with those things.

  3. I guess when I first saw AR pistols, I was suckered into the "cool" factor, my inner mall ninja was crying out to me. But like everyone else here, the more I looked into it, the less useful it seems. Just judging from my personal experience with pistols, which isn't a lot yet, I will say that not having the stock to put into your shoulder severely hampers effective use of the weapon. I suppose if you really wanted to do something like an AR pistol, but didn't want to go the SBR route, you could just get an AR or AK with a folding stock and fold the stock for situations that require a short weapon (i.e. Vehicle operations). Thank you Mr. Wolf for the reply as this was my question and I very much appreciate you spending your time to give me a thoughtful answer.

  4. You're not going to hear much after the first shot indoors, that's for sure. I have a 7.5" barrel AR-15 with an A2 flash suppressor and it is LOUD at the indoor range. Turns a lot of curious heads.

  5. I just took a carbine class, and one of my classmates had an AR pistol. He had a barrel about 7-8 inches long. What I saw is he can wield it effectively for every exercise and drill, but prone sucks. It is clear to me an AR pistol is great for squatting, kneeling, or standing, but not great prone. Also, this was mostly a CQC class, so we did most fighting drills at less than 15 yards. His targets looked good and that thing handled well with cover. He ran the buffer tube up under his cheek bone like with a regular stock ... not against his shoulder. He also used an Aimpoint Micro, or similar, with a spacer for height, and also had what looked like a Vortex flash suppressor.

    I would put some serious consideration into an AK pistol, 7.62x39 specifically, with a 10-12 inch barrel, because that cartridge, specifically, does a good job getting up to a terminal speed in a short barrel. A 10 inch barrel is not too far off, performance wise, from a 16 inch barrel.

    If you go with an AR pistol, a longer barrel is better, ballistically. I'd really consider a 12 inch barrel to get adequate velocity for the 10-15 yard shots. Also, I would run either hollow points, or heavier rounds in the 70+ grain category, as those work really well at lower velocities. 5.56 military ammo is meant to work by bullet fragmentation which requires high velocity. Over 2700 fps. Hunting ammo and heavier rounds such as the 70+ grainers do not need this high velocity to perform well. But they still need adequate velocity! So, a longer barrel is better, and a 1:7 inch twist rate is best for the heavier bullets. Check out these articles:


    Seriously, read these articles and understand what is going on with hollow point, JSP, and heavy FMJ rounds. My preference would be towards heavier rounds due to more reliable penetration on flesh and bone, and the heavy stuff is incredibly devastating.

    For an AR pistol, I'd consider at least a 10 inch barrel, with longer being better. A 1:7 twist rate would be very wise, in my opinion. I'd also look at running either good heavy hunting ammunition, or heavy 70+ gr 5.56 rounds. I'd also consider some sort of optic or laser a very wise choice, along with a flashlight. Honestly, I think a green laser would be better than the optic inside 50 yrds. I'd also consider taking a carbine class and getting some good training with your platform.

    I like the idea of an AR pistol for CQC, low profile "zombie/SHTF" protection, and interstate travel. Also, if you live in an area with biker gangs or others on the road, it is nice to have something more serious for protection.

    Good luck!


  6. I always thought of the AR-15 "pistol" as a solution in search of a problem. Rather like the .410 bore revolvers like the tarus judge.
    I have a friend who is practically obsessed with "pistolised" rifles. He has gone through several of them over the years and is convinced that they are great. I have been on the range with him and cannot convince him that filling the area near the target with rapid fire is not really hitting the target. He is also big on "gadget" accessories like trick sights and lasers.
    Sigh..... if I could get him to spend 1/4 of the $ he spends on "gadgets" on practice ammo he would be a decent shot.

  7. Ok my sb15 brace is completly effective in a standard sense. I have a sig pm400 that has 11in barrel. I swear it can hang with any sbr! Seriously worth the investment. I wanted best firepower with best resupply type of firearm for shtf. I think for suburban warfare most will see ar pistol all the way! Red dot it with reliable flashlight n rock any neighborhood! My ar15 rifle will not be used now except for parts.

    1. Why would you want to "rock any neighborhood"? Just what the hell does that even mean?

    2. Always has to be some smart a#$...um maybe to drive out an invading force, to protect your neighbors from roving gangs, sorry maybe youd rather cower from bad guys but some of us grunt mentality are alittle more gung ho.

    3. I make it a point to not pick fights unnecessarily. If you are in a gun fight, you might get shot. If you avoid gun fights, you are less likely to get shot.

      If a fight is necessary, then by all means, do the best with what you have on hand. But practice diplomacy too, and only fight when necessary.


    4. Anon -

      'Rock the neighborhood' isn't commonly used and sounds more like a crazy person running around his neighborhood than protecting folks.

  8. Always been interested in the AR-pistols myself, just never had the need for one. I would be cautious however if selecting it for home defense or even CQB. I know its gonna raise some cackles when I say it, but the 5.56 has shown time and time again to be notoriously bad at stopping a human size threat immediately...which is what is absolutely needed for home defense/CQB scenarios. The round is simply to small and to fast, punches holes and passes through, but fails to immediately stop threats. For home defense or CQB, beiger slower bullet is always better, proven time and time again. As far as the TAP rounds mentioned above, I Absolutely would not use them for home defense, simply because of the fact that they will not penetrate more than one or two at most, drywalls. I understand the concept, why they were invented and have used them myself in a gunfight..and this is why I wouldn't use them again. Our suspect was held up in a wooden frame, old beat up house and our rounds were only penetrating the outer wall, stopping in the second wall they encountered, the living room drywall. Now I know everyone is screaming at this point..thats what they are supposed to do...and they did it very well...but the suspect was never touched! Everyone does realize that you can shoot through walls and cover right? Despite most peoples Hollywood knowledge of gunfighting, bullets do pass through doors, walls, car bodies, cinder blocks...lot and lots of hard things that no Hollywood bullet can penetrate. If I'm clearing my house, I want the ability to shoot through a wall, several walls, even a car body...not be pinned down inside a room, not being able to effectively engage a hostile while he chews up everything around me. Of course you should identify your target..in a perfect scenario and perfect world..but these perfect things rarely happen. If your that concerned about family or innocents getting hit then you should already have a plan in place in case something happens where they get a signal and hit the floor or get out of the house. I just would not rely on TAP rounds to stop a threat when the threat is running with full metal jacket, which is what most scumbags buy...its the cheapest rounds....they don't read publications about the newest best home defense round or what Tactical TV. The AR and 5.56 have their place, but they are not the end all be all of rifles, not by a long shot.

    1. evile451 -

      300 blk performs better out of a short barrel, so that may be something of interest.

      On the TAP rounds not penetrating walls - that is the entire point, and they would be a 'specialty' round for use when over penetration was a primary concern.

      Using them for general purpose would get results similar to what you experienced.

      It's akin to trying to use buckshot to make a 200 yard shot and being surprised when it didn't work out well.

  9. I think you very accurately described the niche of the AR pistol. Their unique construction makes it a back door SBR without the additional cost and hassles. Good for traveling around in small spaces where you might need more than a handgun. Also a heck of a house gun.

    I want one but it is not a desperate type of thing.

  10. I love my 300 blackout pistol. Was going to turn it into a sbr but then i need a letter from the atf just to cross a state line thats 5 mins from my house to get to a gun range, the letter is only good for 1 year and I'm told takes 2 months to get.

  11. I think if I had an AR pistol I would want some sort of sling that I could use to push out on the pistol to create a "ghost stock" via the tension. Anyone have any experience in doing that?

    1. Actually a pretty common technique with tactical response teams and special operations forces. Normally a 3-point sling is used, but just about any manueverable sling will work. Called Sling Fire or Punching Out, the weapon is punched out straight from center mass of shooter body as if trying to punch the target with muzzle, tension is kept to keep weapon steady and aiming thru sights, focusing on front sight at extreme close quarters, or simply looking over very top of sights using them as aiming reference. Works very well with MP-5, what I was trained on, invented by British SAS. You can accurately engage targets using this method within house clearing, urban fighting scenarios. Old trick for quick acquisition in tight quarters without having to exactly lnie up sights was to paint a white line down top of sight shroud, front sight or suppressor, measured and lined up of course..giving you a quick reference for center mass hits at close quarters distances.

  12. Hey now! I own a Kel Tec SU-16C... I've run a few thousand rounds through her without a single hiccup. I like the folding stock that i can slide a mag through... makes a nice smallish package. It's fairly accurate to boot.

  13. http://www.thektog.org/forum/f88/kel-tec-su-16-model-c-review-torture-test-226543/