I’ve been playing with a new firearm for a few weeks, one that I thought would disprove much of what I’ve read about them – but, to my surprise, I’ve found my ideas overturned. I’m talking about an AR-15 pistol, as opposed to the well-known rifle.
An AR pistol is simply the same type of lower receiver used on the rifle, but with a short-barreled upper receiver, and only a short buffer tube (plus, optionally, a forearm brace) instead of a traditional stock. The weapon must be designed and primarily intended to be fired without bracing it against the shoulder. As an illustration of the concept, here’s Ruger’s AR-556 pistol, one of many on the market today.
It used to be the case that if an AR-15 pistol was fired from the shoulder, it was deemed to defeat the object of the pistol buffer tube and/or brace, and therefore was illegal; but that changed in 2018, so that now one can place the buffer tube and/or forearm brace against one’s shoulder, and shoot it that way. In so many words, this is a way to get something very similar to a short-barreled rifle, or SBR, without jumping through official hoops, waiting a year or more for the paperwork to clear, and paying the $200 tax required. That’s particularly important in states that forbid their citizens from owning SBR’s. (It also circumvents laws in some states that forbid the carrying of a loaded rifle in a vehicle. This isn’t a rifle – it’s legally a pistol. Problem solved.)
I’m finding a number of advantages to an AR-15 pistol in terms of its tactical utility.
- The short barrel and brace make it much handier in confined spaces. With the 10½” barrel I have on mine, its overall length is only about two-thirds that of a traditional 16″-barreled carbine. Indoors, it’s far easier to maneuver around corners and obstacles. (One can get barrels as short as 7 inches, but I think a rifle round loses so much velocity at that length that it’s unwise. I’ll stick to 9-10 inches and up.)
- The muzzle blast and concussion from the short barrel can be epic if untamed (particularly in a confined space), but are easily reduced to more manageable levels (for the shooter, if not for bystanders) by a device such as the Midwest Industries Blast Can, which doesn’t control muzzle flip but reduces sideways and rearward blast and noise. (There are many competing products out there, but I haven’t used them, so I can’t vouch for their effectiveness. I have, however, used the Blast Can, and have it on several of my firearms.)
- Many argue (and I agree) that standard 5.56mm military ball ammo (the cartridge around which the AR-15 rifle was developed) is much less effective at the lower velocities attainable through a short barrel. However, using soft-point or hollow-point ammunition greatly increases its effectiveness, even at lower velocities; and if one uses a cartridge such as the .300 AAC Blackout, which was designed to be effective from shorter barrels, it’s even more useful. (I have a 300 BLK pistol, plus a much cheaper third-party upper to use lower-cost 5.56mm ammo for training.)
- Some object that the short barrel and relatively awkward forearm brace make the pistol much less usable at typical rifle ranges. Sure they do – but that’s not the point. This isn’t a rifle, and isn’t intended to be. Even so, I find it much easier to get hits out to 100 yards or even further with the AR pistol and a good reflex (i.e. red-dot) sight, compared to the average handgun. The bullets also have two to three times more energy than a typical defensive handgun round. The AR-15 pistol is also much easier to handle effectively when moving rapidly and engaging multiple targets. Sure, for almost all civilians that’ll never be a tactical need: but those of us who’ve worn a uniform and “been up the sharp end” know that such situations can arise, and want to be able to deal with them if necessary. (Yes, I suppose we’re professionally paranoid.) I’m a lot more comfortable doing so with this weapon than with a handgun.
- If one adds a device such as the Law Tactical Folding Stock Adapter (which is ridiculously expensive for what it is, but they own the patent, so they can charge what they like until the latter expires), the overall length of the weapon can be reduced even further, allowing it to be concealed in a backpack or duffel bag where no-one would suspect the presence of an AR-15-type weapon. It also makes the pistol much easier to transport in a vehicle. Just be sure the addition of the adapter doesn’t push the length of pull of your AR pistol beyond 13.5″ (the legal dimensions of AR pistols are discussed here).
Those are a few thoughts on what I’ve found so far with my AR-15 pistol. If you’ve never considered one, I suggest you try them if your local shooting range offers one for rent (or ask a friend to try his or hers). You may be pleasantly surprised.
As part of my efforts to make up for a shortfall in book income while I recover from my recent heart attack, I’m planning to sell several firearms (over and above those I sold earlier this year to pay medical bills). With the current upsurge in demand for good-quality firearms, I should be able to get halfway decent prices for them, which will be helpful. I’ll post details here from time to time, to give my blog readers first crack at them. Unless we’re both Texas residents and meet in person, the firearms will have to be shipped to your local dealer, of course – all relevant laws, rules and regulations apply.
However, that doesn’t apply to components that aren’t legally classified as firearms. I can ship them anywhere without going through a federal firearms license holder. That being the case, I have two AR-15 rifle uppers that are looking for a good home. (Only the lower receivers require FFL transfer.)
1. Troy Industries upper.
I bought a Troy Industries AR-15 rifle back in 2014 during the firm’s Thanksgiving sale (I wrote about it on this blog at the time). It looked like this (click both images below for a larger view).
It was equipped with Troy’s Medieval Muzzle Brake (which is also designed to serve as a breaching device if necessary) and the company’s Bravo 13″ quad-rail handguard. However, I never used the rifle as a complete weapon. I took off the upper receiver and stored it in my safe, replacing it with a different upper receiver I had lying around. It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with the Troy upper; it was just that it was brand-new, where the other upper had been well used, so I figured to keep the Troy upper in pristine condition against future need. Later, I gave the rifle, including the Troy lower receiver, to a friend who needed an AR-15. The Troy upper slumbered on in my gun safe, unfired.
Well, now that I need to generate income, I guess it’s up for sale. Its components, from a premium manufacturer like Troy, would price out at well over $600 today. I’m pricing it to sell quickly, at $300.
EDITED TO ADD: The Troy upper has been sold, pending receipt of funds.
2. Yankee Hill Machine Co. upper.
This one is rather special. I obtained it direct from YHM through the good offices of my friend Oleg Volk, one of the nation’s top photographers of firearms and related equipment, who was doing some advertising photography for YHM at the time. I was able to specify exactly what I wanted to go into it, and YHM came through with their usual superb quality. (I apologize for the not-very-good photograph below; it’s the best I can do with my run-of-the-mill cellphone’s camera at short notice. It looks much better in person!)
The build started with YHM’s 20″ Fluted Melonite QPQ barrel. It’s a real tack-driver, producing half-inch groups at 100 yards with Hornady’s 75gr. BTHP Match rounds. I coupled it with YHM’s rifle-length free-float tube forearm, incorporating a 3″ rail below and a 12″ rail above for a full-length Picatinny rail over the entire sighting plane. I added the company’s Q.D.S. same-plane sight system. Finally, I topped the receiver with YHM’s 30mm. heavy-duty one-piece scope mount. Those components alone, excluding the upper receiver (without BCG) to which they were mounted, currently retail for well over $700. I paid over $800 for the upper as described, fully assembled, and counted it money well spent.
I thoroughly enjoyed this upper, but didn’t use it much, as I found few shooting opportunities requiring long-range shooting with tack-driver accuracy (something at which it excels). This is the sort of upper a varmint hunter would use to take coyotes at 500-600 yards, or a police sniper might deploy – it’s that accurate.
Sadly, as I’ve grown older and my back injuries have deteriorated further, I’m no longer able to do that sort of thing as easily as before; so, reluctantly, this upper receiver goes on the block too. I’m looking to get $400 for it.
EDITED TO ADD: The YHM upper has been sold, pending receipt of funds.
So, dear readers: if any of you are interested in either of these uppers, please e-mail me (my e-mail address is in my blog profile under “About Me & contact info”). Trades can be considered if cash is tight. We’ll split the shipping cost, if applicable. Let’s do a little business!