Pistol versions of firearms usually configured as rifles have been the belle of the proverbial ball for the last few years. Thanks to the popularity of ATF-approved devices like SB Tactical’s pistol arm brace they were elevated from almost-useless range toys to handy and convenient tools for many gun owners.

After the ATF’s 2015 open letter there was a distinct drop in interest due to the uncertainty surrounding the arm brace’s legal status, and despite the ATF’s recent clarification it may be too late to save some lines.

From Arsenal’s recent press release:

LAS VEGAS, NV As part of the consolidation of its product line-up and trimming certain models, Arsenal, Inc. is phasing out the SAM7K and SLR-106UR Pistol models. These 7.62x39mm and 5.56x45mm pistols will no longer be manufactured and all stock will be offered at significantly lowered prices. All configurations will be available at $300-$500 lower than their standard MSRP, while stocks last. Please contact your retailers and distributors for stock status and actual pricing.

In other words, Arsenal wasn’t selling enough pistol versions of their AK pattern guns to support them as a separate product line. There are two possible reasons for this.

Possible explanation #1: the rifle-turned-pistol market just isn’t big enough to sustain a major product line, let alone nine separate SKUs. It always was a niche market, and while the pistol arm brace boom promised increased interest in AR and AK pistols, the reality of the situation appears to be that they may be novelty products not unlike the zombie-themed guns and gear of a few years back.

But that explanation has some holes. Other companies make pistol versions of their firearms turn a nice profit. Why can’t Arsenal do the same?

Possible explanation #2: people just don’t want a pistol-sized AK. Perhaps it isn’t the form factor that’s the problem but the firearm itself. Pistol versions of AR-15’s and MP5’s are still flying off the shelves, but AK’s aren’t moving. It could very well be that the person who buys an AK would rather have a full-size version for cheap than a more expensive pint-size version.

We’ll just have to wait for a conclusive answer. It took nearly three years for the zombie craze to finally die an ignominious death, after popping up in different areas of the firearms industry like a reanimated corpse vomiting lurid neon green wherever it went.

Even if the pistol craze is over, there’s a difference here: an arm brace-equipped pistol actually serves a useful purpose and fills a niche in the market. Instead of just being a hideous different paint job, a pistol arm brace allows shooters the option of a functional, shorter firearm without the hassle of obtaining a tax stamp.

I doubt that concept will ever disappear, but as Arsenal seems to have discovered there just isn’t enough latent AK demand to keep more than one SKU in the supply chain at a time.

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66 Responses to Is The AK-47 and AR-15 Pistol Craze Over?

  1. “Pistol versions of AR-15’s and MP5’s are still flying off the shelves, but AK’s aren’t moving.”

    Why you include AR-15s in the title of this article if they are still flying off the shelves?

  2. Funny, I was just trying to decide between an M92 pistol with SB brace or a 300 BLK AR pistol. Both guns will cost about the same but 7.62×39 ammo is still about half price compared to 300 BLK since I don’t hand load. I am leaning heavy toward the AKM, but I am way more familiar with AR’s in general. And before you say it, I don’t think I can get away with buying both, the wife always knows!

    • If you already have and are familiar with ARs go with the blackout. Parts interchangeability is nice to have. More options with bcg, triggers and so on down the line. 300 blk is also better out of short barrels with powder burning by 9″ of barrel. Ammo is .50 cents a round and you have the ability to shoot subs and hope for the HPA to pass or go the long route later on.

    • The problem is this…there really is a strong case for the PDW and its compactness and maneuverability. Something between a 9MM subgun, and a 5.56/7.62×39 16″ carbine. The hangup is that there are so few REAL intermediate cartridges…5.56/7.62X39 are really rifle cartridges…lets not kid ourselves, they’re not intermediates, the concussion out of a 10ish inch barrel is insane. 5.7X28 is sort-of intermediate, but the good stuff is restricted. Its a pity .30 Carbine isn’t recognized/developed more…that’s a real intermediate with just under 1000 ft/lbs of muzzle energy and quite a bit more range than 9MM. Okay, 300BLK subsonic is arguably an intermediate, certainly more so than its parent cartridge, but 300blk is cost prohibitive for many people. But no, the “pistol” style PDW is still relevant. Quite relevant.

      • I would consider 7.62×39 to be intermediate out of a short barrel since it still has decent ballistics at short/medium ranges.

      • I’m with you on the .30 Carbine. I wanted to get an AR barrel for a pistol (8 to 10 inches) in it, but no one made what I wanted. I had an M1 Carbine about 25 years ago and if it were not for hard times I would have it today. The caliber is very misunderstood and underappreciated. One other problem is the ammo – you get 50 rounds per box, but when people see the price tag they are thinking about pistol ammo and are suddenly not that enthused. I have not priced any in years, but when you compare it with a 20 round box of centerfire rifle ammo, it is not that steep.

        Last year I purchased an AR upper assembly in .300 AAC Blackout and have been very pleased with it. One thing I appreciate is the low muzzle flash and the lower muzzle blast. This is my indoor/outdoor solution to interlopers, thieves and other miscreants. I like the caliber, and the variety of loads, so I gave up on .30 carbine and 45 acp as alternative calibers.

        I have a couple of 7.62mm x 39mm rifles, and I enjoy them, but the recoil and blast out of a 16″ barrel is not insubstantial compared to 5.56 NATO or .300 AAC – I just think that this caliber is a bit much in any weapon shorter than 16 inches for most shooters, and that is probably contributing to the slack sales more than anything – and the expense. It’s funny how the market has overturned in the AK vs AR category, since the AK has increased in price and the AR has dropped significantly. That alone gives me reason to question the AK pistol.

        I am a recovering gunsmith, and I love all guns in all calibers, configurations and styles, but some I love more than others. These kinds of stories/questions are always fraught with controversy and you will find many arguments pro and con any particular weapon/caliber combination, but I have to say I have been puzzled by the opinions regarding .30 carbine. I have seen ballistics tests that convince me that within 75 yards this round is a killer; one such test involved a cubic foot of ballistic clay, fired at with an M1 Carbine at 50 yards – the results were dramatic – there was a nine inch tunnel through the center of the block with about one fourth of the rear of it splayed out like the rim of a crater. That, in my opinion is not the signature of a weak caliber. This was GI ball ammo and it fairly well destroyed the target; I would not want to be on the receiving end of that and I don’t know any volunteers.

        In the Indochina war, the French and the South Vietnamese were armed with M1 Carbines, which were actually the M2 variety mixed in with the semi auto standard version, (as well as more powerful battle rifles which were heavy and long, hard to use in that environment). They were quite effective at jungle combat distances, and even when I served in the latter part of the Vietnam War, ARVN troops were still using them to great effect.

        That being said, it is a pistol round primarily that has rifle like performance at short ranges, and too many tried to exceed these parameters when the deployed our troops in Korea where the combat ranges were far exceeding the little carbine’s abilities. That is where the bad rap came from for the .30 Carbine, and it persists to this day, and I believe it is not only unjustified, but more a result of military misapplication of the weapon in the field, which is not something unfamiliar to the United States Army’s history. Too many times there have been weapons put in the hands of our fighting forces that were ill suited to the combat conditions in the theater of operations, and for that I blame the commanders for not knowing the actual conditions in the field and the weapon’s designed capabilities. Too often in history we have seen the, “if it fires bullets, we will use it”, mentality and that leads to some really bad things. Those same kinds of attitudes persist in the military ordnance boards, and I see a renewed effort to be rid of the M16/M4 family of weapons, in favor of some nebulous non existent “modular” design. The laundry list of the attributes of the new imaginary infantry weapon begin with modular design (which I feel is satisfied with the current platform), to integrated suppressors, and even a belt fed capability, supposedly to supplant the SAW and other light machine guns in a caliber that floats between 270 and 30. We have seen this over and over and the same people are complaining about the same things being wrong with the M4 as they did with the M16 – it overheats, it jams, it needs cleaning too often, the caliber isn’t sufficient for one shot kills, the range is not long enough… and the list goes on.

        The real problem is this: improper weapon choice for the combat deployment area. Every so often these top brass guys come out of the woodwork when they smell money in the air, and the first thing out of their mouths is complaining about and replacing the current issue battle rifle… but I digress from this subject – sorry.

        If the manufacturers would have made a barrel for it ten years ago, I would have one, but the few I could find back then cost twice the standard 5.56 NATO price, so I just kept my wallet shut.

        • that’s a great post. you pretty much layed it out and summed it up . one of my friends dad fought in WWII. he spent 4 yrs in the army as an infantry soldier. He was all over Europe. When he got home, the first and only defensive gun he bought was a 30 carb. I think its underrated, especially with soft point or hollow point ammo .

    • If you can find one get the Draco over the M92. It uses standard furniture and has a chrome lined barrel.

  3. I don’t like ak’s to begin with, but never even considered either platform in pistol form, they can all stay on the shelf as far as I’m concerned. If I want to use a pistol I have plenty of them.

      • They were awesome when AKs were $420 and ARs were $750, but now that they’re both around $500 for an entry level, why would anyone consider an AK?

        Back in the 90’s and early 00’s the argument was always “but my AK is half the cost of your AR and it works almost as good”.
        Now its “my AK costs $100 more than your AR, has half the aftermarket options, and works almost as good”.

    • That’s really it: if someone wants a rifle, they shop for a rifle. If they want the convenience of a handgun, they shop for a handgun. Most folks aren’t interested in half-measures in guns. That’s been my observation.

      • I think its moreso that 40 years of NFA law has codified the idea that there is nothing in between the two – it HAS to be either a pistol OR a rifle.

        Subguns, PPCs and PDWs were not really an option for the average non-NFA owner until VERY recently.

        Thanks to pistol braces a whole new class of firearm is entering the public consciousness. I call them Personal Defense Weapons (PDW), and they are generally characterized by:
        -Short Barrels (<10in)
        -Light weight
        -Collapsing/folding stocks, or short LOP braces.
        -Pistol or intermediate calibers (9mm, 5.56, 7.62×39, 300BLK most commonly)
        -20-30rd capacity
        -Most effective for a high rate of more accurate fire inside of 100yards (as compared to a handgun)
        -Far more handy than a rifle – most can be temporarily operated with one hand if necessary

    • 7.62 in a pistol format doesn’t suffer the velocity penalties 5.56 does. It makes for a great trunk gun properly compensated. If the uses for a compact, 30 round SBR more powerful than any pistol of the same size escape you, I’m not sure what you’re even doing here.

  4. Being cash poor I’ve been trying to trade out a 20″ match AR for a pistol AK for months now. No takers. Reduction of inventory doesn’t encourage me. By the time I’m comfortably liquid again shelves will be bare and douchebags will be marking up their prices.

    • When you’re ready for an AK pistol call my boys over at definitive arms they can build you a pistol in 7.62 by 39 or 5.45 x 39.

  5. Considering how poorly 5.56 does out of a short barrel you would think AK pistols would be hot and AR pistols would be crap. I think it has more to do with the fact that you can buy an AR pistol and make it into a rifle later.

  6. I like AR pistol versions of rifle caliber SBR. Barrel lengths between 8.5″-12.5″ are sweet handy guns with enough barrel for sufficient ballistics in HD situations using proper bonded ammo. With newer calibers like 300blkout, 6.8spc2, 6.5G and arm braces the only reason not to own one is cash or laws. So support your LGS and manufacturers MAGA! Lol

  7. I guess I’ve just never really seen the point in the pistols. I’d rather have an SBR and the pistols that I’ve seen to make into an SBR are overpriced IMHO.

    • With much respect to The 9…
      I found love with a CA39v2 AK pistol. American made. Milled.
      Eats all ammo and never misfires thru 1000’s of rounds.
      Everyone (men, women, young and old, makes no difference) grins like a fool after running it.
      Either from the hip, or using the brace and red dot (SBR?) , it imparts a “whump whump” of happiness to all.
      Inexpensive to own and run, dependable, fits in a backpack.
      It is one of my favorites.
      “Hey!, try it, you’ll like it!!”

    • Also, I readily admit my gun buddy’s 300 SBR suppressed is far more accurate at distance and immensely more quiet.
      But I’m a fool for the “whump”. (And the much cheaper ammo.)

      • Heh. This is where most of my 300BLK converts are made. Folks from other lanes will drift over to see what is making that odd sound. Oh, here, you want to try it? 😉

    • I would rather have the pistol than the SBR due to the weird laws on loaded rifles in some states. Plus I don’t have the mess with asking permission to cross state lines. I move every two years and sometimes have little time to move. It would suck if I had to leave an SBR in a storage unit clear across the country because the ATF was on their ass for paperwork processing.

      • This^^^
        Can’t carry a loaded rifle either openly or concealed in a car/truck, but a concealed pistol in rifle caliber is legal with CCH permit, at least in some (most?) states.

  8. If they phase out AK pistols maybe the ATF will reconsider that retarded import ban on surplus ammo.

  9. Arsenal is stopping a lot of stuff, not just pistols. I think this is just a sign of softening gun market. Arsenal likely has a pile of inventory to rid themselves of. Claiming they’re dropping the line might spur sales to fence-sitters.

    • Arsenal in my opinion has tried to keep their profits high by upper level prices, instead of considering volume of sales. It is the same thing the government does regarding revenue from taxes. They up the percentage per person to the point that the jobs begin to disappear and many former tax payers are forced out. Then, they see the drop in revenue, and what do they do? RAISE TAXES again! This model is a recipe for failure in a fiscal sense no matter whether this is government or business. More companies go bankrupt from pricing their goods out of range of the market than succumb to mismanagement in other ways.

      Arsenal is a good product, and a good company, but they are trying to “Colt” us, and that didn’t work out too well for Colt, now did it. I don’t own any Colt products and the reason is they cost too much compared to similar quality products. I don’t care about their reputation, if they can’t compete with the rest of the market then they go the way of the dinosaur… and that is a shame. It is a self inflicted wound, and more companies need to understand the US firearms market (which is probably 90% of the global private arms market) can only sustain a certain level of costs when we are so economically stressed and our workers no longer have jobs because some people think taxing us into poverty and requiring participation in their panacea health care program *which is dead, dead, dead, is not a recipe for success.

      Sorry, Arsenal, but many folks find it hard to justify your prices and will find less expensive alternatives even if they are not as high in quality. That is the reality of the current consumer environment.

  10. I personally don’t know anyone who has gone out and bought a complete pistol pattern firearm. Everyone I know builds their own, and most from 80% lowers

  11. The AK pistol market is still selling, Dracos and M92s are hard to come by and are being sold at inflated prices right now. It’s just Arsenal did not do a great job of bringing in pistols that are somewhat close to the military rifles they are based on.

    In general AK pistols sell less than their other counterparts because for some the end goal is to SBR them. When it comes to an AR pistol you need to replace the buffer tube and put on a stock. With the MP5 variant you just pull a pin and put on a stock. AKs on the other hand would need some drilling to put on an ACE or Stormwerkz adapter or even more work to replace the rear trunnion with a standard or folding AK trunnion and stock. This is even worse for Arsenal pistols. Arsenal pistols are imported with fake fsb gas block combos that are not threaded and have an extra 2in of barrel in front. To get an accurate clone you would need to buy a Krinkov gas block, buy an extra muzzle device, and cut and crown the barrel to length. With their SAM7K pistol, there really is no stock options other than stormwerkz, ace, or cnc warrior because it uses a non standard milled receiver.

    • US Machinegun has adapters that you just screw on between the receiver and the pistol grip. It’s the same as their M92 and Draco adapters. You will have to cut off the sling loop, though.

  12. That Arsenal AK pistol is a heavy forged beast with a friggin fake krink style booster that screws half way down the barrel – and I think it was priced over $1500. Plenty of better options. I wouldn’t draw any conclusions based off that thing alone.

    • yep, there is still a market for around $500… The Arsenal pistols started at $1100 and up. The only people that bought those wanted to build high end SBRs but even that was a major pain, partly due to the AK design and decisions made by Arsenal. Plus AKs are just much more a pain to suppress.

      If you could have an AK pistol with concentric threads for a can, easy to add a military spec stock and some sort of adjustable gas system, you would see a lot more interest on the high end.

      Plus, an AK rifle with a folding stock, esp an underfolder is pretty darn compact to begin with.

  13. Last week at my gun range, the guy next to me fired one shot of his brand new AR15 pistol. The muzzle blast and the blast wave hit me pretty hard even though i was wearing Impact hearing protection rated at 22 dbr. I moved a few bays away. What’s the point?

  14. I have always thought that a Krinkov SBR might be a fun gun but I got a scorpion sbr and that scratched the itch.

      • I’ve had the opportunity to test this out many times with many different shooters. I’ve asked them to hit a silhouette at 50 yards with an AR pistol and with just a regular full framed carry gun. Every single person has been able to get more rounds on target with the regular pistol than the AR pistol in less time.
        When asked to walk and shoot at a target at 25 yards, most people can’t hit the silhouette at all with the AR pistol. Just miss after miss unless they are standing still.

        • Why do you think that’s the case? The position is less natural? O the dependence on scope or red dot versus 3-dot? Maybe we’d see greater parity if we could control for experience with traditional pistol vs AR pistol.

        • We’re they using a sling as a stabilization point, an arm brace as a cheek rest or stock, or just free handing it? You need either a sling or a brace to get the extra stability.

        • So you hang out with people who can’t shoot. This is persuasive, how exactly?

    • It would be interesting to run an SBR and similarly configured SB equipped pistol to test the “it’s only a range toy” theory.

        • I disagree. A 9-12″ barreled 300BLK is an excellent medium sized game combo. I used one for a whitetail and it dropped as well as a hit from my 308. I’ve had buddies use them for hog hunting, and Leghorn has published a few articles on his AR/SBR builds and all the game he’s taken with them.

          Considering the ballistics you still achieve, yet the overall decreased dimension of the platform, SBRs and pistol brace fake-SBRs offer greater maneuverability out in the wild, or in hallways if that’s your intended purpose.

          If you marry an appropriate cartridge to a shorter barrel, it’s quite effective for most things that you would otherwise use a 16″ barreled rifle.

        • Then you clearly lack imagination. 30 rounds of better than pistol caliber firepower in the back of your trunk just in case things go south. For example, an Extar 556 is 3lbs unloaded, easily equipped with a reddot and an AFG. I’ll take that over a glock 17 to get home any day of the week.

  15. If Arsenal wants to sell AK pistols, they should sell their stamped receiver Krink pistols with the side folding rear trunion installed. If they made a pistol brace adapter for them all the better. Then if you want a SBR, all you have to do is unscrew the 4.5mm stock hinge bolt & install a stock.

    Why would I want a pistol built on a forged AK receiver that is impossible for the average person to modify? The fake pinned on boosters suck too. They could easily spot weld a collar over a threaded gas block like the C92 and M85 AK pistols.

    Some of Arsenal’s other discontinued AK pistols are 5.56. This is also a problem because most of their 5.56 line has been problematic in the past. I know some work great, but I wouldn’t personally risk it.

    As it stands, the best way to end up with an Arsenal SBR is to buy a SLR104UR or a SLR107UR when they are available and saw off the barrel once your stamp comes back. The only reason this is not a perfect solution is due to a lack of parts availability from K-Var. Even though they advertise the SLR107-51 I just bought as the ‘Perfect SBR’ candidate they don’t stock either the 4 piece Bulgarian booster or the old style cone booster.

    I know K-Var isn’t listening, because they never do. But, it would be nice if they offered a no gunsmithing option if you want a SBR and a useable pistol with a side folding brace if you don’t.

  16. They’ll be back. SLR106 availability fluctuates on and off because it’s based on foreign military contracts. Whenever some government decides they want an AK in 5.56, Arsenal trots the SLR106 back out. The SAM7K however is utilized by Bulgarian special forces in some form or another. They released a factory SBRed version as a limited edition before, and will likely do so again in the near future if they drop that along with the SAM7K pistol.

    • I love my SLR-106 rifle, but I’m not sure I would be willing to pay twice (or more) the price of an M&P-15 for it.

      The economics of MSRs have completely flip-flopped, with decent entry-level ARs in the $400 range and decent AKs at least 50% more.

      Arsenal products are extremely high quality, but the proliferation of AR builders has brought Eugene Stoner’s plastic fantastic down to almost loss-leader prices.

      You can buy a stripped AR lower today for less than the cost of shipping and FFL/background check fees. A careful shopper with minimal Bubba skills can build an AR for $300. Only the crsppiest parts-kit AKs were ever that cheap, and they were garbage.

  17. The pistols that Arsenal produces just don’t make a whole lot of practical sense.
    The SAM7K for instance, costs $1k+ and is based on a heavy milled receiver that weighs at least 2lbs more compared to anything close to its size. Another thing is that the booster on these pistols are fake and you’ll need to spend another $250 plus gunsmithing just to add a threaded front-sight base for a real muzzle device. The stamped SLR106 series has potential, but with the significant hit you take in velocity from shortening the barrel on a 5.45mm, I’d rather just have a PDW in 9mm at that point. Now, if Arsenal were to make a stamped SLR-series pistol in 7.62mm with a rear booster on a threaded barrel and included a folding pistol brace that utilizes the same hinged rear trunions as their 104 FR series, then I’d definitely be interested! But as it stands now, in just about every important way, the M92 Zastava pistols are a better choice and half the cost.

    • You do know that guys have tested the 5.45×39 53gr from a short barrel(8-8.5″) and found they produce around 2550fps. That is around 760lb/ft of force. A 9mm 124gr would need to be traveling at around 1650fps to match that force. Granted a pistol caliber will probably expand more, but the ballistics of the 5.45 are a huge advantage if that’s your cup of tea. Not to mention that 7n6 surplus is great ammunition that is coming in at under .25 cents per round. That’s pretty inexpensive for defensive ammo. That sounds like a pretty potent combo when compared to a pistol caliber carbine.

  18. Wait, the zombie craze is over? What am I gonna do with all these neon green P-Mags and biohazard stickers?

  19. Let us never speak of that zombie shit again. I cringed every time I saw that crap for sale. It’s shameful that it was ever a thing. It trivialized guns, which should never be trivialized.

    • Roger that, Fett. Now the space alien invasion thing IS REAL, so by all means we should all get a level III blaster ASAP.

      “Better be prepared because that alien stuff is for real. Trust me, I know.”, Russell Case.

  20. Probably because people would rather pay half the price of an Arsenal for a novelty gun and get a PAP pistol instead.

  21. maybe, its the VALUE of their products that’s driving demand for their products… Just like any thing less, others don’t have a demand issue because their product has more value then its price. In a down market, the product has to drive demand not just the Democrat in charge of the pipe line…

  22. My M92 has been a real treat now for more than a year. Easy to customize, easy to maneuver, easy on the shoulder, and able to ring small gongs all day long at 100 yards, with iron sights or a scout-style red dot. It is lightweight and very handy. Works equally well with a five-round mag or a 100-round drum, although it looks FAR cooler with the latter. It also functions as a great flashlight while shooting after sundown…

    Im a big fan of AKs and the 7.62×39 round, so this was a no-brainer for me. However, I can fully count on this “pistol” for a range toy or home/property defense. I’d recommend it to anyone, and am strongly considering adding another to my stable.

  23. The Ak pistol market isn’t dying. The high end range toy market is. Cheaper AK pistol still move.

  24. If someone has a quality 300blk pistol who thinks the “craze” is over and wants to sell…I’m in the market!

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