What’s the deal with these AR pistols? A lot of people don’t seem to take them seriously; they just write them off as tacti-cool mall-ninja gear. If I’ve got my facts straight your ideal home defense firearm is a pistol because of it’s small size, it seems like one of these things is the best of both worlds. It’s small and maneuverable but still packs a “full size” cartridge. Please educate.
So, there’s three (ish) things going on here…
AR-15 pistols are indeed popular, and it seems to boil down to three reasons why people buy them:
- SBR without the paperwork.
- Fun while the tax stamp comes.
- Because we can.
The first and most obvious reason is exactly what you pointed out. The 5.56 round is a perfectly adequate self defense round, and the gigantic magazines are rather appealing for providing enough rounds to put any target down. Throw in a 300 BLK barrel and things get even more interesting.
Beyond the ammunition an AR-15 provides tons of options for mounting stuff to your gun, like lights and lasers and holographic sights and coffee makers and pinball machines. A regular handgun might have some rail space under the barrel, but an AR-15 has rails everywhere. The appeal of more rail space on a small handgun-like firearm seems to be great, especially since SIG SAUER recently introduced their funky bolt-on adapter for handguns that turns them into a larger railified firearm.
Rifle length barrels on AR-15s do make them a tad large and less than maneuverable, especially in close quarters situations. That’s why the military and law enforcement like the short barreled versions. But for civilians who don’t want to go through the process of getting an SBR or whose state / CLEO doesn’t allow them to experience freedom an AR-15 pistol is the only way to get the short barreled goodness. Well, legally at least.
Speaking of the NFA, that’s reason #2 I hear people advocating for AR-15 pistols. The process to get a tax stamp can take MONTHS (7 for my first), and people generally don’t like waiting that long to play with their toys. That’s why for those who want to make a short barreled rifle out of their AR-15 can make it into a pistol instead until the stamp comes, allowing them to use their short upper in the meantime.
Legally speaking (and correct me if I’m wrong here), a rifle that is manufactured as a rifle and transferred as a rifle to you will always be a rifle in the eyes of the ATF. Even if you modify it to meet the legal requirements of being a pistol the ATF will still consider it to be a rifle. Dumb, I know — its the same logic keeping civilians from owning military surplus M-14 rifles that have had the giggle switches removed. But if you have a pistol or a stripped lower receiver (the ATF apparently sees them as equivalent) you can make it into a rifle at some point down the road without hitting any legal issues.
So while you’re waiting for that tax stamp to come in you can build an AR-15 pistol with your upper receiver of choice and go to town. And when the stamp eventually comes in the mail all you need to do is swap out the buffer tube and BAM! Instant rifle.
Which brings us down to reason #3. There’s no denying that AR-15 pistols are fun to shoot. They aren’t nearly as accurate as their buttstock-configured counterparts and much heavier than a standard handgun, but there’s something about them that makes them fun to pull the trigger. Not “new gun money” fun in my opinion at least, but fun nonetheless. The same kind of fun that comes from putting rounds downrange for no apparent reason. You shooters know exactly what I mean.
And let’s be honest — if something is fun to shoot, there’s no other reason needed to justify its existence. Even if it does look… odd. I’m not saying you’ll find one in my collection anytime soon, but I’d understand the appeal if I saw one at the range.