The concept of an AR-15 pistol is pretty cool. The practicality of using one, not so much. For one thing, an AR-15 pistol is heavy; a lot of the pistol’s weight lies forward of the pistol grip.Stabilizing the side-to-side motion is a challenge as well. It is, to put it mildly, awkward to shoot. Enter the SIGTac’s SB15 Pistol Stabilization Brace for the AR15, invented and manufactured by Alex Bosco of SB Tactical. As the name implies, it’s designed to help shooters support and stabilize an AR15 pistol. Which is just as well. Other than the brace, options for taming the AR-15 pistol without the brace include . . .
1) Holding the AR-15 one-handed like a regular pistol. Weight remains an issue. The gun’s long length causes the weapons to twist in the hand during recoil.
2) Using the support hand on the handguard to stabilize the front in a modified Weaver stance. While this grip helps with the weight each hand puts pressure on the pistol in a different direction, negatively affecting accuracy.
3) Deploying a short sling over the head and across the shooter’s back with both hands on the pistol, pushing the gun forward to create tension against the sling.
Bottom line: none of those options are particularly effective for adding accuracy to a fundamentally inaccurate platform. So . . .
The SB15 Pistol Stabilization Brace
As you can see in the image at the top of the post, Alex designed the Brace to cyborg the AR pistol. The brace is a rubber attachment that slides over the pistol’s buffer tube. An open-ended cuff below the tube fits around the shooter’s primary arm, just beyond the wrist. The user tightens the web strap to secure the cuff around the arm.
Like a kid getting up early on Chanukah morn, I unpacked the brace and started the installation process as soon as UPS dropped the package off at my door. I sifted through the installation instructions quickly just to get an idea of what was needed to install it. Basically, just push.
I fed the open end of the brace onto the pistol tube and pushed. Nada. Deciding that now might be a good time to actually read the instructions I saw a notation stating that it helps to use a dry lubricant such as talcum powder to help slip the brace forward. I powdered the tube and tried again. Still nada.
I re-powdered tube and sprinkled some inside of the brace, too. Nada. Best I could get was three inches short of my goal. Frustrated, I gave a buddy a call. He reminded me that the instructions stated that the brace fits on tubes that measure between 1.1 and 1.2 inches wide. Did I mention that I particularly hate reading instructions?
My tube, of course, measured 1.25 inches. I assumed my tube was milspec and that the brace would fit milspec tubes. Assumption, once again, turned into the mother of all screw-ups. Since there is no such thing as milspec for an AR pistol, there is tremendous variation in tube sizes. Alex says he was amazed to find so many different length and diameter tubes. So off with one buffer tube, and on with another and I was off to the races.
The solution actually came in two parts. Changing the tube was one, pigheadedness was the second.
Being the stubborn bastard that I am, I was convinced that if I could get the brace half way on, all it would take was more elbow grease to get it the rest of the way. Undeterred, I tried again to mount the brace on my 1.25-inch pistol tube. With some pounding, sweating and swearing, I succeeded to the point of getting the brace on, save ½-inch just shy of the receiver. As it turned out, being a bit distanced from the receiver was a perfect fit. The brace can fit on a 1.25-inch tube, but it’s not recommended as that is really stretching its limits.
One nice feature to note: the brace extends beyond the castle nut and fits directly into the indent in receiver end plate. This keeps the brace from rotating. Depending on personal taste, you don’t need to fully engage the brace against the endplate. Even with it not being tight against the endplate, I found that the brace is firm and doesn’t rotate.
I have had a 11-inch, piston upper in 6.8SPC, made by Primary Weapons System, fitted onto a Spike’s Tactical pistol lower sitting in my safe, collecting dust for a few years. I really wanted the upper, but since Rhode Island doesn’t allow short-barreled rifles, configuring it as a pistol was my only option. As you might imagine, shooting it was not a stellar experience, so it sat in my safe, lonely as can be. This was the perfect test platform for the brace.
How Well Does it Work?
Finally to the meat of the subject. Is this a great benefit to disabled people who shoot the AR-15 pistol? Yes. Is this a great benefit to anyone who wants to shoot an AR-15 pistol? Again, yes. Does it solve all of the problems shooting the pistol? Pretty much.
By adding the second point of contact, the Pistol Brace spreads the weight out over a larger number of muscles and eliminates the tendency for the muzzle to drop down because of the forward weight. It also eliminates the side-to-side wiggle within the hand. However, shooting for a few minutes will quickly remind you that an AR pistol is still heavy.
That said, you’ve got to adapt your grip and stance. Because the brace binds the shooter’s forearm to the firearm, the pistol can no longer be moved towards the chest to center the pistol in front of the dominant eye. This is somewhat difficult to understand until you experience it. But it requires some serious operational familiarity to master.
As the cuff portion of the brace is made of somewhat firm rubber, a shooter can use the Pistol Brace as a shoulder stock when braced against the body. The concern: doing so would turn the pistol into an illegal short-barreled rifle. According to ATF’s logic, conclusion and ultimately its Approval Letter – no. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (and Really Big Fires) sent inventor Bosco a definitive missive, downloadable here, stating that . . .
the submitted forearm brace, when attached to a firearm does not convert that weapon to be fired from the shoulder and would not alter the classification of a pistol or other firearm. While a firearm so equipped would still be regulated by the Gun Control Act, such a firearm would NOT BE subject to NFA controls.
The aforementioned paragraph allows the brace to be used on a firearm (pistol or rifle) without converting it to a weapon that would be subject to NFA rules. This also opens a can of worms, but more on that later.
Shouldering the pistol brace would be a misuse of the brace. By that, I mean it would be used in a manner not consistent with its intended purpose. Using a device in a manner that’s different from its intended purpose does not necessarily make its use, or the device itself, illegal.
Shouldering a pistol buffer tube does not turn an AR pistol into a short-barreled rifle. Use of a bipod mounted on a pistol as a forward vertical grip (see Ruger 10/22 Charger pistol with bipod) does not convert the pistol into an illegal AOW. Likewise, firing a pistol using two hands does not convert it into a rifle even though the definition of a pistol is a firearm designed to be fired with one hand.
The ATF approved the use of the product as a brace for shooting a pistol one-handed. Using it differently than intended does not change the classification of the device or the firearm. Case closed.
Getting the pistol and SB15 out to the range, I shot it both with and without the brace. As expected, stability was greatly enhanced and recoil was far easier to control.
There are two steps for increasing comfort and accuracy. First, keep the firearm to the side of your dominant eye, angling the gun slightly inward. Don’t snug the strap tight against your forearm. The tighter the brace, the less forgiving it is. Next, tip your head towards the gun to bring the eye in line with the sights.
While this method puts you in a different position than you would be when shooting without the brace, it works well. Another option: shoot in the traditional target shooting stance, completely bladed to the target.
Getting back home from the range, I noticed that the brace had migrated itself forward the rest of the way to the receiver. I didn’t feel it while shooting, but apparently the 6.8 SPC recoil was strong enough to push it the rest of the way.
The brace is a godsend to the disabled and a great benefit for anyone who hunts or plinks with an AR-15 pistol. I am pleased to report that SIGTac will be selling these through their retail channels and through their website. When I asked Alex how many he’s sold, he simply replied that he wasn’t at liberty to say. Suffice to say, score!
As previously mentioned, I am in awe of the story of the development of the brace. Alex found a need, developed a product and found tremendous success in the marketplace. The fact that the product was conceived to help wounded U.S. veterans and is completely manufactured here in the U.S.A. only sweetens the story. The SB15 Pistol Stabilization Brace is not only a great product; it is an American entrepreneurial dream come true.