Nick’s article about declining interest in AK-patterned pistols got me to thinking: is there really any good use case for these not-so-little .223/7.62x39mm sidearms? I’ve shot them before, and they sure are fun as all get-out. But my tastes tend toward minimalism in style and a functional justification for anything that costs more than $500. Thus I haven’t gotten around to buying one, and (with one possible exception,) probably won’t have a reason ever to do so.
As far as I can tell, the justification for buying/building one of these falls into one of two categories.
(1) The buyer really wants a short-barreled rifle (SBR). As defined by 18 U.S.C. sec. 921 (a) (8), an SBR is “a rifle having one or more barrels less than sixteen inches in length and any weapon made from a rifle (whether by alteration, modification, or otherwise) if such weapon, as modified, has an overall length of less than twenty-six inches.” Thanks to the National Firearms Act, legally owning an SBR in this country requires the citizenry to supplicate themselves to los federales for approval, and as of this writing, the ATF is taking anywhere from 180-280 days from start to finish to get things squared away.
One could simply put together an AR-style pistol with a 10- or 14-inch barrel and shoulder brace, submit the paperwork to the ATF, then enjoy your little “I can’t believe it’s not an SBR” until the Feds get around to giving you the A-OK, at which point a real stock can be added. (And by “added” I mean, actually purchased at that point, since mere possession of all the parts that could allow you to assemble an SBR without permission makes you a felon.)
That’s cool, it makes sense and it’s the reason I might, someday, buy an AR pistol.
(2) An operator operating operationally needs cool tools for school. Let’s face it, there’s something awesome about a small and outwardly mundane thing that packs a ton of power. Like the time VW shoved a 650 horsepower 12 cylinder engine into the back seat of a
Rabbit Golf GTI, just to prove they could make it work. Sure, it was stupidly laborious and expensive, and you’d look ridiculous spinning out on every corner when you drove it to the local Kroger, but c’mon! You know want to give it a test-drive, don’t you?
There’s a lot of people buying these pistols, not because they fill any particular self-defense purpose, but because they’re Cool As F****. When you pick one up and start letting loose at the range, you feel like Jaws with that MAC-10 during the river chase scene in Moonraker: you’re having such a good time spraying and praying, you don’t care what you look like, that you’re not hitting the broadside of a barn or, indeed, that you’re about to do a faceplant at the bottom of Iguazú Falls. Bring it on, Bond baby. You’re not getting away this time.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. There’s something about “pursuit of happiness” in our nation’s founding documents, IIRC. And certainly any gun is better than no gun at all when you need one. And these can do a job.
It’s just that, pace Carly Simon, whatever job you’re asking them to do, someone else does it better. These are high-powered novelties, not a tool filling a small, but understandable niche.
Or am I wrong on that? Am I missing out on some really useful function that these pistols are just perfect for? I’d love to know if I’m wrong on this one.
UPDATE: Some commenters have pointed out because the feds must be notified when an SBR is taken across state lines, ease of interstate travel is another point in the AK/AR pistol’s favor. I agree, but this just reinforces the general point that demand for these pistols doesn’t have to do with their utility, and instead is driven by the current (contradictory, confusing, and ludicrous) state of American firearms laws. I’d still prefer a real SBR with a real stock, if I had a choice.