States Revising Hunting Regulations for AR-15 Style Pistols

AR-15 with SB Tactical brace

Nick Leghorn for TTAG

By David Schlake

In states that allow the use of pistols during designated hunting seasons, legislators are starting to take a look at a “gray area” of firearms that has developed.

That niche is AR platform and similar pistols with barrels under 16″. Particularly those mounted with pistol braces. While these guns are in fact pistols by definition, they offer most of the stability of a rifle, making them much easier to shoot.

Missouri, a state that allows hunters to use handguns to take deer during its “alternative methods” season, has decided to clear up the differences between traditional handguns and a shortened AR-15 pistol.

“There’s a lot less recoil with one of these [AR pistols],” Nick Newman, owner of Cherokee Firearms in Springfield, told The Springfield News-Leader. “It’s easier to shoot this gun well than this [.44 magnum revolver].”

Not only do AR-15 pistols offer a more accuracy, but they also allow hunters to add a slew of different accessories, such as large capacity magazines, forearm stabilizing braces and forward grips.

AR-15 pistol brace hunting law

AR pistol with an SB Tactical stabilizing brace (courtesy SB Tactical)

“And there’s the cost,” Newman said. “The AR pistol is $800, versus $1,300 for this Smith & Wesson Model 629 revolver.”

The Missouri Department of Conservation is updating its definition of a “handgun” to include AR-style pistols, which the Conservation Commission has approved. They’re taking public comment on the proposed new definition until May.

Previously, the definition was . . .

“a firearm with a barrel length less than 16 inches and designed to be held and fired by the use of a single hand. The essential distinguishing characteristic of a handgun is its ability to be operated with one hand; although, a second hand can be used as a brace. Any firearm with a total length of over 26 inches will be considered a rifle.”

The MDC hopes to provide more clarity with its new definition, which reads . . .

“Handgun: Any firearm designed, made and intended to fire a projectile from one or more barrels when held in one hand, and having a short stock designed to be gripped by one hand at an angle to and extending below the line of the bore(s), with a barrel less than 16 inches in length, measured from the face of the bolt or standing breech, and an overall length of less than 26 inches; excluding any firearm designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder.”

Shouldering a brace-equipped AR pistol would violate the proposed new regulation.

In an interview with The Springfield News-Leader, MDC spokesman Joe Jerek said the decision to revise the definition didn’t come from any incident, but rather just confusion about the regulations.

“We have had some questions over recent alternative methods portions of deer season on what defines a handgun versus different types of firearms. Therefore, we want to provide better clarity for staff and the public to understand what type of firearm is allowed during the alternative methods portion of deer season.”

He also added that Missouri’s regulations limit magazine capacity during pistol season to 10+1 rounds. There’s no magazine limit during rifle season.


  1. avatar Hydguy says:

    So if a game warden sees a hunter shoulder an AR pistol (which is really the whole purpose of the ‘brace’), the Hunter gets a ticket? Or do they get arrested?

    1. avatar Arc says:

      This is why surveillance and thermal imaging are nice, can’t keep tabs on everyone and everything around you on private property. Public is a little more tricky, but “stop, look, listen, smell” is a good practice when doing questionable things in the bushes. Not advocating anyone violate FIAT laws and regulations, but its worth keeping in mind.

      Situational awareness will also go a long away is not having state randos sneaking up on you. If you actually get seen shouldering a pistol, buy a lottery ticket.

      1. avatar Waylon says:

        That’s a lot of talk coming from a Walmart shill.

    2. avatar Arc says:

      Should be ‘…can keep tabs’. Typos guna typo.

      1. avatar Waylon says:

        Or maybe shills gotta shill? Will shill for thrill?

        1. avatar GunHole LoopShow says:

          fuck off troll.

        2. avatar Waylon says:

          Looks like I’ve triggered another shill.

    3. avatar FUN Guy says:

      That depends if the warden can prove that you intended to shoulder the brace when you purchased, made, or remade the pistol. If you shouldered it in your haste to get on the deer, we’ll that’s not intent, that’s deer fever.

    4. avatar Anonymous says:

      Missouri legislators should have left it alone. What “problem” are they addressing here?

      1. avatar Lugnut says:

        We can go ahead and state that your not going to get the Mr. Congeniality award.

  2. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    At the risk of being called a Fudd (what worse fate could befall me?) This isn’t a hunting handgun. In fact I think an AR “pistol” is damn near useless. And yeah, I have experience with them. jwt’s article on the Ruger Bisley in .480 is a hunting handgun.

    1. avatar Mike V says:

      What about odd cartridges like 450 bushmaster or 458 socom?

      1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

        Mike, it’s not the caliber. It’s the weapon. We all know this AR handgun thing is tounge in cheek. Everyone uses the “brace” as a shoulder stock. You know it. I know it. And so does everyone else.

        1. avatar Connie says:

          You are right; people use them as a stock all the time. And you know what? None of the carnage ensues that was the supposed justification for regulating SBRs to begin with. It sounds to me like pistol braces have proven the the NFA SBR regulations are useless, and they need to done away with.

        2. avatar Don from CT says:

          Connie – i agree with you with respect to normal legality. SBRs should not be regulated any more than other firearms.

          But the purpose of handgun hunting is to make thing more challenging for the hunter. As such, a “handgun” with a brace that is actually a stock, goes against the whole logic of having a handgun season.

          These “handguns” are for all intents and purposes SBRs. Key word here is rifle. Let people with braced AR “handguns” hunt during rifle season.

        3. avatar barnbwt says:

          People also tend to use a 629 with two hands; you do realize that “designed to be fired with one hand” is the definition that separates a rifle from a handgun, yes? So a brace is no different than stabilizing a handgun with your weak arm. The rule is stupid and written by ignorant and unimaginative legislators who were attempting to ban anything concealable (the NFA originally banned pistols as well)

    2. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

      AR pistol, in 300 black using 110grain has about 1100 ft pounds of energy at the muzzle, 44 mag 240 grain jhp has about 1200 ft pounds of energy at the muzzle whem both pistols have a 9″ barrel. I’ve shot both with 9″ barrels. The 44 mag will drop considerably faster 6+ inches vs less than an inch from the 300. The 300 blackout pistol would be my preference for shots out to 100 yards.

    3. avatar SAFEupstateFML says:

      Traditional hunting handgun vs modern is largely splitting hairs when we need more of both as well as more hunters in general. Getting to the point where deer and coyote are competing with who will wreck my windshield sooner.

      1. avatar M1Lou says:

        You know its really bad when a deer and coyote wreck your windshield at the same time.

    4. avatar Arc says:

      Id love to upgrade my G19 to an AR pistol as a PDW against hogs, so I wouldn’t call them useless for “hunting”. Costs costs.

    5. avatar possum tracks says:

      Fiudd me in. Pistol,??? An M16 look alike Rrifle in .223 is not a hunting rifle , and if it is it’s a poodle popper and if your going to pop poodles bolt action tack driver.

    6. avatar Anonymous says:

      “AR pistol isn’t a hunting gun”

      Doesn’t matter. It is a thing you hold in your hand. It has a trigger on it. You squeeze the trigger and one bullet flies out. All of those it has in common, better to leave people alone and let shoot what they have or what they like.

    7. avatar Country Boy says:

      Let us keep in mnd “To each his own”. What you like someone else might not and vice versa. let’s not divide OURSELVES. Gun owners need to stick together like glue, because all the anti gunners/anti gun dems are…….

    8. avatar Chadwick says:

      Compare 6.5 Grendel from a 12″ barrel to a rifle length barrel and 30-30 lately? That’s a pistol that can pack some serious punch.

    9. avatar Jonathan Lemaire says:

      Wow you should really try some bigger calibers in the AR pistol platform, .450 Bushmaster is bad to the bone! If you can’t drop anything you’re hunting with that thumper, you shouldn’t be hunting!

  3. avatar Hannibal says:

    “…excluding any firearm designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder…”
    -A firearms brace does not make a gun ‘intended to be fired from the shoulder.’ By federal definition, it would become a rifle at that time.

    “And there’s the cost,” Newman said. “The AR pistol is $800, versus $1,300 for this Smith & Wesson Model 629 revolver.”
    – Oh no, we can’t let the poors hunt!

    1. avatar Hydguy says:

      He was making the case that the AR ‘pistol’ is a better financial option.
      Reading is fundamental.

      1. avatar SAFEupstateFML says:

        It is Missouri after all now if we were to go up here towards the North East we don’t want the middle class hunting either.

    2. avatar Hannibal says:

      Yeah I thought that was from an opponent of hunting with them. Yet I can’t quite figure out how this is a necessary change. The current definition covers ar-style pistols by any stretch of the imagination. The second one, if anything, might restrict more by being so specific.

  4. avatar RedFlagRising says:

    You dont need 50 clips in an AR15 pistol to hunt deer in self defense on the battlefields.

    With a Corvette.

    1. avatar SAFEupstateFML says:

      That sounds like a crazy sort of fun. Like hog hunting from ATV at night kind of fun.

    2. avatar Karl says:

      … what?

      1. avatar Void says:

        Paid poster having an off day with proof reading?

      2. avatar EWTHeckman says:

        He’s playing with what Slow Joe recently said at a campaign stop. What’s sad is that he didn’t add all that much satire to it.

        One of his statements that struck me was his misquote of Jefferson’s “Tree of Liberty” statement. He only cited the “blood of patriots” as refreshing it, leaving out the blood of tyrants. He was quite clearly attempting to scare/threaten patriots in the context of his misquote, which defines him as among the tyrants.

        1. avatar The Grey Man says:

          I just figured he’s a troll…

        2. avatar Jonathan Lemaire says:

          I’ll take slow Joe over the evil lying criminal con man who banned bump stocks any day! I’ve been a republican my whole life, but I’ll be damned before I support scum of Trump’s level just for party!

  5. avatar Craig in IA says:

    Iowa DNR attempted to rewrite the handgun definition a few years back using their regulatory ability rather than go through the legislature. Same “arguments”. A few of us torpedoed their efforts in their hearing and Missourians should do likewise.

    A “handgun” is already defined in most state statutes. If a handgun requires special permitting or NICS work to purchase, said firearm is a handgun. Period. The notion that someone using the brace against their shoulder for stability is BS at best. Most of us who use handguns to hunt deer (mine’s a 6″ scoped S&W 29) would think nothing of steadying one’s self against a tree branch or trunk if one had that much time. Would the DNR outlaw trees? It’s a non-problem searching for a solution. Good luck down there in Baha Iowa…

    1. avatar Hydguy says:

      Bracing against a tree isn’t the same as shouldering a firearm.

      1. avatar Arc says:

        Nope, its better. Shouldering a pistol will have plenty of movement but giving a hand cannon some legs will make it quite stable, slap on a red dot or a one power and its good to go.

        1. avatar Hydguy says:

          With an AR ‘brace’, you can do both, which makes the AR ‘pistol’ a better platform.

      2. avatar Craig in IA says:

        “Bracing against a tree isn’t the same as shouldering a firearm.”

        The issue the IA DNR freaks were having is that they wanted to define “handgun” as “a firearm designed to be fired from one hand” and taking that to the extreme in trying to ban AR platform “pistols”. We shot that down since only a moron will try to shoot Bambi with their .44 mag “using only one hand” so their proposal would likely make that a violation as well.

        They also tried to limit magazines to 6 rounds and even got a state “firearms organization” to agree to that, even though there are no 6 round mags available for most pistols and rifles. The “deal” they say they had struck was that one could use any mag but only have 6 rounds in it if stopped. Oh, yeah- just like hunting ducks without a plug and still only using 3 rounds total via the “honor system”. That would get the wardens laughing after perhaps 1 day. I believe a lot of IA DNR’s approach to regulation lies in creating grey area where they can make buco bucks on fines and confiscation of guns and equipment. Neat thing was- this particular regulartory hearing came only 8 days after their yearly auction where among other things, they auctioned off over 700 confiscated guns accumulated over a 1-year period. Fun to bring that one up to those assembled there.

        DNR claims it’s the bow hunters who do the most complaining about firearms allowed to pursue deer. A number of years back they also wanted to outlaw in-line muzzleloaders and those with scopes or “non-traditional” sights, sabot projectiles and pellet powder. They weren’t going to require orange-dyed buckskins but it was nearly as ludicrous as that. Bowhunters in IA get a very long season here (parts of 5 months) and the best heads nearly always go to them. They’re extremely zealous in promoting their “art form” as the only true hunting.

        1. avatar Hydguy says:

          They should ban bows. If you want to hunt, you can only hunt with your bare hands, as that’s the only ‘true’ hunting that occurs.

          People are stupid.

  6. Who Care’s…. Just another money grab by police states…An another way to introduce some form of ‘gun control…’ Next like some state Draconian vehicle inspection schemes, I can see some states trying to do this to firearms. Get stopped and have your ‘personal firearm inspected…’ (Re:Hunting regulations, or whatever police schemes a STASI Police departments or Demon CRAPS can dream of in their Big Brother Fantasy worlds….)

    1. avatar Craig in IA says:

      “Who Care’s” (nice English usage, BTW…)

      I’d think YOU would if it was your firearm the warden was confiscating, plus hitting you with a major fine when all the while you believed you were acting in a legal manner.

  7. avatar 2a sux sucks says:

    I hope Illinois isn’t paying attention my 450 Bushmaster works good

    1. avatar Andrew Lias says:

      I built one as a straight pull bolt action. I set it up so basically add a sled it’s a single shot pistol Should be pretty good it’s a riot to shoot. I call it my “poor man’s 460 S&W”

      Also 1300 for a 629? MSRP on their web site for a 629 Classic is under $1K

      I mean I built my 450 Bushy AR Pistol on probably 300-350ish of parts. $30 Tactical Machining lower (had it for a long time) $40 LPK, $50 Bear Creek Arsenal Barrel, $50 bare upper, an $85 bolt, a $5 barrel nut and say $10-15 bucks in aluminum stock because I made it a custom straight pull. Add a few bucks for some stuff I forgot (I don’t have a gas block/tube or buffer/tube/spring on this build) it was actually a cheap build.

      1. avatar Mike V says:

        Wait, no buffer tube? You just have an open hole? Pull charging handle to open, push exposed carrier forward to lock?

        1. avatar StLPro2A says:

          I built several similar straight pull AR bolt actions in several calibers using an Alexander side charging upper and bolt carrier group and an adjustable gas block with a full off position. Can use with or without the buffer and spring. no gas actuation requiring spring/buffer to retard/return. I shoot more accurately and stay on target better for self impact spotting. With the buffer/spring in the stock, merely turning on the gas block returns rifle to semi-auto fun…..for when the coyotes over run my position.

  8. avatar Xaun Loc says:

    “just confusion about the regulations”

    In other words, his staff, including game wardens, couldn’t tell the difference between an AR “pistol” and a regular AR (or didn’t care) and were harassing hunters who used AR pistols that were solidly legal under the original simpler regulation.

    So they made the regulation more complicated and more confusing so when they continued to harass anyone hunting with an AR “pistol” the hunter wouldn’t be able to easily prove the game warden was wrong.

  9. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

    In Vermont rifles and shotguns can be in the vehicle but not loaded, however loaded pistols are fine, just waiting for the first warden to encounter a loaded AR pistol.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Green Mtn. Boy,

      In Vermont rifles and shotguns can be in the vehicle but not loaded …

      Please define “loaded”. Obviously there cannot be a cartridge in the chamber. Can you have cartridges in the magazine and the magazine inserted into the rifle or shotgun?

      1. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

        Yes, however pistols can have ammunition in chamber,cyilinders not just the magazine.

  10. avatar D.J.U. says:

    In the Sho-Me state of Mo only .40 cal and above is allowed during pistol hunts, and must be expanding bullets. Or at least it was that way a couple of years ago. Laws change now and then, so i could not attest to this being the case now.

  11. avatar Mater says:

    Huh they are basically saying it’s ok to use an ar pistol this is the same as federal definition even with brace that can be shouldered… but not designed to be shouldered so some folks need reading comprehension… this is a good thing to keep game wardens from hassling hunters

  12. avatar 🙉🙈🙊 says:

    Most state wildlife regulations are just plain stupid or money rackets. Bow seasons, muzzleloader seasons, rifle seasons, pistol seasons. Not to mention special units, additional permits, non sensical caliber restrictions, etc. You have to be a Philadelphia lawyer to understand most states rules and regulations. What you end up with are less hunters in the woods and deer dying of CWD.

    1. avatar Arc says:

      Pretty much, its also a little ridiculous that some sections of a state open up and others are still closed for a month or more and you have to buss all around, use different weapons, etc. You should see what Idaho charges out of state people, 10-15X the rate of residents, and they wonder why non-compliance is rampant. Thanks, but no thanks.

      It does explain why people collect so many different weapons though, the state is one hell of an arms salesman.

      1. avatar SAFEupstateFML says:

        Gets even better when each county has their own laws seasons and quirky regulations. But some counties are far easier to work with.

      2. avatar Arc says:

        Yep, should be by state only. Its either open season or its not.One of the nice things about Texas is that there is basically nothing in the way of hunting, you don’t even need a license on private property. Likewise for trapping unless its for deer or you are selling pelts, even then the license is like $19, not even pizza money.

  13. avatar Tim Kiphart says:

    What’s a “high-capacity” magazine?

    1. avatar Sian says:

      “What’s a “high-capacity” magazine?”

      It’s whatever your betters say it is, peasant.

    2. avatar Arc says:

      Unlimited ammo cheat codes, that or belt fed.

    3. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

      A belt fed.

  14. avatar Bernie S says:

    You people have too much money, I will take care of that.

    1. avatar Mike V says:

      And not enough bread lines…

  15. avatar Chris says:

    No one enforces this, no one I’ve seen at range or otherwise.

  16. avatar William McLean says:

    What difference does it make? Pistol. Rifle. Whatever. Hunter shoots. Dear dies. Besides seasons and bag limits, do any other regulations really improve wildlife management? There is no need to make it so damned complicated.

    1. avatar SAFEupstateFML says:

      But how can your betters control you if laws are sensible and easily understood and don’t require thousands of dollars for you to protect your freedom?

    2. avatar Craig in IA says:

      “Hunter shoots. Dear dies.”

      Freudian slip?

  17. avatar possum tracks says:

    An observation Test: For those of you in an open carry state secure a large knife in open view on your person, observe the reactions of those you encounter. I have found I receive less adverse reactions while openly carrying a handgun. Is the knife more intimidating or is it the populace have become somewhat accustomed to visible handguns?

    1. It’s because most of the people who see the handgun assume you’re a cop.

  18. avatar Nww says:

    In washinington state as far as i know its illegal to hunt anything accept small game with .223/5.56. The state claims .223 isnt powerful enough to kill game reliably but then is fine with and gives extra long seasons to go kill an elk with a bow. Doesnt make sense.

  19. avatar Nww says:

    Oops. I meant washington state. Aparently i cant spell this morning.

  20. personally, I don’t really care for the Ar and AK pistols, it seams to me like a waste of cartridge, and I would prefer a longer barrel to get more velocity , but , that is me. and just because that is what I think does not mean everyone should be like that, I think the whole regulation for SBRs is a load of crap. and should be thrown out. people should be able to own and shoot whatever they want and hunt with whatever they want as long as it wacks the animal and it falls to the ground dead with out ever knowing what happened. and these Ar type pistols with like 10 or 12 inch barrels would make a good home defender with the right ammo ( that won’t go through 3 of everything in front of it). and we should be free to own them without any fuss.

  21. avatar GEORGE BILL says:

    I live in Florida. They are more concerned with what time the early bird special starts.

  22. avatar BeoBear says:

    How does the new clarification ban shouldering a braced pistol for hunting? It says “excluding any firearm designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder” which is the normal definition isn’t it? No braces are designed/redesigned or made/remade to be fired from the shoulder right? Isn’t that why the ATF backed off their “can’t shoulder a brace” stance? Because they aren’t designed/made to be shouldered they aren’t banned for use under their new “clarification”.

    No brace is intended to be used as a stock, per the ATF themselves, so nothing in this bans shouldering an AR pistol while hunting. Maybe I’m not reading it right or I’m just too sleepy to comprehend but I read it several times and I don’t see anything that actually bans shouldering an AR pistol for hunting in this case.

  23. avatar Kevin Craig says:

    “Not only do AR-15 pistols offer a more accuracy, but they also allow hunters to add a slew of different accessories, such as . . . forward grips.”

    The moment you add a vertical forward grip to an AR pistol, it becomes an AOW subject to NFA, by ATF’s previous rulings.

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