AR Pistol Legal Basics
There is a lot of information out there about AR Pistols. And a lot of it is just plain confusing. As a gunner, and someone who builds AR platform guns, while I was learning the laws and the pitfalls of what I could and shouldn’t do, I encountered a lot of unnecessary information. Fact, is all the laws around guns are meant to be confusing; an ignorant society is a manageable society.
So I have distilled the basics here for both the beginner and intermediate AR owner. If you are building an AR pistol, this should keep you out of federal prison. One word of caution here, these laws in some states are even more restrictive. You need to know the federal and state laws if you want to stay legal. These are general guidelines. So your experience may vary depending where you live or travel.
Disclaimer: All gun laws are unconstitutional…
The difference between an AR Rifle and an AR Pistol is solely dependent on the barrel length. A rifle must have at least a 16” barrel, which does not include the Muzzle, unless it is permanently pinned to the barrel. Anything less than 16” and you are now in Pistol territory.
On a Rifle, you can equip any buttstock, but on a Pistol, only a Pistol Brace or naked Buffer Tube can be installed. The brace can retract like a normal collapsing stock, which allows you to adjust the distance between your shoulder and the grip, but that’s where it ends.
There is some controversy around “length of pull”, the distance between the end of the stock and the trigger. Generally speaking, if you purchase retail parts, you should be OK. That said, if the cops or the ATF are not having a good day, you just can’t win…
A few year back, the ATF frowned-upon gunners who “shouldered” AR Braces. You were not supposed to place the Brace into your shoulder pocket as you would a regular Stock. This is obvious lunacy, our tax dollars hard at work, but today, this is no longer considered a “violation”. Insert clown meme.
You can equip a folding brace to an AR Pistol. It is actually one of the best features of the short-barrel AR platform. This makes it easy for you to stow the Pistol in a backpack or behind a truck seat. Don’t buy a cheap folder! They cost between $150-250, and the good ones last!
There are no restrictions on optics with an AR Pistol. I recommend either a micro red dot (i.e., RMR mounted to a riser) or a standard AR Red Dot. I also recommend Backup Iron Sights as a compliment to the red dot. And finally, you may also want a 3-5x flip-up magnifier as well. Again, none of these are areas to save dollars. You get what you pay for with optics.
VERTICAL FRONT GRIP
The primary difference between a Short Barrel Rifle (SBR) and an AR Pistol is the front grip. On a Rifle, you can install any vertical front grip you desire. I recommend the Ryker grip. But if you put that grip on an AR Pistol, it quickly becomes an SBR, which requires Federal Registration. Before you can use it, you have to purchase a Tax Stamp. I stay away from SBRs primarily for the same reason I don’t own suppressors. Both must be “approved” by the Feds.
For an AR Pistol, you can legally install a Front Grip that is not Vertical. There are a few different styles. I prefer the MagPul Angled Foregrip. Put it this way, if the grip is straight in any way, perpendicular to the barrel, it is likely not “legal” and therefore may be seen as a violation.
There is also a condition that Cops or the ATF may use against you if you have parts that could be assembled into an “illegal” firearm within close proximity to a “legal” gun. Have no doubt, if you can be charged with Constructive Possession, you will need a lawyer. Keep your guns locked-up. Keep your parts somewhere else, as far away as you can. Do not allow yourself to be snared into the ridiculous clown show they call law enforcement.
Again, if you follow these rules, discuss them with your friends who are also into guns, ask experts, and read about gun laws, you probably know a lot more than this already. But for the new gun owner or someone who is interested in upgrading their AR, these are important basics.
My final recommendation is if you are a gun enthusiast and carry a gun for defense, get carry insurance. The law is not on your side. Lawyers are costly, and even if you are justified, our “Law Enforcement” loves to see good men become bankrupt over frivolous charges…