Since the National Firearms Act (NFA) was passed in 1934, ownership of rifles with barrels shorter than 16 inches has necessitated extensive paperwork, a long processing period and a $200 tax. Oftentimes, pulling a short-barreled rifle (SBR) out of your gun case at the range will cause a small crowd to gather, as shooters drool over your fancy, relatively rare, registered hardware.
These inconvenient barriers to entry in the shorter-than-sixteen camp mean that SBR ownership isn’t nearly as widespread as “regular” firearms. But, there is still a way to achieve a compact weapon without violating any federal laws: Rifle caliber pistols.
Oftentimes no different than the coveted short barreled rifle save for a buttstock, the effectiveness of the AR-15 pistol should not be called into question. Yes, they are trickier to shoot than an equivalently barreled AR-15 equipped with a stock. But, this doesn’t mean they should be ruled out altogether.
Here are five good reasons for owning an AR-15 pistol:
Many states and jurisdictions have restrictions on carrying a loaded rifle in your vehicle, but pistols can usually be carried in such cases with only a concealed handgun permit. An AR-15 pistol gives you the punch of a rifle caliber, in a legal-to-carry configuration.
Not all states restrict carrying a loaded rifle around in your trunk, but if yours is one of them, an AR-15 pistol can be just the ticket.
Transportation Over State Lines
If you’re a proud owner of a registered short-barreled rifle, you’re well aware (or should be) that crossing state lines with your NFA item is going to require some paperwork and a notification to Uncle Sam. This can be inconvenient at best, and many gun owners are understandably reticent to notify the government when they’re traveling with a firearm, just on principle.
Owning an AR-15 pistol gets you around this hurdle. Since an AR-15 pistol is just another handgun, you’re free to transport them around the country. Most of it, anyway.
As Effective as an SBR
For all practical purposes, a 10.5-inch AR-15 pistol is just as ballistically capable as a 10.5-inch AR-15 rifle. After all, the only difference is the absence of a stock. Many AR pistols, like this 5.56 NATO Spike’s Tactical ST-15 LE, even feature free-floating barrels.
It’s true that shorter barrels are less effective in the realm of terminal ballistics when compared to longer barrels. More velocity is always preferable, especially the farther away your target is. But, apples to apples, the AR-15 pistol is no slouch.
Also, as a side note: Shorter barrels are not necessarily less accurate than the longer pipes. In fact, many studies show that shorter barrels tend to be more accurate than longer barrels, due to the increase in stiffness. You won’t be giving up much performance with an AR pistol in the accuracy department.
While the Federal government gives citizens permission to register and possess rifles with barrels that are shorter than 16 inches, many states specifically prohibit such ownership. An AR-15 pistol gets you around these inconvenient state laws, as they are sold and transferred just like any other handgun. It won’t have a stock, but it will have a compact overall profile.
It’s Actually a Pretty Handy Little Gun
Is an AR-15 pistol as equally handy as an SBR? Perhaps so, perhaps not. It all depends on who you talk to, but suffice it to say that they are not the equivalent of a little rifle. There’s just no getting around the fact that there isn’t a buttstock. But with practice, an AR pistol can be shot to the same degree of proficiency as a true short-barreled rifle, without any of the legal disadvantages of owning an NFA item.
Furthermore, they are available in the popular .300 AAC Blackout chambering. Since this cartridge was optimized for use from shorter barrels, an AR-15 pistol gives you all the benefits of a .30 caliber round in a compact package, without any of the legal hassles.
Converting to a Rifle
Submitting all the paperwork to the BATFE for a legally registered short-barreled rifle is time consuming. It can take several months, if not longer, to get your tax stamp back in the mail. This is obviously not ideal.
However, the BATFE has stated that it’s legal to convert your pistol into a rifle. This means you can file the SBR paperwork on your AR-15 pistol, and then have the gun in your possession to shoot and play with while you wait (sans stock, of course).
As soon as you’re approved and have the stamp in hand, install your stock and start the party.
Unfortunately, you’ll note that most of these reasons exist because of draconian, unreasonable gun laws. Truly, if the National Firearms Act had never been passed, we probably would never have seen the invention of the somewhat-awkward AR-15 pistol.
No person in their right mind would willingly choose a stockless “pistol” over an equivalent, stocked rifle. There are simply no tangible benefits, from a technical perspective. However, as we’ve seen, AR-15 pistols offer some unique advantages from a legal standpoint, and should definitely not be ruled out by any means.