Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Quintessential AR15 Pistol - The Good, Bad and Ugly

The Quintessential AR15 Pistol - The Good, Bad and Ugly

The AR15 pistol is not only one of the most fun AR15 based guns you can own, they can actually be really viable hunting and defensive tools. That noted the entire AR15 pistol market has had a recent resurgence partly due to the Sig Braces and partly because… well AR15 pistols are freaking cool.  That noted there are some potential pitfalls to the AR15 pistol which I would lend some perspective on. Let’s start with the Ugly, before getting to the Bad and Good.

The drama around AR15 pistols this past two years with the ATF flip-flopping decisions around the legality of shouldering an AR15 pistol equipped with some type of brace was totally ludicrous. At the 2015 SHOT show, the rumors abounded that the ATF was actively looking to cite anyone who so much as thought about shouldering a Sig Brace equipped rifle. That of course did not happen and the ATF patiently fielded about ten thousand absolutely asinine questions during the show about their “opinions”. I felt sorry for them just a little bit.  

The crux of the problem was that during the prohibition era, the National Firearms Act of 1934 enacted a law which said that rifles could not have barrels under 16” or they would be considered Short Barreld Rifles (noted as horrible devices of mass death used by gangsters). The noted Short Barreled Rifle would require a stiff $200 tax stamp and registration to own and thereby somehow controlling all the guys using illegal guns doing illegal things and prevent them from legally purchasing these guns.  Over the last year a few products such as the Sig Brace spurred more controversy and various ATF “opinions”. One of the more heated ATF’s opinions was that if the Sig Brace was used different than the intent of the product, a perfectly legal AR15 pistol would magically become an NFA ATF regulated item and the owner could get charged with owning an unlicensed SBR. FFL dealers actually pulled pretty much every Sig Brace equipped AR15 pistol from the shelves because according to the ATF opinion, if a customer shouldered one of these pistols it would permanently become an SBR. Legitimately retarded on so many levels, right?
My 300 Blackout build which
presses to the maximum
allowable ATF constraints of an AR15 Pistol.

The problem is that SBR law is a stupid set of regulation filled with more loopholes than your average spaghetti strainer and the ATF is left to interpret the intent of the original law. However despite whatever ATF may say about the legality, widespread enforcement of said “ATF Opinions” is nearly impossible because unless you are doing something stupid, you probably are not going to get regular ATF raids of your home. Most of the ATF agents I met at SHOT were not anxious to start citing people, in fact all this noise just makes their job harder.

Some people stumble accidentally into legal trouble.  Using the “ordinary common man” legal test, the ordinary common man would assume that a product freely available to purchase would not become illegal if assembled. Adding a vertical hand guard grip is "illegal" however Magpul's above pictured angled grip is perfectly fine on an AR15 pistol - it all does not makes sense and is horrible confusing. Thus problems occur when someone unknowingly pins up a rifle AR15 lower with a AR15 pistol upper and then same goes for someone magically transforming a legal AR15 pistol into an SBR just by shouldering it. Which brings us to “intent”. Generally ignorance of the law is not an excuse, however typically the courts allows some leeway once you are in front of the actual judge when it comes down to the intent of the defendant. Some simple questions that the prosecutor will have to prove: Did the defendant intend knowingly to build an SBR, did they buy a Sig Brace to knowingly use the AR15 pistol as an SBR, and/or were they knowingly intending to use any of the above parts in a manner which would re-classify the firearm they built/modified as a NFA ATF regulated firearm.

Although I do feel sorry for the ATF a bit to have to manage a law that makes as much sense as a fur lined sink, the whole Sig brace thing makes my eyes rolls so hard my eyes start to bleed.

Regular old Tavor rifle compared to a
Deacked out AR15 Pistol with 7" barrel.
Though the ATF still seems to be waffling on whether you can shoulder a Sig or other similar “brace” depending who asked who and when and the context of your question, the reality is that Sig Braces are perfectly legal to buy, own and use on any AR15 pistol. That noted no one wants to be in front of court over a weekend project that you shoot three or four times a year. The legal expenses even if you get off innocently will be exponentially more than just going ahead and spending the $200 to register that cool Lower receiver as an SBR. I recommend not dancing in the “grey area”. If you want and SBR, go ahead and register your favorite lower receiver and 3-6 months later you can do whatever you want with the gun.  I would go further and suggest just buying a IWI Tavor if you really want a shoulder-able short length rifle. The standard 16” Tavor rifle is sold it is classified as a plain old rifle and actually just a little shorter than an AR15 pistol with an extended buffer tube and Sig Brace installed as you can see compared to my Aero Precision AR15 pistol with Phase 5 Tactical extended buffer tube, new SBX brace and 7” .223 Barreled upper.

AR15 pistols are very cool, however they can be a potential legal nightmare depending on your local laws, law enforcement knowledge, and how you are carrying them. Technically they are a pistol, however in some cases the length of your AR15 pistol may add extra restrictions around carrying the gun, so check first. The other issue is that the police are woefully misinformed about what is legal and what is not when it comes to AR15 pistols. 

Technically there is nothing wrong with owning and possessing an AR15 pistol as you pistol sidearm. If you are stopped for a traffic violation with a tricked out AR15 pistol complete with extended buffer tube and Sig Brace, I can guarantee there will be additional questions and potentially a call in to the local ATF branch for inspection of said pistol if they do not understand what it is. You will not be on your way in minutes. A standard AR15 pistol will probably net far less headaches, but some “questions”. I love my AR15 pistols, however unless the situation dictated it, I would likely not be riding with an AR15 tucked into my truck’s door pocket much the same way that I would not have an AR15 tossed over the passenger seat.
Components from the Glorious AR15 Pistol Kit
I created right before the 2015 ATF Sig Brace "Opinions"

All this BS was one reason I initially did not want anything to do with AR15 pistols initially. Then I ended up with an EXTAR AR15 pistol and was hooked. I began to see that there was a lot of fun and utility to be had with an AR15 pistol despite its potential image problems. 

Then I did an AR15 pistol build based on an Matthew 80% billet lower receiver, and then one based on a inexpensive blemished $39 lower receiver.

The thing that pissed me off the most was that just before everyone opened their mouths to ask a rather stupid question which forced the ATF into answering a question which should not have been asked, I had just built a rather expensive custom Aero Precision AR15 pistol kit. This Ultimate AR15 Pistol build kit (as I was calling it), included three top tier Aero Precision COP uppers in 7.62x39, 300 Blackout, and .223 calibers and of course Sig's Newest SBX Pistol Brace mounted to the custom cerakoted AP lower. 

I even did an extra .223 lightweight upper version with an Apex Handguard. The builds were completed right before SHOT show when the ATF decisions started rolling in forbidding shouldering such a rifle. It took the steam out of that article.

It took a while to go back to those AR15 pistol builds and even shoot them because I didn’t want the hassle. 

After a second look at the concept of the AR15 pistol I realized I still loved the intent of the concept. The Sig Brace and Shockwave Blade ideas are sound ideas which are still completely legal to buy and make the AR15 Pistol format a lot more fun and easier to shoot.

The AR15 pistol is more than a legal path to something that performs like an SBR without the registration and went back to what the quintessential AR15 should be. If you want an SBR length rifle, just go buy a Tavor, if you want an AR15 pistol then we need to go back to the roots of the original style of the pistol.

Though I may have went a bit overboard to illustrate the point of a basic AR15 pistol the build turned out beautiful. 

I used a Black Rain Ordnance billet stripper lower receiver, Phase 5 Tactical billet buffer tube, Geissele trigger, Strike Industries accessories, and one of the repurposed Aero Precision COP uppers complete with a match grade MicroMOA .223 barrel, Sharps Reliabolt & Carrier, Nordic charging handle, and SLR adjustable gas block. I even went a step further and made one of my custom hand stippled and paracord wrapped custom grips with a chopped down grip size to further reduce the overall AR15 pistol profile.

This build was every bit at its core a basic, short, and loud as hell AR15 pistol and could in no way be construed as anything other than an AR15 pistol which still allows me to connect easily on 12” targets all the way out to 300 yards. The result was one of my favorite guns in my safe and something that is solidly outside of the “grey area” which I can say with a straight face or without winking or nudge that it is without question an quintessential AR15 Pistol.


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