Monday, July 12, 2021

Building a Thank You AR15 Pistol

Building a Thank You AR15 Pistol 

Like many of you, I have a great family. My brother-in-law is an especially kind chap and decided his sister and I needed three vintage original release movie posters. Allegedly he had them stored in his basement since 1982 - an Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of The Lost Ark and Psycho II all in mint condition. If you are a product of the 80’s like I am, these movies are part of my history and frankly I was nerded out. After a lot of back and forth on compensation he would not take a dime for them and noted it was part of his get rid of junk strategy. Framed on the wall, the posters looked so good I could not in good conscience go without reciprocating with stuff I had stored in my basement… but in my case, I have gun parts. Thankfully he is a gun nut also and was thrilled with the idea of swapping crap from our basements.

Enough Stuff for an AR15 Pistol - As a writer and gun builder, over the years I have accumulated a large pile of parts that when combined with a surprisingly small number of purchased parts can make a quite nice AR. In this case my brother-in-law would get a 10” 5.56 Nato Ballistic Advantage barreled AR15 pistol based on an uber legal non-braced design. AR pistols are wildly more prevalent now than they were even just a few decades ago when even most gun people were largely unfamiliar with AR15 pistols. If we look at sales stats, approximately 20-30% of AR owners also own an AR pistol all thanks to the Sig Brace introduced just over seven years ago. They are now one of the hottest selling firearms in the last five years. Though AR15 pistols are no longer even remotely rare in gun culture they are a more rare version of unicorn for non-gun people than AR15s, so in this case I wanted to build to an uber legal more understood spec.

Why No Pistol Brace? - Pistol braces have been approved by the ATF for over seven years as a legal AR pistol accessory, with an estimated fifteen million sold from SB Tactical, Shockwave, Gearhead, Magpul and Mission First Tactical all offering brace options. With that noted, there is just so much going on politically right now with pistol braces that I didn’t want my brother-in-law to have to worry about whether the specific pistol brace he had was legal, now not-legal or failed some type of idiotic ATF proposed point scorecard. At least right now, no one is talking about non-braced AR pistols, so I wanted to stay in that realm. I have written many times about having an AR pistol in your vehicle and that I highly recommend a build similar to the build shown here - 10” barrel, no brace, and an A2 rifle length buffer tube assembly. 

From discussions with LEO contacts, I continue to believe LEOs are wildly uninformed about the legality of AR15 pistols and pistol braces and frankly so are a lot of even gun people. Add in goofy ATF regulations and position papers that are vague for even the experienced and informed Class-3 owners and there is a boatload of confusion. I had a discussion today with an AR owner who kept referring to “braces” as “straps” despite a lot of attempted correction and was wildly misinformed about what braces are.  Imagine the compounded confusion when there is both an uninformed owner and LEO at a traffic stop. Based on those discussions, this is the build without a brace that would generate the least amount of LEO hassles. It is kind of like being married, do you want to be right or happy? In this case with AR15 pistol braces, do you want to be right with an odd looking brace and pistol configuration and experience a 3-hour traffic stop, three cop cars and an ATF encounter or be happily on your way after a brief discussion about your typical looking AR pistol. In this case, the build looks like an old fashioned AR15 pistol which is a good thing.

Basement Stuff AR15 Build - In this case, I had just done a redu on my Stoner Prototype build and had a stripped Brownells M16A1 which was a collaboration between NoDak Spud and Brownells to faithfully recreate the M16A1 receiver. In this case, I thought my Iowa based brother-in-law would appreciate an Iowa labeled Brownells lower receiver. The lower was built out with an unlabeled parts kit which I assume was either CMMG or Aero precision since those are the primary kits I purchase. 

A Seekins trigger guard, Mission First Tactical grip were added for comfort and HiperFire EDT Trigger to deliver a good accurate rifle and nice trigger feel. The buffer tube used was a standard A2 rifle length buffer tube that was Red Lock Tite’ed in. To ensure no one can ever suggest that a stock could be attached, I drill out the rear stock screw threading and also cut off the rear square wrench lug. To protect the rear of the buffer tube, I superglue a ¼” piece of foam under a 1-⅛” (28mm) rubber cap protective cover (five for $8.99 on Amazon). Note also these are listed specifically as a “protective cover” and not a “bumper” like other similar covers are. The entire buffer tube was covered with automotive carbon fiber wrap and then custom wrapped in leftover paracord. Regardless of your shooting style, this length of buffer provides several advantages. It is longer than stubby carbine length buffers and also more comfortable to shoot. Also, the rifle buffer systems are generally softer to shoot and with a bit of tuning, this format can be really soft to shoot.

With the plan to add an adjustable gas block, I wanted to pull as much recoil out of the gun as possible and that is all about reducing reciprocating mass combined with reduced gas pressure. As you see in a lot of competition guns, they are running adjustable gas blocks, reduced mass carriers and/or reduced mass buffers. For this build I reduced the rifle buffer weight from 5oz down to 3oz which is the same weight as a standard carbine buffer weight. In this setup, we can substantially reduce the gas pressure, still retain full reliability and also take advantage of the longer slower rifle length spring geometry. The now lighter rifle length buffer is still used so that the carrier still travels the same distance rearward, however the net recoil feel is overall a world softer. 

A flat top Brownells upper which along with the 10” 5.56 Nato Ballistic Advantage barrel purchased on a flash sale were the only two parts I ordered for this build. The barrel was tipped with a non-identifiable adjustable gas block and an AR-Stoner stainless flash hider. I have found that pistol builds are loud to begin with, but the standard birdcage flash hider is still one of the quietest muzzle devices for an AR, so why make it louder. The handguard was actually an older rifle length Clark Carbon Fiber handguard that I cut to length for this build and used the other half for another pistol build. Carbon fiber has the unique property of cooling faster which makes longer and hotter shooting strings a lot more comfortable to shoot - plus it looks freaking awesome. The upper was trued and lapped and the barrel mounted with LockTite 638. A NiBo WMD bolt carrier group and Phase 5 charging handle were used.

Optics I really went back and forth on. These little 10” barreled pistols can deliver amazing accuracy with variable powered optics, however I wanted to keep build squarely outside any potential ATF questionable zone and they are making some noise about magnified optic equipped braced pistols. With just a red dot, this build would side step that issue. I used an old but proven Bushnell TRS-25. Sure it is not a top end Aimpoint, Sig or Holosun, but it has worked and continues to work even if it is only rated for 2000 hours or 3 months of constant-on use. My brother-in-law could easily add a clip-on magnifier like a Vortex, Burris, or Holosun to improve precision if needed.

This build also gave me an opportunity to cull through my bin of AR15 magazines and send my brother-in-law a bag full of random magazines that ranged from Hexmags, Mission First, IMI, and ETS which were all lightly used.

Testing - Having built many AR pistols with this 10” barreled configuration, the results are predictably impressive. With a clip-on magnifier, I shot a few .25” 50-yard groups with a 4x magnifier and without the magnifier the groups at the same range were around the .50-.75” range. These are super accurate little builds that can really impress. I repeated an interesting experiment where I tuned the gas block with a full 5-oz weight rifle buffer and then swapped to my custom tuned 3-oz rifle buffer. It is pretty cool to feel how much difference that 2-oz buffer weight reduction and substantial gas pressure reduction can make with felt recoil.  The net is this little build shoots fast and can be unpinned and dropped into any backpack which is all legally covered under a concealed carry permit. 

If you have not tried a 10-12 inch AR15 pistol build you are missing out of the best of the AR pistol platform. This barrel size prevents the deafening bark of shorter barrels and retains much of the velocity and accuracy of rifle length barrels.  With the buffer and carrier weight tuning and an adjustable gas block these can be shockingly soft shooting and a true pleasure to shoot.

Out of State Transfers - So you want to sell some guns to your next of kin friends, or in my case transfer a gun to a brother-in-law out of state. In-state, at least at this point in time, individual to individual sales are still legal as long as you do not have any reason to believe the person you are transferring to (transferee) would not otherwise be prevented from purchasing or owning a firearm - note check you local laws. 

Out of state transfers are more complex and require the transfer to go through a FFL dealer. You will need to ship the firearm to the FFL dealer of choice for your transferee and typically requires inclusion of a copy of the ship to FFL dealers license a bill of sale with a copy of your driver's license, your name, shipping address, and phone information (Transferer) and the name, shipping address, and phone number of the Transferee. Check with your local laws, however currently the ATF allows non-FFL individuals to ship rifles or shotguns through USPS, UPS, and FedEx as long as it is declared a firearms shipment and is shipping to an FFL dealer and the above noted information is included in the shipment. Pistols and any other type of firearm must be shipped via FedEx priority overnight or UPS. Generally, I have found that FedEx is less of a pain in the butt to work with on firearms shipments than UPS, but that depends a lot on your local branches.  The FFL receives the shipments, checks the firearm into their books and contacts your transferee to complete the paperwork and pick up the firearm. Unless you are shipping to some insane place like California, New York, Illinois or some other communist state, the process is usually smooth.

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