Known as the American rifle, an AR is usually called an assault rifle.
But the truth is that “AR” stands for “ArmaLite,” the manufacturer of the original rifle. Interestingly, the AR-15, which is extremely popular among gun enthusiasts, didn’t become mass produced for civilians until the 1980s.
But what about AR pistols, and how do they fare? What, exactly, is an AR pistol?
This type of gun has a shorter barrel and buffer tube so you can’t attach traditional stock to it. An AR pistol is usually built on an AR-15 receiver.
While that might not mean much to you if you’re a beginner, here’s the most important thing you should know: AR pistols are easy to use and carry, as long as they’re compactly built. Plus, they’re easy to handle while being ergonomic.
You might want to own an AR for target practice, self-defense, or hunting, so here’s our guide to the best AR pistol on the market 2021.
Best AR Pistol – Reviews & Buying Guide for 2021
Best overall: PSA 10.5-inch Carbine-Length EPT SBA3 Pistol
We start our reviews of the best AR pistols with this gun by Palmetto State Armory. You can shoot 30 rounds with this AR pistol, but what else does it have to offer and why is it on the top list of our reviews? Here’s what you should know about it.
- This pistol has a barrel made of 4150V chrome-moly steel for greater strength and durability.
- It’s got a 12-inch lightweight Slant End M-lok free-float rail. This rail system is great because it lets you customize your pistol with a variety of lasers, extended grips, and scopes.
- This AR gun comes with an A2 flash hider so you can shoot your target even in low visibility conditions – and the flash won’t blind you!
- With its barrel extension and 5.56mm bullet, this gun allows you to have better range and it improves your accuracy when shooting from long distances. This makes it ideal for shooting tasks such as target practice or hunting.
- It comes with an innovative Magpul grip. This is an important feature in AR pistols because it gives you the best grip no matter what conditions you’re in, such as extreme humidity that’s making you sweat or rainy weather.
- This pistol has KAK Industries Shockwave stock as well as a buffer tube. This means that when you fire many rounds you will maintain stability.
- Some people who have purchased this AR pistol have reported that they can’t manually remove the shell in the chamber without knocking into the charging handle, which can make the gun feel clumsy.
- Others have reported that the bolt carrier group that comes with this gun doesn’t feel like it’s of a high quality.
Runner Up: Fostech MFG. AR15 Tomcat Pistol
Fostech makes use of LITE technology that gives the alloy in their guns a 30 percent lighter feel than the use of aluminum, without compromising on strength. Sounds interesting, right? With that in mind, let’s check out their Tomcat pistol.
- You want your AR pistol to be light and easy to carry, and this pistol achieves both features because it boasts LITE lower and upper receivers. It’s therefore much more convenient to handle and travel with.
- You’ll love that this pistol makes use of the AR Echo II Trigger. This popular feature helps you to shoot from three different settings. When you’re in echo mode and you push the trigger, one round of gunfire will be fired. If the target moves, you can then move the selector to a safe position so that another round won’t be fired.
- It has Fostech Sabre Comfort Grip for user-friendliness when firing. This is made with reinforced polymer and a rubberized exterior. The use of multi-texture rubber as well as grooves make it reduce slips, so it’s perfect for days when it’s hot and you have sweaty palms.
- It has a PDW-style pistol brace to ensure greater comfort and control when handling your gun. This type of brace has become popular to keep you stabilized while shooting, which in turn will improve your accuracy.
- It comes with a hard shell case to keep your gun safe when not in use, which is a nice touch and not always provided by gun manufacturing companies.
- One of the drawbacks of this gun is that its Echo trigger will take some getting used to. Some people who have purchased this gun have reported that if you don’t pull the trigger back far enough when you shoot for the first time, this can make it feel more difficult to operate.
Alternative 1: Foxtrot Mike Products FM9 Billet Sub-Gun
Foxtrot Mike Products is a gun manufacturing company that provides affordable and high-tech guns to the public, giving you the best of both worlds. Their FM9 AR pistol has some great features that an AR enthusiast will enjoy. Let’s take a closer look at them!
- The lower receiver of this pistol has been constructed from a block of billet 7075-T6 aluminum. This is also compatible with Mil-Spec components, in other words components that are considered to be of a military grade.
- The lower receiver can be used with Glock magazines, so it’s highly versatile.
- It has a last round bolt hold open – this isn’t commonly found on other 9mm lowers, which makes it the best AR 9mm pistol on the market!
- It offers side charging capabilities. This means that you can easily load your gun and handle it comfortably when doing so, making it ideal for beginners.
- The pistol’s monolithic style is as a result of its interlock between the upper and handguard. It’s slim and compact, which makes it great to handle, even in tighter corners.
- Since it has a compact and lightweight design, this best 9mm AR pistol is great for beginners to get used to shooting and practice their accuracy.
- It comes with a lifetime warranty, which is a bonus if you’re not happy with your purchase.
- One of the things you might not like about this pistol is that it is right-hand only control.
- Some people who have purchased this pistol have reported that the screws which keep the handguard in place tend to loosen.
- The side charging handle can be difficult to use if you don’t have experience with it, and it’s made of plastic.
Alternative 2: PSA 10.5’’ 5.56 Nato Nitride Classic Shockwave
Palmetto State Armory makes our list of the best AR pistols again, this time with their Classic Shockwave gun. Let’s check it out.
- This best AR15 pistol makes use of a carbine-length gas system. This means that there’s a longer distance between the vent hole and barrel’s end, so more gas can enter the gas tube than what you’ll find with a mid-length gas system.
- It comes with an A2 flash hider so you won’t be blinded by your own gun going off in poor visibility conditions.
- It has what’s known as forward assist, meaning that you can close the bolt carrier group by pressing a button, and this will easily chamber a round.
- It has been finished with KAK Industries Shockwave Blade and Buffer Tube. This helps to stabilize your shots.
- Its barrel is made of chrome-moly vanadium, so it’s durable, can tolerate high temperatures, and is tough as nails.
- This best AR15 pistol has an A2 style grip. Some people dislike it because of how it gets in the way of your fingers, but this might not be something that puts you off. It really comes down to personal preference, so it’s worth trying out different pistol grips to see if it’s a problem for you.
Alternative 3: PSA 8.5’’ Blackout Nitride M-Lok MOE Shockwave
It used to be something unusual, but 300 Blackout has become a well-known caliber. It offers many benefits, such as giving you greater versatility: it can be used to turn your gun into a self-defense pistol or for hunting purposes. Let’s see what this PSA AR pistol has to offer by checking out its many features.
- This gun has been constructed with quality in mind. Its barrel is made out of chrome-moly vanadium.
- There are no gaps between the lower and upper receivers, making the gun compact.
- It has a one in seven inch twist rate, so it’s fast.
- Its design includes the Magpul Grip so you can be assured that you’ll stay in control of your firearm no matter what conditions you’re in.
- The gun’s barrel has been nitrided for greater durability and accuracy.
- It has a heavy barrel profile. This ensures that it will be more durable, so it’s a must to consider if you want to use your AR regularly.
- It makes use of a 300AAC blackout chamber. As we’ve already mentioned, this is a versatile cartridge that’s ideal for hunting, plinking, home defense, and target shooting.
- It has low profile gas blocks. This means that the blocks take up as little space as possible on the gun’s barrel, making the design of this pistol compact.
- While there are benefits to making use of a lightweight M-LOK rail, the Picatinny is still regarded as the gold standard because of how it works better when it comes to mounting sights and optics to your gun.
AR Pistol FAQ
Buying an AR pistol can be a bit tricky, especially if you’re doing so for the first time.
It’s not legal in every U.S. state to own an AR. That’s something important to consider when it comes to purchasing an AR pistol. So, with that in mind, let’s explore some important questions about AR pistols and their usage.
Can I carry an AR pistol in my car?
Having an AR pistol in your car can be problematic, such as if you’re travelling over state lines. This is because different states and cities in the U.S. will have different laws when it comes to how you store your gun during travelling.
For example, some have rules that your gun should be disassembled, cased, and unloaded when stored in your vehicle, and California is an example of one of them because it states that you can carry a concealed gun in your car if you have a concealed carry permit, the weapon has been disassembled, and it’s in a locked compartment in your car. That said, you are allowed to openly carry a long gun in your car without a permit but it has to be unloaded.
Other states, with an example being Wyoming, allow you to engage in the open and concealed carrying of loaded guns that are in your vehicle – and you don’t require a license. Generally, though, most U.S. states will be somewhere between the two extremes, with varying restrictions.
You might also require a concealed carry permit if you’re a gun owner. The good news is that owning an AR15 pistol will likely mean that you can use the same permit you have for it because this is a pistol and not a rifle. In this way, having an AR15 pistol with you when you travel somewhere by car shouldn’t be a problem.
What states are AR pistols illegal?
AR15 rifles are not legal in every state, but the situation changes a little when it comes to AR15 pistols. These are considered legal in most places.
However, you have to be careful when it comes to the parts you want to attach to your gun because if you’re using parts that belong to a rifle, this could land you into trouble as a result of restrictions placed against AR rifles. As long as you have a legal AR15 pistol – in other words, one that doesn’t have parts that are meant for rifles – then you should be fine!
Basically, you have to ensure that you maintain the correct build for your AR15 so that it doesn’t become an illegal weapon. This is to prevent the pistol from becoming a firearm.
So, an example of a rule that you need to abide by is that the gun’s length of pull (LOP) should not be longer than 13.5 inches. You can measure it in a straight line from the trigger face to the back of the brace (which will be its most extended position). It’s also important to consider the overall length of the gun. This is the length from the muzzle to the back of the brace. If this measurement is longer than 26 inches, it could cause the pistol to become labelled as a firearm by authorities.
Although AR15 pistols are generally considered to be legal, and they don’t come with the same restrictions you’ll find with AR15 rifles, short-barreled rifles are another story. This means that you need to take the length of your AR pistol into account. Its barrel should be at least 16 inches in length so that it’s legal. If it’s shorter, then you will need an SBR tax stamp from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
It’s also worth noting what the handgun laws are in your state when it comes to concealed and open carry, as these can vary quite a bit from one region to the next. For example, in Alabama, you can open carry your handgun but it needs to be in a holster. You need a permit if you want to conceal carry your gun. In Maine, on the other hand, you don’t need a permit in order to open carry or conceal carry your handgun. Then, there are states where open carry is completely prohibited, and an example is New York.
Finally, some U.S. states have outright bans against assault weapons. While you might think this doesn’t apply to AR15 pistols, an assault weapon is any pistol (or shotgun, or semi-automatic rifle) that has features such as being compatible with detachable magazines. There are basically eight U.S. states that ban assault weapons. These are New Jersey, New York, the District of Columbia, California, Hawaii, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Maryland.
What does the 15 mean in AR15?
After reading earlier sections in this article, you know that AR stands for ArmaLite, not assault rifle as is often the misconception. But, you’ve probably wondered what the “15” in AR15 means.
While some people have said that this number just refers to the AR model, others have said that it refers to the type of gun being the company’s 15th design. So, unfortunately there’s no exciting story behind this number!
However, it’s worth noting that you can find other AR models, but some of them have become obscure. For example, the AR1 was developed as a bolt-action rifle and a prototype for this gun was created in 1954, but it didn’t get developed further; and, the AR13 was a hyper-velocity machine gun that was made for aircrafts. You’ve probably seen AR10 rifles on the market, and these are sold to civilians as they are quite popular, just like their AR15 counterparts.
Are AR pistols worth buying?
There are many benefits to purchasing an AR15 pistol. These are light in weight and have low levels of recoil, which makes them suitable for beginners and advanced shooters alike.
Since they’re compact, AR15 pistols are easier to maneuver in small or tight spaces. These guns don’t have very long barrels that stick out in the gun’s design, which further adds to them being compact. If you want greater ease when travelling with your AR15, a pistol makes sense because you will be able to conceal it easily.
When it comes to shooting accuracy, an AR15 pistol has some beneficial traits that make it a good choice if you want to improve your accuracy. Since it’s light in weight, this makes handling it, as well as regaining your target, much easier and faster. In this way, it can work as effectively as a handgun.
These pistols generally allow you to customize them a lot, which is great because those upgrades will make you feel like you’ve got a new gun. You can add laser sights, optics, and even lights to your AR pistol without a problem. Then, there are also options you have when it comes to customizing the grips, upper receivers, and barrels.
If you want to buy an AR pistol, this will be easier to carry and conceal than an AR rifle, which immediately makes this type of gun a much more appealing prospect. But AR pistols also have other benefits, such as how they’re both reliable and accurate.
In this buying guide, we’ve looked at five of the best AR pistols for you to purchase. We’ve also helped you through some perplexing issues surrounding AR guns, such as when it comes to their legal status.
Although the laws and restrictions on gun usage in the U.S. can vary quite a bit from one area of the country to another, and sometimes unusual rules seem to be in place, the good news is that AR pistols generally tend to be less restricted than AR rifles.