The AR-15 is a great platform for many reasons. It is a modular platform, allowing for many different attachments to be installed on it. Optics, grips, stocks and much more can be bought in the aftermarket to personalize and maximize the efficiency of your AR-15 build. They are largely accessible on the internet as many different companies supply AR-15 parts and kits to make for easier building. You don’t have to buy an AR-15 in one piece. Because many of the pieces are interchangeable, you can buy whole kits or an array of parts that people have for sale online. Not only is it easily accessible online, but it’s also one of the cheapest rifles to get, making it a first choice for many new gun owners.

It is a great entry level firearm because of the relatively cheap and recoil friendly ammunition it uses. However, this carbine rifle also comes in fun size, if 24” of lightly constructed aluminum and polymer were just a little big for your tastes. The AR-15 pistol, seen on the same spectrum as any handgun you might own, is what you are looking for. However, there are some legal constraints you should know about before getting into one. So here is how to build an AR-15 pistol legally.

What is not legal ?

The AR-15 is great because its platform is able to ride the line of rifle or pistol pretty freely except for a few criteria that would label it as an AOW. AOW is an acronym for the legal term “Any Other Weapon,” meaning any other weapon that is not considered a rifle, pistol or shotgun, pursuant of the National Firearms Act of 1934. In this act, the legal definitions, and therefore criteria for what constitutes a rifle, pistol, shotgun and SBR are made clear. Exceeding or not meeting these criteria could land you in the slammer for quite some time if you don’t have the appropriate tax stamp for your AOW. 

How long can your barrel be?

The first and easiest step to building an AR-15 pistol is the barrel. This also entails the gas system which I will also talk about. The barrel length must be shorter than 16” and getting even shorter than that will help you avoid any nefarious eyes that might get the ATF called on you. The barrel is the essential part of this  setup because it directly affects the overall length of the AR-15.

As a disclaimer, you should know that the AR-15 is not designed for a barrel length under 16”. Because of this, the gas system and the barrel will both wear out in about half the amount of shots it might take on a regular sized barrel. Take that worth a grain of salt though, as many different factors can influence barrel and gas system health. A good tip for maximizing the use on your AR-15 pistol would be to use ammo with a lighter load, and to not use the stock gas system you might get from the kit you buy. Especially if you buy an upper that is already assembled, they generally come out overgassed and this is not something you want if the health of your gas system matters to you.

Recoil is not  necessarily an issue with the AR-15 pistol, because the .223 rem and the 5.56×45 NATO are very light rounds already. The frame is heavy enough, and your buffer also helps dissipate a lot of the recoil even the more of the energy is coming out. And do us all a favor: USE A FLASH HIDER.

No stock on an AR-15 pistol?

 A pistol cannot have a stock. It also can’t have an adjustable stock or adjustable apparatus that aids in shouldering the gun as guns with stocks are meant to be shouldered. While there have been some iffy letters on the subject of shouldering an AR-15 pistol, the consensus from the ATF is that it is completely legal to shoulder a pistol.

So what can you use if you can’t use stock? Fins and braces are the best and while they are not technically stocks, you can shoulder them with some degree of comfort. The SBA 3 brace is one of the more popular braces out there. It was originally designed for use by amputees to be able to securely hold the firearm when firing with one hand. It was pretty immediately popularized as its construction helped keep a more tactical appearance on peoples shortened AR-15s without having to pay for a $600 tax stamp.

What attachments can’t you have on an AR-15 pistol?

The AR-15 is prized for its ability to accept many different attachments on  many different mounting systems. However, if you go the route of building an AR-15 pistol, certain attachments will not be available to you.  Vertical Forward grips are illegal to attach to your AR-15 pistol as such an attachment will classify the firearm as an AOW which requires a tax stamp in order to legally own. C grips and angled fore grips are completely fine as they aid in stability of the firearm, because let’s be honest, we know we aren’t actually firing the weight equivalent of a common handgun.

No Modifying what’s already built

The last thing that you cannot do in order to build an AR-15 pistol  is modify an already manufactured firearm. Ergo, you cannot take your AR-15 rifle you bought, disassemble, buy a new barrel, slap it on and call it day. That kind of stuff requires a manufacturers license, something gun buyers aren’t just carrying around. If you are going to build an AR-15 pistol,  play it safe and purchase the  correct parts from trusted companies online.

While you might think there are a lot of restrictions on the AR-15 pistol, that is because there are. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other things you are capable of doing with them. Since they are legally defined as handguns, they are concealable on your person or in your car with  a concealed weapons permit.

AR-15 pistols are great for close quarters self defense situations. They are smaller and ultimately lighter than their carbine rifle counterparts. If you are looking for a quality AR-15 look no further than  for all your AR pistol needs.

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