Differences Between AR-15 Rifle and Pistol

There is no doubt that the AR15 platform is the most popular firearm in the country, and quite possibly the entire world. But did you know that you can build an AR15 pistol that is essentially a handgun? And you can do it using all of the same AR15 rifle parts. So what are the main differences between an AR15 rifle and pistol if they use most of the same basic parts and components? Besides a few obvious differences, slush as a shorter barrel and overall shorter length, let’s take a look at what makes these two different!

While the two guns are almost identical, what makes them different in the eyes of the government and ATF? Simply put, an AR15 pistol is an AR15 that has a barrel that is shorter than 16 inches, does not have a stock, and is shorter than 26 inches in overall length. The lack of stock is what separates a pistol from a rifle, and any AR15 rifle that has a barrel shorter than 16 inches and includes a stock is then considered to be a short-barreled rifle (SBR) which has more regulations.

A short-barreled rifle is generally legal to own in most of the states, although you will need to go through a longer NFA process and pay a $200 tax stamp in order to get it. An AR15 pistol gets around this with a barrel that is shorter than 16 inches without having to jump through so many hoops in order to own it. So for someone who wants an overall shorter firearm, especially one with a shorter barrel, an AR15 pistol could be a great option and save you some time and money. And although the AR15 pistol can use standard AR15 rifle magazines, rounds, and accessories, it is still classified as a pistol. So even though it is similar in almost every way to a rifle and gives you the same performance, it is still a pistol.

Keeping Your AR15 Legal

It is important to be up to date on what constitutes an AR15 pistol and rifle, and the slight differences between two so that you don’t do something like accidentally create a short-barreled rifle. For example, when you are building an AR15 pistol you cannot then convert it into a pistol. This means that you cannot take an existing AR15 rifle and go and turn it into a pistol. But, on the flip side you can build your AR15 pistol and later convert it into a rifle legally. Confused yet? Stick with us, it is worth it!

You can also not add a stock to a pistol (making it an SBR), but there are a large variety of different accessories that resemble stocks that you can use and they make the firearm much easier to shoot. There are things like cheek rests that allow you to rest your cheek and use the proper sight picture. There are even stabilizing braces like the SIG SBX pistol stabilizing brace or the Shockwave Blade that allow you to stabilize the gun on your arm or use it as a cheek rest. Depending on how the ATF is feeling, it is sometimes also legal to shoulder these braces and use them as a stock. But before doing anything with these accessories, always check the rules and regulations first! This can and does easily and quickly change from time to time.

Avoid Vertical Fore Grips with Pistols

One of the biggest “no no’s” of an AR15 pistol is mounting a vertical foregrip on it. You can, however, use something like an angled foregrip on the end like the Magpul angled foregrip. This is legal to use on a pistol and can help you better control the weapon when firing it. Mounting a full vertical foregrip on an AR15 pistol will convert it into a rifle yet again, forcing you to register it and pay the tax stamp fee. Just be aware that adding any kind of grips to the front of the firearm should be done after carefully reviewing what is considered legal and what might be considered a vertical foregrip.

Also Read: Building an AR-15 Guide: All the Parts You Are Going to Need

Benefits of a Pistol vs Rifle

So why even bother with an AR15 pistol if there are so many tiny rules and details to worry about? Well besides getting a shorter and more convenient AR15 package, there are a few other benefits that could help you out. Some states will restrict your ability to carry a weapon with a concealed carry permit to a pistol. This will allow you to keep an AR15 in places like your vehicle because of your concealed carry permit, when otherwise couldn’t travel with or store it. Many people prefer a larger firearm for serious situations, and an AR15 pistol could be the perfect answer to that.

AR15 pistols are also much lighter and easier to shoot and use. This makes them great for beginners, as well as people like women and kids to shoot. The smaller and more compact size also will allow you to store it more places and carry it around more comfortably. While there are a few more small details to be aware of, having an AR15 pistol could be a great option for many gun owners.

Final Thoughts

AR15 rifles and pistols are extremely similar, but have some major differences that a shooter should be aware of. By knowing these major differences, you can avoid some major legal ramifications and enjoy all of the benefits of a short-barreled rifle without having to deal with all of the headaches and added fees that come along with it.

You may also like to read: Tools and Equipment You Need to Build Your Own AR-15

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