Regular readers of this blog no doubt know by now how John and I have both dabbled in the world of the AR Pistol. To date, I have written two articles on the subject (see here and here), and John has written one as well. These articles have been among our most viewed, so it should come as no surprise that we would revisit the topic again.
A few months ago I was preparing for a trip to visit the in-laws for a week. They live a solid 8 hour drive away in another state. After making a list and then beginning to gather everything, I turned to what I might want to bring in terms of self-defense items. On these longer trips away from home, recent thinking had me more interested in bringing a long-gun with me. However, while my in-laws are not staunchly anti-gun, they are not exactly super-welcoming when it comes to such things. Let us just say that strolling into my in-laws’ house with a large gun case, guitar case (I do not play guitar), etc., might arouse unnecessary suspicions and questions. Accordingly, my Sig SBR would be perfect for this role, as its folding stock and short barrel allow it to be easily carried discretely. However–genius that I am–I never filed a Form 20 with BATFE to go to their house, and so I had to leave the SBR behind. While it was my own stupidity that created this issue, it led to my desire for a different option for more spur-of-the-moment travel.
In my prior articles on the AR Pistol, I think I clearly described why I like the basic concept. However, even with no stock, a short buffer tube, and a short barrel, the AR Pistol is still a fairly large firearm. My own version had an 11.5 inch barrel (plus flash hider), which gave it an overall length of about 26.5 inches. By comparison, my Sig SBR, with 10.5 inch barrel (plus flash hider), measures a mere 21.5 inches with the stock folded (30.25 with stock extended). However, even this short length firearm would only fit in a bag that was at least a little bit ungainly. I really wanted something with some punch that could fit in a more discrete case and, of course, without the slight hassle of filling out forms before traveling out of state.
There are an assortment of written and video reviews of the Law Tactical Folding Stock Adapter hinge available online. The hinge fits to the back of the receiver of an AR-15 and allows the buffer tube to fold to the left side of the gun. While firing with the stock so folded is not recommended (and the user would only get one shot anyway), storage was my concern, not the ability to fire folded. As luck would have it, several companies put the Generation 3 Law Tactical folder on sale for just after the new year, so I purchased one from one of my favorite companies, Primary Arms, for $189.00.
I had not had the best luck with the SB-15 Sig Brace on the first version of my AR Pistol. It was big and clunky, caught on clothing due to whatever polymer it was made from, and tended to rotate around the buffer tube. I sold it and was overall happy just utilizing a cheek weld on the padded Phase 5 Pistol Buffer Tube that replaced the brace. I don’t recall shooting my pistol in the latter configuration at greater than 25 yards, but at that distance I could shoot it very effectively. Always looking to improve, however, I asked around on the ‘net, and the general consensus was that the KAK Industry Shockwave Blade was far superior to the Sig Brace. I bought one along with one of their pistol buffer tubes designed to work with the blade.
The KAK Industry Shockwave Blade has at least four features that make it superior to the SB-15 Brace. First, it is made of a hard polymer/plastic. There is nothing rubbery about it. Thus, against your face or clothing, it feels more like an actual stock and is less likely to catch on clothing. Second, the design of their tube and brace allows for an adjustable length of pull (adjustable in the sense that you set it up the way you want it, and it stays that way. If you want to adjust it, the allen wrench has to make an appearance). Third, the same features that allow for a fixed length of pull also prevent the brace from rotating around the tube. And finally, it is much less bulky than the Sig Brace. The blade was $42.95 and the tube was $20. I ordered both of these items direct from KAK Industry.
Because I wanted this AR Pistol configuration to be very short (shorter than with my 11.5 inch BCM upper would provide for), I decided to experiment with a new caliber. The general consensus out there is that 11.5 or perhaps 10.5 inch barrels are as short as most recommend going in a 5.56 carbine. The 5.56 round requires a decent amount of barrel length to burn the majority of its powder, and the fall off in velocity (not to mention in the increase in blast/noise/flash) from shorter barrels is generally discouraged. Therefore, I decided to experiment with a new caliber, one that loses less in shorter barrels. While there are companies out there making 7.62×39 ARs (and I had plenty of said ammo on hand to “feed” other firearms I own), I have never been confident in their reliability, largely due to the poor market for magazines.
The .300 AAC, or Blackout, round, offered better chances for success. For one thing, it is designed to burn all of its powder in about 9 inches of barrel. Secondly, other than the barrel itself, no special parts are needed. It uses the same magazines, bolt, etc.
Some may suffer from sticker shock at the cost of the ammunition. After careful consideration, I decided this was really not a big deal. Why? Well, for one thing, I was not planning to shoot this pistol much. Indeed, though technically a pistol, I lump this platform in with my long guns, and I do not shoot any of my long guns very much, only enough to stay competent. Though we all have different ideas of what constitutes competence, I will just say that I have found that, even after long periods of not shooting my carbines, when I do pick one up to use in practice or a class, I tend to do well. Secondly, I plan to keep my 5.56 pistol upper, so if I really want to get a lot of time with the AR Pistol platform, I can always switch uppers to the cheaper-to-shoot upper. They are set up nearly the same.
How many of our readers get the sometimes thrice daily sales alerts from Palmetto State Armory? Annoying though they can be, sometimes their deals are just awesome. In my case, I was hesitant to buy a complete upper from PSA, preferring “better” companies out there. However, eventually a deal appeared that was too good to pass up. They were offering an 8.5 inch barreled pistol upper with keymod handguard (no bolt carrier group or charging handle included) in .300 AAC for $229. I could not resist.
Here is the AR Pistol and its final specs:
Lower: Anderson Arms lower with PSA LPK, ALG-ACT trigger and Magpul MOE pistol grip, Law Tactical Generation 3-M folder, BCM Receiver End Plate with QD hole, and KAK Industry Pistol buffer tube and Shockwave blade. Inside the tube is a carbine buffer, but on the recommendation of Dave Montana at Hunter Rifleworks, I may try out an H2 buffer.
Upper: The upper is the aforementioned PSA upper with 8.5 inch .300 AAC barrel, Keymod handguard, Colt BCG, BCM Mod 4 Charging handle, Daniel Defense Fixed front and rear sights, Aimpoint H-1 2 MOA Red Dot Sight on a Larue QD mount (lower 1/3 co-witness), Surefire x300 Ultra 500 lumen light, ERGO Keymod rail covers, and Magpul QD sling mount. The sling is my preferred Blue Force Gear VCAS sling with Magpul QD swivels.
This combination of parts gives me an AR Pistol with a full length of 26.75 inches, and a folded length of just 18.5 inches. I should also note that many of the components of this built were items I scored off the secondary market, including the ALG-ACT trigger, the BCG, the fixed sights, the Aimpoint H-1 and mount, and the Surefire light. It’s sometimes worth scouring the classifieds of the major forums out there to look for some bargains.
The Keymod handguard that came on the upper includes two QD holes for sling mounting at the point closest to the receiver. Unfortunately, due to the flare of the barrel underneath these holes, the QD swivels from a sling will not lock into place. This is why I utilized the Magpul QD RSA Rail Mount Sling Adapter attachment (added to the upper Picatinny rail) to attach my sling
Another improvement involves the Law Tactical folder. The folding hinge includes a QD hole, but its placement is awful and interferes with the user’s grip on the pistol grip. Therefore, I decided to use a BCM Receiver End Plate that includes the QD hole, and attached my sling there. Though a sling can be attached to the KAK Shockwave Blade, I prefer to mount my sling to a more durable, stable part of the firearm.
I have not fired this platform much yet. So far I have shot it enough to confirm that it actually functions and to zero the iron sights and the Aimpoint. So far, I am very pleased with its performance.
This platform should work perfectly for the role which I have envisaged. This pistol folds up small enough to fit in a Jansport bookbag backpack, a common sight virtually anywhere (stay tuned for a future article on this topic). I plan to take it with me when I travel as an additional platform to have on hand with more punch and range than my handguns. It will attract no attention being carried into my in-laws’ or parents’ house, in hotel lobbies, or in my car on my way to such places. I do NOT plan to use this as some sort of everyday carry item.
A Note on The Law
Our followers on Facebook can confirm that I bought all of these parts several months before the recent “kinda sorta” reversal on shouldering braces and blades by the BATFE. The fact is, I have never worried about their policy regarding this practice. I always had a hard time figuring out exactly how any law enforcement entity could prove that I shouldered, rather than just “cheeked”, a blade or brace. The only issue their prior policy had on me was on trips to one outdoor range, where the range rules specify that only firearms with a stock can be used on the rifle range, and because a blade/brace could not be legally shouldered, I could not shoot it there. In any case, I will do what I want to do and just not film myself using it inappropriately or admit to anything on the web.
I will be continuing to put this new firearm through some testing to see how it performs. I may even see if I can bring it with me (in either its .300 version, or it’s slightly longer 5.56 version with BCM upper) to a class to see how well it performs. However, as noted, I do not plan to shoot this AR Pistol a whole lot, just enough to test it—and myself—out from time to time. For me, it’s more of a niche gun, and not something nearly as important to me as my EDC pistols or my more full-sized carbines.
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