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AR Pistols 101: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners

AR Pistols 101: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners
May 19, 2023 233 view(s)

AR Pistols 101: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners

AR pistols are growing in popularity, and it’s no wonder: They are easy to shoot, easy to store, and endlessly modifiable. 

There are a lot of good reasons to put an AR pistol at the top of your shopping list, but there are also a lot of questions about the what and the why of AR pistols. 

From the intricacies of the AR pistol platform to the factors that make each model unique, we’ll delve into the nitty-gritty details that will leave you craving more information.

So, lock and load as we embark on this adventure together.

The Popularity of AR Pistols

Over the past few years, AR pistols have seen a surge in popularity.

The main reason is adaptability and customization options followed by its compact size allowing you easier and better handling than a traditional AR15 rifle.

Another reason is rising interest in personal protection and a short, compact gun is easier to use while moving through narrowed environments.

What makes an AR pistol an AR pistol

An AR Pistol is a firearm that utilizes many of the same parts as the popular AR-15 pattern rifles but falls under the ATF parameters to be a pistol. 

These guns are legal to own and shoot in most states and require the same ATF paperwork as buying any other pistol.

There are several important notes about keeping your AR pistol legal. 

AR pistols cannot have a conventional rifle stock, they use a pistol brace that is designed to be strapped to the wrist so that the gun may be shot one-handed - this is the most prominent difference between an AR pistol and an SBR. 

The gun also needs to have a barrel less than 16 inches in length and be less than 26 inches in overall length. Another thing that new (and existing) AR pistol owners need to keep in mind is that you cannot legally attach a vertical foregrip to an AR pistol or any other handgun.

AR Pistol Benefits

There are numerous advantages to owning one of these firearms that set them apart from other types of weapons.

To explain them easier, we made a short list of benefits:

  • Compact - they have a shorter barrel, and no stock, affecting their overall length.
  • Wide range of calibers.
  • Modularity and easy customization.
  • Familiarity with the AR platform makes it easier to switch.

Read more:

Interchangeable Parts

There are a lot of parts available for AR-style firearms from a lot of different manufacturers. 

One of the benefits of purchasing a firearm in this style is the variety and interchangeability of these parts. It’s easy to build your firearm to the specifications you want and, if you don’t like something, it’s equally easy to change it.

Interchangeable parts usually include:

  • Muzzle device
  • Barrel
  • Gas block and gas tube
  • Handguard
  • Upper receiver
  • Bolt carrier group and group
  • Charging handle
  • Pivot and takedown pins
  • Gas key
  • Grip
  • Lower receiver
  • Magazine release, bolt release, and safety
  • Trigger
  • Trigger guard
  • Buffer and buffer tube
  • Brace
  • Magwell
  • Magazines

Just like with different caliber firearms, it’s also important to research different products to make sure they are compatible. A lot of times this just comes down to making sure sizing measures up, especially when working with the gas system.

Building vs. Buying

One of the fun parts about purchasing an AR pistol is choosing whether you want to buy or build one. 

Some people will tell you one or another is cheaper, but the truth is the price is less of a factor than personal preference. 

Some people prefer to learn the intricacies of how their firearm works, have more control over the components in their AR pistol and build something from the ground up while others want to buy something completed and go from there. 

Buying a completed firearm is a lot simpler, and there is a lot of quality, completed AR pistols on the market to choose from in a variety of budgets.

For those who choose to build rather than buy, it’s important to do the proper research and make sure your parts are compatible. 

Fortunately, once you’ve chosen a caliber to build your AR pistol in, many of the parts are interchangeable - another benefit of opting to build your pistol in either 5.56 or 9mm. 

When choosing parts for a build, finding quality parts from quality manufacturers will go a long way to ensuring proper fit and long-term reliability.


As a rule, AR pistols have shorter barrels than rifles which makes them more compact and easier to handle.

They are usually 5.5 to 11.5 inches in length. Depending on the caliber you’re using, you should consider which barrel length is best for your pistol.

Most common barrel lengths:

  • 5.5 inches: Most popular caliber for this barrel length is 9mm which is the most used. However, there are a few models that have rifle ammo with this length.
  • 7.5 inches: This barrel length goes has the best performance with .300 Blackout caliber.
  • 10.5 inches: This is the most popular barrel length as it works best with 5.56mm NATO or .223 Remington ammo.

Read more:


You have multiple choices when picking the best ammo for an AR pistol.

However, the most common calibers are 5.56 NATO, .300 Blackout, and 9mm ammo.

Benefits of each caliber:

  • 5.56mm NATO: this caliber is a widely available and popular rifle caliber. This caliber provides great accuracy but may lack stopping power in certain situations.
  • 9mm: most popular ammo among handguns, but there are AR builds accepting 9mm ammo. The best thing about 9mm is its availability despite ammo shortages. 9mm ammo is great for home defense but is not the best pick for long-range shooting.
  • .300 Blackout: Best option if you’re building a pistol with a short barrel but want to keep good performance. This caliber performs well in short and medium-range engagements.

Now you may have some insight into how each of these calibers performs and should know what to use.

For example, for home defense situations better options would be 9mm or .300 Blackout. If you’re going to shoot targets on a more extended range, then you should go with 5.56mm ammo.

Examples of best AR ammo:

Pistol Braces

As AR pistols come without stocks, the only alternative you can use is pistol braces.

Pistol braces are designed to improve the stability and control of your pistol while shooting. They work by providing additional contact against your forearm, reducing muzzle rise, and improving accuracy.

Pistol braces come in various designs, including adjustable options, and can be attached in different ways meaning you can always find a model according to your personal preference.

However, familiarize yourself with the legal acts before purchasing.

Purchase pistol braces here!


AR platform is already known for a wide range of customization possibilities. And the same rule applies to AR pistols.

So, let’s see how can you improve your firearm.

Optics and Red Dots

You can improve your accuracy by adding new optics or red dot sights to your gun.

However, when choosing any of these sights, look for battery life, durability, and mounting options.

Also, you can check Trijicon for high-quality optics for your AR pistol.

Lights and Lasers

If you shoot targets in low-light environments, you may find having lights attached to your gun very useful.

Also, adding a laser to its addition may help you while aiming.

All in all, before using your firearm, double-check if all accessories are properly attached to your gun.

Slings and Sling Mounts

Slings are straps or cords attached to the firearm allowing you to carry your AR pistol securely and comfortably.

Sling mounts are attachment points on your gun where you can attach slings.

These are usually located near the stock or handguard.

Slings will provide you with more support in transitioning your firearm as you move.

Shop slings and mounts here!

Muzzle Devices

You can use any muzzle device on your pistol that’s already compatible with the AR15 rifle.

This includes flash hiders, muzzle brakes, compensators, and even silencers.

However, if you’re shooting standard 5.56 NATO ammo, you won’t find muzzle brakes quite useful.

On the other hand, if you’re looking into silencing your pistol and making shooting more comfortable, you can attach silencers.

Silencers also increase muzzle velocity.

The only downside of silencers is their regulation under National Firearms Act (NFA) so you have to consider the laws in your country before purchasing one.

Shop muzzle devices here!
Find a suppressor for your AR pistol here!

Pistol Grips

When it comes to handling and controlling your weapon, pistol grips may have a very important role.

They affect the handling and ergonomics of your pistol.

You can find various types of grips as they come in different sizes, angles, and textures to accommodate different shooting styles and hand sizes.

High-quality pistol grips should provide not only a secure but comfortable grip which will allow you better control and handling during shooting sessions.

Shop pistol grips here!


At the end of the day, the AR pistol is a versatile and easy-to-use firearm that can be configured to specific preferences or bought off-the-rack in a manufacturer’s preferred configuration. Their versatility and ease of use make them an endlessly useful tool for a wide variety of firearms enthusiasts and professionals.

Read more:

Frequently Asked Questions

Are AR pistols legal?

In most states, AR pistols fall under the same purchasing requirements as AR-pattern rifles, which often means passing a simple NICS background check when picking one up from your local FFL. 

In some states, like Washington, there are different requirements for different firearms, which can change the background check process and often make AR pistols easier or quicker to acquire than AR-style rifles. 

For example, in Washington State, since AR pistols are considered handguns they don’t have the same 10 business day mandatory wait and training requirements necessary to buy a semi-automatic rifle.

You also have the option to buy a lower receiver and build an AR pistol on it. 

In some states, this may be an easier purchasing process than buying a completed firearm. It’s important to know your state, county, and city laws - the easiest way to make sure you’re up-to-date on local firearm laws is to check with the nearest FFL.

What is the difference between an AR-15 and an AR pistol?

The main difference between AR-15 and AR pistol is configuration and length. For example, AR pistols don’t have stock, their barrels are shorter, and have a brace.

Are AR pistols less accurate?

Depending on the purpose. For long-range shooting, using an AR pistol may not be a great idea as it may not provide good enough accuracy. However, for short to mid-range encounters AR pistols achieve effective accuracy.

Can AR use 9mm?

AR pistol can be chambered in 9mm. However, to make this build you should look for a specifically made part designed for 9mm

Can I shoulder an AR pistol brace?

While the legality and interpretation of shouldering an AR pistol brace may vary, the ATF has stated that occasional or incidental shouldering of a pistol brace does not, by itself, alter the classification of the firearm.

Are there any restrictions or regulations on AR pistol accessories?

An AR pistol is defined as a firearm with a barrel length shorter than 16 inches and an overall length not exceeding 26 inches. Attaching a vertical foregrip to an AR pistol is generally prohibited by law. 

However, the use of an angled foregrip or a micro hand stop is allowed. The legality surrounding vertical grips is determined by a 90-degree ruling, meaning that they are typically not permitted on AR pistols.

What are the advantages of owning an AR pistol over other firearm options?

Benefits of owning an AR pistol include compact size, increased maneuverability in tight spaces, and ease of transport.

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