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Are AR Pistols Really Pistols?

by Robert W. Hunnicutt   |  March 26th, 2012 50

Senior Editor Peter Kokalis and I have our disagreements, mainly thanks to his belief that a WASP like me can’t fathom the profound depths of the Hellenic soul, but one thing we agree on completely is that we are very blah on AKs and ARs made into pistols.

We’re happy for you to have one if you want one, but find it impossible to understand why you’d want one.

The only believable explanation I’ve ever heard came from a representative of Rock River Arms, who said they’ve sold quite a few to police departments who stash them in the saddlebags of motorcycle cops.

The Rock River “pistol” shoots pretty well. I once made a bet with Joe Bruch, a range officer at PASA Park, based on hitting a steel torso silhouette at 200 yards with one. I figured we’d go through a couple boxes of ammo before hitting it, but it only took Bruch, a master-class shooter in several disciplines, two ranging shots before he rang the silhouette.

Dave Fortier tried several AR “pistols” in the 7/10/11 issue of SGN, and likewise was surprised at his ability to hit with them.

So I’m not going to be the simplistic type and say they’re no good because you can’t hit anything with them. They aren’t particularly easy to hit with, but it can be done.

What I hope no one is doing is using them as the basis for illegal short-barreled rifles. SBRs are a lot of fun, and in most states aren’t all that hard to have. The $200 transfer tax that was a big deterrent in the 1930s is about the cost of a good afternoon of shooting these days. Building an SBR and failing to register it is a federal felony; there’s just no need to risk that!

So I’m ready to be convinced. If you like AK or AR pistols, why?

  • Du Flux

    I LOVE my AR15 pistol chambered in 7.62×39… I get to hunt in any county in Minnesota with it… even the counties that are "Shot-gun and handgun only"… I can hit an 8" gong at 100 repeatedly without misses due to the Trijocon Reflex II atop the A3 upper… it's a win/win firearm.

    • Doug

      Slug hunting isn’t for me, so ether I travel 200 miles to hunt with rifle or stay where I am and hunt with a hand gun. I can choose the 10.5″ upper that I normally have on it or I can switch to my 16″ upper in .223 or go with my 16″ .50 Beowulf.

  • Heretic

    With a wrap-around sling to press against, they're as accurate as anything. Plus they just look badass!

    • Bud

      to put forward pressure on the sling is almost as good as a butt stock.( and with a good
      one like the one you use) is a very good solution, allowing one to byass the SBR lic.

      • Bud

        I meant to say the sight you are use, is an excellent solution

  • bob

    they came out with ak pistols a long time ago. its called the aksu. they even had special holsters for them to be carried like pistols.

  • ARPRO64

    Exactly for the reason you stated, to make SBR's – LEGALLY! Its easy, buy the pistol, submit the paperwork, wait for what seems like an eternity, after receiving the paperwork, then and only then, buy the full stock and you have an awesome rifle! I found this to be better using an AK rather than an AR, you can build an AR cheaper and choose the barrel length (5" and up!). If you decide to go this route, consult with a licensed dealer before hand so you dont inadvertently break the law.

    • Jeepers Creepers

      FYI: 16 inch barrel length is the magic federal law length. Anything under 16 inch had better have a pistol grip (it is a legal pistol without any kind of paper work). Over 16 inch it better have a rifle butt stock and be longer than 26 inches overal. Shotguns smooth bores have to be longer than 18 inch barrel and 26 inch overal. A shotgun using slugster type barrels can be made into pistol legally if the barrel length is under 16 inches (most use pistol). I love short barreled rifle casing (ammo) shooting in pistol form. I have a large number of pistols that use rifle casings. Sounds like someone needs to go back and check the federal laws before printing it in black and white.

  • Doug


  • Wow

    I was informed by a rangemaster in the Houston area that I could not shoot my mini Draco on their range, because it was not a pistol…..WTH! Inspite of me explaining to him that I legally purchased it as a pistol, he would not listen. I even questioned him about the "pistols" that Rock River, and Bushmaster sell. Again, it was like talking to a rock!

    • Hugh Jasso

      Indoor range? Most are limited to .44 Magnum energy, and a 7.62x39mm is above that.

      • Jeepers Creepers

        On the max 44 mag energy level. Is that a full power big game hunting load or a very mild target load only.

      • Jeff

        A similar gripe: my range doesn't allow me to fire my m1 carbine…. they said it was too powerful but I can fire my marlin in .44 magnum all day long….

    • Jeepers Creepers

      Take the range to court and stand up for your legal rights. Sue then Sue them again. They will soon understand.

      • NPMatt

        Rifle rounds, regardless of what they're shot from, will destroy many backstops designed for handgun ammunition, Jeepers. Since you're all pumped up on rights, the rangemaster has a "right" to protect range property. While on private property you only have the rights granted to you by the property owner, so you have no basis on which to sue. You can, however, take your business, your ignorance and your bad attitude elswhere.

  • Yeah, really?

    AK-47 pistol… I know I gotta have a not-full-auto gun that already can't hit squat with a bullet too light and slow to penetrate anything in which it won't expand because they can usually only be found in full metal jacket… AND, I want that gun to be half as accurate by cutting 10" off the barrel to reduce the velocity another 400 feet per second… and then, I want to NOT be able to aim it because there is no buttstock and it still takes two hands to hold… YEAH BABY, SIGN ME UP ! ! !

    They only look "bad" to someone who has never used a real weapon to do anything meaningful.

    • Andy

      Anyone who still does the "AK's aren't accurate rant" has never owned one. There's nothing I can hit with my factory M16-A1 that I can't hit with my cheap romanian AK. Plus, so many people are building .308 AR's now when an AK has been shooting a caliber of the same size for 60 years that you're complaining about.

      • troy lindstrand

        sorry Andy but you are wrong on one thing- 7.62×39 is nothing like .308/762×51 they are not the same!

    • guest

      you've obviously never shot an ak47 bro.. i hit bullseyes at a hundred yards repeaditly with my wasr ak. i can bounce a 2 liter and shoot it again when its in the air. other than the kick, i prefer my ak over my ar15 any day of the week. i have not had any failures in my ak either, cant say the same about the ar15. there is a reason it is the most popular assault rifle in the world. yeah there is a world outside of the us… personally i think a "pistol ak" is kind of rediculous, why not get a folding stock ak? but i would like to get a short barrel ak like the pistol version and put a folding stock on it.

    • Heretic

      You have no idea…..

  • D'Ice

    I own two, for me they are a "BLAST." My AK is waiting on the paperwork from BATFE as I write. Try it you'll like it.
    Shooting is shooting. I don't care what it is. If it goes bang, bring it on. My AR is from DPMS and is a tack driver. The AK will make a five gallon bucket jump straight up, I wouldn't want to be on the business end of either.

  • Ben Raines

    I own an AR pistol from Rock River Arms and it is a blast to shoot! Practical? Sure is! It is a great home defense weapon if you live out in the country and is a great "truck gun". It is highly maneuverable and takes standard AR magazines so it can hold quite a few rounds. What is there no to like about an AR or AK pistol? If a person intends to conceal it for carry then that is just dumb. If you want to convert it to an SBR then buy it as a pistol, submit the paperwork and once approved at the stock of your choice. It is a cheap SBR if that is what you want. For me, I like mine as a pistol.

  • Bruce

    I have mini Draco,Draco,5.56,7.62×25 pistols why? They conceal easy and yes I have the permit

  • Wondertwin

    I don't think it's a matter of functionality that they exist. It's more a function of legally being able to import a weapon of this type in a domestically unmodified form (like the Draco and PPSh-43C). It's got to be more lucrative for an importer to sell a weapon that they don't have to add US parts and labor to. I believe the AR style appeared on the scene as some manufacturers of AR-based platforms thought it in their interest to offer a competing product.

  • Tree Dee

    EEEEEEEeeeeeeewwwwwww………. !

  • Bimmerstuff

    They're only pistols because the "Alphabet Boys" (ATF) have convoluted their regulations and the english language into the pretzel that is an AR/AK "pistol". We all know that they are rifles with really short barrels and no buttstocks. Sometimes the Emperor really is naked, not wearing invisible clothes…

  • NFAuser

    Stupid article, and a lot of stupid comments. Thanks for giving the antis and the ATF something else to look closer at. Dumbass

  • Sivispace

    I have an HK 51 pistol just so I have access to 7.62 firepower and range I can carry in a large briefcase. When traveling, it's always good to have a little bit of home firepower with you. When I move to a class III state, I'll put a collapsible stock on it an have an SBR perfect for SFTS on the road. Plus it takes the ubiquitous G-3 magazine that can be had for around four bucks. I put a Leupold Prismatic sight on it and I'm ready for any crap storm.

  • Regretreading

    Stupid article is correct. Does the question of the article ever get entertained "Are AR PIstols Really Pistols?" No! It just tries to get us going on which one is better. I've seen high school students write better articles. I'm starting to wonder why I subscribe…. Get a new job fool and let us destroy ourselves.

  • earl turner

    Robert W. Hunnicunt, please go away, I own an AK pistol because it allows me a medium range cartridge and a large capacity magazine in a limited space. I did not renew my subscription of more than 10 years because of YOU. Your "articles" belong in a brady bunch pamphlet or some anti-gun forum. Peter Kokalis disagrees with you because you are a turd in the punch bowl. this is the 3rd article from you that I have been irratated by.. the whole gay/guns part I and II were disgusting. What has SGN lowered itself to? Fox news?Go find another line of work.

  • Real

    Yeah really sell that one to all the dead Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan ,

  • 3towedsloth

    Where are we that we can't have a conversation about the guns we like? Should we start burning books too? As far as AR/AK pistols, if it is legal and you want it, so be it. End of story. It’s not yours to tell me what to do.

  • WSA

    I believe if you are not a criminal, should be able to own any gun you want. This article stinks, Pistol? SBR? so what. I don't have one but maybe I'll get one just to have it.

    • tdarnett

      I agree with your statement. Call it what you want, buy one if you like or don't. It is just another gun that some people like and there is nothing wrong with that. Also like all guns, they have there little niche they fill, when something else doesn't do the job better, or another that can't be legally owned because of our fine politicians.

  • LifeStartsat300yds

    As a person that works as a Safety Officer on a public range I won't allow these on the rifle range where a majority of the people want to shoot them but will allow them on the pistol range. Why, because most of the people that come out can't hit the berm at 100 yards with them, much less a target. In my book if you want to call it a pistol then don't try and claim it is a rifle when it fits your needs just because it uses a rifle cartridge. Oh by the way, I won't let some rifle shooters on the rifle range because they can't hit the berm either!

  • Paul S Marrs

    Each to His or Her own. What's this busness about a special registration?

  • Paul S Marrs

    Whats this stuff about a special registration? I think anyone could own any pistol no matter what caliber it is.
    Paul S Marrs

  • Celt

    Are they really pistols? Do we like them? The first question is a matter of definitions and opinion. We have to defer to ATF regulations to name what a firearm may be – at least in the legal sense. To me, the short (shoulder stockless) AR and AK platforms really don't fit well into any classic definition of pistol or rifle. They, like the TC Contender and Encore handguns, are in a class by themselves. Any and all can exhibit excellent accuracy, but tend to be more difficult to shoot accurately (at least for me.) Of course we like them – they are firearms! Personally, though, I do prefer a short carbine over one of the – well – whatever we call them!

  • RBass

    We have pistols that shoot rifle cartridges, we have pistols that shoot shotgun shells, we have rifles that shoot pistol cartridges, rifles that shoot shotgun shells. You need to find a job doing something other than weapons.

  • woodchuckwacker666

    I have been asked by several people about the legal CCW carry of these pistol/rifle hybrids in Minnesota. I suppose if you had a big enough breifcase and/or handbag you might get by with it. I have asked several cops and they were totally in the dark about it. Any one out there have an idea about it? I bet the courts would say that you were looking to do battle instead of self defense!



  • Michael K. Smith

    200 hundred yard shots with a pistol and you ask why anyone would want one?

  • Mack missiletoe

    It's a carbine. Don't let the government fool you, they try to protect us by bending reality but in the long run fail to realize that a rifle is deadlier than a pistol. And so our government ultimately fails at governing for the good.

    Hey government, how do you like your coffee? Got a minute? Let's talk guns and bullets. Times have changed. Make the $200 tax stamp $100 for us good guys. I have a nice Ruger GSR that is beggin' for a sound suppressor! This would aid the economy, eh? Eh?

    • Mack Missiletoe

      Mack Missiletoe for President!

  • CannMan

    Why own one?
    Because I can … That's all anyone other than myself needs to know.
    Maybe I think it's fun to shoot. Maybe I like that it's easier to move around with in cramped quarters. Maybe I got it as a pistol because I didn't give a damn about accuracy out to 100+ meters.
    Or like I said, maybe … Just maybe because I simply can.

  • Anonymous patriot

    Just bought one the other day and I say why not. I already have a full size AK. Why not have a smaller version that I can SBR and it accepts the same ammo and magazines I already have. I could use the full-size AK for longer shots and I could have the AK pistol (zastava m92 7.62) in a back pack ready to go. I live in an urban enviroment and this would be a perfect setup for my personal needs. I also have a 12 ga and two .45 's so I don't need to here how those are better home defense weapons. Everyone has their own veiw of what's best. Isn't that what makes this country great?

  • James

    The AR Pistol platform is an awesome weapons system. This is a very compact & versatile PDW (Personal Defense Weapon) great for concealed carry, vehicles, buildings, or other confined spaces. When this weapons system is converted to 300 Blackout (300 BLK) it provides it provides a full .30 caliber projectile of no less than twice the mass of a standard issue 5.56mm/.223 round. CMMG, and other manufactures offer a 8.5 inch barrel in 300 BLK for the AR Pistol platform.

  • BOB

    old article but when shouldered, and AR pistol is almost as easy to manipulate as an SBR.

  • Riordan

    Wow, lots of touchy, sensitive fellows out there. Somebody expresses an opinion about an odd, extremely limited purpose sort of firearm, and you all feel threatened. Nobody’s going to take your man-card for having a silly firearm. Sometimes pointless is all it’s about. Those of you who think you might actually fight with these things are complete imbeciles. No professional on earth would knowingly get into a gunfight with one of these things for a reason. Cops on motorcycles don’t qualify as professional gunners. Nor do television zombie hunters or movie action heros. Can’t say I saw any of these things while I was overseas serving you lot in our recent national adventures in the lands of worthless dirt. That is, other than in a few piles of captured enemy weapons who’s owners didn’t live to see the sun come up. No pistol should ever be considered a primary weapon unless you’re intent on dying for your cause.

  • BigPistols

    I love the flash and the blast. It’s very fun to shoot at the range. I’ve had a Carbon-15 and a PTR 91 PDW. both are GREAT fun. They actually might serve other purposes, but the main one here I’d like to speak of is FUN.

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