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Royal Tiger Hellfire AR-type Pistols: Full Review

Royal Tiger offers two compact Hellfire AR-15-type pistols, one in 5.56mm, the other in 9mm.

Royal Tiger Hellfire AR-type Pistols: Full Review

Royal Tiger’s Hellfire AR-type pistols are ready for optics and arm brace accessories of your choice!

Any regular reader of Firearms News knows that I like AR-15 pistols. I like AR-15s, period. I got my first one 1978 – a Colt AR-15 SP1, more commonly referred to as the Vietnam War M16-style model. A year or two after I got mine, the CAR-15 carbine-style rifle version became available, which really sparked my interest. It had a 16-inch barrel and collapsible stock and was based off the XM177 “Commando” series used by Special Forces in the 1960s and ‘70s. Of course, the original Commando was the one I really wanted, but I was too young in 1980 to buy a transferable.  J. Curtis Earl, the premier machine gun dealer at the time, offered the XM177E2 – a newer version that sported an 11.5-inch barrel topped off with a sound modulator/suppressor/flash hider. The earlier 10-inch barrel (XM177E1) was found to have cycling issues due to barrel length and gas tube length. The solution was to add an inch and a half to the barrel, which left gases in the gas tube long enough to provide a more reliable cycle.

Royal Tiger Hellfire J. Curtis Earl Machine Gun Catalog and Colt XM177E2
The cover of the J. Curtis Earl machine gun catalog of the 1970s and 1980s, along with the listing for the Colt XM177E2 assault rifle.

The reason I mention the length is because some of the 10.5-inch barrels popular today sometimes have similar cycling issues with certain types of ammunition due to gun-powder burning rates, and malfunctions resemble the same types experienced with the XM177E1. If you ever had old Russian 5.56 ammunition and ran it through your 10.5-inch-barreled AR pistol, you know exactly what I mean. There are ways to remedy this, and one way is to install a carbine buffer of 1.5 ounces (basically no weights) instead of the standard three-ounce buffer – the recoil will increase, but the pistol will cycle reliably. Another way is to install a barrel 11.5 inches or longer. But, back in the early 1980s, there weren’t any AR-type pistols, so the closest you could get to an original XM177 Commando (also nicknamed a “shorty”) without buying an NFA firearm, was to get a CAR-15. When I did finally get a CAR-15 around 1981, there were comments from gun enthusiasts and Vietnam vets that the shorter version wasn’t accurate, lacked velocity, etc. (easily disproven with a day at the range). I wonder what they would have thought of 10.5-inch- or 7.5-inch-barreled AR pistols of today! Well, the carbine is of course accurate, and AR-15-type firearms with 10.5-inch barrels can easily hit center mass at 200 yards plus.

Royal Tiger Hellfire 5.56 Left and Right
The Hellfire 5.56 sports a 4.5-inch barrel and an M-LOK accessory shroud manufactured by Midwest Industries ( DeNiro installed the new and ATF-approved Gear Head Works Tailhook MOD2 pistol brace. The Trijicon MRO tops the Hellfire off nicely.

Why Buy an AR-15-Type Pistol?

When Olympic Arms came out with its OA-93 AR-15 pistol almost 30 years ago, it was really an innovative idea, but most looked at it as more of a gimmick than a serious firearm with real-world applications. Sure, there were situations where a 5.56-caliber pistol with a 6.5-inch barrel might come in handy back then, but for the most part, it was taken about as seriously as the 1970s-era Bushmaster Arm Pistol, which was a bullpup-style .223 semi-auto pistol that used AR-15/M16 magazines. It was just an idea that came too soon, but it was the trailblazer.

Royal Tiger Hellfire 9mm Left and Right
The Hellfire 9MM sports a 4-inch barrel and an M-LOK accessory shroud manufactured by Midwest Industries. DeNiro installed the original and ATF-approved Tailhook MOD1 pistol brace manufactured by Gear Head Works. The Aimpoint Micro H-2 shown here is one of DeNiro’s favorite dot optics.

Over the past decade, I have really warmed up to AR-15 pistols for a few reasons. First, the AR-15-type pistol can give carbine-like performance out to 200+ yards and will fit inside of a backpack or bug-out bag or be concealable under a jacket. Second, it is a handgun and can be carried in most states as a pistol. So, if you are driving through a dangerous area during a SHTF situation, you can legally have it loaded and ready just like your everyday carry handgun. Third is intimidation. Now, most anti-2nd Amendment voices will cry that intimidation is offensive, not defensive, therefore a bad thing that should be remedied through (unconstitutional) gun-banning legislation. They are very wrong, as usual. Having a firearm that looks intimidating can save lives, especially when one is outnumbered by dozens of bad guys. If you are surrounded in a riot or SHTF situation, pulling out an AR-type pistol with a 20- or 30-round magazine could cause the other side to back off, therefore saving lives without a shot even being fired. In that same situation, if you pulled out a compact eight-shot .380 pistol or snub-nosed .38 revolver, the hostiles may just rush you or pull out their handguns, which may cause you to surrender, in which case, the chances of you getting out alive or without serious permanent physical harm would be very slim. There is no need to speculate on this, just look at the damage, injury, and deaths caused by the riots of 2020. Fourth, an AR-15-type pistol (in 5.56) allows you to take small- to medium-sized game (like a small deer) in a survival situation without having to lug around a hunting rifle, which would not be concealable in a small pack and would add eight-plus pounds to your load, if it could even fit.

Royal Tiger Hellfire Picatinny Rail
Both pistols have 10 inches of Picatinny rail on top, including the four inches of P-rail on the barrel/accessory shroud, shown here on the right.

In Firearms News issue 1 of this year, I reviewed an AR-15 pistol with a 7.5-inch barrel and wrote about the advantages and disadvantages of dropping back three inches on barrel length from my “go-to” 10.5-inch length. (Be sure to visit and search for this article if you don’t have a back issue.) One instance where the 7.5-inch-barreled pistol would be an advantage is when needing to fire out of windows on opposite sides of a vehicle. The shorter barrel really would make a difference, especially of you are wearing a bulky winter coat or if you have other equipment in the car with wires or cords hanging from them (radar detector, smartphone, CB, “fuzzy dice”, air freshener, etc.). Even the rear-view mirror can get in the way of the longer barrel. The disadvantages of a shorter barrel were a drop in power, range, and a very loud report, which really requires a suppressor if you feel you will be firing indoors – the fact is that you never know, so assume you will be. Although there were limitations of a 7.5-inch barrel compared to the 10.5-inch barrel, the 7.5-inch barrel performed very well out to 100 yards, and hitting center mass was not an issue. For a city or suburban SHTF situation, either of these barrel lengths would perform well. On the plains of North Dakota, any AR-15 pistol would not the right platform, but within the cities and suburbs of North Dakota, it would be.

Royal Tiger Hellfire Selector Markings
Pictorial markings replacing “SAFE,” “SEMI,” and “FULL” have been popular since HK started using them decades ago. (Don’t get too excited; the fullauto marking is just for show.)

Enter the Royal Tiger Hellfire Pistols

As mentioned, there are some advantages with going shorter on barrel length, as well as some disadvantages. The Hellfire line of AR-type pistols from Royal Tiger has barrels of 4.5 inches for the 5.56 and just four inches for the 9mm. So why go shorter? Concealability. There are times when you may really have the need for a powerful rifle-caliber compact firearm, and there are times when your everyday carry 9mm pistol is just not enough. We will look at a couple more “needs” later, but now, let’s talk about the Hellfires.

Royal Tiger Hellfire Buffer Tube
The Tailhook MOD2 comes with a new style buffer tube with a track, which will allow the brace to adjust, but will not allow a standard M4 or CAR stock to work with it. This was very considerate of Gear Head Works due to legal issues owners can get themselves into.

Let’s talk about the common features between the two models. Both Hellfires have a high-quality barrel shroud (manufactured by Midwest Industries) which has a Picatinny rail at 12 o’clock, seven M-LOK slots, and two tension Allen screws that allow for a rock-hard fit. Both pistols have 10 inches of Picatinny rail (including the four inches of rail on the barrel/accessory shroud). Barrels are topped off by A2-style flash hiders, and buffers for both pistols are at three ounces each. Grips are the “Engage” model supplied by Mission First Tactical. These are premium grips, not the standard AR-15 grips you can pick up at a gun show for three bucks – these run $20 each. Grips feature a textured surface, which prevents your hands from slipping when the firearm gets wet. Although comfortable, the grips are at more of a vertical angle than I am used to, so I would probably replace them because I’m old school – remember I got my first AR-15 over 40 years ago. The last common feature I will mention is the pictorial engravings for the fire control. They show various bullet shapes for safe, semi-auto, and full-auto, and are marked on both sides of the lower receiver surrounding the safety selector. Don’t get too excited; the full-auto marking is just for show.

Royal Tiger Hellfire Tailhook MOD2
The Tailhook MOD2 opens up for use with almost any size forearm.

“Well, what about arm braces?” you may ask. At the time of this writing, many back-and-forth statements from BATFE have been made recently between members of Congress, firearms manufacturers, brace manufacturers, gun-rights groups, and individual gun owners regarding the current legal status on braces: which ones are approved and which are not, and what you can and can’t do with AR-15-type pistols. Bottom line, nothing has been changed as of this writing. I decided to install Gear Head Works Tailhook braces, as those are BATFE-approved for use as an arm brace, and because I really like the design. Note that Royal Tiger installs AR pistol buffer tubes, which have a diameter of 1.24 inches, so if you decide to purchase an arm brace for this firearm, be aware that not all brace models will fit. The aluminum Tailhook MOD1 will only fit buffer tubes with a diameter of 1.17 – 1.20 inches. I know that is close to 1.24 inches, but it won’t fit. It really won’t. And no, you cannot hammer it on! (That won’t work, but I thought about it!) Both buffer tubes on the Hellfires were changed out and the polymer Tailhook MOD2 comes with a unique buffer tube incorporating a track design that will allow the brace to adjust, but will not allow a standard M4 or CAR stock to work with it. This was very considerate of Gear Head Works to look after its customers from a legal standpoint, as no one wants to be charged with “intent” to manufacture an unregistered short-barreled rifle (SBR) based upon “constructive possession” legal theories just for having a spare collapsible AR-15 stock laying around. Also, the brace expands and stops well before the BATFE limitation rule of 13.5 inches maximum “length of pull.” On to more feature comparisons.

Royal Tiger Hellfire Mag Release
The Hellfire 9MM magazine-release button is large and is in the same location as that of any standard AR-15, unlike many early 9mm AR-15 conversions, which utilized a lever-type magazine release at the bottom rear of the magazine well.

While the 5.56 and 9mm models have features that are almost the same, the forward assist on the 9mm does not work. The assembly is there, but there are no teeth on the 9mm bolt. However, this is not an issue, as the 9mm is blowback operated, while the 5.56 is gas-operated, with a separate rotating bolt. The blowback operation of the 9mm version is why it has a heavier bolt weighing 14 7/8 ounces, compared to the standard 5.56 bolt-carrier assembly, which weighs 11 5/8 ounces. Due to the large external magazine release on the 9mm version, it does not have the American flag engraved on the magazine well that the Hellfire 5.56 has.

Royal Tiger Hellfire Flag
God bless America! A nice touch on the 5.56 model, especially these days.

As Columbo would say, “Um, just one more thing.” I have one other control feature to mention and that’s the bolt catch/bolt release lever. It's there on the Hellfire 9mm, but only works if you manually pull it outward when the bolt assembly is rearward. You can depress it to drop the bolt carrier, but it will not lock the bolt back when the magazine runs dry, as the magazine’s follower is too far forward to activate it. Just do some training drills, and this is not a huge issue. Hey, the MP5 doesn’t have one either, and it's still touted by many small arms experts as the best submachine gun ever designed.

Royal Tiger Hellfire Bolt Assemblies 5.56 and 9mm
Comparison of the bolt assemblies for the Hellfire 5.56 (LEFT) and Hellfire 9mm (RIGHT). Note the lack of a separate bolt assembly on the 9mm carrier, as well as the lack of gas key, as this firearm is blowback-operated.

To wrap up the last of the features, which are now differences, the 5.56 has a 1/2x28 thread pitch on the barrel, while the 9mm has a 1/2x36 thread pitch. That’s a bummer for the Hellfire 9MM owners, as most 9mm suppressors use 1/2x28, especially suppressors designed for AR-15-type firearms. But, that can be rectified for only $30 by contacting Kaw Valley Precision and ordering its 1/2x36 to 1/2x28 thread adapter. The advantage to having a different thread pitch is that it would prevent someone from screwing a 5.56 suppressor on to their 9mm AR-15 barrel – that would ruin anyone’s range day (unless it was intended to get more YouTube views). The 5.56 barrel features a 1 in 10-inch rifling twist rate, but I was unable to confirm which twist rate this four-inch 9mm Hellfire has. The 7.5-inch Hellfire 9mm also uses a 1 in 10-inch twist (yes, Royal Tiger has this longer-barreled version if you would prefer one of those).

Royal Tiger Hellfire 5.56 Field Strip
The Hellfire 5.56 field strips like any AR-15 and comes with one 30-round Mission First Tactical magazine.

As far as magazines go, the Hellfire 5.56 uses any standard AR-15/M16 magazine, and the Hellfire 9mm uses any double-stack Glock-type 9mm magazine, which is the best choice for availability by far. That’s about it for these two. I’m not going to get into field-stripping instructions since these are very common AR-15-type firearms, and that would be like me doing a review of hiking boots and giving instructions on how to tie laces.


Now that you have a good idea why you should have an AR-15-type pistol in your collection and why you should consider these Royal Tiger models, it's time to do some shooting.

Royal Tiger Hellfire 9mm Field Strip
Like its 5.56 brother, the Hellfire 9mm field strips like any AR-15 and comes with one 33-round Glock-type magazine from SGM Tactical.

Firing the Hellfires

I decided to go with a Trijicon MRO for the 5.56 version since I already had this optic dialed in for another 5.56 AR pistol. I loaded up with some 62-grain FMJ from Armscor and took about 10 shots on a man-sized steel silhouette at 25 yards for my initial test. The Hellfire 5.56 put them all in the target with no malfunctions.

Royal Tiger Hellfire J. Curtis Earl Machine Gun Catalog and Colt XM177E2
(Mark Anschuetz photo)

As with all of my accuracy tests, I am testing the accuracy of the firearm and reducing as much human error as possible (especially with “old eyes”), so I mounted a 4X-14X Burris Optics Fullfield 30 scope. I would never use an optic like this on this type of firearm for anything other than accuracy testing from a shooting bench. Since it was 29 degrees outside, I placed a piece of pipe-insulating foam on the buffer tube because I don’t really enjoy the feeling of ice on my cheek. I also wore gloves and opened up the “winter trigger” on the Hellfire so that it was easier to shoot with gloves on – I haven’t done that in a loooong time!

Royal Tiger Hellfire Gemtech TREK II
A standard 1/2x28 thread pitch on the Hellfire 5.56 will allow 5.56 suppressors like this Gemtech TREK II.

Due to the availability of ammunition on hand, as well as time, weather, etc., I decided to only do the 5.56 accuracy tests with ammo from Black Hills and Winchester, shooting three five-shot groups per ammo type for each distance. First up, at 25 yards (this does only have a 4.5-inch barrel you know), was Black Hills 55-grain Barnes TSX hollow points (which are 100 percent copper and made to expand into four sharp petals, retaining all original weight after impact – a great hunting round). I wanted to shoot a test group first, as the trigger measured 6.5 pounds. Sure, this is a G.I.-type trigger and I have fired hundreds of them, but this one had a lot of creep. My test group measured out at 1.72 inches and .96 without the flyer, but what was really impressive was the three-shot cloverleaf I got that measured out at .23 of an inch! I felt comfortable to begin, although I wish I had the Midwest Industries Enhanced Drop-In Trigger installed, due to its crisp 3.5-pound pull – it's one of the best I’ve ever used. Not a big issue, as I’m used to long and creepy AR-15 triggers (everyone should learn to shoot well with them). My first group measured 1.32 inches and 1.22 inches without the flyer. The best group with this ammo was 1.19 inches total/.67 of an inch without the flyer.

Royal Tiger Hellfire 5.56 Shooting Bench
The Hellfire 5.56 about to be tested with Black Hills 55-grain Barnes TSX hollow points and Winchester’s USA Ready 62-grain Open Tip ammunition. The Armscor 62-grain FMJ was used for function testing and shooting with dot optics.

Next up was Winchester’s USA Ready 62-grain Open Tip (OT). The largest group of the three measured in at 1.51 inches and .71 of an inch without the flyer. The smallest group came in at .86 of an inch and without the flyer .67 of an inch – a tie with Black Hills’ best group without the flyer. The other group measured in at 1.15 inches and .96 of an inch without the flyer. I normally would not perform an accuracy test of 5.56 at 25 yards, but since the barrel was only 4.5 inches, I was curious as to how well it performs. For an AR-15-type firearm this concealable, a close-up precision shot could be a real possibility, especially in a hostage situation.

Royal Tiger Hellfire 5.56 Shooting
The smallest 5.56 group at 25 yards came from Winchester’s USA Ready 62-grain Open Tip at .86 of an inch, and without the flyer only .67 of an inch — a tie with Black Hills’ best group without its flyer.

Now out to 50 yards. Black Hills’ first 55-grain group was 2.7 inches and 1.55 inches without the flyer. My second group measured in at 2.87 inches and 2.14 without the flyer, and the last group was 2.85 inches and 1.66 inches without the flyer. Now for Winchester’s USA Ready 62-grain OT. My first two groups were in the three-inch range with the first one coming in at 3.03 inches (1.88 inches without the flyer) and 3.07 inches (2.45 inches without the flyer). The last group tightened up quite a bit with 2.10 inches and 1.59 without the flyer. This was the best group at 50 yards for 5.56.

Royal Tiger Hellfire 5.56 Win USA Ready 62-Grain Group
The Burris 4X-14X Fullfield 30 scope was used for accuracy testing purposes and is not an optic recommended for any other purpose. The initial test was at 25 yards, and later at 50. (DeNiro actually used the “winter trigger”!)

Overall, I’m happy with the groups, especially since this is the shortest AR-15 5.56 barrel I have ever fired and since this is a pistol with no stock. Not bad for a 5.56 barrel that is about the same length as many carry pistols. If I had a match trigger, I know I could have tightened the groups up and would have gotten more consistency in group sizes. Now for some realistic shooting.

I then took the Hellfire 5.56 out to 100 yards with the Trijicon MRO, with my target being a plain piece of 25”x30” white paper. From a standing position, I rapid fired 30 rounds of Armscor 62-grain FMJ using the Trijicon MRO as my sight. Since I only laser bore sighted the MRO, shots were in the lower right of the paper, but almost all of them hit paper, with most within a 12-inch circle. Since the barrel is only 4.5 inches, I was happy to see that none of the bullets key-holed.

Royal Tiger Hellfire 5.56 Win USA 62-grain Open Tip Group
The best group at 50 yards for 5.56 came from Winchester’s USA Ready 62-grain OT. It measured in at 2.10 inches and 1.59 without the flyer.

Now for the Hellfire 9MM. I was pretty excited to fire this one as well and chose an Aimpoint Micro H-2 as my optic ( I’ve had this one for years and love using it. After a quick bore-sighting session, I loaded up a Glock 17-round magazine with Winchester steel case 115-grain FMJ. I started out hitting a full-sized steel silhouette target at 25 yards. All 17 rounds fired perfectly and hit the target without an issue. So, I loaded up the magazine a couple of more times and fired away – I was having too much fun and needed to go back to business. I was curious as to the accuracy out of this platform, since it has a four-inch barrel, and four inches is about the most common length for 9mm handguns. Now for some accuracy testing.

Royal Tiger Hellfire Tailhook MOD2
The new BATFE-approved Tailhook MOD2 is as comfortable as the original model and shifts the firearm’s weight from the wrist (relieving stress) to the forearm. It also incorporates a unique track system, which allows the brace to be quickly adjusted within BATFE regulations.

Again, I’m testing at 25 yards. As stated earlier with the Hellfire 5.56, I’m trying to eliminate as much human error as possible, so again, I used the Burris Fullfield 30 scope set to 14 power. First up was Black Hills Seconds 115-grain FMJ. My first of three five-shot groups gave me a 2.9-inch group, 1.8 inches without the flyer. I noticed that the Black Hills felt like it was running a little hot. My next groups were 2.35 and 2.83 inches, with the best group without the flyer coming in at 1.68. Next up was Federal’s Syntech Training Match 124-grain TCFN (Truncated Cone Flat Nose). Is this the Joker’s ammo? The bullets are purple! The polymer jacket allows for safe shooting indoors by reducing heavy-metal exposure and also extends barrel life. So, how does it run? Very reliably. My first group was 2.14 inches, 1.96 without the flyer. The second group was 2.36 inches and 2.19 inches without the flyer; the last group was 2.16 inches and 1.38 inches without the flyer. Pretty consistent. Last on my list: CCI’s Blazer with its 147-grain FMJ. My first five-shot group was 2.92 inches, 2.12 without the flyer. Then “something” happened. My next group was 1.59 inches with .71 of an inch without the flyer. Wow! Then, the last group yielded 1.33 inches with .87 of an inch without the flyer. It was odd that the first group was consistent with the other weights and bullet types from the previous two manufacturers, and then a great increase in accuracy. Was this my fault? Maybe. As far as trigger pull, it felt like a standard AR-15 trigger, and this one broke at a heavy 7.5 pounds, but with little creep and typical reset. I fired a few more groups with the CCI Blazer and they yielded similar accuracy groups to the last two recorded.

Royal Tiger Hellfire 5.56 Chart

As you have read, I tested three different brands with three different weights, and to be fair, it seems that this pistol likes the 147-grain weight, as do most 9mm handguns. If I were able, it would be interesting to see how Black Hills and Federal’s Syntech would have done with their 147-grain loads, but I didn’t have any. It is also important to note that I was shooting both Hellfire pistols on a sandbag, from a seated bench, and that there was no brace on either pistol while accuracy testing was conducted. The pistols’ buffer tubes were against my cheek and my second hand was pushing down on the scope, which pushed the pistol into the sandbag. While it may seem an unorthodox shooting technique, it did give me a pretty solid position, but still unorthodox.

Royal Tiger Hellfire 9mm Shooting
DeNiro enjoyed firing the Hellfire 9mm, and he feels that the Aimpoint Micro H-2 is a great fit for this pistol.

Now, out to 50 yards with the 9mm. I chose the CCI Blazer (brass-cased Blazer, not the aluminum-cased ammo) for the test at 50 yards, as it came in first at 25 yards. My first group measured in at 2.8 inches, 2.4 without the flyer. Next, the group opened up to 3.13 inches and 2.1 without the flyer. I would say that the bullets are stabilizing nicely at 50 yards, as these are not much larger than the 25-yard groups at twice the distance. The last group was 3.4 inches and 2.5 inches without the flyer. No doubt, the Hellfire 9MM can be a replacement for a standard handgun if the situation warrants this type of firearm.

How about 100 yards? I stapled the same 25”x30” white paper to my target stand.  I then took the Hellfire 9mm out to 100 yards with the Aimpoint Micro H-2. From a standing position, I then rapid fired 30 rounds of Black Hills 115-grain FMJ. Many of the rounds hit the target, but as in the case of the Hellfire 5.56, the heavy and creepy trigger, as well as the recoil, threw my aim off somewhat. Had this been slow fired from a bench with a magnified optic, I would guess that the group sizes would be between six to eight inches. However, this was a more realistic drill rapid firing from a standing position with an optic that has zero magnification.  I would recommend that if you intend to use any caliber AR-15-type pistol with a barrel around four inches, at 100 yards, you install a match trigger and a hybrid compensator-muzzle brake. For 50 yards and under, the G.I. trigger does fine and the recoil is acceptable, unless you want to dump multiple rounds into a target fast.

Royal Tiger Hellfire 9mm Shooting Bench
The Hellfire 9mm ready to test Black Hills Seconds 115-grain FMJ, Federal Syntech Training Match 124-grain TCFN, and CCI Blazer 147-grain FMJ.

I then walked over to my man-sized silhouette steel target and did some shooting, one-handed, with the Tailhook MOD1 brace. I have to say that this brace is the easiest to use and it's very comfortable. All of the firearm’s weight is shifted away from the wrist, making it a very effective design.

Power, Other Applications, and Thoughts

So, what is going on here, in regard to power, with these short 5.56 barrels? On average, a 55-grain 5.56 puts out around 1,100 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle out of a 16-inch barrel. Out of a 10.5-inch barrel, about 820 foot-pounds. However, these Hellfires are not competing with these, as a 10.5-inch barreled AR-15 pistol would be an adequate replacement for a 16-inch carbine for a few reasons, one being that you would be able to carry and conceal the 10.5-inch barreled version with a CCW permit in some states that would prohibit the concealment of a loaded rifle. Within 150 yards, the 10.5-inch pistol could do just about what you would want it to, defense-wise, without taking much of a backseat to the 16-inch carbine. With this 4.5-inch 5.56, you wouldn’t carry it as a replacement to a 16-inch carbine, you would carry it as a replacement for a traditional pistol-caliber handgun where you would need penetration. Although the standard 55-grain 5.56 round only has about 350 foot-pounds of muzzle energy coming out of a 4.5-inch barrel, the ability of a small-diameter 5.56 to penetrate a bad guy’s barrier or body armor is the key, especially when it is galloping out of the gate at 1,600 fps. There is also a large variety of 5.56 specialty rounds that can increase power and terminal performance available.

Royal Tiger Hellfire 9mm Shooting at Target
Initial testing was at 25 yards. The Burris 4X-14X Fullfield 30 scope was used for accuracy testing purposes only and is not an optic recommended for AR-15 pistols of this type.

As far as the 9mm version, the power of the Hellfire 9MM is going to be the same as any 9mm handgun with a four-inch barrel. As pistol caliber carbines (PCC) are very popular these days, the difference in power between a PCC and a 4-inch-barreled Hellfire 9mm are not nearly as drastic as the same comparison with its 5.56 brother. (For you young guys who think that PCCs are some new firearms trend, I got my first PCC in 1981, in the form of an UZI carbine.) A PCC with a 16-inch barrel will throw a 115-grain 9mm projectile out of the muzzle with about 440 foot-pounds of energy, compared to a 9mm AR-15 pistol with a 10.5-inch barrel at about 400 foot-pounds. A four-inch barreled firearm, like the Hellfire 9MM (or any 9mm handgun with the same length barrel), yields about 300 foot-pounds at the muzzle. Sure, 140 foot-pounds is a gap between a 4-inch barrel and a 16-inch barrel, but we are talking a 12-inch difference in barrel length. Why not just carry a 4-inch 9mm handgun? It's the same power, much lighter, and easier to carry. The first answer is something most cops who worked in dangerous environments know – intimidation.

Royal Tiger Hellfire 9mm Shooting Group Measure
CCI’s Blazer 147-grain FMJ proved to be the most accurate 9mm of the day, at 25 yards, as shown in this 1.33-inch five-shot group. Without the flyer, it measured .83 of an inch!

Back when I was a deputy sheriff in the 1990s, I worked a lot of court security details. Everything from prisoner transport to and from court, to searches at entries and security during trials. Many of those trials were murder and drug-gang related, and there were more than a few cases where we had to double-up security due to threats against witnesses. In some cases, the FBI warned us that drug-gang hitmen were in from out of town and would be surveilling the witnesses even during trials. As a deputy, even in these situations, we were not issued any other weapons, so it was just us and our duty handguns (this was almost 30 years ago). We all qualified with shotguns, but firing a shotgun in a crowded government building during an emergency could leave many innocent bystanders seriously injured or killed (keep in mind that many court cases have ruled that police are responsible for every projectile fired – we used 00 buckshot and #4 buckshot). I always carried two spare 20-round magazines for my S&W 6944 (yes, it's rare!) on my duty belt, but I was known as one of a few big “gun guys” in the department.

Royal Tiger Hellfire Tailhook MOD1
The Tailhook MOD1 is the easiest to use according to DeNiro, and he feels it’s very comfortable, as the weight is shifted from the wrist to the forearm. It’s also BATFE-approved.

Having something like a Hellfire in my hand would have definitely made any bad guy think twice, especially with a 33-round magazine inserted. If you can intimidate the bad guy, he may just cancel his plans, thus saving lives and injuries. The other advantage is a Hellfire would have given me three points of contact (firing hand, second hand for a rest, and cheek) for better aimed and controlled fire, a game-changer if I ever had to take a long shot – those courthouses are big, and 100 feet to hit a threat would not have been the greatest distance possible. The ability to use my duty pistol’s magazines, if I had carried a Glock, would have been the “cherry on top.” Best of all, either model would have fit in the gym bags and briefcases we used to take to work every day. All of these advantages would also apply to any citizen who wants to protect themselves.

Royal Tiger Hellfire Deputy and Intimidation Factor
DeNiro handled court security during some high-profile gang-related drug and murder court cases back in the 1990s. He feels that the intimidation factor of having a firearm like the Hellfire 9mm can actually save lives. Also, having a firearm that can be fired more accurately than a standard handgun and that can also take the same magazines as a duty pistol, are two more game-changers. The same applies to citizens and their defense plans.

Hellfire deputy – DeNiro handled court security during some high-profile gang-related drug and murder court cases back in the 1990s. He feels that the intimidation factor of having a firearm like the Hellfire 9mm can actually save lives. Also, having a firearm that can be fired more accurately than a standard handgun and that can also take the same magazines as a duty pistol, are two more game-changers. The same applies to citizens and their defense plans.

I really enjoyed shooting the Hellfires. Although these very short-barreled AR-15 pistols may not fit everyone’s requirements, both models really fit a niche for self-defense. By the way, I never lubricated either gun and had zero malfunctions. If you are interested in getting a Hellfire for yourself, or another of their AR-15 pistols, visit Royal Tiger at

Royal Tiger Hellfire 9mm Chart

Hellfire 5.56 Pistol Specifications

  • Caliber: 5.56x45mm
  • Operation: Gas-operated semi-auto
  • Barrel Length: 4.5 in.
  • Barrel: Heavy, Chrome Moly Vanadium w/Nitride finish, 1 in 10 in. twist 
  • Muzzle Thread: 1/2x28
  • Bolt Steel: 8620, Nitride / Heat Treated
  • Rails: 6 in. top P-Rail with 4 in. extension, 7 M-LOK positions
  • Upper Receiver Material: Billet 7075 T6 Aluminum
  • Lower Receiver Material: Forged 7075 T-6 Aluminum
  • Receiver Finish: Hard Coat Anodized, Black
  • Magazine: Any AR-15/M16-type magazine in 5.56, (30-round incl.)
  • MSRP: $849.99
  • Contact: Royal Tiger Imports,, (321) 212-7801
Royal Tiger Fits Small Bug-Out Bags
The Hellfires are very compact and will fit in the smallest of bug-out bags.

Hellfire 9MM Pistol Specifications

  • Caliber: 9mm (9x19)
  • Operation: Blowback semi-auto
  • Barrel Length: 4 in.
  • Barrel: Heavy, Chrome Moly Vanadium w/Nitride finish, 1 in 10 in. twist (twist not confirmed)
  • Muzzle Thread: 1/2x36
  • Bolt Steel: 8620, Nitride / Heat Treated
  • Rails: 6 in. top P-Rail with 4 in. extension, 7 M-LOK positions
  • Upper Receiver Material: Billet 7075 T6 Aluminum
  • Lower Receiver Material: Forged 7075 T-6 Aluminum
  • Receiver Finish: Hard Coat Anodized, Black
  • Magazine: Any double-stack Glock-type 9mm magazine, (33-round incl.)
  • MSRP: $659.99
  • Contact: Royal Tiger Imports,, (321) 212-7801

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