I’m a big fan of AR-15 pistols. They can give you the maneuverability of an SBR (Short Barreled Rifle), without the expensive tax stamp. But it doesn’t do you much good to save money on the tax stamp, only to spend all that money fixing your AR-15 pistol.
That’s why you’re here to learn about the best AR-15 pistols: to get that short, sweet platform without paying for a tax stamp or paying for parts later on.
And that’s why I’m here to bring you my experience with AR-15 pistols.
I’ve seen a whole bunch of AR-15 pistols as part of the rental fleet down at the range. And I’ve wrenched on them in the gunsmithing shop. This list of the best AR-15 pistols is based on my range and shop experience.
Top AR-15 Pistols on the Market Today
Build Your Own Or Buy Pre-Built?
There are benefits on both sides of this coin. So I’ll briefly outline some considerations of each method and you can decide for yourself which you like best:
- The parts are interchangeable with its rifle counterpart and vice versa. If you already own the rifle, you can use some of its parts in your pistol build. This can help keep costs down.
- You can convert your AR-15 pistol into a rifle. With the right tools, an AR-15 pistol can be two guns for the price of one.
- Short gas systems can be tricky to get right. The platform was originally designed for a 24 inch barrel. If you use a short barrel, you’ll need to make sure that you use the right parts for reliability with a short gas system.
When building your own, you must also know which parts are most likely to fail. For your benefit, refer to Minuteman's detailed component guide.
Buying a Pre-Built
- Complete AR-15 pistols are surprisingly affordable. Although building your own is largely considered to be the cheapest route if you’re trying to keep the price down, these pistols are actually very reasonably priced.
- Complete AR-15 pistols are usually reliable. Manufacturers account for the shorter gas system and build their pistols for reliability. You’ll very rarely need to tinker with a complete project to get it to work.
- You may end up spending more on attachments and accessories. Since complete AR-15 pistols come in pre-defined packages, you may end up dropping a few dollars on parts to get your pistol configured just the way you like. Remember to consider this as part of the overall price.
If you decide to go with a pre-built , you’ll obviously want to get the best one.
See related article on buying used AR-15 rifles.
An AR-15 short-barreled rifle (SBR) is a sweet gun.
They’re handy little tools that can be used in a lot of shooting contexts.
If you’re pressed for time, just read this:
5 Best AR-15 Pistol Reviews
These are the AR-15 pistols that have held up best as rental guns and show up in the shop for repairs least often.
1. Geissele Automatics LLC Super Duty Pistol
The Geissele Automatics LLC Super Duty Rifle is one of the best complete AR-15 rifles you can buy. It’s well-designed, has great ergonomics, and finely tuned. It’s one of my favorites.
Good news: Geissele also makes the Geissele Automatics LLC Super Duty Pistol.
It’s basically just a small version of the Super Duty Rifle. It has all the same upgraded controls—Maritime Bolt Catch, ambidextrous safety selector, Geissele SSA X trigger—and the Geissele Super Modular rail. And it’s fitted with an SBA3 pistol brace, which is the best AR-15 pistol brace.
All in all, the equipment that comes standard on this pistol is outstanding. It’s hard to beat Geissele.
However, this pistol is also more pleasant to shoot than a lot of other AR-15 platforms with short barrels. I’m not sure of the exact specs. But Geissele gasses their rifles very well.
So you get a pretty reasonable recoil impulse, especially considering the carbine gas system. And, if you run a suppressor, you won’t get too much gas in your face.
Just be aware that this pistol is well-gassed for a carbine length gas system. The gas system is still short. And the recoil is still sharper than a mid-length or rifle-length gas system. But Geissele has done a great job of making the short gas system as pleasant as possible.
I like the 11.5 inch variant. But Geissele also makes the Geissele Automatics LLC Super Duty 10.3 Inch Pistol, if you want a more traditional short barrel length.
Either way, this pistol is an outstanding platform if you want a short AR-15 that’s great for suppressed or unsuppressed operation.
2. Daniel Defense DDM4 V7 Pistol
The Daniel Defense MK18 is one of the most revered short-barreled AR-15 rifles on the planet. And the Daniel Defense DDM4 V7 Pistol brings all the reliability and toughness of the MK18 to a pistol market.
We had a DDM4 on the rental range for years. And it shot literally hundreds of thousands of rounds before some bad ammunition finally took it out of service. Short story, Daniel Defense makes incredibly durable guns.
This pistol isn’t cheap. And the controls and ergonomics are basically just mil-spec. But you’ll get a ton of use out of this pistol.
Also, it shoots pretty softly for a gun with a short barrel and a short gas system. Supposedly, Daniel Defense follows the DoD specifications for rifles. And it works pretty well.
No, it’s not a super tuned competition gun. But the DDM4 pistol strikes a great balance between soft-recoil and reliability.
You may want to upgrade the trigger. And the included flash hider is similar to a standard A2 birdcage. But if you value longevity, the Daniel Defense DDM4 pistol is the way to go.
3. Troy Industries, Inc. A4 Pistol
Troy Industries doesn’t make a whole lot of complete guns. They’re more well-known for their AR-15 sights and parts. But they do make a few complete pistols and rifles. And the Troy Industries, Inc. A4 Pistol is a solid contribution from Troy Industries.
The most notable thing about this pistol is ergonomics.
The pistol grip is excellent—very similar to the B5 Systems Grip 23 (one of the best pistol grips ever). In fact, I think the grip texture is actually better than the Grip 23 texture. And the Troy pistol grip has a storage compartment, which the Grip 23 doesn’t.
Sadly, the grip doesn’t have the thick beavertail, which I think is the best feature of the Grip 23. But the grip angle is comfortable and reduces fatigue in long shooting sessions.
Additionally, the included muzzle brake does a pretty good job of reducing the felt-recoil. However, it’s loud. Double up on your hearing protection.
Lastly, this is one of the few pistols on the market that comes with sights. And they’re Troy Folding Sights, which are some of the best you can get. Overall, if you want the most complete AR-15 pistol, that’s ready to rock right out of the box, this is your best bet.
4. PSA 10.5″ Carbine-Length Pistol
The PSA 10.5 Carbine-Length Pistol is a 10.5 inch pistol. But they’ve done a cool thing with the handguard: the handguard is 12 inches.
The handguard gives you a lot of rail space. And it’s more comfortable if you have long arms or like to get your support arm fully extended or near fully extended.
PSA uses a fluted flash can to protect your hand and directs the blast away from your face. It makes this pretty pleasant to shoot. You just don’t feel the muzzle blast as much as you might with an open muzzle device.
Unfortunately, the flash can doesn’t offer any real recoil reduction or compensation. It just makes the muzzle blast more bearable for the shooter.
Additionally, you can’t really put a suppressor on this pistol, because the handguard isn’t wide enough to fit around most suppressors.
But, this is a really affordable pistol. And it’s pretty nice to shoot. If you’re not all that concerned about swapping muzzle devices or adding a suppressor, this is a decent rifle that won’t smash your wallet.
5. Springfield Armory Saint Victor Pistol
The Springfield Armory Saint Victor has become one of my go-to recommendations if a customer just wants a good AR-15 that’s not too expensive.
The Springfield Armory Saint Victor Pistol is basically just the short version of the Springfield Armory Saint rifle. And it’s a good, affordable pistol.
It’s got a decent feature set—a polished nickel boron trigger, an M-LOK handguard, and a flash can. Also, it comes with a B5 Systems Grip 23, which you already know I love.
Overall, it’s a comfortable rifle with a decent trigger pull. And the flash can makes shooting more pleasant for the shooter.
However, I should note that this pistol still packs a heck of a muzzle blast. If you’re standing next to it, you’re going to feel that short barrel muzzle blast. Just something to be aware of, if you shoot on a range where you’ll have other people on the line next to you.
Weirdly, Springfield Armory doesn’t include any sights on this pistol, which I find to be a little disappointing, because the Saint rifle comes with sights. So why not put sights on the pistol?
But that’s a small issue. If you want a straightforward pistol that’s well priced, I recommend the Saint pistol.
AR-15 pistols are cool platforms. It’s an affordable way to get a shorter gun without paying for the tax stamp. That may change in the future, with changes to the ATF pistol brace rules.
But, for now, an AR-15 pistol is the most cost-efficient way to get the shortest AR-15 possible. So check them out.