The 5 Best AR-15 Pistols Reviewed: Reports from Range [2022]

Last Updated on August 10, 2022.

AR-15 pistols can give you the maneuverability of an SBR (Short Barreled Rifle), without the expensive tax stamp.

That’s nice, 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.

A short barreled rifle that’s not a rifle…

I’ve seen a whole bunch of AR-15 pistols as part of the rental fleet down at the range. I’ve wrenched on them in the gunsmithing shop. I’ve shot all sorts of AR pistols.

Using this experience, this article will answer the most common questions about AR pistols and show you which are the best AR-15 pistols.

By the time you finish reading, you’ll have all the information you need to identify the ideal AR-15 pistols for you.

…Then you can buy with confidence.

Best Choice

Geissele Automatics LLC Super Duty Pistol

Specifications:

Cartridge:

5.56mm NATO

Barrel Length:

10.3″

Magazine Type:

Detachable

Pros:

  • Insanely high-quality components.
  • Remarkably smooth recoil impulse for a carbine gas system.
  • Excellent trigger and lower receiver controls.

Comparison Table

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2. Durable AR-15 pistol

3. Ergonomic AR-15 pistol

4. Budget AR-15 pistol

6. Ambidextrous pistol

Table of Contents

What are AR-15 pistols good for?

The main benefit of AR-15 pistols is getting a barrel shorter than 16 inches, without an SBR (Short Barreled Rifle) tax stamp. An AR pistol is technically not a rifle. Therefore, the SBR tax stamp requirement does not apply to AR-15 pistols.

Now, what is an AR-15 barrel shorter than 16 inches good for?

A shorter firearm is lighter and easier to handle than a firearm with a longer barrel. However, there are trade-offs…

Generally, a shorter barrel reduces the maximum effective range of a firearm.

Shorter barrels produce lower muzzle velocities. The shorter the barrel, the sooner the bullet slows down too much to be effective.

For instance, a 5.56mm bullet fired from a 16” barrel is still flying fast enough at 500 yards to achieve ideal terminal ballistics.

On the other hand, a 5.56mm bullet fired from a 10.5” barrel stops producing optimal terminal ballistics somewhere around 400 yards.

Obviously, the bullet is still going fast enough to cause injury at 400 yards. It’s just not going fast enough for the bullet to perform the way it was designed.

There’s also talk about the precision of shorter barrels…

Again, it’s true that shorter barrels technically deliver less precision than longer barrels.

However, there’s an almost negligible difference in precision between short and long barrels at typical AR-15 shooting distances.

If you put two barrels side by side, both from the same manufacturer with the same specs — except one is shorter than the other — the difference in precision is small enough that most people can’t shoot well enough to even prove the difference in organic precision.

Long story short, an AR-15 pistol enables you to get an AR-15 that’s lighter and easier to maneuver at the expense of a slightly shorter maximum effective range.

However, the most common short barrels, 10.5 inch barrels, deliver more than enough effective range for typical civilian shooting contexts.

Are AR-15 pistols good for self-defense?

In general, the AR-15 platform is excellent for self-defense. However, home defense is the most likely context where an AR-15 would be used for defense. In that context, an AR-15 pistol can be even better for self-defense, since a shorter barrel makes the firearm easier to handle inside a building.

Of course, an AR-15 with a 14.5 or 16 inch barrel is totally manageable for home defense.

However, if you want a firearm that’s MORE manageable inside a house, an AR-15 pistol is the most economical way to get a compact AR-pattern firearm.

Is 5.56mm good in an AR pistol?

Generally, yes, 5.56mm is good in an AR pistol. Most AR-15 pistols have barrels shorter than 14.5 inches, which may not be ideal for getting optimal 5.56mm performance at maximum distances. However, a 5.56mm AR pistol is plenty effective at the most probable civilian shooting distances.

The 5 Best AR-15 pistol reviews: SBRs without the SBR tax stamp

These are the AR-15 pistols that have held up best as rental guns and show up in the shop for repairs least often.

If you’re not sure about all the AR-15 specs and terms, get an AR-15 pistol with these specifications:

Barrel length10.3 to 12.5 inches
Barrel twist rate1 in 7 inches
Pistol braceSBA3 or SBA4
Overall Best

1. Geissele Automatics LLC Super Duty Pistol

Key Specs:

  • Cartridge:

5.56mm NATO

  • Barrel Length:

10.3″

  • Finish:

Luna Black, O.D Green

  • Materials:

7075-T6 aluminum

Pros:

  • Insanely high quality components.
  • Remarkably smooth recoil impulse for a carbine gas system.
  • Excellent trigger and lower receiver controls.

Cons:

  • Pistol grip is only okay.
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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. It’s also fitted with an SBA3 pistol brace, which is easily the best AR 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 rifles 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. Also, 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. The recoil is still sharper than a mid-length or rifle-length gas system. Geissele has just done a great job of making the short gas system as pleasant as possible.All in all, this pistol is an outstanding platform if you want a short AR-15 that’s great for suppressed or unsuppressed operation.

Durable Pistol

2. Daniel Defense DDM4 V7 Pistol

Key Specs:

  • Cartridge:

5.56mm NATO

  • Barrel Length:

18″

  • Finish:

Anodized

  • Materials:

Polymer

  • Weight:

7.4 lbs

Pros:

  • Incredible durability and lifespan.
  • Impressively soft recoil impulse.
  • Component quality and surface finishes are outstanding.

Cons:

  • Trigger and muzzle device are kind of mediocre.
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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.

Ergonomic Pistol

3. Troy Industries, Inc. A4 Pistol

Key Specs:

  • Cartridge:

5.56mm NATO

  • Barrel Length:

16″

  • Finish:

Black

  • Materials:

Polymer

  • Weight:

6 lbs

Pros:

  • Super comfortable pistol grip.
  • Muzzle brake produces relatively smooth recoil impulse.
  • Includes sights.

Cons:

  • Muzzle blast is pretty extreme.
Check on Brownells
Other Options

Troy Industries doesn’t make a whole lot of complete guns. They’re more well-known for their AR-15 sights and parts.

They do make a few complete pistols and rifles, though. 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. Also, 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. However, 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. It’s loud, though. Double up on your hearing protection.

Lastly, this is one of the few pistols on the market that comes with sights. 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.

Budget Pistol

4. PSA 10.5″ Carbine-Length Pistol

Key Specs:

  • Muzzle Thread:

1/2×28

  • Magazine:

30 Rounds

  • Diameter at Gas Block:

.750″

Pros:

  • Affordable.
  • Tons of rail space for a pistol with a 10.5 inch barrel.
  • Muzzle device directs muzzle blast away from the shooter.

Cons:

  • Should be inspected by a gunsmith for correct assembly before firing.
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The PSA 10.5 Carbine-Length Pistol is a 10.5 inch pistol. They’ve done a cool thing with the handguard, though: the handguard is 12 inches.

The handguard gives you a lot of rail space. 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 blast can to protect your hand and directs the blast away from your face.

It makes this pistol pretty pleasant to shoot. You 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.

This pistol is really affordable, though. It’s 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.

Value Pistol

5. Springfield Armory Saint Victor Pistol

Key Specs:

  • Cartridge:

308 Winchester. 5.56 NATO

  • Barrel Length:

16 inches

  • Weight:

6.9 pounds

Pros:

  • Smooth trigger press and crisp break.
  • Comfortable M-LOK handguard.
  • Impressive component quality, considering the price.

Cons:

  • Barrel is a bit on the short side, though still fine for most civilian shooting.
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The Springfield Armory Saint Victor has become one of my go-to recommendations if a customer just wants a good AR-15 pistol that’s not too expensive.

The Springfield Armory Saint Victor Pistol is basically just the short version of the Springfield Armory Saint rifle. It’s a solid, affordable pistol that comes with a decent feature set.

It comes with 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. The flash can also makes shooting more pleasant.

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?

That’s a small issue, though. If you want a straightforward pistol that’s well priced, I recommend the Saint pistol.

Ambidextrous Pistol

6. Sig Sauer M400 Tread Pistol

Key Specs:

  • Cartridge:

223 Remington, 5.56x45mm

  • Barrel Length:

11 inches

  • Twist:

1:7 inches

Pros:

  • 11.5 inch barrel is one of the best short barrel lengths.
  • Comes with ambidextrous controls.
  • Incredibly high component quality and surface finishes.

Cons:

  • Blade-style pistol brace is not really comfortable.
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Sig has really established themselves in recent years as a top notch AR-15 manufacturer. The Sig Sauer M400 Tread Pistol is the smallest variant in the Sig M400 line.

The build quality and materials are outstanding. Sig’s manufacturing processes are some of the best in the industry.

I also appreciate that they went with an 11.5 inch barrel. It’s my favorite length for short barrels.

My only real complaint about this pistol is the pistol brace. I find the blade-style braces to be the least comfortable and most difficult to use.

However, you can change the brace out, if you want.

Everything else on this pistol — from the controls to the anodized finish — is outstanding. It’s totally worth getting this pistol and putting a different brace on it.

The Final Shot

Geissele Automatics LLC Super Duty Pistol

Key Specs:

  • Cartridge:

5.56mm NATO

  • Barrel Length:

10.3″

  • Finish:

Luna Black, O.D Green

  • Materials:

7075-T6 aluminum

Pros:

  • Insanely high quality components.
  • Remarkably smooth recoil impulse for a carbine gas system.
  • Excellent trigger and lower receiver controls.

Cons:

  • Pistol grip is only okay.
Check on Brownells
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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.

For now, though, an AR-15 pistol is the most cost-efficient way to get the shortest AR-15 possible.

If you get the Geissele Automatics LLC Super Duty Pistol or the Daniel Defense DDM4 V7 Pistol, you can be confident that you won’t have to pay for parts or repairs down the road, which ensures you’ve made a good investment.

So check them out. You won’t be disappointed.

Read our other related articles here:

Buying used AR-15 rifles

Best AR-15 pistol brace