How To Build An AR Pistol
A new firearm to seriously consider adding to your arsenal is the AR pistol. Its most notable benefits include a lightweight, compact platform and impressive performance – clear out to mid-range distances. Enjoy the benefits of an SBR (Short Barreled Rifle) and save the $200 for your next silencer tax stamp. I decided to build an AR pistol using the new lower from SilencerCo. This is my story.
For me, AR-pistols are a happy medium, living between your typical handgun and standard rifle. All advantages considered, they’re accurate at distances significantly farther than an ordinary pistol and give you the ability to shoot much longer cartridges while still being portable and maneuverable. Not to be overlooked, their best quality is best demonstrated in endless customization options allowing you to tailor-make your gun to fulfill all your needs.
Why I Built an AR Pistol in the First Place
Living in rural East Texas, it’s not uncommon to hear people discuss their personal choices of “truck guns.” I always carry a pistol wherever I go, and since getting my first truck, I have started carrying an AR, as well. The most obvious issues with carrying a full-size AR-15 are length and size. It’s not easy storing something that large out of sight. I know this job calls for something reliable and accurate if I’m hauling it with me everywhere. Hopefully, I won’t need to use it, but if it comes down to it, I need to be able to depend on it. This is where the AR-pistol really gets a chance to shine. It’s the perfect compact, capable multi-purpose option. If a situation arises where I truly need my AR-pistol, it will more than likely be at short- to mid-ranges anyway, making it a perfect choice for a truck gun, as well as a home defense option.
Not Just for Personal Defense
While a reliable truck gun is a staple, my primary use for an AR-pistol build is for hog and varmint hunting. I hunt hogs frequently at night with thermal imaging, using my CanAm Defender side-by-side ATV and shooting sticks as tools, and a spot-and-stalk method. This type of hunting means a great deal of hopping in and out of the ATV, and regularly walking long distances through fields of tall grass, tromping through thick brush and fighting through vines of all sorts. Since I started hunting at night, I’ve carried a wide variety of different AR-15 and AR-10 setups, all long, most often bulky, and almost always a pain to maneuver in confined spaces and haul on long-distance treks. I knew I wanted something short, light and more compact, but couldn’t sacrifice knock-down power, which led me to build an AR-pistol suited just for this specific application.
Choosing the Right Caliber for the Application
Considering the vast variety of calibers to choose from, I settled on the 300 AAC Blackout cartridge. Originally designed for special ops U.S. military, this round was created to be as quiet as a 9mm when shot suppressed, but more lethal. Special forces guys utilized the SBR platform to make maneuvers easier in close quarters combat. The 300 AAC Blackout is a hard-hitting round, more powerful than 9mm with superb penetration; it’s a definite must for piercing thick, tough hog skin and shields. The most considerable benefit of using this caliber in a pistol-build is its ability to reach complete powder burn and maximum muzzle energy though just a 9-inch barrel! I also had to consider what distances I would be shooting, and decided I really just needed something to reach out to 150 yards, but staying mostly within 100. From all of the research I’ve done on this round, when being used in a short barrel configuration, it is more powerful and lethal than your standard 5.56. In fact, it boasts almost the same muzzle energy when fired from a 10.5-inch barrel as a 5.56 bullet fired from a 16-inch barrel. Considering bullet weight, a supersonic 110 grain, 300 AAC Blackout bullet weighs around twice as much as a regular 5.56 round. I think more mass equals more oomph to push through and penetrate my target. Although never designed for typical game hunting applications, I love the Blackout’s balance of accuracy, speed and lethality, as well as its ability to cycle both subsonic and supersonic ammo with ease.
How to Build an AR Pistol? Start with a SilencerCo Lower
If you’ve been keeping up with SilencerCo lately, you must be somewhat familiar with its stellar reputation. Known for eye-catching and innovative suppressors that push performance to the limit, the company took its penchant for excellence and jumped into the AR-15 billet lower game. For starters, the SC015 lower is easy on the eyes, an admirable quality since everyone wants a build to not only perform well, but also, look good doing it. Made from billet 7075-T6 aluminum, it is precision machined to welcome the addition of all your preferred parts. It comes finished in a type III hard coat anodize for added durability and readiness. One feature to pay attention to is the proprietary bilateral bolt catch, a nice addition allowing your end-result to come out on top of the competition from the start. Two of my favorite features I noticed early on that truly help out in the field are the enlarged trigger guard and flared magwell; not to be downplayed, the extra room really comes in handy while hunting in the dark. SilencerCo also took a step in the right direction by adding bilateral, multi-position sling swivels ready for your QD sling mounts to push right in. As with anything from SiCo, they really paid extra attention to detail with this design, and as someone who has used numerous AR-15s in the field, I truly appreciate the thought that went into it. (MSRP $249)
Of course, I couldn’t leave it at just the lower receiver, when I saw they are now offering a SiCo bolt-carrier-group as well, I had to add one into my build. As with anything they produce, I knew it was going to be reliable and built well. (MSRP $199)
The Upper Build
On the topside of my build, I chose several parts from AeroPrecision. I have always been happy with their products, not sacrificing on quality and at a reasonable price point. Here’s what I ordered:
- 10-inch barrel (MSRP $174.99)
- Assembled upper receiver (MSRP $99.99)
- Low profile gas block (MSRP $24.99)
- Enhanced carbine buffer kit w/ H2 buffer (MSRP $74.99)
- Stainless steel gas tube (MSRP $13.99)
- Lower parts kit (MSRP $29.99)
- I also added in a few parts from Bravo Company USA including their KMR Alpha 9-inch KeyMod Free Float Handguard (MSRP $176.95) and the Gunfighter charging handle (MSRP $39.95)
A Brace I Can Get Behind – Defining the AR-Pistol
When searching for a brace for use with my pistol build, I found SB tactical, inventors of the original stabilizing brace, and by far the largest and most notable company for these parts. After receiving my brace from Palmetto State Armory, I immediately recognized several major features that make it so popular, with the first being the capability to accept a mil-spec carbine receiver extension. Designed by U.S. military vets and proudly made in the USA, this brace covers all your bases. I immediately loved the minimalist design, which reminds me of one of my favorite stocks, the Mission First Tactical minimalist, which I have on several of my AR-15s. SB Tactical included a bilateral QD sling socket on the SBA3, adding another option for mounting your sling comfortably. For the money, this brace is hard to beat. (MSRP $169.99) To round out the backside I added an AeroPrecision enhanced carbine buffer kit w/ H2 buffer. (MSRP $74.99)
It’s All About the Details
Hands-down, the best thing about building an AR platform firearm is the endless amount of customization options. Limited only by your pocketbook and imagination, you can refine your build to meet all of your needs.
For thermal hog hunting at night, I looked no farther than to my friends over at Pulsar Thermal and NV. For several years, I’ve used their optics at night and found that my favorite is by far the Pulsar Trail XP line. Considering the quality, toughness, other great features, I went with my old trusty XP 38 Trail to get the job done. They no longer offer this particular model without the LRF function, but I would highly recommend any of their new thermal riflescopes. (MSRP ranges from $2090 to $7200)
When I can I always try to support Texas businesses, with Larue Tactical being one of my favorites. I’m a fan of their triggers, so I went with their MBT-2S Two Stage (MSRP $80). It’s a great option that feels good and won’t break the bank. As with any Larue product, quality and reliability are far from being an issue.
Hauling any rifle in the field and through the woods can be a pain without a good sling. My husband was kind enough to give me an awesome Blue-Force gear sling he won from Larry Vickers at SHOT show. It’s great because it boasts metal hardware and QD mounts, and offers just enough padding to be comfortable but not bulky. (MSRP $59.95)
Rounding out the front end of my gun, I decided to add my go-to suppressor mount, SilencerCo’s ASR Flash Hider. (MSRP $92.00) The quick attach/ detach system works with almost all of SilencerCo’s suppressors, making it quick and easy to mount and switch between different cans as need-be. The locking ring is easy to use and ensures the suppressor isn’t going anywhere; it won’t rotate or work itself off, even with heavy fire and rough use.
Keeping it Quiet
Once you shoot suppressed, you’ll question how you ever shot without a can. Suppressors make the experience so much more enjoyable, overall, whether you’re sending rounds down range or hunting in the field. My go-to suppressor has always been the SilencerCo Omega 300 (MSRP $1130), until recently when I tried the Omega 36M (MSRP $1187). The Omega 36M is by far my favorite suppressor of the long list of everything I’ve owned and tested. It’s just so versatile, and that’s what I love about it! I can use it on just about every gun I own because it’s made to be used with a wide variety of calibers and rated for full auto. Speaking first-hand on its versatility, I like that I can shoot it in 2 different configurations: short or long. I’ve been using it in the short configuration, making it easier to maneuver on my AR-pistol, while still keeping it unbelievably quiet with those Blackout rounds. The end caps are also interchangeable, adding yet another way to customize this can to your heart’s desire. Impressive is an understatement.
The Versatility is Hard to Beat
After building my own AR pistol to specs, I’ll be hard-pressed to find a firearm I like better. I bought a separate complete upper, chambered in .223/5.56 topped off with an EOtech HWS XPS3-0 (MSRP $675.00) to use if I want to keep in in my home or truck for a self-defense or as a fun plinking gun. The limits are endless with AR platform firearms and many people don’t take advantage of that. I love that I can buy 1 solid complete lower and have multiple guns in different calibers by simply changing out the complete upper.
Some tips for choosing the right parts for your build:
- Buy American made
- Make sure the parts are mil-spec or better
- Don’t cheap out. Buy quality, you’ll be glad you did.
- Don’t add a foregrip, this changes the classification of your firearm
- Don’t convert a rifle to a pistol, once it is built as a rifle it must stay that way
- Do your research, make sure you get the correct parts in the beginning. It will save you money, time, and energy in the long run.
- Pay attention to features you want in your build and make sure to make note of those before making a purchase.
For instance, when choosing your lower receiver, pay attention to the details such as the flared magwell, bilateral bolt-catch, QD points and enlarged trigger guard – all came standard on my SCO15. When it comes down to specifics, these features can really be the key components when you hit the field.
If you’re in the market for a new semi-auto gun, consider building your own AR-Pistol. You get the capability and sought-after functionality of an SBR without the headache. You’ll have a custom fit just for you with countless options for new modifications. Whether I need something portable and compact for self-defense, maneuverable and lethal for hunting, or just a good-looking lightweight gun for target shooting, it’s all rolled into one with these short feisty firearms. I love having a slick looking AR that’s not just a fun-gun, but ready to perform when it counts.