Monday, October 25, 2010

Neither Fish Nor Fowl

I wanted to make mention of Overload's comments on my previous post on AR/AK pistols. I mentioned that I need to pick up one of the new Rock River PDS pistols based on their new gas piston system.

I've been a bit surprised (and not a little amused) at the rise of the neither-fish-nor-fowl AR pattern pistols. When friends of mine starting building AK pistols back in the Back When, our response was, "Whatever for?" My friends responded, "Why not?"

There has been a steady submarket of AR pistol parts (primarily a pistol-length buffer system) for years, but it has only been in the last 2 years or so that AR companies have started not only making AR platform pistols available, but heavily marketing them as well. Okay, I'm exempting the Olympic Arms pistol, which was an early version. Part of this is the rise of the gas piston variants, which allows a pistol without the AR buffer tube in the rear. Sig, I believe, lead the way with a pistol-version 556.

I wasn't surprised to see a pistol-length AR on the cover of one of the tac-mags as a "Tactical Alternative." "To what?" I wondered.

I think the market is really for SBRs, but that $200 transfer tax (or even the $5 AOW) and all the paperwork is a real buzz-kill. Hence the pistol version, available without paperwork or transfer taxes.

I've said this before, but the pistol ARs/AKs seem to be an American version of the popular-in-Europe PDWs. PDWs tread the no man's land between carbines, submachineguns and pistols, ostensibly aimed at military troopers who need more than a handgun and less than a carbine...say vehicle drivers, etc. Part of the appeal of the PDW in Europe, I think is that Europe never had a hardcore pistol culture like the one that developed in the U.S. That, coupled with the fact that most European nations didn't have a particular problem with equipping their police forces with full-auto weapons, virtually mandated the creation of a Personal Defense Weapon category.

As far was where the jumbo-sized pistols fit in the self-defense continuum, the answer is something of a reach. The pistols are a litle easier to maneuver with in a constrained space, but are harder to shoot than either a traditional handgun or a carbine. The best way to shoot the little beasts seems to be with the weak hand gripping the forearm (I apply forward pressure on the weak hand and rearward pressure on the strong hand to give me some kind of dynamic tension). If you put the obvious vertical handgrip on the AR pistol's lower rail, you have created a controlled weapon covered under the 1934 Firearms Act (an AOW, Any Other Weapon) and you're in very expensive hot water with the Fed. If you add a folding stock to make the gun easier to shoot, it's an SBR, Short-Barreled Rifle, and equally controlled. You can indeed build your own AOW or SBR, but you must file the appropriate paperwork and pay the tax FIRST, before you all that vertical fore grip or folding stock.

Granted, that's nonsensical, but it is the LAW ands BATFE isn't known for their great sense of humor.

Sooooooooo, how to best use the AR pistol? If it has a pistol-length buffer tube, you can use that tube as sort of a defacto stock. There are slip-on butt pads for buffer tubes, but by my reading of the law those butt pads can be construed as adding a stock to a pistol, definitely a no-no. If any of you guys have info that contradicts that view, PLEASE let me know. Again, I shoot the AR pistols the same way I shoot a T/C Contender, weak hand on the forearm.

An alternative would be using a single-point sling to provide the rearward tension. I've got a sling and mount around here to try out, but I just haven't had the time to mount it up and test it out.

Since these guns are not exactly long-range paper-punchers, I like the small red-dot sights. I have used an Aimpoint Micro on my Spike's Tactical 9mm pistol [photo below] and it works great. I don't see any reason why the small pistol-type red dots, such as the Insight, Trijicon, Docter or even a C-More should work just as well.

I've carried the Spike's pistol on long driving trips because it's a lot of firepower in a small package, but you could probably say the same of a collapsable/folding stock carbine. The advantage of the pistol in a vehicle is the same as the advantage of a PDW — easier to deploy with the shorter barrel and the absence of a stock. Ditto as a grab-and-go bedroom gun...portability and storage advantages at the expense of shootability.

Still, AR pistols are a blast (quite literally) to shoot...I think of them as ammo exterminators....when I go to the range with the Spike's, everybody, and I mean everybody, wants to shoot the little monster. Keep in mind that the 5.56 versions are LOUD — the perfect accompaniment for your .30 Carbine pistol in the Race to Complete Deafness. The muzzle blast can also be...impressive...depending on the flashhider.

Obviously, you can go FMN (Full Mall Ninja) and slip a light/laser on one of the rails (maybe an integrated system like the Streamlight)...if you're going to use the pistol as a self-defense tool, that probably makes sense.

I wish ATF would allow "packaging" controlled features under one $200 tax and set of papers — if I could get a folding stock, vertical foregrip and a suppressor on the same sheet of paper, I'd be there, dude!


Chaz said...

Where these guns come into their own is in a car, where the muzzle can be extended out the window, thus mitigating the blast a bit and allowing the user to get the full benefit of 5.56mm ballistics from a pistol platform. While not as handy as the full-auto shortie AK (aka 'Krinkov') even a semi-auto firing a rifle cartridge is going to be hard on the goblin who catches it, I should think. Might also consider the Noveske "Firepig" muzzle device or one of the new BattleBrake devices to reduce the blast. If I had the bucks I'd have one! Now if they'll just make a handy carbine with that piston top end - could be nice!

ExurbanKevin said...

Hmmn, I wonder if a magwell grip would be considered a magwell accessory (legal without a tax stamp) or a vertical grip (not legal without a tax stamp) on a AR pistol?

Anonymous said...

To me the best way to fire an AR pistol with a buffer tube is to pretend the stock is there, cheek the gun and take a sight picture. The buffer tube does not need to touch the shoulder for you to get a remarkably steady sight picture (3 points of contact). You can make it even steadier by adding a single point sling of the appropriate length to add sling tension to the mix. With this setup, I can shoot my Ar Pistol almost as well as a carbine and offhand 300 yard hits on 12 in plates are (almost) boringly easy. So to me the Pistols without a buffer tube while more pleasing to the eye, are actually less functional in my opinion.

As for a purpose besides being incredibly fun range toys...I share Michael's view that these are car/ bug-out guns. I can imagine a situation where buging out with an exposed Carbine might not be the best idea in the world, drawing attention you probably want to avoid. You can conceal 7" AR pistol pretty easily on a single point sling beneath a coat, or under a newspaper on the front seat.

For more info, here is a link to a range report I did on the Down Range forums about my recent Spikes AR pistol purchase:

Gunmart said...

Or you could just go with a Glock 17 and a couple of 33 rd mags for the poor man's PDW. ;D

*Nice post, BTW.

**I also cant believe you went the entire post without dropping the word "Zombie" :D

Darrell said...

A VFG on any pistol is a big no-no.

Try the Kel-Tec PLR16, all the fun at half the price of an AR pistol, and no silly buffer tube.

Overload in Colorado said...

The other forward accessory I was wondering about was a bipod. I think I can have one, but not grip one with my off hand?

Anonymous said...

Good use of PDW/SBR by SEAL protection team back in 2002.

ParatrooperJJ said...

One of the other advantages is that in a state like Ohio, where you can not have a loaded rifle in a vehicle, one can have a rifle caliber pistol.

Anonymous said...

Overload, The first thing I thought when I read your comment was the Ruger 10/22 Charger, I'm pretty sure you can put a bi pod on a T/C Contender or Encore as well.
No idea at all about details.

Tom B.

Rivrdog said...

Did I miss something on the deployment of these firearms? We can all have a high-capacity pistol in a car, and hopefully, we are all adequately trained to defend ourselves at short range with it.

We can have rifles in the car, just not loaded, but how long does it take to insert a magazine and charge a semi-auto carbine or rifle?

This whole class of hand-held carbines pre-supposes the notion that there is fighting to be done at some range farther out than the pistol will reach, and too close for a rifle?

I haven't heard of that. The PDWs made famous by contractors in the Sandbox are/were carried almost entirely for the convenience of their dimensions, not for any other tactical advantage, unless I've been misreading the reports for 8 years.

This buzz about rifle-caliber "pistols" has WAAAY too much Mall Ninja and Tommy Tactical in it to be taken seriously as a defense need.

DaveP. said...

The primary purpose of these civilian PDW's isn't automotive self-defense or SHTF scenarios, with or without zombies. The primary purpose is to make Sarah Brady cry... and that's good enough for me.

Anonymous said...

My 8th and hopefully final AR built in the last year was a pistol. Reasoning? Compact (7.5 bbl), light weight, legal anywhere remotely close (live in NM) and I didn't want the hassle of a SBR (I don't need a note from mommy [ATF&E] to take it anywhere). Carbine length buffer tube (Ace), Optima 2000 with BUIS and a Levang Linear comp enable me to shoot it to 300 yds with more than adequate accuracy, speed, controllability and reliability. Quick to deploy on the random coyote with more range than my CCW. In other words, a FUN gun that can be used seriously if necessary.

Anonymous said...

Concealed-carry laws differ greatly state-to-state. The RRA gun is a pistol, so it falls under the prevailing pistol laws. Here in Michigan, we are issued a "Concealed Pistol License" / CPL, not a "Concealed Weapons License" / CCW; and they make the distinctions between the two very clear. Our law points out the CPL does not include allowing the concealed-carry of knives, daggers, dirks, rifles, stotguns, etc. It also points out that to do so, you are subject to Michigan Statutes that prohibit such carry and they also refer you to Federal Statutes, the violation of which will qualify you for a vertically-striped suntan.
Bottom line for me? The RRA is an excellent variation of a concealed carry handgun. I think that the "intimidation factor" presented to any perp', less any audio effects, is right up there with an "870".
I'll be watching for an RRA to reach my local "candy store's" shelves.
Life Member
P. S.: How about configuring one of these RRAs with your shorty 870 slung underneath, Michael? I forgot what the designation was for the M16 / 870 gun was, but I'd think that this would make for the ultimate concealed pistol variation!

Kevin said...

How about just using a Surefire quick attach can? Each suppressor is licensed, not the gun it goes on. How many 5.56 guns do you plan to shoot at one time?

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Pitt (The Carolina Bulldog) said...

Several of you posted comments that make me want one of these "toys" more and more.

My wife's favorite home defense weapon used to be my Beretta CX4 Storm 9mm. It was light, handy, short and way more powerful than her Springfield XD9sc. I added a MRDS, a vertical foregrip and a barrel shroud (you know, that thing that goes up). Well, long story short, I sold it. Terrible mistake.

I've been trying to find a replacement for it for 2yrs now, but the price on the Beretta carbines have gone thru the roof, costing on par to a decent AR15.

Now my research is showing me that an AR pistol is probably a better alternative for a bedroom gun for my missus. While I reserve a Saiga .223 AK set up WarriorTalk style as my zombie gun, I need something smaller, that won't deafen everyone in the house if I have to use it to repel boarders.

Now having to register it as an SBR and being able to carry it in a sneakybag under my CCW permit is just putting icing on the cake. SWEET!!!!

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