AR Pistol vs. SBR

Posted on

What defines an AR Pistol? What defines a short barreled rifle (SBR)? Many people wonder about the difference of an AR pistol vs. SBR and why a short barreled rifle is regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) while the AR pistol is not. In this article, we take a closer look at how the ATF defines each weapon and what makes them different from each other.


Short Barreled Rifle

As defined by the ATF, a “rifle” is a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder. A short barreled rifle is a rifle with a barrel length less than 16 inches, or overall length of less than 26 inches. As a title II weapon, short barreled rifles are regulated by the ATF and require a $200 tax stamp before being purchased or built. It is important to note that while it is legal to put a stock on a pistol, doing so will create a short barreled rifle. In order to legally create this firearm an application to make and register a firearm (Form 1) needs to be sent to the ATF, and you need to receive back the proper paperwork. If you already have all the pieces to make a short barreled rifle without the proper paperwork you will be in violation of the Gun Control Act and could be charged with possession of a title II weapon.




AR 15 Pistol

As defined by the ATF, a “pistol” is a weapon originally designed, made, and intended to fire a projectile from one or more barrels when held in one hand and having (a) a chamber as an integral part of, or permanently aligned with, the bore; and (b) a short stock designed to be gripped by one hand and at an angle to and extending below the line of the bore. An AR pistol is composed of an AR 15 type rifle receiver that has never been barreled and/or stocked as a rifle action. Unlike the short barreled rifle, an AR 15 pistol does not fall under the definition of a title II weapon, and therefore does not require a tax stamp. A receiver that has been previously completed in a rifle configuration is classified by the ATF as a short barreled rifle. In order to prove that a receiver has never been completed in a rifle configuration, you need to obtain certification from the receiver manufacturer. Furthermore make sure your dealer does not describe the receiver as “rifle” on ATF form 4473, the form that is mandatory for a dealer to fill out at the time of purchase.


The Difference

The main difference between a short barreled rifle and an AR pistol comes down to two things. First, an AR pistol does not have a buttstock and is not intended to be fired from the shoulder like an SBR. Second, to build an AR pistol you must not use a rifle receiver that has been barreled and/or stocked as a rifle action, the first build of a lower will determine what the lower is from that day forward. If the lower was first assembled into a rifle then it is considered a rifle forever. Keep in mind that in general, you can attach a buttstock to a pistol if you change the barrel to greater than 16″ as well. If you do not change the barrel and it is less than 16″ in length this would than be considered a short barreled rifle. Also, if you are in possession of a rifle buttstock that could be installed on your pistol, this can constitute possession of a short barreled rifle.


Keep the difference of an AR pistol vs. SBR in mind when considering your next firearm. The last thing you want to do is accidentally build a title II weapon (or have the parts for it) without a tax stamp. For more information on how to get a NFA tax stamp click here. Please consult the ATF if you have any questions regarding the legality of your weapon.

Click outside to hide the comparison bar