AR Pistol vs. Rifle

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The main difference between the AR pistol and a rifle complies under the most recent NFA guidelines. This government firearm-related organization states that any firearm with a barrel length of more than 16 inches is considered a rifle. On the other hand, a pistol has a shorter barrel and lacks a buttstock.

Not most firearm makers can develop a diversified product that features all the great elements you look for in a weapon. AR series are among the most reliable and well-known models featuring a massive following because of their customizable nature. With a tight budget, you can transform your AR pistol into a practical and dependable rifle.

Custom-wise, there is nothing you cannot do with this model. 

Because of its customizable nature, we observed the rise of another version of the AR model, the SBR (Short Barreled Rifles). For a weapon to be placed under this category, it needs to have a barrel length shorter than 16 inches and a buttstock. In most states, it is illegal to own it without legal documentation. However, this regulatory measure only holds existence in specific states and countries. See our article on SBR vs. AR Pistol.

AR Pistol vs AR Rifle vs SBR

What is an AR Pistol?

In simple terms, an AR pistol is a modified AR model that perfectly suits all applications that other handguns tend to thrive. Only this time, they are more powerful and potent than their competitors in the same field. 

This pistol must have a barrel no more than 16 inches and lack the comfort of a buttstock as this is per NATO regulations applicable in most regions. However, the buttstock is replaced by a pistol brace that adequately balances the gun on your shoulder. Vertical foregrips are also not allowed on an AR pistol, which reduces your firm grasp on the firearm.

Following federal law, this gun’s purchase is only for individuals over the age of 18 from a certified distributor. I would like to believe it is because of the lethal nature associated with the pistol and its ability to be entirely concealed with almost zero detection. Among the many advantages, this model has a compact and small build.

What is an AR rifle?

In the United States, any firearm with a barrel length of at least sixteen inches is a rifle. From this, we can derive that an AR rifle is a model gun that its barrel features the specified length. It also features a buttstock and vertical fore-end grip to fall under the classification. There is no reason to doubt its service delivery as it is the civilian version of the military-grade M16.

It is no lie that most shooters prefer an AR rifle rather than its pistol counterpart. Despite its bulky body form, it promises superior results even on long-range attempts. The web is filled with positive comments regarding it to the extent of some terming it as a superb rifle. 

Its popularity tends to take a negative turn as research shows its preference in criminal activities. In America, this weapon was closely related to the modern mass shootings that resulted in hundreds of innocent individuals’ death.

What is a Short Barreled Rifle (SBR)?

Since there are many settings you can mod your AR weapon, shooters saw that you would get better performance by adding a buttstock to a pistol. This configuration is what gave birth to the SBR, which continues to gain popularity as most shooters find them most effective.

It features a barrel of not more than 16 inches of length and a buttstock that increases its comfort and perfect placement on the shooter’s shoulder. To cut a long story short, it is an AR pistol that features a buttstock. It is important to note that the SBR is strictly restricted in various regions across the United States.

The buttstock’s addition to transforming your pistol to an SBR without the proper documentation is a serious offense. You could face up to ten years of jail time in specific regions; hence, I advise you first to confirm this with the authoritative firms. This limitation arose from the idea that the chances of this being used mostly in criminal activities were very high.

Their form allows them to be easily concealed in addition to the spectacular performance. It would thereby bring more harm than good, hence the expensive and tedious process of acquiring the required stamped papers.

What are the Differences between an AR Pistol and Rifle?


An air rifle has a greater muzzle velocity than a pistol version of the model. To support this claim is research from numerous shooters that, with every inch shortened from your barrel, lead to 30-50 fps velocity loss. From this finding, we concur that a rifle that features a longer barrel results in a higher velocity.

A good example is when you compare two weapons with a barrel length difference of six inches, the longer one will be faster by approximately 300fps. The shorter one’s design allows it to hit fast and hard, losing velocity pretty quick.

High velocity also plays an important role in ensuring a successful and ethical kill, with the damage caused to the target. A slow projectile will penetrate weakly on your target, and the piercing force will not be enough to reach vital organs. A barrel less than ten inches does not exceed speeds of 2500fps. However, you can expect better results on a rifle.


With just a simple observation of the two, you can concur that the rifle is longer. As this seems a minor and noticeable difference, it holds weight in the performance of the two. 

A rifle is longer in barrel length measuring 16 inches, while anything less is a pistol. If the gun is attached to a buttstock, then its status changes to a short-barreled rifle. The AR pistol weapon’s compact nature makes it easy to take apart and fit in small cases and bags. 

Also, you can easily maneuver through tight environments giving you smooth and reliable functioning. On the technical aspect of its size, the pistol may win. However, when it comes to the mechanic perspective, the rifle destroys its counterpart. Almost every shooter can agree that performance-wise a longer barrel is more accurate and reliable even on long distances.


In matters concerning shot accuracy, there is no close competition as the winner by a significant margin being the AR rifle. The main reason for its superb accuracy is its long barrel that allows the projectile with enough potency to achieve the level of bull eye targeting. You might at least have a little debate on short ranges as to which acquires the best groupings.

On one of my tests, at 100 yards, the pistol gave me very heartbreaking results. On the other hand, I hit my target with every shot getting closer to the bull eye. I then decided to shorten the distance to 50 yards, where the short barrel firearm made a better impression. Although the rifle had better results, I could not ignore the significant improvement.

The accuracy of both rifles also depends on the skill of the shooter. An experienced gun handler is familiar with the different approaches to various firearms for spectacular results. Attached accessories and modifications also play an essential part in the accuracy between both of the guns.


It is not a surprise that a pistol that averages six pounds is lighter than a rifle. The main elements liable for the weight tipping off on one of the two are the longer barrel and detailed buttstock. If, by any chance, you attach a support stock on your short-barrel firearm, it automatically becomes an SBR. Be careful not to find yourself on the wrong side of the law, as owning your own requires a license.

Besides the two, modifications and accessories attached to either of the two also determine their weights. Some shooters prefer a slightly customized setting with a simple finish while others decorate their pieces with a wide variety of accessories. To some, a pimped up firearm might upset your gun’s natural balance, leading to low accuracy.

Though not common, you might find a pistol heavier than a rifle. The difference may be as a result of overstocking your firearm. If you marry your pistol to the correct setting, your results might come near a longer barreled gun.

Noise Dissipated

Across most shooting and firearm forums, one comment you will find against the AR pistol is that it produces an annoying amount of noise. On the other hand, its counterpart’s making allows it to swallow up a considerable amount of noise, resulting in a more comfortable shooting. A great number of shooters make poor attempts on noisy guns hence the disregard for AR pistols.

One reason as to why the pistol is louder than the rifle is its ineffective gas venting system. This tube’s length is not long enough to adequately contain the pressure from each shot, causing the loud can-like a bang. Still, on the barrel length difference, a rifle is long enough to accommodate a near-perfect gas venting system.

A pistol also has rougher and sharper recoil since it features a more compact build while the rifle can contain the impact. With the aid of correct positioning on the shoulder from its buttstock, the force against the shooter is moderated. The addition of silencers is rare in pistols as the possibility of increasing your barrel to more than sixteen inches is high.

AR Pistol vs. Rifle: Which One is Better?

Why Should You Choose the AR Pistol over the Rifle?


Indisputably, the compact nature of the pistol is a deal-breaker to most shooters stuck between the two. Its size allows for a better conceal-carry weapon that perfectly blends with your outfit, with no visible imprint. The small build of the pistol sees the loss of performance, while its counterpart’s bulk nature has enormous advantages to its functioning.

At least 15 states allow you to carry a concealed carry firearm in public even without a permit, while most require permits.

The small size of a pistol makes it a good choice for self-defense, as it is easier to draw out and manipulate while taking out a threat.

Why is an AR Rifle better than a Pistol?

Better Performance

Performance-wise, a longer barrel is best, since a short barrel compromises your attempts’ quality and accuracy. A rifle, having a longer barrel will give you exemplary performance.

If you only plan to use your firearm on proximity encounters, why not go for the low budget AR pistol. Even if your preferences change later, you can easily modify your gun to a rifle.

Better Gas Venting System

Unlike other pistols, the AR pistol uses rifle rounds instead of lesser shells. Their mechanisms and build are not the best for such rigid projectiles, mainly the short gas venting system, which is not long enough to withstand the shells’ tear. After a couple of shot attempts, your barrel may require replacement.

The long barrel on a rifle allows for a reliable venting system, which in turn regulates the pressure within the tube.


In the United States, the licensing and official documentation required to be in possession with a handgun is more than that of a long gun. Accordingly, the age requirement for purchasing a long gun is about 18 years, while for most states, you have to be 21 years to buy a handgun

Also, the age requirements for long gun possession are much lower than those of the handguns. For instance, in Alaska, a 15-year-old is allowed to be in possession of a long gun, as long as there is parental consent and 18 if no parental consent. The same state requires you to be at least 21 years to be in possession of a handgun.

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