Daddy’s New AR-15 Pistola

Gear: Not my Usual Hangup

I’m really not a gear guy. No, really. I tend to abide by very practical set of rules. I dedicate most of my practice to what I feel are the most likely scenarios. This puts me in the basement gym and on the mats first, practicing applying tourniquets to myself second, the pistol range third, and a shotgun or rifle in my hands last. Most of my day is spent in a non-permissive environment so I train accordingly. This makes for a boring blog, I’ll admit. I won’t be fondling new gear every three days and telling you how good the trigger feels, or how well the stock matches Magpul’s OD green color. That stuff is tedious and boring to me. Go watch youtube for that garbage. I find interest in tactics and gaining mastery of the basics using the most practical tools for the job. End Rant. That said, sometimes Daddy wants a new toy. My choice for my 31st birthday was building out a Spikes lower receiver that I got from a good friend who passed away a few years ago. I know Steve would be stoked at what I made out of his lower. This post will be more of a show and tell than anything useful for you (SORRY!).

I was hanging out with Tactical Response and James Yeager (my main man) a few weekends ago.

You will probably never see me with a more genuine smile. (photo: Yeager)

They were down in Atlanta for Fighting Pistol and Fighting Rifle. I was helping on day one of fighting rifle running a few drills so we could get the rather large class a few extra reps of several movement drills. I must admit, it re-ignited my fire for rifles and rifle caliber guns. The thumps in my chest as I guided shooters through drills felt like home and brought me back to when I was doing a lot of rifle training and wearing armor and doing other stuff I didn’t really need to know how to do. But it was FUN! Anyway, here’s the story and specs of the new pistol.

Keeping an eye on the line with Three Gun Calvin (photo credit: S. Brogan, downrange photographer)


One of the biggest draws of the AR Pistol is the ability to use barrels that are less than the rifle length of 16″. You can find 11.5″, 10.5″, and even 7.5″ barrels. The wound mechanism for 5.56 is primarily fragmentation due to the high velocity round disintegrating as it passes through the fluid filled tissue of meat. Go read The Ammo Oracle for more than you want to know about 5.56 ammo. The shorter the barrel, the less velocity the round achieves, and the shorter the distance the projectile is above this critical velocity for fragmentation. With modern projectiles, this can be mitigated a bit, but the difference between a 16″ and a 10.5″ gun are pretty drastic by the data. Beyond those ranges, the 5.56 turns into a .22LR icepick and shows similar wound profiles. That said, plenty of dudes have been killed at these ranges with short barreled ARs. My homie Mookie is one who has done work at extended ranges with a shortie. So the short of it is, I’ll just shoot bad guys in the heart and brain and let God sort it out. Besides, this will be a house gun, so ranges are well within the velocity ranges to fragment.

Mookie, on right, w/ a 10.5″ gun in Najaf. 4/4/04

Why the AR Pistol?

I have been trying to justify an AR pistol to myself since 2011 (Proof: I always was on the fence about the AR pistol concept because the execution was always a bunch of tradeoffs in shootability and ballistic performance for confined space maneuverability and sidestepping some legal hoops. First, shooting any AR pistol ‘like a pistol’ is a losing endeavor. As a believer in sighted, combat effective (read: heart and brain shots) shooting, I couldn’t get behind holding a rifle caliber pistol like a pistol and blazing away. Too much room for misses and hitting things and people I don’t want to.

lol, wut? I realize this picture shows the new Sig arm brace but the idea of shooting like this, with or without the brace, is so silly.

Then there was a period where people started using longer buffer tubes, wrapping them in paracord, and putting walking cane rubber caps onto the buffer tubes. This was a step in the right direction. It still sort of sucked, because the single circular contact point on the buffer tube made it a bit squirrely. The idea of the practicality as it related to shooting was sneaking into my head.

Then a year or two ago, Sig Sauer introduced the Sig Brace. Its intent of design is for the brace to slip over your pistol buffer tube and strap the gun to your forearm so you can shoot your AR pistol like a pistol, and not require superhuman forearm strength.

Then the ATF wrote a few letters saying essentially, “Yeah, you can shoot your pistol off of whatever you want, shoulder included” things got super legit. I logged that away and waited for my time to jump.

From TheFirearmBlog. Doing it RIGHT.

No Tax Stamps and Less Involvement by The Man.

I would wager that most of you would prefer to keep The Man out of your life as much as possible. Most of us don’t have anything to hide, but setting up a trust, paying the $200 tax stamp and months of wait time, the idea of the ATF being able to come check up on a registered SBR (Short Barreled Rifle), needing to know where it was at all times, needing permission to leave the state for training in other states, inability to keep it loaded in the vehicle… It is just too much trouble for me. Compare that with a firearm classified as a pistol. My Georgia concealed weapon permit covers it just like it does my Glock19. I can carry it loaded in the car, travel interstate to where my permit is honored, all the advantages of a pistol. Minimal Fed involvement. Sounds good to me.

The Build

One of my friends volunteered to help me put the rifle together. I was motivated by prices, but I splurged in a few places where I knew it would make a difference. Here’s the parts I purchased and was given.

-Yankee Hill 10.5″ Threaded Barrel, 1:9″ Twist

-Primary Arms Advanced Micro Dot with Push Buttons and up to 50K-Hour Battery Life

-Troy Low Profile Gas Block – Pro Grade (SS) .750

-XS tritium AR sights, stripe front sight post

-Noveske KX5 flash suppressor

– Magpul Gen 2 Flip-Up Front Sight Black

-MaTech rear sight – used and abused and gifted to me

-Daniel Defense Carbine Length Gas Tube Assembly


-BCM GUNFIGHTER Charging Handle (5.56mm/.223) Mod 4


-Spike’s Tactical lower and BCG

-Upper, rear sight, bcg and upper gifted by good friends

Exos Defense Pistol Tube for SB15

SigTac SB15

-Airsoft clone of a magpul MS2

-White Light (to come) – InForce WMLx Multifunction 500 Lumen

Building these things Isn’t That Hard

They just aren’t that hard. You need a few specialized tools. You’ll need a receiver block to clamp the upper (or some dense foam to prevent you from harming the surface of the upper when installing the barrel. An armorers wrench is crucial too. Beyond that, a vise and a 1/2″ drive ratchet and some locktite for screws and moly for the barrel is all we needed.

Midwest Industries Keymod Rail. Disregard backwards front sight.


The First Practice Sessions

I was lucky enough to be able to take my wife to the first practice session I had with the pistol. I was tickled when she took to it like a fish to water and enjoyed the hell out of herself. She commented on how both this and her 10/22 were ‘hers’. That’s encouraging for me because she has always hesitantly accepted guns in her life. Her showing interest in shooting is like her showing interest in video games. Something I never thought possible.

The first range trip had an A2 style flash hider installed, instead of the Noveske KX5. The result was a 3′ wide fireball and a tremendous concussion in the indoor range. I drew some attention from adjacent bays. In subsequent trips, I have used the KX5, which greatly helps noise experienced by the shooter (I was told it’s about 15dB less for the shooter) as well as by teammates or fellow range goers in adjacent bays. She had fun, and the pistol ran very well, except with steel ammo. Like Yeager says, “Commie ammo for Commie guns, American ammo for American guns.” Fair enough.

The Mrs. laying them into the heart and brain. Note her cheekweld has improved since she last shot her 10/22. I told you I’d work on it with her…

Last Saturday I had free reign of a range for about 3 hours all by myself. I shot pistol and AR pistol. All sorts of drills, from the evil eyeballs drill, Defoor’s “Humbler” (consider me humbled), and some Pat Mac style sprint and plant and shoot drills. I tried to do everything that came to mind. It was therapeutic.

All in all, I’m excited to re-incorporate rifle caliber shooting to my repertoire. I need to get with The Tactical Professor and ask him about drills for long guns. I’ll start doing dryfire with the AR between sets of pullups and kettlebell swings.

Sorry for the gear-centric post. It won’t happen too often, I swear 🙂

Protect the Brood,
Defensive Daddy

Shooting Technique: One Handed Shooting, Canted or Vertical?

This is a short post about pistol shooting technique. One of my readers noticed that I was using a traditional strict vertical one handed shooting technique. Like most things, it’s been a work in progress. Here’s my reasoning for using a more traditional vertical hold instead of a more canted ‘high speed’ one handed technique.

I was taught during my first firearms class (Fighting Pistol – Tactical Response) that a good way to shoot one handed (strong hand) was have the slide of the gun canted slightly inboard while shooting. Think of throwing a cross in boxing. The hand is unwinding and the fist is about 15 degrees from vertical. It definitely feels more natural and is more comfortable to do this. It also can be pretty repeatable as you ride the recoil between shots, though I feel like I have to steer the gun a bit to get it to return to my original point of aim. More so the larger the caliber gets (physics, duh). The shot impulse is absorbed in the shoulder and triceps.

Strong Side Canted

Within the last two years, based on recommendations from The Tactical Professor I started trying the more traditional ‘up and down’ slide when one handed shooting. It has definitely felt more stable and the gun cycles in a more predictable path, requiring less ‘muscling’ of the gun during recoil. It also is more congruent with my method of pressing the gun out after the retention position of my draw stroke. The muzzle comes horizontal and under the dominant eye early and rises up and out from there. The engineer in me was curious why this method seems to feel more stable.

Vertical one handed shooting.

I was reading Becoming a Supple Leopard which is a fantastic book about bio-mechanics as they relate to functional movement and sports. The part that grabbed my attention was regarding the shoulder and creating stability in the shoulder joint and I had sort of an epiphany.

Full vertical at Rogers Shooting School

The best way to tie the shoulder and humerus together is to externally rotate the humerus, thus winding up the ligaments of the shoulder. Kelly Starrett demos this by winding a rag around the end of a mop handle, which is a good visual. The more you rotate the broom, the tighter the rag gets. This is why we try to ‘bend the bar’ during bench press. This protects and stabilizes the shoulder. So my thinking is that the winding up of the shoulder ties the arm to the torso and stiffens that connection to remove degrees of freedom from the recoil impulse. This makes for a more repeatable recoil path.

It also happens to be a more traditional way to shoot one handed (as you probably know). I haven’t made my mind up on my favorite method. I tend to lean towards the vertical method, even though it bucks the current fashion of a ‘half gansta’ type hold. The true test is to put both on a timer and let the data speak for itself, which I admit I haven’t done. This is a subtle and probably trivial thing, but it’s the kind of thing that keeps me interested.

Your Grandfather shot Nazis like this.

Note: For weak handed shooting, a slight cant is needed to bring the sights across to the dominant eye.

Remember, this isn’t THE way, only A way. You get to make the decision for yourself, which is nice.

What’s your favorite technique?


I seriously am curious. Let me know what you do and why. Thanks for reading.

Protect the Brood,
Defensive Daddy