Best AR-15 Pistol: The Complete Buying Guide [2019]

This is an article that seeks to showcase the best AR15 pistol, but we want to take it further by deconstructing the idea of an AR-15 pistol and seeing how to accomplish the goals associated with this platform.  

One of the hottest trends in the industry has really transitioned from a trend to the norm: that is, the popularity of the AR-15 and the ability to custom build these firearms into truly spectacular and interesting end products.

While there are plenty of excellent AR15 pistols on the market, to pick only the AR15 platform when discussing the options on the market would make this a very “one-note” article that would accomplish very little in helping people see the very interesting landscape that backs this hot trend in the market.

Instead of just focusing on guns that utilize the standard OEM/MIL-SPEC component parts to make a 5.56x45mm pistol, we have decided to include 5 of the best AR15 pattern pistols, and we also included 5 pistols that are substantially similar in operational scope, that happen to not utilize a 1 for 1 parts makeup of the AR15. These pistols still offer many of the same benefits and operational values of the AR Pistols.

Why would we do this? In an article about AR15 pistols, we do not think it is intellectually dishonest to include competitor pistols that function in a substantially similar way. Not only that, but the genre in the market has a very distinct purpose.

For those of you who can’t wait…

  • FN America FN-15 Pistol
  • Daniel Defense - DDM4 MK18 Carbine Pistol
  • Q - Honey Badger Pistol
  • Springfield Armony - Saint Pistol
  • SIG Sauer MCX Rattler Pistol

Breaking down the baseline interest in the AR15 Pistol 

For many, at least at some point in time, the AR15 pistol was seen as a legitimate alternative to an SBR (short barreled rifle).

NOTE: this is illegal without the proper paperwork and registration and we do NOT recommend using the pistol in a functionality that mimics the SBR. However, for the use case where an SBR would be efficient, so too, can an AR15 pistol be efficient.

It is also a popular candidate for use as a range fun gun. The make up of the parts have very little bearing on the fun of the gun. Therefore, we believe that simply being an AR15 has little impact on the fun of a gun that can shoot an inexpensive, accurate, rifle cartridge. So, we think including other pistols that shoot inexpensive, accurate rifle cartridges makes sense.

The ability to modify the base receiver components to fit into the pistol OR the rifle configuration adds to the importance of this platform. NOTE: once a firearm is registered as a rifle (this applies to ALL states) it is not able to be transitioned into a pistol. There are other complex narratives that come into play here too.

With alternative pistols you might not get the same ability to build into either a rifle OR a pistol, but once you have made the decision to build a pistol, it generally makes sense to stick with it. We feel that much more confident, that adding non-AR15 pistol variants makes this a well-rounded discovery of the best rifle cartridge based pistols.   

Another reason a shooter might choose the AR-15 is the modular building capabilities of the platform, and while we don’t think this is a major drawback with the other pistols on this list, we can admit this is the weakest comparative factor. AR 15 pistols are the best when it comes to the modularity and interchangeability.

From a sheer cost perspective, it is also a bit of a concern when comparing rifle cartridge-based pistols on a list like this.  AR15 pistols tend to be much lower in overall costs as a system than competitive design philosophies.

Perhaps the most compelling reason that we can offer for the inclusion of non-AR15 pistols on this list of the best AR15 pistol, is the fact that the driving force of the competition for the AR-15 (and the rifle cartridge based) pistols is the top beneficial attributes of the AR15 pistol. Therefore, it is as a direct result of the popularity of the AR15 pistol, that other pistols have gained notoriety.

What follows is a list of the 5 best AR15 pistols, with another section of the 5 best rifle cartridge based pistols that compete with the AR15 pistol.

We believe having the options in a single article can help you to determine if you can benefit from the attributes of the AR15 pistol, versus what is the available competition in the market.

We feel the AR15 pistol is considered the top option because of the following attributes:

  • Low cost relative to competitors
  • Huge amount of customization available
  • Standardized, abundant component parts
  • Familiar platform ergonomics and operational usage
  • Low cost of ammunition, generally
  • Magazines are cheap
  • The parts and whole pistols are easily serviceable by normal shooters, generally

Many of the competitive rifle cartridge-based pistols cannot compete on one or more of these points. Which is primarily why the AR15 platform still manifests as the best option for most shooters.

Without further ado, we present the 5 best AR15 pistols, and some other competitive options.

Best AR-15 Pistols

1. FN America FN-15 Pistol

FN-15

Perhaps the best value for the pure AR15 pistol plays on this list, the FN-15 is incredibly versatile and offers a very consistent and reliable option. If we had to pick the best AR15 pistol with a long-term history, this is the one. Not to mention it does offer a very good price of entry for this segment.

NOTE: for premium AR15 pistols out of the factory, you will find the pricing is more expensive than the gun can be assembled for by the average consumer. This is an obvious point. But this is offering the kind of reliability and service potential that many consumer assembled AR15 pistols could never compete with. 

An arm brace is included to keep the gun stable during one handed firing. The forearm (M-LOK) is lengthy enough to accessorize easily, and the 10.5 inch barrel is a very good choice for those who want a good combination of short OAL (overall length) and accuracy.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 5.56 NATO/.223 Remington
  • Action Type: Semi-automatic
  • Capacity: 30+1 Round
  • Barrel Length: 10.5"
  • Length: 26.25"
  • Weight: 5.2 lbs

Pros

  • Big enough to be accurate; small enough to stay in its lane as a pistol for defensive or range purposes
  • Quality manufacture for a reasonable price
  • FN combat trigger is phenomenal

Cons

  • Hard to find any CONS with the price point and the component mix

This is best for

Anyone who wants a purist version with some of the best accessories built in. While this sounds like a contradiction, this is the gun you don’t have to add money to, because it’s already got some of the best customization features included. The best part: it still feels like a normal AR15 pistol.


2. Daniel Defense - DDM4 MK18 Carbine Pistol

DANIEL DEFENSE - DDM4 MK18 CARBINE PISTOL

This is the best AR15 Pistol if you want a cohesive package that has legitimate accuracy. It is longer and leaner than many competitors but does tip the scales a bit heavier than some of the options on this list, as well as having a tiny bit more overall length.

With all that being said, the gun is nearly perfect from an operational perspective from factory. It just feels complete. From the very robust recoil spring buffer tube, to the flash suppressor the Daniel Defense MK18 offers everything good in the design without anything frivolous. You’re paying for reliability and cohesion.

When you shoot this AR 15 pistol you get the original design intent – a realistic replacement for the SBR, without the risk of assembling an SBR without registration.

Great accuracy, very good trigger and an aesthetic that cannot be beat if you like the black gun look.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 5.56mm NATO
  • Action Type: Direct Impingement
  • Capacity: 30+1 Round
  • Barrel Length: 10.3"
  • Length: 27"
  • Weight: 5.4 lbs

Pros

  • Very good accuracy
  • Very svelte features

Cons

  • It’s a bit long and it’s somewhat pricey

This is best for

Shooters who want the most integrated experience in the AR15 pistol segment.


3. Q - Honey Badger Pistol

Q - HONEY BADGER PISTOL

While it is one of the least volume production models on this list and has one of the shortest histories, it is easily the most compelling home defense option on this list. The home defense space is where the SBR and consequently, the AR15 pistol thrives, because it allows for short carry length; effective ballistics and low overpenetration.

Furthermore, this is a popular gun on our lists, because it represents some very good benefits. For a suppressor user (which is becoming more of a thing) this is a special option. The .300 BLK cartridge is imminently sound suppressible and offers significant ballistic stopping power.

It’s expensive, but well built; featuring several excellent quality accessory components, like the stocks and the rail integration. The gun is accurate enough with a 7-inch barrel because it utilizes an easier to stabilize projectile (slower with a larger diameter); and it weighs in at one of the lowest weights on this list. The best of both worlds.

The recoil on a .30 caliber projectile should be massive, with this gun it’s very manageable, and gives superior short-range ballistics, especially if you are looking for a suppressed platform. 

Specs

  • Cartridge: 300 AAC Blackout
  • Action Type: Direct Impingement
  • Capacity: 30+1 Round
  • Barrel Length: 7"
  • Length: 20-25"
  • Weight: 4.8 lbs

Pros

  • Compact, but not so much that you cannot handle it
  • Great caliber and platform buildout
  • Easily suppressible

Cons

  • Expensive

This is best for

Home defense proponents that want rifle like ballistics with pistol handling. Silencer/suppressor aficionados.


4. Springfield Armony - Saint Pistol

SPRINGFIELD ARMORY - SAINT PISTOL

The best bargain-priced AR15 pistol on this list, the Springfield Saint got a lot of press when it released but has since settled into a utilitarian role in the spectrum of AR15 pistols. That’s perfectly fine with Springfield Armory. They love the routine sales numbers and the good press.

Even though this is a brace-supported pistol, it’s still smaller than many options on the market. A 26.5” overall length and under 6 lbs. makes this right around the same weight, but slightly shorter than competitors.

An interesting benefit is the option for .300BLK or 5.56 and a 1 in 7 twist for the bullet, which does help with stability in CQB scenarios. Additionally, there is a specially designed muzzle attachment that functions in place of the muzzle brake/flash hider that pushes the sound profile further downrange, though in practice it’s only a minor improvement.

Rifle ballistics in a pistol format does increase sound signature and can be taxing on the ears after many shots. This piece helps a little.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 300 AAC Blackout/5.56 mm NATO
  • Action Type: Direct Impingement
  • Capacity: 30+1 Round
  • Barrel Length: 7.5"
  • Length: 26.5"
  • Weight: 5.8 lbs

Pros

  • Good pricing and the ability to choose caliber in a standardized product
  • Some minor sound improvement

Cons

  • The price point makes it hard to find CONS with this AR15 pistol

This is best for

First time owners of an AR15 pistol that want factory builds for a good price.


5. SIG Sauer MCX Rattler Pistol

SIG Sauer MCX Rattler Pistol

From a purist’s perspective, this is the smallest AR-15 pistol on this list and perhaps in the market. From an operational perspective, this is easily the best AR15 pistol in the small form factor. It is a perfect fit for just about any use case you can find for the AR pistol.

It is not made for engagement beyond 50 yards, and the tiny 5.5 inch barrel is more than enough to handle this short engagement arena. Just barely over 19 inches overall, and a three position brace allows good control all the way around whether in one hand or with two.

It is pricy, but it has a lot of built in component features that help achieve goals with the market segment it is catering to. The MLOK fore end and the full top rail as well as the flash suppressor make it a powerhouse for use in CQB.

It is well built and accurate in the spectrum it’s meant to be shot in. The MCX Rattler is a purpose-built .300 BLK format and some parts are not 1 to 1 interchangeable with standard mil-spec AR’s (including the trigger). The upper can be put onto a standard AR lower, however, for more versatility.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 300 AAC Blackout
  • Action Type: SA/DA
  • Capacity: 30+1-Round
  • Barrel Length: 5.5"
  • Length: 24"
  • Weight: 5.1 lbs

Pros

  • Tiny and infinitely usable in short engagement scenarios
  • Exceptionally well built and accurate for how small it is

Cons

  • Loud
  • Expensive

This is best for

Tactical shooters who want a quick response pistol/SMG form factor, with 100% civilian-legal build qualities.


The best 5 rifle cartridge-based pistols, that aren’t an AR15

We included the following pistols to give a good spectrum of options in the discussion to determine the best AR15 pistol. For all intents and purposes, most of these guns can be compared favorably in many ways to the AR platform. They ARE NOT component interchangeable in any way, generally.

1. Robinson Armament - XCR-L Pistol

ROBINSON ARMAMENT CO. - XCR-L PISTOL

A hybrid design that takes elements from the AK, AR and FAL, and allows for users to take advantage of unique value propositions of component parts, this is a unique firearm, that still functions very much like an AR15 pistol.

The ability to add modularity (through ROBARMS proprietary offerings) to this firearm makes it more than just a pistol (make sure you understand the laws that apply to your situation); with items like upper receiver sets. It also takes some token AR15 component parts like the pistol grip.

An adjustable gas system and well-placed controls. Paired with a very strong build, means you are getting a gun that will last a very long time and handle just about anything you can throw at it.

An obvious tactical firearm made for home defense and close quarters battle; this is a .300 BLK that can be suppressed easily to an extent that few calibers can be. Other variants of this gun exist that can be had in popular calibers. This specific gun utilizes standard AR15 magazines.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 300 AAC Blackout
  • Action Type: Gas Operated
  • Capacity: 30+1 Round
  • Barrel Length: 7.5"
  • Length: 24.87"
  • Weight: 6.62 lbs

Pros

  • Different, unique and proven
  • Built very well
  • Very modular, though the proprietary system can seem expensive compared to AR parts

Cons

  • Parts and operating system may be good, but it isn’t as widely customizable or available to the market
  • Seemingly more complicated than the thousands of options AR’s have/the customization isn’t very straightforward

This is best for

Anyone who wants something different from all their shooting buddies. Shooters who are particularly rough on their firearms.


SIG SAUER - MPX PISTOL

The Sig Sauer MPX is actually the closest offering on this list to a traditional pistol. It is also essentially the furthest thing from an AR15 on this list as well. In 9mm with a tiny size, this is a replacement for the traditional SMG (sub machine gun).

The benefit that the MPX has over any other guns on this list, is the absolute cohesion of the system, from the small size, to the control set placement; to the ability to accessorize via the rail systems to the 4.5” barrel that adequately supports the 9mm projectile.

Few pistols utilizing rifle cartridges as a central feature can optimize delivery of the payload they shoot. This pistol can easily optimize relative to the competition, the delivery of a 9mm projectile. But then again, the 9mm is historically an SMG and pistol cartridge, not a rifle cartridge.

It is accurate, fast, well built and reliable. Sling points make this a near perfect interchangeable replacement for the SMG, with a semi-automatic configuration.

An excellent pistol, with some of the best attributes of the AR15 pistol, in a form factor that isn’t an AR pistol.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 45 ACP
  • Action Type: SA/DA
  • Capacity: 10+1-Round
  • Barrel Length: 4.57"
  • Length: 7.91"
  • Weight: 1.8 lbs

Pros

  • Near perfect civilian replacement for the SMG
  • Very fun to shoot and quite inexpensive

Cons

  • The magazine isn’t perfect, though they do tend to be more reliable than they appear
  • Pricey
  • Doesn’t have some of the rifle cartridge benefits

This is best for

Shooters who have always wanted the SMG experience, but don’t want to go through the SBR route or who want something somewhat affordable.


3. Brugger & Thomet - APC223 Pistol

BRUGGER & THOMET - APC223 PISTOL

Brugger & Thomet has a history of creating guns just like this, and it’s directly in their lane to do so. What most don’t realize is the cult success that B&T has had in the field. The APC223 is a non-NFA gun that is positioned in marketing and design to be a replacement for NFA guns.

There are some things that seem like they are out of place in this gun, which is meant to handle the rigor of the segment, but ultimately the build quality is robust enough to keep the reputation high in the industry.

The price, notwithstanding, this is a pretty nice, and certainly a more collectible version of the guns on this list. This is the type of pistol you get when you are trying to make a very specific, and very unique SBR.

The Swiss company has a unique ability to produce firearms and suppressors that the global law enforcement community loves. The modularity is echoed by another proprietary gun in this list: the Robinson Arms offering. The B&T APC223 is a gun that can be a rifle, a carbine or a pistol, and gives shooters the ability to work within a very strong proprietary portfolio of modular accessories.

Specs

  • Cartridge:5.56mm NATO
  • Action Type: Gas Operated
  • Capacity: 30+1 Round
  • Barrel Length: 8.75"
  • Length: 21"
  • Weight: 7 lbs

Pros

  • Truly unique and universally loved by Global law enforcement
  • Conceptually very innovative

Cons

  • Expensive
  • The magazines aren’t the strongest, design-wise

This is best for

Collectors who already have an affinity towards Brugger & Thomet.


4. IWI - Galil ACE SAP

IWI - GALIL ACE SAP

Legitimately overpowered and functionally interesting, if you can handle the recoil and the logistics of deploying the weapon, you can find some impressive firepower with the Galil ACE SAP.

Built around a proven platform, the Galil is a very interesting option for this list but does speak to the impracticality of the pistol based on the rifle cartridge concept for certain applications. In a home defense scenario, this would be completely impractical because of the recoil, the muzzle flash and the overpenetration concerns. Furthermore, the sound could cause major hearing loss concerns in such a scenario.

However, when you hold the evaluation in a different light, where a specialized operator might want to have absolute stopping power in a controlled; law enforcement scenario, this gun all of the sudden becomes a top choice.

We won’t try to dissuade you from using the gun however you want, but there are better options for what you might use an AR style Pistol build for.

All that said, this is such a fun gun to shoot and represents something truly unique for most shooters.

The most durable offering on this list, and a history of incredible performance in the rifle variant, this is a legitimate contender for the best pistol on this list, as long as you can handle the core cartridge and all that it brings to the table for your preferred use case.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 308 Winchester
  • Action Type: Gas Operated
  • Capacity: 20+1 Round
  • Barrel Length: 11.8"
  • Length: 22.4"
  • Weight: 6.2 lbs

Pros

  • Superior stopping power
  • Proven solution from a proven company
  • Super durability that is hard to match

Cons

  • The .308 may be too much for a pistol

This is best for

Frequent range visitors that want to shoot something powerful and exhilarating. Law Enforcement specialty users.


5. CZ - 805 Bren S1

CZ USA - 805 BREN S1

An absolute powerhouse in the recent trendline, this is one of the most popular platforms for those who are looking outside of the dedicated AR15 pistol builds, but still want the similar attributes the Bren 805 by CZ can offer.

More of a sling mounted carbine that cannot be shouldered than it is a pistol, this is a substantial offering both in scope of capability, but also in size. The major benefit of this platform is the longer-range accuracy and bullet stabilization brought on by the 11-inch barrel and the absolute attention to detail that is coming out of the modern CZ factories (they have historically over delivered as well).

Heavy firepower, high customizability and a very good rifle cartridge core, just like the best AR15 pistols, this is a perfect candidate for an SBR. For those who don’t want that option or don’t want an NFA gun, you can add a brace for handgun usage (it’s not as heavy as some others on this list that are smaller), or you can sling mount it as a SMG replacement for civilian use.

A very lightweight option: this is a 5lb. gun that overdelivers. The story of the CZ Bren 805 is that it overdelivers for what you pay, and for what you think you will get out of an AR pistol competitor.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 45 ACP
  • Action Type: SA/DA
  • Capacity: 10+1-Round
  • Barrel Length: 4.57"
  • Length: 7.91"
  • Weight: 1.8 lbs

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Very accurate compared to most competitors

Cons

  • Hard to find a CON

This is best for

Anyone who already has an AR15 pistol and still wants something more in the space. Shooters who aren’t sure they love the AR15 build but do want the attributes of the concept.


Conclusion

So many people love the AR15 and any associated firearm. It’s an easy choice for most, considering they already own one or have seen and wanted one. With the practical considerations of the AR15 pistol, its an obvious need to determine which models represent the best AR15 pistols.

The inclusion of legitimate competitors to the AR platform allows for the reader of this article to see the benefits of each different platform in relation to the AR pistols. More often than not, the best AR15 pistol will win out over the other options, because the benefits are so great; especially on the pricing front.

While we can point to amazing benefits of each of these guns, we think vastly, the AR15 pistols on this list represents excellent value for money relative to the broader market than their competitors. Furthermore, we are excited that more shooters are adopting interesting, fun guns into their normal collections.

Leave a Comment