At a Glance: Top 3 Pistol Brace
Comparison of The Best Pistol Braces
Our Top Pick
|SBA3 tactical pistol brace||
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Our Top Pick
|SB tactical PDW pistol brace||
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|KAK Shockwave pistol brace package||
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What is an AR-15 Pistol Brace?
An AR-15 pistol brace is a handy accessory for your AR-15 pistol as it provides extra support and control of your gun.
AR-15 pistol braces were developed for disabled shooters who could not use two arms for shooting. They were designed to be attached to the arm of the shooter with help of (usually) nylon straps. Now, a lot of shooters use AR-15 pistol braces to support their cheek for aiming and increasing their shooting accuracy
What’s the difference between a shoulder stock and a pistol brace?
The pistol brace looks similar to a shoulder stock. Unlike Shoulder stocks, pistol braces are thinner and typically do not adjust with a spring-loaded lever. AR-15 pistol braces do not have a wide bottom and usually, there is no padding since they were not meant to be shouldered. That has changed with the decision of the ATF that occasional shouldering of the AR-15 pistol brace is ok. Some of the AR-15 pistol braces nowadays do have a rubber pad
Ultimate AR-15 Pistol Brace Review Guide
We reviewed five pistol braces based on the following criteria: Durability, How adjustable they are, Comfort while shooting, Weight, Design, Accessories, And the price tag. As always, we will be looking for the best quality and best bang for the buck at the same time. So, let’s dive straight in.
SBA3 tactical pistol brace
SB is renowned for having made high quality and widely popular pistol braces since 2012. The SBA3 tactical pistol brace is not different. It is made out of very durable black polymer which guarantees your AR-15 pistol brace will have a long life. I tested its durability myself by throwing it on the floor with a lot of force and it did not break. This AR-15 pistol brace is built like a tank but is light as a feather. It weighs a mere 6.75 oz. It is adjustable and offers 5 different positions to include different types of shooting and shooters. The lockup for each position is tight and does not rattle.
The lengths are:
Its design is very minimalistic which makes for a nice clean-cut AR-15 pistol brace that is focused on function rather than looks. On the buttplate, there is a thin rubber padding which is very effective at dampening recoil. This AR-15 pistol brace also includes an ergonomic cheek weld. It is very comfortable even after multiple hours spent at the shooting range. It does not have much wobble compared to a regular stock. Another great thing about this pistol brace is the fact that it is super easy to install. And that brings us to the accessories, which include:
- A mil-spec carbine receiver extension (buffer tube) which lets you install the pistol brace quickly on a new AR-15 pistol build,
- An integral, ambidextrous QD sling socket,
- And a nylon strap for the arm.
It is available in black or flat dark earth colors. And the price is also very favorable.
- Minimalistic design
- Useful accessories
- Easy to install
- Medium price range.
- Still looking for downsides to this one…
SB tactical PDW pistol brace
This AR-15 pistol brace is one of the higher-end SB pistol braces. The SP PDW was designed in partnership with Maxim Defense and it is a beauty. Its sexy design will easily become a conversation starter wherever you take it but it comes at a price, and I am not talking just about money. This AR-15 pistol is very heavy. It weighs 18.14 oz which is nearly 3 times more than SBA3. It is made out of aluminum and its price is almost double what you would pay for the SBA3.
It is adjustable with 3 positions which include:
Changing positions is super easy by pressing the lever on the back. The great thing about this AR-15 pistol brace is the fact that it comes as a complete assembly with a ready-to-install buffer tube. However, it does not include a buffer or a buffer spring. It features a 3D sling attachment point at the 6 o’clock position of the housing that will save you from having to mount a lower receiver end plate sling mount. It can be used with mil-spec bolt carriers and carbine buffers. It comes in black and flat dark earth colors.
This AR-15 pistol brace rattles quite a lot and its ergonomics are not fully thought through. Because of the cool look, there is no flat space to rest your cheek which makes long hours of shooting quite uncomfortable. Also, the velcro strap gets in the way when shouldering it. The loop to accommodate the shooter’s forearm seems kind of small.
- Great looks
- Useful accessories
- Extremely easy to install
- Very heavy
- Not very comfortable
- High price range
KAK Shockwave pistol brace package
This is a simple choice for those on a low budget. This AR-15 pistol brace is made from high-strength glass-reinforced polymer. It fits all pistols equipped with a standard AR-15 pistol buffer tube (up to 1.25″ in diameter).
This AR-15 pistol brace does not include multiple adjustable positions. Installation is super easy. When you find the best position for your cheek and arm, just slip it on and tighten the large set of screws and you are ready to shoot. However, the brace might move around a bit if not tightened properly. That can be solved by getting a buffer tube that has dimples that make it easier to line up the pistol brace at a certain place on the buffer tube depending on the length of your preference. I like the pistol brace closer to the gun so that I have a bigger surface to rest my cheek on.
Another helpful part for resting your arm is the vertical “fin” incorporated in the blade. You use it to stabilize the pistol blade inside of your forearm when in the firing position.
This AR-15 pistol brace is also super lightweight with only 5 ounces while still being very durable. The lack of rubber makes it feel very sturdy but the polymer that it is made of can sometimes feel hard on your cheek after hours of shooting. It is available in different colors, including black, FDE, grey, and OD green. This AR-15 pistol brace has a nice and simple design.
- Very cheap
- Super easy to install
- Simple design
- Hard on the cheek
- Not quickly adjustable, need to mess with screws to tighten it
KAK Shockwave Blade pistol brace 2.0
The KAK Shockwave Blade 2.0 is made from high-strength glass-reinforced polymer. It fits all pistols equipped with a proprietary carbine-style buffer tube (which is included in this package). This buffer tube is better than the one which comes with the KAK Shockwave Blade 1.0 as it does not allow the pistol brace to move on the buffer tube when shooting. It is super easy to install. Just slip it on and lock it in place. You can adjust it with a simple finger lever.
This AR-15 pistol brace has a simple design and has a nice, cool look which many shooters prefer. Nobody likes to come to a shooting range with a firearm that looks like a toy. It is very lightweight and it fits comfortably on your cheek, arm, and shoulder.
The downside of this model is that it has a very small button for adjusting its length. It is very hard to press it with bare hands and almost impossible with gloves on. That makes this pistol brace useless for hunting outside in the cold, unfortunately.
- Durable material
- Nice simple colt resembling design
- Comfortable to shoot with
- Easy installation
- It does not move on the buffer tube when firing
- Very cheap
- Button for adjusting the length is super hard to operate
Double Star – Strongarm pistol brace with buffer tube
This is a durable pistol brace machined from billet aluminum. It fits on any standard pistol tube (1.11 -1.2″). Just slip it on and tighten it with two clamp screws. It does not have preset positions as some other AR-15 pistol braces do. For added control, it also comes with a wide nylon hook-and-loop strap to secure the pistol to your forearm for easy one-handed shooting. You can attach the brace to your right or left arm. There are 3 different QD sling pockets (on each side and the front of the pistol brace) so you can use a sling. It has a simple design that is more focused on function than looks. It is made from aluminum so is very lightweight, only 4.8 oz. It is comfortable to shoot with and the price is also favorable. One downside, there is no rubber padding on the back of the brace so it is not as comfortable for shouldering.
- Simple design
- Comfortable to shoot with
- Easy to install
- Medium price range
- Not as comfortable to shoulder
What You Need to Know Before Building an AR-15 Pistol
When you finally make the leap and decide to build your AR-15 pistol you should remember that there are certain steps to be taken to do it right.
- How you register your lower matters! You might be tempted to add pistol components to any AR lower you have but that can go wrong. But wait. Imagine you use your AR-15 for home defense and then need to provide it as evidence to the court. The prosecutor might look into it. The pistol lower can later change into a rifle and then back to a pistol according to the ATF. On the flip side, an AR-15 rifle lower is a rifle forever, it can’t be changed into a pistol. So please remember, never put a barrel shorter than 16 inches on an AR-15 lower with a stock.
- Deciding on the future use of your AR-15 pistol is important so that you can choose the parts accordingly. If you are just looking for a gun to mess around with at the shooting range you might not want to spend as much money as you would if it would be your main home-defense gun. Also, how often you are planning to use it and whether you will take it on the road with you will be key questions for selecting the components for your AR-15.
- And then comes the actual selection of AR-15 pistol parts. This is now reaching outside the scope of this article. But check out our other reviews to find the best parts for your needs!
Why would you want an AR-15 pistol brace?
Having a pistol brace on your AR-15 adds versatility to your firearm. You can:
- shoot it with one arm only
- use the pistol brace to rest your cheek on, and, occasionally
- you can also shoulder it
A pistol brace lets you try different styles of shooting at different ranges and become a more flexible and adaptable shooter altogether. Plus it is fun to be able to shoot from all different positions.
It also has comfort-related use. AR-15 pistols have a buffer tube extending well beyond the butt of the gun. You can imagine how uncomfortable and unnatural it feels after you shoot a couple of rounds, not to mention spending a couple of hours at the shooting range. Pistol braces make your AR-15 pistol much more comfortable to use and it also gives it a badass look. On top of that, some of the AR-15 pistol braces are adjustable which allows you to play with different lengths while shooting to find what works the best for you.
How to choose an AR-15 pistol brace
Because you can use your AR-15 pistol brace in different ways there are multiple things you should consider before choosing your AR-15 pistol brace:
- It should be made out of quality material which will be durable enough to withstand harsh conditions. I usually test AR-15 pistol braces by throwing them on the floor with force to see if they are sturdy enough for my liking.
- Although durability is very important for your AR-15 pistol brace it should not be at the expense of its weight. Having a lightweight pistol brace will make your shooting more fun. Nobody likes to hold heavy firearms for hours at a time.
- The durability of your future AR-15 pistol brace should also not mean that your shoulder, arm or cheek will get bruised from firing your AR-15. Having some rubber padding and a flat top to rest your cheek against is always nice.
- The look of the AR-15 might not be as important as its overall usability but you should like the look of your AR-15 pistol brace. Some pistol braces look quite cool and might help you make new friends at the shooting range.
- The installation of your AR-15 pistol brace should be easy enough so you don’t need to spend half a day to get ready for the shooting range.
- It is handy when your AR-15 pistol brace is adjustable so that you can easily fit it in your car or try different lengths for different styles of shooting. It can also help you find just the right setting for supporting your cheek while shooting.
- The straps should be long enough for you to attach your AR-15 pistol inside of your arm. Always check how the straps are attached to the pistol brace. You need a snug fit and you want them to last.
- Some AR-15 pistol braces come with accessories like a buffer tube and/or sling socket. These are always nice to have.
- Last but not least is the price. Nobody likes to pay too much but spending too won’t get you the best AR-15 pistol brace either.
The Legalities of AR-15 Pistol Braces
As I described above, the AR-15 pistol brace was developed to be attached to the shooter’s arm for more stability. However, the design of pistol braces reminding a buttstock made it possible to shoulder it while shooting. This brought about some interesting legal issues with it.
- The ATF shared its first opinion about pistol braces in 2014. It determined that “firing a pistol from the shoulder would not cause the pistol to be reclassified as an SBR: FTB classifies weapons based on their physical design characteristics” not based on how an individual is using a weapon. That made it clear and shooters kept shouldering their AR-15 pistols.
- However, in January 2015, the ATF changed its opinion and said that any person who wants to use the stabilizing brace to shoulder a pistol needs to first fill out ATF Form 1 and pay the applicable tax because such a firearm is subject to the NFA. So people stopped shouldering their pistol braces.
- The final letter from the ATF came in 2017 and it determined “incidental, sporadic, or situational use” of a pistol brace as a shoulder stock is legal.
Based on the interpretation of the final letter, you should not modify your AR-15 pistol brace in any way (do not even take away the straps) as it could be viewed by the ATF as changing it to a shoulder stock. The same applies to permanently installing the brace. That’s not allowed as it could be seen as turning the pistol into an SBR. Also, the pistol brace should not be equal to or longer than 13.5″ as it would justify classification as an SBR. However, you can shoulder your AR-15 pistol brace but don’t do it all the time.
All the AR-15 pistol braces that we reviewed today are decent. They are all made out of durable high-quality material. The main differences between them are as follows:
- Both KAK pistol braces work wel but they might not be as comfortable for long hours of shooting. Also their adjustability is not the greatest.
- The Double Star is an awesome minimalist AR-15 pistol brace. However, I like to shoulder my AR-15 pistol (since I now can, legally). The Double Star AR-15 pistol brace does not have any padding, unfortunately, and that makes it hard on your shoulder.
- The SB PDW looks super cool but it is too heavy for long hours of shooting. Also, its price is quite steep.
- That means… the SBA3 is my winner today. It is a durable, lightweight, simple design, easy to install, comfy to shoot, adjustable, and it comes with useful accessories and for an affordable price.
I hope I helped you choose your first or next AR-15 pistol brace. And as always, shoot me an email if you have more questions.