The Best AR Pistol Brace and What You Need To Know Before Buying

The AR15 platform is America’s most popular sporting rifle.

Used for home defense, hunting, competition shooting, and recreational shooting. They are simply a lot of fun to shoot. Being that it is such a popular platform has spawned a huge accessory market for these sporting rifles. One of the more fun and practical accessories is the pistol brace.

Adding an AR Pistol Brace allows you to basically legally own a less than 16" barreled rifle with a 26" overall length without the headache of the ATF paperwork, $200 tax stamp, and long wait times.

As you start looking into adding a pistol brace to your AR15, you can quickly become disoriented by all the legal information flying around and the many different styles of pistol braces available.

We’re going to cut through all the noise and give you what you need to know before buying an AR15 pistol brace.

Let’s get started by addressing the legality of using an AR15 pistol brace.

The ATF’s Rules of Owning an AR Pistol Brace

Something to keep in mind, the ATF likes to publish documentation called open letters. Unfortunately, open letters aren’t legally binding, and will not stand up in a courtroom even though they came from the ATF.

When these open letters are published by the ATF, they are only available for a limited time before they are taken down or archived making it difficult to find the information at times. That’s why you must do your due diligence when going down this road.

Can I shoulder fire with an AR15 Pistol Brace?

The short answer is yes. The ATF has swayed back and forth over this issue and has rarely given a straight answer, but you can shoulder fire an AR15 with an installed pistol brace.

The ATF gave a final ruling on this issue in 2019 and it still stands today, although the ATF is actively proposing new rules around firearms with attached stabilizing braces.

"To the extent the January 2015 Open Letter implied or has been construed to hold that incidental, sporadic, or situational ‘use’ of an arm-brace (in its original approved configuration) equipped firearm from a firing position at or near the shoulder was sufficient to constitute a ‘redesign,’ such interpretations are incorrect and not consistent with ATF’s interpretation of the statute or the manner in which it has historically been enforced."

See what we mean about not giving a straightforward answer? Using terms like incidental, sporadic, and situational use leave it open to the ATF’s interpretation if they want to start questioning the use of your AR pistol. Just be smart and responsible when shooting with an AR15 pistol brace and don’t draw a lot of attention to yourself.

The Best AR Pistol Brace and What You Need To Know Before Buying
Maxim Defense PDX with the CQB Pistol Brace

What Makes an AR Pistol Brace Illegal?

according to the ATF, if you were to undermine the brace’s ability to be a brace, and made "affirmative steps" in configuring the brace to work as a shoulder-stock, and ALSO shot it from the shoulder, then you have "redesigned" the firearm in a way that is categorized as a registerable weapon with the NFA (National Firearms Act).

Re-configuring your pistol brace to be a shoulder stock could land you in some hot water.

What does re-configuring a pistol brace look like, according to the ATF’s open letter?

Examples, as given by the ATF:

  • Permanently affixing the brace to the buffer tube so that its length serves no other purpose but to be fired from the shoulder like a rifle stock.
  • Removing the arm-strap (Undermining the brace’s ability to act as a brace)

Remember though, that these are just examples from an open letter by the ATF and have not become legally binding. As a reminder though, this could change anytime after this article is published.

Now let’s talk about a few different AR15 pistol brace options. Maxim Defense is at the top of our list due to the build quality, customer service, ability to adapt to changing ATF regulations, and providing shooters with solutions for their AR pistol setups.

Maxim Defense PDX

Best AR Pistol Brace

Maxim Defense CQB Pistol PDW Brace

Perfect for PDW pistols, the Maxim Defense PDW Brace gives you the adjustments needed to shoot your AR pistol more comfortably and makes your pistol more compact for easier transport.

Built on the same housing as the Maxim Defense CQB stocks, you get the same durability and features. It’s also the perfect pistol brace to run on your AR pistol while waiting on your ATF Form 1 to clear. Once your form 1 clears, keep the same housing installed and simply swap out the arm brace for a Maxim Defense stock.

Perception is reality. How we perceive something influences our actions. Customer reviews are a great indicator of a product’s worth and often influence whether or not we purchase that product. Check out this customer review of the Maxim Defense CQB pistol brace!

If God were to Create a AR Pistol Stabilizing Brace………This would be It!

Not only is it probably the most sexiest piece of furniture on your AR Pistol, but the brace itself actually works pretty darn well. Better than the majority. It’s very pricey but well worth it. Especially for you high end guys. Super easy install that a grunt, like myself, could figure it out with breaking it. Did I mention how sexy this thing looks?

Maxim CQB Pistol Brace

$359.95
at Maxim Defense
Prices accurate at time of writing

SB Tactical SBA3

One of the most common reasons that make the SBA3 pistol brace unique compared to others is its minimalistic design. SB Tactical does this with the SBA3 pistol brace by making the brace as thin and compact as possible.

Aftermarket velcro straps are available to tighten up the rubber flex in the SBA3 but some flex is expected since it is such a small unit. The SBA3 is great for a smaller PDW (personal defense weapons) or something you want in a small package for home defense.

The SBA3 has a five-slot adjustment – very similar to an adjustable stock – that can be manipulated by pressing down on the front of the lever. Add to that a QD mount for a sling. These two features alone add a lot of versatility to the SBA3 pistol brace.

SB Tactical SBA3 Pistol Brace

$129.99
at Gritr Sports
Prices accurate at time of writing

KAK Shockwave Blade AR15 Pistol Brace

The KAK Shockwave Blade doesn’t have straps or any bulky forearm anchors to deal with. It’s a single piece of high-strength glass-reinforced polymer. A standard AR-15 1.25" diameter buffer tube opening means the Blade can fit nearly all buffer tubes.

The Blade slips over your buffer tube and is secured using a single set screw. The brace’s included buffer tube has little dimples to help align and tighten the brace in place. The Shockwave’s length of pull measures around 13.13", making it shorter than the gray-area 13.5" length referenced by the ATF.

The Blade utilizes a vertical fin design allowing you to stabilize against the inside of your forearm or you can choose to stabilize the blade against your cheek for a stable sight picture.

KAK Shockwave Pistol Brace

$44.44
at Natchez Shooters Supplies
Prices accurate at time of writing

If you’re looking for an alternative to the AR pistol brace, then check out our article comparing the AR Pistol Buffer Tube vs AR Pistol Brace.

DISCLAIMER: ATF Laws change frequently and we’re not lawyers. This pistol brace buyers guide is not legal advice. Always double-check the law yourself, or consult with an attorney.


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Table of Contents

  • The ATF’s Rules of Owning an AR Pistol Brace
  • Can I shoulder fire with an AR15 Pistol Brace?
  • What Makes an AR Pistol Brace Illegal?
  • Best AR Pistol Brace
  • Maxim Defense CQB Pistol PDW Brace
  • SB Tactical SBA3
  • KAK Shockwave Blade AR15 Pistol Brace

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