Best AR Pistol Brace and How the ATF is Viewing Them

So the ATF has decided to push the envelope further than ever on the AR Pistol Brace issue.

Let’s get into how the ATF points system works and how easy it is to cross the line into felony territory.

Maxim Defense AR Pistol Brace
Maxim Defense MD:15 with the SCW Brace

What is a Pistol Brace?

A pistol brace, otherwise known as a stabilizing brace, typically has a Velcro strap that’s intended to wrap around the arm.

A pistol brace doesn’t actually have to be velcroed to your arm though, it just has to work as a brace, meaning it can sit against your arm providing an additional point of contact to stabilize the firearm.

SB Tactical SBA3

at GunMag Warehouse
Prices accurate at time of writing

DISCLAIMER: ATF regulations and laws change frequently. We’re not giving legal advice. Always double-check the law yourself, or consult with an attorney.

How Does The ATF View AR Pistol Braces?

The ATF’s new proposed guidelines look a lot like a scorecard for a board game.

What are they trying to do with this game? Sure as hell looks like they want to turn us all into felons if we own a "legal" AR pistol brace.

Download the ATF Worksheet 4999

These guidelines are broken down into 3 sections starting with prerequisites.

Section 1 – Prerequisites

You MUST pass these before even moving into the scoring system.

ATF Worksheet 4999 prerequisites

For example…..

  • The weapon must weigh at least 64 ounces.
  • The weapon must have an overall length between 12 and 26 inches.

What does the weight have to do with anything?!?!

As for the length…if we’re reading this right, if my AR pistol is too long (over 26"), it’s considered an SBR?

Section 2 – Accessory Characteristics

Or….’who wants to be a felon’ section.

ATF Worksheet 4999 Section 2

The verbiage of these characteristics is extremely subjective leaving us all a bit confused.

How close does it have to be to a known shoulder stock design before its ‘incorporating features’ or a copy of them?

I guess it will be up to your average ATF agent to determine that.

What about adjustability features and stabilizing support. Again, if we’re reading this correctly, then just about every AR pistol with a brace is now considered an SBR, making millions of American’s a felon.

All in all, you must have less than 4 points to proceed to section 3. NOT 4…..LESS THAN 4.

Section 3 – Configuration of the Weapon

ATF Worksheet 4999 section 3

Length Of Pull – measured from the trigger to the rear of the AR pistol brace when fully extended.

Notice that 13-½ inches and over is 4 points. That is the standard length of pull for rifles and shotguns, so if you have a standard length of pull, you’re a felon or close to being one if the points add up.

Attachment Method – pretty much anything other than a buffer tube is going to give you points.

Stabilizing brace modifications – this is more or less targeting the velcro strap that goes around the pistol brace that secures it to your arm. Just by removing that strap, which some people do, gives you 4 points.

Peripheral Accessories – If you’re not a felon yet, you will be after this.

Any presence of a hand stop or foregrip is going to give you up to 4 points. Having these indicates two-handed fire.

BCM GunFighter Grip Mod 3

at Primary Arms
Prices accurate at time of writing

The presence of flip-up sights, reflex sights, or scopes with eye relief incompatible with single-handed fire. What the hell is that even supposed to mean?

Last but not least, your weapon as configured weighing more than 120 ounces is 4 points.

So why were all these braces able to be sold in the first place? Because the ATF said they could be….until they decided to change their minds.

Keep in mind though that no new laws have passed as of this writing. This new scoring system is not in place because new laws have passed. They (The ATF) just decided to change their minds on how they view the AR pistol brace.

So what can you do to keep your AR pistol legal and you out of federal prison?

Maxim Defense PDX

Maxim Defense Pistol System

If you 100% want to ensure you are legal and don’t want to mess around with an actual AR pistol brace, Maxim Defense has a solution for you.

Enter the Maxim Defense Pistol System. I have the Gen 7 CQB Pistol System for my AR pistol build. It’s extremely easy to install and with practice, easy to shoot with.

Related Article – Sling Shooting Subguns | SAS Sling Method

The Gen 7 CQB Pistol System by Maxim Defense is your choice for simplicity and compactness for your AR-15 pistol. This system features a Gen 7 style housing, and CQB length buffer tube.

It is compatible with your standard bolt carrier group, but you will need our proprietary CQB buffer & springs or JP Silent Captured Spring if you don’t have one.

The CQB Pistol System is compatible with any MIL-SPEC lower receiver and it does not accept a stabilizing brace. For those that are looking to convert their existing CQB brace into the Pistol System, you only need the housing as your existing extension tube is compatible.

CQB Pistol System

at Maxim Defense
Prices accurate at time of writing

Under section 3 of the ATF scorecard where they talk about attachment methods, the standard AR-type pistol buffer tube is mentioned. Having a standard buffer tube length (6 to 6-1/2 inches) keeps you at 0 points for the attachment methods.

The Maxim Defense CQB Pistol System measures 6 inches, so you’re good to go there.

Having the CQB Pistol System also reduces the overall length of your weapon and length of pull.

With my KAK pistol brace fully extended, my overall length is 29-3/4 inches. By using the Maxim Defense CQB Pistol System, my overall length is reduced to 25" keeping me under the 26" maximum defined in the prerequisites.

Best AR Pistol Brace | From Budget to Baller

As we stated above, no laws have been changed, so AR pistol braces are still legal to buy. The ATF is just trying to make it so that you have to register your weapon as an SBR.

Until the laws change, here are a few AR pistol brace options you can buy online today.

Related Article – AR Pistol Buffer Tube vs AR Pistol Brace

KAK Shockwave Blade

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.

KAK Shockwave Blade AR Pistol Brace

at Brownells
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.

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.

SB Tactical SBA3

at GunMag Warehouse
Prices accurate at time of writing

Maxim Defense CQB Pistol PDW Brace

Perfect for Personal Defense Weapons, the Maxim Defense PDW Brace gives you the adjustments needed to shoot your AR pistol more comfortably and makes your AR 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.

Maxim CQB Pistol Brace

at Maxim Defense
Prices accurate at time of writing

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Table of Contents

  • What is a Pistol Brace?
  • How Does The ATF View AR Pistol Braces?
  • Section 1 – Prerequisites
  • Section 2 – Accessory Characteristics
  • Section 3 – Configuration of the Weapon
  • Maxim Defense Pistol System
  • Best AR Pistol Brace | From Budget to Baller
  • KAK Shockwave Blade
  • SB Tactical SBA3
  • Maxim Defense CQB Pistol PDW Brace

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