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July 13 : 2017  
Skill Set: AR Pistol Arm Brace

The history of the arm brace for the AR pistol is an interesting story.

Alex Bosco and his company SB-Tactical developed the SB-15 Pistol Stabilizing Brace in 2013 to help disabled shooters operate an AR-style pistol with only one hand. The flexible rubber of the cuff wraps around a shooter's wrist or forearm and a section of Velcro strap secures the brace in place.

From SB Tactical website: "The Stabilizing Brace was conceptualized to assist a disabled war veteran in shooting the AR pistol the way that it was intended; safely and accurately. The finalized design is for people with limited mobility due to a handicap or the lack of strength to fire AR pistols in compliance with the Gun Control Act."

Then, the ATF responded to a letter from a police department in Colorado that was wondering if shooting a Sig Brace-equipped pistol from the shoulder would reclassify the pistol into an SBR. According to this letter the "misuse" of the brace, positioning it in the shoulder to fire the AR pistol, could be considered as illegal. Use of the legal brace in an illegal manner could be considered a Federal crime, turning the AR pistol into a "short barrel rifle," which requires Federal paperwork.

This year ATF issued another letter, stating that an NFA firearm – short barreled rifle - has not necessarily been made when the device is not reconfigured for use as a shoulder stock – even if the attached firearm happens to be fired from the shoulder. So, if the brace is used in the shoulder to fire the pistol occasionally then it doesn't become an illegal short barreled rifle. Keep in mind that this applies as long as the brace is not modified. If you change the brace in any way, trying to make it stronger or removing the Velcro strap then yes, you have modified the original design and now you have an illegal short barreled rifle. So the SB Tactical Pistol Stabilizing Brace is legal to buy and install on the AR or other pistol designs, regardless of how it's used and as long as it hasn't been modified.

(Keep in mind that these rulings only apply to SB Tactical braces – and may be subject to state and local laws regardless of federal statute. SB Tactical may be the only ones who have received approval from the ATF. If you have another brand brace doesn't have federal approval, it could become an issue for you.)

With the latest ruling from ATF in mind I finally ordered a brace from SB Tactical. I got their "SOB" brace, which works with AR and AK pistols. I also ordered SB's buffer tube. There are two standard diameter buffer tubes for the AR. The "mil-spec" tube has a 1.148" outside diameter. The "commercial" tube is 1.168" diameter. The SB tube has an outside diameter of 1.2" that creates a tighter fit between the tube and brace, preventing it from slipping or shifting position. They offer two different length tubes. The "OPNT" tube is 6.125" long, and the "STDT" tube is 8.3" long. This way you can get the length adjusted to what best fits your needs.

My AR pistol is great. It's lightweight, easy to handle to very accurate. It can be carried easily for travel. I split the upper and lower and it goes into my bag or suitcase. You can travel to other states without getting the approval from ATF as you would with a registered short barreled rifle – as long as the state/city you're traveling to doesn't restrict possession of AR type weapons. The SB brace completes the package; it's a perfect Personal Defense Weapon. (SB Tactical also offers braces for other pistols, such as the AK-type.)

It works great in the field. The one potential issue I have found during malfunction drills is with the Type IV, or case stuck in the chamber. To clear this you have to bang the stock against something solid, while pulling the charging handle to the rear. In order to get the force you need, make sure to hit the area of the brace where the extension tube is seated. The soft areas, where it clamps around the arm, don't provide enough resistance. The only thing I would change is that I should have ordered the FDE color to match the rest of the pistol.

Keep in mind, if you modify the brace in any way you're in trouble. I have a lanyard attached to the rear of the brace, but only on one side so it still functions as designed. If you use it specifically/exclusively as a stock to fire the pistol, you're in trouble. But occasional use, especially under duress, of the brace in the shoulder is not illegal. Like with any other weapon issues, it's your job to know what the laws are, and how they apply. Do not, at any time do anything illegal.

Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama. He is the author of "The Book of Two Guns" - writes for several firearms/tactical publications, and is featured on GunTalk's DVD, "Fighting With The 1911 - McKee's new book, AR-15 Skills and Drills, is available off Shootrite's website:

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