There is a lot going on with the legality of pistol braces. There’s even more going on when it comes to defining just what a pistol brace is.
There is also some more detail below.
That warning in mind, if you decide you still want to make a purchase, let us help you decide which stabilizing brace to get!
*Cue wistful retrospective music*
It was 2013. We were young, hopeful, and downright optimistic. SIG had teamed up with a little company called SB Tactical. They worked together to produce something known as the SB-15. SB stands for stabilizing brace, and 15 is a reference to the AR 15, which was the first gun designed to use the brace. The creator’s name was Alex Bosco. He originally had the idea while shooting with a friend who was disabled.
The story goes that the Range Safety Officer asked his disabled friend to cease firing the AR 15 pistol because he lacked control. If you search the archives of AR15(dot) com, you can find some early pictures of the prototypes that used soft foam and plastic modeling to form the first brace. It was quite ugly but functional.
SIG got involved after the ATF issued approval and the rest is history. Since then, the brace industry has grown into one of the most popular AR accessories on the market. They take what’s essentially a big, heavy pistol and make it much more stable to wield and control. More stability and control ultimately equals a safer experience.
Looking back, the SB-15 is a rudimentary version of the pistol brace, and they’ve grown by leaps and bounds. Today we will bring you the best AR 15 braces and discuss various issues surrounding braces and what to look for when shopping for one.
To jump straight to our list, you’ll find the Best AR15 Pistol Braces here.
What’s a Pistol Brace?
If you are new to the world of AR 15s, then the idea of a AR 15 pistol already sounds silly, much less the idea of a pistol brace. Due to the legal definition of a pistol, any weapon with a barrel shorter than 16 inches that are not smoothbore and not equipped with a stock is considered a pistol. Thus, AR 15s can be pistols. They are typically referred to as large format pistols.
A brace attaches to the buffer tube of a AR 15 pistol. The idea is that the brace interacts with your forearm in a way to provide greater stability. This makes the big, heavy, and somewhat unwieldy weapons much easier to control. There are dozens of different designs meant to provide different types of ARs and different types of shooters with a multitude of options.
The Legality of Pistol Braces
Pistol braces have always been legal, at least as of this writing. I’m not a lawyer, and this is in no way legal advice. It’s just a bit of history in regard to the ATF and the pistol braces. While the AR 15 pistol brace has always been legal, the way it’s been used has been up for some debate. At first, the ATF said it was fine if you misused the device and shouldered it.
Then they said, wait, no, don’t do that. It makes the weapon a short-barreled rifle.
Then they flip-flopped again and said, no, wait, it’s fine, but the brace needs to be intended to be a brace. How that’s determined has not always been made clear. One thing the ATF was clear about is that modifying the brace to be more stock-like is not kosher. This means no adding plugs, removing velcro straps, or anything else to reduce its function as a brace and to improve its function as a stock.
In early 2022 the ATF released a proposed rule for remarks to the public. That proposed rule would set parameters for when the brace would become a stock and make an unregistered SBR. They have not published the rule officially, so as of this writing, we do not have clear rules on using pistol braces.
Rumor and conflicting information were common throughout 2022, but by the end of the year (after mid-terms), it was clear the ATF would be issuing restrictions. Supposedly, the agency will be issuing its “final word” in January, but as with everything we get from the ATF, there’s no way to predict if that’s the case or the specific result.
We do know the proposed set of rules is silly and contradictory and that the ATF even says if you follow all the rules, you could still have an illegal SBR. It’s as clear as mud, and we expect nothing different from the final ruling.
Know if you’ll be paying for an SBR or a non-NFA pistol before you commit!
All that being said, they’re still available, and many people want one. So, let’s dive into the world of pistol braces.
Best AR-15 Pistol Brace
Best AR-15 Pistol Brace
- Gear Head Works Tailhook Mod 2
- SB Tactical PDW
- KAK Shockwave Blade 2M
- Doublestar Corp Strongarm Pistol Brace
- Strike Industries PDW Stabilizer
- Pistol Storage Devices
Best AR-15 Pistol Brace Specifications
Below is a list of our Best AR-15 Pistol Brace. Here we can compare and line up the specs from each of the products and help you make the best decision possible.
|SBA3||5 position adjustable||6.75 ounces||9.5 inches|
|Gear Head Works Tailhook Mod 2||5 position adjustable||7 ounces||12.95 inches|
|SB Tactical PDW||3 Position Adjustable||18.14 ounces||6.75 inches|
|KAK Shockwave Blade 2M||12 Adjustable Positions||4 ounces||7.25 inches|
|Doublestar Corp Strongarm Pistol Brace||1 Non-Adjustable||4.8 Ounces||1.9 inches|
|Strike Industries PDW Stabilizer||2 Adjustable Positions||19 ounces||5.5 inches|
|Pistol Storage Devices||User Adjustable||6 punches||NA|
Best AR-15 Pistol Brace Reviews
Now we’ve had an overview look at our list, so we’ll take the time to review each item. In this section we’ll be revisiting our specs, speaking about the product, and looking at the pros and cons.
- Positions 5 position adjustable
- Weight 6.75 ounces
- Length 9.5 inches
SB Tactical never slowed down in its creation of various brace designs. The SBA3 was a huge leap forward in the brace market, and SB Tactical once again revolutionized the brace world. The SBA3 offers adjustability and improved compatibility and stability with stock AR 15 parts. Additionally, we got a sleek design and improved appearance.
SB Tactical designed the SBA3 to offer shooters five different positions and to use a standard AR 15 carbine tube. This design improvement allowed the shooter to adjust the sling to fit their forearm. SBA3 used a combination of rigid polymer with soft polymer to provide a comfortable brace with superior durability.
Since the brace design uses a standard AR 15 carbine tube, the brace locks into position and doesn’t rotate or torque itself into uncomfortable positions. This was an issue with the old SB15, especially after it loosened up with a few years of use. The redesign also incorporated an ambidextrous QD slot for attaching a sling point. It’s super handy for the modern shooter.
Plus, you want your gun to look good. The old SB15 was great but bulky and kind of ugly. The SBA3 provides a sleek and slim appearance that’s a bit different than any other brace on the market.
In terms of downsides, the brace uses a small lever to make adjustments possible. That lever isn’t protected and can be accidentally hit, causing an unwanted adjustment. It’s rare, but when braced properly, it’s possible.
The SBA3 is a dominating force in the brace world and is my favorite brace. I use various models of the SBA3 on a few different guns, and it’s never let me down!
SBA3 Pros and Cons
- Hybrid Design for increased Comfort
- Optional QD Slots
- Adjustable Design
- Priced Affordably
- Un protected adjustment lever
Tailhook Mod 2 Specs
- Positions 5 position adjustable
- Weight 7 ounces
- Length 12.95 inches
Gear Head Works Tailhook Mod 2 Review
Gearhead Works might not produce a wide variety of braces, but they do produce some of the best on the market. This upstart started with the original Tailhook, which was a very simple modular design that could fit a variety of weapons. Over time the DesignDesign evolved and became the AR 15-centric Tailhook Mod 2.
Gear Head Works did something different with Mod 2 and produced a very strong and rigid design. It’s made entirely from hard polymer and doesn’t brace in the traditional way. I’d argue it is one of the most effective brace systems on the market. The DesignDesign offers easy compatibility with your AR and includes its own proprietary tube.
The Gear Head Works brace locks in a closed position and opens with the press of a button but opens downward. You don’t place it over your forearm, but you place your forearm through the brace. This allows your arm to act as a natural counter to the forward weight of the pistol. This is the perfect brace for larger, heavier AR15 pistols.
Gear Head Works worked hard to avoid getting into any situations where their brace could be accused of being a stock. This meant designing their own buffer tube with proprietary slots for the five positions of adjustment. This also relies on a tube designed for a brace, which allows for better adjustments for braced use.
The Tailhook Mod 2 utilizes a small slot for a web sling, but you won’t get any modern QD slots here. Other than that, the only turn-off might be the high price point. It is priced at a little over 200 dollars. If that doesn’t bother you, then the Mod 2 provided a rugged, well-designed brace for the heaviest of ARs.
Tailhook Mod 2 Pros and Cons
- Protected adjustment button
- Rigid DesignDesign works well for heavy ARs
- Proprietary Tube
Tailhook Mod 2 Deals
SB Tactical PDW Specs
- Positions 3 Position Adjustable
- Weight 18.14 ounces
- Length 6.75 inches
SB Tactical PDW Review
The SB Tactical PDW brace does things differently, and I love it. If you have an ultra-compact AR 15, then the SB Tactical PDW is for you. Maybe it’s a .300 Blackout or a 9mm, but if it’s small, you don’t want a huge brace sticking off the back. SB Tactical worked with Maxim Defense to produce an effective and modern PDW brace option. It’s well made, easy to use, and has a design perfectly compatible with a PDW.
That DesignDesign is the ability to be quite short and also very minimalist in nature. The SB Tactical PDW brace keeps things short and sweet. The brace packs three different positions and can be deployed with nothing more than a pull. Grip it and rip it into one of the three positions that work for you. To collapse it, you’ll need to hit a lever because it does lock into an open position.
SB Tactical combined a lot of rigid metal with their soft rubberized brace design to give you both comfort and durability. The brace itself is small and skinny, so don’t toss it on your 10.3 AR and expect good results. I use mine on a .22LR AR pistol with a very short barrel, and it’s perfect.
SB Tactical ensured you had a QD point at the 6 o’clock position for sling compatibility. Looks aren’t that important, but I can’t help but love the look and feel of the PDW brace. It has that cyberpunk aesthetic that makes the gun stand out, and sometimes you want to stand out.
Here is where I hit you with the downsides. The price. Boy, they are proud of this thing, but admittedly it’s a lot of machining and metal, so I get it. If you can get over the high price point, you’ll find yourself well equipped with a modern, minimalist brace that gives you that PDW look.
SB Tactical PDW Pros and Cons
- Short Design
- Rapid Deployment
- QD Compatible
SB Tactical PDW Deals
KAK Shockwave Blade 2M Specs
- Positions 12 Adjustable Positions
- Weight 4 ounces
- Length 7.25 inches
KAK Shockwave Blade 2M Review
Shortly after the SB15 premiered, the gates opened, and we got our first blade-style stabilizer from a company called KAK. The KAK Shockwave Blade offered an adjustable stabilizer, and the Shockwave Blade 2M improves on that DesignDesign. This minimalist take on the pistol stabilizer is an adjustable design ready to be used in various roles with almost any AR 15 you have. Plus, it won’t break the bank.
The adjustability of the original Shockwave is kept here, but with a much more robust design. The Blade 2M utilizes a mil-spec AR 15 tube that provides locking points for the stabilizer. The Blade 2M offers you a total of five different positions! That customization allows the shooter to get the right fit with the Blade 2M.
As the name Blade implies, this is a very thin design, and it’s supposed to fit against the forearm to provide a greater level of stabilization. This very minimalist DesignDesign weighs only four ounces. You don’t want this thing tossed on a big, heavy AR 15 pistol. You want to keep things light when using the Blade 2M.
Shockwave gave you a single ambidextrous sling point designed to attach via webbing and not a QD point. It’s simple, and it works, but I really prefer a QD point. The adjustment tab is fairly small and needs a firm press to adjust. It won’t adjust on the fly with ease but also won’t accidentally adjust when being used. It’s very much give and take with its design.
The Shockwave Blade 2M checks the boxes for a minimalist design. It’s thin, ultralight, and helps your lightweight AR 15 pistol remain lightweight. The Blade isn’t your traditional brace, but who says it has to be?
KAK Shockwave Blade 2M Pros and Cons
- Super Lightweight
- Locked Down Adjustability
- Sling Compatible
- Doesn’t play well with heavy AR15s
KAK Shockwave Blade 2M Deals
Strongarm Pistol Brace Specs
- Positions 1 Non-Adjustable
- Weight 4.8 Ounces
- Length 1.9 inches
Doublestar Corp Strongarm Pistol Brace Review
Minimalism is as minimalism does. The Doublestar Corp Strongarm Pistol Brace gives you a tiny little brace design that fits onto the end of your traditional AR 15 pistol buffer tube. It’s super small but still packs a ton of features in its teeny tiny size. The little fella does a ton of work for such a little brace. The Strongarm Pistol Brace gives you a high-quality, minimalist option full of features.
Doublestar Corp didn’t hold back in its construction of the Strongarm. When you name something the Strongarm, can you really do anything other than machine it from billet aluminum? This rugged DesignDesign ensures it won’t bend, break, or wear out anytime soon.
Trying to shove your arm between two pieces of metal and then deal with the recoil of a gun doesn’t sound so hot, does it? That’s why the Strongarm isn’t designed for you to push your arm through. Instead, comfy elastic band straps around your arm and braces it to the Strongarm. It’s different but effective.
Two strong clamp screws pin the brace in place on the tube and keep it from shifting and moving as you go about your shooting adventures. At the bottom, you have an ambidextrous QD slot for all your sling needs. The sling doesn’t get in the way of bracing your weapon either.
The downsides only come from the fact you are dealing with a minimalist setup. It won’t work well on heavier guns, especially front-heavy setups. Keep your lights and optics small with this one. As far as braces go, it doesn’t get more minimalist than this.
Strongarm Pistol Brace Pros and Cons
- Made to Last
- QD Sling Slots
- Low Profile Design
- Doesn’t Play Well With Heavy AR 15s
Strongarm Pistol Brace Deals
Strike Industries PDW Stabilizer Specs
- Positions 2 Adjustable Positions
- Weight 19 ounces
- Length 5.5 inches
Strike Industries PDW Stabilizer Review
Strike Industries has done a few different pistol braces, but the PDW Stabilizer blows their others out of the water. As you’d imagine, it’s a minimalist design made for those ultra modern and ultra short PDW style AR 15 pistols. This is the shortest AR brace and buffer tube I can find that uses a standard AR 15 BCG. It’s a mere 5.5 inches when fully collapsed. Strike used a combination of metal and polymer to make a rugged and durable design on top of its awesome functionality.
This is a complete system that includes the stabilizer, the tube, the buffer assembly, the buffer spring, and the castle nut. Your normal AR pistol buffer tube is about 8.5 inches long, give or take. The Strike industries PDW Brace found a way to shave off three inches without requiring a unique, expensive BCG. Strike’s buffer, buffer tube, and flat spring wire ensure complete and total function at a much shorter length.
The PDW Stabilizer only has a collapsed and open position. However, the stabilizer deploys rapidly with the press of a button. Hit it, and it springs outward under its own force. It’s super cool and fairly handy for quick deployment.
The Strike includes a set of QD points for adding slings and a cheek rest. The idea is that you can use the chest rest with the stabilizer collapsed for compact aiming. With the stabilizer deployed, you can switch to a more traditional pistol style.
If the price turns you away, I understand, but when you consider that, you get everything from the stabilizer to the castle nut. It’s a complete system. The real downside comes from its lack of compatibility with certain platforms and features. It works with specific 9mm setups, and Strike offers a secondary 9mm buffer for the brace to work with other systems. It’s also not compatible with extended takedown pins.
Strike Industries PDW Stabilizer Pros and Cons
- Quick Deploy Capability
- All In One Package
- QD Sling Points
- Compatibility issues with platforms and accessories.
Strike Industries PDW Stabilizer Deals
Pistol Storage Devices Specs
- Positions User Adjustable
- Weight 6 punches
- Length NA
Pistol Storage Devices Review
I always like to include a wildcard option on my lists, something a little different than most options on the list. I might be cheating with my wildcard here. It’s not a brace. It’s actually an ammo storage option that takes up that slot at the end of your AR 15’s pistol buffer tube. You can store an extra mag or even two depending on caliber. The PSD, as it’s called, is customizable and could be used as a stabilizing brace if necessary.
The design is modular, and you can customize how the PSD works and what exactly you can fit into the PSD. This includes a 5.56 magazine, dual 9mm Glock magazines, a tourniquet, and heck, whatever else you can customize and squeeze in there. Their website has a huge gallery showing numerous configurations.
The device’s anti-rotation setup keeps the PSD in place and unmoving. The extra stability allows you to always reach for your spare magazine and know it’s going to remain in the same place every time. It also helps should you use the device as a stabilizing brace, although keep in mind it’s not designed for that.
In terms of adjustability, the user can make manual adjustments with a series of set screws. However, it’s not like a traditional adjustable brace with a press and release button. The adjustments also ensure the PSD can fit most pistol buffer tubes with sizes ranging from 1.18 inches to 1.25 inches.
The use of modern Dupont Zytel polymer keeps things lightweight at only 6 ounces but tough enough to take most abuse short of a flamethrower. The PSD’s biggest downside is that it’s not a brace on a list of the best braces, but it’s still an awesome addition if you want something a little different.
Pistol Storage Devices Pros and Cons
- Easy to Install
- User Configurable
- Locks Down Tight
- Not a Brace
Pistol Storage Devices Deals
AR15 Pistol Brace – Buyers Guide
There is more to a brace than you think. After reading through some of the best braces, you might have gotten an idea of just how diverse they can be. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the factors you need to consider before shopping for a brace.
Brace vs. Stabilizer
The brace is essentially the universal term we’ve decided to apply to anything that attaches to the rear of an AR pistol that provides more control. Within the term, brace sits the traditional brace we learned to love from SB Tactical, but also another type called stabilizers or blades. They are two unique designs that aim to do the same thing in different ways.
A brace will wrap around your arm and typically be secured with a strap. A brace provides active retention of the gun to your body. It often envelopes the arm and provides the most stability. These devices work well on all AR 15 pistols, from the small and light to big and heavy. They can be soft, rigid, or a combination of the two.
A Stabilizer or blade is often a lighter, thinner, more minimalist design. They touch your forearm and often act as more of a counterbalance to the gun. These are much lighter and thinner and better suited for lighter AR pistols. They can be a little uncomfortable with heavy recoil.
Fixed or Adjustable
The first braces we ever saw were fixed and used friction to keep them in place. Installing an SB15 on a pistol tube was an affair that had many of us cursing up a storm. These days you can pick between adjustable and fixed to get it just right for you.
The main benefit of an adjustable brace is that it’s not a one size fits all affair. You can customize the fit to your forearm to get it just right. You can also shrink the entire gun by completely collapsing the stock to make it a bit more compact for storage purposes. The adjustable brace might require a new buffer tube to accommodate it. These can be standard carbine tubes or proprietary designs. They tend to be more modern but also more expensive.
A fixed brace offers no adjustment. They typically are a friction fit design on a standard pistol tube. Some designs may work with a specialized tube to prevent the brace from twisting. Other fixed braces use a friction fit with the benefit of a set screw or set screws to keep it 100% stable. These braces offer a simple design that’s often affordable and easy to install and use.
Braces come made from all manner of materials. These are various polymers, but we won’t dive into those polymers too deep. What we will talk about is the nature of those polymers. Braces come in soft, rigid, and hybrid designs, and each has its own advantages.
Soft braces like the original SB15 tend to prioritize comfort and fit around the arm more than most. These won’t rub you or grind at your arm as you shoot. They are malleable and absorb recoil. They also provide a little less support than rigid designs in favor of more comfort.
Rigid braces are made from hard polymers or even metals. These are unbendable and absorb weight well when used as a brace. The rigid DesignDesign helps provide more balance and support at the cost of comfort.
Hybrid designs do a bit of both. They don’t offer maximum comfort or maximum support but offer something a little bit in between. They are a great all-around option for shooters.
The AR 15 pistol brace absolutely changed the game. It’s helped jumpstart the large format pistol market. At this point, not having a braced pistol seems weird if you’re a AR 15 fan. Sadly the ATF seems to be on the edge of constantly regulating pistol braces, so with that in mind, make sure you contact your representatives and tell them to say no to ATF overreach.
With my daily ATF bash out of the way, I want to turn it over to the audience. What’s your favorite AR 15 brace? Let us know below!
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