One major advantage of an AR Pistol is discretion. If you are looking for a “bag gun” or something you can discretely move in public then the AR Pistol is a great option.
Defining a Bag Gun
There are three main characteristics that define a bag gun. The first is size, then capacity and finally accuracy. You can certainly have something that fits in a “bag”. If the bag is huge and a little too obvious then it kind of defeats the purpose of being discreet. Generally, I’m looking for a capacity greater than my primary carry pistol. If I’m going to go to my bag gun things have gone very wrong, but having a greater magazine capacity may help bring balance to the equation. Accuracy is where things get a little complicated. I want something inherently more accurate so I can not only deliver more precise rounds on target, but extend the range to target or maximize distance to my advantage.
The difference between a short barrel rifled (SBR) and an AR Pistol really boil down to paperwork. Both have advantages and disadvantages. If you are running the folding stock, it is implied you have a legally purchased SBR. Once you have your tax stamp from the government you are pretty much good to go. However, you are limited in where you can travel within the US along with additional complications should you want to leave your home state or residence. The AR Pistol does not require the governments permission to purchase or own, which is nice. However, with rulings being interpreted and reinterpreted you may find yourself in a pickle should they be deem “illegal”. Of course, you can always register it with the government as an SBR, but I’m admittingly against this option. I already filled out enough forms to purchase so I do not feel a ruling change should require me to fill out more paperwork or subject myself to more administrative hassles or potential registries.
Barrel Length is Key
Size does matter, and in this case, I want something small and compact that will still meet the other two criterion. I don’t know if there is a perfect size or how to exactly define that, but I feel barrel length is a great place to start. I’m looking for a barrel length between 5-8 inches, but probably no more than 10 inches. To get these platforms that small you go down the folding stock/buffer tube of the direct impingement flavor. Or you run with a gas pistol system that places the reciprocating parts inline with the bore, usually on top of the barrel. Caliber can fluctuate, but it is dependent on barrel length for terminal performance. If you go too short, you might have something that can’t really deliver optimal terminal performance. The most common calibers are going to be 5.56mm, 9mm and 300BLK, with the later being the least effected by barrel length at typical defensive gun use distances.
Being able to feed the AR Pistol with larger capacity magazines is a great advantage. However, you will have to balance this with the size of the bag. While you might be able to use a 40, 60 or even a 100-round magazine, can you still conceal the platform in the bag. I’ve found a sweet spot with the 20-round magazine; which is more than my primary carry. That doesn’t stop me from having a larger spare magazine stowed in my bag, so all is not lost. Capacity is one of those subjects that can get a little tricky. Some are adamant they want larger capacity magazines at the cost of a larger bag. I understand their logic, but the whole point is to have something discreet. The larger magazines typically are more prone to snagging during deployment so if I want to get the blaster out quickly, the smaller magazine creates less snag hazards. On a safety note, always carry your bag gun in condition three or “cruiser ready”. This means the chamber is empty with a loaded magazine. While most if not all bag gun platforms have an external safety, this is a hard and fast rule for me when carrying. You would be surprised how easy it is to swipe the safety off carrying it around. I understand this further slows down the deployment, but safety while carrying is essential.
Extended the Distance and Accuracy
Accuracy is a real defining characteristic for me as it allows me to extend my range. Could I shoot my primary carry gun at 25, 35 or even 50 yards…of course. My level of precision will diminish as the range increases, or I should say the diminishing precision is less impacting with something that is inherently more accurate. Even a 5-inch barrel on an AR Pistol can produce tight shot groups of sub-4 inches at 50 yards and beyond. One would have to justify the use of deadly force legally and morally at these extended ranges for defensive use, but the capability is there. Being more accurate means, I can do a batter job defending myself or protecting others. If I can stop the threat quicker because I was able to deliver fewer, but more accurate rounds that is a huge win. One counter argument is how good of a pistol shot are you with your primary carry gun. In other words, would fast hits from your pistol in non-vital regions be better than slower accurate hits to the vitals with your AR Pistol. Slower in the fact it takes more time to deploy from a bag than draw from a holster, even concealed.
In the end, you can put anything you want in a bag and say it is a bag gun. These three criteria are what really makes a bag gun work and work well.