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AR-15 PDW. What Does The PDW Mean?

What does the PDW in the AR-15 PDW mean? Welcome to the world of acronyms! Acronyms to know before reading this article:

PDW - Personal Defense Weapon

SBR - Short Barreled Rifle

OAL - Overall Length

LOP - Length of Pull

NFA - National Firearms Act

ATF - Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives 

AOW - Any other weapon

So, the short answer to what the PDW in an AR-15 PDW means is that it’s an AR-15 personal defense weapon. The theory of human evolution says that there is a missing link between a caveman and a modern man. I'm a God and guns kind of gal, but I needed an example to apply to my explanation of what a PDW is. So a PDW is a lot like that missing link. The PDW fills a void between handguns and long guns. A rifle caliber personal defense weapon is no joke! This is a serious firearm that is powerful enough for our troops and law enforcement, but with the concealability and portability to easily maneuver in close quarters and for long distances. 


An advantage of an AR-15 PDW is that it can be equipped with a barrel shorter than 16" and not be considered an SBR. Within legal limits, you do not have to register a rifle-caliber pistol as you do an SBR. I will try to help you understand the difference. Per NFA regulations on pistols, SBRs, and AOWs: 

  • A firearm with a single grip and no stock is legally a pistol. 
  • If you add an angled fore-grip, it is legally still a pistol. 
  • Even after the angeled fore-grip has been added, if a Bi-Pod is also added, it is still a pistol.
  • However, if you add a vertical fore-grip, legally it becomes an AOW.
  • If you add a full stock, legally that means that you have an SBR.

FosTecH Fighter LITE Tomcat .223/5.56 AR-15 Pistol

The AR-15 PDW is an extremely popular prospect for someone looking to build their own PDW. Builders need to be aware and be careful not to "accidentally" build an SBR. Of course, all of it relates to measurement. This is where the acronyms OAL and LOP come into play. The correct way to measure an AR-15 pistol is from the buffer tube to the muzzle device only if that muzzle device is permanent. An AR-15 pistol is sub 26" OAL. And according to USCCA: the LOP is measured in a straight line from the face of the trigger to the rear of the brace. The rear of the brace is taken at its most extended position (if adjustable). "The ATF has advised that a braced pistol with a length of pull in excess of 13.5 inches may constitute a re-design of the brace into a stock."

So, what makes a PDW a pistol and not an SBR is that a PDW (pistol) does not have a second vertical grip or a full stock. But don't let that be a deterrent if you are considering buying or building an AR-15 PDW. You can add a brace. An AR-15 needs a buffer tube to function, and the buffer tube can also serve as a three to four-point mount which can provide the shooter with similar accuracy to a traditional carbine.

Not having a stock is the key difference between an AR-15 PDW and an SBR.

Battle Arms Development Workhorse .223 Wylde AR-15 Pistol


Well, an AR-15 pistol does compare pretty favorably to other pistols when it comes to accuracy. An AR-15 pistol in a close-quarters combat situation will not let you down but it will definitely not make a sniper out of you at longer ranges. An AR-15 rifle will be more accurate at longer yards than an AR-15 pistol hands down. 

Naysayers of the AR-15 PDW (and there are a lot of them), use the accuracy deficiency as an argument against the PDW. If you are headstrong in building or buying an AR-15 PDW, there are ways that you can improve its accuracy. Pistols are made to be shot either one-handed or with your weak hand supporting your strong hand, otherwise known as your shooting hand. So let's take a look at what else we can do with the supporting hand. Rather than the supporting hand helping to stabilize the shooting hand, use your supporting hand to help steady the firearm itself. 

While the buffer tube is not a stock, it can be used to stabilize the pistol by pulling the pistol into your shoulder or check. While the buffer tube may not be as comfortable as a traditional stock, it will work to help stabilize the firearm. Another option could be adding a strap. The tension created by the strap to a fully extended firearm will provide enough stabilization to give the shooter a more accurate shot. However, if you are looking for the best option, my personal opinion would be to add a brace. The AR-15 pistol has enough rails and rigs to customize it with an endless array of accessories.

SB Tactical SBPDW Adjustable AR-15 Pistol Stabilizing Brace

If you are looking for a manufactured AR-15 pistol, we have some great options here at Classic. Check them all out! But if you are looking to build your own, you will definitely want to check out the SB Tactical 3-position adjustable AR-15 pistol stabilizing brace. We have this 5-star pistol brace in stock at an incredible price! $239.99 will get it in the mail and on its way straight to your home.

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