Brace Yourself

When I first read about the SIG SB15 AR15 buffer tube brace I rolled my eyes. Yes, the original intention of the brace is a noble one: allow veterans who were incapable of firing an AR rifle or pistol due to injuries secure a firearm to their bodies in a such as way as to enable them to shoot again.

However, I didn’t know anyone who bought an SB15 brace that fit this description.

I saw the stock photo of the SB15 around the guy’s forearm and was thought, “holy shit, that’s almost as dumb as firing an AK pistol with both hands outstretched.”

Image from SIG Sauer

Image from SIG Sauer

Then time went on, and People on the Internet™ started buying them. People were using them in a “Manner Not Intended” (to use the ATF’s words) and put the brace against their shoulder instead of strapping it to their forearm.

Next thing you know, my buddy Bond bought one. He went through the ATF’s NFA experience once already and didn’t want to deal with the hassle of registering an AR15 lower. He built an AR pistol instead, and was looking for something in addition to putting the buffer tube against his body.

He described the SB15 as surprisingly sturdy and that the rubber forearm piece fit so snugly onto his pistol buffer tube he was worried about removing it.

The next day he went to the range with his 300 Blackout AR15 pistol and reported back. “It’s just like a stock. Except it’s not a stock.”

Bond’s not a bullshitter, so color me intrigued.

My primary firearms instructor Erik Pakieser purchased one a few weeks later, and I had a chance to try it out during my Glock SBR enclosure testing. The difference in perceived recoil between the SB15 and just my AR15’s pistol buffer tube was incredible. Instead of concentrating the recoil from .300 Blackout rounds in a 1.14″ish aluminum tube, the SB15 ate up the recoil like Pac-Man and spread it across a much larger surface area.

I drove 45 minutes home from the range, hugged the She-Shepherd, pulled out my phone and ordered one from Amazon. I don’t remember if I didn’t shut the front door, but I definitely didn’t pet my dogs hello before ordering it.

Three days later my SB15 brace arrived in FDE and I installed it on my 6.75″ barreled .300 Blackout pistol that evening.

I was able to run the Sig SB15 brace on my pistol on Saturday, May 31, 2014 at the first defensive rifle class of the season. Despite my problems with my .300 Blackout handloads, my pistol — and the Sig brace — functioned beautifully.

P1020936

I think the SB15 is awesome, but not everyone does.

Some of my friends and instructors don’t like these braces. The complaints normally fall into two camps:

#1 Reason: It’s expensive for what it is

The SIG brace retails for $140. I bought mine for about $130 delivered from Amazon. The SB15 is a piece of molded rubber and two pieces of hook and loop.

You’ll also have to buy a pistol buffer tube if you don’t have one already. I re-used the $25 one I purchased, but my friend Erik bought a special KAK Industries buffer tube that’s a little bit longer than a usual buffer tube. It’s also supposed to be wider than most buffer tubes, but in researching their tube vs my no-name tube the diameters were the same.

So, if you only consider the SB15 to be a big piece of rubber, then yes, $140 is a lot of money to pay.

However, I see the SB15 in this fashion: the brace allows me to shoot more comfortably and with more consistency. While I have learned to re-index the bare buffer tube on the same part of my body over and over again, that was something I needed to practice. A lot. The MUCH larger surface area of the SB15 allows you to use the SB15 in a Manner Not Intended just as you would a “real” stock.

An AR15 with an SB15 brace keeps your firearm firmly in the  “pistol” category as well as out of NFA territory. Depending on your state and local laws, it may not be legal for you to carry a loaded rifle around. Here in Minnesota, the definition of a short barrel rifle actually makes it a pistol, so my permit applies. However, your situation may differ and many readers like AR15 pistols because of its classification as a handgun.

I’ve already written about what a pain in the ass it is to apply for an NFA item and then all of the restrictions around its accessibility and portability. It still chafes my sensibilities that I have to get a letter from the ATF in advance if I want to take my SBR out of state.

The SB15 allows you to keep your AR15 as a pistol, but use it in a Manner Not Intended just as you would an SBR. That’s well worth $140.

P1020935

#2 Reason: It’s too short

Once installed, the SB15 may be too short for those with bigger bodies and/or longer arms. This is a valid complaint, and only you and your body can determine if the SB15 does not give you sufficient length of pull when using it in a Manner Not Intended.

However, “it’s too short,” while valid, is also going to be true no matter what kind of buffer tube and/or buffer tube attachment you put on your AR15 pistol. In order to not be a stock, one of the attributes of a buffer tube attachment is that it can not extend beyond the buffer tube. The SB15 is juuuuuuust short of the end of my pistol buffer tube.

The practical outcome of this is that if an AR15 pistol with the SIG brace is too short for you, chances are an AR15 pistol is going to be too short for you.

My particular pistol has a LAW Tactical folding adapter on it, which extends the length of pull by about 1.5″. That makes it comfortable for me, and without it I’m not sure if I would still feel the same way.

Even then, you can see I have to cant my wrist some times when shooting in weird positions like this one:

shooting_with_sig_sb15_brace_300_blackout

KAK Industries apparently sells some sort of extension tube but I don’t need one and I am unfamiliar with it.

Conclusion

I don’t think I have been as pleasantly surprised by a firearm or firearm-related item as I am with the SIG SB15 brace. When firing the She-Shepherd’s 5.56 AR15 pistol (before the SBR stamp came through) shooting just the bare tube wasn’t a big deal. The increased recoil from the .300 Blackout cartridge plus my shorter barreled, much lighter AR15 pistol turned the buffer tube into an angry aluminum 1.14″ fist.

To put it another way, I am a very hairy dude. Shooting 150 rounds through the pistol during a break in session put a bruise big enough on my body to be seen through my regal Sasquatchian chestcoat. It takes a pretty gnarly bruise to make it through all of that fur.

As far as buying the SB15 goes, you’re in a bit of a pinch right now. There is a new SIG SBX brace coming out soon, with a rumor that the SB15 will be discontinued. There are conflicting reports about the latter part of that statement, but you know how firearms owners are: if there’s a whisper of something coming off of the market everyone wants to have one. The SB15 has fluctuated between being in stock and sold out from Amazon, and has been sold out at Brownells for about two weeks.

It might look goofy, it might be a big piece of rubber, but damn is the SIG SB15 brace worth it for using it in a Manner Not Intended.

About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.
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6 Comments on "Brace Yourself"

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  1. B R Kurtz B R Kurtz says:

    The phrase “Game Changer” gets tossed around a lot (maybe too much); but I think it applies here TWICE. First for the AR Pistol. Its for all intents a SBR without NFA papers. Second the SIG Brace, takes an already great concept and makes it even better.

    Can you run a AR Pistol without a SIG Brace–sure. Does the SIG Brace make it better–HELL YES (sorry Mom); but YES YES YES. I ran a 10″ 223 AR Pistol with a SIG Brace, through a Carbine class. It performed as well as my actual SBR. It felt like a SBR and handled like a SBR, and traveled like a Pistol–what more can you ask? OH yeah toss in a Law Tac folder and you get that little bit of extra LOP for us meat eaters and maybe potato eaters tooooo.

    Best

    • Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd says:

      I totally agree. The brace cements my belief that unless someone wants something exotic or has a particular niche need, the AR pistol is a far better choice than an SBR.

  2. Phillip says:

    Do you know if this would fit on a rifle length buffer tube? It seems that might be an easy way to legitimately get some extra length.

    Phillip

  3. For those who complain about length, you can overcome this by using the KAK buffer tube. KAK also makes spacers to increase the length. I have the KAK on all my pistols and the length of pull is identical to my rifles.

    @Phillip – that won’t work because the tube isn’t large enough for the SB-15.

    The SB15 is expensive, and kind of bulky, but it’s the next best thing to an SBR.

  4. Sticky says:

    I have built a couple of AR pistols, a 556 and a 300AAC. Both wound up with 10.5′ bbls (the 7.5″ was too short on a 556) and standard pistol buffer tubes with Kaw Valley linear comps. I recently converted both to ‘firearms’ by using a KAK extended buffer tube to gain an oal of over 26″ (not counting a muzzle device)and adding a Sig Brace to each. I live in MD, there is no way to legally carry a handgun or ‘pistol’. The transportation regulations make it worthless as a defensive device in a vehicle, but… a rifle, or firearm can be carried about as long as it’s not ‘loaded’.

    The Sig Brace is a great asset in stabilizing the muzzle flip from a short barreled 556 or 300blk. The KAK buffer tubes are made to order for the Sig Brace and offer a spacer option to give you another 1/2″ or 1″ length of pull. tghey are slightly extended over the std carbine buffer tube, so with a 10″ bbl on a KAK extended buffer tube, you pass the 26″ min length. I added a 1″ spacer ring on the buffer tube, then installed the Sig Brace. The LOP is perfect, or very close, when shouldering the firearm. I have one fitted with a PA red dot, the other sports a Nikon 2-8 scope, where the LOP was a little too short, even with the scope as far forward as I could get it on the upper. The added 1″ LOP makes it just about perfect (similar to adding the LAW folding stock adapter to a pistol build with a 10″ or so bbl).

    I’d add a pic of both, but not sure how to…

    • David says:

      Point of order: barrel < 16" makes a pistol in MD, no matter what the OAL is. It's not the same standard as the feds use.

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