| February 7, 2014 | 1 Comments

This site hasn’t been up for too long, but I’m already getting some frequently asked questions from my Facebook page and people from the site.

Some of the repeat questions center around terminology. I’ll do my best to define some commonly-used terms when it comes to short barreled rifles and similar firearms.

Disclaimer: this is not legal advice. I am not a lawyer. You need to do your own research and cover your own ass.


  • Short barrel rifle (SBR): a rifle that has a stock and a barrel length of less than 16″. Note that an SBR can start its life as a pistol, such as my KPOS and my AK-47 SBR. Caliber is unimportant here; you can have a .22LR SBR and a .50 BMG SBR.
  • Short barrel shotgun (SBS): a shotgun that has a stock and a barrel length of less than 18″.
  • Any Other Weapon (AOW): this is an ATF catch-all. An AOW is a pistol with a smooth bore, combination shotgun/rifles with a barrel length of more than 12″ but less than 18″, and firearms that appear to be something else such as a gun inside of a cane. AOW also applies to stockless short-barreled shotguns and pistols with foregrips mounted on them.
  • Stocked pistol: technically an SBR, but it’s a sub-class of firearms that gets mentioned from time to time. A modern example of this is the collapsible stock made by Mako. You’ll still need a stamp.
  • Point defense weapon (PDW): borrowed from naval terminology, a point defense system is a short-ranged, concentrated weapon system designed to repel enemy attacks, whether it be in the form of missiles or enemy craft. In the firearms community, the term PDW refers to a small weapon meant to be used in close quarters to defend oneself, group, or position. PDWs are also caliber agnostic. Good examples might be a folding AK SBR carried in a bag, a Glock 17 with a 33-round magazine and red dot optic installed, or a PS-90. In all cases, I think range and magazine capacity differentiate a PDW from other classes of firearms.
  • Pistol caliber carbine (PCC): This is a rifle, usually short and lightweight, that fires cartridges traditionally associated with pistols. There are many examples of this, including the Colt AR-15 chambered in 9mm, the Beretta Storm, the Kel-Tec Sub2000 series, and the Marlin Camp Carbine.
  • Sub-machine gun (SMG): A sub-machine gun is a handheld, lightweight firearm that is made to fire in a fully automatic or select fire method. Since civilian ownership of machine guns is very limited in the US due to the Firearm Owners Protection Act the SMG definition usually means firearms that mimic the size and attributes of their fully-automatic counterparts. Examples include the semi-automatic MP5, PS90, Thompson submachine gun, UZI, etc.
  • Machine pistol: fully automatic pistols are rare in the US, but examples might be a full-auto Scorpion (vZ 61), Beretta 93R, or Glock 18. You can buy semi-automatic versions of these weapons, some full-auto versions are available during the time the pistol was made and if you’re in law enforcement.
  • AR pistol: this is an interesting firearm. If the lower receiver of an AR was never used to build a rifle, then it could be used to make an AR pistol. An AR pistol is just like a regular AR except it cannot have a stock put onto the buffer tube, and the buffer tube cannot have anything on it that aids in its use as a stock. If you happen to brace the buffer tube against your body when you fire your AR pistol that’s between you and your biomechanics. Most AR pistols have a smooth buffer tube that makes it very difficult to install a stock on it.


I listed the PS-90 in two categories, the PDW and the SMG. Some firearms in our area of interest will cross over into several categories. It’s possible for a firearm to start its life as a Beretta Storm (a PCC) and then get a barrel reduction after acquiring a tax stamp. Now it’s an SBR and a PCC.

It’s also possible to endlessly nerdfight over whether or not a weapon is a machine pistol or an SMG. The Scorpion or the Steyr TMP are good examples.


Did I miss anything?

Those are the pertinent types of firearms I can think of for this blog. Did I miss something? I considered adding bullpups, but frankly I don’t think they fit into the hyper-concealable realm this blog addresses.

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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1 Comment on "Definitions"

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  1. Wilson Hines says:

    AR Pistol definition: You can get your lower transferred to you as a “Other Firearm” and not as a pistol or a rifle and circumvent the whole issue. I have done this with my four lowers.

    The choices are handgun (Pistol), Long Gun (rifles or shotguns), and Other Firearm (Frame, Receiver, etc.)

    Now, if you’re buying the AR rifle already assembled, you’ve got that to deal with and it has to be a rifle forever.

    I have a copy of all of my Form 4473’s for my AR’s in an envelope in my dash, just in case.

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