Many recreational—and tactical—shooters have embraced the use of pistols chambered in “rifle” calibers, especially 5.56x45mm. Among the most common of these pistols are models based on AR-type actions, but with short barrels and no shoulder stock, built from the ground up as a pistol. These pistols are quite effective for varmint shooting at medium and longer ranges, and make one of the best compromise all-around “survival” weapons. Certain classes of competition shooters have also embraced these designs due the accuracy of the 5.56mm cartridge and the wide variety of factory and handloads that are available.
Collectors with an interest in military arms have become fascinated with this class of pistol because they offer the feel of shooting short-barreled rifle types, and because they were originally built as pistols they are not “National Firearms Act”-regulated short-barreled rifles. Other arms of this genre include designs that were originally shoulder weapons, such as semi-auto versions of famous pistol-cal submachine guns, also without a stock. A niche for these pistols also exists in the LE and security markets where operators have need of a compact weapon that offers greater firepower. Rifle-caliber pistols also find favor among bush pilots as a bailout gun, and a few decades back the Air Force came close to adopting such a design. But beyond these varied reasons many people like these pistols because they offer something different and they are fun to shoot. TW takes a look at some of these pistols that come in a mini package.