In part 2 of our series on the Civilian PDW, we are going to look at the backpack AR. The most recent fad in AR 15s is having guns get smaller and smaller. We wanted to stay away from NFA type weapons, so this category focuses on AR pistols. One must have accessory for a backpack AR is a pistol brace.

Defining the Backpack AR

ARs come in every caliber imaginable. I want to define the backpack AR as an AR chambered in a rifle caliber. ARs come in plenty of pistol calibers and have their place. We’ll talk PCCs later in the series. Right now we want a standard AR in an intermediate caliber. The three calibers I see as being the most viable are the 5.56, the 300 Blackout, and the 7.62X39.

Backpack AR

Choosing a Caliber

I went with the 5.56 for a number of reasons. It’s common, magazines are plentiful, and the ammo is cheap. Plus ARs in 5.56 have the most options available when it comes to building a Backpack AR

300 Blackout is better suited for short barrels and is compatible with the majority of AR parts and accessories. The issue is ammo cost. It’s a little pricey, but if I had the money, this would be the caliber I’d go with. With 5.56 I can hit the range more often.

Lastly, the 7.62×39 is an option. The issue I’ve had with ARs in this caliber is reliability and lack of magazine choices and availability. These guns can run well when built correctly, but I’m no gunsmith. The ammo is cheap and does perform well from short barrels.

Any of these calibers would be a reliable option for the Backpack AR.


Does it offer a significant advantage over an EDC handgun?

Any AR, regardless of size, will offer a substantial advantage over any handgun. Any of our three cartridges provides a considerable advantage ballistically. This includes higher penetration through flesh, through hard barriers, and even armor.

Capacity for an AR can range from the standard 30 round magazines to massive 100 round drums. I’m going with a shorter, more compact 20 round magazine to stay small. I can pack an additional three or four 30 round mags with the gun for easy reloading.

There is also a substantial range advantage with both a rifle round and a braced AR pistol. Even with this small Backpack AR. You won’t have proper AR range, but its a substantial advantage over the other PDW concepts. 

Is it Compact?

To fit into this category, the gun needs to be small enough to fit in a backpack with the upper and lower separated. My particular model sports a 7.5-inch barrel. I could have gone longer but wanted a muzzle device I knew would be a little longer than usual. The SBA3 is a collapsing brace that aids in minimizing the guns footprint.

So to answer the question simply, yes, it is compact.

Is it Easy to Use, and of a Common Platform?

The AR 15 is one of the most common platforms ever to exist. It’s a simple weapon to use and every year thousands of military recruits, many of who have never fired a gun, are trained to use the platform. It’s simple, reliable, and anyone can learn the fundamentals of operation in about 15 minutes.


Even with a short barrel and a rifle round you can easily control the Backpack AR. Recoil is minimal, and muzzle rise isn’t hard to fight.

Other Advantages

One of the most significant advantages is going to be price and availability. You can easily buy or build a backpack AR 15 on a budget, and have it run well. The end user can construct or configure an AR in almost any configuration they desire. The amount of customization you can do is outstanding. From muzzle devices to pistol braces you can pick and choose each and any component of your backpack AR.

My model sports a Claymore muzzle device that helps solve the concussion and muzzle flash issue of a 5.56 out of a short barrel. These are the kind of upgrades you can make with this platform.

It’s also legally still a pistol. This can be incredibly advantageous depending on your state’s laws. In my state, I can carry this on my back everywhere I go, just like a pistol. I can also keep it loaded and ready in my vehicles as long as it’s enclosed in a case.


The most significant disadvantage is the fact you have to put the gun together before it can spring into action. This slows down your ability to react and get into the fight. With 5.56, in particular, you’ll also face the muzzle flash and concussion without the proper muzzle device.

My Backpack AR

My Backpack AR is simple, but it works. It’s mainly the following components.

7.5 inch 5.56 barrel

Standard Forged upper and Lower

Troy CSAT XS night sights

SBA3 Collapsing Brace

Troy Claymore Muzzle Device

Lancer Hybrid 20 round magazine

Carried in a Vertx Commuter sling bag.

The Backpack AR is a solid choice for the civilian PDW. It satisfies the simple conditions we put forth rather well. The most significant advantage this gun offers out of our three platforms is its range and penetrative power. It’s not perfect, but it does fill the role with a weapon most gun guys and gals know and love.


Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.