Michigan AR-15 Pistol/SBR Build

Michigan is an interesting place. We interpret gun laws a tad bit different than other states. As such we wind up with interesting hybrid products like the “Michigan Pistol”.  While the Michigan Pistol has gone the way of the dodo and SBR’s have finally been approved in the state thanks to SB610 we still have some interesting gun laws.

SBR’s or Short Barrel Rifles are a Federally regulated entity that requires specific paperwork as well as a $200 tax stamp. While all Federal regulations must be followed you are also bound by state law. Based on the rules governing a pistol and conversely the advantages of a Michigan CPL in the state of Michigan it will once again be legal to build a “Pistol” by Michigan standards that has a but stock based on Federal standards and can be carried in a vehicle or in a backpack.

This makes for a great truck. hiking, or camping gun that can be carried concealed and loaded. Lets go over the options available to build this.

Options to Build

You can purchase a lower and build your rifle as you want. You need to purchase the lower designated as a pistol. This can be done by buying a lower either online or at a local gun shop and having it transferred to you as a pistol with the appropriate state forms at the time of purchase or transfer.

The other option is to buy a complete rifle in a pistol configuration without a but stock. This allows you to take immediate possession of the weapon while you await the tax stamp. This is also a good choice for those not comfortable building a rifle.

The third option is to buy a complete SBR. This is the longest process as you will not be able to take possession of any part of the rifle until the tax stamp is processed and approved. Further other than purchasing the weapon with a butstock already in place there is no difference from this and step 2.

My Acquisition Recommendation

Patience has never been a virtue of mine. As such I went the build it myself route. This allowed me to purchase and build the rifle I want in a pistol configuration (no stock) with the goal of applying for a SBR stamp once the law passed. Further this allowed me to build my “travel rifle” and have it now. Tax stamps are taking upwards of 4 months right now and likely will be increasing as a few states have recently opened themselves up to the registry.

While building the rifle was something I wanted to do it had a steep learning curve and is not for the feint of heart. As Keith laid out in his building an AR article series here you will find that the cost of tool you may not have will likely exceed any savings. If you have very specific design needs or will be building several guns over the years then go ahead and make the investment in the right tools. We will discuss this further in the series by Keith.

The best of both worlds and easiest way to move forward with almost no tools required is to buy a completed stripped lower. Purchase a complete upper in the length you want with the parts you want. Even the most unskilled hands can handle putting these parts together if you have access to Youtube. Doing this allows you to avoid needing:

  • Torque Wrench
  • Headspace Gauges
  • Castle Nut Wrench
  • Various punches

While this is not required I built my lower using a pistol buffer tube. A pistol buffer tube differs from a standard buffer tube in that it is not designed to accept a stock. Because of the amount of parts I have on hand at any given time I would not want to be charged with attempting to make an SBR without a tax stamp. Another option is to wrap the standard buffer tube in paracord so a stock can not be put on it. If you have extra stocks laying around and go the route of a pistol build that you intend to convert I highly recommend you cover your ass and make it clear you have no intention of adding a stock until you get your stamp approved.


You will need to consult a lawyer to get the full law on specifications. I have seen too many conflicting stories out there and frankly I am not a lawyer and do not want to take the responsibility of giving you the wrong advice. On a purely functional basis I will make a few recommendations.

Barrel length is going to be the hardest decision to make. Before you rush to build your SBR consider the purpose. Is this a hiking gun and would a 300 blackout server you better or is this a home defense or truck gun? Do you want it just a bit shorter than 16 inch or do you want the shortest you can build? Are you prepared to go piston over direct gas systems to allow for the shorter barrel?

When building a 223/556 HD or truck gun here is my suggested rule. Go over 10 inches for a DI gun using a carbine gas length. If you’re going shorter than that you will likely want to go with a piston system. There are many reported issues with DI in pistol length gas systems not to mention much more heat transference. To me the SBR is more likely to be a life on the line weapon and as such I want to be 100% sure it is not going to have cycling issues as such a bit more barrel is far more beneficial than a really short weapon.

As for sights your best keeping it simple. Irons or reflex would be my first choices with smaller red dots as a last option. You’re not going to be using this gun to reach out a 100 yards+ so leave the optics for your other guns.

Lastly get a good flash hider. the shorter the barrel you use the larger the flame your going to generate. This is bad inside a house and its a great way to either loose your night vision or be located quickly in the dark. I highly recommend the Noveske KX3 or the brand new KX5 as they have done the best job at fireball mitigation as well as reducing the sideways concussive blast. If you’re shooting next to a buddy at the range he will appreciate the extra you put into the KX#.  We will have a full review up soon on that piece of gear.

The Process

The process has always seemed a bit backwards to me for both the SBR and a Suppressor. You will need to actually buy the item first so you can fill out the form. However you can not take possession of the item until the form is approved which can take months. This is why I highly recommend going the pistol route first. You can buy all the parts except the stock take possession and then await approval from the ATF to put the stock on the gun.

Once you have the specifications and serial for the weapon you need to fill out the form 1. This can be done as an individual or as a trust. Note the ATF is looking to do away with trusts so get in and do it now if that is the route you want to go.

Trusts offer you the advantage of not requiring fingerprints or law enforcement sign off. If you go individual you will need to obtain fingerprints and law enforcement sign off from your local PD.  There is also other advantages such as passing the item along at death and such that you will need to discuss with a lawyer.

Once you have filled out the form as either a person or trust you will need to send it in with a check for $200. Then you get to wait, and wait, and wait and wait until your ready to wait some more then a tad bit more waiting and if all goes well you get a letter approving your SBR.

At this time you can then either attach the stock to the pistol or go pick up your NFA/SBR from your local dealer.


One thing I have heard people doing (I have not done it since we just got approved here) was to take the certification from the ATF and copy it at 25% size and laminate the certificate. This allows you to carry with you or in your range bag proof that the weapon is legal. If you plan to go the CPL/Truck gun or hiking route this is an idea I would suggest. With SBR’s being so new in the state it is just a good idea to cover your ass. Law enforcement officers are not lawyers and interacting with police in a friendly non confrontational way to educate them instead of being a belligerent A-Hole goes a long way.


SBR’s hold a special place in many peoples hearts. I have truly enjoyed my pistol build and the idea of adding a stock to it is something that I look forward to very soon. You need to evaluate for yourself if this is a good idea. If setting up a trust be sure to contact a reputable lawyer. We have links to the person we use on the main page of our site.


Below is a gallery of some of the favorite SBR’s we have seen around the web.

See a whole bunch more at our Pinterest Account

Charles is the editor for 248 Shooter a midwest based gun news and gear review site as well as Online Content Director for On Target Magazine. He is an avid student taking classes from top tier trainers around the country. Charles shares his love for training as well as experience and opinions on some of the most talked about gear and products used by competitive shooters, military, leo and civilians.