I’ve gotten nostalgic recently; you see I gave a friend of mine an old SB 15 brace I had lying around. Seeing that old pistol brace brought back good memories of a time where I was more carefree and thumbing my nose at the ATF was more of a hobby and less of a life calling. I love pistol braces and use tons of them, so looking back and seeing how the design has evolved is fascinating.

Humble Beginnings

The SB 15 changed the way the firearm world looked at AR, AK, and SMG lite-style pistols. Often called the SIG brace due to SIG’s early involvement, the SB 15 hit the ground running. These styles of guns were once seen as unbalanced, awkward, and heavy weapons. The addition of a brace changed the way the cookie crumbled. Especially after the ATF came out and said you could shoulder it and didn’t regulate the improper use of accessories.

The Evolution of the Pistol Brace
Evolution has occurred

The SB 15 was revolutionary, but it was somewhat large, and, looking back, a little ugly. Gun owners are a lot of things and one of the most prominent is vain. We want guns to look pretty. With that in mind evolution occurred and the SBX was born. This sleeker, better-looking brace was only the beginning of what braces could and would become.

The Pistol Brace Industry Grows

Outside of SB Tactical other companies were beginning to take note of their success and we started seeing pistol braces introduced by a company known as Gear Head Works. The company produced a minimalist brace that became massively popular with CZ Scorpion users and KAK Industry released a quasi-adjustable brace that was different in function and design.

The Evolution of the Pistol Brace

The KAK Shockwave Blade came to be quite popular due to its minimalist design and affordable price.

SB Tactical didn’t rest on their laurels though. The SBX was sleeker, smaller, and lighter. It was a welcome upgrade, but evolution continued, and the SOB and SBM4 were born. While performance was similar in many aspects, the aesthetics were improved massively with SBM4 and SOB looking like straight M4 style stocks, while retaining the overall simple brace design.

The Evolution of the Pistol Brace
SBM4 Courtesy of SB Tactical

SB Tactical has long made braces for the AK and AR that worked on AR tubes. However, in 2017 they hit the market hard by making braces compatible with nearly everything. This includes models compatible with the CZ Scorpion, the MP5 clones, B&T weapons, the MPX, the CZ Bren, the Uzi, and even the Shockwave and Tac 14 style firearms.

The Evolution of the Pistol Brace

On top of that, they introduced the SBPDW, a brace design in collaboration with Maxim Defense. This was a PDW-style collapsing brace that was incredibly functional and compact. This was the first genuinely adjustable brace that offered three positions. Also, looks at it, it’s fantastic!

The Evolution of the Pistol Brace
SBPDW (SB Tactical)

Right behind the SBPDW was the SBL and SB Mini brought to life a minimalist design to the pistol brace realm. The SBL is one of my favorites for the Remington TAC 14 and my KPOS Scout. It’s small, lightweight, and best of all the SBL and SB Mini are affordable.

Let’s Adjust!

2017 was a big year for pistol braces. One of the more interesting was the release of the Tailhook Mod 2 from Gear Head Works. This brace is one of the most robust on the market, can adjust like a standard M4 stock, and gives you five different adjustment points. The Gear Head Works pistol brace used a proprietary tube, but will adapt to any AR 15 style tube adapter and can utilize a standard carbine length buffer and buffer spring. This heavy-duty brace is my favorite on the Shockwave and Tac 14 series of firearms.

The Evolution of the Pistol Brace

At the same time, SB Tactical was working on the SBA3, which we wouldn’t see until SHOT 2018. The SBA3 was an adjustable pistol brace that utilizes a standard carbine tube and offers five points of adjustment. To me, the SBA3 is the pinnacle of pistol braces when it comes to the overall aesthetic. It looks, functions, and feels like a modern M4 stock. The SBA3 comes complete with a QD slot for sling attachments and looks fantastic on an AR 15 pistol. It rides shotgun on my 80 lower receiver build.

The Evolution of the Pistol Brace

Trailing not far behind was KAK Industries with the Shockwave Blade 2.0. They shrunk the blade design even more and added a small lever to allow adjustment over its proprietary tube. The KAK Industries Blade 2.0 is the most affordable of the adjustable braces and certainly one of the lightest. It fits in my Range Backpack perfectly.

The Evolution of the Pistol Brace

The Pistol Brace of Tomorrow!

The pistol brace market is only growing with companies like Strike Industries and Doublestar also releasing braces. As the demand grows we see competition increase, and as competition increases, prices drop and innovation takes hold. The companies all seem to be doing their own thing, each bringing different options to the market.

Currently SB Tactical is releasing the FS1913, a side-folding brace designed around the MCX rear stock system. Gear Head Works is working on the Mod 3 which looks to be a PDW style brace.

The Evolution of the Pistol Brace

Outside of the standard pistol brace, a company called Pistol Mounted Solutions released a Pistol Storage Device that fits on a weapon like an AR and holds extra magazines instead of being a brace.

The market is just going to keep growing for the pistol brace and I’m excited to see what’s next.

Legal Mumbo Jumbo

As we all know the legality of the pistol brace has been a bit nuts. First, the ATF said it was legal and you could shoulder it if you wanted. Then they said, “Nope we changed our minds, shouldering might make your gun an SBR.” Then SB Tactical, a company founded by the designer of the original brace, went to battle. They got the lawyers part of “sending lawyers, guns, and money.” In April 2017 the ATF reversed its decision and said you can shoulder it… But don’t buy one and install it with the intent to shoulder it and don’t modify the design to make it easier to shoulder.


This article was originally published in November 2018. It has been edited for republication.