Review: SB Tactical PDW Pistol Brace

posted on June 22, 2017

SB Tactical has been at the forefront of the AR pistol revolution, first introducing the SB15 stabilizing brace that launched the craze of AR, AK and other pistols based on earlier rifle designs. The new SB Tactical PDW pistol brace takes that design into the next generation.

First, a refresher. Many forget that the AR pistol brace was initially designed as a helpful tool for disabled shooters, many of them returning veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Brace designs feature a hook-and-loop strap that wraps around the forearm of the user, giving them a third point of contact that helps to stabilize the front-heavy AR pistol design, reducing fatigue and improving accuracy.

Enterprising individuals soon noticed that AR pistols could also be stabilized by touching the brace to the shoulder as well. In January 2016, however, the ATF ruled that those using an arm brace from the shoulder had, in essence, illegally made a short-barreled rifle without ATF approval. This dampened the fervor over AR pistols somewhat, but the trend still continued upward.

In March 2017, the ATF appeared to reverse its position, saying that “…an NFA firearm has not necessarily been made…even if the attached firearm happens to be fired from the shoulder.” The letter did point out that certain uses or “modifications” of pistol braces might constitute making of a short-barreled rifle because such modifications undermine proper use of the brace. This “clarification” came specifically in the answer to a question posed by SB Tactical, which had recently rolled out a new ATF-approved design for a shoulder brace: the SB Tactical PDW.

If the PDW Pistol Brace looks a bit familiar at first glance, that’s probably because you’ve seen the original stock design upon which the brace is modeled. SB Tactical worked hand-in-hand with Maxim Defense to develop this new design, so the brace bears some resemblance to the Maxim Defense PDW stock, which allows for a compact, extendable butt pad that provides users with four separate positions.

The SB PDW Pistol Brace takes the same tack, offering the first-ever “collapsible” brace designed for use on AR pistols. The concept behind the brace is simple: people come in different shapes and sizes, so braces needed to be adjustable to fit shooters of all types.

Early designs, like SB Tactical’s SB15 brace, had no mechanism for adjusting where the stabilizing strap attached to the user’s forearm, meaning that shooters had to make do with the one-size-fits-all tool, leading to some discomfort and awkward positioning for certain users.

Later designs from other companies, like the KAK Industries Shockwave, nominally allowed for some customization for the end user, but adjusting the overall length involved tools and screws, which meant that the unit couldn’t be easily or quickly adjusted for multiple users.

The new SB Tactical PDW Pistol Brace allows for a complete range of customization, giving users three different positions to choose from. Each position can be quickly and easily selected through the use of a lever found on the left side of the brace. Once one of the position notches is reached, the lever automatically locks back into place, securing the brace into position.

The brace features a traditional forearm loop like the company’s other offerings, so users can strap in for maximum stability. Another way to achieve a bit more stability is by bringing the top of the brace to the cheek, providing three separate points of contact for stability without shouldering the firearm. The SB PDW brace is well-suited for this, featuring a rubberized pad on the top of the brace that offers a comfortable cheek weld.

While the rapid adjustability of the brace is innovative, there’s one aspect of the device that is somewhat annoying. The lever that locks the brace in place is located on the fixed bracket that attaches to the buffer tube. In many collapsible designs, the lever is located on the moving piece, allowing users to maintain some kind of control over the grip or fore-end while adjusting the stock.

With the SB PDW Pistol Brace, that kind of ergonomic fluidity is sadly missing. Consumers should note that, while the brace does extend outward with a simple pull to the rear, keeping one hand secure on a handguard or grip while shortening or lengthening the brace requires some awkward manipulation.

That issue aside, it’s clear that this new brace from SB Tactical is an important step forward in the world of AR pistols, and those looking for customization and ease of use would do well to add this new piece of gear to their pistol rig. The suggested retail price on the SB Tactical PDW Pistol Brace starts at $299.99.


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