Short Barrel Rifle - Why Use It

Short Barrel Rifle – Why Use It


Mathew R Reed
August 17, 2021

A short barrel rifle (SBR) is something every shooter has probably considered before, especially if they’ve been on the hunt for something compact and powerful.

They’re known for packing a punch but having the bonus of maneuverability and lightness, something everyone can benefit from.

What is a short barrel rifle?

A short-barreled rifle is a firearm that has one or more barrels that are less than 16 inches in length.

However, the term can also include a modified or altered rifle that has an overall length less than 26 inches and a barrel that’s less or more than 16 inches.

An SBR is a popular choice but it’s not going to be right for every shooter, so you have to weigh up its pros, cons, and potential features with your personal needs.

In this guide, we cover the basics of these short-barreled firearms so you can determine whether it’s worthy of adding to your arsenal.

What is a Short Barrel Rifle?

Short Barrel Rifle on ground

Short barreled rifles are a classification of rifle that can include either a standard rifle with a barrel length no more than 16 inches long or a modified rifle that measures no more than 26 inches in total.

These measurements vary depending on their classification, but the barrel is measured from the end of the muzzle to the top of the breech face.

A short barrel rifle is used by all kinds of shooters from civilians to military personnel, and they’re a popular choice in a firearm for just about any purpose.

To get a better idea of what the SBR brings to the table, it’s best to look back at history and determine why they were invented in the first place.

Why Was the Short Barrel Rifle Invented?

Why Was the Short Barrel Rifle Invented?

There was once a time when the selection of firearms was limited, and when choosing a rifle specifically, you only had a choice between those with extremely long barrels.

Back then, it was necessary to have these longer barrels because the propellants used in these firearms had limitations, and the barrel helped with increasing velocity.

Although the longer barrel made it more effective, it also caused the firearm to be a burden. Having the long barrel meant getting an accurate shot was tough, and they weren’t the most maneuverable of firearms.

As the need for a smaller rifle arose, the solution was to create a gun that had a shorter barrel but also a shorter stock.

However, because of its modification, it might lose some power, but gain a lot in motility, and from here, the shortened carbine model was created.

In addition to the carbine being developed, the propellants that were once used also improved which added more power.

This meant they could shorten the barrel lengths even further, which meant better maneuverability once again, making a huge improvement on the original usability of the rifle.

The Pros and Cons of the SBR

Choosing a firearm can be a difficult task, so the easiest way to narrow down your choices is to think about your personal needs and look at the advantages and disadvantages a certain weapon comes with.

The short-barreled rifle has important pros and cons to consider as well, so think about these before you jump in.


  • The smaller size of the SBR gives it a load of related benefits like being lightweight, easier to carry, and easier to maneuver. If you’re in a situation where you’re running or moving a lot, it’s exactly the kind of backup you want.
  • Learning how to use an SBR is easier than with other rifles because of its size and maneuverability. Even beginners will find it simple to improve accuracy and grip thanks to this compact size.
  • Although they can lose some velocity, you will still get a whole lot of power out of an SBR. With the right choice of caliber, you’ll deliver a lot of punch in a single shot so the performance for size ratio is impressive.


  • When compared to other types of firearms, an SBR can suffer from a lack of velocity. Because it has a smaller barrel size it gives the bullet less time to pick up the pace, but just how much velocity it loses will depend on the type of rifle as well as the bullets.
  • Due to the loss of velocity, you’ll find that these weapons are better suited at shorter ranges compared to something made for long range shooting.
  • Extra protection may be required for your ears as the blast no longer becomes muffled by the barrel. There’s substantially more noise from each shot in an SBR than a standard rifle.
  • There’s a lot of regulations and laws around the use of short-barrelled rifles and in some states, they’re not permitted whatsoever.

Popular SBRs

Popular SBRs

As one of America’s favorite firearms, it’s no surprise that there are some names out there that every SBR owner would love to get their hands on.

If you’re looking into acquiring a short-barreled rifle and don’t want to manufacture it yourself, these are some of the popular new options out there.

Daniel Defense DDMK18

The DDMK18 is a 10.3-inch barreled rifle that’s designed for short-range, close quarters, and people on the move.

The coolest feature is the famous rail that USSOCOM uses which allows you to mount items on every side of the rifle, and it features a hammer-forged barrel for strength and versatility.

Noveske 10.5-inch Gen III

Another compact SBE comes from Noveske and it features an upper and lower that has been created from 7075-T6 aluminum.

It comes in two options of either chrome or stainless steel barrel, both of which offer absolute precision with every shot, and you can also choose between a free float rail or a quad rail.

Company USA BCM RECCE-14

This is a slightly larger SBR that measures 14 inches at the barrel and has been designed to take a beating, with a BCM Gunfighter Mod 1 Compensator attached to it.

The barrels have been tested rigorously and the metal has been checked for flaws as well, so there’s no need to second guess its performance.

Should You Get a Short Barrel Rifle?

Should You Get a Short Barrel Rifle?

If you find that a short barrel rifle ticks all of the requirements you have for a gun, that’s just the first step. Unfortunately, as a heavily regulated weapon, you’ll need to make sure you also pass the rest of the criteria.

The National Firearms Act was enacted in 1934 as a way to regulate ownership, production, transfer, and importation of firearms, and it requires people to register certain firearms subject to that act.

Short barreled rifles are included in this list because they have a barrel less than 18 inches, and they join other firearms including short-barreled shotguns, machine guns, grenades, and more.

Short barreled rifles are banned outright in certain states under the NFA, even with registration, including New York, New Jersey, and Illinois, and others.

This does put some limitations on who can own an SBR and it means the onus falls on you as a responsible firearms user to know what’s allowed in your area and what isn’t.

Short and Sweet

As long as you’re able to get your hands on one legally and responsibly, a short-barreled rifle can be a powerful yet neatly sized companion.

Although there are some regulations and restrictions on their use, they come with a lot of benefits in maneuverability and balance, which can serve you well when you need quick action.

Related Questions

A short barrel is just one of many configurations that rifles can come with, and this specific type has a lot to offer in all kinds of settings.

If you still want to find out more about rifles in general, we’ve answered some commonly asked questions that can give you a little more knowledge.

Are Rifles Legal in the US?

Rifles are regulated under the National Firearms Act of 1934, and depending on the type of rifle and the state that you live in, there may be some stipulations about ownership.

Most states allow the purchase of semi-automatic weapons however not all automatic weapons are permitted, so you need to research the laws in your area.

Are Hunting Rifles Automatic?

There are two types of rifles used commonly in hunting, including bolt action and semi-automatic, and neither of these is a fully automatic weapon.

The bolt action requires the manual manipulation of the bolt and pulling of the trigger for each bullet, and a semi-automatic only requires the user to pull the trigger.


Mathew R Reed

Mathew R Reed is a professional gun seller who runs a dedicated gun store in the suburbs of Oakland, CA. A hardcore hunting enthusiast since childhood, Reed has ample experience with guns and accessories. He is the founder of and creates some of the most helpful gun-buying guides and explainers. If not in the gun shop, you can find him on the nearest hiking trail or nearby hunting spot.