Over the last few years, there have been a number of new bullpup rifles coming onto the US market whether it’s Springfield’s Hellion, IWI’s X95 line of rifles or the classic Steyr AUG. We’ve all heard the arguments but what most don’t understand is just how close some of these bullpups are to modern 10.5″ and 11.5″ SBRs that are widely available on the market. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard arguments for and against both systems but at the end of the day, what’s the best option for you? Let’s take a closer look at why so many people are torn between SBRs vs bullpup rifles.
Bullpup Rifles @ TFB:
When it comes to a short-barreled rifle, people go with a shorter than typical barrel in order to have a more compact rifle. Typically, the comparable rifles with similar overall length to a bullpup are in the ballpark of 10.5″-12.5″ depending on the rifle and configuration. The vast majority of SBR-type rifles will be some sort of AR15 variant with the occasional AK or MCX thrown in there for good measure. Having a short-barreled rifle can be quite the process if you’re just starting out, but they do offer a number of benefits compared to having a longer rifle.
I’ve had my SBR for a couple of years now and I honestly think it may be one of my favorite rifles in my collection. I decided to go with an 11.5″ and a Huxwrx Helix suppressor. One of the biggest benefits to having an SBR or even pistol this size is the fact it’s a standard AR15 setup in most ways. Just having that prior knowledge and training on one system and then buying different variants makes crossing over really simple. Having that prior knowledge and familiarity with a rifle makes all the difference in confidence and just being smooth when shooting it.
Having more confidence in your abilities with a rifle just makes life easier and offers little to no adjustment from a 16″ rifle to something shorter. Most AR15-style rifles also have their magazine in front of the pistol grip which typically is the fastest way to quickly reload a rifle. Sure, with practice you can become quick with anything, but straight out of the gate, it’s way easier to reload when the magazine well is in front of your trigger guard.
Having something like a pistol or SBR isn’t a perfect solution though. Probably the biggest issues with SBRs at least is the legality behind them and the steps you need to take in order to properly register them as an NFA item. Whether it’s the slow response of the ATF to clear a Form 1 or the $200 fee it takes to register them, it’s a pain no matter how many times you go through it.
The second biggest issue with shorter SBR or pistol-type firearms is the fact they have significantly less muzzle energy coming out of short barrels compared to a full 16″+ rifle. If you take a look at any of the ballistics charts online, you’ll see with shorter 10.5″ and 11.5″ barrels you’ll typically lose anywhere from 400-600fps compared to the ballistics out of a 16″ or longer barrel. The loss of velocity is something to consider especially with a shorter barrel like a 10.5″ where you’ll be shooting significantly less distance.
As far as popular movie guns go, it’s hard to beat bullpup rifles. Probably one of the most well-known bullpup rifles out of a movie has to be the Steyr AUG from Die Hard. Bullpup rifles have always been an interesting alternative to the modern-day problem of long rifles that are difficult to work in tight spaces. Over the years, its been widely expected some sort of bullpup rifle would be the modern-day service rifle for most countries even though it hasn’t happened yet. Looking at the overall design of a bullpup rifle, it’s a huge departure from traditional thinking but most certainly has its merits.
There’s no denying, that the biggest advantage bullpup rifles have is the ability to pack a huge punch in such a small package. My X95 has a 16″ barrel and a shorter overall length than my 11.5″ SBR. With the action being behind the trigger and pistol grip, there’s little weight out front on the rifle which makes it incredibly easy to stabilize for slower shots. All the weight is in the back of the rifle, closer to the shoulder and isn’t felt near as much as in other rifle styles.
Shorter bullpups are really easy to hold up without becoming strained or fatigued When it comes to capable rifles and overall size, you really can’t beat the combination that bullpup rifles offer you. Having a full-size 16″ barrel in a rifle that has an overall length comparable to most SBRs is incredible, to say the least, but there are a couple tradeoffs you need to consider.
With all the benefits a bullpup rifle offers, there are definitely a few tradeoffs when it comes to overall controls. The biggest difference is having the action in the rear which can present a few different issues. The most inconvenient part is if you want to suppress the rifle and deal with blowback. Shooting various bullpup rifles suppressed can be much worse than a traditional rifle since the blowback will come directly out of the action which is situated right next to your face. After a few rounds, it will really make you uncomfortable with the amount of back pressure gas coming at you.
Other tricky things can be reloading and sending the bolt home since they are both located in the rear of the receiver. At first, I really struggled to naturally insert a fresh magazine and hit the bolt release but with a little practice, it’s definitely manageable. The aftermarket support for bullpups isn’t near as strong as other rifle systems either. You can find a handful of companies making aftermarket rails and triggers for them, but it’s pretty limited so what the gun comes as may be what you’re stuck with. Some people really struggle with learning new systems that aren’t the AR15 and that’s understandable, but if you’re willing to learn and practice with the different bullpup systems, it’s definitely a solid short option with plenty of benefits.
Oftentimes, I will get a number of people asking me for a definitive answer and truthfully it’s not that simple most times. SBRs are great since they can be an extremely handy tool for urban environments or close engagements but they are a pain to register and travel with. With an SBR you get those classic AR15 controls that are just naturally easy to manipulate. On the other hand, though, a bullpup rifle is a great way to have the ballistics of a full-size rifle in the body of an SBR with a short overall length.
I was quick to dismiss but over the last 6 months with my IWI X95, I have grown to truly be a fan of bullpup rifles. If you need an easy solution for a short but accurate firearm, I would definitely encourage you to look at a bullpup system. They may be tricky to learn at first but are proving to be an incredibly good platform for CQB or urban-style engagements. Let me know what you guys think on this debate down in the comments below. Is it a waste to try a bullpup system or do they have real merits? Let me know down below. If you have questions about rifles or firearms in general, feel free to shoot me a message on Instagram @fridgeoperator. Stay safe out there.