Released in February 2018, the SBA3 is one of the newer AR pistol braces offered by SB Tactical, and among many along its AR, AK, and shotgun models. The A3 variant was intended to bridge the design differences between the original and fixed SBM4, with the adjustability of the future SBA4. The SBA3 features an adjustable length with mil-spec buffer tube compatibility, and a QD mounting point that provides for improved comfort and function for shooters.
While the SBA3 was intended as a follow-on to the SBM4, the SBA3 has a more minimal forearm support wings, and a 1” hook-and-loop strap to secure the brace to the arm. This gives the A3 a less-bulkier profile overall. However, where the A3 differs is the brace now accepts any 7075 mil-spec carbine buffer tube (included with brace) and thus has a 5-position adjustable length. The newer A3 brace also includes a metal ambidextrous QD mounting point for slings behind the buffer adjustment pin.
Fully collapsed, the A3 has a minimal length of 6.5”, while on a fully extended carbine buffer tube measures 9.5”. Understanding these measurements can become impetrative when determining the overall length of an AR build to meet ATF regulations on AR pistols.
With a narrower 1.8” polymer body, the spine of the A3 provides a minimalist profile for the user that avoids excessive snagging while still giving an angled platform for a cheek weld. This is an improvement over the SBM4, and for comparison an improvement over the smaller, thinner, and lighter Magpul CTR buttstock.
The SBA3 is available in FDE (featured) Black, OD Green, or Stealth Grey.
Product Evaluation Scores:
- Cost – Average (3/5): At an MSRP of $169.99 the A3 is the same price as the SBA4, thus giving the user the opportunity to find a design that best suits their needs at the same cost. The A3 is also available at secondary sites for approximately $129, with some retailer coupons or sales during holiday’s providing the brace for even a lower cost. Given that SB Tactical is the market leader for firearm braces, there is no direct competitor for comparison to the A3. However, its predecessor the SBM4 ($99) with a similar design, does include many of the same stabilization aspects, but the SBM4 is only for use with pistol buffer tubes and as such is not adjustable. Even the more recent A4 ($169) is lighter and adjustable, while the SBPDW ($299) is one of the heaviest AR pistol braces on the market. In all this gives the A3 an average price range for its time on the market and amount of materials involved.
- Comfort – Average (3/5): From a comfort aspect, the minimalist sides of the A3 were not as obtrusive as the M4 or A4, and gave good support to the forearm. This did result in the AR pistol canting slightly while in use, but the support strap kept the overall brace secured even with the weight of the firearm held out at full extension to the body. Users with thicker forearms may find it more difficult to get a deeper lock within the brace at first, until the rubber has had time to adequately break in. The nylon support strap was slightly elastic which made getting a positive/tight bond somewhat difficult, but not unattainable. One notable feature for the A3 was the approximate 2” wide angled polymer body that gave the user more surface for a positive cheek weld. This was an improvement over the SBM4’s width of 2.0” and thus narrower angle/less surface for contact. Internet research showed a number of aftermarket replacement straps to most SB Tactical braces, including Lunar Concepts “Split Fix” for the A3 that prevents overlapping and permanent warping of the rubberized plastic while in storage, and the recommendation to the manufacturer would perhaps examine improving or offering alternate straps for improved comfort and function.
- Durability – Average (3/5): The SBA3 was made with dominantly a minimalist polymer body that gave it a similar profile to a A2-style stock, but with less rigidity than the A4 brace, and provided a semi-stable platform for a positive cheek weld. There was some play noted between the brace and the buffer tube that could be manipulated with the hand, as well as some elements of the body (such as the locking pin) felt somewhat frail. The forearm support sides were made from a rubberized ABS material that gave the sides sufficient flex to contour around the arm. Over time and use, the SBA3’s support sides did collapse and overlap when stored against the loop. It is most likely that over time, the element of the A3 that will actually wear out first, will be the hook-and-loop material to the 1” support strap (another reason there are aftermarket straps available).
- Functionality – Good (3/5): Functionally, the SBA3 was easier to don on the forearm as opposed to bulkier braces, it being necessary to fully loosen the support strap and push the arm through the sides. The newer A3 also had more rigidity and coverage in its forearm minimalist support sides. This defiantly effected support to the AR pistol given its minimal contact surface, and linear dimensions that contoured around the arm once the support strap was tightened. Adjusting the position on the carbine buffer was a little loose, most likely attributed to variances in buffer tube dimensions and that not all tubes are a one-size-fits-all. But with minimal effort the A3 was able to move across all five (of six) positions on the carbine buffer tube. The ambidextrous QD mounting points were full metal and accommodated a variety of mounting accessories. The feel of the QD point (behind the adjustment pin and closer to the forearm brace) made connecting QD points somewhat difficult in the tight space. Some adjustment of your sling may be necessary to accommodate this QD location.
- Weight – Excellent (5/5): At 6.75 ounces (w/o buffer tube) the SBA3 is relatively lightweight, and among the line of other SB Tactical braces had a good scoring. As noted above, once secured to the arm, the brace did help to keep the AR pistol balanced as well as helped alleviate the weight of the firearm forward of the body. In comparison, the heaviest AR pistol brace in the SB line is the SBPDW (18.14 ounces) while others, such as the SBM47 (15.5 ounces), SBM4 (8.7 ounces), and SBA4 (10 ounces) demonstrate the weight of the SBA3 is towards the lighter side given most other AR pistol braces trend to a more minimalist approach with less materials that achieve the same results. The added weight is the payoff for the SBA3 to have that five-position adjustability.
Overall Rating – Above Average (17/25)
Product Link: https://www.sb-tactical.com/product/sba3/
***Editor’s Note: The history and ruling of AR/AK pistol braces is a sordid one. From the initial ATF ruling in 2014, the “clarification” letter by Max Kingery (then-acting Chief of Firearms Technology Criminal Branch) in 2015, and a second ATF ruling in 2017, and the most recent ATF clarification in 2019 the regulation agency has struggled to provide a clear ruling on the application of such devices. Specifically shouldering, the topic of proper use of braces has caused more internet arguments among “internet lawyers”. Currently ATF guidance as of 2019 states as follows:
“To the extent the January 2015 Open Letter implied or has been construed to hold; that incidental, sporadic, or situational ‘use’ of an arm-brace (in its original approved configuration) equipped firearm from a firing position at or near the shoulder was sufficient to constitute a ‘redesign,’ such interpretations are incorrect and not consistent with ATF’s interpretation of the statute or the manner in which it has historically been enforced.”
As such, Per the ATF the use of an AR/AK pistol brace comes down to intent. Thus, accidental or “sporadic” shouldering of an AR pistol brace is not illegal. When consistently shouldered however, it demonstrates the intent to subvert regulations on SBRs by utilizing the AR pistol and brace as an impromptu work-around (and thus illegal). The same is said by adding accessories intended for precise accuracy as found with an SBR, such as scopes or utilizing irons. During the course of evaluations, any shouldering of the SBA3 was purely accidental, as efforts are made to test the brace within various range iterations to the extent of design, while still adhering to ATF regulations.
I am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via STL Shooting Enthusiasts, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.
The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the author. The views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.