I’m not typically a fan of comparisons like “should you choose this one or should you choose that one?” Most gun owners are in a situation in which they own (or, at least, could own) more than one firearm at the same time, so the question presents a false choice excluding one or the other.
Still, people keep asking the question: “Should I buy an AR-15 or a pistol?” The answer to this question, like the answers to most comparison questions, is, “It depends.” It depends on your current budget, where you’ll be using the firearm, specifics about your body type and composition (gender, height, etc.), what you’ll be using the firearm for, and personal preference.
What do I mean by this? Well, take the question of use. If you’re going deer hunting, I wouldn’t recommend taking a pistol for that purpose. Could it get the job done? Yeah, probably, though probably not as cleanly and quickly as an AR-15. So, I’d recommend getting an AR-15 over a pistol for that purpose.
On the flip side, if you’re looking for everyday carry for personal protection, then I’m going to recommend that you get a compact pistol. Why? Because an AR-15 isn’t easy to hide on your person no matter how loose your clothing is. An AR-15 is a great firearm for self-protection, but it simply isn’t practical as an everyday carry firearm.
If you will be using your firearm in small enclosed spaces, then a pistol may be the better choice for ease of movement. On the other hand, though, plenty of people choose an AR-15 rifle for home defensive use, too, so we’ll have to chalk this one up to personal preference.
Tom McHale points out one thing to keep in mind if you travel much. McHale writes,
Most gun laws related to car transport are pistol centric. Many states allow carry of a loaded handgun in a vehicle with or without a concealed carry permit but prohibit carry of a loaded rifle.
It’s worth noting McHale’s follow up comment, though:
Check your local laws carefully as every state has different requirements for firearm transport.
So, if you must choose between a pistol and an AR-15 rifle, which one should you pick? The answer is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer other than “It depends.” Think about what fits your situation and intended uses to figure out which one will be right for you.