AR-15 “pistols,” or short-barreled rifles (SBRs), are extremely popular these days due to their ultra-compact size, high-magazine capacity and .223/5.56 rifle-caliber chambering. Their extremely short barrels (7 inches is the average length) make them a viable option for civilian home defense, ranch use, rural property security, building searches and patrol and SWAT operations by law enforcement.

Back in 2006, I had the opportunity to work with one of the very earliest SBR AR-15 uppers on the market from the M16 Clinic. The M16 Clinic, which is now out of business, produced a 10.5-inch upper called the Viper. Our 727 Counter Terror Training Unit adopted the Viper as our official AR-15 because it was ideal for close-quarter counter-assaults of aircraft, buses or trains that may have been taken over by heavily armed terrorists.

SBR technology has come far since the Viper’s time. The Viper was high-maintenance compared to today’s offerings. In order to make the Viper operate with reasonable reliability, an extra-heavy recoil spring and heavy-duty recoil buffer had to be used in the lower. Steel, 30-round HK magazines with extra-heavy magazine springs were also needed to ensure proper cycling. Regular magazines would not run the gun. The Viper was relatively heavy due to the mandatory quad rails for mounting additional lasers, lights, vertical foregrips or sighting equipment. At the time, it was the only game in town.

Today, short-barreled uppers no longer need special adaptations to get them to run and to run reliably. The new Scorpion 7-inch upper chambered in .223 Wylde by Kinetic Concealment is one such upper and features the latest in tactical design elements deemed essential for a weapon of this type.

One of the first things I noticed when I received the Scorpion from Josh Sykes, owner of Kinetic Concealment and Ironside Armory, was its extremely light weight. This is primarily due to its skeletonized, free-floated, forged aluminum forend.

I mentioned the quad rail forends that were popular over a decade ago. It was soon learned that quad rails are uncomfortable when grasped by bare hands. Various forms of rail covers were designed to cushion the hands against the mostly unused portions of the rails.

After it was realized that we did not need all that forend real estate festooned with rails, various systems appeared that allowed users to position small rail segments on more compact, hand-fitting forends where they would be needed most. One of the most common rail systems used today is the KeyMod, which the Scorpion’s forend uses.

Two KeyMod rail segments are included, and even though the Scorpion’s rail is skeletonized, there are more than enough KeyMod slots to position needed accessories. The forged aluminum upper and the top of the forend feature railing along their entire length. The forend is very comfortable in the hand, and its wide-open slots give an impressive view of the barrel along with outstanding ventilation. The appearance of the forend and barrel is futuristic in a sort of “Star Wars” kind of way, which isn’t a bad thing. The reason for the enhanced appearance is the fact that the barrel is bright stainless steel. As mentioned, the chambering is .223 Wylde, which Sykes chose rather than a .556 chamber due to the Wylde’s increased accuracy potential when using either 5.56 or .223 ammo. The twist rate is 1:7.

The Scorpion uses a black barrel extender that protrudes just beyond the forend. The extender does not compensate, brake or reduce muzzle flash. A compensator or flash hider would not be useful in this particular position since hot powder gases would be blown up through the aluminum rail, and deleterious effects would appear in short order. The extender is attached to the muzzle with ½ x 28 pitch threads and can be removed to mount a suppressor. Besides looking good, the extender pushes all the muzzle blast forward away from the interior and forend.

While no bolt unit is included with the Scorpion, a Kinetic Concealment enhanced Ambi-Charging handle is. This handle is a great addition to any AR-15 and allows right- or left-handed shooters to use their support hand to charge their AR while maintaining control over their shooting by holding the pistol grip. Its larger-than-standard size makes access easy even with optics mounted. It and the DPMS bolt carrier slide easily into the upper forged aluminum receiver manufactured by Digital Tool and Automation.

My chief of police was looking to purchase Scorpion uppers for use on our department’s M4s. We decided to put the sample to the test to determine its reliability and ballistic performance. We mounted the Scorpion on one of our M4 patrol rifle lowers for testing. This brings me to a point concerning legality.

The Scorpion is legal for civilians to own without ATF approval if it is set up as an AR-15 pistol. When I first saw the Scorpion at the USCCA Expo this year, it was mounted on an AR-15 lower that had a KAK Shockwave pistol stabilizer instead of an M4 adjustable stock. At first, I thought the KAK Shockwave was actually a standard AR-15 adjustable stock because of how it felt. As long as either this or a similar pistol stabilizer system is in place, then you are in compliance with federal law. However, if you have a standard M4 adjustable rifle stock in place, then the mounted Scorpion is considered an SBR, which requires ATF approval. Note also that if you add a vertical foregrip on a pistol-configured Scorpion, you change it into an SBR. The Scorpion upper is perfectly legal to ship directly to your home outside of state and local regulations. What you do with it after you receive it defines what it becomes and the legal status. Even when set up as an SBR, I would not use a vertical foregrip because gripping the forend back at the magazine well is as good as it gets.

I was sent a new battle optic from Lucid to use for testing. The HD7 Generation III red-dot sight is its latest red-dot optic evolution, and it is a big improvement over the previous version that I tested a couple of years ago. While the HD7 has the external appearance on a Trijicon ACOG, it is a distinctly different sight. With a solid, one-piece 6063 aluminum housing, the HD7 is battle-worthy at a reasonable price. It is both submersible and fog-proof. While prior models were powered by a single AA battery, the Generation III is powered by a single AAA battery.

Three different, selectable, illuminated reticles are available in addition to a basic red dot. One of the best improvements made to the HD7 is the addition of turret caps so that your zero stays locked in. The power and adjustment buttons have been made more durable and are easier to use. All in all, it is a good choice for the Scorpion — especially with an MSRP of $259.

We took the Scorpion to the department range for testing. The Scorpion performs so much better than the old Viper that it is almost unbelievable. The balance and the ease with which it can be pointed were excellent. If the Scorpion were to be used as a pistol rather than an SBR, I would probably use iron sights instead of an optic to reduce its weight. There were zero failures to feed and function regardless of ammo type used. Test loads consisted of Winchester 55-grain “white box” FMJ ammo, Winchester 55- and 64-grain Power-Point ammo, and HPR Black Ops 62-grain jacketed hollow-point ammo.

The Lucid HD7 was sighted dead-on right out of the box for the Scorpion regardless of reticle used. I preferred the “dot in circle” reticle. Most of our shooting was done between 50 feet and 25 yards on an 89-degree day. Accuracy was as good as what I am used to from a quality M4 carbine, which is saying a lot. Testing was limited because, truthfully, none of us wanted to hang under the rare Ohio bright sun for a long testing session.

We all were highly satisfied with the Scorpion’s performance. We tested it using a 20-round magazine rather than a 30-round one, which is the way I would specify it for patrol use. A 20-round magazine allows carbines to be maneuvered more easily from a cruiser. The Scorpion is loud because the muzzle is much closer to the face and also because a lot of powder gets burned outside the barrel, but that is part of the trade-off for compactness.

Another trade-off for compactness is velocity loss. I tested the Scorpion over the chronograph at 15 feet using the 62-grain Black Ops ammo. While it was rated at 3,021 feet per second with 1,257 foot-pounds from a 24-inch barrel, I knew velocity loss would be significant from the 7-inch-barreled Scorpion. The average muzzle velocity was 2,192 feet per second, and muzzle energy was 661 foot-pounds, which equals the muzzle energy of the 10mm pistol round. These numbers are still pretty significant, and considering the close-range use the Scorpion is intended for, they are nothing to sneeze at.

MSRP of the Scorpion is $339. It will be available very soon through Kinetic Concealment’s specialized Ironside Armory website, which is not yet fully operational.  For additional information and contact right now, go to