AR-15: The Ideal Home Defense Gun?

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When people think self-defense, handguns most often come to mind. But with its versatile design, higher capacity and a wealth of great ammo options available, an AR just might be the only home defense gun you’ll ever need to own.

Right off the bat we know rifle rounds do a much better job of stopping an attacker than handgun rounds, even if the handgun round is fired out of a long barrel. Velocity is a key element to stopping power.

The .223/5.56 is moving at around 3,000 feet per second, and while it isn’t magic bullet, it’s a far cry better than any pistol round. Another advantage of the .223/5.56 is its limited penetration. The shape and velocity of the round cause it to immediately expend or dissipate its energy once it strikes something.

A .223/5.56 self-defense round, steel-core ammo designed to penetrate should be avoided as it will travel through less sheetrock and such than any typical handgun calibers. Double-aught buckshot is basically a .33 caliber ball that can go through a lot of material before coming to a stop.

The .308, or 7.62×39 Russian will rip through your house, down the street and into another home. Probably best to avoid these for home defense. So the .223/5.56 provides good stopping power with limited worries about over penetration, especially considering the variety of bullet types and weights available.

The AR works well for close distance, like inside your home, and at extended ranges. For self-defense it would be an unusual circumstance where you need to engage a threat at two hundred yards, but you might need to put down a deer for meat at that distance.

The solution to your defensive problem may require a surgical shot on the threat, like within a two or three-inch area from seventy yards. With the .223/5.56 you can do all these things with confidence.

You can run a variety of ammo through a shotgun (00 buck, birdshot, slugs) but you’re still limited. Above I mentioned there are over penetration worries with 00 buck, and definitely with slugs.

Home-Defense-Guns-AR15-2Number 4 shot is a good choice for home defense, as it cuts down on penetration, but you have to know how it’s going to pattern at various distances. And yes, you still have to actually aim it.

Then there are fliers, a pellet that can zing off course, and the plastic wad can be unpredictable as it travels fast enough to injure or kill bystander at close range. With the AR you can place that one round exactly where you need it from three to three hundred yards.

The AR is lightweight, simple to operate and has limited recoil. You can learn to use it effectively in a short amount of time, and it doesn’t require a lot of upper body strength to operate. All the controls to manipulate it are in just the right spot. Stoner, who designed the AR, was an ergonomic genius.

With the proper techniques it works for left-hand shooters just as well. The .223/5.56 cartridge, again coupled with Stoner’s design, creates minimal recoil that is easily managed. A lot of shooters, even hardcore operators can’t help but flinch when pressing off a magnum round from a twelve-gauge. The light recoil of the AR allows you to quickly recover, getting back on target, ready to fire again if necessary.

“But,” you ask, “what about it being longer than my pistol?” Not to worry. If you actually compare a shooter with a sixteen-inch barrel AR against a shooter holding a pistol extended, the muzzles of both guns will be about even.

Another advantage of the AR is magazine capacity. For home defense I keep a twenty-round mag in my carbine. I shouldn’t need that many rounds but having them and knowing I can use a thirty-round mag is comforting. Additional ammo in the mag isn’t a license to shoot more, it just means if it is necessary then I have to reload less.

One more plus about the AR that can’t be overlooked is its psychological advantage. I’ve seen many people who were covered with a pistol who didn’t really seem concerned. Carbines command a lot more respect.

Even back when longbows were more accurate and effective, Napoleon recognized that the sound, smoke and psychological effects of guns were a huge advantage on the battlefield. The same applies today.


Modern Shooter Magazine Spring 2014This article is an excerpt from the new magazine Modern Shooter Spring 2014 presented by Gun Digest.

4 thoughts on “AR-15: The Ideal Home Defense Gun?

  1. Suburban

    I would argue that an AK-74 type rifle is better than an AR-15, at least for home defense. You probably won’t need more than 30 rounds, so a rock-n-lock reload is not really going to be a drawback. AKs are boringly reliable, and essentially idiot-proof. Unless you have a 10-acre yard, accuracy is not going to be an issue. 5.45x39mm is essentially interchangeable with 5.56mm in terms of ballistics.

    Heavy 44s/45s bullets may over penetrate, same with shotguns, which is not good if you have neighbors.

  2. lightwind

    I would like to add that the AR-15 in 300 Blackout with 230 gr bullets and subsonic velocity are a great combination with a suppressor. It has power, modest barrier penetration (no over penetration), all the advantages of an AR-15 and almost no sound and recoil. Consider that the bullet is moving at about 1100 ft/sec and weighs as much as a .45 round. You have 20 or 30 in the mag and you don’t have to worry about deafening the dog or the kids. You don’t need ear protection, even inside the house. If you have not fired a full power 12 gauge round or a .44 mag round in an enclosure you are in for some real punishment. I am sure I will not take the time to grab my safety equipment if someone is breaking into my house. It is nice to know that taking the shot won’t send my kids to the ear doctor.

  3. nmgene

    I am sorry but you get hit with a 240 or 250 grain hollowpoint out of a 44 or 45 you are going down. Any hit with a 223 is doubtful. No I dont like shotguns for home defense because there may be a time when you need to shoot the perp in the head because he is holding a family member in front of him 223s have a habit of bouncing off skulls and if you dont hit the heart the perp may not even realize he has been hit, adrenilin and drugs seem to exclude trama. But a 44 or 45 will knock him down.

    1. ctopher5669

      nmgene I am sorry but you have no idea what you are talking about. A 9mm, .40 or 45 hit a body with the same force that a baseball does. The 45 knock down power is pure myth. Read this…

      http://gundata.org/images/fbi-handgun-ballistics.pdf

      Yes 70% of people that know they have been shot will fall down because its a psycological re-action to being shot, whether from a .22 or 45.

      It is pretty simple. Pistols poke holes, rifles tear stuff up. A 223 round will leave the barrel between 2700 and 3200 FPS. A 45 will do the same and 900FPS. Penetration is king. A slow 45 hollow point that is weakened so it will actually spread out could break up on a leather jacket rib bone combination and not penetrate is enough into a vital organ to stop someone. A 223 round will penetrate enough because is has tons of speed behind it. Any round running out of steam (speed) can deflect off of angle objects like a skull or car windshield. Also the noise alone from an AR will 5x louder than any handgun, which if you are on the wrong end will put fear in you. Long guns give the shooter more control with 4 points of contact (forearm, grip, shoulder cheek weld) a pistol two if you use both hands. Long guns are harder to take away, especially if have a sling on. If you miss with the AR, or the first round does not do the job…you got 29 more. Let your wife shoot the AR vs a 45 and let her tell you which is easy to shoot.

      I will take an AR over a 45 8 days a week when it counts.

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