The AR-15 For Home Defense

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 1 month ago

Paul Markel writes a fawning piece at AmmoLand on the AR-15 being the king of home defense.

What is the most effective tool to engage and defeat these vermin as rapidly as possible? Handguns are carried for convenience, not power. No handgun, regardless of caliber or configuration, can produce the same effect as a centerfire rifle.

This is not opinion, this is physics. Crunch the numbers and even the mighty .44 Magnum pales in comparison to the 5.56x45mm or 7.62x39mm. Many years ago an instructor friend of mine offered that “a handgun is simply a rifle waiting to grow up”.

Also, it cannot be denied that a long gun (rifle or shotgun) as a tool is much easier to aim and index on a target than a handgun. Again, this is simply physics. A rifle has four points of contact with the body and a long sight radius. By comparison, a handgun has only two points of contact, the left and right hand, and a short sight radius. Rifles are infinitely more forgiving of slight errors in sight alignment and body movement than are handguns.

As a practical matter, during the panic and adrenaline dump of a life threatening attack, the rifle will be inherently easier to index on target and as an added benefit transition to additional targets more quickly than will any pistol, regardless of make, model, or caliber. While you might desire to argue this point, your energy might be better served elsewhere.

Here is a quick number crunch for the doubting Thomases in the audience. The following numbers come directly from Hornady. The Hornady .44 Magnum 180grain FTX load generates 610 foot pounds of energy at the muzzle. By comparison, the 5.56mm 75g. BTHP generates 1410 FPE and the 6.8mmSPCII cartridge with a 110g. BTHP bullet produced 1588 FPE.

To be sure, I like the AR-15 for home defense, and I’ve written so before.  But it’s more complicated than Paul makes it out to be.  I recommend (as I have before) that you send your wife and children to the movies one night, turn the lights out, and practice turning corners and developing your sight picture in rooms with a rifle and tactical light.  I have.

I also carry my weapon from room to room with me at night.  One of my handguns isn’t sitting too far from me as I write.  So I recommend that in order to get the full effect of using a rifle exclusively for home defense, you tote your AR-15 from room to room with you at night.

You see, there are legitimate reasons for handguns, portability being one, maneuverability being another.  No one argues that a rifle will deliver more punch due entirely to muzzle velocity.  But don’t tell me that a .45 caliber 230 grain fat boy won’t deliver enough punch to handle most situations.  And don’t tell that to John Basilone.  Toward the dawn of the battle, Basilone fought Japanese soldiers using only a .45 pistol.

  • Justin

    I like the AR for HD. One must practice, though, in order to know how to move with it.

    That’s why home defenders should have the “home advantage.” Hopefully, a person using the AR knows all the places in his home where he’ll have to make some more room for himself, transition from right to left to cover a corner, the best angles to clear his stairways, etc.

    It’s not enough to just “have an AR for home defense.” For that matter, it’s not enough just to “have a pistol for home defense,” either. It’s all about practice. I would add that for a person without or with little practice, a pistol might perhaps prove to be more forgiving, maneuver-wise.

    I have no doubts that the .45 will get the job done, and I wouldn’t hesitate to reach for a pistol for things that go bump in the night. I think the AR is likely a better choice for me simply because I have much more training with it (thanks, US Army). Still, there are situations where a pistol might be more effective, for the reasons you pointed out.

  • Chuck

    I’ve been asked, by those who know I do it, “why do you carry that [handgun]; what are you afraid of?”

    My response is simple, “I don’t carry because I’m expecting trouble, I carry just in case. Just as I buckle my seat-belt, not because I’m expecting to wreck my car, but you never know when shit will happen and you’re better off if you take steps to mitigate the unexpected.”

    I then follow up by saying, “If I were expecting trouble, I’d bring my rifle.”

    It’s not either/or, it’s both. If I have the kind of warning I’d need to get to my AR in a home defense situation, I’d take the rifle over the handgun every time. But chances are, if bad stuff goes down while I’m at home, my handguns will be what I can get to first, especially if (as is often the case) I’m carrying at the time. And when I’m away from home, almost without exception, the handgun is what I will have with me.

    I can mow the lawn or run to the grocery store to pick up some ice cream with my Glock 19 tucked under my t-shirt and no one is the wiser and I feel pretty prepared to deal with trouble. Try doing either of those things with a locked and loaded carbine slung across your back and see how that works out for you.

  • Nutty Old Geezer

    Did we not just read about the police officer involved in a shooting using a 45? He shot the perp multiple times including heart, lung and liver and the perp did not go down until a head shot? Now the cop carries about 150 rounds for his new Glock 17 AND his AR in the front seat with him. You just never know. Practice Practice Practice.

  • Mark Matis

    How well will a pistol work against body armor? When they’ve blasted their way into your home and they’re shooting back at you, just how much opportunity do you have to get in a head shot against the stack?


    Seems to me some of the replies here make argument for a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with Winchester’s Supreme Elite PDX1 ammo. PDX shotgun ammo is 3 pellets of 00 buckshot nested on top of a 1 oz rifled slug.

    There is no argument for any other firearm for home defense except personal preference. But for getting the job done right a 12-gauge with Winchester’s PDX ammo goes without question.

You are currently reading "The AR-15 For Home Defense", entry #10873 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) AR-15s,Guns and was published June 4th, 2013 by Herschel Smith.

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