Welcome to The TFB Debate Club Dodecahedron – where two humans fight to the death in honor of Earth’s magnificence. Actually, it more like two middle school kids arguing over who is the NFL’s best quarterback. With the lack of presidential debates looming over the smoldering remains of the election season, we thought it might be fun to put our own people center stage for a bit of friendly discourse. This week Luke and Doug square off on a common debate topic: should you pick the AR-15 for home defense?
If the TFB Debate Club series works well through the first week of November, we can discuss moving it into the regular rotation, maybe bringing in some guest authors and industry experts. Wait, you can actually debate the existence of a debate club? Sweet.
Like all debate clubs, the authors stating a point of view may not personally believe in their arguments. In fact, I’m going to encourage writers to take a counterpoint to some of their most solidly held personal beliefs. The exercise should be good for us as reviewers as well as for you as the readers. Maybe we will all learn something. Or maybe we’ll just give you all a good laugh.
Thanks for reading TFB!
The Benefits Of Using An AR-15 For Home Defense
We’ve all thought of those scenarios where something goes bump in the night and we’re forced to hop out of bed, cheeks flapping in the wind, and grabbing our home defense weapon ready to take on whatever has invaded our home. However, not all of us likely have the same weapon in mind when it comes to this particular scenario. Personally, the AR-15 platform is the first thing that comes to mind for several reasons that we’ll go over in this article. Hopefully, by the end, I’ll have you convinced that the AR-15 is a solid choice for a home defense weapon.
Low and Controllable Recoil
Most handguns feature a relatively low weight and a high recoil impulse for the platform being used. Simply put, a standard home defense caliber like 9mm will have significantly more recoil when compared to a rifle based on the characteristics of each of the platforms. A handgun has only two points of contact with your body whereas a rifle has at minimum, three points if properly used (four if optimally used).
If shot placement is the king when it comes to deadly force. Making sure that shots are landing in the right place is far easier to do with a more stable platform like an AR-15 rifle, carbine, or SBR. Coupled with the relatively mild recoil of either the .223 or 5.56 cartridge, you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who can’t keep the gun on target. With a shotgun, you get six high recoil shots at close range if you’re lucky, with a pistol, perhaps you get up to 17 shots of moderate recoil at close range but you’ll have to manage with a far less stable platform. With a rifle, you can easily put 30 rounds from a standard capacity magazine in a 10-inch group at 10 yards with no problems.
As a secondary result of the low recoil, you gain greater accuracy when compared to a handgun with both experienced and inexperienced shooters. As an added bonus, while most handguns and their cartridges are only reliably accurate out to about 25 yards, an AR-15 can be reliably accurate out to 300 yards plus if you ever need to defend yourself or your property from such distances, as a byproduct of shorter distances, the AR-15s effectiveness only goes up which leads us to our next point.
When it comes to comparing rifle and pistol ammunition and their terminal performance there really is no comparison. A 40 grain 5.56 round performs much better in more than one regard when it comes to stopping a target. Due to a number of factors, pistol rounds generally rely on expansion to inflict lethal damage to a target. On the other hand, rifles rely on speed to initiate a yawing motion upon the impact that causes lethal damage.
I’ll address the issue of overpenetration here: None of us want overpenetration, regardless of how lethal the ammunition is, none of us want to risk hitting something beyond our target and killing someone that we don’t intend to. Overpentration is actually less of a concern with a rifle than with a pistol. The harsh reality is that bullets are meant to penetrate. In Russian, there’s a saying: Pulya – dura. Which means: “the bullet is a fool”. This means the shooter has to do all the thinking and take all responsibility.
Even an FBI study concluded that the 5.56/.223 round is safer in a home defense situation when compared to other methods. You can read their full study and overpenetration testing here.
The best you can hope for in this instance is to mitigate the bullet penetration factor and we can do this easily with the right ammunition selection. Selecting a high velocity, hollow point, or defensive AR-15 ammunition can prevent too much penetration from taking place if a shot is missed and decrease the likelihood that you’ll hit something you don’t intend to. When it comes down to it, you want to have the most effective tool on hand that you have in your arsenal, and for most of us, that will be an AR-15.
Statistically, most gunfights involving civilians and felons takes place at a distance of between three to five yards, involves three and one-half rounds shot, and lasts under 4 seconds. That might be a statistical average, however, being prepared doesn’t mean doing the bare minimum. This is why something like a shotgun with a capacity of 6 or a handgun with 10 to 15 rounds of capacity is less suitable when you have a rifle with 30 rounds available to you.
Home invasions involving multiple assailants do happen and many citizens have used their AR-15s to great effect to fend off multiple attackers at once. Just take these few examples below:
GLEN ST. MARY, Fla – Deputies arrested five people, two of them teens, after a home invasion Sunday in Glen St. Mary escalated into a deadly shootout, according to the Baker County Sheriff’s Office.
The Sheriff’s Office said the five were among seven masked individuals armed with guns who barged into a mobile home on County Road 125 about 4 a.m. to confront four people staying there over a feud.
SUMMERFIELD, Fla. – Two intruders, one of whom was wearing a horror movie mask, were killed Wednesday night in an apparent shootout during a Marion County home invasion, deputies said.
The home invasion happened around 8:20 p.m. at a home in the 14900 block of Southeast 32nd Court Road in Summerfield.
Deputies said that when investigators arrived to the scene, they found one of the intruders, 21-year-old Keith Jackson Jr., who was wearing a Jason Voorhees mask from the movie “Friday the 13th,” dead. Another intruder, 21-year-old Keith Jackson Jr., and the homeowner were found suffering from gunshot wounds, according to deputies. Jackson later died, according to officials.
The homeowner is in stable condition. He was found with an AR-15 rifle next to his legs.
Much like we don’t keep fire extinguishers inside our houses expecting a fire, we similarly don’t keep rifles at the ready expecting a gang of violent thieves to try and rob our house every night – but that shouldn’t stop us from keeping it handy just in case the unthinkable happens.
Pistols do have their place for defensive use, most notably when you’re out and about and can’t conveniently secure the weapon while you’re out of your home. That being said the AR-15 is not only more practical but probably the ideal home defense weapon for more reasons than I’ve listed above. We would be here all day if I listed out every single reason the AR-15 was a more effective home defense tool than either a pistol or a shotgun.
With that said I’d like to hear your thoughts on this subject. What is your go-to tool for home defense? I’d be interested to see if any of you have gone the route of using a pistol caliber carbine or perhaps a short-barreled rifle or AR-15 pistol route to bridge the gap between the two popular platforms. Your thoughts and comments below – is the AR-15 a good home defense weapon?
The Drawbacks Of Using An AR-15 For Home Defense
There are pros and cons to everything, and yes, even the famous AR-15 rifle chambered for 5.56 NATO or .223 Remington (and similar rifle cartridges) has its own drawbacks in certain scenarios. One of those scenarios, in my opinion, is when it comes to the topic of home defense. Plenty of people tout keeping an AR-15 ready for home defense, but I’m generally against it for several reasons. Let’s explore the downsides together.
WANT TO LOSE YOUR HEARING? BECAUSE THAT’S HOW YOU LOSE YOUR HEARING
The biggest factor against using an AR-15 for home defense in my mind is the extremely loud “crack” that comes from touching off a round or five in an enclosed space (or anywhere). Most people don’t have suppressors to reduce the dB’s produced by rifle calibers being fired. Despite the growing numbers of people joining Pete in his quest to silence everything, the NFA process is still daunting and invasive to a lot of gun owners.
Sources on recorded decibel levels between a pistol and rifle seem to vary, so I’ll refrain from posting any nifty info-graphs here and let you do your own research in that regard. However, I’ve seen at least one source that documented a 9mm pistol compared to an AR-15, with the difference being 3dB, which is a doubling of volume. What’s missing though is the testing methods and load data, so take it with a grain of salt.
Another prudent thing to do, regardless of which gun you use for home defense, is to put on some sort of electronic hearing protection. This allows you to have a heightened sense of hearing when checking a bump in the night, while canceling out any shots if you should have to pull the trigger, but how many people actually don ear-pro for home defense I couldn’t say.
Another consideration when using an AR-15 for home defense is being mindful of your muzzle blast if you’re surrounded by family members you’re trying to protect. Aside from the deafening sound issue, the direct blast from a flash hider or compensator could cause some injuries. This type of occurrence probably happens less frequently, but it’s one more thing to worry about if you’re making a “last stand” with the family huddled together. The following video from the Demolition Ranch YouTube channel demonstrates the power of the muzzle blast from a .308 AR-10 style rifle by placing fruit and paper towels next to the muzzle (and later the same demonstration with a .50 BMG if you’re curious).
Naturally, staying alive is the main goal in any home defense situation, but keeping your hearing and skin intact is certainly a desirable secondary goal.
TIGHT SPACES AND FLUID SITUATIONS
Depending on barrel length and which buttstock is installed, the size of an AR-15 rifle ranges from 29.75 to 39 inches on the typical, non-NFA extremes, and can be a large package for navigating hallways, furniture, and right and left-hand corners. Another aspect of the size issue is that you have to make sure you don’t overextend the rifle and give an intruder the opportunity to grab it.
For those that choose the AR-15 for home defense, can your family members hold, operate and aim the rifle in your stead? If you’re injured, can a loved one pick up the rifle and defend the home with it? If you have a family member that’s uninterested to learn, the AR-15 will be a hard sell when it comes to telling them this is the go-to gun of the house. I’ve seen some police officers that struggle with it after years of only touching the rifle once every 365 days. The AR-15 is a great rifle… for those that want to learn it.
If you should discover that the bump in the night isn’t actually a deadly force situation, but rather someone needing medical assistance, or some other emergency, slinging your rifle may hinder your movement in and out of a building or vehicle, or make people wonder why you brought a rifle to a house fire.
In general, the height of the sight over the barrel won’t be an issue in most home defense scenarios. However, if the situation turns into a hostage situation, that 2.5-inch difference could certainly come into play.
Yet another reason the most popular rifle isn’t the best suited for home defense is that it requires two hands to be the most efficient with it while shooting. You can shoot an AR one-handed, but moving and shooting with it is best done with both hands, especially in confined spaces. One-handed rifle shooting reduces your ability to stay on target if you need to use a hand for something else, such as escorting a child away from danger.
For the record, I really like AR-15’s, and I’m not saying that you can’t use one for home defense, lots of people do. However, it’s important to look at the AR critically and make sure it works for you, your family, and your immediate surroundings. Each home defense firearm has its own downsides, and as much as the AR-15 is America’s rifle, it’s not the best hammer for every nail.
For those of you that keep an AR-15 handy for home defense, what do you do to offset some of these negative aspects? Are there any other aspects that keep the AR-15 from being the best home defense weapon?