This topic came up recently, in a discussion with a “supposedly” knowledgeable person when it comes to firearms. He kept insisting that he was very well trained and knows all about the M-16, so therefore, he knows all he needs to know when it comes to the AR-15 and its use.
Anyway, he repeats the same ignorant (which I maintain is not an insult, it is a description of a person’s knowledge of a topic) statements that we hear from the anti-gun crowd. His argument are what we always hear:
- It is a weapon of war.
- It is a high powered rifle.
- Nobody “needs” one.
- Nobody “needs” 30 rounds of ammunition.
- A rifle requires much more training.
He showed his ignorance. However, that doesn’t mean that the AR-15 is, necessarily, a good firearm for home defense. Let me be clear, the AR-15 is a great firearm for home defense.
To support my opinion on the topic, we can look at the threats that can be addressed and stopped by an AR-15, we can debunk a couple of the more common myths around an AR-15 when it comes to home defense and over penetration of its projectiles, we can review the benefits of the AR-15 in home defense, and we can hear from the actual experts in the field (DOL!).
- Burglars – Yes, the ones that break in thinking nobody is home or believe everyone is asleep and will not hear them while they move about and steal possession. Most burglars are trying to avoid contact, so they are most likely to be the ones that will run away when confronted. Of course, if cornered, accidentally, they might become violent, and they might become violent if confronted by somebody that is not a physical threat to them.
- Home Invaders – Now, this is probably the scariest of situations. Especially, as they are usually working as a team. Home invaders use their numbers and physical superiority to impose their will on their victims, and sometimes, it includes rapes and murders.
- Rioters/Looters – Mob mentality can lead to some really ugly situations. Large numbers of people choosing to make their own laws and to take what they want can be serious threats to the safety of the law abiding. A great example, among many great examples, is the 1992 LA Riots where Korean shop owners had to defend themselves as the police were nowhere to be found and the mob was out of control. A quick Internet search will provide lots of videos and pictures of shop owners and their families defending themselves using rifles, shotguns, and other firearms, one of which was the AR-15.
Why is the actual threat important? Well, it may not be obvious, but if there are multiple threats, having the proper defensive firearm can make all of the difference in survival.
We also need to consider that there are a few different types of criminals:
- Fear Motivated – There are those criminals that will run away as soon as they are confronted, especially if they are confronted by a person with a firearm. One instructor refers to these people as suffering from FOBSA, fear of being shot at. FOBSA is a common fear of the common criminal, and they make decisions based on FOBSA.
- Pain Motivated – There are those that must be physically dissuaded by being harmed in a confrontation. They need to be shown that they can be seriously harmed or killed by suffering some injury before they will disengage and leave. These are the ones that experience FIBS, f#ck I’ve been shot, and will then disengage from their attacks and stop being threats.
- Incredibly Motivated – Then, there are the worst kind of threats. The kind that must be completely disabled so that their body no longer responds to their mind, otherwise they will continue their attacks. They are incredibly motivated to accomplish their goal and won’t be dissuaded. Sometimes they are under the influence of drugs, and sometimes they are under the influence of some kind of fanaticism, like terrorists. They do not fear physical harm, and must be physically disabled to be stopped.
Too many people seem to, based on what they hear, believe the following about AR-15s:
- They are used to spray bullets around, indiscriminately.
- They are high-powered rifles.
- They have some kind of evil magic in them.
Spray and Pray – This is the term used to describe the behavior where somebody shoots and keeps shooting without aiming their rifle in the hope that the volume of fire will result in hits. Everyone that has been in the military understands that aimed fire is far more effective than “spray and pray” fire. Civilian owners also understand this same concept. You don’t just keep pulling the trigger in hope of hitting the target. Yet, some people still insist that the AR-15 is sprayed around and causes lots of injuries and death.
High Powered Rifle – The belief is that an AR-15 is a high-powered rifle and its bullets will go through walls and furniture and even into neighbor’s homes if they are used in defense. This is where people are not easily persuaded that their thinking is flawed. After all, they have read it on the Internet and everything on the Internet is true. They also know that in the movies, cars explode when shot with AR-15s, and people fly through the air if they are hit by a bullet from an AR-15. Reality, though, is that the AR-15 is really low on the power side when it comes to rifles. I put together this graph to show just where the AR-15 is on the scale of power, which is measured by the energy of the bullet that is fired from the gun. This graph shows how they compare to handguns, too. The blue bars are the two most common rounds used by an AR-15.
While an AR-15 has more energy than handguns, it is really low on the scale compared to other rifle rounds.
What is really interesting, and almost counter-intuitive, is that a handgun round will penetrate more walls than an AR-15 round. An AR-15 round, because of its smaller mass, is more easily deflected and stopped by the walls in a home. Don’t believe me, look at the testing by going to YouTube and search on “AR-15 wall penetration” and look at the videos. You will find that the AR-15 is probably the best choice when it comes to not penetrating as much as a pistol or shotgun, and, thus, being safer for home defense. Of course, whether these videos are still available depends on whether Google does ban them like they have said they will.
So why do some people, I am one, believe that the AR-15 is good for home defense? Let’s look at the benefits:
Easier to Aim – Holographic and red dot sights make it easy to aim an AR-15, and especially in lower light situations like in the home late at night. Something else to consider is that a handgun is much harder to aim as it requires using two arms, usually extended, that are not very stable. Stable grips on handguns are even harder to achieve with adrenaline pumping through your system. While a rifle is held against your shoulder and is much more stable.
Accessories – AR-15s have more space for accessories such as lights and fore grips with their picatinny rails. Firearm mounted lights can be setup and controlled from the hand grip. The addition of a light makes it easier to identify a threat and make sure it isn’t just a drunk neighbor that went into the wrong house.
Lighter Recoil – AR-15s are designed to have minimal recoil which makes it much easier to train with them and allows defenders to keep control of the gun and get follow-up shots. I, again, recommend watching some videos on YouTube for verification on what I am saying. There are some great videos of pre-teen girls using an AR-15 that demonstrate that it is easy to use.
Less Wall Penetration – As discussed above, the AR-15 is safer when it comes to over penetration and hitting innocents in other rooms.
Velocity is Higher – Again, somewhat counter intuitive when it comes to over penetration, velocity is actually a good thing when it comes to the hydrostatic shock inflicted on the attacker, and is more likely to seriously harm attackers and stop the threat to you and your family, quickly. Yes, YouTube is your friend, here, too.
Capacity – While many people say that nobody needs 30 rounds, there is no way to know what you will need in order to stop threats. For example, a rule of thumb is that you should engage each person with at least two shots to disable them. At least two, if you get good hits, should dissuade an attacker, but it might take more depending on the attacker’s motivation. If you have a few attackers, and they are dedicated, it may take more than a couple of shots per attacker, and you will likely have misses because of the adrenaline dump you are experiencing. Keep in mind that defenders do not have the choice to swap out magazines like an attacker does. An attacker can choose to stop their attack for a moment to reload, but a defender has to be ready to shoot at any moment and can’t take that short break.
Scary – There is a psychological impact of seeing the AR-15 in somebody’s hands as compared to a handgun. Of course, this scary look is why so many people want to ban them.
Slings – There are times that you must be hands free from your firearm, and a sling allows defenders to let the rifle hang down easier with a slinged rifle and be hands free, and then easily re-engage with the rifle.
Of course, there are the experts in the field. Here is a great article from one of them. I could provide MANY, but I think this one should be sufficient.
Please remember that we do not have a choice of who will be in the house when the occupants are attacked, we don’t control when an attack might happen, and we will not know their motivations or their dedication to causing harm.
I want to have the best defensive firearm available to have a good chance of surviving and protecting my loved ones. I, certainly, don’t need some ignorant person trying to tell me what is the best gun to use. I, absolutely, do not need some completely ignorant politician thinking that they should have the power to make the decision for me.