AR-15 Rifle for Home Defense
When considering the defense of your home against intruders there are a few question you must ask yourself and realities you must face.
Before we delve into the hardware aspect, we need to engage in a very simple question and answer exercise. That is, what is our legitimately anticipated problem and what is the most practical and effective solution.
Tough Questions: What is the Threat?
First and foremost, when you consider protecting your home, what is the anticipated threat? Naturally, we are concerned with the stereotypical burglar, the lone criminal. Professional criminals will generally “burgle” your home when you are out. The most dangerous threat is what we’ll call the “home invasion”.
One, two, three or more armed vermin force their way into an occupied home intent on robbery, rape, and potentially murder. While rare, the threat is real enough to send chills down the spine of any home owner.
Having spend my entire adult life dealing with vermin and criminals as a police officer and professional bodyguard, I long ago classified felons into three categories: Level 1, 2, and 3. A level 1 felon when confronted with an armed and determined defender will surrender or seek to escape. Most criminals don’t want to lose their lives in order to steal your TV or wallet.
The Level 2 felon will not cease or desist in their behavior until they experience some type of physical damage. Their injuries may or may not be life threatening, but the fact that they have been injured causes them to flee or surrender.
The final classification, Level 3, is the most dangerous. These attackers will not stop until they have sustained enough physical damage that their body will no longer obey their brain’s commands to keep going. While level 3 is the smallest percentage of bad guys they are obviously the most dangerous to the citizen. These criminals do not fear guns or gunfire and only after they’ve received sufficient physical damage will they stop.
Level 1 and 2 are stopped psychologically, level 3 must be shut down physiologically.
Unfortunately, the conundrum facing the home owner or citizen is that you will have no idea what type or level of felon you are facing until after the fight is over. In a home invasion scenario there may be all three levels present. We hope for level 1 but must be prepared for level 3. If you are familiar with the FBI Miami Shootout, both felons in that case were 3’s.
Given the previous information regarding potential attackers, we must consider the following. 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.
Regarding the modern AR-15 and its many clones, numerous caliber choices abound. Nonetheless, the 5.56mm/.223 Remington is the most popular chambering. Despite being maligned due to the growing pains it experienced during Vietnam and the ‘green-tip’ armor-piercing ammo zipping straight through thin-bodied enemies, the current configuration of the 5.56x45mm is indeed a man-stopping cartridge.
The United States Military, primarily the US Army and Marine Corps, have learned a great deal during the last ten years about the effectiveness of 5.56mm ammunition on genuine human targets. There are currently two contenders for the 5.56mm crown; the Mk262 and the Mk318 Mod0. The Mk262 uses a 77grain BTHP projectile and the Mk318 uses a 62grain OTM. Both loads have shown tremendous promise and excellent real-world results in combat.
While the two previous loads have military designations, equivalent civilian loads are available from all the big ammo makers such as Black Hills, CorBon, Federal, and Hornady. A prudent shopper should be able to find either legitimate 5.56mm or .223 Remington ammunition in very similar configurations. I would deliberately stay away from varmint or prairie dog loads with light-weight projectiles in the 30-40 grain range. While these might indeed produce horrible surface wounds, that is not our goal. Our goal is to penetrate the attacker’s body all the way through to the vital parts and shut them down.
When you consider your potential threat, the benefits of a rifle over a handgun in both handling characteristics and power delivered onto target; there really is little argument to be had. Yes, handguns are carried because they are convenient. Men wiser than I have offered this advice; we use handguns to fight our way to a rifle.
The author, Paul Markel, training with the black rifle at Gunsite Academy.
If there is no anticipated threat we carry a handgun. When we know there is a threat we arm ourselves with a rifle. Also, keep in mind it’s not just about you, it’s about your family and the ones you love. It might be your spouse or older children defending the home while you are away. Don’t you want them to have the most effective tools available to defend their lives?
The choice is up to you. Make an intelligent decision based upon fact and experience, not emotion and gun shop gossip.