Living with the AR-15
by Robert H. Boatman
As a home defense gun, a properly set up AR-15 is easier to shoot accurately and delivers more firepower than a handgun, is more precise than a shotgun, more controllable than a subgun, and is easily configured with lights, lasers and other accessories to give you further advantages over any uninvited guests who may come calling after visiting hours.
There are those who cite a certain “intimidation factor” as an additional benefit of an AR over a handgun, especially an AR equipped with a laser sighting device. Those people watch too much television. As a general rule, anybody who is dumb enough to get caught stumbling around somebody else’s house in the dark can not be counted on to have brains enough to distinguish an AR-15 from an economy-size can of spray-on insect repellent, or to tell the difference between a trembling laser beam and a spinning disco ball. Even if your personal perp is smarter and more mentally alert than that, the fact remains that, while nobody has ever been killed by a well placed shot of intimidation, relying on squishy psychological threats instead of bullets has often had a fatal effect on the naive practitioner.
A laser sight may enhance your ability to aim in low light, as tritium inserts in your iron sights definitely will. Unmagnified red-dot sights can be useful with practice. Unless you are completely suicidal, please remember to detach any long-range scope you might have on your AR before you even think about putting it in a place where somebody might be tempted to use it to defend your home from an invader lurking a few feet away. One accessory you must have on your home-defense AR is a bright white light for target identification. One of these lights mounted on your rail system can disorient and maybe even temporarily blind the bad guy but this is a secondary benefit to the primary one, which is knowing who it is (and who it is not) you’re about to shoot.
One more reminder that seems superfluous but apparently needs to be mentioned is that an AR-15 is a rifle, not a room deodorizer. Wield it from the shoulder, not the hip, use your sights, and fire one well aimed round at a time.
Defending your home from robbers, thieves, invaders and assorted nut cases does not mean you have to shoot up your neighborhood. Bullets that whiz through walls almost always create more problems than they solve, and whizzing through walls is one of the things a full-metal-jacket .223 bullet does best. It’s called overpenetration, and there are various ways to alleviate it so your neighbors don’t start shooting back.
A .223 bullet that mushrooms to twice its size and skids to a halt inside the suddenly expanded chest of your uninvited guest is far preferable to one that passes out the back of his MTV T-shirt right through the framed Home-Sweet-Home embroidery hanging on the wall behind him into your grandmother’s TV set. The latter is what you can expect from military-type .223 ammo, the former is the way good hunting hollowpoints and rapidly expanding varmint loads are supposed to behave. If your bullet will transform a prairie dog into a spray of pink mist, it will do much the same to your guest’s heart and lungs without interrupting your grandmother’s favorite soap opera. Another safe bet is pre-fragmented “frangible” bullets, so fragile in construction they’re designed to break up into tiny pieces when they encounter anything harder than a wisdom tooth.
Your home may be your castle, but it’s sure not built like one. Half an inch of drywall with a not-quite 2X4 here and there just isn’t the same as twelve feet of solid stone. Even those old castles didn’t have to withstand anything more penetrating than an occasional arrow, rock or sharp stick.
Besides loading varmint bullets in your .223, another good way to defend your home is with larger-caliber bullets that are, relatively speaking, soft, fat and slow. Your grandmother will be happy to know there are many upper receivers made specifically for your AR that provide just such an ideal defense.
Handgun cartridges loaded with personal defense hollowpoints or frangibles work better in your home AR-15 than they do in your pistol. Uppers are available in 9mm, .40 Auto, .45 ACP and 10mm. Smallbore high-velocity cartridges similar to the .223 - the 6x45mm and 6mm PPC - can be used for home defense with lightweight varmint bullets. Lower-velocity rounds with heavier bullets work even better - 7.62x39 Soviet, 6.8x43 SPC, 6.5 Grendel, .300 Fireball/Whisper, and .338 Spectre. Best of all are the big-bore .458 SOCOM and .50 Beowulf, which provide plenty of “knock-down” power and limited penetration when loaded with heavy hollowpoint or softpoint bullets.
DON’T LAUGH AT THE RAMBO LOOK
Whichever cartridge you choose, you’ll soon see why the short, handy AR-15 carbine, complete with rail-mounted light and perhaps laser and/or red dot sight, is the primary weapon-of-choice used by military units preparing for close quarters battle (CQB) and police SWAT units faced with operating in a hostile home environment. The requirements of these highly trained shooters are quite similar to your own as a home defender operating in cramped space with innocents to consider, and you can learn from their tactics as well as their equipment. (The best way to learn is to go to school and practice a lot. See the chapter on competition and training.)
The passage of the “castle doctrine” through state legislatures throughout the country - a law which essentially states that anyone who enters your home uninvited is presumably there to do you and your family bodily harm and can therefore be dealt with accordingly and with impunity - is nothing more than an affirmation of what everybody with a lick of sense has always known and always practiced. Even people without a lick of sense have basic instincts enough to realize that a stranger who forces his way into someone else’s home needs to be shot. Only a mutant political animal with completely empty mind and spirit could perceive things otherwise.
Defense of home and family is one of the first and foremost reasons why weapons of almost every sort, certainly including hand-held firearms, were invented in the first place. Almost any gun you can think of performs this primary function well, but some are a little better suited to the job than others.
Living with the AR-15
by Robert H. Boatman
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