Gun Digest

AR-15: The Ideal Home Defense Gun?

At GunDigest, we independently review products. However, we may earn a commission when you purchase through links on our site. Learn More


When people think self-defense, handguns most often come to mind. But with its versatile design, higher capacity and a wealth of great ammo options available, an AR just might be the only home defense gun you’ll ever need to own.

Right off the bat we know rifle rounds do a much better job of stopping an attacker than handgun rounds, even if the handgun round is fired out of a long barrel. Velocity is a key element to stopping power.

The .223/5.56 is moving at around 3,000 feet per second, and while it isn’t magic bullet, it’s a far cry better than any pistol round. Another advantage of the .223/5.56 is its limited penetration. The shape and velocity of the round cause it to immediately expend or dissipate its energy once it strikes something.

A .223/5.56 self-defense round, steel-core ammo designed to penetrate should be avoided as it will travel through less sheetrock and such than any typical handgun calibers. Double-aught buckshot is basically a .33 caliber ball that can go through a lot of material before coming to a stop.

The .308, or 7.62×39 Russian will rip through your house, down the street and into another home. Probably best to avoid these for home defense. So the .223/5.56 provides good stopping power with limited worries about over penetration, especially considering the variety of bullet types and weights available.

The AR works well for close distance, like inside your home, and at extended ranges. For self-defense it would be an unusual circumstance where you need to engage a threat at two hundred yards, but you might need to put down a deer for meat at that distance.

The solution to your defensive problem may require a surgical shot on the threat, like within a two or three-inch area from seventy yards. With the .223/5.56 you can do all these things with confidence.

You can run a variety of ammo through a shotgun (00 buck, birdshot, slugs) but you’re still limited. Above I mentioned there are over penetration worries with 00 buck, and definitely with slugs.

Number 4 shot is a good choice for home defense, as it cuts down on penetration, but you have to know how it’s going to pattern at various distances. And yes, you still have to actually aim it.

Then there are fliers, a pellet that can zing off course, and the plastic wad can be unpredictable as it travels fast enough to injure or kill bystander at close range. With the AR you can place that one round exactly where you need it from three to three hundred yards.

The AR is lightweight, simple to operate and has limited recoil. You can learn to use it effectively in a short amount of time, and it doesn’t require a lot of upper body strength to operate. All the controls to manipulate it are in just the right spot. Stoner, who designed the AR, was an ergonomic genius.

With the proper techniques it works for left-hand shooters just as well. The .223/5.56 cartridge, again coupled with Stoner’s design, creates minimal recoil that is easily managed. A lot of shooters, even hardcore operators can’t help but flinch when pressing off a magnum round from a twelve-gauge. The light recoil of the AR allows you to quickly recover, getting back on target, ready to fire again if necessary.

“But,” you ask, “what about it being longer than my pistol?” Not to worry. If you actually compare a shooter with a sixteen-inch barrel AR against a shooter holding a pistol extended, the muzzles of both guns will be about even.

Another advantage of the AR is magazine capacity. For home defense I keep a twenty-round mag in my carbine. I shouldn’t need that many rounds but having them and knowing I can use a thirty-round mag is comforting. Additional ammo in the mag isn’t a license to shoot more, it just means if it is necessary then I have to reload less.

One more plus about the AR that can’t be overlooked is its psychological advantage. I’ve seen many people who were covered with a pistol who didn’t really seem concerned. Carbines command a lot more respect.

Even back when longbows were more accurate and effective, Napoleon recognized that the sound, smoke and psychological effects of guns were a huge advantage on the battlefield. The same applies today.

Next Step: Get your FREE Printable Target Pack

Enhance your shooting precision with our 62 MOA Targets, perfect for rifles and handguns. Crafted in collaboration with Storm Tactical for accuracy and versatility.

Subscribe to the Gun Digest email newsletter and get your downloadable target pack sent straight to your inbox. Stay updated with the latest firearms info in the industry.

Get Free Targets

Exit mobile version