Saturday, January 9, 2016

Are AR 15s Good For Home Defense?


End of article, right? No? Ok, I can explain why.

Of course, I have come to the determination that the AR platform is the best home defense weapon, but I'm making this for people that are looking for a well-reasoned opinion as to why it's so good. I know there are those that would disagree. I can assure you that this is the best choice for me, hands down. And, it's probably the best for you. Virtually all criticisms of the weapon are completely unfounded. It's near-perfect, really. Being able to custom-fit the AR 15 to the task it is designed for is, in my opinion, the strongest case for ARs as Home Defense weapons. Being able to shoulder it and easily manipulate a gun with a light and a red dot optic provides you with the control and the tools to own every shot you fire. When your family's lives are on the line, you better hit what you're shooting at, you better know what you're shooting at, and know what is beyond the target before you shoot. ARs are excellent in every way you need a home-defense gun to excel. And, you can depend on them like only a few, special guns in the world. Remember, once you've decided to shoot, whatever gun you're using better go bang - or you'll be dead.

So, why would you want an AR 15 to do all that, you ask? There's really two ways to tackle the question: 1. What benefits does it provide and what are the negative aspects of the gun? (Pro v Con) Or, 2. What else are you going to use and how does it compare to the AR? This isn't Twitter, so I can spend the text to tackle both and, hopefully, provide a good understanding of why it's the best home defense choice we can make.

1. Pros vs Cons:
Well, the benefits are numerous: Extremely lightweight (for a rifle), affordable price tag, powerful cartridge (compared to handguns), extremely high capacity, high rate of fire, affordable ammo, highly available ammo, affordable magazines, great availability of magazines, plenty of mounting options and space for every conceivable accessory or optic, safe operation, great accuracy, and tremendous reliability, even in the worst of conditions. It's also extremely modular - from the muzzle device to the stock, from the length of pull to the length of barrel, from the finishes/coatings to the types of ammunition it can be chambered in, this gun is incredibly customizeable and can be made to fit the demands of virtually any application or shooter. You have virtually unlimited options and the very finest materials are being used in the production of AR 15s and their various parts. When you think of the options available for ARs, like the Keymod system, M-LOK, Picatinny rails, the various configurations of handguards (length, material, connection types, mounting options, etc), and options for furniture to provide the textures, ergonomics, etc that you want/need... you just can't beat an AR. It can do almost anything.

Cons: It's a little difficult to fire and operate one-handed, you have to have another gun for concealed carry, not as lethal as a shotgun slug or .300 Win Mag, and it's not as easy to hide within arms reach of your bed as some other guns.

There are, of course, counters to some of those Cons. First, ambidextrous controls and products like Arm-brace Stocks and B.A.D. Levers allow for easier one-handed operation and can be very effective if you actually train for situations where you've lost use of one arm. Of course, you can hide your AR in plain sight so it's very easily accessible. As far as the lethality of the ammo, it's extremely lethal. Our soldiers use it in Iraq and, if you prefer a larger caliber, you can get ARs chambered in 6.5 Grendel, 6.8 SPC, 300 AAC Blackout, and even go AR 10 for beefy .308s. Unfortunately, no one has developed a comfortable inside-the-waistband holster for ARs..... yet. So, does it seem like the Pros out-weigh the Cons? It certainly does to me and it should to you.

2. What options are there? Well, there are: 1. Other Rifles, 2. Handguns, and 3. Shotguns.
  1.  Other Rifles/Carbines - I'm going to say we can eliminate bolt-action hunting rifles for CQB. So, you're really looking at something like an IWI Tavor, Sig MPX, or AK-variant. None of those are bad choices, but the AR is better. First off, the AR has quality, factory-new options that are much cheaper than any of those I listed and even the cheapest alternatives - WASR AKs, Scorpion Evos, etc - still fall short in cost of magazines, availability of parts, customization options, and relative quality. I'd take a Ruger AR556 over any of those other options. It's not to say they're bad choices, but the AR has certain benefits that each of those lack and they don't offer much in return for the loss of those benefits. Take the Tavor, for example. Fine gun, but there are some things to consider. It has a little shorter package without sacrificing barrel length (as with a short-barreled AR rifle), which can be helpful, but it's significantly heavier - 7.9 lb Tavor vs 5.8 lb AR 15. (Personally, I feel like a squirrel holding a nut when trying to get both hands on a Tavor, but maybe that's just me.) A price tag of $1500+ and uni-body construction makes replacing damaged parts on much of the gun impractical because it's a serialized part that is being replaced - which makes the gun proprietary and allows IWI to over-charge. Not only that, but your customization is limited by the proprietary design. And, how easy will it be to find spare parts in a Without Rule of Law (WROL) situation? Welcome to the uncertainties and additional costs of AR rifle alternatives. Abandoning the AR platform has significant costs and pitfalls, while offering very little in return.
  2. Handguns -  I like Handguns. Well, I like the idea of handguns. I find that they always are over-priced, have limited customization, and aren't as lethal as a rifle. I mean, for $100 less than a Sig P226, I could buy a Ruger AR556 - think about that for a minute. I, mostly, am dissatisfied with the sub-optimal designs. I'd use Gen 3 Glocks, except the grip was not made for a human hand. Maybe ol' Gaston lost his pinky-finger and part of his palm in a wood-cutting accident or he's really an alien, but I don't think he could have designed a worse grip for his gun. (Compare the contour of the G17 to a Sig P226, which has one of the best handgun grips ever made.)  The rear sights are also grotesquely bad. Pretty much the rest of the gun is perfect - near flawless operation, extremely lightweight, inexpensive magazines, and high capacity mags. Just think, what if I could could buy a Magpul grip for $20, in a variety of colors, and replace the  grip with something that fits my hand better? Nope. Not with handguns and definitely not Glock. Gaston is holding it down for 4-finger people (including the thumb) and he won't change. The closest thing I can find to ideal is a S&W M&P9. Melonited Stainless Steel barrel/slide and a good frame/grip. The factory original trigger is the worst one I've ever pulled, but I can replace it with a Glock-style trigger by Apex for a reasonable price. So, how does the most ideal handgun compare to an AR? Well, $40 magazines, $475 price tag (which isn't terrible, but you'll need a trigger and night sights), only 17 round capacity, and you're shooting 9mm bullets out of a 4" barrel. Oh, adding optics also requires a custom slide - more money. That's just to mount the optic - not to buy one. Not just that, but adding lasers or lights on a pistol can effect their performance and your aim significantly. And, that's before we consider the disadvantages of your optic/sights actually reciprocating with the action. Now, I use handguns and highly recommend having them, but the AR has huge built-in advantages when using them in a home defense situation. Basically, the AR has more lethal ammo, higher capacity, better mounting options for light/optics/grips, etc, and can be better customized to fit a person's needs.
  3. Shotguns - So, we're talking... what, 8+1 capacity? Maybe you've got a Magazine-fed Shotty and get 10+1 or something similar? What about use for weaker shooters? A 3" 12 gauge slug would likely send my wife flying backwards. Are they lethal? Sure! Just try not to think about what happens after the shot exits the body of the person you're shooting. And, using a pump... it's ultra-reliable, but really slow rate of fire. The problems with Shottys are obvious: low capacity, high recoil, and over-penetration are serious concerns. The benefits are also obvious: extremely lethal, relatively inexpensive, and a wide variety of loads.  Shotguns are good, but like every other option listed here, they have serious drawbacks - ones that are not present in the AR.

So, when you consider the alternatives, does the AR seem worth it to you? For me, it's a no-brainer: ARs are the best home-defense weapon I can get! If you need to have a bullpup rifle because you have such tight hallways or want a handgun to fire one-handed and can't be bothered to have a rifle too, then maybe an AR isn't for you. But, ARs are easy to shoot, they last forever, and are extremely customizable to whatever tasks/needs/functions you have for them. Do yourself a favor and make the leap to ARs - if you ever need it, you won't regret having an AR.

Sootch00 made a great video for preparedness with the AR platform. I 100% endorse what he says in this video.