Should you consider an AR-platform firearm for home defense, or are there better choices, and why? READ MORE
According to the media, no one could possibly need something like a “weapon of war” as a home defense firearm. Then again, it was television and movie people who came up with that whole idea of shooting the gun out of the bad guy’s hand.
If you’re reading this, you already know that an AR does not differ from any other type of firearm. It has different pros and cons and is suitable for some jobs more than others. In my view, one area where it shines is in the role of home defense firearm. More specifically, it’s the AR pistol that presents an option worthy of serious consideration.
Before we get into specifics, we ought to invest a hot second talking about why an AR makes a good home defense option. Contrary to popular assumption, a standard .223/5.56mm projectile isn’t a penetration beast. In fact, a standard 55-grain FMJ bullet will penetrate fewer walls or pieces of furniture than most any pistol round. The combination of a small and light projectile and high velocity creates a ballistic sweet spot where bullets quickly begin to fragment and tumble. But be prepared; it will be loud.
With that said, let’s consider a few AR pistol attributes that support a home defense role for it.
Ease of Use
The most important factor is ease of use, and I’m not talking about the controls. Of course, any gun requires training to use effectively in a high-stress situation, and an AR-type arguably has more controls to understand and master than a smaller handgun. I’m talking about ease of hitting a target while under stress.
However, longer guns in general are far more forgiving to fire than small handguns thanks to their weight and sight radius. A slight offset from perfect sight alignment just doesn’t matter that much when shooting a longer gun at defensive distances. A slight sight misalignment with a smaller handgun can cause a complete miss and it happens all the time. Note the shockingly low percentage of hits versus shots fired in police shooting statistics. It’s not because they’re all bad shooters. It’s a result of trying to master handgun technique under extreme stress.
A heavier gun, like an AR pistol, is also easier to shoot accurately thanks to its weight to trigger force ratio. A handgun with a 5.5-pound trigger that weighs 2 pounds wants to move during an aggressive, adrenaline-induced trigger press. Thanks to inertia, a 6-pound AR pistol with a 5.5-pound trigger will move a lot less under identical circumstances.
Size and Balance
An AR rifle makes a great home defense weapon. The only real downside is its weight, length and challenge of operating with one hand. The AR pistol, on the other hand, brings the same benefits to a smaller and more maneuverable package. As an example, the Springfield Armory SAINT Edge rifle is 35.75? long fully extended and 32.5? with the stock collapsed. The SAINT Edge Pistol shown here can operate with an overall length of just 24.6? with wrist brace collapsed and 28.5? opened up. Those are just numbers, and they don’t sound like much, but the handling difference in the real world is significant.
With standard capacity of 30 rounds, that’s a lot more than even a large handgun like the XD-M OSP. No one who ever survived a self-defense encounter ever complained about having rounds left over in the magazine, right?
I hate terms like “stopping” or “knockdown” power. They’re terribly misleading and lead to a false sense of security. However, according to both math and street science, most any rifle round puts the performance of most any pistol round to shame in violent encounters. If your life depends on stopping one or more aggressors quickly, a rifle caliber round improves your odds of success dramatically. Yes, projectiles fired from an AR pistol do leave the muzzle at a lower velocity than those fired from full-length rifles, but if we’re comparing an AR pistol to a handgun-caliber pistol, there’s still a significant energy difference.
We have all sorts of reliable options for lights and lasers on traditional handguns, so an AR pistol doesn’t technically bring any additional capability to the table there. What it does offer is more flexibility in terms of how they’re mounted and used. Most, like the SAINT Edge pistol shown here, have rails or attachment mounting points all along the 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions.
Additionally, an AR pistol is perfect for optics use. With an “always on” red dot, you’ve got a great sighting option for any light conditions. Dark, daylight, or anywhere in between.
The Bottom Line
Don’t write off the AR, especially an AR pistol, as nonviable for home defense simply because of the hearsay that gets passed along at gun store counters. They can be a great choice for this role, and offer you a lot of advantages.
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Tom McHale is a perpetual student of all things gun and shooting related. He’s particularly passionate about self and home defense and the rights of all to protect themselves and their loved ones. As part of his ongoing learning, Tom has completed dozens of training programs and is a certified National Rifle Association instructor for pistol and shotgun. Tom is a professional writer by trade these days and has published seven books on guns, shooting, reloading, concealed carry, and holsters. In between book projects, Tom has published somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,700 articles for about a dozen gun and shooting publications. If he’s not writing, you can probably find him on the range.
Springfield Armory® recommends you seek qualified and competent training from a certified instructor prior to handling any firearm and be sure to read your owner’s manual. These articles are considered to be suggestions and not recommendations from Springfield Armory.