The “The Armed Citizen” column is consistently the most-read page in every NRA magazine. Harrowing stories of people protecting themselves, which they can do thanks to their Second Amendment-protected rights, are always important and engrossing. But part of the reason “The Armed Citizen” is so popular is these stories are seldom reported by the national media; however, this wasn’t the case for one incident last November.
A story of a mother, who was then eight months pregnant, using an AR-15-type rifle to fight off two masked, violent and armed intruders was too juicy for even the mainstream media to ignore—even if it did showcase how useful AR-15-type rifles are for home defense.
This horrific event occurred at about 9 p.m. on a Wednesday evening in Lithia, Fla. (located about 25 miles southeast of Tampa, Fla.). Two masked men suddenly broke into their home.
“As soon as they had got the back door opened, they had a pistol on me and was grabbing my 11-year-old daughter,” Jeremy King told Bay News 9. “I’m telling them, ‘I have nothing for you,’ and they’re like, ‘Give me everything you got.’ It became real violent, real fast.”
King said one of the fiends hit him with a handgun and the other kicked him in the head, fracturing his eye socket and sinus cavity and giving him a concussion. The commotion attracted the then pregnant mother. One of the men shot at her as she came into the room and she ran to another room and grabbed an AR-15-type rifle. She came right back and shot one of the armed men.
Both of the burglars fled. The one who was shot died in a nearby ditch.
“Them guys came in with two normal pistols and my AR stopped it. [My wife] evened the playing field and kept them from killing me,” King said.
Despite how the mainstream media often characterizes popular semi-automatic rifles, they do make excellent home-defense firearms. And they have been used many times to save lives and property.
America’s rifle, which is what the AR-15 and like rifles are, is often used by the millions of Americans who legally own them for sport, hunting and home defense. Here’s why a diverse and growing group of Americans chose to keep an AR-15-type rifle handy.
They Are Great for Women
You might be familiar with Carrie Lightfoot. As owner of The Well Armed Woman, LLC and founder and chairman of the Non-profit TWAW Shooting Chapters organization, she’s enabled thousands of women to protect themselves and their families through her organization’s training programs and retail products. With that background, what does Carrie choose for home defense? An AR-15 of course.
Carrie chooses an AR-15 for many reasons. “I would say my top three are the high capacity it gives me, the lower risk of over-penetration and its accuracy at multiple distances.”
Hang on, lower risk of over-penetration? That’s right. She knows standard handgun rounds and many shotgun loads actually out penetrate indoor building materials than the standard AR-15 projectile. While performance varies greatly with specific calibers and ammunition types, many .223 Rem. bullets exhibit markedly less undesired penetration than popular handgun ammunition.
I asked Carrie to comment on the oft-heard statement that “AR rifles are too much for women to handle” and other similar nonsense. Knowing Carrie I figured she’d have some choice words on this topic. “Why wouldn’t an AR-15 be appropriate for a woman’s home defense firearm? There are no valid answers to that question, only myths,” said Carrie. “The AR is light and easy to shoot. Unlike a shotgun or other long gun, it’s extremely comfortable and easy to handle. A woman, regardless of size, can fit the gun to her with the adjustable stock and have the ability wrap herself around it for ideal control. In all my years surrounded by, and training women, I have never had a woman shoot one and say, ‘I can’t handle this gun.’ What I hear is the opposite and what I see is empowerment!”
As for choice of rifle, Carrie has taken advantage of her knowledge and connections in the industry. Her go-to AR is the LWRCI Diadem AR-15. Carrie and participants from Well Armed Woman local club chapters across the country designed this rifle and LWRC built it. This rifle not only looks sharp thanks to its spiral-fluted barrel, it’s also customized for women shooters. It’s smaller diameter and lighter weight better fit the average female hand size and its collapsible, upgraded stock provides better body fit for most women.
For ammo, Carrie chooses the Hornady .223 Remington 55-grain FTX Critical Defense load. This nickel-plated cartridge is topped with a polymer tip that aids in rapid expansion across a wide velocity range, reducing the risk of unwanted over-penetration.
Carrie elects to configure her AR home-defense rifles with red-dot sights and lights. “The red dot is for easier and faster target acquisition. I find that as I get older, the use of a red dot makes a significant difference in my ability to get on target fast,” said Carrie.
As for the light, she said, “I can use it if I need to or not if I don’t. In low-light or no-light situations, it is imperative that I have the ability to identify and confirm my target is my intended target and not a family member or other ‘good guy.’”
AR-15s Offer More Options
Pearson is a young professional, currently residing in Charleston, S.C., with his wife. They live in a home just outside the city and have no children in the house. Pearson’s background, like many in the area, includes plenty of waterfowl, upland and deer hunting, but he never considered himself to be a “gun guy.”
During the process of meeting his future wife and thinking about settling down, his views on firearms changed. Sure, they’re fun and satisfying to shoot, but he also felt an undercurrent of his need to be the protector of his future household. A new dimension of his firearms perspective opened, and he studied self-and home-defense strategies and tactics. Fast forward a few years and now we find Pearson regularly carrying concealed. As for home defense, his default choice is an AR-15 short-barreled rifle.
His choice in platform was carefully considered. He wanted compact and light for indoor use, but also wanted to make sure that the reduced velocity produced by short-barrel firearms didn’t come with a terminal ballistics downside. As a result, he elected to go with the .300 Blackout platform. Offering 30-round capacity with readily available standard AR magazines, there’s little downside except for ammo cost.
The AR-15 is Versatile
Mike McNett is the founder and President of Doubletap Ammunition. I’ve always referred to Mike as the “Godfather of Boom,” as he likes to go big. He has also developed a reputation for wringing maximum performance out of every load. As a designer of premium ammunition for dozens of rifle and handgun calibers, Mike has an inside scoop on ballistic performance across a wide variety of firearms platforms. When you order ballistic gelatin by the metric ton, you tend to get a good insight on what works and what doesn’t. Like others in our profiles, Mike keeps both a handgun and AR-15-type rifle handy for home defense.
His choice of rifle is an AR-15 chambered in the Remington 6.8 SPC Cartridge. With bullets similar to, and sometimes identical to, the time-tested .270, no one can argue about its terminal effectiveness. As owner and chief designer at a major ammunition company, Mike has handpicked his ammunition of choice. And yes, it is a commercial load offered by Doubletap Ammunition. Using a 100-grain Nosler Accubond projectile, this load exceeds 2,800 feet per second when launched from a 20-inch barrel and comes close to 2,700 from a standard 16-inch rifle platform. It’s a great hunting load for deer, antelope and hogs, and in this case, makes a decisive home-defense option.
An AR-15-type rifle is light and easy to shoot. It’s an ideal platform for women, says Carrie Lightfoot, owner of The Well Armed Woman.
Even with its additional performance over the standard .223 Remington, the 6.8 SPC version of the popular AR-15 rifle is consistent with Mike’s primary logic. The biggest factors he identifies as benefits for the AR-15 include familiarity, ease of operation and function. Having spent some years in the army, Mike had plenty of trigger time with the AR platform.
Like many others, Mike also keeps a handgun nearby. In his case, it’s a Glock 20 10 mm pistol loaded with Doubletap’s 135-grain Controlled Expansion JHP bullet. Moving at 1,600 feet per second from the Glock 20, this round is specifically designed for home and personal defense.
AR-15s are Home-Defense Machines
Jenn Jacques is an industry veteran, with experience cutting across many segments, including a writer, competitor and accessories manufacturer. Currently, Jenn works as the Communications Manager for Crossbreed Holsters.
Jenn lives in a rural location—that’s part of the reason for her dual-firearm home defense strategy. She keeps her trusty Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield stowed in a Crossbreed Holsters Bedside Backup mount, but she also has quick access to an AR-15 rifle. In her words, “The primary reason I choose this platform for home defense is the rural location of my home. Lightweight and portable, my AR is capable of neutralizing multiple threats, should I need to do so while waiting for law enforcement.”
With more space to worry about, the rifle makes sense as potential threats might be inside or outside. The other reason for more firepower near her nightstand if that responding officers are farther away. As the saying goes, when seconds counts, the police are minutes away.
Jenn’s choice of rifle is the Daniel Defense DDM4 V7. It’s a standard rifle with 16-inch barrel and geared up in all the right places with flared magazine well, ambidextrous safety and M-LOK attachment system. She stokes it with a 32-round magazine (go big or go home!) and uses an Aimpoint Micro H-2 optic set for low-light conditions.
More important than Jenn’s selection of hardware is her commitment to software. “I have completed two AR-15 Home Defense Firearms training courses and my family is well-versed on our home-defense protocol, which ensures their safety as well.”
AR-15s are Fast and Accurate
Randy is a retired law-enforcement officer and long-time firearms instructor, so he’s no stranger to the realities, good and bad, of firearm performance. He’s also a gun guy, devoting extra time at the range not just for fun but training. He’s even been known to hone his defensive tactics skills by volunteering to be the “bad guy” who gets shot to pieces with Simunition by tactical teams training on dynamic entry and active-shooter scenarios.
It was only on a whim that I asked Randy if he used an AR-15 for home defense. I’ve known him for over a decade, and he’s always been the consummate handgun connoisseur. Anything meticulously engineered, preferably steel and always in .40 caliber tends to get his undivided attention. When he responded that, yes, he does keep an AR-15 by the nightstand, I had to ask him why.
“The AR is one of the most versatile weapons systems available. It can be customized to meet specific needs, it is light and it is very intuitive to use,” said Randy. “There is nothing wrong with using a handgun. I have and use both; in fact, one of my ARs is made to shoot 40 S&W and uses the same magazines as my Smith & Wesson M&P 40. I think it’s great to have the choice between handgun or AR as the situation dictates.”
As a side note, the women in Randy’s family (two grown daughters and his wife) choose carbines as well. “Carbines are so much easier to handle than handguns,” said Randy. “I used to teach police officers. Many of them were horrible with handguns, but given an AR, they could easily hit targets even when under stress. I think this applies to all shooters but most especially those who are not used to getting a lot of practice and/or those not used to dealing with the adrenaline dump that goes along with critical incidents like home invasions.”
Being a handgun guy at heart, Randy chooses a standard AR-15 rifle chambered in .223 and an AR pistol chambered in his favorite caliber, .40 S&W. He prefers the SB arm brace on his pistol.
As for accessories, Randy prefers a non-mounted light. “My personal preference is to use a handheld flashlight that is not mounted. It gives me different options than one that is permanently attached. I can place the flashlight at the end of the hallway and have it illuminate the only path back to where we are located. Besides lighting up the hallway for accurate identification of the threat, it also hinders those trying to pick out where I am. The trick is to put the light out in front of where you are so you can remain in darkness.”
To those deciding on whether to choose a handgun or AR-15 for home use, Randy offers the following advice: “The most critical information has little to do with the weapon chosen. It’s about preparedness. Do you have a plan in place? Does everyone in the family know what that plan is? Do you have a safe room? You know your home better than anyone who is likely to become a threat inside it. Use that to your advantage. Pick out defensive positions ahead of time.”
As for me, I currently keep an AR-15 pistol and a semi-automatic handgun in the bedroom. Why? I’m comfortable with both. If given the choice, I’ll always choose the AR over a handgun.
I do believe in lights and lasers, especially for home use. In the dark, both are invaluable tools. The light is critical for final target illumination before making a decision to press the trigger. The laser makes it easy for get on target fast. The Beretta 92X full-size currently on my nightstand is equipped with a Crimson Trace Rail Master Pro with integrated light and laser. My Springfield Armory SAINT Edge AR-15 pistol has a Crimson Trace rail-mounted light and Aimpoint Micro H-2 red dot sight.
Is an AR-15 rifle or pistol right for your home-defense plan? The final decision rests with you.