Three Reasons an “Assault Rifle” is Better Than a Handgun for Home Defense

By Nick Leghorn on December 25, 2012

A while back I wrote an article stating that handguns are best for home defense. I stand by that conclusion. But there are some damned good reasons why having an AR-15 propped up against the nightstand can be a better bet than a bedside pistol . . .


1. Accuracy

No matter what the size of the bullet, every round fired that doesn’t hit its intended target is a bigproblem. “Stray rounds” fail to stop the immediate, potentially lethal threat. Equally, they’re dangerous to the health and safety of innocent people unfortunate enough to get in the rounds’ path.

Rifle have more points of contact with the shooter’s body than a handgun: both hands, shoulder and cheek. This makes a rifle a substantially more stable shooting platform than a handgun [note “handgun” singular]. This is one of the main reasons why an average shooter is far more accurate with a rifle than a handgun.

In addition to the body mechanics rifles are easier to sight (a.k.a., aim). It takes time, practice and coordination to align a handgun’s sights. A rifle “points” naturally; you can see where the barrel is aiming. If a home defender’s running a red dot on their rifle (a device that places a red dot on the target), its even easier to just “point and shoot.”

Under pressure, suffering the effects of a full adrenal dump, the rifle’s ease-of-use/accuracy can be the difference between life and death.

Illustrative Example:

It’s the middle of the night. You hear someone breaking down your front door. You grab your AR-15. You gather your family, call 911, put your family behind you and crouch next to your bed. You train your AR-15’s sights on the door to your bedroom.

If you were holding a handgun, your shaking hands would make it entirely possible— maybe even probable—that you would miss. The AR may not be steady but it’s steady enough. You’re as ready as you’ll ever be.

2. Capacity

I’ve never been in a real gun battle, but I have some simulated experience.

At an event in Arizona, trainers gave each participant a Glock 19 with 10 rounds of simunition ammo. They held a “two men enter one man leaves” kind of final exam. Although my opponent had recently finished his tour of duty in the armed forces I came out ahead. But not before emptying the magazine on my handgun.

Think about that. One opponent, and I’d run out of ammunition.

While some states restrict handgun magazines to ten rounds a handgun typically holds 15 rounds. FBI crime stats show that an increasing numbers of violent assaults involve more than one attacker. If you have three attackers and 10 rounds . . . that might not work out as well as it could. Even 15 rounds might not be enough.

The AR-15’s standard magazine capacity is 30 rounds. [Note: that’s standard capacity not “high” capacity.] Again, you may not need all thirty rounds to defend yourself. You might not need any. But you might. And if you do, well, there they are.

Illustrative Example:

Imagine you’re a shopkeeper living atop a small store. A rioting mob starts smashing windows and loot surrounding stores. Some of the hoodlums outside are throwing Molotov cocktails into cars. Your entire livelihood is on the shelves of your store downstairs. Your wife and two kids are cowering in fear, afraid that they’re about to be burned alive.

You don’t know how many people are in the crowd about to light the wick on a vodka bottle or run at you with a baseball bat covered in barbed wire. Until and unless the police or National Guard arrives to restore order, you need to be prepared to accurately engage each and every person that attempts to kill you and your family.

Ten rounds doesn’t cut it. The New York Times understood this when they wheeled Gatling guns out into their lobby on August 1, 1863 to protect the newspaper from an angry mob. The New York Times successfully defended itself using the Gatling gun’s “high capacity” capabilities. There’s no reason the average American shouldn’t have the same protection.

3. Worst Case: It’s a Club

When you run out of ammo with a handgun, or it jams, or just plain stops working, you’re left with something only slightly better than a rock. And the only reason I say it’s better than a rock is that it typically has a pointy end of some sort.

When you run out of ammo with a rifle, you still have a bigass metal pipe at the end of a rather long firearm that will hurt like hell when it hits someone.

Admittedly certain “assault rifles” are better for whacking people over the head than other. The AR-15 is a wiffle bat compared to the sheer mass of the AK-47’s hardwood buttstock. But either rifle is better than nothing.

There are other reasons why an AR-15 makes a superb self-defense weapon: accuracy over long distances, reliability, recoil minimization and more. Suffice it to say, what makes an excellent rifle for offense makes the AR-15 an awesome firearm for defense.

It’s an inconvenient truth—unless you need a rifle for self-defense. At that point an AR-15 is nothing less than a godsend.

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