Last month, experienced firearms owner Joe Biden advised gun owners across America that the AR-15 is a poor self-defense weapon because it is “difficult to aim” and “harder to use”. At about the same time, Piers Morgan claimed that he was “okay” with Americans owning pistols for self-defense and went on to claim that “no one needs an AR-15”. After listening to all this advice, I was forced to take a moment to reflect on why I, and many other gun owners, would opt for an AR-15 (or similar modern rifle) in the event my life were to be threatened.
The first point that Vice President Biden tried to make about the AR-15 is that it is difficult to aim. Just thinking about the average home, it is highly unlikely that any invasion attempt would necessitate a long range, precision shot to achieve the desired results. Furthermore, if the AR-15 is so difficult to aim, why is it the most ubiquitous match rifle in competitions throughout the nation? Would this not be equivalent to Tiger Woods intentionally selecting a set of clubs that he struggles with, just so this year’s U.S. Open will be more difficult? Of course this is ridiculous; the match shooters pick the AR-15 because it is a highly customizable and accurate platform, making it ever so slightly easier to post excellent scores. On the flip side, a shotgun shoots a spread, which by its very nature is less accurate and less predictable.
The Vice President also mentioned that the AR-15 is harder to use than a shotgun. I suppose at its heart, the AR-15 is more complex than your typical pump-action shotgun, but from a controls standpoint the debate is a wash. The last thing any homeowner wants to do while trying to protect his/her family is to fumble around with shotgun shells and reloading. The AR-15 with a standard capacity magazine is ideal for these scenarios. Additionally, the recoil of most 12 gauge shotguns is more substantial than the typical medium to petite female can comfortably handle. Here, the AR-15 with its mild recoil once again prevails.
Piers Morgan’s assertion that pistols are better self-defense tools flies directly in the face of widely accepted field studies. Contrary to some peoples’ beliefs, the AR-15 is not some villainous machine of unmatched firepower. In reality, the .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO round is an excellent and appropriate choice for personal defense at a wide variety of ranges. This is exactly why the Department of Homeland Security has chosen to equip officers with AR-15 variants. The truth of the matter is that any round capable of meeting the FBI’s Ballistic Test Protocol will run the risk of overpenetration, including handgun rounds. The important difference between using a handgun for personal defense as opposed to a rifle is that the rifle round becomes destabilized after passing through tissue or even dry wall. While still potentially dangerous, the bullet would be very deformed and less likely to travel straight through additional walling and insulation. Pistol rounds on the other hand tend to maintain their shape (unless using hollow-points, which are illegal in some areas) and can chug along through several light barriers before stopping. Shot from a shotgun has been shown to behave similarly to pistol rounds in this regard. To say that a rifle is excessive as compared to a handgun or shotgun for self-defense scenarios is a clear manifestation of ballistic ignorance.
Lastly, we must consider that an AR-15, like any other rifle, has two points of retention. As a result, a user is much less likely to be disarmed by the invader in a self-defense situation. Having two hands on the firearm greatly increases overall control of the weapon and helps to provide a better base of fire for more accurate shots. I suppose an intruder could grab the barrel, but he is likely to be in for a wild, but short ride if he decides to go this route.
So the next time Joe Biden tells you that you will “kill your kid in the bedroom” with your AR-15, remember that his shotgun is every bit as likely (if not more likely) to do the same.