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AR-15 Pistols for Home Defense?

While some folks have written off the AR-15 pistol as nothing more than a range toy, others have chosen this semi-automatic pistol platform to serve as a primary or secondary defensive option. Although I’ve enjoyed shooting rifle-action pistols in a variety of configurations for some time now, I hadn’t really considered the possibility of staging one for personal protection until last year.

In January of 2015, I was examining a new AR pistol at SHOT Show when a well-known media personality and shooting instructor I know strolled up to the display and shook his head. In his opinion, AR pistols were utterly, totally and completely useless in every way. In short, he would rather fend off a home invasion with a brick than one of those things. It seems safe to say his comments qualify as a vote against it.

Months later, I received an unexpected response to a piece we posted about trunk guns. It was interesting to note the number of readers who chimed in to let me know that I had left their preferred trunk gun off the list, namely, the AR-15 pistol. On the one hand its critics’ pan the AR pistol as if it were a badly written big-budget Hollywood movie while fans of the platform are lining up for tickets.

I often find this kind of dichotomy of shooting community opinion intriguing because the truth of the matter often lies somewhere in between the two extremes. Rather than jump in with either AR pistol camp, I decided to find out for myself with a series of AR pistol builds and projects that would take the better part of a year to complete.

Before selecting any guns or components to work with, it was important to identify which test parameters would be employed for this particular write up. I set aside the roles of hunting, recreational shooting and defense outside the home to focus primarily on evaluating the AR-15 pistol as a home-defense option. Stopping a threat inside a residence usually means engaging them at contact distance (arms length), across the room (3 to 5 yards) or across a typical interior living space (10 to 18 yards). Therefore, formal accuracy testing would be conducted at 25 yards. Other home-defense issues to be kept in mind included ammunition capacity, ammunition performance and handling characteristics.

Going into this test I had the information gleaned from the Building AR-15 Pistols at Homeproject which focused on .223 Rem./5.56 NATO pistols. That experience left me with two important questions in regard to home defense. First, is there anything else that can be done to improve the pistol’s ergonomics in place of restricted vertical grips and legally dubious wrist braces?

The other issue was pistol performance. The .223 Rem. and 5.56 NATO cartridge launch lightweight bullets at high velocity. However, when these cartridges are fired from pistol-length barrels, especially those under 10″ in length, the bullets demonstrate a significant drop in speed and impact energy (which is another general complaint against AR-15 pistols). Could ammunition performance be improved by switching to larger AR-compatible calibers topped with heavier bullets?

To answer these questions I assembled a pistol lower with features suited to home-defense scenarios and paired it with two factory assembled gas-impingement uppers chambered in 300 BLK and 7.62×39 mm.