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Why a Carbine?

Why a Carbine for Home Defense?

Every firearms aficionado probably has ten reasons why they have chosen their home defense weapon. Handguns, shotguns and carbines are all good choices but, each has its own positives and negatives. Other variables like construction materials, who else lives in the home, location, and even local laws/ordinances have to be considered.

So, how do you choose? You can take the easy route and have one of each or, you can do hours of research before deciding. If you are lucky enough, you can also ask a relative or a friend who was in the military. Whatever method you eventually choose, you’ll have to live with your decision.

I’m fortunate in that I’m able to have a variety of choices at my disposal and I have all three options close at hand most of the time. But, if I was forced to pick only one, I’d have to give serious consideration to the carbine. Here are my top five reasons why:

1. Weight

2. Terminal Ballistics

3. Ease of Use

4. Availability and Variety of Ammunition

5. Rifle Options

While the discussion regarding what is the best home defense weapon can go on forever, the discussion here will be limited to my personal reasons. Also, I'd like to clarify nomenclature and clear up one particular misconception. AR style rifle does NOT refer to "Assault Rifle". AR stands for ArmaLite, the company that originally developed this style of rifle in the early 1950s, eventually selling it to Colt in 1959. Colt had developed the automatic M4 rifle platform for the military, and then used this ArmaLite style in a semi-automatic version for the civilian market, marketing it as the AR-15. The name stuck, and even with various manufacturers now making this rifle, it is still known by the original manufacturer's name, AR (ArmaLite).

Weight - The average weight for a carbine length (typically less than 20 inches) AR style rifle is about 6-7 pounds. Some are heavier, some lighter. Depending on the barrel and added accessories, the carbine is very handy. If you are using one inside a house, it has to be. In addition, if there is a chance it will be used by a smaller person, or someone with less strength, the lighter weight will be appreciated.

Terminal Ballistics - As far back as the Vietnam war, the .223/5.56 was known as a ‘tumbler’. That is, when it hit the target, it tumbled instead of expanding like more conventional bullets. The light weight (62 grains) did not carry the ‘oomph’ like the .308/7.62 (147 grains) did. What it did do, in addition to tumbling, was fragment. This generally caused more trauma, more or less equaling out the equation. Bigger is generally better but, in this case, I feel smaller/lighter takes the medal. The myth that the .223/5.56 will shoot through a building is not true. Generally, it has less penetration on interior walls than most common handgun cartridges. Unless you’re using rifle bullets designed to maintain structural integrity, the bullet of a .223/5.56 cartridge will tumble if it enters drywall, fragment, and not over-penetrate. It may go through a wall or two, but not like a handgun.

Ease of Use - The AR platform is ergonomically and user friendly. With minimal instruction, most individuals can become fairly competent in a relatively short time. The controls (safety/selector lever, magazine release, bolt catch/release and charging handle specifically), can be operated without having to significantly change hand positions.

Availability and Variety of Ammunition – Every major ammunition manufacturer makes .223/5.56 ammunition. With the large number of ARs already in use, the probability of finding ammunition is high. It may, at times, be a little expensive (depending on your definition) but it’s out there. There are also a number of bullet configurations and weights. They can vary from 35-85 grains and they come in full metal jacket, soft point, hollow point, and frangible depending on your needs. Each rifle is a little different and may prefer one ammunition brand/bullet over another. It is best to experiment a little to find the best for yours.

Rifle Options – According to one source, the number of manufacturers producing AR style rifles increased from 29 to 500 between 200 and 2015. Almost all major firearms companies produce some version of the AR while others produce only the AR style rifle. Many gun shops specialize in customizing the AR platform. Bottom line is there is no shortage of choice and price range which can vary from $500 to over $2000.

As a bonus, I thought I’d throw in a sixth reason for choosing a carbine – accessories. There is an entire industry built around aftermarket accessories for the AR style rifle. Basically, if you want to put it on your rifle, it’s available. Optics, magazines, bipods, handguards, pistol grips, sights, muzzle breaks, slings, buttstocks, lights, etc., are all available. BUT … over accessorizing your handy little home defense carbine can cause it to become cumbersome and unwieldy in close quarters.

If I were going to make recommendations, I might advise the following:

- Get the best gun you can afford and practice with it.

- Get some qualified, professional training if you can.

- Buy the ammunition that best suits your needs. For personal protection it’s hard to beat Federal LE Tactical (55 Grain SP) or Speer Gold Dot (55 Grain Soft Point).

- Keep the accessories to a minimum – Sling (I recommend the Blue Force Gear Vickers Sling), light, and a good red dot optic.

In addition to the reasons listed above, that are many others that may help making the carbine decision:

- Low recoil makes for easier control

- 20 – 30 round capacity ensures adequate firepower

- As affordable, or more affordable than other options

- Manual of arms is simple

While each weapon has its pros and cons, and the choice is ultimately up to the user, it would be difficult to deny the AR style carbine is an excellent option for home defense. 



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