Without a doubt, the AR-15 platform is becoming increasingly popular. It’s now finding its way into the hands of people for use primarily as a home-defense option. And it can be an ideal tool for home defense … in limited situations.

The AR-15 — be it in rifle, M4 carbine or modern pistol form — is accurate, reliable and powerful enough to take down any human intruder(s). I have even seen a home-defense-related TV commercial featuring an AR. It depicts a man seated in his easy chair as a home invasion begins. He retrieves his safely stored AR and goes to meet the threat. As the commercial closes, we assume he wins the day.

Good stuff, right? Imagine the surprise on the faces of home invaders when the intended victim is facing them down behind what looks to be a machine gun. Most contemporary ARs easily accept a wide array of attachments as well. Additions that may make an AR more useful for home defense include laser sights, tritium sights and weapon lights.

AR-15 on the Job

All of this leads us to believe that an AR is the ideal choice for home defense, right? But what about those “limited” situations?

After 14 years of SWAT experience, I would not select an AR-15 as my first choice for home defense. When I first started, my AR-15 (an ultra-light Bushmaster Carbon15) accompanied me on all dynamic entry situations, such as drug warrant service in residential homes. It was backed up by my department-issue Glock 31 (packing the hottest .357 SIG ammo we could find: the 125-grain Gold Dot JHP).

But after a while, I began to notice the flaws of carrying an AR-15 into every SWAT situation. Carrying an AR carbine into a standard-sized residential home proved to be unwieldly. It was also slower to bring fully to bear on a threat than was my Glock 31. The AR is not a weapon to be used one-handed. Even modern AR pistols benefit from pistol-stabilizing braces to assist in controlling them. In my experience, the AR got in the way when I had to subdue suspects.

I decided to make entry into standard residences with only my Glock 31. I was confident in my pistol skills and the power of the .357 SIG cartridge. The Bushmaster served me well when I was assigned to perimeter duties or to searches of large areas either in the open or in large structures. All other times, I relied on my Glock.

AR-15 for Home Defense

I don’t defend my current home with my ARs either. They are locked in the safe. I live on a ¾-acre lot with neighbors close on either side. My yard isn’t big enough to check while armed with an AR-15.

But when we lived on 7 acres of land in a remote area, I did have an AR-15 rifle at the ready. I never had to confront anyone/anything outside with it, but I would have grabbed it (and a handgun) if I had needed. The AR-15 shines in exterior property control on large tracts of land — especially along our borders.

About Scott W. Wagner

After working undercover in narcotics and liquor investigations, Scott W. Wagner settled down to be a criminal justice professor and police academy commander. He was also a SWAT team member, sniper and assistant team leader before his current position as patrol sergeant with the Village of Baltimore, Ohio, Police Department. Scott is a police firearms instructor certified to train revolver, semi-automatic pistol, shotgun, semi- and fully automatic patrol rifle, and submachine gun.