Long Distance Personal Defense Guns

By John Bibby published on in Firearms, Safety and Training

Most of us who carry daily make a choice between comfort and ease of shooting with our choice in EDC pistols. I happen to carry a full size M&P 9mm. As an early concealed carry person, I was sure carrying such a gun would be super uncomfortable and noticed by everyone. Over time, I gradually learned how to conceal my sidearm better and more comfortably. It has also become plainly obvious to me that while open carrying, many people don’t see a full-size gun on my hip.

My girlfriend is an LEO. She carries a full-size gun as her duty weapon—Glock 22. For her concealed carry option, she is much more comfortable with a Glock 43. She is a small girl and concealing a full size is not realistic, especially in anything resembling fashionable women’s clothes. She is also a few months away from becoming an School Resource Officer (SRO) for her Sheriff department. That got me thinking about her other duty weapon, an AR-15.

I am a reluctant convert to the AR-15. For the longest time, I didn’t want a rifle with a bullet less than 130 grains. With the purchase of my first AR (about 10 years ago), it really began to change my mind. My late wife was able to utilize the AR (5.56) platform with much more accuracy, endurance, and no recoil pain or flinch. Then, I discovered non-standard calibers for ARs.

My collection has grown like a bunch of unattended rabbits. I currently have many 5.56 configurations and at least one AR in .300 BLK, 9mm, and .45 ACP.

The Sheriff department that my girlfriend works at has an SOP of keeping the issued AR in the trunk of the patrol car. This is as much to do with not scaring anyone by walking it into the school each day as it is with the budget not stretching far enough to have a gun safe and an onsite AR in the school SRO office. As often happens, my mind mulled over the concept of appropriateness of the AR as the choice for the tight confines of a school.

It occurred to me that the familiar manual of arms for the AR makes it a great choice; but the 5.56 caliber might not be optimal. The ballistics of 5.56 are not great for close work and offers a huge chance of over penetration, incredibly loud muzzle blast, and dramatic performance losses with less than a 16-inch barrel. By switching to a pistol round, most of those issues will be mitigated while still retaining the familiar manual of arms.

In a school setting, most engagements will be within 25-50 yards. That is definitely a long shot in a high stress environment with a duty pistol. Transitioning to a 10-12” barrel AR chambered in 9mm would make a lot of sense, especially when her department trades their Glock 22s for Glock 17s. They could have ammo and magazine compatibility quite easily. Making this choice would increase accurate engagement range and decrease the size of the platform for easier maneuvering in the tight confines of hallways and classrooms.

My suggestion would be to use an AR-15 pistol that runs Glock magazines. Equip the pistol with primary 1-4 x 24 scope from Vortex, Sun Optics, Leupold and / or a 45° offset reflex or red dot sight with instant on capability: Aimpoint, Holosun, Primary Arms… and a pistol brace such as the Gear Head Works Tailhook Mod 2. The brace would provide an adjustable stock option. Officers of different sizes can adapt the firearm to them instead of the other way around. Having the 10”+ barrel would match point of aim / point of impact (with a 25 yard zero) out to 100 yards, with Speer 124-grain short barrel cartridges. Other loads would provide similar performance.

Distance (Yards) Velocity (FPS) Energy (FT-LB) Trajectory
0 1,300 465 -2.5 in
25 1,228 415 0
50 1,165 374 1
75 1,112 340 0.4
100 1,062 313 -1.9
125 1,029 291 -6.1

For tight confines, such as a classroom or hallway, the disadvantages of the standard 5.56 AR-15 stand out. By switching to a pistol caliber (specifically 9mm), most of those disadvantages disappear and no real disadvantages occur. Even if you leave the tight confines for the more open space of the recess field, the range of the shots taken would rarely exceed 50-75 yards.

This would almost directly transfer to home defense, especially for those who live on a lot larger than .20 acres. I currently utilize a .300 BLK pistol for that purpose, mainly because I do not have a 9mm suppressor and I do have one in 30 caliber.

What is your opinion of a pistol caliber carbine for engagements out to 100 yards or a .300 BLK? Share your answers in the comment section.

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Comments (69)

  • Griz

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    Anywhere I’d take a SBR 9mm AR for defense I’d rather have the 300 BLK. Several options in that platform that work great, and it is no more difficult to shoot than a 5.56..

    But as usual there is no single right answer. For the right person, the 458 SOCOM might even make more sense on two and four-legged assailants. Some campuses have a greater risk of rabid dogs, coyotes, and even mountain lions than they do for shooters.

    When it is time to use it, it is time to stop the fight. And despite the 9mm’s amazing ammo choices and stopping potential, it isn’t anywhere near the ballistics and energy of a 300 BLK or 458 SOCOM.

    As with anything, that carries a level of extra responsibility, so practice drills using the sight of choice under multiple lighting conditions. I prefer reflex with backup flip up irons for speed and to minimize broadcasting my presence.

    However, there is something to be said for a laser/flashlight combo that diverts a shooter’s attention from the victims/targets. Just make sure you have a minimum level III vest on (not just IIIa).

    You can pretty much put all the sighting tools you want on it if you practice using them.

    I am conflicted about the AR in the trunk issue. Absolutely not practical to carry it around all the time or advertise its presence. But in the trunk when you need it is marginally better than not at all. I don’t have an answer for that.

    Several years back as a patrol officer, my brother took out an assailant who had an SKS and had already wounded an officer. His weapon? A Glock in 40 S&W. Range? About 75 yards. Five shots of seven connected. Two in the head, two in the torso, and one in the femoral artery.

    I used to hunt with him as a teen and he was never that good. I have to assume he trained to fight and it paid off.

    Reply

  • Tom

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    Nicely done article. I like the pistol caliber logic. I would go with just a lightweight red dot to keep weight and bulk down. What bullet would you use in the 300BO? I have a 300BO and a 6.8mm SPC pistol. The 6.8 is by far superior in kinetic energy, bullet selection, and magazine feeding reliability.

    Reply

    • John

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      I personally use either Barnes 110 gr or Maker Bullets 190 gr depending if I want super or subsonic. The Barnes opens up at +1450fps, The Maker at 750 fps IIRC.

      Reply

    • Tom

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      Those round are also my top choices in the 300BO. Both rounds will overpenetrate, however. Also consider, the 190 subsonic is the equivalent of a 45 caliber pistol in kinetic energy. Still, the 6.8 trumps in supersonic performance.

      Reply

  • Michael S Belcher

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    Opting for a pistol round instead of a rifle round in this situation is unmitigatedly ridiculous. There’s plenty of choice in rifle cartridges to mitigate over penetration while maintaining the benefits of range, soft armor defeating, hydraulic shock, and reliability in the platform. Also, you realize those Speer loads are for short barreled pistols, and not short barreled rifles, right? A designed 3″ barrel bullet in a 10″ barrel isn’t optimal by any means, and a 9mm load is highly likely to over penetrate with the extra velocity of a longer barrel.

    Reply

    • Emery F Rice III

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      The Speer bullet, 308150BLKGDB, IS NOT a shot barrel bullet. It was designed, just for the 300 Blackout. The only difference between a 10.5 inch short barrel rifle, and a 10.5 pistol, is the stock

      Reply

    • Michael S Belcher

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      Taken directly from the article, “Speer 124-grain short barrel cartridges.” That load is designed for 9mm pocket pistols with barrels around 3″. The author seems to think it makes sense to put these through a 10.5″ PCC/SBR. It does not, even if I accept that a PCC is optimal for this purpose, which I do not. Right platform, wrong chambering, wrong load.

      Reply

  • Emery F Rice III

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    Follow up to prior post. That round has less than 1.1 in elevation change, over 125yds, when sighted at 25yds. Its flat shooting with all the punch you will ever need. Swap out your upper to a 16inch barrel, and you get the same results, all the way out to 250 Yds.

    Reply

  • Emery F Rice III

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    Take a serious look at the 300 blackout with a 10.5 inch barrel, and a 1.7 twist. Load it with Speers new 308150BLKGDB, and you have one awesome self defense weapon. That combo will produce 1950 FPS at the muzzle, and 1266 ft lbs of energy. At 125yds, you still have 1757 FPS and 1024 ft lbs of energy, Lighter powder loads offer even more value, in tight quarter engagements The Speer bullet is a 150gr with a .463 BC Lil gun loaded at 21.0 grs and bullet seated to 2.180 lightly crimped, and the fight is over !.

    Reply

  • Bill Christenson

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    The disadvantage of a pistol caliber AR (other then the 556/223 )would be the over penetration. The 556/223 is designed to tumble at close proximity shooting making it a far better choice for a school setting. The noise factor is a very big disadvantage however.

    Reply

  • Seth Crews

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    I agree. I use a AR40s&w suppressed for home defense due to its small size, controlled muzzle flash and not a huge over penetration concern when using hollow points.

    Reply

  • Phantom30

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    Right on, Just publish a booklet on that same solution. But I am getting 300 yards out of it and potentially 450, versatility is king

    Reply

  • dprato

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    I question where the author got the statistics that most engagements will be at 25 to 50 yards in a school setting. Most of the stories I have read about people who disarmed shooters was by grabbing their magazines, tackling them and whatever. I can’t imagine trying to take down an active shooter in a crowded cafeteria, gymnasium, auditorium with a firearm at a distance of 25 to 50 yards. Some of these shooters have even turned their weapons on themselves. I am continually amazed at some of the articles on here where people either don’t really have the experience they are talking about or try to translate a military or police mentality. I also think the article is titled incorrectly as personal self defense and long distance don’t really seem to match up. Why would someone who has 20 acres and have a long range weapon think that at long distances they are talking about self defense? That’s like being in a war not a self defense situation.

    Reply

    • Gateman45

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      I had to look real close, but is .20 acres, not 20 acres.

      Reply

  • OldGringo

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    You will get 40 opinions from the first 40 commenters. I have 24 years military and wore 5 different badges and I too do not care for the AR platform in close quarters. When given the choice I carried either a shotgun or mini-14. I have also owned a 9mm rifle (Camp Carbine) for 30 years, simply not enough power. I also own the cool little KelTec Sub 2000, with mags that also fit my Glock 19, cool little gun, just not enough power if you are facing some fool with an AR 15 with a bump stock.

    In a crowded school, you may get only one shot before the shooter moves on or shoots you. A 9mm carbine only gives you about a 15-20% increase in velocity. Maye 400 foot pounds or less at the muzzle.. My suggestion is think like a sky marshal. I use frangible bullets for my ARs. Think about it, if you hit they explode into the target, if you miss the come apart on the first wall or floor they hit. I have also a 300BLK and a 7,62 x 39 AR, way too much penetration for indoor use. I killed a big white tail with the 7,62 x 39, Remington Core lock soft points. Bullet went completely through the deer’s chest (measured at 48 inches) and left a 2 inch exit wound on the far side, same as with a 30-06 or large caliber. Also, if you need to take a long shot across a school yard, the 9mm is going to drop 8-10 inches at 100 yards, and really will not have much power at say 100 yards. From a 10 inch barrel, the 9mm will start a little over 400 foot pounds and be down to about 250 foot pounds at 100 yards, with standard ammo. No agency is going to let you use Plus P Plus in a school. And on another note, while the MP5 with full auto ability was cool in police departments, they will never be issued to school resource officer, not accurate enough, for shooting at a moving person in a school. No major police department I am aware of is using what you suggest, they all went to frangible ammo in an M4 type platform starting around 2008 or so. Not to rag, just think you are overthinking what many of us tried a decade or so ago. Ruger tried to convert us all to pistol caliber carbine I 9mm and 40 SW about 15 years ago, then stopped production in 2007 due to low demand. Then suddenly they have brought a similar one back to market. So, I think SWAT teams have concluded they need to power of the 5.56 and have concluded frangible bullets are the best option. FWIW. If you think about it, even the 30 caliber carbine would be far superior for that use than the 9mm. More power, range, and the little things weigh nothing. Slap on a sight and laser and good to go.

    Reply

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