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)

  • Anthony

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    Appreciate your opinion on 9mm platform. I retired from LE I was a handgun, subgun, and rifle instructor. I taught team tactics and was on cqb team for 10 years. Over penetration was always a concern. To solve this problem our tactical team used defrag bullets in .223 calibre. I believe 9mm bullets have just as high a risk of over penetration as do 5.56, .223 etc. As a school recource officer, the AR Pistol platform with frag bullets would be optimal for cqb and distance engagement. Thanks

    Reply

  • TRL

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    .223 AR in SBR configuration; short but powerful and easily handled in close quarters.

    Reply

  • Emery F Rice III

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    Another alternative, would be, to use a 7.5 inch 300BLK Pistol, loaded with a 200gr sub sonic round, and tipped with a suppressor. Quiet, deadly, and has the range. Add the Light under the barrel, that includes the laser.

    Reply

  • Sub sailor

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    I wanted to echo HW Stones comments and add that shooters are starting to wear ballistic vests now, which prevents penetration from most handgun rounds. Rifle caliber rounds will still penetrate and get the job done.

    Reply

  • Matt in Oklahoma

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    You know absolutely nothing about 556 performance and have obviously never killed anything with one. Therefore you shouldn’t be writing, making statements nor recommending anything.

    Reply

    • A. Blandino

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      I always thought a pistol carbine was a “PC” answer to a serious question. Accurate, long/ short range lethality. Pistol cartridges just do NOT consistently fit those parameters. NOT even close.

      That being said. Pistol caliber carbines are a great answer to cheap practice.

      Of course, the ULTIMATE “answer” is the operator of WHATEVER chosen weapon system.

      Reply

    • Jaron

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      Instead of making a baseless claim, why don’t you try explaining what you mean and why the author is wrong.

      Yes, bullet choice in .223/5.56 can mitigate over-penetration risk. But it’s always going to be very loud ( especially if fired indoors ) and the shorter you cut the barrel, the bigger the muzzle fireball. It’s great for outdoor engagements at 100+ yards, but you have much better options available if your focus is defending a school campus.

      Reply

  • Tony

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    I like the pistol cartridge use in the AR or similar platform for SRO use in a room-to-room enclosed combat scenario. The only suggestion I would make would be to replace the 9mm with the .45 Auto. That would actually suggest than an ideal platform would be the venerable Thomson with a 50 round drum. The duty pistol could also be .45. I’m not seeing any real need for the service pistol and long gun having interchangeable magazines.

    Reply

  • Chris

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    I’m thinking that if you have a rifle in hand, you should have a caliber that can dump rifle level energy into the assailant to stop the fight as quick as possible. 300 BLK would seem to be ideal for this situation with heavy quick expanding loads. If a pistol caliber, then hot 10mm 155gr (Underwood 1500fps) should prevent excessive penetration while providing nearly 1000 ft/lbs out of a short barreled rifle

    The saying goes, a pistol is used to get to your rifle, not your pistol is used to get your other pistol with a shoulder stock. My two cents.

    Reply

  • HW Stone

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    From the standpoint of a large database of military close quarters encounters I will disagree with your conclusion regarding pistol calibers for a high density environment.

    All of the pistol calibers have serious over penetration on the materials used for those buildings and retaining walls. There are some who feel the pistol caliber would be less likely to pass through a normal wall, but the actual stats show less over penetration for FMJ 5.56mm rifle rounds than “normal” pistol bullets in soft point, hollow point, or FMJ.

    All rounds will penetrate some walls, but the 5.56x45mm in the same bullet types as the pistol round being compared to it is less likely to carry through several of the walls the building at seven meters than the pistol rounds– again of the same bullet type.

    Very close quarters defense of a building by single or multiple attackers is a less than two meters to more than one hundred fifty meters range scenario. If the defender is at ground level and the attacker is across the playground on top of a two story building the distance is greater than most people expect.

    Without an intervening wall the 5.56mm has shown it will quickly incapacitate a close and a very close quarters attacker, and in a school you are not trying to blast through walls, you will be almost desperate to ensure your target is fully and clearly established and identified before pulling the trigger.

    A good 5.56x45mm weapon is able to handle all of those distances out of an eleven inch, fourteen inch, or sixteen inch barrel.

    The weak point is the person trying to defend the students and staff, and a quick search will show you that several different weapons are available in 5.56x45mm, all with extremely high rates of reliability in both function and stopping an armed attacker.

    There is a new forward piston system upper for the AR-15 lower that uses the design features of the AR-180 and allows for function with the stock folded on the side of the weapon with a sixteen inch barrel in extremely confined areas, and a quick flip to open it for longer range response.

    A lot of us think of it as “what do I bet my life on” in one of these situations but it really goes deeper, and is more about what is the best method of ensuring the highest survival rate for the students and staff.

    My conclusion would not be a larger weapon using a less effective pistol caliber cartridge with a greater danger of over penetration.

    Reply

    • Dan

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      Thanks for typing all that – I completely agree with you! Old FBI study showed 9mm had more over penetration than 5.56.
      The other option for carry is 14.5” bbl in which you still get full performance.
      LE switched to carbines for a reason. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it

      Reply

    • A. Blandino

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      Agreed. Well done.

      Reply

  • Clifffalling

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    @ J. Bibby. I like where you’re going with this. For the school setting though, why not an HK mp5, or the P90? Something along those lines? Maybe one of the newer Sig PDWs. Forget the duty sidearm. I mean, if you had something like the p90, you have an extra layer of safety because all you have to do is secure the magazines. You cant just go down to your local dealer and pick those up. But you’re right, adding a few inches to a 9mm barrel gives you excellent ballistics.
    Good thoughts.

    Reply

  • Griz

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    Meant to add that my brother’s CAR-15 was in the police cruiser beside him. But to reach for it meant he had to break cover and take the risk of multiple hits from an SKS.

    It would have been no more accessible in the trunk, so he used what he had with him and used it very effectively.

    Reply

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