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)

  • Ken


    Another Kel-Tec fan here. Recently purchased a Sub 2000 Gen 2 in 9mm M&P using much the same line of thought as the author. I find this to be an extremely reliable, light weight, highly accurate, and easily concealable weapon that can be quickly deployed. And it’s a great suppressor host!


  • AMS


    There’s a reason the the Bureau (after extensive testing) decided to replace their 9mm and .40 S&W submachineguns with 5.56 NATO carbines and that reason was overpenetration. With ammunition appropriate to tactical use (i.e. not ball), 5.56 NATO is significantly less likely to overpenetrate than subsonic 9mm or .40. As a result of the FBI testing, DEA recalled all of their Colt SMGs and replaced them with Rock River LAR-15s. While pistol caliber carbines do have significantly less muzzle blast, the trade-off in potential overpenetration isn’t worthwhile.


  • K Daniel


    Would like to know what components you use for your edc full size M&P. 9.
    Not happy with my cc set up…

    Enjoyed the article I don’t own an AR but I do like the theory presented. Sure has me thinking.
    Look forward to your reply.
    Thanks in advance
    K Daniel


  • Bob


    Probably get laughed at, but my up close rifle is the KelTec Sub 2000 gen 1 in Glock 17. Dead on at 50 yards with the Kel Tec sights, over 2000 rounds without a FTAnything. Am going to change out the plastic feed ramp for metal, and am contemplating a pic to mount a red dot to, but I love it as is.


  • Matt


    If you have never shot a 9mm AR, believe me it is a whole different animal than both a 5.56 and a 9mm pistol. You have a great defense round with minimal blast even in a 8 or 10 inch barrel and the ability for great repeatable accuracy versus a pistol. I say this because I have shot at a steel range with both my inventory of 9mm pistols and a AR in 9mm and the difference is night and day. At 25 yards I can make hits with every one of a 33 rd mag, even the 4” (feet) on the silhouette target). With my pistol I’m lucky to get all of the 10” plates in a row. That may not sound impressive but the hits are also a lot quicker. In fact I much prefer a 9mm AR for my home defense over the 5.56.


  • Ricky Bobby


    All I here is regurgitation of stupid information thr author picked up at his local gun store.


    • Jamie


      Absolutely agree.. as everything he mentions about the use of a 9mm vs 5.56 AR is wrong. His selection of optics, dots and 45* offsets. Is just baffling at best. One MOA etched dot.. works when batteries don’t. Greater precision than open sights.. PROPER ammo for classroom shooting.. semi jacketed frange. Oh.. and since it’s on LE letterhead. You can go ahead and use a stock!


  • Emery F Rice III


    It is, really, very, very simple. You practice, practice, and practice, with a weapon, that will shoot straight. Then, WHEN, , you can shoot straight, you become an RSO. But, You, still, have to practice, practice, and practice ! Then, practice, some more.


  • Edward A Allen


    All good points. The compatibility issues would be resolved, single magazine use. 33 round mags available for a higher capacity. with the red dot, if the person is wearing body armor, a head shot would be significantly easier.

    And for persons with rooms that are longer than 25 feet, you have greater chance of hitting what your aiming at.


  • Elton P. Green


    Gentlemen and ladies, the answer to all of this is just to change ammunition in the CAR 15. Go to something from DRT ammunition or from Glazer and use a frangable projectile. Range would be more than adequate and penetration of walls, thus possible collateral damage, practically non-existent. Do keep some conventional ammunition on hand for barricades, though. With the ammunition change, the weapon would be good for close shots and longer shoo=ts as needed, and a simple magazine change would give the user penetration should the assailant hide behind cover.


  • mj


    Great points from the article to the comments. I’ve been itching for a very lightweight 9mm carbine/AR type platform.

    In the articles scenario, school shooter, I think this would be best choice. Less stress to good shooter being less recoil, less flash etc. Remember, she is LEO, not SWAT.

    Biggest concern though might be bullet proof vest, but I still think direct hit would be enough to incapacitate until further rounds etc.

    I think the SBR are pretty optimal for regular LEO unless they are highly proficient in the AR platform which plenty are.

    My Brother/inlaw uses the 9mm rifle over AR as a US Marshall, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that.

    He also stated a concern for penetration against a ‘vest’ but also agreed a well placed shot in the vest would likely incapacitate a shooter…while not permanently, likely enough to subdue or use further rounds to stop the threat. Great article…

    Please NAME your favorite Lightweight 9mm carbines/SBR/long pistols that you recommend.


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