AR-15 Choices for Home Defense

Gear tree with rifle, shotgun, plate carrier and gear belt

I am a belt and suspenders kind of guy when it comes to certain things. Home defense is one of them. Because of that, I like several options sitting by the bedside for dealing with social work, like evicting home invaders. There is a gear tree that sits 3 feet away from my nightstand that holds my 3-gun belt, my plate carrier, and two long guns. One of those guns is an AR-15, and that is what we will focus on today.

The specific AR sitting in that gear tree has morphed several times as my relationship, my equipment options, and my housing situations have changed.

When my wife was alive, she had a Kel-Tec KSG loaded with one tube of Aguila mini (slugs). The chamber was loaded with the mini buckshot round. However, if needed, she could flip over to slugs at any time. This complemented the 5.5” barrel Smith and Wesson .357 N frame on her side of the bed.

I had a classic carbine AR-15 along with my Glock 17, carry pistol. The only real difference about my AR set up, was the choosing cartridges with 77-grain bullets, instead of the 55-grain feedings most people use.

The 77-grain OTM bullets were an attempt to reduce over penetration issues. My theory was that a heavier, slower bullet designed to “fragment” had less chance of penetrating/ricocheting through walls with enough force to kill one of the teenagers; yet, it would do more damage to the goblin.

It was certainly a better choice than 55-grain FMJ and my testing in a pork butt showed a much larger wound cavity and better bone penetration than 55-grain soft points.

After her passing, I no longer had to be the point guy, while she secured the rear and the kids. The kids were of age and had recently moved out, so the Kel-Tec moved into my gear tree and the AR switched to a 9.5-inch barrel 9mm that feeds from Glock mags.

The gun is in a pistol configuration and having magazine compatibility with my carry gun made a lot of sense. I figured compatibility and the extra velocity of a longer 9mm barrel certainly couldn’t be bad.

About a year after moving to Tennessee, I purchased a new AR Pistol in 300 BLK. This took over the AR slot for unwanted varmint eviction. The gun also has a 9.5-inch barrel and sports a Silencerco Omega suppressor. I run 190-grain solid copper bullets from Maker Bullets that are designed to peel back into 3 prongs.

In pork butt testing they opened to between .650” to .850”. Every bullet opened properly, but those that hit bone tended to spread more as one or more prongs flattened more than those of bullets that only hit meat.

This gun and caliber are what I will be kept by my bedside for quite some time. In suppressed form, the sound level is loud conversational without hearing protection in an enclosed space. Without the suppressor, it is still a lot less loud than my carry pistol.

This is one thing that none of the other choices offered. I did toy with running the Omega on the 5.56 carbine, but it made for a very long rifle. The effective barrel length was over 24 inches. My .300 BLK with the 9.5-inch barrel and the suppressor has a barrel length of 17.5 inches. This makes it quite useful indoors, and in the configuration I use, it helps with the balance.

In addition to the can, my setup includes a Gear Head Works Tailhook mod 1 brace and a BAD lever, so it is very simple to run with one hand. This leaves the other hand available for doors, working a flashlight or managing a phone call to 911.

I strongly suggest the Tailhook, in either Mod 1 or Mod 2 configurations to make any home defense AR pistol more useful, and I strongly suggest a .300 BLK with defense-minded subsonic ammunition. If possible, the package is completed with a .30 caliber suppressor.

Even if you don’t have, or can’t justify buying the suppressor, the subsonic .300 BLK is much less punishing to the ears than most any other effective man stopper round.

Do you keep a single firearm bedside for self-defense or do you prefer options? How have your defense options changed over the years? Share your answers in the comment section.

About the Author:

John Bibby

John Bibby is an American gun writer who had the misfortune of being born in the occupied territory of New Jersey. His parents moved to the much freer state of Florida when he was 3. This allowed his father start teaching him about shooting prior to age 6. By age 8, he was regularly shooting with his father and parents of his friends. At age 12, despite the strong suggestions that he shouldn’t, he shot a neighbor’s “elephant rifle."

The rifle was a .375 H&H Magnum and, as such, precautions were taken. He had to shoot from prone. The recoil-induced, grass-stained shirt was a badge of honor. Shooting has been a constant in his life, as has cooking.

He is an (early) retired Executive Chef. Food is his other great passion. Currently, he is a semi-frequent 3-Gun competitor, with a solid weak spot on shotgun stages. When his business and travel schedule allow, you will often find him, ringing steel out well past 600 yards. In order to be consistent while going long, reloading is fairly mandatory. The 3-Gun matches work his progressive presses with volume work. Precision loading for long-range shooting and whitetail hunting keeps the single-stage presses from getting dusty.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (40)

  1. I keep my Canik TP9SA under my spare pillow loaded with 19 rounds of G2 civic duty. No over penetration at all, they look like flowers unless they hit bone. The SBR is next to the bed leaning on a nightstand. I really doubt I’d need the AR, but its there in case.

    As always
    Carry on

  2. My 300BLK with the Suppressor (the AAC762SD is designed for 300BLK) is a total of 14,5 inches in the barrel length. I have a Tax Stamp for the Can and for the SBR. The entire length of the gun is 30 inches, so even with the can its still shorter than a standard AR Carbine.

    1. You stated before your barrel was 10 1/2″. Now you are saying the suppressor and barrel is total of 14. 1/2″. That leaves only a 4″ suppressor. Think you need to get out your tape measure since Advanced Armament Corp list the 762-SD as being 9″. For it to be 14 1/2″ long with that silencer would mean you have a 5 1/2″ barrel.

    2. John, on 1st page of comments Scott tells Karl his barrel length is 10 1/2″ long and what suppressor he is using.

    1. I can give you the measurements, but I didn’t build it from plans. I just built it by building it.

      external dimensions using 3/4″ sanded A/B hard wood ply
      24″ wide
      24″ tall
      12″ deep — to do it again I would make it 2-3″ deeper
      top long gun cutout shelf – 4″ deep

      piping tree components are all threaded galvanized 1/2″ pipe from Lowes
      screw down flange with 4 #10 3/4″ wood screws
      18″ pipe – up from flange
      “T” junction
      3″ pipe
      “T” junction
      2x 4″ pipe with caps
      from original “T” junction another 18″pipe
      to elbow
      4″ pipe and cap

      A hole 1/8″ bigger than the OD of the pipe was drilled through the top “shelf”. I drilled this hole, then dropped the pipe down and screwed the flange in place to make sure it was all lined up properly. Just make sure the hole is far enough forward to accommodate the flange.

      The wood is butted together with good wood glue and 1.5″ brad nails from my pnuematic nail gun.

      There are also 3″x3″ wool slide pads on the 4 corners because it lives on hardwood.

      Nothing you can’t do with a table saw and a couple of hours of work. I didn’t even bother to seal or stain it.

  3. My bedside arsenal consists of a Beretta 1201 loaded with #4 buckshot, backed by one AR-15 in .223 and a Vz.58 in 7.62X39. If needed, there is also a SUB2K, backed up with a G23 and a PPS-all in .40S&W. I usually sleep like a baby unless my 90 lb Catahoula/pit bull alarm puppy sounds off…

  4. If you’re so paranoid you need all that by your bed, stop doing drugs, stop selling drugs, or stop snitching on the cartels.
    Maybe you just need to see a psychiatrist. ????????????

    1. Your attempt at humor falls flat. Just ask those who have been home invaded.

      The gun community needs less people committing snark and fratricide due to others making different choices (while still legal, moral and ethical) than them.

  5. Glock 27 on night stand, (when not appendix carrying) with 165gr. Hornsby Critical Defense loads. Backup on magnetic attachment to bed: Glock 19 with 90 gr. TUI from Fort Scott Munnitions. Mossberg 88 with 00 buck leaning in the corner. KelTec 9mm in “her” bathroom closet and a CZ in mine. Just in case!

  6. I keep a Sig P938, condition one, with a 7-round mag and a red laser, my primary EDC, on my person for every waking minute. In bed, I have a XDm with 13 rounds of .45 acp and a red laser. Additionally, a Sig P238, cond one with 7 round mag, a S&W 1911, cond one with 8 round mag, and a Ruger LCR with 5 rounds of .357 Mag on my side. My wife has a Sig P238, cond 3 with 7 rounds mag. A 12 ga Remington pump shotgun with 7 rounds of birdshot also rests somewhere in the bedroom. A Mossberg 20 gauge pump shorty with 5 rounds and a SP101 loaded with 5 .357 mag rounds in my work room. More revolvers reside elsewhere around the house. With one firearm on my hip at all times, or within arms reach, I feel prepared for a sudden home invasion. I don’t worry about reloads. I’ll just grab another gun as needed.

    Am I afraid? No. Am I paranoid? No. I am prepared. My firearms are the last resort. I have a great dog, cameras, motion detector lights, my doors have been strengthened and reinforced, and a comprehensive security alarm system. Any uninvited invader(s) is/are making a drastic, catastrophic mistake picking my house. I just want to be safe and secure for me and my wife, kids and grandkids when they’re here.

  7. I elected to add a 300BLK for the same reasons cited by the author: I initially opted for heavier .224 bullets to address over-penetration issues but ultimately decided 300BLK checked more home defense boxes overall when running 200gr+ subsonic loads. It offers pretty much the punch of my Sig P250 .45 and triples the mag capacity right here right now.

  8. I don’t drink, or use otherwise, so I wake when there is noise. My doors are auto locking (with an annoying alarm if the lock doesn’t engage). My windows are impossible to move, even when unlocked it seems, so they must be broken if attempting entry. The exterior is well lit with motion sensors. Also, I am not a spy, rogue scientist , offensive politician, or any other such important person that would paint me as a target for roving professional ninja assassins.
    I sleep pretty well at night. Or during the day. Whenever the need strikes me.
    Oh, In answer to the question posed. A 44 spc with alloy slugs and snake shot. A G19 as well.

  9. My goto for home defense is a 12 ga pump 18 in barrel with plug removed. 00 buck solves all problems at close range. I keep a basic six shot heavy steel 38 revolver for back up. For longer range defense my 308 bolt action Mossberg MVP will handle with 10 or 20 shots available. Don’t need an AR. That was rifle USAF used in M16, we called them Made by Mattel guns lol. Coz no kick 🙂 I much preferred M14 when went USN.

  10. Glock 30 on one night stand. Taurus Judge alternating 3” .410 000 buck and .45 long colts JHP. Scatter then splatter, on the other night stand. And a Mossberg 500 with 2 3/4 00 buck times 7 rounds in the corner.

  11. I have a 40 cal Sig Pro loaded with 180 grain Hydroshocks that follows me all around my home and property-always!

    When I go to bed it sits on a low table next to my bed, right next to a 12ga.Tac 14 with a side saddle, shotgun and side saddle both loaded with Critical Defense 00 buckshot.

    At the foot of the bed is my early warning system and first line of defense–my otterhound. Plate carrier, with AR500 there too.

  12. I recently assembled a 9.5″ .300 blk with a law tactical folding adapter for personal defense and travel. For travel I carry the gun in a backpack with 4 mags. 2 mags are loaded with supersonic ammo and 2 with subsonic ammo. I keep a mag of subs in the gun for defense. Easier to use and quieter than a conventional pistol shooting supersonic ammo. I am very interested in the ammo listed in the article am a big fan of expanding monometal bullets for defense.

  13. You’re certainly welcome to live in purpetual fear and preparedness, as for me the risk of home invasion is so low as to make getting hit by meteor more likely. A revolver in the nightstand and long arms in the safe are as much of my peace of mind will allow. I’ll save the hightened awareness for combat zones to avoid complacency. It is poor economy to spend an inordinate amount of time and money on the most unlikely of events.

    If you are a drug dealer, live in a high crime area and like to antagonize gangsters then by all means recognize that you live in a combat zones. I would relocate rather than gear up for war.

  14. I share your age and attitude but I like my [dull size]Glock 30.
    When they seized my guns for 18 months,I had a two handed slaughter house/rendering plant cleaver…no serial numbers/rifling marks/ registration.
    Regrettably I’m still stuck in NY,trying tof ind some small rural property elsewhere[with onsite accessible ground water].I welcome direct referrals but “I’m not Bill Gates or Warren Buffett !“”.

  15. Under folding semi-auto AK with 7.62×39 Inceptor Ammunition. Under folding makes it handy. The ammo is 90gr.and frangible.

    1. I love the 1st two, but the 3rd is what will keep you alive and bring hope to reality for all of us.

  16. I have always wondered about the fascination with the 300 AAc versus the 7.62×39.
    Seems like the 7.62×39 does good as good-and is cheaper/more widely available.

    1. The 300 BLK uses a standard barrel of 10.5 inches, which is great for indoor work. I have an AAC762SD Suppressor on mine and with subsonic ammo the trigger reset is as loud as the gun, therefore it is totally ear safe indoors. With proper ammo it will shred zombies every bit as good as it does 400 pound feral hogs. Try firing an AK47 indoors without serious hearing protection and see how that works out for you.

      300 BLK is not the do all end all but it is a good choice for certain jobs.

    2. Unfortunately not every one lives in a state that allows suppressors. Imagine with that 10.5 inch barrel, once again not allowed to be bought in every state, added to that 9 inch suppressor makes it a little less handy than an AK.

      But I would love your suppressor. Would be real nice on the end of the AK. The Russians did make a sub sonic round but not sure you could find it here. Inceptor does sell just the bullets so I could probably work up a good sub sonic reload. The do make cartridges and just bullets for the 300 AAC BLACKOUT. If reloaded might want to make something for yourself. Frangible not bad idea in house.

  17. In the bedroom, the wife keeps an HK USP .45 at arms reach, and I keep either a Commander or full size 1911 (also in .45) at similar distance. In addition, at teach once out of bed, I keep a STD Mfg DP-12 loaded with 00-buck (12 rounds, since they’re 3”), or a Kel-Tec RDB.
    In the living room we have a concealed magnet that holds a 380 MP Sheild, and in the kitchen another concealed magnet that holds a .45 1911. Regardless of where we are in the household, we have a fire close by to repel a home invader.

    1. With my can on, it certainly is. Without a can, using heavy for caliber, subsonic handloads they about the same amount of sound at the muzzle. However, your ears are much further from the muzzle so the inverse square law has a bearing. If I don’t have a suppressor, I can also run a linear compensator on an AR barrel which increases the effect of the inverse square law.

  18. Suppressors are verboten in NY.
    Tell me where in TN[rural]I can relocate to?.Retired,alone,on limited SS.
    Small land/property with onsite ground water.
    I would sell my 11.3 in 14471,Assessed for 147K,discounted[STAR]taxes are $3813.
    I keep a Glock 30 with 230gr JHPs and a sturdy knife by me

    1. Karl, I live in rural Tennessee about 50+ miles north of Nashville. Land is very reasonably priced with low cost of living and low taxes. I am non-service connected disabled veteran and only get my Social Security check plus my wife’s income. Our gun laws are very 2A friendly. As far as suppressors and other NFA items, TN’s law mirrors the NFA. I have two NFA items, an SBR and a “Destructive Device”. Come on down, we always welcome other 2A supporters.

    2. The Bristol, TN area reportedly had the most bang for your buck, due to the low average income. And it is a beautiful area.

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