Thursday, January 3, 2013

The NRA Claims the AR-15 Is Useful for Hunting and Home Defense. Not Exactly 
But the AR-15 is not ideal for the hunting and home-defense uses that the NRA’s Keene cited today. Though it can be used for hunting, the AR-15 isn’t really a hunting rifle. Its standard .223 caliber ammunition doesn’t offer much stopping power for anything other than small game. Hunters themselves find the rifle controversial, with some arguing AR-15-style rifles empower sloppy, “spray and pray” hunters to waste ammunition. As one hunter put it in the comments section of an article on, “I served in the military and the M16A2/M4 was the weapon I used for 20 years. It is first and foremost designed as an assault weapon platform, no matter what the spin. A hunter does not need a semi-automatic rifle to hunt, if he does he sucks, and should go play video games. I see more men running around the bush all cammo'd up with assault vests and face paint with tricked out AR's. These are not hunters but wannabe weekend warriors.”

In terms of repelling a home invasion—which is what most people mean when they talk about home defense—an AR-15-style rifle is probably less useful than a handgun. The AR-15 is a long gun, and can be tough to maneuver in tight quarters. When you shoot it, it’ll overpenetrate—sending bullets through the walls of your house and possibly into the walls of your neighbor’s house.
What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.


  1. In 2011, Andres Brevrick killed 67 people (mostly young children) with another common semiautomatic rifle, the Mini-14, which much like the AR-15 it is a civilian version of the military M-14 assault rifle (although not directly so, as it is chambered for the 5.56 millimeter NATO round, the same as the AR-15 and M-16, as opposed to the 7.62 millimeter NATO round of the M-14) and functions in very much the same manner as the AR-15. When Bill Ruger (former Chairman of Sturm Ruger and Co.) supported the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (the Assault Weapons Ban) he did so to ensure that the killing machines that his company produced (originally for the purpose of sales to State actors) would not be affected by the ban.

    If the use of a semiautomatic rifle (or any semiautomatic firearm) is not necessary for hunting, sport, and self defense, then such firearms may not be protected by Scalia's majority opinion (his interpretation of Miller v. United States) in DC v. Heller, and therefore, all semiautomatics may be prohibited without any (erroneous) constitutional repercussions.

    This is the Mini-14:

    1. Mike,

      This offers an opportunity to illustrate why Assault Weapons Bans are viewed as arbitrary exercises of government power by us gun owners. The VPC picture illustrates a Post 2004 model of the Mini-14 that would have been illegal as hell under the '94 AWB.

      Ruger was seeing sales drop and introduced the scary looking model to compete with AR-15's that were becoming popular. Of course, since the Mini-14 is more expensive than an AR and is usually less accurate, the ploy didn't seem to work. (I'm basing this on the fact that I don't see many of these being bought, sold, or traded.)

      The Mini-14 that was legal under the '94 AWB remained so, not because of Bill Ruger's manipulations, but because it didn't look like the gun in the pdf. It had none of the "evil features." If you follow this link:

      You will see 4 models of the gun. Before and during the AWB, what Ruger was making was the Ranch Rifle seen on top and the Target rifle. (The thing on the end of the target rifle is a muzzle brake to help with accuracy, not a suppressor in case anyone is wondering.)

      These were popular because they were reasonably accurate and made good guns for ranchers (and other farmers) to kill pests with (e.g. ground hogs and prairie dogs that dig holes cattle can trip in and break their legs).

      These were accurate enough for the times, and were relatively popular. Their popularity is declining now because improvements in technology have rendered the AR a better choice since it is cheaper and more accurate.

    2. Post Script:

      Those two models I noted, the Ranch and Target, would still be legal under Senator Feinstein's new proposal for an Assault Weapons ban. They don't even have one of the "evil features."

      And if you think that this is ok because they're not as accurate, understand that I'm talking about the pinpoint accuracy needed to hit a rabbit in the head at 100+ yards--many AR's can do that, most Mini-14's that I've shot can't. When it comes to hitting man sized targets at those ranges (which are greater than the ranges in mass shootings), the Mini-14 is more than sufficient.

    3. All semi- and full-auto gun toys should be banned and forcibly removed from the gunsuck morons.

    4. Anonymous,

      If you ever manage that, please join the team that forcibly removes them. Don't make someone else's son or daughter do the dirty work for you and bear all the risk.

      Hugs and kisses!

  2. Mike,

    I disagree with the Slate article's take on the issue--I know, big surprise. Here are some reasons why. Regarding Hunting, Yes, the .223 is not the best round for taking larger game. You can put a whitetail down with one shot, but most people use a larger diameter bullet to cause more damage more quickly, thus allowing a less perfect shot to still do the job and put the deer down quickly and humanely. Arguments among hunters regarding proper caliber are motivated by this desire for a clean, humane kill.

    As for the AR variants chambered in .223, they are mostly used for the small game that the article notes that they are suitable for. They are ideal for this purpose because they use a small caliber bullet traveling at high speed, and the ones we buy for hunting are usually custom built to be more accurate than the M16A2 or M4 that soldiers use.

    Other variants that have become popular utilize either the round used by the AK (which is a ballistic equivalent of the .30-30 and thus an excellent deer hunting round) or some new loadings that have been introduced in the last decade. All of these are good for deer, or for feral pigs and black bear (which we mountain folk do hunt for food). It's in the latter two cases, dangerous game, that having a semi-auto is a huge help. I've heard lots of stories from hunters using bolt action and lever action rifles who have nearly gotten killed by boars and bears before they could put them down, so having a semi-auto to speed up the couple of follow up shots needed to hurry the charging animal's death is quite a legitimate desire.

    Finally, on the topic of home defense, Any bullet is going to penetrate walls. The worst offenders--the ones that penetrate the most layers of drywall or wood paneling, are handgun rounds and larger caliber rifle rounds. These are massive (usually 120-200 grains as opposed to 55 grains for a standard .223) and are, therefore, slowed down less by each sheet of drywall. As for the length, this can be a concern, but it is a double edged sword. If you decide to clear your house, looking for the burglar rather than waiting for the police to arrive and using the gun to protect yourself in the back room, a handgun might be easier to navigate with, but it is also more likely to miss, and as previously noted, if you miss, you will probably penetrate more walls. Generally, if someone has time to grab an AR or a shotgun, they are better off because the length of the gun makes it easier to hit what you are aiming at (think of trying to draw a straight line from one point to another 20 feet away using a 4 inch ruler vs. using a yardstick).

    1. Actually, it didn't sound like you completely disagree.

    2. The points we agree on are that the .223 is not the best deer round, and that the .223 can penetrate walls. The conclusions they draw from these facts, in the absence of other important ones, are incorrect though.

      As I explained, there is lots of game and pests that the .223 is ideal for, and we hunt those critters quite often around here. They also discounted the larger AR calibers that are becoming common. Finally, the conclusion they draw regarding penetration of walls is the opposite of what is indicated when you take into account the penetrative abilities of other options and the fact that it's harder to hit what you aim at with a handgun, which is what they recommend.

    3. I hunt deer all season and kill them with a 5.56 NATO round 69 grain just fine .. anyone needing a larger cal. Is not a good shot.. and need to compensate with a larger cal. Bullet. The .223 is just fine for deer which is about the limit on large game. And to be honest white tail deer are by far NOT large game.

  3. One of the more popular animals to hunt with an AR-15 is the wild boar. Though everyone assumes animals being hunted are passive and harmless and that hunting is exclusively recreational, the ones people might NEED to hunt (i.e. pest control, or a threat to humans) usually don't go down easy, and are not easily killed with one shot. Follow up shots are frequently necessary,

    The video is of a hunter using a semi-automatic handgun at close range to kill a boar that charged him. The boar was already shot with a hunting rifle at range, and simply charged the hunter rather than dying. Boar charges on hunters, and even people who aren't even hunting, are very common and can leave serious injuries or be fatal. The same criteria one would use in deciding whether to use lethal force (as the law proscribes). To say the rifle is worthless for hunting is, well yeah. It's also important to understand that that's just one opinion. I could probably refer you to plenty of other people who hunt with ARs and see the merits of doing so themselves.

    As for home defense; there's a reason people proscribe long guns for self-defense. They're generally better platforms than handguns. And as for over-penetration, it happens with every gun. American architectural styles are flimsy no matter what. The reason shotguns became the de facto proscribed "home defense" gun is that people mistakenly believe buckshot won't go through walls, but that's absurd. Good home defense ammunition (and such a thing exists) for any rifle will go through less drywall than 00 buck; and such a rifle will permit you to engage multiple assailants if they break into your house (and it happens).

  4. Go look at the penetration tests and discussion about home defense at The Box O'Truth site. The author gives plenty of detail on the relative merits and effects of different weapons and ammunition. The Slate article is written by someone who knows things at best second-hand.

  5. Actually, it's useful for both. To suggest otherwise requires denial of what is known about its terminal ballistics. The best way of preventing (or at least minimizing) collateral damage is training and practice repeated ad nauseum.