AR-15 ‘overpenetration’ only exists if you do this wrong
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Today, we’re going to talk about one of the biggest misconceptions that people have about the AR-15. To be fair, they get this misconception honestly.
They’re repeated ad nauseam at gun ranges, in articles, blogs, forums, videos, and even on TV without proper context. To complicate matters even more, there’s an element of truth to it.
What is this myth?
"I think ARs are bad for home defense because of overpenetration. I don’t want to shoot my neighbors or kids in another part of the house."
Good. I don’t want you to shoot anyone who’s innocent, either.
But let’s dig into this a little.
First off, penetration is good. It gets you to vital organs and stops threats fast. In the 1986 FBI Miami Shootout, there was a famous bullet that stopped just short of hitting the heart of one of the bad guys…it was called "the bullet that failed." You don’t want to use bullets designed to fail.
You’ve got to have penetration to maximize effectiveness. You just don’t want to miss your targets and have ammo go through walls into bedrooms or into your neighbor’s house.
There are two components to this.
The first and most important rule to minimize innocent people getting hit in a gunfight is to hit your target with every shot. Don’t stop training when you can hit your target…keep training until you can’t miss.
That is the standard that you should set for yourself. 100 percent hits and no misses. It’s not reality and there’s a really good chance that Murphy will step in and mess things up, but you want to train so that any misses you have are beyond your control, and not because of a lack of training or practice.
Second, you should realistically expect any ammunition that’s going to have effective penetration on a person to go through drywall, sheetrock, and other wall materials if you miss your intended target.
Ordinary defensive 9 mm hollow points can go through six layers of sheetrock or or three or four layers of steel in a car. There’s a good chance that any caliber of defensive pistol or rifle ammo has the ability to go through walls and hurt innocent people.
Hollow points that may expand when they hit soft tissue often get plugged when they go through sheetrock, don’t expand, and act like a full metal jacket round.
There are bullet designs that claim to reduce overpenetration on sheetrock, and some do better than others, but regardless of how realistic it is, the best way to minimize the chances of hurting innocent people is to make your hits.
One thing that’s surprisingly consistent in penetration/overpenetration testing is that typical defensive handgun rounds penetrate more layers of building materials than .223 from a carbine.
But what about shotguns? If we look at both ends of the spectrum, slugs have a serious overpenetration problem and bird shot has a serious underpenetration problem.
In the middle, buckshot shares a problem that’s common to all shotgun loads — the recoil is harder for smaller shooters to control, and slows down follow-up shots. In addition, the recoil and weight of a shotgun make it less enjoyable to shoot for smaller shooters, and less practice translates directly to less comfort with the gun and lower performance under stress.
Finally, there are fewer ranges that allow you to practice with a shotgun than there are that allow you to practice with a pistol or an AR.
Additionally, there are .22, pistol caliber, pellet, BB and airsoft training versions of the AR…but not so much for the shotgun.
So, if all bullets are capable of penetrating through multiple walls, it stands to reason that you might want to use a weapon platform that will give you the highest probability of hitting your threat. For most people, the increased barrel length and controllability of an AR makes it easier to hit man-sized targets at in-house distances in low light conditions under stress.
The proof is in the pudding. While nationwide hit ratios for law enforcement are in the 12-25 percent range, hit ratios with rifles for many departments are over 80 percent.
In addition, it’s generally easier to put a light/laser on an AR than on a pistol. There are great laser/light options for pistols, but most shooters find them easier to operate on an AR than on a pistol.
Prices on ARs have dropped to levels that would have been unbelievable a couple of years ago, and a lot of people are buying one “just in case.”
I want to strongly encourage you to take the next step and get solid at-home training for the AR. It will add to and reinforce any live training that you’ve had, and, if you’ve had military or law enforcement training with the M4, it’ll help you make the transition from military and law enforcement tactics to tactics that are more appropriate for a civilian.
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