Sleeping soundly next to your spouse, you are awakened by terrified screams coming from the other end of your house. In an instant you realize the commotion is coming from your child’s bedroom. With your heart pounding, you grab your carbine and move down the hallway as your spouse calls 911. And then, illuminated by your weapon mounted light, you see your worst nightmare in the form of a madman using your daughter for a shield and holding a pistol to her head. He screams at you to drop your gun as he tightens his grip on the throat of the most precious person in your life. What will you do?

If recent gun sales are any indication, a lot of people are worried about having to address threats similar to the one I have described. One of the weapons people are buying in record numbers is the carbine, or AR-15 style rifle. Working at a firearms training school, I have ample opportunity to ask clients why they are buying carbines and seeking training with them; the number one answer is in order to defend their homes. I couldn’t agree more – carbines make outstanding home defense weapons.

In the days of my misspent youth, my friends and I put a lot of time and effort into fixing up cars. In my mind, the carbine is the ‘55 Chevy of firearms–it is subject to a great deal of customization, can be user modified, and there are a huge number of parts and accessories available. This being the case, the carbine can be customized for specific uses, including as a home defense weapon.


Most carbines are chambered for the .223 Remington / 5.56 NATO round. Whether in soft point, hollow point or full metal jacket configuration, this ammunition is excellent for use indoors if you are concerned about over-penetration through walls and the dangers this may present to family members in the home. As opposed to pistol ammunition or shotgun slugs and buckshot, .223 ammunition will penetrate fewer walls, with the bullet tumbling and fragmenting often after going through only one wall. On the other hand, this ammunition has proven to be very effective in taking the fight out of someone and will penetrate body armor of the type sometimes used by crooks and home invasion robbers these days. Most of us would agree that adding a light to the house carbine is a good idea. From dedicated forearm lights and pistol grip lights, to mounts for tactical flashlights, the choices for mounting a light on the carbine are almost endless. Weapon lights can provide a real advantage in low light situations, but you should bear in mind that a good light can not only temporarily blind a bad guy, but it can also give away your position if activated at the wrong time. Also remember that, while you may be justified in defending your home you may also face the consequences of a charge of assault with a deadly weapon if you point a gun at someone without justification. For this reason, you need to be very careful if searching with a weapon mounted light, even in your home.

Light It Up

Conventional wisdom has it that your carbine should be equipped with a good quality electronic red dot or similar sight and a good set of back up iron sights. In my opinion, for use in the home, there is no need for the iron sights, as they add weight and expense and are difficult to use quickly and accurately in low light situations. Now, if we’re wandering around in the hills of Afghanistan, good iron back up sights are a must, but you really have no need for them in a home defense environment. But what if the batteries on your optical sight go out, you say? I would answer that the top quality red dot sights, such as the Aimpoint, are very robust, will take all manner of abuse and have a battery life measured in years. If you really want to worry about battery life on these sights, I would recommend you leave them turned on and change the batteries once a year when you change your smoke alarm batteries.

Know Your Weapon!

There is some controversy concerning the distance at which carbines should be zeroed. Most people will tell you that zero range should be something like 200, 250 or 300 yards. In all cases, at very close range there is going to be a problem with offset, that being the distance the sight sits above the line of the bore. With most carbine/sight combinations, this offset is going to be something like 2.5 to 3 inches. With a conventional zero this means you are going to have to hold high by several inches if a shot at conversational distances must be made. Being somewhat unconventional, I zeroed my house carbine at 10 yards. That’s right, 30 feet, the average open distance in the typical home. In the middle of the night, in the dark while some monster is trying to harm my loved ones, I don’t want to worry about calculating distance and offset. I’m going to put the dot where I want the hit, carefully press and follow through.

Have you ever fired a carbine indoors, at night without ear protection? It can be a painfully loud and illuminating event. The best way I know of to minimize both issues is to add a suppressor to the carbine. which will both minimize muzzle flash and drop the sound level down to about what you would notice when shooting a .22 rifle without hearing protection. Yes, it makes the gun longer and a little less handy, but if you ever have to shoot it in the house you will be very glad to have added a suppressor. For those who are unable to purchase a suppressor due to local or state laws, I would suggest keeping a good quality set of electronic hearing protection handy. If you need to engage a bad guy the hearing protection will protect your hearing, as well as providing you with a tactical advantage due to your ability to amplify sounds, and perhaps, hear the bad guy skulking about. Since you’re probably going to finish an indoor fight with the ammunition in the gun, the ability to carry spare magazines, either on the person, or strapped to the carbine, is probably unnecessary. It never hurts to have a reload handy, but carrying several hundred extra rounds is not something we need concern ourselves with. Similarly, there is little need for a tactical sling or carry strap. If you’re going to be maneuvering inside a house in the dark the sling may well catch or hang up on some unseen obstacle.f

My house carbine has an Aimpoint Micro sight, no back up iron sights, a Surefire weapon light, a Surefire suppressor, M4 style retractable butt stock, forend and magazine by Magpul, and it’s loaded with .223 soft points. That’s it; everything you need and nothing you don’t. PHD

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