AR-15, girl with AR-15
(Photo by Steve Woods)

Though no military on the planet has ever adopted the semi-automatic AR-15 rifle for its armed services, anti-gun forces disparage it as a “weapon of war that has no place in civilian hands.” Oddly, the mayor of London says the same of any pocket knife with a blade that comes to a point. The yeoman warriors of England and the patriots of the American Revolution must be rolling in their graves. The prohibitionists use a philosophy of “the pet reflects the personality of its owner” to damn AR-15 owners as bloodthirsty monsters who care more for their guns than for the lives of children.

There is no question that this same rhetoric can and very likely will be used against you in court if you have successfully defended yourself or other innocent persons with such a firearm. You need only look at the moot court research of my friend Glenn Meyer, a now-retired psychology professor who found that, given a situation of a homeowner shooting a burglar, the mock juries were harsher on those who used an “assault rifle” than those who used a typical “sporting gun.”

With that in mind, should I trade in all my AR-15s and similar rifles for the double-barreled shotguns of Elmer Fudd and Joe Biden, and advise you to do the same? Oh, hell no! Instead, I will advise you to be able to explain your choice of firearm in such a way that even 12 people expressly selected by your accusers for their lack of knowledge of firearms and self-defense can understand.

Bringing The Heat

Let’s start with Case One, the mass murder at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Upon hearing that the church was under attack, a neighbor, Stephen Willeford, grabbed his AR-15, loaded it on the run and confronted the killer. The AR-15 lends itself to fast, accurate, powerful hits, and Willeford inflicted exactly that on the murderer, who fled. While driving away, the killer reportedly phoned a relative and told the man he thought he was dying. He then shot himself and finished the job. Speaking recently at the 2018 NRA show, Willeford said, “He had an AR-15, but so did I, and it’s not the gun — it’s the heart.”

If the AR-15 is so lethal and scary that some people think it should be banned, don’t you think it’s equally scary to criminals facing one? And isn’t it better for all concerned if the criminal assailant is so scared of the AR-15 the lawful defender points at him that he breaks off his assault and flees or surrenders?

AR-15 Deterrent Effect

Cases Two and Three, the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles in 1992 and the Ferguson, Mo., riots of 2014, stand to prove the preventative power of the AR-15. In both of these events, when looters and arsonists were running wild, they conspicuously avoided and fled from storeowners who guarded their property with weapons, including the AR-15. At the time of the LA riots, the violent criminals knew two things: The police had been held back from the scene, but the storeowners were definitely there, and while at that time the only LAPD officers with “black rifles” were the SWAT team, the armed citizens damn sure had theirs visible.

Let’s look at some more localized incidents. Writing for The Daily Signal, Amy Swearer reported that in Rochester, N.Y., in 2013, “Two armed burglars retreated from a college student’s apartment after coming face to face with an unloaded AR-15. The rifle itself instilled enough fear to cause them to flee.” We’ll consider that Case Four. Also from Swearer comes Case Five in Oswego, Ill., 2018: “A man with an AR-15 intervened to stop a neighbor’s knife attack on a pregnant woman. The rifle’s ‘intimidation factor’ was credited as a reason why the attacker dropped his knife.”

Saving Lives

Another writer, Wesley Messamore of, brings us two more examples. Case Six occurred when “a man and woman attacked a tax preparation business near Detroit, pointing handguns at the receptionist and owner. What happened next was caught on video…when one of the attackers advances past two horrified victims to check out the next room of this house converted into a small business office, a security guard behind the door enters with an AR-15 and scares off the intruders with two shots.”

Case Seven also comes from Messamore, in which “two men with a handgun broke into the New York apartment of a Rochester Institute of Technology student named Raymond…the two intruders broke into the basement of the apartment and waited for a victim to come down to check out the noise. Raymond’s roommate, Chris Boise, told a local television station: ‘They were waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs’…One of the intruders pointed the barrel of a handgun at Chris. Chris says he instinctively let out a blood-curdling scream to warn Raymond, who went to get his AR-15 out of its gun bag.

By then, one of the intruders began to open the door to the room where Raymond was waiting with his assault prevention rifle. ‘By the time I had it out and ready, one of the men came at my door, slowly opened it, saw that there was a barrel on the other side and from there backed out.’ The intruders fled. No shots fired.”

AR-15 Adaptability

While a concealed-carry firearm tends to be a personal gun worn by a single dedicated user, the AR-15 kept for home defense is more of a “pool weapon” generally accessible to multiple members of the household who have been authorized to use it in an emergency. This means it has to fit the short and the tall, the experienced and the inexperienced, the strong and the weak alike. The typical format of the AR-15 offers a lightweight gun with mild recoil. Also, where ridiculous “assault weapon” laws don’t prohibit it, a telescoping stock that can be instantly adjusted to fit users of different sizes, affording them maximum control and confidence.

Here are some examples. Again from Amy Swearer, Case Eight tells of a 15-year-old boy in Harris County, Texas, who “saved both his life and the life of his 12-year-old sister by fending off a pair of home invaders with his father’s AR-15.” And for our Case Nine, Swearer reports that just last year in Broken Arrow, Okla., “A homeowner’s 19-year-old son used an AR-15 to defend himself against three would-be burglars who broke into the home in broad daylight. The 19-year-old was later determined to have acted in justifiable self-defense.”

There are many more cases where law-abiding Americans have used AR-15s and similar arms to save innocent lives; both their own and those of others. Don’t trade your AR in for an Elmer Fudd signature model shotgun. Instead, be able to explain why you chose that firearm as the lifesaving emergency rescue tool it was designed to be.

This article was originally published in Combat Handguns January/February 2019. To order a copy, please visit

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