Keeping the Background in Focus

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

I spend a fair amount of time in survival groups of one sort or another, and one of the things I’ve noticed is a lot of people posting pictures of their AR-15s. I like AR-15s and have one myself. But I’m a bit concerned about the apparent number of people who think of an AR-15 as a self-defense gun. About the only time I could see myself using my AR-15 to defend my home, is if I was under attack by a gang. Even then, I’d be concerned.

Here’s the thing; The AR-15 round, like any rifle round, was designed for penetration. That’s why they have a rather sharp point on the bullet. Pistol rounds aren’t that sharp, not even the 9mm round, which has a much sharper “point” than other pistol rounds. What that means is that the 5.56mm bullet coming out of the muzzle of an AR-15 is going to go through a whole lot more than any pistol bullet is.

According to the specs on the 5.56, it should be able to penetrate 15 to 20 inches of soft tissue. By comparison, the 9mm is intended to penetrate 12 inches of soft tissue. Looking at that another way, in my own testing, I’ve been able to penetrate 11 layers of ½” plywood or 5-1/2” of plywood with a 9mm, so based on that, I would expect a 5.56 bullet to penetrate about 9” of plywood.

So, just how many walls does that equal? Walls aren’t made of plywood, but rather of drywall. That means that instead of going through 11 layers, we’re looking at something more along the lines of 23 layers. At two layers per wall, that’s a lot of walls.

Okay, so here’s my point; the big problem with using an AR-15 as a home defense weapon is that there’s just too much chance of shooting through the wall and into another building, if you miss the target. Considering how much our shooting ability is degraded in an active shooter situation, the chances of missing and hitting something that we don’t want to hit is just too big to ignore.

That’s why I titled this “keeping the background in focus.” In any active shooting situation, we have to keep ourselves keenly aware of what’s behind the target. But that goes far beyond looking to see who might be standing behind them or looking at the wall; we must also think about what’s behind that wall and the other walls behind that wall. Before taking that first shot, we need to be much more concerned about our misses, than we are about our hits. The hits, after all, are going to be in the bad guys, so they shouldn’t hit any good guys.

I’d also recommend making your firearm and ammunition choices based on what is least likely to penetrate through too many walls. I carry low velocity rounds in both my 9mm and my .45, in both cases, with the intent of protecting the innocent. They are also both hollow points, so that the bullet will expand, helping reduce penetration. While that’s not as good as a frangible round, which is designed to break up on hitting something solid like a wall, I’ve never done the ballistic testing on frangible rounds, to gain confidence in them.

Some would say that using hollow points reduces the weapon’s effectiveness, because it reduces penetration. I won’t argue with that. But I’m not as interested in penetration as I am in energy transfer; what most people refer to as “knockdown power.” My goal isn’t to kill criminals, but rather to stop them in their tracks. If I can do that, I don’t need the ability to kill them.

That’s also why my main carry gun is my .45 and not my 9mm. Of all the major calibers, the .45 has about the worst penetrating power there is. It won’t even penetrate through one layer of Kevlar. But at the same time, it has the best energy transfer of any round there is, probably because that was what it was designed for. So, in an imperfect world, I consider the .45 to be the most perfect self-defense round there is. If you prefer 9mm, that’s fine, as I already mentioned, I’ve got a couple of 9mms too.

Let me add one more thing, before closing this out; shotguns. Many people have called the shotgun the ultimate home-defense firearm. They’re good; there’s no doubt about it. But 00 Buckshot, fired through a 12-gague shotgun, will still go through at least three drywall walls. As crazy as it sounds, unless I’m back in that situation with a gang attacking my home, I’d rather use #8 birdshot in that shotgun. It will still transfer a lot of energy to the target; but hopefully won’t go through a wall.

You’ve got to decide what works best for you. But whatever you do, think about that wall behind your target. You really don’t want to be shooting through it.

Think of it like keeping your powder dry and your survival gear close at hand; just one more precaution.

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