Will an AR-15 really shoot through the wall and kill my kids?

First, the background:

Ok, now that we got the VP out of the way, let’s get to the facts, shall we?

What we’re talking about today is, basically, over penetration.  And if you’re not familiar with the term, it’s the ballistic phenomenon that happens when a bullet passes through our target and then keeps on going… and going… and going.  First and foremost, over penetration is a risk with all firearms.  It matters not if you’re shooting a .30-06, a Ruger SR22 (nice little gun, by the way), a Ruger LCP, or a Kimber Ultra CDP II in .45 ACP – drywall doesn’t stand much of a chance.  Know your target and what’s beyond it.  So hopefully this goes without saying – most common building materials these days, particularly in new homes and apartments, won’t stop any bullet.  If your kids are in the next room, even if there are a couple pieces of sheet rock between you and them, shooting in their direction puts them in danger.  Got it?

Here’s the next topic: the myth of the handgun being safer in the home than the rifle (as a rule).  Disclaimer: this isn’t about which gun to pick for home defense – pistols, rifles, and shotguns all have their place in various home defense situations, and I’m a big fan of all 3.  All have unique advantages and disadvantages.  That’s not what this discussion is about.

I saw an episode of Guns & Ammo TV a while back (sorry, I couldn’t find the video online – you’ll just have to trust me that it exists) where they had multiple simulated interior walls setup that they took turns shooting with various guns.  If memory serves, they shot it with a .380 Auto, a 9mm Luger, a .45 ACP, and then a .223 Remington out of an AR-15 (plus maybe a few others in there as well).  Each of the bullets shot from the handguns passed through all 3 simulated walls without so much as even slowing down.  Yes, even the .380 Auto.

(Quick interlude – presumably, the bullets were all either JHP or FMJ to at least make the test “apples vs. similar-sized-oranges.”  Obviously, there are about 100 factors at play here including bullet design, distance at which they fired the shots, density of the walls, blah blah.  Work with me on this.)

But guess what happened when they shot the same walls with the AR-15?  The bullet hit the first wall, started to tumble and break apart, then the bullet fragments hit wall #2.  None of the bullet made it to wall #3.  Will this happen in every case?  Absolutely not.  But could it be repeated?  Maybe – and that’s the key.

By the way, an interesting ballistic phenomenon can happen when a jacketed hollow point bullet hits drywall – the hollow tip can actually get packed with the drywall and sometimes, the bullet doesn’t expand.  So as a perfect illustration that capitalism works, some ammo manufacturers (specifically, bullet manufacturers) have tried to solve that problem by inserting a polymer tip into the hollow point of the bullet.  The idea is that when it strikes something like drywall, that polymer tip forces the bullet to expand, which bleeds off that energy into the target, which is the whole idea of the JHP anyway.

First, the dissenting opinion:

Many consider Box O’ Truth to be the gold standard when it comes to “myth-busting” these claims, so here it is.  Their conclusion: after various other tests (browse their website – very cool stuff), they noticed some extreme effects of the .223 Remington bullet (like it was deflecting so much they had to build bigger test walls), massive tumbling and twisting, but the bullet was still going through all 4 walls (as were all the other common self-defense loads, by the way).

Bottom line: don’t point a gun at a common household wall and expect it to stop a bullet.  But I think we already have that part covered.

Box O’ Truth also tested various rifle and shotgun loads at those same walls.  Interesting, if not predictable, results.  One thing I need to point out: #8 birdshot doesn’t penetrate much.  Duh.  Was there really a question about that?  But that’s the thing: using birdshot against a bad guy in your home is a horrible idea for those exact reasons: you need to actually be able to stop the threat.  If he’s wearing a jacket or multiple layers of clothing… pretty much anything… you could have just wasted the one shot that could have saved you or your family.  Like they say, “Use Birdshot for little birds. Use 00 Buckshot for bad guys.”  So there ya go, Mr. Vice President.

But back to my original point: a rifle may not be a bad choice for home defense, either.  Believe it or not, the FBI has actually done a ton of testing on this subject.  First, the link.  Then, the quote:

  • “The FBI’s Firearms Training Unit located at the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA has done extensive testing of the .223 caliber rifle round and determined that in urban environments (like the inside of your home) the .223 caliber projectile not only provides “impressive” ballistic performance, but is less likely to penetrate common building material than are the 9mm, 10mm or .40 S&W jacketed hollow point handgun projectiles.”

It’s no coincidence that police forces have basically universally switched from the 12-ga. shotgun to the AR-15 these days: it’s an effective “threat stopper,” it’s easy to use, easy to shoot, has good capacity, and according to them, the risk of over penetration is lower with the AR-15 than with many common handguns.  I guess in Colorado, you have to shoot it with a 15-round magazine, but that’s another story.

But back to my point: if it’s good enough for the FBI, and good enough for the police, can it be good enough for you?  Absolutely.

So, how do you like me now, Joe?


Different topic: since everyone agrees that Joe Biden is a completely incompetent boob, I actually love that his job now is to parade around the country and tell people how bad guns are.  The more he talks, the more people are waking up to the real agenda here.  I still think he needs his own 24/7 television channel.  If that wouldn’t be a marketing goldmine for the GOP, I’m not sure what would.  Keep it up, Joe.  We’re all rooting for you.

Oh, and Jenna I win the bet – I told you I’d get that picture into my blog.