For the majority of gun owners, for a long time, the prospect of an AR-15 (or one of its variants) for home defense was regarded as dangerous overkill. Not only were they too long and unwieldy for practical protection of your home, the risk of over-penetration rendered them an unacceptable risk to friendlies.
One wit suggested that they were the perfect firearm when an intruder called beforehand to let their intended victim know that they’d be charging toward their target’s home from 200 yards away.
It was taken as a simple certitude that for protection of the homestead you went with the handgun (or scattergun, but that’s another article), and the AR was strictly a plinking or hunting tool.
However, recent improvements in both rifle and ammo technology have opened up legitimate debate about the viability of .223. So, with that in mind, which is the superior home defense firearm: the 9mm handgun or .223 long gun?
Pros and Cons of the 9mm
The 9mm is the most common handgun caliber on Earth, and for good reason. It has the stopping power to make it effective in a cartridge that allows for 16 round mags in a comfortably compact pistol.
Ballistic, tactical, and defense statistics notwithstanding, the fact that it’s the most common caliber means that bulk 9mm ammo is some of the least expensive ammunition on the market. As shooting is a perishable skill, being able to afford enough ammunition to practice consistently is an important part of the equation. All of the pistol versus rifle versus shotgun metrics and hand-wringing in the world is moot if the gun owner in question is not well trained with their firearm.
As for the pros of the 9mm as a personal and/or home defense solution, they’re pretty well established. Handguns are more convenient to carry and far less unwieldy in a close-quarters firefight situation than rifles. They can also be carried with one hand. That’s definitely something to keep in mind when a home-defense scenario could easily involve opening doors, turning on lights, using a flashlight, calling the authorities, etc. Handguns are also generally going to be more user-friendly for smaller and less experienced shooters.
The cons, compared to AR variants, at least, include lower magazine capacity, less precise aiming, considerably less effective range, and less power than long guns.
Pros and Cons of the .223
As you’d suspect, the pros and cons of the .223 are the flipsides of the those for the 9mm. A .223 has considerably more bang behind it, the magazine capacity for rifles chambered for .223 can easily be twice as much as 9mm handguns, and the range is better.
Alternately, they’re clumsier than a handgun in close quarters, they fill the hands, and those higher-cap magazines are not allowed in a number of places.
Honestly, what it comes down to is the gun-owner’s situation and preference. The home-defense weapon that works for a single person in an urban apartment building isn’t necessarily going to be the best choice for a family in an isolated rural house.
At the risk of igniting a debate over the legitimacy (or illegitimacy) of over-penetration, there’s no reason not to play it safe when choosing a load for your personal defense weapon(s).
Chambering hollow-point 9mm ammo isn’t just the preferred defense bullet for their increased tissue-disruption—unlike ball/FMJ slugs—that on-impact expansion also reduces the risk of over-penetration after hitting or missing an organic target.
Similarly, choosing a round that will fragment on contact, such as a split core round, frangible, or even a Glaser safety slug, is likely to be safer than a traditional FMJ without sacrificing the stopping power.
About Ammunition Depot
Ammunition Depot is a premier online ammunition vendor. Founded by proud Americans, they put a premium on the freedom and right to defend us, ours, and our country, a freedom guaranteed by our Constitution. The Ammunition Depot team is proud to provide people with good jobs in their home state of Florida, with an emphasis on hiring vets. They plan to continue creating jobs; supporting charities for our troops, law enforcement, and shooting sports; and providing bullet-fast delivery of quality products for decades to come.