Myths and testing: why my 5.56 is the best tool for home defense

When it comes to home defence my primary firearm is my AR 15 with two linked 30 round magazines, (hopefully I will have a couple Surefire 60 round mags soon). There is a reason for this, during multiple tests it has been shown that the 55 grain ball round from a 16″ barrel penetrates either less than or as much as both 12 gauge shotgun 00 buckshot and slugs as well as 9×19 and above when used in home scenarios.  wpid-img_20150320_140816.jpg

For instance on Chuck Hawks website can be found an article titled, ammunition for self defense. I highly recommend reading this article as it quite detailed in its approach to self defense ammunition. I have linked it above for your ease of reading. Additional reading is the article titled “.223 drywall penetration: results” found at the website linked. This is among the most complete of the testing and shows the most generous results. Rather then argue with others and the myth of .223/5.56 penetrating through the moon and back again, I would encourage you to do your own  testing as I have personally. My results were quite similar to the results found in the .223 drywall penetration article.

As with all self defense arguments the one most important item most often forgotten is, practice. Do you practice regularly in similar environments to your home? Do you do dry runs (no ammunition) through the house to ensure that regardless where you are if a home invasion occurs at night you understand where your children are and what you and your family should be doing? Do you do home invasion drills similar to your fire drills? joints of the body

In my house the wife knows, as soon as the dog barks and the doors or windows rattle I am up armed and barring access to the rooms. Her job is to check the children and ensure their safety and location. A handgun is easily accessible next to both of our sides of the bed, the handgun is a Glock 19 and on both are lights that can be switched on and off quickly to verify targets. Additional magazines can be found at key locations throughout the house as well. Because we have the SAME handgun regardless situation we know exactly how and what to do and there will be NO mechanical issues caused by using three or four different handgun types.

The next step is for me to tuck the handgun in my holster which is attached to drop over plate carrier with spare magazines for the handgun and rifle attached. This is all accomplished in under 15 seconds. We have solid steel storm doors and secondary locks as well. This allows us a minimum of 30 seconds of time before entry can be accomplished. By that time I am in place and armoured with my 16″ DPMS AR-15 1:9″ with a solid red dot sighted in at 50 yards and a 500 lumen light. The red dot is turned on every night before bed, and off again in the morning, batteries changed every month (even though with this particular sight I could leave it on for over 3 months without worrying about it or ever shutting it down.) The light is tested nightly with batteries changed every two months.

9x19 speer gold dot 124 grn jhp

9×19 speer gold dot 124 grn jhp

The set up of the house is such that I can be in position with the kids safely tucked away covered by mom and I can be in position so that any intruder must come through me to get to their room. Because I choose to practice semi weekly this allows me to be far more sure of myself. Does this make sense? Regardless, this is why my 5.56 is the best tool for home defense, followed closely by my Glock 19.

The ammunition I choose for the rifle is the following.

Hornady 55 gr. GMX® TAP® BARRIER™

Velocity (fps) 2955
Energy (ft lbs) 1066
Trajectory (in) 0

Yards 100

The ammunition I choose for the Glock’s is the following.

Gold Dot Personal Protection – 9mm Luger 115grn


Velocity (fps) 1210

Energy (ftlbs) 374

50 Yards



The choices for each are made based on testing. However as is always most important, use first what is most reliable, accurate and capable from the rifle, shotgun or handgun you have chosen. These factors cannot be decided until the individual using the rounds or firearms in question have tested them thoroughly. For myself, a handgun and rifle must run a minimum of 1000 rounds of range ammo without firearm related failure to be considered reliable. The self defense ammunition chosen must be tested to the tune of 250 rounds at a bare minimum through EACH chosen defensive firearm. I prefer 500 rounds or more and do so because I firmly believe that my families lives are worth the money spent testing.

9x18 mak Hornady critical defense ftx

9×18 mak Hornady critical defense ftx

Each choice of ammunition was made after selecting based on reviews from solid reviewers between seven and ten different self defense rounds. I then tested each of the seven for penetration and expansion (if a round had ONE failure to penetrate adequately or expand it was immediately discarded as a round of choice) the rounds left after this testing are then tested for accuracy and reliability. ONE failure and the round in question was discarded. My personal testing resulted in my choosing the following rounds as preferable, reliable rounds for MY personal self defense. Speer GDHP 115 grn, Hornady CD 115, Hornady FlexTip 135grn, Remington 115grn Green Box jhp were the clear winners based on energy + every other requirement. I used three different handguns during testing and any failure in ANY of these three handguns caused instant discarding of the round. The handguns utilized were, Glock 19, Kahr Pm9, Sig p229. (I do not currently own nor will I again own a SIG or Kahr for personal reasons.)

Questions? Suggestions?

Free the mind and the body will follow


About Jesse Mathewson

Jesse Mathewson is the author of the popular blog, and provides commentary to many varied places based on a background that includes education in criminal justice, history, religion and even insurgency tactics and tactical training. His current role in his community is as an organizer of sorts and a preacher of community solidarity and agorism. He also runs Liberty Practical Training, a self defense school specializing in the practical applications of defensive approaches versus the theoretical. As an agorist, voluntaryist and atheist his life is seen as crazy and wild by many, though once they get to know him most realize he is a bluntly honest individual who will give you the shirt off his back if he believes it is necessary to help you. Very simple, "That which is voluntary between all individuals involved is always right, if it is not voluntary, it is always wrong."
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2 Responses to Myths and testing: why my 5.56 is the best tool for home defense

  1. Thanks for the comment and feedback.


  2. Lynne says:

    Your article has. piqued my interest. Like the tip about the having the red dot on; makes sense. Thanks for an excellent article.


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