With all the negative media regarding the AR-15, I thought it would be appropriate to suggest a range regimen for practicing with America’s most popular rifle. The Vice President has now publicly advocated shotguns as a stronger choice for self-defense applications than the AR-15 on at least two separate occasions, but my wife would strongly disagree with his sentiments. Specifically, 12 gauge shotguns tend to be heavier at the front of the gun than an AR. This equates to increased fatigue for a smaller-framed (and let’s face it, even a larger-framed) person who is forced to sight down the gun for any length of time. A good adjustable stock alleviates this problem somewhat with a shotgun, but makes a carbine exponentially lighter and livelier in the hands. When comparing the penetration and recoil characteristics of buckshot and a good expanding .223/5.56mm round, the AR-15 often becomes the better choice for those who live close to neighbors or who have large families that won’t necessarily all be huddled together in one room when something goes bump in the night.
That being said, with the current ammunition shortage and the ever-increasing price of what is available, I have found a CMMG .22 caliber conversion unit to be a great training aid. It allows me to use a few rounds of .22LR to practice sight acquisition, trigger control, and follow-through without the expense of full-power ammunition. However, I do recommend that you shoot a few rounds of full-power .223 through your gun before leaving the range, to reinforce the shooting you have done with the conversion unit with full recoil.
This range regimen is designed to be executed while envisioning a home-defense scenario, where you have ensconced in your safe-room in response to armed intruders. The required equipment is as follows:
AR-15 or other defensive carbine (.22 Conversion Unit optional but recommended)
50 rounds of ammunition
Eye and Ear Protection
Silhouette Target (B-27, IDPA or similar)
Warm-Up: Shooting for Groups (7 yards, 5 rounds, silhouette target)
Shooting for groups allows you to verify your zero, as well as getting you acclimated to the trigger. Start out with some dry practice to check for follow-through of your shots. When you are satisfied, load your rifle and proceed. Aim for high center mass and note the altered impact of your rounds when using a .22 versus a full-power round.
Snap Shooting (7 yards, 10 rounds, silhouette target)
This drill is designed to work on your presentation. Start from low ready, which means the rifle is mounted to your shoulder, but the barrel is held at a downward position. At the buzz of your timer or your training partner’s command, snap the rifle onto target, acquire a flash sight picture on the target’s high center of mass, and press off a single round. Make sure you follow-through with each shot and engage the safety before returning to low ready. The tendency is to snap the rifle back to low ready as quickly as you brought it up to the target. This would start to build a habit of not following through with your shots and is to be avoided.
Dot Torture (5 yards, 20 rounds, dot torture target)
This drill focuses on target transitioning and trigger control. From the low ready, upon command engage the top row from the left, the next row from the right, and continue the pattern until finished.
Controlled Pair (5 yards, 10 rounds, silhouette target)
The controlled pair is one of the basic skills of the carbine. To perform is appropriately, both shots should be made with a separate sight picture (as opposed to a hammer pair, made with one sight picture). Practicing a controlled pair allows you to verify your trigger control, sight alignment, and follow-through and is often range-friendly for those using strictly regulated indoor range facilities. Focus your shots on the target’s head for verification of your shot placement.
Close-Range Engagement (2 yards, 5 rounds)
Rarely do we practice with the carbine at so close a range, but in order to realistically practice defense in the home, we are forced to do so. Picture the intruder bursting through your bedroom doorway and rushing you with a knife. Sight offset will come into play at this range, requiring you to aim a couple of inches higher than you want the bullets to impact. Focus on achieving hits on the target’s high center mass and if your range allows it, use hammer pairs or a non-standard response (random shot string) to get the job done.
Stay safe out there, and remember if the government doesn’t want you to have it, you probably should have two!