Good Morning, I have something here I am pretty excited about right off. Most people tend to lean towards handguns for home defense. They are a fine choice no doubt. Any pistol beats the hell out of harsh language and swinging your golf trophy at an intruder. If you’ve read some of my articles though I have said I would always rather fight with a rifle. I recently did a piece on the USGI M1 Carbine for self defense. A fine choice with the right ammo but maybe we can do one better??

So what are some of the parameters I think need to be met for a good HD rifle? It needs to be lite, a good bedside rifle needs to be lite enough you can easily grab and deploy it quickly and I think one handed is nice too. The older I get the wounds from the past seem to catch up to me more and more. How many guys out there have “dead” hands and arms when they wake up? I do. Years of heavy gear and weight lifting have left me in rough shape for the first 30-45 mins I’m up and moving. So an easily hefted rifle.

Short: You’re in your home or maybe in your yard. Short range right? A short rifle is simply handier for turning tight corners in a structure. A lot of well set up carbines are not even sticking out as far as a pistol in your outstretched hands. Plus you have a better hold on the rifle more than likely. Harder for it to be taken away from you. Especially with a sling over a shoulder like a good bungee cord single point sling.

Accessories: For an HD rifle you must have a light. Period. No if’s, and’s or but”s about it. I prefer some kind of reflex site, lots of choices out there. I think a single point sling is a good idea. If you “2 gun” it then you will want it for transitioning to your handgun. I want it because it straps the rifle to me. Your close up with your intruder, this will make it more difficult to have it taken away from me.

Right off the bat I am using this Walther cheapo green dot site. It is alright but will definitely switch to something more expensive later. I can’t see myself using a $21 reflex sight on my HD rifle. I used a TLR-3 from Streamlight which is a great compact pistol light but will switch to something brighter and probably end up getting a lite-weight quad-rail and move it forward. This single point sling is available from Botach Tactical, it is sling package #4. Inexpensive and easily mounted. These accessories are OK I guess but I just used stuff I had laying around to test the rifle. This will not be my final setup.

Reliability: You want to have unquestioned reliability from your HD gun. AR’s from quality manufacturers have just that. Buy a good one and it will last you a lifetime. The M-16/AR series rifles haven’t been in service this long for nothin’.

Ammo: Is it safe to say the 5.56 round is the most common one now in the USA?? Factually for sure I don’t know. I would guess it is. There is certainly a LONG, LONG list of kinds of ammo for it. Long range heavy stuff, ball ammo, military ammo, match ammo, hunting ammo and frangible ammo to name some. There is a lot of myth-buster stuff out there about over penetration of 5.56 rounds in the home. Truth is often times pistol bullets will pass through more walls because their weight to speed ratio doesn’t cause them to come apart. That statement is backed up by my own 2 eyes in real world use AND many studies proving it including one from the world famous Gun-Site School. Those dudes know what they are doing. A small rifle projectile going fast tends to come apart when it hits something. Simple physics. Size and bullet type to speed. This is why the 62 grain steel core Penetrator’s came about, 55 grain ammo was lacking penetration. Obviously we want to minimize over penetration. For this we will probably want to use some frangible ammo which is designed to disintegrate. A fine choice for HD. At least stick with soft or hollow points at 55 grains or less. Avoid the 62 grain steel core military stuff as they do not call it the “penetrator” for no reason.

Last thing I want to point out is the AR style of rifles have an infinite supply of parts, magazines, ammo, sights, lights, lasers and after market super gadgets to make them better or custom fitted to the individual. The amount of stuff out there for them is mind boggling. If you can’t have an AR built to suit you then you are probably too picky.

The rifle: Bushmaster is a trusted name, I generally prefer RRA but I have nothing against owning a Bushy. They are producing this Carbon 15 which has a carbon fiber upper and lower receiver. They come with a lite weight barrel and a smaller collapsible butt-stock than you see on most rifles. The thing tips the scales at a mere 5.1 lbs. making it a very handy little rifle.

I’m sure I’m not the only one but I was hesitant to buy a “plastic” AR. Then after reading and looking at the research I just decided to go for it. If we remember back in the day a lot of us were pretty sure Glocks were the cheapest piece of junk ever made and wouldn’t last but look how that turned out. So here I am with this new rifle. They offer several other Carbon models like this 9mm too. Now let’s get out there and bust some caps.

Shooting: I have now put about 600 rounds downrange of various ammunition. Two kinds of PMC, 2 kinds of Federal, some Lake City and some old FN military ball I have had stockpiled for I don’t even know for sure how long. 15 years probably. I was pleasantly surprised to see the trigger was lite and crisp. I for whatever reason expected to have to nearly stand on it to get it too break. I had planned in my head to replace the trigger with a 2 stage RRA match but as it turns out that will not be needed. I’m satisfied with the stock trigger for an HD rifle.

Now with the Federal, LC and PMC the function was flawless. Not a single hiccup of any kind. This makes up the bulk of my 600 rounds. I fired exactly 4 rounds of the FN military ball old stuff and had 2 cases stick in the chamber and have to be knocked out with a section of cleaning rod down the bore. I don’t know what’s up with that. I wasn’t very pleased as this stuff works in all my other AR’s. The stuff is from 1983 but that shouldn’t matter and it is FN factory so it should be good GI spec ammo. Whatever the reason this Carbon 15 hates the stuff. I just decided seeings how I am at the end of that case and I haven’t seen it for sale anywhere for years this isn’t the end of the world. I don’t like it but at the same time I know not to use any of what’s left in it.

I do have a personal “500 rounds without a failure” rule for defensive weapons to be trusted. I made my 500 rounds before trying some of the FN stuff. I don’t have any trust issues with the rifle. Just this particular batch of ammo and this rifle. I won’t sweat it. I think it’s a trustworthy weapon.

One thing I have found shooting her heavily is it gets HOT! Of course anything will warm up, I mean it gets hot beyond what I am used to and very quickly. That lightweight barrel and I have had a few accidents and the hand guards get a bit too warm too. Of course this won’t be an issue for a HD scenario. You shouldn’t end up firing 600 rds for something like that. Out on a range running her hard though be prepared to get burned. I did several times, my weak hand touching on the gas block. I also installed the new style of Slidefire stock on this thing at one point and by the time you’ve burned up your 3rd mag going cyclic if you go home right away you can heat your house with that rifle. I wanted to try that stock out anyway and it seemed like some good extra abuse for the Carbon 15. Except for the heat the rifle did quite well with that stock on. Last thing on the heat. A quad-rail and a forward grip would probably help me out here as far as burns. It’s a small stock handguard and for people with big hands like me I think that will spare us some misery.

Accuracy: At first I wasn’t very thrilled. The metal rail on the top of the upper receiver for mounting your optics flexed if you twisted on the scope at all. I tightened it up a bit and it seems OK now, not great but better. I think it needs another screw securing it in the middle of the receiver. I don’t know what that front screw threads into? If it threads into the carbon fiber be VERY careful too not over tighten. If that thing strips out 🙁 UGH….I shudder to think it. In fact I will call Bushmaster today and find out what that does thread into. I would hope some kind of metal implanted in there but I’m guessing NO! I bet it threads into the carbon fiber. I’m going to talk to my smith about adding a screw in the middle of the upper receiver for that rail. It could be more solid than it is.

The average groups were 4 inches at 100 shooting at paper plates with a non magnified cheapy Walther green dot sight. A few groups were around 2 inches but for the most part around 4 inch groups. That’s good enough for HD work and likely as a lite-weight “ranch” rifle too. Being that I am approaching this from an HD standpoint I wasn’t trying to see how small a group I could achieve. Just that it will fire reliably and with adequate accuracy. It’s not a match gun and nothing I can do is going to make it shoot like one of my free floated, HB, scoped, match grade AR’s.

Summary: Am I jumping for joy at this wonderful creation? No, not at all, I do not “love” the thing. Am I saying I don’t like it? Nope, not saying that either. I do think it’s useful for a home defense, lite ranch rifle or plinker based solely on the weight. The weight is nice. All my other AR’s weigh 10 lbs plus with all my junk bolted on. It is refreshing to heft this little girl. I have to admit though after the cases sticking and the scope rail being so flimsy that some of my initial excitement has left me.

It will not shoot as tight as what you may be used too and will heat up faster but for that bump in the night it is very quickly and easily deploy-able which is what I was after in an HD rifle. It has the benefit of a million accessories and so many choices of ammo it’s impossible to list it all.

All in all I trust the thing to go bang and don’t think your going wrong by buying one. I mentioned a 30 carbine in the first paragraph. The AR obviously has technology and all the supporting accessories on it’s side. Still….in the end I think I would still pick up my 30 Carbine if they were sitting side by side but that’s a personal choice for me, NOT a recommendation. Maybe it’s because that M1 has been in my life since I was a little boy and it belonged to my Gramps, I don’t know. You won’t hear me say “don’t buy a Carbon-15”. I got my $597.36 worth out of this rifle for sure. (I bought it without the factory supplied Bushnell scope) I think it will make a decent HD rifle or plinker especially for kids or people that may not be as physically strong but that’s about it for me. I’d get something heavier built for serious target shooting or most any other application.

As always thanks for reading and train often.

By: Cary Kieffer

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Cary Kieffer

USMC Infantry/Combat Veteran/MUESOC/Sniper School - Med Retired LEO w/ 8yrs on job before Iraq wounds caught up with me.

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