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Having retired from Special Forces more than four years ago, I no longer have a requirement to kick doors in … unless it’s the bathroom door because my kids or the wife are taking too long.

The realization that this part of your life has come and gone is hard to take for some. But for most of us, the skills and knowledge that years of training and countless deployments have ingrained in us never really go away. The use of firearms and hand-to-hand are a couple of those things that are still relevant and useful, even long after finishing your service to our country.


The use of a rifle for home- and/or self-defense is a valuable tool in your overall defensive posture.

It seems the hot topic these days is the modern sporting rifle (MSR), more commonly referred to as the AR-15 (very much the same way all photo copying machines are almost always referred to as the “Xerox”). The reality is that this is a semiautomatic rifle with the same basic mechanical functions of any other semiauto rifle, such as the Ruger 10/22. Pull the trigger; one round is fired. It’s not “scary” just because it’s black or has military-like accessories. The AR-15-style rifle is still just a rifle. It is not an “automatic rifle,” “assault rifle” or “machine gun,” as it is often called in the mainstream press.


I currently own several different models of the modern sporting rifle and can attest that they can be used for more than just self-defense. They are not the weapon-of-choice for mass shooters, as the media would have you believe. In 2014, Chicago had 107 mass shootings (a “mass” shooting is defined as having three or more victims). By the summer of 2015, there had been 192 mass shootings, according to the Chicago Tribune. Few of those are attributed to rifles, and even fewer are attributed to the modern sporting rifle.

The Streamlight TRL-1 puts out 300 lumens and can be attached to any Picatinny rail system. This is a good choice for those looking for lightweight illumination.


While the modern sporting rifle has many uses, its use as a home-defense firearm might be the most important. It is easy to learn how to operate, and it is accurate at both close range and distance. The wide variety of ammunition also makes it a favorite.


As with any weapon, understanding capabilities and limitations are important when considering a firearm you might choose for personal defense.

In the September/October 2006 edition of Infantry Magazine, authors Major Glenn Dean and Major David LaFontaine addressed the bullet capabilities of 5.56mm ammunition and found that at close range (fewer than 50 meters), “Though there might be differences for a single given shot, the tradeoffs of delivery accuracy, penetration, fragmentation and wound damage behavior, and speed and efficiency of energy deposit all serve to render differences between rounds minimal.”

They stated further, “Shot placement trumps all other variables; expectation management is key.”

I think most gun owners would agree with the second statement, even though bullet selection should still be a concern. While plenty of surplus or aftermarket military-style ammunition is available, the steel core of the M855 is likely less effective at close range than standard lead core ball ammunition. An even better choice is the plethora of self-defense ammunition available to the civilian market.

“The use of a rifle for home- and/or self-defense is a valuable tool in your overall defensive posture.”


One of the things that also makes the MSR popular for selfdefense is the ability to attach additional enhancements to the rifle without major modifications. Adding a light, laser or sight is easy using Picatinny, M-LOC or KEYMOD connections. In addition, the ability to have 30 rounds of ammunition is important to many.

This is useful, given that, according to a study from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, “ … an estimated 3.7 million household burglaries occurred each year on average from 2003 to 2007. In about 28 percent of these burglaries, a household member was present during the burglary. In 7 percent of all household burglaries, a household member experienced some form of violent victimization.”

The Pelican 7100 rechargeable flashlight is great for a stand-alone light. It puts out plenty of light and can be recharged via USB.


It seems that when you see reports on break-ins these days, there is always more than one assailant involved. For that reason, I never recommend moving toward the assailant if there is a break-in while you are home (a break-in or burglary in which someone is in the home is called a “home invasion”). Let them come to you.

Statistics show that the master bedroom is the place they want to hit first. That is most probably where you will be during the break-in if you are home. Forty-three percent of invasions happen during the day; only 26 percent happen at night. Daytime is more likely—obviously because criminals like an empty house. If criminals are bold enough to break in at night, they probably mean to do you harm.

The Surefire M900A Vertical Foregrip Weapon Light is no longer produced by SureFire, but it can still be found. It puts out plenty of light and has selector options for constant-on or instant on/off.


With all that being said, you should do an assessment of your house and find out how you would defend it if you had to.

When devising a plan, consider the following questions: Do you have a strong point from which you can defend? Are you going to have to move to your children to ensure their safety? Can you exit the house to safety without alerting invaders? Do you have a house alarm; is it connected via land line or cellular; and can the connection be cut or interrupted? Do you have in-home cameras you can use to assess who and how many are in your home? And most importantly, does everyone in the house know the plan and what to do?

Regardless of what you choose to arm yourself with, proficiency is the key. Second to that is to have a backup plan in case of unforeseen circumstances. As a Green Beret, for me, the M4 was a primary weapon, but a pistol was there for backup—not to mention the rest of the team. Make sure you have a backup and that your “team” is prepared as well.


Bureau of Justice Statistics, September 2010, Special Report, Victimization During Household Burglary

Small Caliber Lethality: 5.56mm Performance in Close Quarters Battle; Major Glenn Dean, Major David Lafontaine


About the Author

Brian Berry is a retired Army Special Forces Command sergeant major. He is a former Special Forces weapons sergeant and has multiple combat tours under his belt. Brian is the co-founder of Spartan Defensive Concepts, at which he teaches concealed carry and defensive marksmanship courses. Brian retired in 2014 and is now a consultant currently working for the Special Operations community, as well as a senior instructor for American Survival Guide University.



Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the August 2018 print issue of Gun World Magazine.