The Best Weapons for Home Defense: Rifle

What if I told you that the best weapon for home defense may just be a rifle?  I have a good idea of what you’re thinking and I don’t blame you for being skeptical. When you typically think about weapons for home defense, you usually think of a shotgun or handgun, right?  Stay with me and I’ll explain why I believe a rifle is one of the best options for home defense.

Best Weapons for Home Defense: Rifle

First, a rifle can be used for much more than defending yourself and your family during a home invasion or burglary.  A rifle can be used for urban survival scenarios where you might have to hunt for food or defend your home from an angry, hungry mob.  The home defense rifle is very versatile, making it ideal for addition to any home’s arsenal.  Following are several tips that will help you choose the best rifle…

Length of a Home Defense Rifle

The longer the barrel of your rifle, the easier it is to control during rapid fire.  However, the longer your rifle, the more difficult it may be to maneuver in close quarters, shooting around corners, or responding quickly in doorways, tight rooms, or hallways.  Most of the semi-​​automatic rifles that are used for home defense will have an overall length of 33–37 inches.  This seems to be the ideal compromise between close quarters maneuverability and control.

What Caliber Should the Rifle Be?

When people talk about the best caliber ammunition and the best weapon for home defense, a big debate is inevitable.  Even though you will find as many answers as the number of people you ask, it really depends on the situation and your personal needs.  If you live in an apartment or are concerned about shooting through a wall and into a child’s bedroom, which is something everyone should think about, you may want to stick with a 5.56 carbine ammo load.  This load has less over-​​penetration than most handguns.  There’s actually a good case for using a cartridge as low as 22LR.  When this is aimed well, it is powerful enough for home defense.  Additionally, the ammo is light, allowing you to carry large amounts if necessary, such as when you might find yourself in survival situation.

Gadgets and Gizmos for a Home Defense Rifle

While you might be tempted to start adding laser sights and scopes to your rifle, I really don’t think these extras are necessary in order to have the best weapon for defending your home.  With that being said, it wouldn’t hurt to have access to a scope that can be used in wilderness or urban survival scenarios.  Most importantly, take some time to train in close quarters with your rifle so you will know exactly how it will function.  Learning how to use the rifle will ensure that you really do have the best weapon for home defense.

Home Defense Tactics With A Rifle

Firearms enthusiasts love to debate the best weapons, loads, and gadgets for home defense weaponry.  However, the very best weapon in your hands is only as useful as your ability to know what to do with it to make the bullet find its target.  Range practice is important but for home defense, the rules change completely.  Creating a “safe room” from which to defend… establishing “fatal funnels” for bad guys to screw up in… and how to escape from home invaders that have taken you hostage… these are strategies that go far beyond just choosing the best weapon.  For all you need to know about surviving a home invasion scenario, check out our website at www​.HomeDefenseTactics​.com.



  1. Milan says:

    Myself spent twenty years in the Army and now do not have any rifles or handgun in the home. I just get along without them. My wife does not like them in the house.

  2. ding says:

    I’d have to disagree here jeff, a rifle being useful in almost any situation is not one I would have as being my only tool for home defense, when you talk about a survival scenario a ruger 10/​22 and a rem 700 in 30–06 is great because reality is that everybody has one and ammo is plentiful. but as far as home defense the over penetration of even a .223 rem would be too much. through one wall is too much to go through. A pistol would be great but not with little kids around. Especially these tactical Tupperware guns like glocks and xds, they are made for the idiot shooter and therefore children could operate them too easily.

    I’d say a good ole pump shotgun using 7 1/​2 birdshot would be fine in 99% of home invasions. Burglars don’t go in expecting a gun fight and probably wouldn’t have body armor of any kind so there would be no real need for high powered rifle rounds or buckshot and slugs. Another advantage to the shotgun is that it works almost everytime with very little maintenance, the average joe is going to stow whatever he picks as his “home-​​defense” weapon up high in a closet where it will get dusty and rusty until the need is very dire, so very little maintenance is a must. Another thing is that the shotgun especially with a shorter barrel will be very forgiving in the accuracy department, 99% of people will have had zero weapons training much less any sort of combat experience and cannot be expected to deliver a controlled pair to the chest in a real situation. Give them something that they are confident with in a high stress situation.

    However at the end of the day no matter what you are using, its a non-​​aerodynamic brick without knowledge behind it. Training is the real answer and then lots of practice, with practice comes confidence
    visit http://​www​.precisionrifleworkshop​.com for some training options

  3. Carlos says:

    When we had children we had no firearms but now I practice almost daily with my 22.

  4. steve says:

    Its dark, you’ve just broken into a house hoping that the owners did not hear the window you smashed, you are walking through the house when all of a sudden you hear the infamous cock of a shotgun. that would be enough to make me run back the way I came.….I’ll stick to my shotgun for home defense.

  5. Frostchaser says:

    Ok, going to have to respectfully but seriously disagree with the author.

    Saying one of the reasons to choose the rifle for home defense is its versatility in arenas other than home defense is like saying the best blade for a knife fight is a Swiss Army.

    Should one own a rifle for all the aforementioned reasons (hunting, survival, “other”)? Absolutely. Should it be the weapon of choice for home defense? Not in my book.

    With regard to the 5.56x45 round, it’s a sufficient cartridge, but the author downplays the risk of over-​​penetration. The velocity on that round makes it do strange things even when you hit your target. With children in a room on the same floor as our master, I’m not willing to roll those dice.

    Having engaged hostile targets with 5.56, it’s location, location, location (and a bit of luck). One-​​round incapacitation is most certainly possible but so is a 3-​​round impact that leaves the target still able to fire back.

    I’ll concur wholeheartedly with your comment that even a 22LR is sufficient with the correct placement, but by that token a .22 cal derringer is adequate.

    We’re talking home defense scenario here, the weight of the ammunition is immaterial. We’re not talking about your ABL for a three-​​day dismounted patrol in Afghanistan, we’re talking about the one weapon you can grab when woken in the dead of night to neutralize a typical home invasion threat. If it’s you vs. a squad infiltrating your home, break contact.

    Consider this: if you really have to use a weapon during a home invasion scenario, statistically you’ll be engaging a target with little prep time, firing in low visibility and your accuracy will be further impaired by an adrenaline dump.

    Gun battles in the home should be avoided for a multitude of reasons, there’s no better place for “one shot, one kill.” If you can hit *********** with one round of 5.56x45, you could also hit *********** with one round 12 ga. 2 ¾ “ 00 buckshot. That’s one 5.56mm projectile vs. 6–8 8mm projectiles (assuming cylinder bore at 7m) striking your target. Hitting the target with 6–8 projectiles (roughly a third larger than 5.56) vs. 1 has a much higher likelihood of instantaneous incapacitation of the threat, and that’s the name of the game.

    If any of the aforementioned engagement factors result in less-​​than-​​ideal accuracy, the shotgun has a greater chance for lethality with an off-​​center hit. Don’t get me wrong, at a distance of <3m (before the pellets have had the chance to disperse), you can easily miss a rushed shot with a shotgun too. But your percentage chance for single-​​shot incapacitation is greater with a shotgun.

  6. Joe LittleBear says:

    Whomever wrote this article is NOT familiar with fiurearms …otherwise they would have not listed barrel length as 33 to 39 inches.…that is the overall length of the weapon including the shoulder stock.….Never since the days of the Muzzleloading Black Powder rifles has a mass produced rifle had a barrel lenght exceeding 28 inches.….average lengths run from 22 inches to 26 inches…WW-2 military weapons were 26 to 28 inches…Carbines were 18 to 20 inches…

  7. Joe LittleBear says:

    President Ronald Regan once said ” Criminals PREFER unarmed victims.….it makes their chosen profession much safer.…” Listen to your wife.…if you are the victim of a home invasion„„,you, she and all your children will be at the complete mercy of your attackers.…what will follow is too graphic to describe..and it will be too late for her confession that she didn’t know what she was talking about.…she just thought it would happen to someone else.….As a member of a Sheriff Dept , I have witnessed hardened Deputies lose their breakfast while investigating the aftermath of such a scene.…

  8. Galloglas says:

    Winchester M-​​94 in 30/​30
    Ruger 10/​22
    Any .357 mag Revolver
    Ithica M 37 in 12 or 20 ga.
    Ammo is easy to find anywhere, they don’t set off hoplophobes because these are either hunting or target weapons.
    Since these are NOT “miltary assault rifle configuration” or “military assault rifle caliber” Local LEO is not likely to become alarmed and local gun laws will allow them.

  9. Thanks for your comment Ding. I actually did write another article about the home defense shotgun, and it’s actually my weapon of choice. This article is meant to offer an alternative to the shotgun, which does have it’s disadvantages as well.

    In the end, you must come up with the best weapon for home defense for YOU — one that is easy to wield for anyone who may have to use it — and fits your overall survival plan whether surviving at home or out on the run.

    Thanks for your feedback!

  10. Vermin says:

    This is just silly. At no point in the article to you even approach supporting your conclusion.

    • Vermin says:

      In fact, this isn’t just silly; advising people to use varmit rounds in a defense situation is borderline negligence–especially when there are ways to deal with over-​​penetration while using rounds that are more effective.

  11. Morris says:

    I think the author explained it in his OP, a rifle is a good alternative in many situations. That said, consider this. Economy is a factor. I simply can’t afford to stockpile weapons. Most folks can’t. I can only budget in the coming year for perhaps two. And while I’d love to get a shotgun, my choice will be for a good rifle and a good handgun. But there are many who can’t even afford to do that, and can get only one gun. In that scenario, I also would go for the rifle. It would double as home defense and hunting tool. There are a few models chambered for pistol cartridges, and I’ve always liked the concept of a long gun and handgun chambered for the same ammunition. In .45 ACP, you don’t have the issue of shooting through your target into innocent people like your family, for the most part. and a long gun and handgun with the same ammo is logistically simple. Sure, if you can afford it, get all the weapons you need. An AR15 or two, several pump shotguns, a good selection of handguns, and so on. But for those of us on a shoestring budget, the writer makes a good case for the rifle as a primary home defense gun. Especially when it has to double up and do hunting duty. I’m always going to fear the man who has just one gun. He probably knows how to use it.

  12. you says:

    What in the **** Joe? What on earth are you trying to do with that comment. I think you need a tranq shot in your a*s man jesus H. Are you trying to scare Milan into owning a gun? That is not the way to do it. I would seek therapy.

  13. you says:

    You are completely incorrect. This is a famous myth that shotgun manufacturers use to sell their guns and people spread because they think it sounds good. People who break into homes are not the type of people who run from the cocking of a gun. Think about the mindset a person is in who has the nerve/​balls to break into a home not knowing if someone is in there. This is a dangerous person. While I agree that a shotgun is a good home defense weapon you better be prepared to use it because when that break-​​in occurs and that intruder doesn’t run away after the **** of your shotgun like I said — will you have what it takes to actually use the gun you claim you will “stick” with for home defense. 90% of the time people won’t because most people just like you bought the gun hoping the sound alone would deter the intruder and have no intention of ever using it.

  14. you says:

    An “assault rifle” is one that is selectable between semi and fully automatic. No, as in 0, civilians have access to assault rifles so they have no place is this discussion at all.

  15. you says:

    There are several comments I’m going to make. I agree with you in regards to budget. If you want to hunt and have a home defense weapon and don’t have a lot of money than undoubtedly a rifle is the weapon to get. But, this article was about home defense not about hunting. Home defense is in the title of the article. The next point I’m going to make and this can be verified as accurate with spending any time at all Googling is that people with more experience with weapons recommend rifles for home defense. Jeff is a veteran and I’m assuming your dad probably took you hunting as a kid or at the very least you have a good amount of experience with guns that you have accumulated through the years on your own. That is fine, you understand how to load a magazine and have experience working with them and putting them into a gun. Think about a person with hardly any experience with guns. Again, this article was about home defense and a person with hardly any experience with guns is going to be shaking like crazy under a real life situation. ****, those of us with experience will be shaking but imagine someone with hardly any experience. They are going to be shaking worse than us and you really are going to recommend they try to fumble around and get the magazine into the rifle under such a situation? I have spoken with several people who have been in real life home invasion situations, and these are professionals who have worked with guns their entire lives, and several of them couldn’t properly get the magazine in their handguns they were shaking so badly. The best weapons for home defense will always be a shotgun. A pump motion is one that anyone can accomplish even under high stress. Everyone always has a particular weapon they recommend and have particular reasons why they recommend such weapons but the only thing that matters is what weapon can you operate when your hands are shaking so badly you can hardly hold the gun. I’ve yet to see anyone who’s been in a home invasion situation recommend a home defense weapon. It’s always people who think what the best weapon would be and come up with all kinds of reasons why a particular weapon is best. Yes, you can think clearly now and can come up with all the answers to why you chose your weapon right now. Think you will be able to think clearly under a real life home invasion situation? Not in a million years. If you think you will be able to you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.

  16. Ron says:

    Personally, I’ve been studying this for awhile. I am not a professional nor do I have a lot of experience. But I must say using the shotgun for home defense would not work for me. It’s front heavy and too awkward to handle for use in the home for me. And it requires 2 hands to use. I don’t have money for all of the fancy accessories. That would probably add considerably to the weight as well.

    For me if something is not right in the home, it’s grab a handgun..any handgun, turn on the lights and then confirm all is well with the rest of the family. I really like the idea of a rifle!

  17. Mike Meserve says:

    When I had children in the house I taught them how to shot. When my son was 6 years old his job was to keep the rabit out of his mother garden, which he did with a .22 lf. The truth is that children and gun do mix well. Teach a child to use a gun,

  18. Vinny says:

    If you really believe that then just record the sound on your smart phone and play it back when in danger. Racking a handgun also makes a sound as does the shivering bones of most people when faced with an intruder. For those of us who were in combat we know that despite the tough talk on gun forums, some guys will run, some will freeze and not do anyting and others just will not be able to shoot another human and end up having their gun takend away from them. Several LEO friends of mine said that all too often a gun owners gun was taken and used against them because they were not prepared to shoot.

  19. Ender says:

    I’ve had a burglar break into my house. The sound of a pistol slide racking a round into the chamber stopped him dead in his tracks. Shotguns aren’t the only universally recognized sounds.

  20. Ender says:

    I agree on 5.56 and the penetration issue. Look at Boxotruth​.com regarding sheetrock walls and you will see that even .22LR will punch through drywall. That said, I pick my AR15 with M855 ammo for that very reason. I am willing to teach an intruder the difference between cover and concealement the hard way.

  21. Brad says:

    The best weapon is the one that suits your needs, right? For me, its the Kalashnikov. I had a 590 Mossberg for awhile, but the kick was too extreme for my wife, and in our home, the length was a problem. We live in a tight cornered rancher, with the bedrooms at the end of the house. Yea, you can put a pistol grip on, but then you lose that back up curbstomp ability of a metal buttplate. As far as penetration into the kids room goes, only one wall in the house led that way, and it wasnt a possible path for an intruder. So I chose a AK for its high power, short overall length (shorter than any 18″ shotgun), the unmatched reliability of the weapon, and my wifes equal skill in using the weapon. For us, the Kalash is a perfect choice for our home.

  22. J T says:

    Having had some personal experience with the .223/5.56 round during house sweeps. We found the 9mm iFMj in the MP5 actually had more wall penetration then the Remington .223 hollow point rounds. After extensive testing (our agency) found the ammunition choice here was key. The MP5s required a FMJ to feed reliably at full auto. A short barreled rifle (SBR) with .223 hollow points is a much better option then even the best balanced handgun; with the caveat the operator is trained with the weapon system and has a plan of defense. Honestly, I think we can all agree here that proper training and mindset go further than the “toys” we employ.

    I was told once during training “Posers buy guns. Shooters buy ammo.” Train, Train, Train, but practice proper techniques and practices. Perfect practice makes perfect.

  23. Sully says:


    All the plans in the world are useless, unless you are willing to put that plan in action. Too many folks are not willing, but talk big.

  24. Sully says:

    Ron why turn on the light? To expose yourself? I doubt your willingness to put a plan into action.

  25. Sully says:

    If you are looking for a one size fits most situations., the .44 mag or .44/​40 Carbine and handgun, is perhaps best aside from the 12 Ga shot gun in which I use #1 for home protection. .

    The .223 with a reload SX bullet will explode inside a pigeon and not break a window behind it. That comes from experience, not talk. A rather enlightening experience at that.

  26. Neal Bigwood says:

    “Clip” and “Kick” LOL

  27. hov says:

    44mag henry lever. Need i say more, rural setting, easy to operate, good for woodchuck to black bear

  28. Rob says:

    I have been in two home ivasions once as a child and once when i was 17. As a child my dad pulling back the lever on his single action 357 was enough for the intruder to give up. When i was 17 i had already shot many times and knew my guns. Infact the Intruder was not happy to see me at the front door with a .22 carbine and my dad at the back with his hunting shotgun. My take on it know your gun know your plan My round was chambered saftey was off and had tension on the trigger. In my mind i would have to issue fully committing

  29. E.A. Murcko says:

    Dear You; Respectfully, I think your in a different world than the rest of us. when these type of criminals are interviewed one of the biggest things they fear is if the homeowner is armed. I have NEVER heard of a criminal saying they don’t fear the unknown of a racking shotgun. I don’t know if you have ever taken a life; nor do I actually care.….. no matter what, the lives you take will always effect you. I do know that I personally would rather rack it , than attack it. I have found there are thousands of people who “talk the walk” but cant , never have or ever will, “walk the talk”. when you really own the T-​​shirt; you will understand that distinct sound, is so you don’t have to take a life but will if needed. T/​C and stay safe you. merc

  30. DanL says:

    A good friend of mine was murdered by his fiances ex with a Rugar .22 semi-​​auto. She was partially paralyzed for life. The killer had been an AP, then transitioned to beat cop when he got out of the Air Force.

    Training, training, training. Even a .22 is deadly if you know how to use it.

  31. DanL says:

    Sound like you have the “Living in California” experience, where the crooks have all the legal rights and us honest workers have none.

    I like your attitude.

  32. brahms says:

    A shotgun is Ok for a man but I think its too much recoil for a woman. In a hyper-​​stressful situation, I ‘d prefer a low recoil 10/​22 with a high cap magazine (I’m a girly-​​man). The other problem is capacity — you get 5 shots with an average shotgun and then you’re through. I am not one who believes you need “stopping power”; it is more important to maximize the chance of putting rounds on target — bad guys don’t run at you after being shot by a .22 rifle, they run away (contrary to popular opinion).

  33. R Sullivan says:

    You do realize that many states require that you have to be in personal jeopardy, with a .22 lr an uninvited visitor/​thief/​whatever he can keave your premesis, from there he can lie about you and his intentions. It is far better to be juudged by 12 than carried by 6.

  34. rubenoff says:

    we dont need guns here eithere people are trustworthy

    If we need on we woulf get a 12 gauge shotgun with oump action and 4 shot,s in the magazine and a few spare bullets

    even an untyrained person can fire a shotgun and with all the pellets the guy on the recieving end will be there when the police and hurse arrive\‘s

  35. DK says:

    Leave a hand gun (loaded with blanks) in plain site for the harmdoer to use. Victorios warriors win first, then go to war. Sun Tzu.

  36. Gary says:

    Everyone has a preference, no big deal. Use whatever you are comfortable with and can use effectively.

    I am wondering though, do any of you understand the difference between the uses of “then” and “than”? “Then” has reference to time, while “than” is a comparison. Just saying.

    Additionally, it might be a good idea for some of you to use “spell-​​check” before posting, you won’t “appear” so ignorant.

  37. Thanks for your comment Ding. I actually did write another article about the home defense shotgun, and it’s actually my weapon of choice. This article is meant to offer an alternative to the shotgun, which does have it’s disadvantages as well.

    In the end, you must come up with the best weapon for home defense for YOU — one that is easy to wield for anyone who may have to use it — and fits your overall survival plan whether surviving at home or out on the run.

    Thanks for your feedback!

  38. vermin says:

    You realize the first sentence of the second paragraph means that low caliber assault rifles are survivalists and close combat practitioners, right? Your writing is as poor as your position is nonsensical.. Why would I want 22LR in tight hallways? And why are you now talking about handguns?

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Jeff Anderson

Jeff Anderson is a 10 year veteran of the U.S. Army, a Master Fitness Trainer, and Master Instructor of Close Quarters Combat self defense. A full time fitness and self defense author, Jeff has trained thousands of men and women in the practical application of advanced military fitness methods as well as close combat tactics for "real life" self defense.

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