The decision has been made – you are going to be selecting a rifle for your home defense needs. Whether it’s due to familiarity with a rifle platform, or the inherent accuracy in a larger firearm, you’ll be going down this route for the critical task of securing your home and property against intruders and unwelcome attention.
For the purposes of this article, we will be also including pistol-caliber rifle platforms, aka “pistol caliber carbines”, or PCC. Think of a rifle, but one that uses pistol ammunition. You have the advantage of a larger firearm to increase accuracy, and you also minimize the risk of overpenetration in a smaller residence by using pistol ammunition. You also get the advantage of a longer barrel, which increases the overall velocity of the bullet, increasing the chances of an incapacitating shot in an emergency.
While in smaller quarters, rifles can be more of a liability than an asset in home defense due to their larger size and increased bullet velocities, there are certain situations where a rifle is the preferred platform. For example, if your residence is a standalone single-family home situated on a respectable-sized plot of land, being able to engage a threat at distance can be beneficial. Rifles and their pistol-caliber carbine brethren also benefit from (on average) an increased ammunition capacity. Whether it is an AR-pattern rifle or a similarly-sized PCC, the standard magazine capacity is usually between 20 and 30 rounds, allowing for more effective follow-up shots, and an increased ability to engage multiple assailants. Also, despite the misconceptions propagated by movies and television shows, handling most rifles that are suitable for home defense is a snap. The increased size of the firearm along with features like buffer springs, weights, and muzzle brakes allows for recoil to be mitigated more effectively.
Rifles are also easier to fit with a suppressor. As with any firearm, the report of a rifle is loud, often in excess of 160 dB. For reference, an airliner at takeoff generates about 140-150 dB. The sound of the rifle is also magnified if you are indoors. A suppressor will bring down the sound of the blast to a less-damaging level, often in the neighborhood of 119-135 db. Loud, but not deafening. Suppressors, aka “silencers”, are legal for civilian use in 42 states as of January 2017. There is a process to acquire one, and rifle suppressors are expensive ($800 on average), but if you live in an area where they are legal, and are willing to go through the process to acquire one (there is currently an 8 month backlog on the approval process…), the hearing safety benefits are very much worth it. Though often presented as tools of “pros”, suppressors are an excellent addition to anyone’s inventory who is interested in home defense.
Below, you’ll see over a dozen rifle and PCC models, sortable by various criterion such as ammunition and action-type. The models we’ve chosen here vary widely on price and expertise required, but we’ve provided brief descriptions and specs to help make your gun shopping easier, and to allow you to explore the differences between major models and manufacturers.
At the very bottom of this article we have an additional section on “Ammunition Selection” and “Rifle Actions”, in addition to a robust “Resource Guide” of links for people who’d like to learn even more.
Coach Daniel is the founder and head publisher at Science of Skill, LLC. A martial arts black belt and self defense instructor, Dan has spent years training with and interviewing some of the world's best self protection experts. His passion lies in encouraging others to train smart and to improve the skills that make them safer and stronger.
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