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The Rifle for Home Defense

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Article first appeared at Cheaper than Dirt.

When considering a firearm for home defense there are three choices, the handgun, rifle, and shotgun. There are many arguments for either, and the choice must fit your lifestyle. The handgun is the most common firearm kept at home and at the ready. Part of the reason is that many of us carry a handgun during the day, and then unholster the handgun and place it at the ready in the evening.

However, many do not carry on a regular basis by choice or by law, but like to keep a firearm at the ready in the home. Even though I normally carry a good service grade handgun—a 1911 .45, Browning High Power 9mm, or Colt .357 Magnum—I prefer a long gun at the ready for home defense. Let’s face it, when compared to a rifle, the ‘weak .38’ and ‘strong .45’ are more alike than they differ. The long gun is also a great truck gun. A reliable, powerful, relatively short and maneuverable rifle is an ideal choice.

The limiting factor with the handgun is hit probability. It is the most difficult of the three—shotgun, rifle and handgun—to use well. The more powerful cartridges such as the .357 Magnum, .357 SIG, .40, and .45 are difficult to control well for the occasional shooter. Fast follow-up shots are more difficult. Accuracy is particularly difficult to achieve when combined with speed and dim light shooting. The portable handguns’ main advantage is that it may always be with us to answer a threat. But in the home we should have planned ahead and have a long gun ready.

The handgun is best for personal defense against the unexpected as a reactive weapon. The long gun represents aforethought. With a degree of preparation we may choose a shotgun for home defense. The shotgun has plenty of power when loaded with buckshot and features a good natural point. The real problem is recoil. All of my defensive shotguns wear a thick and effectiverecoil pad. Recently, I had the pleasure of overloading my senses with a 12 gauge shotgun that was light and handy and did not have a recoil pad. The old pump really got my attention, and frankly, I do not care to fire it again.

Bob Campbell holding an AR-15 with green laser

With a scope mounted rifle pressed in CQB service you may simply sight over the top of the scope- better yet, LaserMax!

Lighter loads such as birdshot lack the penetration needed for personal defense so best to choose a reduced recoil load such as Fiocchi’s reduced recoil buckshot loading. Just the same, the shotgun kicks hard. The occasional shooter will not fire the shotgun enough to master the type, and all of us have busy lives. If you are willing to train hard and learn how to properly use the shotgun, it is a great defensive firearm. Just the same, the shotgun must be mastered and must be aimed as carefully as a rifle in the home. I have mastered the shotgun but feel the rifle is a better choice.


I have added a Lasermax laser sight to my personal Colt SOCOM. This is a viable unit, so light the weight is inconsequential, and it offers close range sighting options for my optics mounted rifle.

A modern black rifle is the ideal home defense firearm on most counts. The 5.56mm rifle is the easiest firearm to use well and to get quick hits with a close range. The rifle is far more accurate than the handgun or a slug loaded shotgun. All of the ammunition you will need in a defensive situation is in a single 20- or30-round magazine. In the unlikely event you need more ammunition a speed load is easily executed by those that practice.

The same rifle may be used in 3Gun Competition, hunting, and personal defense. The rifle is challenging to master but not as difficult as the handgun or shotgun. Recoil simply isn’t an issue. With the proper hold and trigger press, good results will be had. The rifle handles quickly with a good natural point. Red Dot sights such as the Burris AFF3 offer brilliantly rapid hits. The LaserMax handguard mounted laser is another option for close range battle.

.223 Remington cartridge and spent bullet

.223 ammunition is both frangible and effective.

Once you have learned basic safety and manipulation you may develop good close-quarters battle skills. The real problem with the rifle is blast and concussion. It is advisable to keep a good pair of ear muffs with the rifle in case of home deployment. Most rifles have a flash suppressor but the blast is still quite an experience in close quarters.

The key to the rifle for personal defense is to practice quickly deploying the rifle, keeping the rifle in a rock-solid firing position, using cover efficiently, and firing accurately. When all is said and done, the rifle gives the homeowner in danger a means of surviving a violent encounter.

Home Defense Ammunition

Another advantage of the .223 Remington rifle is that the ammunition is less likely to penetrate interior walls than the common 9mm, .40, and .45 caliber pistol calibers. This has been proven in a number of empirical test programs. The .223 offers excellent wound ballistics and a high probability of stopping an attack with a minimum of shots, which is always the better outcome. The .223 bullet also breaks up on hard objects. The Colt illustrated will place 10 rounds of Fiocchi 55-grain JSP into one ragged hole at 25 yards—more than enough accuracy for personal defense. Fiocchi FMJ loads are available in 50-round boxes at a very attractive price.

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