Every rifle is a compromise between power, accuracy, and maneuverability. The best home defense rifle is the one that focuses on the latter two of the three, while still offering enough power to drop an attacker without risking collateral damage. Finding a gun that offers the right blend of traits is tricky, so we researched the options and put together this list of the ten best choices, based on their ease of use in close quarter, reliability, and power level.
10. Ruger Mini-30
The Mini-30 is one of the most reliable options, due to a self-cleaning gas cylinder and a simple and rugged breechbolt system. A blade sight and room for a scope help to make it accurate and to compensate for a nervous user’s poor aim. It packs more than enough power to stop an attacker, but that power can lead it to penetrate walls. That makes it a decent but risky choice for inexperienced or nervous shooters, but it is an asset for those experts who trust their ability to aim accurately in stressful conditions.
9. Ruger Mini-14
|Caliber||5.56 NATO / 223 Rem|
The Mini-14 has the same basic design as the Mini-30, but it uses smaller cartridges. It still has enough power to take down an attacker, but it is somewhat less likely to shoot through a wall on a missed shot. It also comes with a flash suppressor, which can help to preserve your vision for a second shot in the dark if your first one misses. These features make it much more appealing for novices, but experts should also consider this gun for increased safety if they don’t need the power of the Mini-30. You can also check out our list of the best hunting rifle brands.
8. FN PS90
The PS90 is the best home defense rifle in terms of maneuverability because it uses a bullpup design to cut down on length. Since the reduced length comes from shrinking the stock rather than the barrel, it doesn’t sacrifice any accuracy, and a muzzle brake reduces recoil to make it even more accurate. The design uses dual latches and handles to make it ambidextrous, which is a bonus for lefties. Getting used to the bullpup ergonomics takes some time, but this is a great choice for both novices and experts who are willing to practice until they can use it comfortably.
7. Armalite AR-10A
The AR-10A is similar to the AR-15, so anyone who is familiar with the system should be comfortable with it. The ergonomics are particularly good, largely because of the six-position stock that lets it fit most users. It’s also durable, with a mixture of aluminum and chrome moly construction, while a flash suppressor makes it easier to use in the dark. The construction quality is excellent, which helps to make this one of the most reliable options. It’s one of the best rifles for home defense for shooters of all skill levels who want a balanced gun, especially those who are already familiar with similar weapons.
6. Del-Ton DT Sport
The DT Sport is the best rifle for home defense in terms of value. It is also one of the lighter options, and it comes with an adjustable stock, so it’s a great choice for smaller shooters. A CAR-style handguard makes it fairly safe and comfortable to operate, while a flash suppressor makes it easier to use during the night. The quality of construction is comparable to that of many more expensive weapons and is enough to ensure reliability. This is the weapon of choice for price-conscious shooters, especially novices since it offers a great value without sacrificing any accuracy or reliability.
5. Taurus CT40
The CT40 is currently only available used, but it’s still fairly easy to find. It’s a fairly light weapon due to a skeletonized stock, which is short enough to allow for decent maneuverability. The controls are fully ambidextrous, so it’s easy to control quickly for both left-handed and right-handed shooters. A picatinny rail on top of the weapon allows for some customization, although the gun’s adjustable sights are good enough that additions are unnecessary for home defense. This might be the best home defense rifle for both novices and experts, as long as they’re willing to put in some extra effort to find one on the market.
4. Smith and Wesson M&P 15X
|Manufacturer||Smith & Wesson|
The 15X is built for durability and ease of customization, so it’s easily the best home defense rifle for tinkerers. It has plenty of rail space for accessories, and it’s compatible with most AR-15 accessories. It does work well out of the box, but there are better values for people who don’t want to customize. The base gun is fairly rugged and easy to maintain, so it can be a good option for people who want to learn how to work on their weapons. Pick this gun if you’re an expert who likes to tinker, but look into other options if you want something simple.
3. Auto-Ordnance M1
The M1 is one of the lightest guns on the list, both in terms of total weight and recoil. A folding paratrooper stock is responsible for keeping the weight down. The design dates back more than sixty years and remains in production, which is a testament to its reliability and overall performance. That does mean that it lacks special features, but that doesn’t stop it from offering solid, reliable performance at short ranges. It loses accuracy and power at long distances, but that isn’t a concern for home defense. The simplicity of the design makes it the best home defense rifle for novices, but it’s also a reliable choice for experts.
2. Marlin 1894
|Caliber||44 Remington Magnum/44 S&W Special|
The Model 1894 offers high power and excellent performance at long range when compared to most home defense rifles. The gun is tapped to receive a scope, but the default sites are enough for most shooters. This weapon is best for shooters who want a defensive weapon that they can also use for target shooting or hunting, since it’s small enough to use in the home but has very high power. Otherwise, the power is excessive. That makes this most appealing to irregular shooters who want a minimal investment in their collection.
1. Colt Combat Unit Carbine
The Combat Unit Carbine is expensive but worth the price. The gun’s main benefit is comfort. It uses a mid-length gas system to reduce felt recoil and give it a slim profile that is comfortable for small shooters to handle. The safety selector is ambidextrous, but most of the controls are not, which makes it a good but imperfect choice for left-handed shooters. New or occasional shooters might want to look at cheaper options, but this is the best home defense rifle for people who expect to use their weapon regularly.
Making The Right Choice
Finding the best home defense rifle means finding a gun with just the right amount of power that you feel comfortable using in close quarters while under stress. There aren’t too many that qualify, but there are enough that we might have missed some. If you know of a good rifle that we overlooked, leave a comment below to help your fellow shooters find the right weapon for their home. If you would like to see an overview of a variety of weapons intended for home defense, here is a selection of guns for beginner and expert shooters alike.