In my previous posts, I have been writing a guide to help people who are considering purchasing their first firearm. Last time, I covered the shotgun as a home defense tool. This time I’d like to focus on the rifle for home defense. To be clear, the rifle is probably my last choice for a home defense firearm in most cases. The times when I would use a rifle for this purpose are very limited. That said, I do have rifles for this role and they are invaluable for certain things. I’ll cover that here.
So why is a rifle a bad choice most of the time? The basic answer is ballistics. Rifle rounds are designed to travel long distances with great power. A rifle round fired in a neighborhood could travel through several houses, hitting who knows what. In the close confines of a home, a shotgun or pistol with hollowpoint rounds is a much better choice.
So when is a rifle appropriate? Well, in rural areas, where you don’t have to worry as much about escaped rounds, rifles are good for defense of life and property. Another good reason to have a rifle for defense was displayed after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. Have you thought about your home defense plans if a disaster happened in your area? How would you defend yourself if something happened that caused you to be totally on your own for a week or more? What would you do if you had no help from police, fire or EMS for an extended period of time? This happened in New Orleans and it could happen where you live. Typically, rifles can engage targets at a much larger range than handguns or shotguns. In the case of AR15 or AK47 rifles, magazine capacities are much larger, allowing you to engage multiple targets before reloads. A rifle might be your best bet to defend yourself and family against bands of looters and other nefarious people in the event of a disaster.
So what kind of rifle should you get if you decide a rifle is good for you? This is not an easy answer and I am sure this could be debated forever. For over 100 years, lever-action rifles from Henry, Marlin and Winchester have served this role. These are great multi-purpose rifles that would make great survival guns. They are suitable for hunting game, and are great for defense. They do not have the magazine capacity of an AR15 or AK47 however.
The modern answer to the question is the AR15 or AK47. The SKS is another option. Despite what you may have heard, these rifles are legal to own (in most states) and are not fully automatic. They are semi-automatic which means that they fire one round every time the trigger is pulled. The AR15 is typically chambered in 5.56 mm or .223 Remington (see our other post for the difference between the two.) AK47 and SKS rifles are chambered in 7.62 x 39 mm. All of these rifles are reliable, especially when properly maintained and ammo is plentiful and easy to find in stores. In the future, there will be many postings about AR15s and AK47s. Here at SheepDog we are planning to do several reviews of some new (and old) rifles so check back for more information on these. I know either the AK or the AR will do a more than adequate job as your self defense rifle. As always, no matter what rifle you choose, get to the range and practice. Get to know your rifle and how to maintain it.