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The 5 Very Best Rifles For Rural Home Defense

The 5 Very Best Rifles For Rural Home Defense

Ruger 10/22. Image source:


A common saying among tactical trainers is: “The purpose of a handgun is to fight your way to your rifle.”

That makes perfect sense on a battlefield in Iraq or Afghanistan, but what happens when that “battlefield” is in your home – especially in a rural setting?

When compared by sheer ballistics, the results of most handgun rounds are very marginal when compared to that of a rifle. Yet, handguns have the advantage of being more compact and portable. And since they only require one hand, your other hand is free to hold a flashlight or call 911.

So now you might be asking, “Should I choose a handgun or a rifle for home defense?”

I say choose the rifle. I’m not talking about old-style, single-shot Remington Rolling Block Buffalo rifles or a 300 Weatherby Magnum with a 10X scope on it for elk season (but if one of those are all you have, they beat a can of pepper spray). I’m referring to modern sporting rifles designed for more tactical use.

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Here’s my list of the five best:

1. The AR-15 in 5.56/223

Perhaps the most popular rifle in the U.S. is the AR-15. It was designed in 1960 by Armalite for the U.S. military and has remained in military use for six decades. For home defense purposes, I strongly recommend the shortest barrel length you can legally own. In some cases, this can be a SBR (short barreled rifle) registered with the National Firearms Branch of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) for a $200 tax. SBRs have barrels less than 16 inches in length and can be as short as 7.5 inches. This makes the rifle more compact and maneuverable within the confines of the home.

2. The Kriss Vector

A California-based company builds a unique variety of carbines and pistols known as the KRISS Vector. This radical design eliminates felt recoil and is chambered in 9mm or 45 ACP. Those are pistol rounds but the longer barrels give these rifles significantly more velocity. Best of all, they take extended magazines designed for Glock pistols in the same caliber, so they work well for Glock shooters, too.

3. The FN PS90

The 5 Very Best Rifles For Rural Home Defense

Image source: Wikipedia

This may seem like an odd choice, but this futuristic-looking firearm in its small 5.7mm cartridge was actually designed as a personal defense weapon and was used famously by the US Secret Service on president protection details. Compact with virtually no recoil, its bull pup-like design makes for a compact shooting platform. Having one of these converted to an SBR makes the weapon more desirable from a home defense standpoint.

4. The lever action carbine

Lever action rifles made by Winchester, Marlin, Rossi and several others chambered in one of the magnum handgun calibers such as 357 Magnum, 44 Magnum or 45 Colt make for a very effective and compact system for people who reside in areas where the ownership of semiautomatic rifles may be restricted or draw unwanted attention. Five to 10 rounds of a powerful revolver cartridge with the added ballistics of a longer barrel make these a primary fight-stopper. The late firearms guru, Colonel Jeff Cooper, used to refer to them as “Brooklyn Specials,” as they were one of the few firearms not castigated outright in what he viewed as the liberal courtrooms of the Northeast.

5. The Ruger 10/22

You read that right. I have been a longtime advocate of the popular Ruger carbine in a self-defense role. With the right ammunition and the correct bullet placement, these rifles can fill a vital role in any self-defense arsenal. Low recoil, fast follow-up shots and superb accuracy make for one heck of a home defense rifle.


It may be tempting to deck out a tactical rifle with all sorts of gizmos from red-dot sights to lasers, bipods and bayonets, but I suggest you keep it simple. More moving parts leads to more potential for something to fail, particularly if it is an accessory that the shooter comes to rely on more so than basic marksmanship.

The bare minimum I recommend is a mounted weapon light and a sling. Some shooters prefer a red-dot optic and if that makes you a better shooter, then go for it — particularly if you inhabit a substantial piece of property and might have to engage threats at a greater distance.

What would you add to this list? What would you delete? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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  1. Well, I am Not Surprised. You left out the most valuable, practical, and useful firearm of the bunch. Any Carbine with a 12-16 In. barrel – Chambered for the 7.62 X 39mm Cartridge. The SKS or the SAR47 from Century Arms are just fine. Same power as my Marlin 336 in Win. 30-30. Now you know.

  2. The PS90 is indeed a great weapon in close quarters with a 50 round magazine. If I didn’t have a PS90 then I would opt for a Saiga 12 gauge with a 20 round drum loaded with 00 buck – nothing left standing but the
    studs of the surrounding walls. However, rather than engage the hostile forces that close, I’d much rather use an AR-15 in 308 cal. engaging 50 to 100 yds out. If they are standing behind a car door, they are still goners.

  3. Gary L Hedrick Jr

    Very well done guys.loads of good information.thank you one and all. GLH

  4. The Ruger mini-14 uses the same ammo as the AR but is cheaper and is more handy.

  5. All but the FN would be OK, IMHO.
    The FN is expensive and more important, the ammo is hard to find in most places.
    I live in a rural area and do the gunsmithing for the LGS and several others.
    The shop is one of the largest in sales in the state, has NO 5.7 ammo on the shelves, never has had.
    NONE of the FN rifles or pistols in 5.7 are approved for sale in this state.

    Rural rifle, stay with whatever rifle uses the following,
    5.56×45 NATO, 7.62×39 eastblock, 7.62×51 NATO, 22LR, 38/357, 44MAG if you want to use pistol ammo.
    You can add 30/06 to that list such as with an M1 Garand.

    These are for self defense, primary would be 5.56 and 7.62×39 with an AR or AK even an SKS.
    I am not talking any hunting here, strictly defense.
    What good is a gun if you cannot find enough ammo for its intended purpose?

    Online ammo sales are not allowed in this state, strictly face to face sales with a firearms license.

  6. Living in rural Montana, I would definitely recommend at least one rifle in 308, 30-06 or such large caliber. While you won’t use it in “normal” home defense situations, if major civil unrest occurs you will need it for reaching out and stopping criminals at a distance. This could easily occur at 300 to 600 yards in our area and I would not want to depend on 5.56 rounds for that. The rifle could be bolt action or semi auto; even that rifle you use on Elk every fall.

  7. I’ll stick with my AK in 7.62×39 before any of those. It will take down any critter that decides to invade my home in rural WV and that includes the 2 and 4 legged varieties.

  8. Pistols and rifles are nice to have, I have several of various calibers, but my preference for in home defense is a pump sawed off shotgun. A pump is mandatory because the sound of a shell being chambered would make any bad guy crap his pants, plus a shotgun doesn’t have to be aimed just pointed. Mine has a just legal barrel length loaded with #4 high brass

    • Everyone, please ignore the vast majority of this guys comment. ^^^ Everything that he typed about shotgun home defense is wrong. A sawed off shotgun is a terrible weapon. A shotgun needs to be aimed like all firearms. Hoping that the bad guy defecates in his UnderRoos whens he hears the pump action being being racked is bad tactics. Don’t give away your position to the bad guy.

  9. For stretching limited funds, I would suggest something like a Mossberg 500 in 12 gauge.

    The secret is simply having multiple barrels that can be switched in a matter of a minute or two. The typical 28″ barrel with the Accu-Choke threaded choke tubes will do great for putting a wide variety food on the table. And a 18.5″ cylinder bore (no choke) security barrel is great for maneuvering in tight spaces. Simply swap barrels when you want to go hunting and then put the home defense barrel back on for home duty. There are of course rifled barrels available for scope hunting deer out to maybe 150 yards or so. For the 18.5″ security barrel, I recommend the Federal Premium 00 buckshot loads with the FLITECONTROL wad, which was originally _designed_ for short no choke barrels used in law enforcement shotguns. Typical shot pattern of those nine 00 pellets at 25 yards is a nice tight 8 inches or so from most 18″ – 20″ cylinder bore shotguns. currently has the above Federal Premium FLITECONTROL wad shells in Tactical LE 133-00 (reduced recoil) 00 buckshot at $3.87 for a box of 5, which means 10 boxes to make 50 rounds is only $38.70. Reduced recoil means 1145 fps at the muzzle instead of the full power 1325 fps at the muzzle. Faster easier rapid firing for CQCB situations. Unfortunately, they are not listing (at the moment as I type this) the LE 127-00 full power (1325 fps 9 pellet) 00 buckshot shells. The LE of course stands for Law Enforcement. The point to remember here is the FLITECONTROL wad is designed to give you tight patterns just as if you had a much longer full choke barrel. They are designed for short cylinder bore (no choke) barrels and if you have not tried these FLITECONTROL wad shells out of your 18″ – 20″ cylinder bore shotgun barrel, then you have a real treat coming when you do. 🙂

    You will find rifled slugs on that page as well for easily reaching out far beyond the typical 40 or 45 yards max distance for taking down deer with buckshot.

    In short, one 12 gauge pump shotgun with several easily switched barrels can fulfill a wide range of needs, and do it cheaply. The 28″ long barrel with the different chokes (there is also a turkey choke available) speaks for itself, and rifled slugs for punching holes through cars or refrigerators and the bad guys hiding behind them, or deer at longer ranges, and of course, federal premium flitecontrol wad 00 buckshot shells from the short barrel for one shot one kill closer range home defense situations. The cheapest of the Mossbergs, the Maverick 88, can be had for around $200-ish at Wallmart with the 28″ Accu-chole system barrel already on it, and a 18.5″ cylinder bore “security barrel” can be had for around $100 or less. Shop around. Perfect for hunting AND powerful home defense on a tight budget.

  10. I believe that there is an “unsung” hero that definitely needs major consideration. It has been greatly battle-tested. It is very versatile. With a bit of training (I was a Range Instructor in the U.S.M.C.), you can pick-off an enemy combatant at 1,000 yards using only the sights on the rifle! Even to this day, the top graduate from S.E.A.L. training school is given (a matched M-14 rifle) by the Department of the Navy. It is extremely dependable. It is the M-14! By the way, at the request of Armalite (at that time located in Costa Mesa, California), and by order of the Department of Defense, I, and some other Range Instructors, tested the AR-15 and the M-16 (a miserable piece of molded junk). After the testing, we wrote our reports. The AR-15 was o.k.; but no M-14. The M-16, as previously alluded to, was, and still is, a piece of unmitigated CRAP! People have been injured and have died because of the M-16.

    • I agree with you.
      For long range here, I use two M-14’s, Combat proven, built by Brookfield Precision Tool.
      The are known as the M-25. Good right out to 1k yards.
      At this point, the price of them is somewhat restrictive to many.
      I did list my opinion on a reasonable selection available to most.

  11. Not everyone can own a semi-auto rifle … A good leveraction in .357 magnum or larger is a good tool..
    Include a revolver same caliber and its a good defense pair …..
    If used right a side loading leveraction should never run out of ammo and can be fired while reloading …

  12. .25/06: For those areas just below the…”Blue Helmet Rim.”

  13. Seems like the comprehension skills of some posters here is lacking. The article is about home defense RIFLES, not shotguns. Now if the article was about home defense firearms, your argument would have some validity. But since it’s not, mentioning a shotgun in a discussion about rifles is asinine.

  14. For this older fella I opted for a Henry .22 magnum lever action rifle. No recoil, 11 shots, easy to operate with stiff hands. It’s light, points very well, and is reliable. Don’t need no AR-15.

  15. White Lightning

    If you want a purely defensive rifle, any of the Zastava AK type of rifle are pretty hard to beat. I’d say that the M77 is one of the best. It’s 308, just as good for hunting as self defense, reliable & built like a tank. Heck, you can even find bayonet lugs for them if that floats your boat.

    The M76 has even more power with a 8mm mauser + a 30-06 as well as a 308 available. The 8mm is the original caliber. Magazine problems with the 10 round original units are known to happen. Other 8mm german mags have been adapted and fixes are out there for the 10 round units. If you resolve these issues, the M76 can also work.

    Obviously, I’m also shocked not to see the M1 Garand or M1A1 mentioned. The Mini-30 is also an excellent all round performer. These 3 are also capable of good hunting accuracy if set up right. Remington makes good sporting/self defense AR-15 types of rifles in a variety of calibers besides 5.56/.223 that will put food on your table and villians to the next world.

    Keep in mind that if society does “melt down” or if the zombie apocalypse comes to pass, starvation will be just as much if not more of a hazard than the rioting psychopaths. (food source of last resort)

    • Yeah let’s all shoot off 308’s in the house…go deaf and tear up your interior walls at the same time. I think some of you guys flunked reading comprehension.

  16. I sleep soundly with my .45 and M1A carbine on my side of the bed & my wife with her .38 and 20 gauge on her side of the bed with our Akita on the floor. Nighty night…… Zzzzzzzzzz

  17. Ruger 556 hanging over the bed,16″ stainless machete,ruger p89 loaded on my nightstand with bowie hunting knife next to it,wife has rock river 38 special with 6″barrel and her cva 243 rifle and a 12″dive knife on her knight stand,we live in dangerous times

  18. Handguns are pretty weak when compared to rifles. That being said, there is an advantage to handguns. Yeah, yeah I know the post is about rifles but we are taking it another way. My bedside gun is a 7 shot 357 magnum w a 4 inch ported barrel. That fine Taurus Tracker replaced my Glock 19 as my primary side arm. My bedside rifle is a Bushmaster AR15 w only a light and iron sites. I like power w a combination of maneuverability, reliability, and capacity with reliability bring paramount. Hence me trading my Glock 19 in for my 7 shot 357. My AR15 is fine as well. Plenty of compact type weapons like Keltec Sub 3000 or 2000?

  19. Forgot to mention….. When I said Compact I meant carbine type weapons. Short yet powerful. You can even take a 357 magnum which is a beast in a 4,6,8 inch revolver and might I add is known as the combat caliber handgun King and put it in a shorter type lever action and it can actually punch through a vest. Or harvest the largest game in North America. So it’s pretty safe to say it will blow an intruder and his dindu homies straight to hell

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