When it comes to defending your home and the loved-ones within, many of the characteristics that make an ideal brush-gun or hunting rifle are actually detrimental in a home-defense situation. Still, shooters have to take into account over-penetration, training costs, ammo selection and reliability. It’s enough to make the saltiest gun-owner’s head spin and often acts as a tremendous barrier to first-time gun-buyers trying to responsibly research before their purchase
Rifles are a newer addition to the home-defender’s arsenal. For years most publications wrote and instructors taught that carbines were unsuitable for home defense and that they provided no benefit over shotguns. While this is far from true, it’s likely rooted in the prevalence of full-powered battle rifles in previous decades. Where high-powered, full metal jacket, military ball ammunition would sail through any opponent and every obstacle not made of steel or thick concrete. These rifles often had tremendous recoil and extraneous barrels-lengths, making them ill-suited to indoor fighting. In fact, until the introduction of the M16, most American shooters only knew of one rifle that they could consider a responsible choice for indoor self-defense: the M1 Carbine.
With the proliferation of the M16 in the U.S. armed forces, the benefits of the “assault rifle” concept — or select-fire rifle chambered in an intermediate cartridge feeding from a detachable magazine — grew apparent. As the cartridges used in these weapons shrunk, so too did the weapons themselves. Rifles like the AK-47 and M16 are much handier indoors than the weapons they replaced, like the M14 and the SVT-40. Semi-automatic versions of these new carbines became available to civilians and their merit as a home-defense weapons became obvious, though it took more than three decades for anyone to admit it.
Most modern semi-automatic magazine-fed carbines, chambered in intermediate cartridges, are more accurate, easier to rapid fire, use more powerful rounds and hold more ammunition than shotguns or handguns. There are, of course, exceptions, but for the most part an AR-15 with a Beta drum of 120 rounds or an AKM with a 75-round RPK drum is a better defensive weapon than any handgun.
Nevertheless, there is no perfect universal answer to everyone’s home-defense needs. House layout and location, family-size, user proficiency and user-strength or handicap will greatly affect what weapon a buyer should choose.