The Best Home Defense Rifles for Protecting Your Castle

When it comes to civilian defensive gun use, the most likely defensive use for a rifle is home defense. You’re most likely to have access to your rifle during a home defense incident. So getting one of the best home defense rifles that you can afford is a smart move.

There are quite a few options. But your best bet is a semi-automatic rifle that fires an intermediate rifle round.

We’ve sorted things out for you based on those criteria.

WHY YOU SHOULD BY THIS

This rifle is a terrific value for the price, and it’s almost the perfect size for a home defense rifle.

BENEFITS

  • As short as possible without a short barreled rifle tax stamp.
  • Performs well with all types of ammunition.
  • Upgraded ergonomics over a rifle with all A2 furniture.
  • Handguard is well-designed for a home defense rifle.
  •  Improved flash suppressor.

SPOILER—what we found is that the Ruger AR-556 5.56 NATO M-LOK Free-Float Handguard Rifle is the overall best home defense rifle for your money. It’s perfectly viable for home defense. And it’s reasonably affordable.

If you need something more affordable, more tactical, or you just want something different, you’ll find all that here. Keep reading to learn about all the best home defense rifles.

Top Home Defense Rifles on the Market Today

The Best Home Defense Rifles Reviews: Long Guns for Short Range Shooting

The overall best home defense rifle is up for review first. The other best home defense rifles will get presented in order of price.

Need the most home defense for your dollar? Check out the first reviews.

Need the most defense, period? Read the reviews near the end.

Let’s see how these rifles stack up.

1. Ruger AR-556 5.56 NATO M-LOK Free-Float Handguard Rifle - Overall Best Home Defense Rifle

  • Model: Ruger AR-556 5.56 NATO M-LOK Free-Float Handguard Rifle
  • Caliber: 5.56mm NATO/.223 REM
  • Barrel length: 16.10 inches
  • Handguard: 11 inch free-float M-LOK
  • Sights: None

The Ruger AR-556 5.56 NATO M-LOK Free-Float Handguard Rifle is one of the best mass production AR-15 rifles on the market. It’s well built and offers a smart blend of features.

The main thing that makes this a good home defense rifle is that the barrel is almost exactly 16 inches long. That’s the shortest you can get without paying for a short-barreled rifle tax stamp. That makes this rifle as easy to handle inside a house as possible.

Also, the barrel is capped with an upgraded flash hider. A flash hider is pretty much the best option for a muzzle device on a home defense rifle without a suppressor. It helps you keep your target in sight and control your rifle without generating crazy muzzle blast.

Additionally, the free-float M-LOK handguard is perfectly designed for a civilian home defense rifle.

A weapon mounted light is pretty much mandatory for a home defense rifle. The handguard has M-LOK attachment points near the muzzle, exactly where you need them for mounting the necessary attachments for a home defense rifle.

Everything else on this rifle meets the minimum standards for a defensive rifle. The bolt, trigger, and stock are all essentially mil-spec hardware. If it’s good enough for a military contract, it’s probably good enough for civilian defense.

My only gripe about this rifle is that it doesn’t come with sights. You’ll have to pick up some sort of sights.

But this is still a capable and affordable rifle with the perfect dimensions and features for a home defense rifle.


  • Model: Ruger 10/22 Standard Carbine 18.5” 22 LR Blue
  • Caliber: .22LR
  • Barrel length: 18.5 inches
  • Handguard: Traditional wood stock
  • Sights: Fixed iron sights

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t recommend a .22 rifle for a home defense rifle.

However, .22LR can easily be lethal with good shot placement. .22LR is super easy to shoot and get that good shot placement. Also, .22 rifles and .22 ammunition are both remarkably affordable.

So the Ruger 10/22 Standard Carbine 18.5” 22 LR Blue is a totally viable option if you need the most affordable home defense rifle.

First, the barrel is 18.5 inches long. But the .22 action enables them to pack that 18.5 inch barrel into a rifle that’s only 37.25 inches long, overallThat’s about the same length as an AR-15 with an 18 inch barrel.

Additionally, the trigger on a Ruger 10/22 is very nice. It’s relatively light and short, with a remarkably clean breakIt’s easy to shoot precisely with this rifle.

Also, this rifle comes with a 10-round rotary magazine. However, you can get 25-round magazines, if they’re legal where you live.

The sights are a tad simple. They work. But you may want to add a red dot or something a bit faster and more capable in low light environments.

This rifle doesn’t have super fast controls. Reloads and disengaging the safety aren’t quite as quick or easy as a rifle like an AR-15. But everything is still totally manageable.

Ultimately, this isn’t a perfect rifle. But it’s incredibly affordableThe ammo is affordable. And this works as a home defense rifle, even if it’s not perfect for the job in every aspect.


  • Model: PSA 16” Pistol Length 300AAC 1/8 Phosphate 13.5” Lightweight M-LOK MOE Rifle
  • Caliber: 300AAC
  • Barrel length: 16 inches
  • Handguard: 13.5 free float M-LOK
  • Sights: Magpul BUIS

The PSA 16” Pistol Length 300AAC 1/8 Phosphate 13.5” Lightweight M-LOK MOE Rifle is a very affordable rifle with the right size and features to be a great home defense platform. However, this rifle does come with one notable caveat.

First, the good stuff.

The barrel is 16 inches, including the muzzle device. So the overall length is as short as possible without going to a pistol or short-barreled rifle. That makes this rifle easy to handle inside a house.

The handguard is 13.5 inches, with M-LOK attachment slots. The handguard gives you plenty of space for a light, with enough attachment points that you can put the light where you can use it without interfering with your support hand grip.

On the backend, this rifle has Magpul MOE furniture. It’s much more comfortable than standard mil-spec furniture.

Also, this rifle comes with Magpul backup sights. They’re not my favorite. But they work. And you could easily use this rifle without adding any other sighting system.

Lastly, this is a 300 Blackout rifle. 300BLK is an outstanding round for a home defense rifle. It hits hard at short ranges. And it works great with a suppressor, if you have one. Unfortunately, 300AAC isn’t quite as good at longer ranges.

Now for the caveat.

If you check out Palmetto State Armory (PSA) reviews on the internet, you’ll find that some reviewers have problems with their guns.

Most of the time, the components themselves are fine. PSA occasionally ships rifles that are improperly assembled. If you load up and fire without correcting any assembly issues, you could damage your rifle.

I recommend that either you or a gunsmith do a thorough inspection on this rifle before you shoot it. That way you can spot any assembly mistakes before they cause a catastrophic failure.

But, as long as everything is put together properly, this rifle is an incredible value for a home defense rifle.


  • Model: PSA PA-15 16” Nitride M4 Carbine 5.56 NATO MOE AR-15 Rifle
  • Caliber: 5.56mm NATO/.223 REM
  • Barrel length: 16 inches
  • Handguard: Magpul MOE
  • Sights: Magpul flip up rear sight/A2 front sight

The PSA PA-15 16” Nitride M4 Carbine 5.56 NATO MOE AR-15 Rifle is almost an entirely bone stock AR-15 rifle. It looks a lot like a rifle you’d see issued to a rifleman in the U.S. military. The specs are very similar, as well.

First, the barrel is 16 inches, overall. It’s completely manageable inside a house. But it’s long enough that you don’t have to pay for a short-barreled rifle tax stamp.

Up front, this rifle has an A2 style front sight base, which is paired with a Magpul rear sight. The sighting system is relatively flexible. You can add an optic and co-witness with your front sight. But the sights are perfectly viable on their own.

All the furniture is Magpul MOE hardware. The stock and pistol grip are great. They’re quite comfortable and offer plenty of places to attach a sling and other attachments.

However, the handguard is only okay.

On one hand, the handguard does an outstanding job of shielding your hand from the heat off the barrel. On the other hand, the handguard has fairly limited attachment options.

There are 6 M-LOK slots at 2, 10, and 6 o’clock, which work well for mounting a flashlight and forward grips. But the attachment points are more limiting than most free-float handguards, which often have M-LOK slots all over the place.

However, the handguard is comfortable and offers enough accessory attachment points for a home defense rifle.

Also, the barrel is cut with the mil-spec 1 in 7 inch rate of twist, which isn’t great for shooting lightweight bullets. Many bullets designed for home defense are rather lightweight.

Now, this rifle will still shoot lightweight bullets. And they’ll probably work just fine. But, if you can get slightly heavier home defense ammunition, that will be ideal for this rifle.

Very last thing:

This is a PSA rifle. So I must recommend that you inspect this gun to ensure it’s properly assembled before you fire it.

But, once correctly assembled, this is a solid rifle that has everything you need from a home defense rifle, even if it’s nothing fancy.


  • Model: Smith & Wesson M&P 15 Sport .223 REM/5.56 AR-15 Rifle
  • Caliber: 5.56mm NATO/.223 REM
  • Barrel length: 16 inches
  • Handguard: Classic A2
  • Sights: Crimson Trace CTS-103

The Smith & Wesson M&P 15 Sport .223 REM/5.56 AR-15 Rifle is another mass production AR-15 that’s a pretty solid platform. And this one has a few features that makes it an especially solid home defense rifle.

First, the barrel is cut with a 1 in 9 rate of twist, which works best with lighter bullets. That’s pretty nice, since a lot of defensive ammunition uses pretty lightweight bullets.

Additionally, the barrel is 16 inches long. With the A2 flash hider, the overall barrel length is about 17.5 inches. It’s not as short as some competing rifles with slightly shorter barrels. But most shooters won’t even notice the additional inch or so.

However, the biggest feature of this rifle is that it comes with a Crimson Trace CTS-103 red dot sight. The red dot sight is super quick and easy to use and makes sighted fire more intuitive. In short, the red dot makes your rifle as quick and easy to shoot as possible.

Unfortunately, there are no backup sights, which you may not like. But the gas block has a picatinny rail section. So you can add backup irons, if you want them.

Unfortunately, the A2 handguard is a bit tricky to mount a light on. But it can be done with a bit of aftermarket hardware.

The only trouble I’ve seen with these rifles is that occasionally they ship with gas system issues. The problem can usually be corrected with an adjustment or a replacement part. But it’s always best if your rifle works flawlessly out of the box.

So give this Smith & Wesson rifle a good test run before you put it into service as a home defense rifle.

However, even if you need to tinker a bit to get it running, this is easily the most complete home defense rifle package that you can get for the money.


  • Model: PSA 10.5 Carbine-Length 5.56 NATO 1/7 Nitride Lightweight M-LOK MOE EPT SBA3 Pistol
  • Caliber: 5.56mm NATO/.223 REM
  • Barrel length: 10.5 inches
  • Handguard: Free float M-LOK
  • Sights: None

The reality of using a rifle inside a building is that a shorter rifle is easier to handle than a longer rifle. However, if you want a barrel shorter than 16 inches, you must apply and pay for the short-barreled rifle tax stamp.

The PSA 10.5 Carbine-Length 5.56 NATO 1/7 Nitride Lightweight M-LOK MOE EPT SBA3 Pistol is technically a pistol. That way you can get a shorter barrel.

This model takes advantage of that. It has a 10.5 inch barrel. It’s super short and easy to handle.

The shorter barrel isn’t as good for shooting at longer distances. But it works fine for the short distances you find inside a house.

On the backend, this platform has a brace, instead of a stock.

The brace is the SBA3 braceIt’s easily one of the best pistol braces you can get. It’s super stable, if you use it for one-handed shooting. The brace works well if you happen to shoulder this pistol. And it’s got a well positioned QD sling attachment point.

If you’re going to use a brace, this brace is the way to go.

On the other end, this model has a free float handguard with tons of M-LOK slots. It’s perfect for attaching a light. And there’s a full-length picatinny rail for attaching any optic or sights that you’re into.

Unfortunately, this pistol comes without any sights. But you’ll have no problem attaching any sights you want.

Also, you should inspect this rifle and make sure it’s assembled properly before you head out and shoot it. Occasionally, PSA firearms ship with assembly errors that can cause big problems if they’re not corrected.

But, as long as everything is put together how it’s supposed to be, this is a solid pistol that enables you to get a short-barreled platform without paying for the tax stamp.


  • Model: PSA 16” Mid-Length 5.56 NATO 1/7 Nitride 13.5 Lightweight M-LOK MOE EPT Rifle
  • Caliber: 5.56mm NATO/.223 REM
  • Barrel length: 16 inches
  • Handguard: Free float M-LOK
  • Sights: Magpul BUIS

If you want a home defense rifle that you can use for just about all your defensive rifle needs, the PSA 16” Mid-Length 5.56 NATO 1/7 Nitride 13.5 Lightweight M-LOK MOE EPT Rifle is a nearly perfect option.

First, the barrel is 16 inches long. With the compensator, that makes the barrel about 17 inches long. But it’s still almost as short as you can get without buying a tax stamp. Most shooters won’t have any problem moving around with this rifle.

Moving back from the muzzle, the handguard is also incredibly well designed.

The handguard has tons of M-LOK slots for attaching a weapon light and anything else you want. Also, the handguard is very slim and comfortable. But it still has a picatinny rail up front where you need it to mount a front sight.

Speaking of sights, this rifle comes with Magpul sights. They’re Magpul backup sights. I’m not a huge fan of them. But that’s just me. The sights work just fine for home defense. The sights even work pretty well for long range shooting, though you’d probably want to upgrade the sighting system if you’re going to shoot more than about 200 or 300 yards.

Then, all the furniture is Magpul MOE furniture, which is plenty comfortable and works well for all types of shooting.

The only thing to look out for is that PSA has a habit of sometimes shipping rifles that are incorrectly assembled. I recommend giving this rifle a thorough inspection before you shoot it. If you’re not sure what to look for, have a gunsmith give it a good physical.

But, correctly put together, this is a great rifle for home defense and any other type of shooting that you’d do with an AR-15 type rifle. And it’s not too expensive. That’s excellent value.


  • Model: Geissele Automatics LLC Super Duty Rifle 16 5.56mm
  • Caliber: 5.56mm NATO/.223 REM
  • Barrel length: 16 inches
  • Handguard: Free float M-LOK
  • Sights: None

Geissele Automatics is one of the best gun manufacturers out there, period. That’s why the Geissele Automatics LLC Super Duty Rifle 16 5.56mm is on this list.

This is an AR-15 rifle. And many of the features are fairly standard. But these are the big things:

First, this rifle shoots incredibly soft. Geissele has perfectly gassed the system so that the recoil impulse is as soft as possible, without compromising reliability. It’s incredibly easy to get multiple shots on target quickly with this rifle.

Additionally, this rifle is equipped with a Geissele SSA-E X trigger. It’s one of the best single-stage triggers you can get. If you want to use this rifle for precision shooting, the trigger will maximize your ability to get hits at long range.

Also, the barrel is 16 inches long, which is enough for shooting at long ranges.

If you need a home defense rifle that you can easily take to the precision shooting table or a tactical competition, this rifle is a perfect option.

Yes, this Geissele model is a bit pricey. The price may be a bit prohibitive for those who just need a home defense rifle that will work.

But this is a perfect rifle for those who want a home defense rifle that’s great for home defense and high performance enough to be a 3-gun rifle or duty rifle. If you want one rifle that you can use in multiple demanding shooting contexts, this rifle is an excellent value.


Shutting the Door

Within the contexts of home defense, a properly configured rifle is an excellent tool that’s arguably better than any other firearm.

But home defense is no joke. If you’re going to use a rifle for home defense, get the best home defense rifle that you can.

Ruger AR-556 5.56 NATO M-LOK Free-Float Handguard Rifle

If you want to get the best home defense rifle possible without spending days doing research, get the Ruger AR-556 5.56 NATO M-LOK Free-Float Handguard Rifle. It’s a solid rifle, with all the right specs to be a home defense gun. And it’s priced to be affordable for everyone.

Still running a knife and bow as your home defense setup? It’s time to upgrade. Read up on the best home defense rifles. And get the one that gets the job done for you.