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Home Defense Guns: Pistols or Rifles

Home Defense Guns: Pistols or Rifles

There’s a time in every gunowners life when you’ll hear someone say, “If you’re looking for something for home defense, just go get a shotgun.” The real truth is that pistols and rifles can be just as effective in a home defense situation, if not more so. Pistols are great for moving quickly in close quarters or when doing other tasks with one hand — such as opening doors, holding a flashlight, or leading loved ones to safety. However, pistols do have their caveats, such as limited firepower and ammunition capacity. Whereas a rifle or shotgun generally needs both hands to operate effectively and the longer barrel length make them more cumbersome to move around indoors. BUT, rifles do have a distinct advantage over pistols in a home defense application.

1. Firepower

Common AR-15 rifles are chambered in .233 and use 55gr to 77gr bullets. Although they don’t pack as much of a punch as a shotgun buckshot, they do have velocity on their side. The bullet is traveling at an incredible speed which allows it to transfer a huge force into its target, much faster than that of common handgun calibers.

Another topic to explore would be home defense on the AR-15 platform but chambered in 300 Blackout. 300 Blackout is a great option for home defense because the bullet packs a heavier punch than it’s .223 counterpart and is available in subsonic loads, such as the Gorilla Ammunition 300 Blackout 205gr, Self Defense. Whether your rifle is chambered in .223 or 300BLK, be sure you’re using the proper ammo for your specific home defense application as overpenetration could be a concern.

2. Distance

With an AR-15 rifle, even a semi-experienced shooter is skilled enough to deliver shots on target out to 100 yards and beyond. This would be considered an extreme distance for even a skilled marksman wielding a shotgun or pistol. Understandably, distance isn’t always a concern for home defense, but may be for those living in more rural areas defending ranches or farms. Other considerations for both pistols and rifles are illumination and sights, but that’s a whole other discussion in itself.


Pros: Easy to handle in close quarters, can be shot with one hand
Cons: Less ammo capacity, low firepower, limited long range capability


Pros: Powerful loads, higher ammo capacity, Perfect for longer range applications
Cons: More difficult to maneuver indoors, potential overpenetration, need both hands to operate

So, which is better for home defense — a shotgun, rifle, or handgun? Well, the short answer is “It depends.” They all play a role in keeping you and your family safe. Think about where you live, how your house or apartment is set up, and plan your home defense needs accordingly. A rifle may not be the best option for some, while for others it is and vice versa for pistols and shotguns. Obviously, your local laws may dictate how you choose your home defense firearm as well.

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