Long Gun Home Defense

By Jim Gilliland

man pointing a rifle

Whether you call it an AR-15, carbine, modern sporting rifle (MSR), military-style rifle or any other name, the rifle designed by Eugene Stoner, adapted and modified over the decades, is one amazing platform. The ergonomics, reliability, ballistic capability, modularity and overall simplicity has given the rifle a unique position as one of the world’s most versatile and capable.

It’s generally chambered in 223 Rem. and loaded with a plethora of bullets that can be tailored to meet just about every shooter’s need. I have used this platform more than half my life for plinking and competition, varmint and medium game hunting, and military service. I’ve trusted my life with this system many times over, and if I could only choose one gun for the rest of my days, it would be a variation of the AR-15.

These rifles have skyrocketed in popularity and millions of them have been sold in recent years—many to individuals who have never owned one. If you’re among them and are looking to use your AR platform for home defense, let me suggest a few things.

Ballistic Differences & Collateral Risks

First, you need to understand that pistol and rifle ballistics are worlds apart. There are very few things in a standard home that will singularly stop the penetration of a standard rifle cartridge. That said, you must devise a home security plan long before any home defense scenario occurs. Everyone in the home should know it and have specific actions they can do to help.

Most importantly, you should understand exactly where your shots will travel and what is behind the wall you are engaging. Having a plan that is well rehearsed and thought out is just as important as having the right tools.

Speer Gold Dot Personal Protection 223 Cartridges laying on a table

See The Light

Since the AR platform is so modular, there are many ways you can set them up. For home defense, one of the most useful add-ons is a quality light that emits at least 300 lumens. It will let you light up the area and positively identify your target and what’s behind it. It can also have a blinding effect on an attacker—but remember the light will reveal your location as well.


The iron sights that come standard on many AR platforms are great, however, the addition of an electronic sighting system like a red dot or reflexive sight is a great idea for the world of home defense. They give the shooter a quick and accurate way to view their sights on target and take well-aimed shots in low-light environments.

rifle being pointed around the corner in a home


Lastly and most imperative, seek training by well-trained, qualified and vetted instructors on how to properly use your defensive firearms—whether you choose an AR-15 or handgun. Like any skill, proficiency demands work. You should train regularly at the range using the specific ammunition you plan on using for defense. It doesn’t take a lot to become proficient with your tools or your plans, but it does require time and attention to use them properly and safely.