Choosing a firearm for home defense is a very important topic. It’s also a very hotly debated topic, right up there with the crunchy-vs-smooth peanut butter debate. Some people swear by a handgun; others, like “Uncle Joe” Biden, say a shotgun is best (though don’t let that make you think a shotgun isn’t a perfectly valid home defense option). Others, still, will recommend an AR-pattern rifle.
Regardless of the opinion, everyone knows theirs is right.
If you’re trying to figure out which one of those is best for you, then this article is not where you need to be. If you’ve already decided that an AR suits your home defense needs over the other platforms, happily read on!
Whatever your reason for choosing an AR for home defense, you likely considered the fact that the platform is ubiquitous, easy to customize, can be equipped easily with lights, lasers, and any other accessory you might want to bolt on, shoots readily available and affordable ammunition, is fairly compact, and has minimal recoil in comparison to, say, a 12 gauge shotgun.
As such, it should be assumed that all of these attributes apply to all of the rifles listed below, whether mentioned specifically or not.
One thing you’ll notice about the guns on this list is that they’re not super expensive; every gun here can be had for less than $1,000—some some for significantly less. Sure, you could argue that you get what you pay for, but let’s consider the application for this gun.
It won’t be used at long ranges, it doesn’t need to withstand battlefield conditions, and it doesn’t have to shoot ¼-inch groups at 100 yards. This gun is to be used in your home, at relatively close range (unless you live in some kind of palace or also want the gun to defend a large property), and in a relatively clean and forgiving environment (again, unless you live like a caveman; to each their own).
If you’d prefer to spends hundreds—or even thousands—more on your home defense AR, then by all means, go for it. I completely understand the argument that you don’t want to trust your life to “the lowest bidder.”
With that said, my personal opinion is that you’d be better off with a less expensive gun and use the money you saved on ammo and training. Specifically, a training class that can go through home defense scenarios with you. And less expensive does not automatically equal sub-standard quality or reliability when it comes to ARs, especially these days.
So, without further ado and in no particular order, here’s a list of ten great AR rifle options to consider for home defense.
Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport II
The Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport series has been a very good seller for Smith & Wesson.
It’s a quality AR rifle that is ready right out of the box, equipped with an A2 front sight and a Magpul MBUS rear sight. If you want to customize and/or upgrade this rifle, it’s easily done via the railed upper, which is perfect for the attachment of other optics or accessories.
Weighing in at 6.4 pounds, the Sport II is lightweight yet durable and has a dust cover and forward assist, just in case you find yourself needing either of them.
The S&W M&P15 Sport II has an MSRP of $739.
Just like the above offering from S&W, Ruger’s AR-556 has been a very popular gun in their lineup. The AR-556 has an A2 front sight base and a Ruger-branded Rapid Deploy rear sight that can flip down when not in use.
The railed upper is perfect for optics, it has a forward assist and dust cover, and the M4-style handguard can accept accessories or pieces of rail for extra mounting capabilities. It’s also a light gun, weighing just 6.5 pounds.
With an MSRP of $799, the Ruger AR-556 is a solid option for home defense.
SIG Sauer M400 TREAD
SIG’s tagline for the M400 TREAD is: “All the features, all the freedom – none of the compromises.”
That kind of says it all, doesn’t it? Well, in case it doesn’t, here’s some specs.
The rifle has an M-LOK handguard for mounting lights, lasers, and other items of your choice, and thanks to weight-saving lightening cuts in the handguard, the gun weighs just 7 pounds.
The TREAD line of products has almost everything you could need to set this gun up for home defense.
They offer their ROMEO5 red dot optic, special mounts and sights that will easily co-witness with the ROMEO5, and as an added bonus, the gun features ambidextrous controls. For the southpaws out there, that’s a nice standard feature.
The SIG Sauer M400 TREAD has an MSRP of $951.
Sometimes, Anderson doesn’t get a fair shake. However, for the purposes of this list, their AM-15 can get the job done just as well as the other guns listed here.
Weighing in at 6.2 pounds, it’s a relatively light gun. This rifle has a forward assist, dust cover, railed upper, and a railed gas block.
That last feature is nice to have so that you can get some extra distance between your iron sights while still having room on the rail for another optic of your choice.
The AM-15 has an MSRP of $558.99, which makes it the most budget-conscious option on this list.
This way, you’ll have plenty of money left over for ammo and training.
Mossberg’s MMR carbine is a little different from the other guns we’ve looked at so far.
The gun is ready to go right out of the box, but it doesn’t have an A2 front sight or a flip-up rear sight. Instead, it’s got adjustable, rail-mounted front and rear sights of their own design.
The upper is railed, but the gas block is not. Not to worry, though, because the handguard is fully railed, which is where the front sight attaches. This still provides a nice, long sight radius for better shot placement.
One final note is that there are two other features lacking on this gun: no forward assist and no dust cover. Are either one essential? No, not hardly, but it is worth mentioning.
The Mossberg MMR weighs 6.75 pounds and has an MSRP of $938.
DPMS bills its Oracle rifle as being “quite possibly our best value yet.” And they’re quite possibly right.
This rifle has a railed upper and gas block for attachment of sights and other accessories, and it also has a dust cover and forward assist. Other than that, it’s as standard as any other basic AR offering on the market today—and that’s perfectly fine for our purposes!
Don’t let the no-fuss, no-muss design fool you into thinking that it wouldn’t be up to the task. To the contrary, it can be beneficial to have a minimalist approach to a home defense weapon. The fewer bells and whistles there are, the lower the chances you’ll have of something go wrong at the worst moment possible.
The Oracle weighs 6.4 pounds and has an MSRP of $739.
Savage MSR 15 Patrol
The AR-15 is often referred to as a “modern sporting rifle,” and you might assume that Savage’s MSR 15 Patrol rifle uses that same acronym in its name, but you’d be wrong. Instead, it stands for “Modern Savage Rifle.”
Looking at the MSR 15, the furniture and sights set it apart visually from other ARs on this list. Instead of using standard A2 sights and milspec (or even Magpul) furniture, this rifle uses a lot of products from the BLACKHAWK! lineup —it has their KNOXX pistol grip, AXIOM buttstock, and rear sight.
The rifle’s front sight is a Savage-specific configuration, utilizing their custom A-frame integrated gas block design.
The Savage MSR 15 Patrol weighs 6.75 pounds and has an MSRP of $885.
Spike’s Tactical M4 LE
The M4 LE rifle offered by Spike’s Tactical includes the most user-customizable options from the factory than any other gun on this list. You choose specific options on their website and the gun is custom built for you, with a one to two week lead time.
There are five different handguards to choose from: M4, Magpul SL, M-LOK, SAR3, and BAR2. Depending upon the handguard you choose, rail lengths can be 7”, 9”, 10”, 12”, or 13.2”. You also get your choice of colors: black, gray, for FDE.
Some guns will come with an A2 front sight and a Magpul MBUS rear sight, and others ship as a plain flat top, ready for optics and sights of your choice.
Aside from those custom options, every gun comes standard with a forward assist and a dust cover.
The M4 LE has an MSRP that starts at $975 and goes up from there, based on what options you choose.
Bushmaster XM-15 QRC
The QRC in the XM-15‘s name stands for “Quick Response Carbine,” which is exactly what you want for a home defense gun.
At its core, this gun is just like any other standard AR-15. What sets it apart is that it ships with its own Bushmaster-branded mini red-dot optic.
These kinds of optics have become very popular on ARs for all sorts of applications, including home defense, so it makes sense that Bushmaster decided to include one with their XM-15 QRC.
If you’d like to run backup sights, you’ll likely need to swap out the handguard for something longer with M-LOK or Keymod slots or swap out the gas block, because factory gas block does not appear to be railed and there sure isn’t enough room for two iron sights on the small upper receiver optics rail.
With an MSRP of $769, Bushmaster’s XM-15 QRC isn’t a bad choice for a gun with an included optic.
Rock River Arms BTB Carbine
Rock River doesn’t want people to look at their gun and think that it is just like every other AR. That’s why the BTB stands for “Beyond the Basic.”
This gun comes outfitted with RRA’s NSP line of pistol grip, buttstock, handguard, and flip-up front and rear sights.
The handguard is fully railed at the 12-o’clock and 6-o’clock positions, with small pieces of rail attached at 3-o’clock and 9-o’clock.
The BTB weighs in at 7 pounds flat, and they guarantee an accuracy of 1 MOA at 100 yards. While that’s way more than you’ll need for home defense, it’s nice to know that you could reach out with this gun if you had to.
The BTB carbine has an MSRP of $825 and is available in black or tan.
When the home defense scenario that you hoped you’d never have to live through happens and you go to grab your gun, it really doesn’t matter what brand name is on the lower receiver or how expensive your optic is.
All that will matter is that you made a choice to defend yourself, your family, and your home with an AR; you got the one that you felt was best suited for the job; and, hopefully, it got the job done.
Looking at it from that perspective, any of the guns on this list are up to the task. The choice is yours.