Having an AR-15 for defensive purposes is as good as it gets. Not only do you have a proven platform, but you also have a proven caliber and 30 rounds of them. So, if you’ve been thinking about the best firearm for home defense, you’ve found it.


The AR-15 is a great home defense option. Source: reddit

Choosing an AR-15 for home defense is a fairly deep subject. You must consider many things before putting an AR-15 in your safe and thinking it’s ready for a rainy day. So, we will discuss how you can make the right choice the first time. 


Whenever I talk to someone looking for a rifle for home defense, I touch on these topics before recommending an option. 

Your Home’s Layout

One of the first things you should consider is your home’s layout. Are there children in the house, and are their rooms nearby? Is there a specific exterior wall that is very close to your neighbor’s home? You want to ensure you know these answers and keep them in mind to avoid overpenetration in the wrong area(s) of the house.

Overpenetration aside, you have to think about the size of your rifle, too. Living in an apartment with tight walls and corners is far different from living in a six-bedroom house with a spiral staircase, and the latter gives you more options in terms of things like barrel length. So, walk through your house and think, “How big of an AR-15 can I realistically use to ensure I don’t have trouble moving around?”  

Weight and Length 

The last thing you need is a rifle that will weigh you down when you need to be quick. It’s fatiguing, and it can cause you to make mistakes. And suppose you have to hold a person at gunpoint while you gather information and assess the situation. In that case, your shoulders aren’t too happy either. 

Keeping the rifle’s length to a minimum is a great way to ensure it doesn’t weigh you down. You also don’t want to be in a situation where your barrel is coming around the corner before you are.

I typically say a 12.5-inch barrel is the perfect length for home defense. Those setups tend to be lightweight and maneuverable enough for most situations.


Ensure you have enough money after purchasing your rifle left over for accessories and a case of ammo.

PMC X-TAC 5.56NATO M855 62gr Green-Tip 20-Round Box
PMC X-TAC 5.56x45mm NATO M855 62gr Green-Tip Ammo
Add to Wishlist Added to Wishlist

Training is the most important thing, but specific attachments can also help immensely.

If you can afford a Noveske rifle, then by all means. But if you don’t want to spend that much, you can get a rifle from a company like BCM, for example, that can stay within a lower budget and still make a solid home defense rifle.


There are many different AR-15 manufacturers out there. When it comes to looking for a home defense gun, you don’t have to look too far to find something nice. As long as you test your firearm multiple times before calling it a home defense gun, you’re golden. 

As hinted above, you don’t have to get a Knights Armament, Noveske, or Lewis Machine & Tool build for a home defense rifle. Those are top-tier rifles and not necessarily needed for home defense (unless you can afford it). A lot of the time, you’ll be fine with a Palmetto State Armory or Aero Precision build. 

But see what’s out there. Many AR-15s from many different manufacturers are up to the task. 


AR-15s come in many shapes and sizes and have many various features. To cut through the noise, I’ll just give you a recommendation for features. 

Go with a full-length Picatinny rail up top and an M-LOK or Picatinny handguard. None of that plastic stuff that plagued the earlier M4s and M16s, and that won’t be ideal for necessary attachments. 

I’ve spoken with many professionals who almost always seem to agree that full-length M-LOK handguards paired with 12.5-13.7-inch barrels are superior for home defense. Of course, feel free to see what’s out there, but you can’t go wrong with a setup like the one below.


This rifle has plenty of space for the right attachments. Source: reddit

Another feature to consider is ambidextrous controls. If your strong hand is ever wounded or you have to do something like hold open a door, you’ll want to be able to manipulate your controls from either side. While I wouldn’t say it’s a deal breaker because you can always switch out certain parts and install new ones, it’s nice not to have to. 



Loading up your rifle with many attachments is fine! Source: reddit

I recommend three attachments for every home defense firearm: A light, an optic, and a sling. 


Some shootings can be avoided entirely if you can better identify your target and assess the situation with a weapon-mounted light

It’s not unheard of for someone’s neighbor to be intoxicated and accidentally enter the wrong home. Or maybe your spouse went to the refrigerator to get a drink in the middle of the night. You don’t want to mistake either for a burglar or attacker.

These types of situations can be handled more appropriately with proper illumination.

AR-15 with Streamlight

Streamlight makes some fantastic weapon lights. Source: streamlight

You also can use a light to blind and disorient a confirmed threat. You’d be surprised how quickly a beam of bright light can take someone’s will to fight away. 

You can get any light you want; just make sure you have a light. 


Using an optic like a red dot or holographic sight is typically quicker and easier than iron sights. Unless you train with iron sights frequently, that’s just how it is. Optics can tip the odds in your favor. 

Magpul MBUS Gen 2 sight
Magpul MBUS Gen 2 Flip-Up Sights
Add to Wishlist Added to Wishlist

When your heart is beating through your chest, and you have your family behind you, the last thing you want to worry about is having to line up iron sights. 


Think of a sling like a knife sheath. A sheath keeps your knife close and ready if you need to use it, and a sling keeps your firearm where it needs to be—with you, everywhere. 

There are many different types of slings, so be sure to test a few to see which feel most natural and comfortable for your shooting/maneuvering style. 


Choosing an AR-15 for home defense is not impossible. Most rifles from reputable manufacturers can do the job; just be sure to extensively test them to verify their reliability and familiarize yourself with them. 

Sometimes, bad apples fall through the cracks, and you don’t want to discover that your rifle was one of them on game day.

The best rifle in the world can’t save you if you don’t know what you’re doing, so don’t get so caught up in the gun that you forget what’s important: training. 

Be good and take care. 

Brian Zerbian
Brian is a USMC Veteran and avid gun enthusiast from New Jersey who loves to spend his time shooting, writing, listening to classic rock, and learning new things.
Learn more