Several years ago I wrote an article about the Mossberg 500 Flex, and how it was a great dual purpose firearm. For someone who can only afford one gun for hunting and home defense and prefers a shotgun, that’s a great option.
But, what if you’re a rifle hunter?
Can you use a hunting rifle for home defense?
Yes, you can use a hunting rifle for home defense, but it should not be your first option. The hunting rifle has some inherent problems associated with it, like barrel length, that make it great at hunting, but not so great at home defense.
If it’s all you have and a bad actor breaks into your house late one night, if you have to grab your bolt action 243 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor, or any of the others to save your life, then go for it.
Let’s discuss why there are much better options for home defense than a hunting rifle, and then finish up with an actual strategy when you can use a bolt action hunting rifle for self-defense.
Hunting rifles have long barrels and are much bigger
Any gun that is used for hunting, specifically, is usually going to have a longer barrel than its counterpart. This is true even for handguns that are used for hunting purposes, more often than not.
The reason why guns used for hunting have a longer barrel, is because bullets reach a faster velocity from the longer barrels.
And, the reason why they reach the faster velocity is because more of, or all of, the gun powder has been burnt up because the round is in the barrel for longer.
The faster velocity allows the bullet to fly further and flatter than it would in a comparably shorter barrel. And of course, the faster velocity also allows the bullet to reach its maximum energy potential. This is necessary and excellent for hunting purposes.
Read this article to learn more about energy and velocity.
BUT, there is a problem with a longer barrel when it comes to indoor use. The longer barrels are harder to maneuver than the shorter barrels are.
They’re also just overall generally bigger, and because they are bigger they have more heft to them. This added size makes it a lot harder to use a hunting rifle in a defensive situation, because speed is key in defensive scenarios.
Though, it can be done as we’ll find out later on.
Hunting rifles usually have powerful optics
Most rifles that are used for hunting will have a powerful optic. While this is great for those times when you need to reach out and touch a deer with some jacketed lead, it’s actually a hinderance at the shorter distances you’d be defending yourself at.
It’s actually harder to aim a powered optic at shorter distances because you may not be able to tell where your shots would impact because you can’t see the whole target, or even tell if you’re on your target.
If you have no other option, try shooting with both eyes open if you can, or try to not use the scope at all as you “point to aim.”
Hunting rifles have powerful rounds
The final reason why a hunting rifle is less than ideal in a home defense scenario is because of the inherent power behind the round. Generally speaking, rifle rounds are the powerhouses of the gun world.
Some of the more powerful rounds travel in excess of 3,000 FPS (feet per second) and can pass through many barriers before coming to a stop.
Therefore, it might be a good idea to use slightly underpowered rounds in your rifle if you are going to use it for home defense. They will still be more than enough to make a bad guy think twice after being hit. While an underpowered bullet can change the trajectory of the bullet’s flight path, at the shorter home-defense distances it won’t matter at all.
Just remember to put the right ones back in before your next hunt.
None of the above matters if you use the right home defense strategy, which is something I learned during my tenure as the managing editor at ConcealedCarry.com called Isolate and Defend.
Isolate and defend
Above I said that a hunting rifle is usually longer and heavier than your other average home defense guns are. While this is totally true, it doesn’t matter if you use the right home defense strategy.
More often than not, when someone thinks about “home defense” they see images of themselves sweeping their house room by room. That’s kind of idiotic no matter what gun you have for more than one reason.
This isn’t the movies, and that really only happens in Hollywood. If you go looking around your house for the bad guy, you don’t really know what you’re walking into.
Bad guys usually travel in packs.
Do you know how many people may have broken into your house? Do you know if one or more of them are armed? Do you know if they are high out of their minds with broken give a damns?
If the answer is no, then you need to take a different approach.
In the isolate and defend strategy, the type of firearm you have doesn’t matter as much as you just having a firearm to begin with.
When you believe that someone has broken into your house you isolate yourself in one room with whoever else is home with you and then you defend that position.
At this point you you have a tactical advantage because they now have no idea where you are in the house. You can lock or barricade the door, forcing them to enter by a more easily defensible point, and because they probably can’t walk through walls, they have to use your door.
See where I’m going with this?
You can also call the police at this point and if the bad guys start to bang on your door you can announce very loudly that you’re armed and have called the police.
Home defense forethought
The isolate and defend strategy is something that takes some forethought to execute properly, and even then there are issues that you need to have worked out. For example, you may not have all of your family members with you.
Or, maybe you have another issue that I can’t possibly understand because there are countless layouts to tons of houses and apartments.
The point here, is that you should try to have an understanding of what you plan to do regardless of the gun you have. And, there is also something to be said about fortifying your home to make it a harder target, so the bad guys go to a different home.
For more home defense tactics and to learn about how to fortify your house even better, I highly recommend the video course from Concealed Carry called Complete Home Defense.
For transparency purposes, that’s an affiliate link, and I did help with the production of that course in a very tiny way when I worked as their managing editor.
But it is a very good course that makes you think about home defense in a different light.
The gun has always been considered the great equalizer of force. An elderly person can effectively defend herself with nothing more than a gun and the ability to properly use it. At the end of the day, being armed is important, but having the right gun is even better.
Here are what I’d consider to be the best home defense guns.