Gear, Parts and Accessories

Rifle Optics for Home Defense

TruGlo Omnia optic atop an AR-15 rifle

When we discuss home defense, I immediately ask the reader (or my student) if they have access to a rifle. A rifle offers far greater hit probability than any handgun. The AR-15 rifle is an obvious best choice for personal defense, home defense, and area defense. However, there are many lever-action rifles and even rimfire rifles that may be pressed into service.

While a rifle may serve OK with iron sights, the addition of quality optics increases hit probability. Taking care of the problem with a minimum of ammunition expended is important. A quality optic helps a great deal in this pursuit.

Woman practicing with a red dot equipped AR-9 rifle
A red dot-type optic greatly increases hit probability, but accuracy is not automatic — practice, practice, practice.

Home Defense

A home invasion is a high-stress event. The firearm must be fast into action and capable of engaging the threat quickly and accurately.

I am going to make a bold statement that several experienced shooters in my circle agree with. Today, if you purchase a $200 optic, you get the performance we paid $600 for a decade ago. This is a fair statement.

There are affordable optics. Some are made for .22 caliber use only, others will withstand the recoil of anything you are able to fire from the shoulder. The optic is possibly as important as the rifle itself. Either may be affordable or high-end — depending on your disposable income or how miserly you are.

The optic may be chosen purely for home defense. Nothing wrong with that. Let’s look at some of the best choices.

Red Dot Sights

Red dot sights are interesting. When I was in institutional service, every rifle should have worn the same sight. On my own time and dime, I have experimented with quite a few different types and makers.

Henry lever-action rifle with a TruGlo red dot sight and XS iron offset sight
It isn’t just the AR rifle! This Henry rifle wears a TruGlo optic and XS back-up sights.

The red dot sight is probably the best choice for home defense. A bright red dot — or sometimes a green dot with more versatile sights — is projected onto a glass screen. The red dot is the aiming point.

We don’t use the six o’clock hold. Instead, hold the red dot directly on the target. Without worrying about lining up the front and rear sight on the threat we have much greater speed.

Some red dot sights feature a long tube. Others are reflex types. One of my rimfire rifles wears an inexpensive Bushnell. This sight has served well for several years. I cannot complain, it is fast on target and leaves squirrels little chance of escape.

Meopta rifle scope on a green AR-15
The author has looked to Meopta for outstanding performance for years.

It is also fun to use, which means I practice a lot. Some red dot and reflex types operate in much the same fashion as the inexpensive types, they simply have more features such as myriad brightness settings and red/green options. I like relatively compact types as there is less chance of bumping into the body or of snagging as the rifle is deployed.

The red dot system is natural. It is good to have a sight that comes on automatically with movement, others require you turn on the sight. Be certain that turning on the sight and racking the bolt to load the rifle are practiced often.

With the red dot sight, there is no magnification and thus no parallax to contend with. With no magnification, both eyes may be open as the rifle is aimed.

Pro shooter competing with an AR-9 pistol caliber carbine equipped with a red dot optic
Competitors realize the need for quality optics. For home defense they are very useful as well.

Red dot sights require batteries. Modern red dots have fantastic battery life. These sights do not require uncommon batteries. As an example, the SIG Sauer Romeo 7 optic on my personal custom Aero Precision AR-15 features over 60,000 hours of battery life at the mid-range setting. This is my longest serving red dot sight and rides on my dedicated home defense rifle.

My Springfield Saint wears the Vortex Strikeforce red dot. This is a compact and reliable red dot sight with excellent features. I have used this combination extensively with excellent results, not only on the Springfield rifle but also on a Springfield AR-type pistol.

These red dot sights are an excellent option for home defense. When faced with a gang or takeover robbers, you need every advantage. These sights offer real speed in target acquisition and easily address multiple targets with training. Perhaps, they are mandatory on modern rifles.

I would be hard-pressed to choose my favorite. The Aero custom-grade AR-15 is my favorite rifle, and this certainly influences my choice. I would not feel poorly armed with SIG, Vortex, Lucid, or Riton optics.

Using a standard rifle scope isn’t very useful for home defense. Even a four-power rifle scope offers far too much magnification for home defense use. Rifle scopes such as the TruGlo Omnia offer 1×4 or even 1×6 magnification.

AR-15 rifle atop an AR500 steel target with two boxes of ammunition
The author has enjoyed excellent results with TruGlo optics.

With an illuminated reticle, these sights are similar to a red dot sight in tactical applications. You may fire with both eyes open. The advantage is that the rifle may be used for home defense and then by simply cranking up the magnification, the rifle is effective to well past 100 yards.

For those who wish to use their hunting rifle for home defense a tactical rifle scope is versatile and offers a good all-around choice. I think these types of optics are marginally slower than a red dot, and it takes a good shot to prove this out, but much more accurate at longer range. Depends on your scenario. The standard tube-type optical sight is probably more rugged than most red dot type sights.

A final optic I find extraordinary in performance is the Meopta ZD 1x4x22. This is an illuminated reticle tactical scope that is considerably more expensive than the other sights covered, but no more expensive than many other premium optics. Learning to use this optic well has been an experience. I am still in the process.

Bob Campbell shooting an AR-15 rifle with a TruGlo 1x4 rifle scope at an outdoor range
Low magnification scopes — typically with a 1×4 or 1×6 setting —from TruGlo are among the most useful of all optics.

This is a superbly clear optic with good light gathering properties in dim light. The 1x setting allows rapid target acquisition. With a turn of the magnification dial, you may dial up to a higher magnification instantly if needed. The RD illuminated reticle is brilliantly visible in the dimmest light. This reticle is smaller than most and covers a smaller piece of real estate than most. This took some getting used to.

After I acclimated, I discovered that this type of reticle is very accurate, with precision shooting possible to the maximum range the shooter is capable of making a hit. So far, I have fired the Meopta at 200 yards with excellent results. A rifle scope that allows rapid combat acquisition at close range, and the ability to reach out to 300 yards or more, is a rarity. The Meopta achieves this readily.

If I were shooting a 3-Gun match tomorrow, I would grab the Ruger rifle with a Meopta scope. Good quality optics are a great advantage in home defense. A relatively simple red dot will give you an advantage. If you are also a hunter, competitor, or foresee using the rifle at long range, there are optics that work well from zero to several hundred yards. That is versatility and value.

Do you run a red dot on a home-defense rifle or shotgun? What is your favorite home defense setup? Share your answers in the comment section.

  • Woman wearing green hearing protection and holding an AR-15 with a red dot optic
  • Springfield Saint with the Vortex Strikefire and magnifier
  • Man teaching a woman how to adjust a rifle scope at an indoor range
  • AR-15 rifle atop an AR500 steel target with two boxes of ammunition
  • Aero Precision rifle with a SIG Romeo sight atop an AR500 steel target with two boxes of ammunition
  • Bob Campbell shooting an AR-15 rifle with a TruGlo 1x4 rifle scope at an outdoor range
  • Henry lever-action rifle with a TruGlo red dot sight and XS iron offset sight
  • Woman practicing with a red dot equipped AR-9 rifle
  • TruGlo combat light affixed to the front Picatinny rail on a rifle.
  • TruGlo Omnia optic atop an AR-15 rifle
  • TruGlo red dot rifle scope
  • SIG Romeo 7 red dot rifle scope
  • Young man wearing Walker Game Ears hearing protection and shooting an AR-15 rifle through Iron sight.
  • Meopta rifle scope
  • Meopta rifle scope on a green AR-15
  • Pro shooter competing with an AR-9 pistol caliber carbine equipped with a red dot optic

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (11)

  1. I realize this isnt a debate about what s the best personal defense gun—its about optics used for these types of guns. Two things though–I simply dont understand a shotgun for home defense. Its big, it takes time to point, its bad in very close quarters, etc. LOUD enough to break your ear drums.
    So to that end Im happy with my .44 special with Defense round. Big slug, small gun, grip laser. As one fellow above said, no having to push some button. I guess if a group of bad guys/gals/others were trying to bust in my doors and windows, Id feel better blasting them through the walls with a load of double 0 or slugs but when does that happen? But back to red dots. I love them. Can say DONT BUY CHEAP. I went the eBay route several times and no matter how big the makers brag, they wandered, fell apart, etc. Tried 3 and that cost me what a good one would have without the hassles.

  2. An AR is certainly an effective weapon, however, firing one inside of a house can be very painful for you if you are not wearing earpro. If you find yourself in an emergency situation, such as your door being kicked in, will you have time to grab hearing protection, charge your AR, and turn on the red dot? Probably not. A good high-capacity handgun is maneuverable, quick into action, and much easier on the ears without earpro.

  3. I have a 45 govt model on the night stand next to me and my Benelli M4 12ga. shotgun under my side of the bed. I also have security cameras all around the house to alert me if anyone is on the property, before they attempt breaking in.

  4. My shotgun leans against the wall right next to my bed and it has a light on it. That’s closer than my handgun and potentially far more deadly, accurate, and intimidating when things go bump in the middle of the night and your adrenaline is up.

  5. I don’t expect a home defense scenario to be more than 25 yards so point and shoot with my KSG should do the trick. Nevertheless, it sports a red dot JIC.

  6. OK, yes I have a AR & a shotgun on the overhead of my bed – but WHAT is next to me & I’ll bet most of you, is my trusty “pistol or revolver”! What do you reach for when you hear the front door busting open 15′ from you bedroom door? The handgun beside you or scrambling to get a rifle or shotgun from it’s spot & racking it so the bad guy knows exactly where you are.

    Yes a rifle or shotgun is more accurate & or lethal, but what you have in your hand is the “best” option.

    In addition, as a Marine, Police Officer, rifle & pistol instructor, etc. “I” have no problem using my handgun for up close & personal. Optics, red dots, etc, are great but you have to turn them on & that little button, when the SHTF, is a problem for most without combat experience.

    A grip laser on a handgun is a good choice. I have “Big Dots” on my guns & one has a laser but the one I pick up first my M625 & next to it a 45 Shield with laser.

    Yes, I know I have been practicing for 60yrs, & a revolver or auto is as natural to me as grabbing old “moby”, but, practice & you’ll find that a handgun is quicker, easier to get on the job & those 230+Ps will flat do the job.

    Use what you can do the best with, the fastest & most accurate! Just remember, in a home invasion, you are very close, kissing close sometimes & it’s easier to manipulate that gun in your hand, in close quarters, than anything else.

    By the way – I’m a “rifle” guy & shoot 1k & everything in between, so I pick the handgun, because I am a rifle guy.
    Tom USMC

  7. While I respect the ammo capacity of an AR, I choose to use a 9mm Sig P320 with a laser and a Ruger .357 mag Match Champion GP100 4″ barrel revolver as my primary home defense firearms. I carry a Sig P365 in a pocket holster when we walk the pups after dark. All are loaded with self defense ammo. I believe those firearms are sufficient for adequate home defense and offer a reduced chance of over-penetration and greater maneuverability. I do like the 30 round capacity an AR offers though.

  8. With glaucoma,my red and brown color fields are compromised ergo NO red dot,red laser sights.On long guns,the Williams WGRS receiver sight with Twilight Aperture[.15 ghost ring]works.

  9. Unless I’m fighting off hordes or shooting beyond 25 yards, the shotgun remains my primary home defense firearm. The rifle is secondary and the pistol is tertiary.

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