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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.