If you’re looking for something to protect your home, a trusty firearm is a solid solution. Both AR-15 rifles or AR pistols are common choices, but which one is actually the best gun for home defense?

It might seem like a simple question, but there’s a lot to think about when selecting a self-defense firearm you are going to trust to protect yourself and your family inside your own home. So, I took a quick look at both of these platforms to determine if one makes a better home defense gun over the other. Here’s what I found. 

Quick…What’s the Difference?

While AR pistols and AR-15 rifles are similar, there are some very distinct differences. Because of the shorter barrel length and lack of a stock, the AR pistol is classified as a pistol by the ATF under the National Firearms Act. Some of these pistols do have stabilizing braces, though there’s a legal debate over those shooting aids at the moment.

To be classified as a rifle, the AR must have a barrel length of at least 16 inches measured from chamber to muzzle and a stock for shouldering the firearm. Both will work for home defense, but they each have some pros and cons. To get a good comparison between the two choices, I made a quick rundown of pros and cons for each. 

Related: AR Pistol vs. AR Rifle, What Should You Pick? (VIDEO)

AR Pistol Pros

Here are some benefits to picking an AR pistol:

  • Shorter barrel length makes it more maneuverable in tight quarters.
  • Ability to use a brace to stabilize the pistol. (Note: It’s a brace, not a buttstock. While similar, they are classified differently).
  • Designed to be able to be shot with one hand, but you can easily transition to two hands. 
  • Generally lighter weight than an AR-15 rifle.
  • Best suited for shorter distance shots.
  • Because the overall length is smaller than that of a rifle, it’s easier to conceal in your home.

AR Pistol Cons

Here are some cons to picking an AR pistol:

  • Less barrel length means less room for accessories.
  • More recoil due to the shorter barrel length.
  • Some states get weird about their classification.
  • Braces are generally less comfortable than a stock, and you can’t have a stock on an AR pistol.
  • Inability to add a foregrip to aid with stability.
  • Lower velocity due to the shorter barrel.

AR-15 Rifle Pros

Here are some benefits to picking an AR-15 rifle:

  • You can add a vertical grip to help with stability and accuracy.
  • Because of the longer barrel length, your shots will have a higher velocity and will travel longer ranges with greater accuracy. 
  • Longer barrel lengths tend to create less recoil, making for more comfortable shooting.
  • The heavier weight of an AR-15 can also aid with recoil management.
  • You generally get better magazine capacity and controllability.
  • You can customize these guns however you want and add tons of accessories like lights and lasers.

AR-15 Rifle Cons

Here are some cons to picking an AR-15 rifle:

  • With a barrel length greater than 16 inches from chamber to muzzle, the overall length of the rifle leads to less maneuverability, which could be an issue in a close-quarters situation.
  • The longer barrel will create higher velocity, which may lead to over penetration.
  • These guns are generally heavier than an AR pistol.
  • Because of the size, they’re harder to conceal in your home. 

Which One Is Right for Home Defense?

Which is better for home defense: The AR pistol or the AR-15 rifle? It really depends on what you’re looking for. Both platforms are reliable and would work for home defense. If you’re planning on getting something versatile that can suit many different functions – home defense, target shooting, hunting, etc. – then I would probably reach for the AR-15 rifle as the way to go for you. 

If you’re looking for something fun to shoot, smaller, and more maneuverable that you’ll use for home defense and maybe some target shooting, the AR pistol works perfectly. I like that the AR pistol offers less velocity for reasons of over penetration at close quarters – You don’t want to shoot through your wall and into your neighbor’s house. 

Is there one right answer? Not really. Both will work well to protect you in your home. To me, based on the size and weight of the AR pistol, I’d likely choose one over an AR-15 for strictly a home defense gun. 
 

Some Considerations for AR Pistols


Another caveat is that AR pistols are treated differently by different states. You really need to know what your local regulations are before you make your choice. AR pistols can be, and often are, confused with short-barreled rifles. This confusion can lead to a felony charge in your state, which could cost you your gun rights. Short-barreled rifles also require a special tax stamp from the ATF. Gun laws change often, so know yours before you find yourself in hot water. 

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