Semi-automatic rifles are hallmarks of self-defense. Owning a semi-automatic rifle can help you, your home, and your family be much safer from a variety of threats. However, when the safety of your loved ones is on the line, you don’t just want any generic assault rifle.
This buying guide can help inform gun owners about which semi-automatic rifles will serve them the best in a variety of different situations. If you own an arsenal of firearms or are a new gun owner, this list has something for you.
Rifle Specifics For Self-Defense
Semi-autos are unlike most self-defense pistols in that they are a proactive self-defense choice. While you may carry a pistol for self-defense outside of your home, a semi-automatic rifle is specially designed to take on hostile assailants. When the fight comes to your home, you need the most powerful and versatile weapon you can get.
Semi-automatic rifles are also more tactically-oriented than most sidearms and hunting rifles. They shoot much faster than hunting rifles and shotguns. When lives are on the line, this is an imperative feature, allowing you to put down threats before you or a loved one comes to harm.
Semi-automatic rifles typically store more ammunition which is another important consideration when thrust into a combat scenario.
Semi-auto rifles are tactically-oriented and optimized for all ranges of combat, making them the ideal home-defense weapon. Most tactical rifles work best from mid-range, but they are also incredibly effective in close-quarter combat, and with the proper scopes can become just as effective at long-distance shooting. Rifles move more fluidly in combat situations.
With the appropriate practice put in at the range, gun owners can become formidable defenders when armed with a semi-automatic battle rifle.
Semi-automatic Rifles For Sport And Hunting
Self-defense is not the only utility for semi-automatic rifles. Professional and recreational target shooting is the perfect activity for semi-auto utilization. Certain kinds of game can be taken down much easier with a semi-automatic rifle.
For example, many hog hunters prefer to hunt from helicopters, and the best weapon suited for shooting out of a chopper is a semi-automatic rifle.
Many gun owners cite semi-automatic rifles as the most enjoyable rifles to target shoot. Professional shooting sportsmen rely on these rifles to gain the fastest, most accurate, and most reliable shot when they are competing.
Hunting is also another practical use for semi-automatic rifles when big game hunting. While bolt-action rifles are typically favored for hunting, certain dangerous game may be more easily and safely dealt with when a semi-auto rifle is employed instead of a slower shooting bolt-action.
A variety of animals can be taken down using semi-automatic rifles, such as feral hogs, mountain goats, elk, coyotes, and wild cats like cougars. Hunters all across the country have embraced AR-15 rifles as their primary hunting weapon.
Brave law enforcement officers in the United States also utilize police issued rifles in some places. When our servicemen can trust a gun to do the job, you can as well.
While not all rifles available to law enforcement are available to the public for use, there is some overlap. Some situations simply require extra firepower, and law enforcement-ready arms are a good option for defense conscious gun owners.
Semi-automatic rifles are also popular amongst off-duty police officers who want to bring the same firepower they use on the job for defending their families. They understand that the top choice for a home-defense weapon is a semi-automatic rifle.
When exploring the realm of semi-automatic rifles, there are many variations and types. However, most of these variations can be broken down into one of two categories: Recoil-operated and gas-powered rifles.
Gas system guns function differently than recoil-powered weapons, but the end result is largely congruent. However, some gun owners prefer to shoot one or the other.
In regards to recoil-operated rifles, this system functions due to the blowback caused when the gun is fired. The recoil propels the barrel backward with sufficient force and speed, causing the spent ammunition to be ejected from the gun and autoloads the next round.
You may be familiar with the controversy surrounding legislation eliminating the use of bump stocks. Bump stocks are designed to take maximum advantage of this type of recoil system.
A gas-based system functions in a similar manner, but the force used to eject a spent round and load another is derived from a different place. In these guns, gas generated from a fired shot propels a piston inside the gun barrel, which pushes out the old round and loads a new ready-to-fire round.
Both gas-powered and recoil-operated weapons share the one commonality of autoloading, meaning that the shooter does not have to cock the weapon to load a new round.
Semi-automatic rifles also come in different models. The most popular model in the U.S. and abroad is undoubtedly the AR-15. Other popular gun models include the AK-74, a semi-auto variant on the infamous AK-47, and FAL variants.
Many gun owners do not just settle with one type or variant of a rifle. Especially if you are a sportsman shooter, it is in your best interest to own a well-rounded arsenal of weaponry. You will never know what works best for your individual shooting style until you experience a wide range of firearms.
The Most Versatile Semi-Automatic Rifles
Versatility is one of the number one considerations to keep in mind when considering buying a firearm. In this case, versatility means the ability to be used in a number of scenarios. This is especially important for the purchase of rifles, as they can be used for self-defense, sport shooting, and hunting.
This rifle is manufactured and developed by DPMS Panther Arms, who have won the NRA Golden Bullseye award many times. This AR-10 style rifle is a compact alternative to their standard .308 long-range rifle. However, this gun also packs an impressive punch, beating out M4 Carbine models in the pure power department.
The AP4 LR-308 comes standard with a handful of great features. These include an A3 height receiver rail, an A2 front fixed sight, and a fully-collapsible stock that lends itself to the compact nature of this gun.
These features and more have made the AP4 LR-308 a very popular rifle among sportsman shooters. During competition, shooters have to be comfortable shooting for extended lengths over many hours. The smaller and lighter composition of this rifle makes it the perfect option for extended shooting.
The same can be said for hunting. Lightweight rifles like the AP4 LR-308 are perfect for trekking over long distances in the great outdoors. This gun is also gaining popularity in the hunting circuit due to its reliable accuracy and flexibility, making it a truly versatile rifle to carry and shoot. For hunters to maintain their most accurate shot, it helps to not be fatigued by carrying around an excessively heavy weapon.
Specs on this rifle reflect just how versatile the gun is. It can chamber two types of ammunition, the Winchester.308 and the 7.62 Nato, so gun owners can pick between their favorite.
The rifle weighs a total of 8.5 lbs. when fully loaded which is incredibly lightweight for a semi-automatic rifle with a barrel length of 16”.
An excellent choice for hunters, the Remmington R-25 blends traditional hunting rifle elements with the growing demand for AR-style power and speed. With the R-25, shooters get the best of both worlds.
This rifle features a bevy of clever features and additions to please a variety of different shooters. The gun deftly balances the elements that make a gun great, providing fantastic accuracy, fast autoloading, and impressively light recoil to enable cleaner shots.
Features include a flat-top upper receiver and an integrated gas block. This smart use of space allows for a Picatinny rail to be manufactured on top of the gun so shooters can install their optics of choice. Furthermore, the rifle also possesses a total of six longitudinal flutes, which allows the barrel to cool much faster and gives the gun an easy-to-manage, lightweight feel.
This rifle is optimal for hunting deer and other medium- to large-sized game. It is super durable, yet lightweight, making it perfectly suited for the rigors that a hunter could encounter in nature. The rifle also features a woodland camo coat that makes it a stealthy and innocuous choice for a hunting rifle.
Chambering three different hunting rounds, this gun is also a very versatile option that caters to unique preferences amongst hunters. Rounds include .308 Winchester, 7mm-08, and .243 Winchester.
Magazine capacity for this rifle is four rounds and the barrel length is 20”. The overall length comes out to be 39”. The gun is nice and lightweight at a total of 7⅝-lbs. Constructed with sturdy materials, the barrel is made of 416 Stainless Steel.
FN SCAR 17S
If you are looking for a law enforcement-grade self-defense rifle, the FN SCAR 17S is a great choice. Available to police departments and the commercial market, the SCAR 17S is a fierce weapon that will protect you from any conventional threat. The gun that this model is based on was designed for U.S. Special Operations, meaning that the 17S is designed for one thing in particular: Combat.
Accurate over long distances, the SCAR is still quick enough to be effective in mid-range and close-quarters encounters. Its downrange power is exactly what you want from a self-defense weapon, providing excellent stopping power and allowing you to end conflicts with finality.
Aside from its technical prowess, the 17S is also as reliable as they come and includes a lot of great features, making it a very versatile option to include in your arsenal.
The FN SCAR 17S has a free-floated hard-chromed bore barrel that is expertly hammer-forged. Completely ambidextrous controls allow this gun to instantly accommodate any shooter.
Versatility is taken to the next level as this gun features four tactical rails. The top rail is built into the receiver and allows for a wide range of optics to be attached. The three accessory rails enable laser targeting and tactical lights to be included on the gun as well.
The synthetic polymer-based stock is fully adjustable for length of pull, further solidifying this gun as not only a powerful addition to this list, but also an incredibly accessible one.
This gun chambers 7.62 x 51 mm-caliber ammunition and fires via a gas-operated system. Magazine capacity is 10-rounds or an extended 20-rounds. The maximum weight comes in at 8 lbs. and the barrel length is a total 16.25.” The receiver is manufactured from anodized monolithic aluminum. The magazine is constructed out of steel or aluminum material.
AK-47 (Semi-Auto Variant)
Seeing the AK-47 on this list may come as a bit of a surprise, as the 47 is probably the most globally-recognized fully-automatic firearm in the world. However, the semi-automatic variant of this iconic firearm is perfectly legal for commercial use in the United States. When fighting enemies at an engagement range of under 200-yards, there is not much better you can do than an AK-47.
Realistically, there is a sensible argument to be made that the legal semi-automatic variant of the 47 is actually superior to the real full-auto type in a self-defense scenario. Full-auto is often detrimental to accuracy without the proper training, and even still, a semi-automatic rifle allows for shots to be more carefully placed.
Full-auto also spends ammunition in seconds. With the semi-automatic variant, you get the best of both worlds with improved accuracy, while retaining the full-auto design which withstands a lot of mechanical strain.
The AK-47 is also classically simple to operate and notoriously reliable. A 47 will fire thousands of rounds and still function just as well as the day you bought it. You should not expect jams from this gun either.
What’s more, the AK-47 chambers 7.62 x 32 mm ammunition, which is actually less costly than 5.56 mm and still packs plenty of lethality in each round.
A typical magazine will hold a comfortable 30-rounds, enabling extended fire before having to reload. Cold hammered barrels are 16.3” long and the total length of the gun is 37.” The total weight of the gun is 7.9 lbs.
Ruger Mini-14 Tactical
This rifle has been celebrated as a weapon that offers quality performance in multiple categories, making it a very versatile gun. The standard model was already a fantastic gun, but now the new Tactical model is available, taking this great addition to the Ruger lineup to the next level.
Separating itself from its preceding models by adding a few tactical additions, the Ruger Mini-14 has gone from being a possible choice for a hunting rifle to one of the best self-defense rifles available.
Primarily, this model has an integrated scope mount rail that allows you to attach a wide array of optics. The gun also includes a small bottom rail and two side rails that enable the attachment of small lights and laser targeting systems.
Instead of the traditional Ruger rifle grip, the Tactical model features a pistol grip for extra secure handling when clearing corners or scrambling from cover point to cover point.
The Strikeforce ATI folding stock enables six different positions, allowing for comfortable firing for a wide range of shooters. With a cold hammered-forged barrel, the gun exhibits incredible precision and durability, meaning the quality and reliability of the weapon will not decrease over time. This gun is also incredibly sturdy and will not easily become damaged, even when put through immense physical trials.
Manufactured from alloy steel, this makes the gun tough and also gives it an edgy and tactical look. The blued finish completes the package, making this one of the best-looking guns on this list. The barrel length of the weapon is 16.12” while the total length is 34.5o.” The gun is very reasonably weighted at 7.5 lbs.
Shop For Guns Online
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