Answering a Question with a Question

Caleb asks if the bolt action rifle is a valid weapon for self defense. I have to ask: “how many situations is a rifle is your best optionĀ  for self defense?” In any concealed carry situation you obviously need a handgun. Arguably a shotgun or handgun is a better option for most home defense scenarios. Rifles are the most likely to over penetrate and hit non-target people, and harder to maneuver and aim than a handgun, and are likely to need more shots than a shotgun.

While a rifle is arguably the most effective individual combat weapon, we are talking self defense, not combat. There are a number of trade-offs between the two uses. Combat situations you sacrifice portability, discreet carry, overpenetration risk, etc. for increased range, body armor penetration, more shots between reloads, and knockdown power. In civilian self defense use, you can easily sacrifice range, since in no reasonable day to day situation are you going to be able to argue that the guy 200 yards away is a threat you need to engage. In home defense, you may get more shots, but you are likely to need more than a shotgun, making it more or less a wash.

There are a couple scenarios I can think of where you are likely to benefit, the big ones being riots and other societal breakdown. In these cases you are likely to have to deal with multiple targets, who may be shooting at you. These are more like a combat scenario, where you really need the higher rate of fire and range.

The one time I thought of reaching for a rifle in a self defense scenario was when there were some armed robbers on the lam close to my house. Even in that scenario, I probably would have been better off with an 870 with an extended magazine, but I didn’t have one.

But back to Caleb’s original question, in those scenarios where I might reach for a rifle, I can’t think of a good reason to reach for a bolt (or lever) gun over my AR in anything that is a self defense situation. All that having been said, bolt and lever action are very popular hunting, and if that’s what you have, the gun you have will be more effective than anything you wish you had when you need it.


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