Recently a shooter asked what was better, .308 or 5.56mm. The context was a “SHTF rifle that could also be used for home defense”. There were a LOT of replies that offered up suggestions based off of over penetration, weight and reliability.

Here’s my response. I’m curious what everyone else thinks.

Best is entirely subjective.

There is no “best” when it comes to selecting a rifle for personal protection lately due to the fact we can’t predict what tomorrow will bring. There’s options that will potentially increase the your odds of surviving a life threatening encounter based off of your expectations on the threat.

The problem you run into is what happens when the unexpected comes into play? There’s been a lot of suggestions about why 5.56 is better than a .308 or why you should choose a AR15 over a AR10, a shotgun or a handgun. Many of those suggestions are based off of assumptions on how the threat will play out.

You assume you wont need anything other than a red dot optic because all threats are close quarters.

You assume you won’t have to carry your rifle and gear for long distances.

You assume you wont run out of ammo, loose your extra mags or need a resupply.

All of those assumptions may prove to be wrong when you find yourself actually going to guns and facing a unexpected threat.

We also base our choices off of our individual experiences. If you are comfortable with the 5.56 AR15 you’ll recommend it because your past experience has show you can accomplish work under a variety of conditions. I’m a long gunner, I am comfortable running a AR15 in a variety of conditions. I also know the advantage of creating distance between you and the threat while maintaining fire superiority so I run a SCAR 17 and a variable optic if I know I’m outside of the home. I may never need the advantage of increased range and magnified optics but my experience has shown the benefits in the past. Better to have and not need than not have and find yourself outgunned.

It’s important to identify the factors that have the greatest likelihood of effecting you and select the appropriate weapon. When I’m home or around town I carry either a 10.5″ or 14.5″ AR15 with a Aimpoint CompM4, a Surefire Fury 600 lumen light with a mag ready to go. That setup is compact enough I can easily maneuver it inside a building or a vehicle. The red dot optic allows me to quickly identify and engage short range targets and I know my hold overs for targets beyond 100 yards if needed. The Surefire light allows me to illuminate, identify and engage threats under low light conditions. I run a extended magazine because there’s a good chance I won’t grab a chest rig and spare mags if I’m responding to a immediate threat in my home or while driving to work. Im coming out of the bed and doing work.

When I’m traveling away from home I carry the SCAR 17 with a Elcan 1.5-6x with the same Surefire light setup and a chest rig with spare mags, a med kit and basic supplies. I’m frequently in rural areas and the ability to identify a threat at greater distances than in the city comes into play. The SCAR 17 allows me to engage a target out to 600 yards using everything from standard 147gr ball ammo to 175gr SMK match using simple holds with the Elcan reticle. It’s reliable, effective and runs on any ammo I throw at it. I can also run it as a standard carbine at close range using the 1.5x mag and red dot setting on the Elcan. It’s got a folding stock which makes it easy to transport and the 16″ barrel isn’t overly cumbersome in a building. Eventually I’ll SBR it and chop the barrel to 13″ so it’s not a issue in a vehicle.

Ultimately skill is more important than equipment. If you know how to run your gear you can overcome the unexpected. You can learn your hold offs to engage a threat at distance with a red dot. You can also run a .308 AR10 or SCAR 17 like its a AR15 if you put in the trigger time. Ask any 3Gun Competitor running a .308 in the heavy division.

There’s no guarantee my plan will work out and I’ll have the “best” rifle when I find myself in a fight but I’m confident I’m better prepared by being realistic about the threats I am most likely to encounter and training to prepare for the unexpected. If I find myself in a short range fight with the SCAR 17 I think I’ll still be good to go.

And remember folks, there’s always the chance you won’t have your “best” rifle and you’ll be stuck with a pistol.

Focus on training more than equipment selection and you’ll be better prepared for whatever tomorrow brings.


Categories: The Firing Line

Adam Wilson

Adam Wilson is a U.S. Army Sniper and senior NCO with multiple combat deployments, a background in reconnaissance and small unit operations. During his 18 years of military service he has held every MTOE slot in a Sniper section to include an assignment as the SEO/Sniper Section Leader for a forward deployed Infantry Battalion. He has utilized all currently issued U.S. Army Sniper weapons systems including the XM2010, M110 SASS, and M107. In addition to being a qualified Sniper he is a graduate of the Sniper Employment Leaders Course and the Army Marksmanship Unit’s Squad Designated Marksman and Rifle Instructor courses. Outside of the military he has obtained the NRA Pistol and Rifle Instructor certifications and served as a product consultant for several defense and firearms industry companies.

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