What's the "best" type of firearm for new shooters to have for home defense or an emergency/survival situation? There's no easy answer: A lot depends on experience, skill, the situation at hand and the preferences of the individual. Many folks hold that shotguns are best, but when instructing students to safely use a shotgun, I noticed that most beginners understand the concepts...until they fire that 12 gauge. With that, some flinch and close their eyes. We can learn how not to do that, but there are other very valid options to consider.
Hunting rifles: Maybe in a pinch...but they're not ideal.
These are options but I will take long-barreled hunting rifles designed for big game off the table since they generally recoil a lot, penetrate through walls with ease and are loud. Bolt-action rifles, the most common type for hunters, can be slow to chamber another round, especially when the shooter is under stress and inexperienced. For the individual who is concerned about survival but doesn’t shoot regularly, and is intimated by recoil and blast, here is a consideration: carbines.
What are (and why choose) carbines?
These shorter or what may be called miniature rifles are quick to point/aim in cramped areas, which give them an edge at self-defense distances inside the home. For most novices, they are easier to hit a target with than a handgun--and without the recoil and blast of a shotgun.
In an AR-style firearm, the .223 Rem. cartridge is popular; about anyone can handle its recoil. This cartridge is a good choice except for one factor, penetration. In a home with thin plaster walls, this one will penetrate (as will pretty much all bullets) which could be a disaster. That's why many opt for handgun calibers in their carbines. Yet, the .22 LR and 9mm also penetrates through interior walls. The real advantage of pistol calibers over the .223 is blast, especially within a confined area. This is why I feel that to get someone started with a home-defense carbine, one in .22LR may be the best choice. Sure, it is not a .223, .45 ACP or .308, yet its tiny 40-grain or so bullet is lethal if well placed. Do not underestimate the .22LR! The 9mm is also a highly effective self-defense round that offers reduced blast and zero recoil in a carbine platform.
The S&W M&P15-22
As we all know, the S&W M&P15 in .223 Remington is a great defense and varmint rifle, and one capable of accurate shots at extended ranges. Yet, many small varmints as the ground squirrel are usually located within 10-100 yards. Added to that, center fire rifle ammunition can get expensive. Therefore, save the center fire ammunition for those long shots. To get in a lot of practice and then drop varmints within a rimfire's effective range, the M&P-15 off the shelf is a superb semi-automatic that will also not break the bank. With proper ear and eye protection, what a great rifle to train beginning shooters! I first saw this rifle at the Orlando, Florida SHOT Show in 2009 and then in August of the same year, I was invited by Smith & Wesson/Blue Heron Communication for a training seminar and shootout at the US Shooting Academy in Tulsa, Oklahoma. There we all had the opportunity to fire and test a large variety of firearms. As you can imagine, this rifle was extensively fired by all 15 writers in attendance over those few days. At the end, what stood out to me was that I did not see any of these fail to fire and I do not believe anyone was methodically cleaning them after the shooting. Just that one observation reinforced my opinion of what a good rifle is all about, reliability. Then a few weeks later, I ordered one and have been pleased ever since. To it I added a Crimson Trace CMR-201 laser, Burris Scout Scope and FastFire II dot sight, etc. for options.
The Hi-Point Model 995TS Carbine in 9mm
Having looked at the original Model 995 carbine in 9mm, I liked what I saw so I had my dealer order me one. When it arrived, a Model 995TS, back then it was the latest model and was re-engineered. The most obvious improvement was a new stock that was designed to put this carbine into action fast and it looked good and it continues to function well. This carbine is 31 inches long, including a 16½-inch barrel which allows one to easily move with it at the ready through confined areas. This is also where an ergonomically designed pistol grip is an advantage. At under 7 pounds, adding accessories such as the Crimson Trace MVF-515 Modular Vertical Foregrip with laser and bright light plus an EOTech L-3 XPS2 Holographic sight all contributed to this carbine's effectiveness.
Take your pick! Both carbines are easy to operate, accurate and each has features that may appeal to you. Even if you do not go up the ladder in power as you become more comfortable with home defense/survival/fun to shoot firearms, any of these could save the day.