The ability to put multiple rounds on target accurately and in short order, at a distance, can often mean the difference between life and death (for you or your livestock) or whether there is dinner on the table. There are many excellent options available, and I will recommend what I consider the best semi-automatic rifles today.
The first rifle on my list is the venerable Ruger 10/22. Designed to mimic the size and weight of the historic M1 Carbine, this compact weapon has made a name for itself as one of the most accurate, reliable, and affordable .22s on the market.
It works great for small game hunting or propped by the back door for varmints, and with a 10-round magazine, it can handle self-defense in a pinch. There is also an endless list of aftermarket accessories available, so you can customize your rifle with ease.
Next is the AR-15, which is probably the most recommended and purchased rifle for defending the home.
The semi-auto variant of the military’s M16 / M4 series, the AR-15 can provide accurate fire out to moderate ranges and is powerful enough for deer and larger predators like coyotes.
Infinitely customizable and available in a variety of calibers from .22 LR to .50 Beowulf, there is an AR to fit your needs.
At this point, the AK crowd will usually pipe up, and yes, that rifle is next on the list.
Probably the world’s most popular weapon, the reliable AK-47 brings enough horsepower to the table for deer and hogs in the brush, in a compact package that also works well for home defense.
On the current market, the cost of its 7.62×39 ammunition currently averages half the cost of the 5.56×45 needed to feed the AR-15, making it an attractive option right now.
Speaking of which, if you’re looking for a 7.62×39 optic, then I recommend reading my best scopes for 7.62×39 rifles guide.
Ruger Mini-14 and Mini-30
I would also be remiss not to mention the Ruger Mini series of rifles.
Chambered in .223 Remington and 7.62×39, these solidly built carbines serve as reliable utility weapons with little fanfare.
Based on a miniaturized version of the battle-proven M-14, these rifles are durable in the extreme, and their traditionally styled stocks make them a welcome option in locals where a cosmetic feature ban prohibits rifles with a protruding grip.
My final recommendation is a bit of a heavier offering. The PTR-91 is the U.S. built version of the Heckler & Koch 91/G3 rifle; a roller-delayed blowback design proven in combat world-wide.
Available in 7.62×51 NATO, this beast can handle big game like elk and threats at a longer range than the other rifles on this list. Magazines are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. The rifle comes with adjustable sights and a built-in rail for mounting an optic.
The rifle is the tool of choice for trouble, and serious trouble requires a top-quality weapon. The rifles listed here are up to the task if you are. Good luck out there.
Richard Douglas is a long-time shooter, outdoor enthusiast, and technologist. He is the founder and editor of Scopes Field.