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Rifles are used for accuracy and often longer distance. A rifle bullet (sizes do vary) generally is smaller in diameter than both handgun or shotgun, but it has a larger amount of powder behind it that enables the bullet to travel extremely fast for long distances. I have some friends that are into real long distance shooting and they are able to achieve a fair amount of accuracy at over a mile in distance to the target.
One question I get asked a lot is does it kick hard? That depends on a number of factors, so to simply out it yes and no. I have a rifle, actually my AR15 that is a .223 caliber and it has very little kick to it. I was out shooting with my cousin one time and he was super scared to shoot it, but I talked him into it and helped him through the gun operation. Once he pulled that trigger once he was stoked. He realized the kick of that rifle was not bad and he turned into a mad man pulling the trigger as fast as he could. On the contrary I have a .264 Remington which the bullet diameter is not much larger than my .223; only .041 of an inch larger. However when you pull that trigger buckle up, it kicks like a mule on steroids.
Some rifles can make excellent home defense weapons due to their accuracy. As a shooter you can more efficiently dial a rifle shot in to your target with less difficulty. Where some rifles are not good for home defense is when you have a really fast bullet it can easily travel through walls and hit unintended targets. Even if you do hit the bad guy the bullet can keep going and potentially hit someone in an adjacent room. I am not saying don't use a rifle for home defense, I am just informing of the potential risks and benefits associated with using a rifle for home defense. Also some rifles are not semi-automatic. If there is a bad guy in your home you don't want a gun where you only have once chance to hit the bad guy. You want to be able to keep puling the trigger until there is no longer a threat.
Other uses of rifles include target shooting and both large and small game hunting.
Shotguns are very different functionally than rifles. Shotguns are usually loaded with plastic shells that house multiple BB's inside them. So when you pull the trigger on a shotgun it will spread out. Shotguns are not used for precision accuracy like a rifle. They are used for Making sure the target is hit by throwing a high volume of projectiles at a target with a single trigger pull. If you compare long gun usage to your ordinary garden hose the rifles are your narrow high pressure jets and your shotguns are the wide spread shower setting.
Shotguns make excellent home defense weapons, especially if it is darks you can point and shoot in a general direction and chances are you will hit your target. The disadvantage for home use is if there are other family members around you do run the risk of hitting them. Unlike the rifle shotgun projectiles do not travel for long distances and generally shouldn't penetrate through multiple walls. The other downside is some people are not prepared for the savage kick that a 12 guage shotgun (most popular caliber food shotgun) is infamous for dishing out. The biggest advantage for having a 12 guage shotgun for a home defense situation is every bad guy is terrified of the sound of a shotgun being racked in a dark house. Chances are if you rack the gun the bad guy will sprint out of the home faster than most olympians could achieve. Having a gun for home defense is like having insurance. You buy it and hope you never have to use it. I don't want to shoot anyone especially in my home, and if the racking of a shotgun can prevent an actual shooting then that is a better defense than the most accurate rifle.
Other uses of shotguns include skeet, trap, and other clay target shooting. Shotguns are also the preferred weapon of bird hunters as well.
I recommend going out and trying ifferent guns and seeing which ones meet your needs the best.
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