Firearms for Preppers Part II – SHTF
This is Part II of Firearms for Preppers series. Be sure to check out Part I if you missed it!
In my article Firearms for Beginners, I talk in general about needing at minimum, one long gun and one pistol for a long term survival scenario. The long gun you can use to hunt and to defend yourself at range, while the pistol is a great backup weapon and is many times better suited to self-defense in very close quarters.
But now I want to go into a bit more detail. I want to be a bit more specific. Of course, a lot of what you need depends upon your situation. And that could vary greatly from person to person. But overall, much of what I say will apply to everyone regardless of their situation.
Ok….so you need a long gun and a pistol for a long term disaster scenario. But what kind of pistol? What kind of long gun? Should you stop with just two or gather more? Well, let’s discuss that.
I have seen many articles from various prepper sources taking it a bit further, saying you need a good rifle, a shotgun, and a pistol. Some even go further and say that in addition to those you also need a .22 rifle as well. A few will even say that you need backups of all of those. I cannot argue with any of that logic as I subscribe to it myself. If you have the funds available, then I would absolutely tell you to go that route.
Now I know my situation. I know what my long term plans are. You need to acquire firearms based upon what your plans are should you find yourself in a long term survival situation.
Are you bugging in or bugging out? How many people are in your group? How well trained are these folks? These are questions only you can answer. But to give you some ideas, I’ll give you some examples based upon my plans.
I live in a large suburb of Oklahoma City. So I have firearms for self-defense based upon a city setting. I prefer a pistol and shotgun for urban use. Yet if I had to bug out, I have a rural homestead on several acres I can go to. I have firearms (rifles) I could use in a self-defense scenario in a rural setting as well.
If you live in an area with a large population and plan to bug in, I would probably look at a shotgun as your long gun. Ammo for a shotgun is plentiful, and usually inexpensive. It is versatile; shooting buckshot for home defense or slugs if you needed some range.
Realistically, chances are that any potential threats you might face will be at 100 yards or less, especially if you practice OpSec! So the slugs would be more than adequate in the hands of someone who is trained with a shotgun. Some might argue about needing a rifle, but keep in mind the possibility of collateral damage as I mentioned in Part I.
Also keep in mind that buildings, cars, etc will more than likely obscure your view long range. (And IF you can see possible threats hundreds of yards away, can they see you? If not, I certainly would NOT want to engage them and risk alerting them or others to my presence!)
If you live (or are bugging out to) a rural area, increased range could become a factor. You most likely won’t have large buildings obscuring your view. You might be able to see possible threats at much longer ranges (and they could possibly see you!) and would want to engage them at a distance. In that setting, a solid rifle might be the way to go!
Another factor to your firearms decisions could be funds. Your income might be limited, so the amount of money you have to spend on firearms must also be balanced against other preparedness items and gear you need. While a pistol, shotgun, and rifle might be nice to have, you might not be able to afford them all right now.
If funds are an issue, I would start with a pistol. A pistol not only serves as a great backup weapon in the “Zombie Apocalypse”, but it is also a great home defense weapon and EDC firearm right now while things are “normal”. Later I would look at a long gun based upon your situation when funds are available.
Here is an excellent video on acquiring firearms on a budget. I will have a second video about this later on in the article.
I carry several different firearms in my line of work. So it is easier for me to justify spending the amount of money I do on firearms. (I get a tax credit for firearms I purchase because they are carried at work! How sweet is that?)
Now after deciding what your plans will be, i.e. bugging in or bugging out, and deciding which types of firearms you feel will best suit your purposes, there are some things that I would recommend regardless of your situation.
Availability of Ammo
First, stick to firearms with common calibers. If the grid goes down for an extended period of time, there won’t be new batches of bullets to buy at your local sporting goods store. So common calibers are more widely produced and should be easier to find or acquire over time.
The 5 main pistol calibers in the US are 22lr, 9mm, 40cal, 45 APC, and .357/.38. When purchasing a pistol for self-defense and/or long term survival, I would absolutely stick to one of those calibers. (If you purchase a revolver, I would urge you to get a .357 over a .38. The .357 can shoot both calibers, while the .38 can only shoot .38.)
The preppers in my group primarily have .40cal pistols with .380 as backups. Why? Because those are the primary ammo calibers we stock up on. It allows our group to focus on just a few common calibers that we all can use. (Here is a great article on things to be aware of when storing ammo long term.)
We also have a pistol that shoots 22lr, 9mm, a .357 magnum, and a .45 APC. So should we ever find ourselves in a long term, grid down situation and came across those calibers, that ammo would not be useless to us. But we do not stock large amounts of ammo in those calibers. This allows us to focus (financially) on other aspects of preparedness.
When it comes to shotguns, 12 gauge is the most common, followed by 20 gauge and .410. There are 10 gauge…and 16 gauge shotguns. And you can find ammo for them. But they are not as plentiful and usually cost a bit more.
I have several different 12 gauge shotguns, and members of my group also have 12 gauge. So that is the shotgun ammo that we stock.
For shotguns, I would get some bird shot, some buck shot, and some slug. You should have all three types on hand since each serves a difference purpose, and allows you to take advantage of the shotgun’s versatility.
As for rifle ammo, I first will break rifles down into two types…”Hunting” rifles and “Battle” rifles. What’s the difference? There are a few.
The first difference is that “Battle” rifles are typically magazine fed, semi-automatic rifles of a military design. Hunting rifles typically have more variation in their functionality. Some are bolt action. Others could be a lever action. Some might even be “Breech” load.
To save me the headache of getting email from some “firearms purist”, I will say that there are exceptions with both of course. The Mosin Nagant, considered a “battle rifle”, is a bolt action rifle for example. Browning makes a magazine fed semi auto for hunting, the BAR. So save the hate mail! I’m speaking in generalities!!!
Both types of rifles can be used for both purposes. But for me, a “Hunting rifle” may not always be as robust as a military rifle, and might have tighter tolerances. This is because military rifles have to withstand the rigors of battle. It is going to be beaten up and dragged around and is usually built for such.
This is NOT to say that some “Battle” rifles out there today could hold up to the long term rigors of battle, or that some “hunting” rifles couldn’t have long term combat use in, say, Afghanistan. Just the opposite. But the chances of seeing someone hunt with an AK-47, or a modern military carrying Henry lever action 30-30s will be quite slim. So for the sake of simplicity, I break them into these categories.
For a battle rifle, I would say that 5.56/.223 is the most common caliber. The AR platform is American design and arguably the most popular here. If you decide to purchase an AR-15 type rifle, I would encourage you to purchase a 5.56 chambered rifle as it will also shoot a .223. A .223 chambered rifle will NOT shoot a 5.56.
The typical optimum range of the 5.56 from an AR platform is 50 to 250 yards. Yes, these rounds can reach out much further in the hands of a trained shooter with quality equipment and ammo. U.S. Marines typically train at much longer ranges. But for civilians, 50-250 yards is considered optimal.
The AK is also an extremely popular rifle. While AKs are typically chambered in a 7.62X39 round, there are AK rifles out there that shoot other calibers, like the 5.56. (Instead of the 7.62×39, NOT in addition to.)
The optimal “civilian” range on the AK (7.62×39) is around 150 yards or so. Again, training, and quality firearms/ammo will extend this range.
Next up is .308. You typically find these rounds being fired from an AR-10. It is the same platform as an AR-15 other than it shoots the larger round. The .308 typically has a longer range than a 5.56, and can easily reach out well past 250 yards for those with some training and experience. Many of today’s military and law enforcement sniper rifles are .308
Keep in mind that rifles chambered in .308 can also shoot a 7.62×51. (The NATO variant.) But a 7.62X51 chambered rifle should NOT shoot a .308.
Finally, I’m including the 7.62x54r in this group. This is the round for the Mosin Nagant, a popular rifle with preppers because of its relatively low cost, high availability, and reliability. At one point in time you could purchase a brand new Mosin for under $100. Now I believe the price is closer to $150 brand new. But for a prepper on a budget, these are reliable rifles that have stood the test of time.
For you history buffs, Winchester made a repeating rifle that fired the 7.62x54r round, initially for the Russian military in the early 1900s. I believe production of these Winchester rifles in this caliber was stopped in 1940.
For hunting rifles, .308, 30-06, and 30-30 are all popular calibers. .243, .270, 300 win mag, as well as 7mm are also not uncommon. To say which is the best? I really cannot answer that question. What you are comfortable with and what you hunt should play into consideration.
I can say that the .308 caliber is used both in hunting and battle rifles. And out of all the “hunting” calibers, it is arguably the easiest to find. But again, it comes down to personal preference.
AR vs AK
I have been asked my thoughts on getting an AR or getting an AK. Both rifles have their advantages. The AR tends to be more accurate, and parts are usually easier to interchange. The AK is usually more robust and durable. To function properly, the AR needs to be well cleaned and maintained. The AK is typically more forgiving about things like dirt and lack of proper cleaning.
For several years, it was much easier to find modifications for the AR platform. (Rails, optics, grips, etc.) But AK has been closing that gap over the past year or two.
I prefer the AR, but that is a personal preference. You will find knowledgeable preppers out there who would go with the AK. But like I always say, go with what you are comfortable with.
Availability of the Firearm and Parts
I would look for firearms that are common in your area. For example, Glocks are a lot more plentiful in the US than say a Makarov. (Makarov shoots a 9mmX18 as opposed to the 9mmX19 that is common in the US. These rounds are NOT interchangeable!)
Nothing against a Makarov. I’m sure they are fine pistols. But in an extended grid down situation, it will be easier to find parts (and ammo) for common pistols like a Glock.
If you have a prepper group, I would look at what firearms they have, and try to buy the same types they have. This way, both the parts, magazines, and the ammo can be interchanged. I’d also see what the local police departments in your area carry. It might not be a bad idea to get something that the US military carry as well, especially if there are military installations in your area.
I mentioned how popular the AR platforms are here in America, and many of the parts are interchangeable. A large number of people like to build their own AR rifles, and will order parts from different manufacturers. My brother built his AR using a Spikes tactical lower with a Palmetto State upper. He put some Magpul sights and a Magpul stock on it, and was good to go. (I HIGHLY recommend Magpul parts.)
If he ever decides to upgrade to a higher end rifle, he can order the parts over time. Because it is so easy to interchange many of these parts is one of the reasons for my preference in the AR platform.
If you are interested in building your own AR rifle, here is all the links and resources you need to make it happen!
Durability of the Firearm
And finally, I would try to find firearms that are durable and well built. (And well cared for.) You would think that all firearms would last if they are well cared for. Sadly, this is not always the case. Here is a pic of a Bryco/Jennings .380 I bought over 20 years ago. The frame cracked after less than 1000 rounds. Click here to read my story on that.
My brother and a friend at work each purchased a Taurus TCP 738. Both had issues with them and had to send them back for repair. Taurus does offer a lifetime warranty on their firearms. And in both cases the customer service and turnaround time were outstanding. But in a long term survival situation, there might not be any company left to honor the lifetime warranty.
My brother later sold that pistol and purchased a Smith and Wesson bodyguard. He felt that the reliability factor with the S&W was better.
It might sound like I am knocking Taurus, and I am, though it is not my overall intention. I have my personal preferences, just as everyone else does. And if cost is a factor, a cheaper gun might be better than no gun at all. But quality and LONG TERM durability are things I consider when looking for a firearm that fits a “prepper” or self-defense need.
Here is another video I found on purchasing quality firearms on a budget.
I don’t just look at the name brand either; I look at the long term history of that series of gun. Sometimes name brand firearms might have some issues that you need to research.
For example, Smith and Wesson have been around since 1852. They have made many quality firearms over the years. I have owned a few. But they came out with a Sigma series of handguns that had some problems and issues. The issues have received enough negative attention that I will most likely avoid ever purchasing a Sigma series pistol.
I have seen some mixed reviews on the Colt Maverick .380. (Colt is a quality manufacturer in my opinion.) I have never shot a Maverick, but it is something I would certainly research further and even try to test fire before I would purchase one.
My point here isn’t to knock certain firearms. My point is to get you to do your “homework” before purchasing one. Especially if you have enough money that your options are not limited. If you can, go to a range where you can rent or test fire several different guns. See what you like.
Any firearm that I want to purchase, I read multiple reviews on first. I find several Youtube videos on it and see what people say. Sure, there will always be THAT guy who doesn’t like it. But if you start seeing multiple negative or mixed reviews, that might be a “Red flag”. There are several gun ranges in my area that will rent you firearms. If they have the one I am looking at, I will rent it and test fire it. Then I know right there if it is right for me.
I want to end this by saying that when it comes to firearms for Preppers for long term survival, (The End of the World as We Know it) there is something you need to keep in mind. NO ONE alive has every lived through a TEOTWAWKI, apocalyptic event. Whoever claims to know what will happen should it all come crashing down is full of crap or trying to sell you something.
Many people read One Second After, or similar books and think that is the playbook for what will happen. But it isn’t. (It is a great book however.) The truth is, no one knows for sure what will happen or even if a long term survival situation will happen. If I had a choice, I’d die a very old man in my bed surrounded by my family having never experienced TEOTWAWKI.
You will read about “Golden Hordes”, or roving bands of zombies or marauders and the stockpile of weapons you need for that. But in reality, these are just theories about a post-apocalyptic setting. They are theories because they have not proven to be true or false.
Now that’s not to say that some of these theories may not happen. They very well could. My point is to not decide ahead of time just how things will go down if/when it all ends. Being prepared means planning for a wide range of possible scenarios, not just the end of the world!
I strongly encourage you to balance your self-defense preparedness (firearms) against other aspects of being prepared. Do you need firearms to be prepared for a house fire? To get your family to safety in the event of a hurricane? Firearms and self-defense are important, but they are not the “end all, be all” for being prepared!
Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Stay safe out there!
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