2nd Amendment to the Constitution of The United States of America

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

"I ask sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people except for a few politicians."
- George Mason (father of the Bill of Rights and The Virginia Declaration of Rights)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bangs sticks for any situation..

Well, again I finally got to see AMC's The Walking Dead yet. I have been reading a lot of people's reactions to it online. As many gun related web sites as I read at night its no surprise that a lot of people are talking about some of the poor choices in weapons the the hero uses for a Level 4 zombie outbreak. A lot of folks point out that despite common perception that a shotgun is the ultimate zombie dispatcher that it would actually be a poor choice due to its limited capacity and slow reload. Its fun to talk hypothetically about things that we will never face and to pretend that it does make a difference. But hey, its only make believe in the end.

There is, however, some positive thinking that comes out of this for the serious gun owner and part time survival minded person. That is its never too late to figure out what weapons you would use to "bug out" or "shelter in place" with in the event of an actual SHTF or EOTWAWKI situation. Some noteworthy events of the past 20 years or so have helped shape our expectations of what it might me like to live through one of these scenarios that we can use to make some educated choices.

  1. Shelter in Place (SIP): The L.A. Riots where large portions of a major metropolitan area were plunged into chaos with limited police or other law enforcement control and some people had to stand their ground against criminals and looter.
  2. Bug Out: Hurricane Katrina where large groups were forced to leave their homes and migrate while in areas with limited police influence and possible looters and other elements in their midst.

In either scenario some of the basic assumptions of what you would be carrying would be the same, in other assumptions they may be quite different. I am going to try and generalize and come up with some common sense choices for the average person with or without a family to utilize in selecting weapons for their defense. Hopefully, choices can be made that will fulfill either scenario equally with the same weapons.

Some common considerations to be found amongst both groups will be the following.

  • Dependability: A weapon is no good if it doesn't go bang when you want it to. Also with this is the consideration of how rugged a design the weapon has. Some guns just don't like to be run very dirty and this can be an issue under some emergency situations.
  • Cost: For most people this is a realistic concern. Yeah, I would love to outfit everyone in my group or family with Wilson Combat Elite 1911's but that can get a bit expensive at around $2,400 per pistol. I know you get what you pay for and you can't put a price on your family's safety but there are choices below this that are acceptable and allow you enough money left over for ammo and other needs as well. Also, as in the case of Hurricane Katrina, LEO's (illegally) seized large amounts of firearms that were only returned to their owners many years later. Do you really want to give up that $2,500 race gun like that.
  • Ammo commonality: Choose a weapon that uses an ammo caliber or type readily available even in the event of an emergency. 9mm, .40 S&W, .45ACP, 5.56 and even .22lr all fall in this category. Also common caliber types within your group or family ease logistics. Some other calibers like 9x18 Makarov and the like may seem easy to get now via mail order and such, but when the normal conveniences of society are gone you will hard pressed to find any by scavenging locally.


Probably the most important weapon to have on hand for Emergency or Survival situations involving defense, the pistol provides the individual with ability to be readily armed during most times. Remember the #1 rule of a gun fight - BRING A GUN! Although a great many people overestimate their abilities with a hand gun, it is a great confidence booster to an individual once basic proficiency is obtained. It is a weapon that almost anybody can train on at a local range without consideration to caliber or excessive costs. There was a movie a few years back called The Professional with Jean Reno who plays an assassin who takes a young girl under his wing and starts to teach her his profession. He first teaches her the rifle with the logic that it is most important to learn to kill from far away rather than close in as it is safer. I must disagree at this logic. Most people in a SHTF scenario whether they are bugging out or Sheltering in Place (from hence known as SIP) will not know a persons intentions to them until they are up close and personal. Up close is the distance at which most humans communicate so in order to know if a person coming up to your BOL (bug out location) is a local resident looking for food or a escaped mass murderer you will need to be close enough to them to determine this. Therefore, the ability to effectively engage targets with a handgun out to 20 - 25 yards is a paramount skill to develop.

For either the Bug out or SIP scenario, your choice of handgun will be universal for either. The only possible exception will be that when bugging out and relocating it might be a good idea to choose a weapon that conceals easily as not to draw attention to yourself or your party. In times without law its the strong and the armed that make the rules. Don't be a target for theft or assault to provide another with a weapon in this purpose.

I solidly recommend a good moderately priced semi-automatic handgun in 9mm for this choice.
I would put a realistic price between $400 - $600 for most people to work with for a basic pistol purchase with minimal accessories (cleaning kit and solvents with a basic holster). I chose a semi-automatic over a revolver due to the increased magazine capabilities most semi automatics have over revolvers, especially when chambered in 9mm, and the only marginally perceivable reliability most revolvers have over semi auto designs. Some will scoff at my choice of 9mm. To tell you the truth I would of done the same until recently when I started to read about real world performance of the 9mm in actual shootings. Most JHP 9mm rounds have sufficient ability to do the job tasked to them in modern loadings and configurations. I still claim that a lot of the bad press the 9mm gets is from the use of round nose FMJ rounds that the military is forced to use per the Geneva Convention. A small slender round going very fast is not going to meet a whole lot of resistance going through soft flesh and will not expand or expend energy like a good HP round will. Look at it like this, if I am standing on a road and a Honda Civic hits me at 70mph it is going to mess me up good. Maybe not as much as a full sized pickup going 55mph but close enough that I probably won't care anyway. In addition the 9mm round will generally give you a few extra rounds in the same sized grip as a .40 or .45 pistol and also be cheaper to stock pile for defense and training use.

I recommend having 2 pistols on hand, a primary and back up gun. If in a group have a pistol for every able bodied person and a backups as needed. Keep them the same model or similar so you may cannibalize parts from one to fix the other if need be or swap out without any change in mechanics of operation. Plus, if you have a spouse you have a weapon to give to them that uses the same rounds and magazines as your own weapon, again simplifying logistics.

As you probably know if you have read this blog before I tend to favor Glocks. I can obtain them for a relatively cheap $399 with my retired military discount and have found them to be robust and accurate shooters in general. However, they are far from the only choice in my book. A few firearms that I would recommend for this category are as follows.

  • Glocks: (models 17, 19, 26, 34) See above, relatively cheap, simple to maintain, reliable, accurate....OK, I'm a fanboy but so are a lot of other people for good reason! A large installed user base in both the LE and Civilian community ensures that magazines and spare parts will be available even during times of duress. Some people have issues with the "blockish" feeling of their grips, the new Gen4 models partially solve this with a smaller overall stock grip with additional back straps for shooters with larger hands. 
  • Ruger SR9: I recently reviewed this pistol and found it to be an outstanding weapon that can be had for just over $400 in most places!! Glock like in its operation it has better stock sights, a manual safety and slimmer profile. Available in both a duty and compact version.
  • Smith and Wesson M&P9: Another pistol that I have owned (in .40) the M&P line is available also in a duty and compact version. It is a solid platform with some large LE departments (such as here Columbus, OH) choosing it over competing designs from Sig and Glock.
  • Smith and Wesson Sigma 9mm. Basically a copy of a Glock, the "Swock" pistol is known for a gritty trigger but reliable performance. They can be had for as little as $250 at some stores after rebate and make a good back up/truck/camper/cabin gun.
  • Stoeger Cougar 9mm: A gun I reviewed early in the life of this blog, the Stoeger offers Beretta quality and performance at half the price. You can pick these up for under $400 in some markets and the quality and craftsmanship are top notch all the way around. They use standard Beretta mags so you can stock up on those before any type of shortage.
  • Springfield XD-M: While I have not reviewed this pistol here, I have shot several and found them to be reliable and easy to shoot. The "M" designation means that they have been product improved and incorporate larger stock magazines and some other improvements. Averagely priced they deserve consideration.
  • Various 1911 models: I have reviewed 1911 style pistols on this blog from Taurus and Kimber. Most 1911 pistols will run a bit over the other pistols on this list, even the cheaper ones. Still, with a service history and reliability record of legendary proportions I would be remiss to exclude them from this list. Some "basic" models from Remington and Para would not be a stretch for an average buyer to consider.

That is far from a comprehensive list of all of your options. Its just a list of handguns that I have used enough and feel confident enough to recommend on a public forum such as this. Whatever your choice, again get out and train with it and get comfortable and proficient with it before you need it.


More so than handguns, the choice of a rifle will me more dependant on your situation. If you are in a scenario where you will be bugging out to another safe location a weapon that is easy to handle, transport and can carry many rounds will be an attractive choice. In a static defensive situation such as SIP the size and weight will not be as much of an issue. Same as with a handgun the time to train on your rifle is not after the crap has hit the fan. Even though ammo is more expensive, it is just as important to get out and practice with your long gun as with your hand gun. For me I get around the cost issue by buying cheap Russian ammo available for about half of what regular brass rounds run. Sure its dirty and steel cased, but it generally goes bang when I pull the trigger and is generally accurate enough to use for zeroing and practice. On some rifles, such as my AR, .22 conversion kits are available to use for practice that while not providing the exact same experience can never the less provide valuable training at a fraction of the cost of center fire ammo practice. Speaking of training, an Appleseed shoot is a great low cost training event for even the newest shooters to get some solid basics of rifle marksmanship.

For all around defense and general purpose use it is hard to beat an AR or AK pattern carbine or rifle to fulfill both the bug out and SIP role. I am not going into an AR vs. AK discussion here because it would be pointless. I personally own an AR pattern carbine (S&W M&P-15) and have owned an AK also. The AR is my primary choice for use for the following reasons:

  • I have used an AR pattern rifle for the past 20+ years ever since joining the Army and feel comfortable with its use and my ability to maintain it.
  • Magazines and parts are generally easy to obtain.
  • The 5.56/.223 round is adequate enough for personal defense (same argument as the 9mm) and I can carry many more rounds for the same weight as opposed to .30 rounds.
  • The abundance of optics platforms adapted specifically for it.
  • It is light weight and easy to transport but also is steady enough when employed from a static position to emplace accurate long range fire when called upon.

The AK has a lot going for it such as outstanding reliability and simplicity and a person would be well served by it as well. I sat on the fence for a long time between these 2 but finally went to the AR full time.

Price wise, there is a very wide variation in the cost of such weapons, but generally $300 to $1000 is where you are looking depending on the make and model of rifle and whether it is new or used. I know that is a large gap between lowest and highest, but you can find solid buys anywhere in this band. Maybe go for a AR pattern toward the higher end for your primary and maybe a lower priced weapon using the same ammo and magazines (many .223 chambered weapons use the AR pattern STANAG mag) as a back up, secondary or spouse weapon.

With either of these 2 choices (as well as most other "assault" type weapons) you will need to worry about another concern, image. While not as much of a concern as when in a SIP situation where the appearance of a scary firearm may be a welcome addition to your defense (think Korean shop owners in the L.A. riots walking on top of their buildings brandishing SKS rifles), the appearance of an evil black rifle in a bug out situation may again bring unwanted attention to yourself by LEO types and the military as well as others looking to acquire firearms. Its not hard to hide a handgun on you while on foot, hiding a rifle or carbine is almost impossible for most people to do. Even while mounted in a vehicle it would be difficult to keep one hidden from cursory view in a manner in which it is also able to be readily employed.

Although they certainly have their place I am no longer a big fan of pistol caliber carbines for self defense in a SHTF situation as a primary weapon. They do, however, fill a role as a back up weapon or possibly a truck gun in a bug out scenario. I had thought about picking up a Kel-Tec 2000 9mm carbine that utilizes Glock magazines as a back up rifle for either myself or my wife's use since it uses a common magazine and ammo that I use in my handguns. Out of a 16" barrel a 9mm +P round will obtain ballistics and performance similar to a .357 magnum with a longer effective range and less felt recoil. In addition the Kel-Tec folds in half into a package about 16" long and 8" wide, that is small enough to fit into many cases and put under a truck seat as a back up weapon if you would need to bug out from work to home in a hurry (you do have some type of emergency bag in your vehicle, right?) My biggest problem with the Kel-Tec is after shooting one I found it was not designed around a left handed shooter such as myself and spit brass right into my face consistently. Oh well, such is the curse of the left eye dominant shooter.

Alright, here is another list of some of my considerations for a SHTF rifle/carbine.

  • AR pattern rifle ($500 - $1000+) - see above, everyone and there friend will have one in the next SHTF/EOTWAWKI/Zombie outbreak.
    DSCN2330 (2)
  • AK pattern rifle ($350 - $800) : robust and reliable, fires 7.62x39 ammo which is fairly common, a bit heavy and not ergonomic as an AR it is still the premier assault rifle the world over. 
  • Ruger Mini 14 ($500 - $800). A less "intimidating" rifle chambered primarily in .223. Hi-cap mags are somewhat difficult to find (does not use AR pattern), still a highly functional and practical rifle that can be used for defense as well as putting game on the table.
  • SKS: ($250 - $400): Simple and reliable 7.62x39 Russian design that uses a 10 round internal magazine fed from stripper clips. Very robust design. Manufactured in both Europe and Asia. Simple to operate and maintain and fires an honest to goodness .30 round.
  • M-1 Garand: ($400 - $700 for a CMP acquired model) Hard shooting and accurate, the Garand suffers from being heavy and having a limited internal magazine fed by the (in)famous en bloc clip. It is however a very robust and tested design and can project its power over a very long distance with the .30-06 Springfield round. Take a bit of training and practice to get used to its operation and performance but well worth a look.
  • Surplus military bolt action rifles (Mosin-Nagants, Mausers, K31, Enfileds) ($150 - $500) Although hindered by limited magazines, weight and slow rates of fire, these former military grade rifles are generally built to take abuse, be accurate and shoot powerful rounds. While not a primary weapon in my scheme, for some they may be the only economical choice available. My Mosin M44 is a very hard hitting and accurate carbine that can take a licking and keeps on ticking!

Again this is a partial list of what I would carry myself or recommend. Someone out there is going to send me an email about M1A/M14 style rifles and or SIG 556 style. They are fine weapons and I wish I had one (or 10) of each. Again, I am looking for cost efficiency in my recommendations and spending $1500 for a rifle who's job can be done by something half the cost just goes against the purpose of this post.


Ah, the venerable shotgun, favorite of video game players the world over. If I knew I was going to be restricted to armed encounters in dark, narrow corridors against fewer than 3 persons the shotgun would definitely be my weapon of choice loaded with some 00 buck shot. However, this will rarely, if ever, be the case. While it is probably the most useful weapon at your disposal in terms in variety of projectiles for multiple functions..I do not consider it to be my primary long arm in times of crisis. I came across an article in a gun rag some time last year that compared the 12 gauge shotgun to the AR Carbine as a patrol weapon choice for LEO personnel. Inside of about 30 yards or so the shotty won outright, after that the carbine's increased range and accuracy carried it past the shotgun. Its a classic trade off where versatility in multiple areas may leave it wanting in specific scenarios. Despite this I think it would be unwise NOT to consider having a shotgun available in either the bug out or SIP scenario.

Some characteristics of shotgun to consider are as follows:

  • Damage potential. If aimed properly a full load of buck shot or buck and ball at close range is about as close to a perfect fight stopper short of a .50 cal round.
  • Versatility: Most shotguns can have their barrels replaced in minutes and can use either smooth bore shot barrels with varying chokes or rifled slug barrels which can project the shotgun's power out to 200 yards or more. In addition the various types of shot mean that the weapon can be used from self defense, to hunting small to medium sized game, breaching, signaling and a variety of other tasks. The design of the shotgun also makes it possible to change ammo types at the chamber without having to first unload the weapon. One article I read on the tactical use of a shotty recommended loading the tube with buck or buck and ball and then having a side mount carrier with slugs in it to quickly insert as needed for harder targets or breaching use.
  • Limited magazine capacity: Most shotguns will have tube magazines with less than 8 rounds available at any given time. If you choose to use a commercial sporting shotgun as a SHTF weapon they will generally be plugged or only have a tube long enough for 3 rounds plus one in the chamber.
  • Reloading time: Shotguns must generally be loaded one round at a time which may not be ideal if engaged with an opponent.
  • Cost: Many quality shotguns will be available for under $400.
  • Pistol Grips vs. traditional stocks: Unless you are a Grade A mall ninja, leave the pistol grips to the grunts and marines breaching doors overseas. A shoulder stock is necessary to take the recoil of a shotgun. Traditional stocks or pistol grips with a stock, either way you need to have something to brace that beast against your shoulder to get the most out of it.
  • Semi or pump?: you choose, most people tend to think of the shotgun purely as a pump gun but quality semi autos using either recoil inertia or gas systems to cycle have been around for years and have proven there durability in field conditions. I would personally stay away from over/under models (O/U) or side-by-side due to their limited firepower in a self defense scenario.
  • Weight of ammo: The weight of one 12 gauge round is equal to four or five 5.56 rounds in an AR. This will limit the total amount of rounds you would be able to carry on your person. Using a 20ga. instead of a 12 ga. will alleviate some of this weight, but not a lot in your overall logistics picture.
  • Training: Despite the popular misconception that at shotgun is a weapon you just point in the general direction of the target it does require some training to properly employ. Each type of ammo will shoot and pattern slightly different in the same weapon, compound this by the effect of differing chokes and its easy for a novice to miss with one if they do not understand the correlation between all of these factors.
  • Intimidation: Very few noises are as intimidating as the sound of a shotgun being racked. However racking one in the chamber in preparation of engaging a threat is clearly telegraphing your intentions and should only be reserved for the movies. The sight of a 12ga. barrel pointed at someones chest has been known to quickly diffuse a situation from time to time though. Dressed up in black plastic furniture with tactical or "tacticool" accessories and an 18" barrel, the shotgun can be as evil and intimidating as any AR or AK out there. In its civilized form with wood furniture, longer barrels and hunting legal magazine it still offers the same lethality as its "tactical" equivalent. Good thing to consider if bugging out of a city and you run across any LEO types. Do you want to look for someone out for a fight with your tactical model, or a "Fudd" using his hunting weapon to defend his family? Same for meeting any "unsavory" parties, well armed and trained wolf or lightly armed sheep? The choice is yours.

My personal shotgun is a Mossberg Maverick 88 security shotgun with black furniture, a 5 round tube mag, 4 shell side saddle carrier, heat shield and Hi-Viz front bead sight. It is a cheaper version of the Mossberg 500 assembled in Mexico that will use most Mossberg stocks and barrels, but which has a different trigger group which is not swappable. It will hold a total of 10 rounds loaded and ready on it of Winchester PDX-1 ammo, which is a 12 gauge slug and 3 balls of 00 buck shot. It seems to be a nice round and from what I have seen shooting it myself as well as some field testing by others it gives a good compromise between close in power and mid range accuracy. Maybe the perfect round? I don't know but its what I carry along with 00 buck, #7 shot and some 1 ounce rifled slugs.
Some of the more popular models on the market today are as follows:

  • The Remington 870. One of the "gold standards" of scatterguns, it is probably the most popular shotgun in use by law enforcement. Its reliability is backed by years of service and is the yardstick by what most other shotguns are measured against, enough said.
  • The Mossberg 500/590: The shotgun used by the US Military, its rugged design and handling characteristics are similar to the 870. A solid shotgun that can be relied upon.
  • The Remington 1100. This semi has been around seemingly forever, and it does not look like it will be going away any time soon. A seeminly flawless track record in the field will do that.
  • Benneli Shotguns. These semi autos use an intertia system to cycle rather than gas, are more modernly styled than traditional American shotguns and are popular not only here but abroad.
  • Mossberg Maverick 88. My personal shotgun, it is popular due to its low price and reliability.

Those are just a few of your options, there are other choices that can be found at your local gun store that I have not personally had any experience with so I will leave you to do your own research on them.

So there you go, this is just a brief overview of your choices for a SHTF scenario. Remember the first rule for using a firearm in a survival situation is to have one to begin with. The guy with the Hi-Point 9mm and Elmer Fudd looking 20 gauge is better off than the guy without anything! Keep in mind that firearms in themselves are a very specific tool with a very narrow scope of application. In order to fully sustain yourself in one of the above mentioned types of scenario will require not only many other resources but also planning and training. Grabbing a gun and headed off without any idea of your destination is only asking for trouble. By leaving your home you have just voluntarily made yourself a refugee. Same way that sheltering in place behind a barricade with a rifle is only going to do you any good if you have prepared enough supplies to sustain you until the restoration of order and infrastructure systems. In this case you have just removed yourself from the support channels that may be available a short distance away in a FEMA camp or other such environment. Either way, just having a gun does not guarantee your survival, just aid in your chances of such by allowing you the abilitiy to deal with limited physical threats to yourself and/or your family. In additon, skills in such areas such as first aid, land navigation, signaling, auto repair, carpentry, plumbing, electical work and such other fields would be of very good use in such scenarios.

I AM NOT A SURVIVAL EXPERT. All information presented here is of my own opinion and is presented as purely entertainment for your viewing pleasure. Survival type situations are very stressful and dangerous by their vary nature. Throwing a firearm into a situation in which stress and pressure may be a constant companion is not right for everyone. Simularly, the legal ramificaitons of carrying a weapon in an environment where martial law may be declared is subject to local laws and regulation, or those of the federal government in such cases where federal troops or agencies may be involved. Please consult with legal counsel and other qualified personnel for training and guidance for anything related to this information.


James R. Rummel said...

Another good post! Well thought out, and very informative!

Huey148 said...

Thanks James, I know you have experience with the other Ruger automatics which seem to be reliable (at least I can find no major gripes on a continual basis about them on the 'net). I have not had any first had experiences with them to use as a basis for recommendation. I have shot and reviewed the SR9 that a friend of mine let me borrow. If the other Rugers are as solid as her's, I would not hesitate to use one.

Michael said...

I went a different route. I live rural and the idea of buying an assault type weapon has crossed my mind. But in my area an assult weapon has limited uses. I went with a couple bolt action .270 caliber scoped rifles, a couple of H&R pardner pump 12 gauges, a couple single shot 20 gauges, a couple of .22 rifles and a lever action .357 rifle with matching revolver. I plan on getting another revolver. I get around the ammo problem by buying components and handloading. Everything has a role of food gathering first and defense second. I guess if I lived in LA things might be different. But I have mostly two firearms in each caliber and am comfy with my choices.

Huey said...

Michael, thanks for posting..

Sounds like you have taken your local environment and locale into consideration when selecting your collection, nice job! Another plus with your choices is the lever action .357 and matching revolver..excellent choices, one caliber, 2 guns...

plus you remembered the important thing...to have a gun in the first place!!