Choosing the best survival weapons will depend on your needs. Do you wish to protect yourself from a single intruder or a large group? Will you be engaging targets at close or long range? Do you wish to hunt as well as use your weapons for self defense? How big are you? How much money do you want to invest? These and other questions must be considered. Most importantly, you need a gun or guns that you can shoot well and carry comfortably.
Captain Dave recommends the following survival weapons:
- One or two pistols for every adult or adolescent capable of using it. Should be at least .38/9mm caliber or larger. These are primarily for self defense.
- A .22 caliber pistol for training and hunting, as well as for executing the coup de gras to injured or trapped animals.
- A .22 rifle for hunting, training and for children to use. These guns are handy, relatively quiet and can add meat to the stew pot. The guns and ammunition are so cheap, that you could easily get two guns and have 10,000 rounds of ammo.
- A 12 gauge shotgun for all large adults. 20 gauge for smaller-stature adults. Either semi-auto or pump, the higher capacity the better. Stock bird shot for hunting, buck shot and slugs for close-in self defense.
- For urban defense and encounters under 150 or so yards, have a carbine in .223/5.56 or similar caliber, such as an AR-15/M4 or Ruger Mini 14, SKS, AK-74 or AK-47. Even an old WWII M1 carbine is good choice with modern ammunition. These lightweight weapons have minimal kick, are relatively easy to shoot and are light enough to be easily handed by women and older children. An AR-15 is preferred because it has ammo, magazine and parts interchangeability with our country’s standard issue weapon, which is carried by many police forces as well as the Army and National Guard. While you can accurately engage targets at 400 or even 500 yards with a .223, the speed and stopping power of the bullet declines at these longer ranges.
- For rural areas or locations with long range shooting opportunities, a semi-automatic battle rifle, such as an M-14, Garrand, FAL, H&K 91 or G3, or similar in a .308 or similar caliber is recommended. These guns can be used for closer encounters, but they are heavier and can be slower or more awkward in urban combat. The stopping power of their .308 cartridge is superior to that of a .223 at any range.
- A large scope-equipped rifle capable of engaging man-sized targets or killing game 400 yards or more. This may be your battle rifle, but is probably a hunting or sniper rifle.
A good firearms stash based on the above list can help you protect yourself in many situations, if used properly. You will be able to carry the pistols concealed if you are not expecting imminent trouble but wish to be prepared. The shotguns are excellent close-quarter combat weapons, ideal for defending your home. The .223 rifles are not only intimidating, they are able to sustain a high level of suppressing fire and provide both offensive and defensive fire. The large hunting or sniping rifle (in 30-06, .308, 7mm or a similar caliber) is good for hunting and reaching out and touching someone.
That’s quite an arsenal, and it would reasonably take several years to build up. So where to start?
Your first purchase should probably be a .22 rifle and several thousand rounds of ammunition. You can buy a Ruger 10/22, six or 8 magazines and 5,000 rounds of ammo for under $400. Then you can practice, practice and practice some more. Practice shooting while prone, sitting, kneeling and standing. Practice shooting targets as close as 30 feet yards and as far as 100 yards. Practice shooting bulls eyes to work on your accuracy, and then practice shooting man-size targets to work on
Your second purchase should probably be a good pistol in a decent caliber, such as 9mm, .38, .40 or .45. Buy at least 6 magazines and 2,000 rounds. Practice with the first 1,000 until you can draw the gun and shoot a 6-inch target 25 feet away in less than 2 seconds. Then practice shooting multiple targets and at further ranges. Practice shooting one handed and using your weak hand.
Your third purchase should be a .223 carbine. Your fourth should be a shotgun. After that, you will have on of each basic gun and can pretty much pick and choose based on your situation, anticipated threats and geography.
If you cannot afford a battle rifle and a carbine for each adult a good compromise is to have one carbine and one assault rifle for every two adults. They should be cross trained so that either one can use either weapon.
Does this list of recommendations mean that if you have an old reliable Winchester .30-30 that it won’t have any use in a survival situation? Of course not. It may be an excellent choice for hunting and occasional self defense. But Captain Dave would not go out and buy a lever action rifle or carbine as a survival weapon unless he had already had checked off most of the other options on the list. Lever action rifles are not designed for the high rate of sustained fire that military-grade semi automatic weapons are capable of.
Suppose you only have a pistol and a .22 rifle. Well, you’re better off than many. Hopefully, just the visible presence of a firearm will be enough to quell any problems. If you are an excellent marksman and can hit a headshot with a .22, you will be well served. But don’t expect a .22 to instantly incapacitate someone kicking in your door like a 12 gauge shotgun can.
Captain Dave is often asked, if he could pick only two guns, which to would they be. In an urban situation, I would want a .40 or .45 caliber Glock pistol and a M4 style carbine with a 16 inch barrel and a red dot sight. In a rural situation, he would probably want a .22 caliber pistol and a big .308 battle rifle that could double as a hunting weapon, such as an FAL or an M14, possibly with a 4X scope.
People have always asked about gun brands. Brands rise and fall as their quality, customer service, and commitment wanes and waxes over the years. But some are standouts. Here are some general recommendations for good, quality brands at the time of this writing. Captain Dave’s top choice is listed first:
Semi-auto pistols: Glock, Sig, Kimber, Springfield Armory, Kahr, Smith & Wesson M&P, H&K
.22 pistols: Ruger and S&W.
Revolvers: Smith & Wesson, Taurus
.22 rifles: Ruger 10/22
AR-15 style weapons: Bushmaster, Colt, Robinson Arms, Rock River Arms, DSA
Other Carbines: Kahr M1, Ruger Mini 14/Mini 30
M-14s: Springfield Armory and Fulton Armory
FALs: DSA, Red Rock Arms
Shotguns: Remington, Mossberg (avoid the 930), Benelli.
Hunting/Sniper rifles: Remington 700, Winchester, Savage, Kimber
This list is based on personal experience and first-hand feedback from trusted sources. The fact that your favorite weapon may have been left off is not intended as a slight, simply that Captain Dave has not had any first hand experience with it. As long as your gun is accurate, durable and rugged, it can be a good survival weapon.
Using Military Surplus Rifles
While a good quality assault rifle can cost $1,000 or more, there are surplus military rifles on the market for much less. At the time of this writing, you can buy a reliable SKS for about $200 and a Cetme for twice that. Both are well designed guns that have provided reliable military service for years. Bolt actions rifles from Mauser and surplus Russian weapons like the Mosin Nagant are also available, often for under $100. There may even be some surplus FAL rifles still on the market.
If money is an issue, don’t hesitate to buy surplus military weaponry. While an SKS is heavier and holds fewer rounds than an AR-15, you can outfit your survival group with four of them and several thousands rounds for the price of a single AR-15 and a case of ammo. So economically, it is a no brainer.
The biggest problem with surplus weapons imported from Europe is lack of a ready ammunition supply. For example, many of those old Mauser’s fire ammunition that is not readily available in the U.S. Sure, you may be able to find a few boxes at a gun store, but don’t expect Wal-Mart to carry it. So if you buy an old surplus rifle, buy several thousand rounds of its ammunition at the same time. Otherwise, it’s an expensive club or, if you have the bayonet, a clumsy spear.
The most important thing you can do to preserve your weapon and its ability to protect you is to clean and lubricate it frequently. Review the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and lubricating. Make sure your survival stash has cleaning kits and chemicals. Get a couple of bore snakes or other portable cleaning kits so that you can clean your weapon when on the move. A dirty gun is likely to fail when you need it most.
Spare parts kits are available for many popular weapon systems. These are highly recommended as the failure of a $1 spring or loss of a $1 pin can render an expensive weapon useless.
Owning fully automatic weapons and other “weapons of destruction” such as grenades and rockets is illegal for the average citizen. While you may be able to obtain a class III firearms license, the process is time consuming, requires payment of a special tax, and the weapons are expensive. That means most of us will need to rely on home made weapons if we need something heavier than a rifle or pistol.
Captain Dave recommends Molotov cocktails, which can be made by mixing gasoline with detergent. He does not recommend experimenting with home made explosives.
For those interested, the survival novel Patriots, by James Wesley, Rawles, discusses ways to take out tanks and other heavy vehicles. This is a highly recommended read, even if you do not intend to take out any tanks in your immediate future.