Contrary to popular belief, having any gun during a survival scenario is not better than having no gun at all. While some preppers make solid choices on dynamic weapons suited for survival, others simply rely on the weapons they already have for hunting, target shooting or home defense. Not to discount the merit of choosing these weapons for their intended purposes, but when it comes to protecting you and your family against angry mobs who will likely be using a similar hodgepodge mix of guns, they simply aren’t going to protect you effectively.
You may be inclined to disagree and hold firm that any gun is worth having and putting to use when SHTF. Let’s consider three different weapons: a handgun purchased to protect your family and home during normal times of order, a shotgun used for duck or other game hunting, and a high caliber bolt-action rifle for big game hunting—all of which are among the most commonly owned and used firearms for recreational purposes.
In areas where it’s legal, many individuals choose to purchase handguns to defend themselves and their families in the event of a home invasion. Since handguns perform their best at short ranges and in close quarters, using one in the rooms or corridors of your home should yield high effect on the target without damaging your home’s integrity. However, attempting to defend your entire perimeter against multiple assailants with only a handgun is basically equivalent to using a slingshot (unless you’re James Bond).
Shotguns have their place in survival arsenals, but not all are created equal. Hunting shotguns come in several gauge sizes and can be loaded with multiple types of ammunition with varying degrees of damage potential intended for taking down different types of game. While you could continue to use these to provide food for your family after a disaster, must hunting shotguns make for impractical home defense weapons. They are often slow to fire and reload, and even the smallest birdshot-loaded shell could tear through the walls or appliances in your home if misfired.
Large bolt-action rifles are perhaps the most impractical weapons for survival situations. They take the most amount of time to assemble, sight on target, fire and reload than any other type of weapon. If you have a well-fortified home and the ability to protect it with multiple guards, a sniper-style rifle would make a good addition to your perimeter defense if positioned atop a roof. However, as primary survival weapons they are essentially useless—stick to moose hunting in Alaska.
Survival Gun Requirements
Survival guns need to be versatile, dynamic and capable of working effectively at multiple ranges. They should also meet the following five basic requirements:
Reliability – The most futuristic-styled, tactical gun that comes pre-rigged with high-tech scopes and laser sights is not going to give you the best bang for your buck in a survival scenario. Fancier isn’t always better. You want a gun that will fire with the same accuracy and precision every time, even after sitting in storage or being buried underground for extended periods of time. More often than not the most simplistic, industrial-looking guns are going to be more reliable than those with all the gadgets. It shouldn’t need to be broken in like a combat boot; it should fire straight and true right out of the box.
Toughness – The gun you rely on in the aftermath of a disaster should be tough, rugged and able to withstand a beating without suffering from functional damage. This is especially true if you decide to bug out or are forced to evacuate because you won’t have the luxury of keeping your gun properly stored and maintained while on the move. The best survival guns can be fired in wet, dusty and debris-filled conditions and still perform with deadly accuracy. You don’t want a gun that requires frequent replacement of small parts as these will be extremely limited in times of chaos.
Compactness – Whether staying put or bugging out, the weapons you select should be lightweight, convenient to carry and accessible when you need them most. Heavy bolt-action rifles and machine guns, while capable of inflicting serious damage, are overly cumbersome and too bulky to wield. Particularly if you plan on getting your family out of dodge, each member will be required to carry as much water, food and other supplies as possible. The last thing you need is a large, heavy weapon that will hinder your ability to stay light on your feet while on the move. Accordingly, you want something that is comfortable to carry and easily maneuverable in tight spaces and close quarters, whether inside the walls of your home, in the bush or in an urban center.
Simplicity – The best survival guns are easy to operate. Remember that you may be equipping your children with a firearm, which should be relatively straightforward to operate. Loading the weapon, clearing rounds, flipping the safety on and off, and squeezing the trigger should be simple enough for combat veterans and eleven-year-olds alike. You may be inclined to keep your weapons disassembled and hidden as to remain safe, but they should be easy to reassemble, load and fire for purposes of self-defense with minimal time and energy.
Stopping Power – Survival guns are meant to be multipurpose and must be effective at the various tasks assigned to them. If a breakdown of society results in civil unrest, there’s no telling how many enemies you may face or how well-equipped they will be in terms of firepower. Some guns can be highly effective at picking off individual targets but are less efficient when facing a mob. When defending your home, you’ll want something capable of addressing threats around your perimeter upwards of about 200 yards. The same goes for bugging out: You will want a weapon that allows you to put a greater distance between you and your targets. A survival weapon should have both a versatile range and a large-capacity magazine in order to be effective.
A Leveled Defense
Just as not every gun is effective for survival purposes, no single survival gun will provide unlimited protection at multiple levels of threat. That’s right: There is no ultimate survival gun. Instead of looking for the holy grail of weapons, those with access to firearms should consider obtaining multiple types of firearms that are most effective at a specific range. Bugging out will limit your capacity to carry multiple firearms and enough ammo, but fortifying your home gives you a chance to layer your defenses.
The layered defense system has been in practice since the origins of warfare. Medieval armies created catapults and trebuchets for long-range attacks, used longbows and crossbows against medium range targets, and relied on swords, axes and shields at close range. Even the modern soldier has multiple levels of defense on his person when he goes into a combat. This often includes an assault rifle, a secondary submachine gun, a sidearm handgun and a combat knife—in addition to any launchers, grenades or explosives he may carry.
Clearly the government isn’t investing millions in your own private arsenal, but you can still do your best to layer the variety and quantity of weapons to defend your family. Strive to include weapons in the following three classes to maximize your security potential.
- Long-range – Modern military snipers may be able to take out a target a mile away, but in a survival situation anything beyond 100 yards can be considered long-distance. If you can hit the bullseye or make a tight grouping at 100 yards, you are well off to defend your perimeter. There are numerous semi-automatic rifles using .308 or .30-06 cartridges that are highly efficient at long ranges and available to the modern consumer.
- Mid-range – A small hunting rifle like a .22 caliber may fit well into this category, although there are more powerful rifles available. You will want something that is effective at quickly picking off multiple targets at distances between 30 and 100 yards.
- Close-quarters – Anything within 30 yards can be considered close-quarter combat, as can hand-to-hand combat. Shotguns are most effective at short distances, but are not necessarily suited for close-quarter combat. Pistols and small-caliber carbines are the best weapon selections at short range. Keep in mind that if your target is this close, your chances of having to draw a knife or face her in a fight become more likely, and you must be prepared.
The Ruling on Rifles
Though you should strive to layer your security, the rifle still stands as the best type of gun for survival purposes. From the muskets used by our ancestors to the advanced assault weapons used by today’s infantrymen, rifles have always proven their merit in even the toughest of combat situations. Whether defending your home or bugging out, if you have to pick one gun, it should be a rifle.
Even the most experienced shooters struggle to decide on which rifle is best suited for survival. After all, there are dozens of brands, models, loading styles, calibers and other factors to decide on when purchasing a quality rifle. As previously mentioned, the high caliber bolt-action varieties aren’t suitable for the average shooter in most scenarios. But generally speaking, rifles are incredibly versatile multipurpose firearms that could serve effectively in any part of your layered defense.
Aside from a firearm, the most important and protective tool you can carry is a well-made fixed-blade knife. A sharp, full-tang blade made of quality steel can be used for a variety of survival purposes. On a defensive level, they can inflict serious damage if you run out of ammunition or are forced to go hand-to-hand with an opponent.
Additionally, a quality knife will stand up to tough chopping, slicing, digging, prying and other day-to-day tasks. Many knives that have been used by military professionals for decades are also available to the average consumer and are favorites among the prepper community.