We have another honorable mention as well as a new guesst essay on shooting and necessary guns. Our honorable mention goes to http://suburbanbushwacker.blogspot.com/ in Merry Olde England. Reading this man, when he publishes, leads me to wonder about what the Blokes may have going for themselves over across the pond. The Suburban Bushwhacker is nobody's fool.
And forthwith I bring you our guest essay: "What weapons do you need?" by Mike Kemp.
This notion has often been commented upon. I will here insert my opinions.
The first thing to consider is self defense and the defense of family and home.The next thing is the means of feeding yourself and those who depend on you.The next thing is the maintenance and viability of your weaponry. This includes ammunition.
These are hugely complex subjects. They are inextricably intermingled, each concern having an effect on the others.First, you must consider where you will be located should this survival situation arise. Are you going to be in an urban situation? To this, I must comment that the event must be very, very short lived, or you are going to be in deep trouble. In an urban situation, if you survive the immediate event, your biggest hazard is your fellow man. There is almost no sustainability in an urban site. There are simply too many people in too small a place. It appears to me that there would quickly develop a feudal, warlord society, with command of labor and materiel from the top down, with strong men, their armed supporters (gangs), and forced labor (peons).
Food and all other items of necessity will quickly be exhausted, and piracy will rule. Any area near the urban areas will be subject to raids from the gangs in the cities, in an ever expanding radius around the cities.If the situation, whatever it may be, lasts any appreciable time, more than even a very few days, the situation will quickly become very dire for unallied individuals and families. This was starkly illustrated in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The nature of the event ruined most stocks of food, water, essential necessities.
Very quickly, forces of government were alternately seen as rescuers and predators. By the claim of prevention of looting, aid from the outside was denied entry into the afflicted area. Governmental and allied corporate forces disarmed and removed people from their property, even property relatively unaffected by the event. Forces from above imposed herding tactics on civilians.
There was illustrated in neighboring rural and much smaller communities, small-town Louisiana and Mississippi, much more immediately effective cooperative and intelligent efforts at community survival. But in the large urban environment of New Orleans, it reduced to the situation of competing predators, the forces of government and the forces of packs of human predators. The civilians who only were trying to live were caught in between.I can only say that if you are in an urban situation, should ANYthing happen, the very best thing you can do is to simply leave. Leave as quickly as you can, if there is any warning of upcoming trouble, LEAVE.
If you are in an area where such events are at least marginally predictable, hurricane zones particularly, prepare a plan, prepare necessary stocks of fuel, and a plan to quickly gather the stock of necessities and portable valuables and involved people and pets, and a route of evacuation. Act quickly, at the earliest warning. Do not, if avoidable in any way, intend to use the major transportation arteries away. In some areas, there are choke points, bridges and access points. Some are unavoidable. But once clear of the immediate areas, a plan to abandon the major routes is most advisable.The bottom line in an urban situation is this-- you are at maximum risk with ANY breakdown of normality. You may take from this anything you like. But you must be absolutely prepared and you must act instantly if you are to survive. Weaponry will be necessary but it will be used essentially only in desperation. The handgun and the repeating shotgun of any type will rule. Be aware that everyone you see will be in cutthroat competition with you, if not your outright enemy. The lesser prepared will be desperate to rob the more prepared. I repeat-- the urban situation will quickly degrade into a desperate situation. And urban environments are by their very necessity the most fragile and will most quickly degrade into chaos.
Now I will move into more survivable, longer term situations, where a real discussion of weaponry comes into play. You must first consider where you will be making your refuge. The more open your chosen area, the more longer range weaponry comes into play. If you are to engage targets at ranges beyond 50 yards, then the centerfire rifle must be considered a necessity. Odd calibers will require much greater supplies of ammunition, and will be most difficult to replace. It will almost be a necessity to reload your spent brass.The most common is 30 caliber, in assorted configurations. 30-30 is quite common, 308 and 30-06 are common.
There are more oddball 30 calibers than can here be addressed. Ammunition for the oddball calibers will be difficult to resupply. Of course, ANY resupply will be difficult or absent completely. Anyone who will be dependent on less than common calibers must be prepared to conserve brass and to reload from stocks of materiel in your possession and well protected, from both weather and from human predators. Even the common calibers must be provided with adequate supplies of ammunition, and 'adequate' for any extended time period becomes quite large. Reloading or scavenging (to use a polite term) will be absolutely necessary.
The 30-30 is a most useful caliber, but is range-limited, and the operator must be very familiar with the weapon to get its maximum potential. The 308 is fairly common in government forces and is a very, very useful caliber. The 30-06 is a favorite of hunters. If you are to survive, consider your situation, acquire your weapon and supplies. While sources of ammunition and reloading supplies and equipment are available, steadily build your stocks. Become proficient at all ranges which will be relevant with your chosen rifle, and train any who must use it. Replace any ammunition used for practice and training at once, and retain your brass. Once any survival situation begins, what you have is what you must live-- or die with.
There are many, many useful calibers. 7mm comes in many variations. 270 enjoys a healthy following, as well as various others smaller than 30 caliber-- 25 caliber, 6mm (243), 6.5mm. Even the 22-250 and 223 are useful as defense and small game calibers. If any of these is your choice or your default weapon, you MUST provide adequate ammunition and supplies and equipment for reloading. And maintenance and common repair parts and expertise is all but an absolute necessity. And realize that with the smaller calibers, the size of the target able to be engaged, as well as the range at which they can be engaged will be limited.There are areas where there are, particularly, bears. Bears are a very hard target. Thick skinned, heavy boned, and dangerous.
Likewise, there is game larger than deer where calibers heavier than 30 caliber become desirable. You must consider the 30 caliber magnums, or heavier 8mm and 338 platforms if very large game or bears are likely. You must evaluate your anticipated situation, and make adequate preparations for ammo. The heavier the expected game, the heavier the bullets mounted in the ammo will be required.
For any centerfire rifle, realize that the more complicated the rifle, the more likely it is that something will break. For defensive purposes, the multishot semiautomatic (so-called 'assault' weapon) is a wonderful thing to have. But 'hunting' variants such as the Browning and Remington semiautomatics and pump repeaters are not normally considered widely applicable in serious defense. The bolt guns are the most durable, as well as most accurate.In semiautomatics, the AR, the Mini 30s and Mini 14s are useful, but occasionally balky. The AK is undeniably the most durable and reliable.
Realize that the 7.62x39 ammunition is 'specialty' ammo, and if a rifle in that caliber is chosen, it must be adequately supplied with ammunition. Further realize that people are by nature more likely to be profligate and wasteful with semiautomatic weapons. A goodly portion of ammunition in this caliber is very difficult or almost impossible to reload.
Moving on, in areas where all use of weaponry will be less than 100 yards, the shotgun can stand in for the centerfire rifle. The 12 gauge shotgun with appropriate ammunition is the finest and most widely useful close order weapon ever devised by man. With lighter shot, #4 bird shot is useful for turkeys as well as birds on the wing, and even squirrels and rabbits, though this smaller game will be quite torn up by the 12 gauge at reasonable ranges. Single and double barrel platforms are useful in hunting situations, but are much more limited in defense situations. Remington, Mossberg, and Winchester pump shotguns are efficient and useful for both hunting and defense purposes.The 12 gauge is useful for deer and even heavier game. For deer at short range, 30 yards or so, 00 buckshot is adequate. But for any longer range, the slug is all but absolutely necessary. And for larger or dangerous game, the slug is necessary.
The slug ammunition can be used at ranges to 100 yards, but it takes a skilled user to employ the slug effectively at ranges beyond 100 yards. Because of its complicated flight path caused by its relatively low muzzle velocity, there is much muzzle drop beyond 50 yards. If the shotgun is your choice, you must consider your situation, your targets, your ammo most carefully. And you must be skilled.Ammunition for the shotgun can be reloaded as can that for the centerfire rifle, though with different equipment. Smokeless powder for reloading shotshells can usually also be used for reloading pistol ammunition, and vice-versa. The primers are unique to the shotshell. Also realize that ammunition for the shotgun is heavy and bulky, requires more space, and is more likely to damage from weather and moisture. Bird shot is typically not useful for hunting anything larger than birds or small game. And slug loads are not normally applicable for small game and birds. This must all enter the calculus.
Moving on, we come to the almost-ubiquitous 22 long rifle. This is a much maligned caliber, though in the hands of a skilled shooter, it can be amazingly useful inside 100 yards. There are more platforms chambering this caliber than can be addressed here. But durability MUST be a primary consideration.Ammunition at this time is plentiful and inexpensive enough that serious practice can be done for relatively low expense. To adequately use this caliber, you MUST be proficient. It has a small muzzle blast (thus calling little attention to its use), no recoil, and proper choice of platform make it useful for anyone.
If you intend to employ this caliber at any range beyond 30-50 yards, and particularly on smaller targets, it will serve you well to realize that most available 22 ammunition is supersonic at the muzzle, but due to the light weight of the projectile and its resulting less than stellar ballistics, the round in flight quickly loses velocity and becomes subsonic. This disturbs the flight considerably, and makes accuracy at much beyond rock-throwing range difficult.There is a remedy for this.
There are available relatively inexpensive 'target' or 'match' loads from Wolf (Russian), Remington, and Eley, in increasing expense. These are by design subsonic at the muzzle, and thus the sonic/subsonic transition is not a concern. It slightly limits their range, but the 22 long rifle is of necessity a shorter range caliber. This ammunition is more expensive than the standard 'high velocity' 22 long rifle. It would be wise for the shooter seriously considering this caliber, to lay in a very large-- many thousands of rounds-- supply of the cheaper and more common high velocity ammunition, and a smaller but still considerable supply of the subsonic ammunition for use in situations demanding utmost accuracy.It will be necessary to become proficient and knowledgeable with both types of ammunition. It will be necessary to absolutely verify that the chosen ammunition is fully functional in whatever platform it is to be used. If your gun likes Wolf, use Wolf. If it likes Remington, use Remington. Eley is most expensive, but if that is what the gun demands, then Eley it must be-- if you are truly serious about 22 long rifle accuracy.
At relatively short range, squirrels and sitting rabbits and such are easily dispatched by the skilled shooter with standard ammunition. Shot placement is important, but that is true in any hunting situation.Now, this may upset some, but the 22 long rifle, used most carefully by a skilled shooter, can take deer-sized game. Its range must be limited, but a well placed head shot at 30 to perhaps at the outside, 50 yards can at least stun a deer, so that quickly applied, closer followup shots to the head can kill the beast. One must be very skilled and confident to do this.
As a defense weapon, I would hate to depend on the 22 in very close range, critical and immediate self defense applications. A determined assailant can soak up many rounds of 22 long rifle ammunition and still live long enough and be functional enough to inflict lethal injury to you. But if the opportunity to engage at something more than very close range, a repeating 22 can seriously deter assault. Again, this is most assuredly not my choice, but I would certainly prefer it to a slingshot or a rock. As a defensive weapon, you must plan on expending a large amount of ammunition. A skilled shooter can seriously deter anything less than the most determined assault with a 22.
While the 22 rimfire magnums and their 17 caliber cousins are even more useful than the shorter and less powerful 22 long rifle, the ammunition is prohibitively expensive for stockpiling large quantities, and will likely be vanishingly rare in a survival environment. If that is what you have, that is one thing, but I would not make it my choice when selecting a rifle.
I will reserve comment on a vastly useful and almost entirely overlooked other class of weapons, the airgun, for a separate article.
We come to handguns. While the skilled shooter can use the 357, 41, and 44 caliber magnums quite successfully in hunting situations, for the rational man seeking to feed himself and his family, they really should not be considered as a primary weapon. As a defensive weapon, the handgun is most effective. But even so, they are short ranged, and are essentially 'oh, shoot' guns, employed in desperation or near-desperation events of defense. The short-barrel repeating shotgun is more effective in close order encounters, they are self-limiting by being larger and more clumsy to carry.
The handgun on the hip is readily available in surprise and/or desperation encounters, and properly chosen, is most effective.The 22 and 25 caliber pistols are almost a joke, but are better than nothing as defense weapons. And cheap automatics which typify these calibers are notoriously prone to jamming. Better than nothing, sometimes better than a rock, but not a serious choice. The only good thing to be said is that 22 long rifle ammunition is cheap and available.The 32 acp, or as is sometimes known, 7.65 Browning, is somewhat better, and is available in somewhat more reliable platforms. Perhaps useful for the smaller or less strong user as a defensive weapon in desperation, it would not be my choice for a true, effective weapon of defense. Ammunition is and would be scarce and expensive, particularly considering its relative ineffectiveness.
The 380, also known as '9mm Kurtz' or '9mm Corto', is the first caliber to be considered as a serious defensive weapon. At relatively short range and with a practiced user, it can, it is capable, of stopping an assault at close range. And it is available in platforms which are or can be made relatively reliable, with careful choice of ammunition and perhaps a trip to a good gunsmith to increase the feed reliability of the feed path. Any semiautomatic platform should be adequately supplied with PROVEN reliable magazines. Any ammunition used in a semiautomatic should be verified as reliable by having fired several hundred rounds with ZERO stoppage. And, regardless, the user should be skilled in rapidly clearing any stoppage that might occur. Cleanliness of the weapon is critical.
Now we come to what are considered the truly qualified defensive calibers. 38 Special has a long and honored history, and is typically on a revolver platform. These are generally sturdy and reliable. And there is no safety to concern the shooter, they are typically (but not always) double action (ready to shoot without cocking). I would typically avoid the ammo labeled as +P unless it is truly on an 'elephant' frame, otherwise it will stress the gun over time. Frangible ammunition is horridly expensive, but also horridly effective. Glaser and Magsafe are two examples. In the revolver, they WILL work, so feed reliability is not a concern, meaning that you don't need to waste this good, expensive ammunition in practice and testing. For revolver use, become VERY proficient at the necessary acts of emptying spent cases and reloading.
The 7.62x25, also known as the 30 Mauser or the 7.63 Mauser is a very potent but highly penetrating round. Without using the very expensive frangible ammunition, this caliber is generally available only in full metal jacket round nose, and will almost certainly shoot through and through the target. It does have sufficient velocity, however, to make this passage through the body generally a serious shock to the body. This caliber is found in Russian and Chinese Tokarev semiautomatic platforms, and in the CZ52 semiautomatic.
Ammunition is typically imported military surplus, or in very expensive European commercial loads. The military surplus stuff is often corrosively primed, and swabbing the barrel with an water-damp patch followed with an oil patch is highly recommended. Only the expensive commercial ammo is reloadable, and projectiles are difficult to obtain. Firing handguns in this caliber can be a challenge to the inexperienced shooter, for it produces a sharp, hard recoil. Since the cartridge operates at such high pressure, reloading the commercial brass can not be done very many times because of the stress on the brass, and the inevitable stretching of full-length resizing.
The 357 magnum is a most potent and effective caliber, almost always on a strong revolver frame. This caliber has the added benefit of happily shooting the 38 Special ammo. It is potent enough to use as a field expedient hunting weapon, if the shooter has the necessary accuracy.
The 9mm, known as 9x19, and 9 Luger, is an effective round. It is almost always found in semiautomatics. As with ALL semiautomatics, great care should be used in selecting ammunition to insure feed reliability. Typically, hollowpoint ammunition does not feed as reliably in all weapons as does 'hardball', full metal jacket round nose. This is a major consideration in ALL semiautomatic handguns.
The 40 S&W is a latecomer, and has high acceptance in law enforcement circles. It is a very high pressure round, with considerable recoil, very effective as a defense weapon. Again, semiautomatic platforms. Ammunition for this is not as common as for the 9mm. It is a more difficult caliber for the inexperienced or weaker shooter to master. It has a further weakness, in that the brass is seriously stressed when fired, and when attempts are made to reload the brass, it becomes possible to find cases that are so weakened that the heads will be torn off the case when fired and the slide goes back in the attempt to extract the fired shell. This is most embarrassing if you happen to need to fire another round, for there is no quick and easy method to extract the remains of the case still in the chamber.
Next comes the venerable 45 ACP. This is a time honored round, and is available in a myriad of semiautomatic platforms, and is used with 'moon' and 'half moon' clips in revolvers. It is a relatively low pressure round, which makes it relatively easy on the brass, and in a semiautomatic platform that has had some professional attention to the feed route, is reliable or can be made so. As with any semi, have several magazines of proven reliability. The caliber does have significant recoil, but even hardball, full metal jacket round nose, is a very effective round. It is heavy, and it tends to knock down its target. Practice is significantly important. Ammunition is relatively common and reasonably priced, particularly the hardball loadings.
I will mention the 41 magnum caliber. It has enjoyed a very good reputation from those who hunt with handguns. It is almost always on a strong revolver frame. It has significant recoil, and ammunition and reloading components are not common. It has a slight advantage in that, when reloading brass originally fired in a given revolver, the brass does not have to be fully, full length resized, which saves some wear and tear on the brass. This is true for any revolver ammunition.
The 44 magnum is similar, and has an advantage of shooting the shorter, less powerful 44 special caliber ammo. Ammunition for these calibers are rare and expensive.
I now come to general considerations. You must evaluate your situation. You must make adequate preparations beforehand. You cannot bug out with everything, and it is highly recommended that there be a place to which you are going to evacuate, IF you are going to evacuate. If you have a prepared location, there is no such thing as too much of anything. Soap, paper products, food, water, medical supplies... anything you need to use every day must be supplied in abundance for best results. Again, there is no such thing as too much, up to available secure storage. And supplies must be properly stored, or they will be ruined by weather or stolen.
Another critical consideration, several in fact. Avoid battery powered sights. Red dots, holosights and the like may be wonderful tools, but batteries, even the most expensive, will one day be used up or out of date and ineffective. Scopes are necessary for almost all shooters when intended for use at extended ranges, anything over 100 yards for most shooters. While there are relatively inexpensive scopes available, vast attention should be paid when selecting them to assure reliability and durability. And great care, regardless, must be paid to avoid shocks, dropping, and any rough treatment. For that matter, I strongly suggest that, when possible, the iron sights on the long guns be retained, either in place on the rifle where possible, or carefully preserved with spares and maintenance supplies. If the sights are retained on the gun, properly zeroing with the iron sights before mounting is strongly recommended.
Again, the centerfire rifle in 6mm and larger is truly a trump weapon. A skilled shooter can effectively engage targets as far as 800 yards away. This requires intimate knowledge of the ballistics of the weapon, as well as a means of effectively estimating range. This can be done with mil dot reticles (too complicated to explain for the scope of this article) and, if carefully done and pre-calibrated, by using the calibrated adjustable objectives on the better scopes.
Scopes are also useful in identifying targets at long range. It is very advantageous to be able to examine potential targets and threats at great range, to evaluate them before it becomes time critical. By this way, friendly fire incidents, which can certainly be tragic, can better be avoided.
Shooting at extended range not only requires (for almost all shooters) a scope, but also all but require a rest. The better the rest, the easier it will be to effectively hit your target, whether it be food animal or threat. While fixed positions are necessarily vulnerable, previously prepared shooting positions can greatly enhance the security of any position. It is further enhanced if the shooter knows the ranges to various landmarks or even specially placed markers such as identifiable rocks or logs or other such 'natural' markers.
It becomes necessary to know the ballistic performance of the rifle. The shooter needs to zero the weapon for the range appropriate to its use and its characteristics. One must know the ballistic charts for the gun. For instance-- if the shooter has chosen a 30-06, and is using a 165 grain, boattail spire point bullet, launching at 2800 fps, and is covering a long vista of 500 yards, he should know that with a zero at 200 yards, his bullet short of that 200 yards will never be more than 4 inches above his point of aim, the bullet will be a foot low at a bit over 300 yards, will be two feet low at 400 yards, and four feet low at 500 yards. The mildot reticles with careful preparation and knowledge can, in addition to providing good range estimates, can be used to provide 'auxiliary aiming points' for extended ranges, and can even be used to provide 'multiple zero points' by using the dots on the reticle from the top of the field of view to the bottom. This requires serious knowledge and expertise, but is most valuable for the shooter seriously involved in the art.
Likewise, the shooter needs to know the prevailing or typical winds, and know that this chosen 165 grain 30-06 will be pushed by a 10 mph 90 degree crosswind a foot off true by 350 yards downrange, which is seriously capable of causing a clean miss on a man-sized target, and will be two feet off well before the 500 yard mark.
One must know the effects of shooting uphill or downhill, which curiously have the same effect-- making the target in effect closer than would otherwise appear-- this is, seriously uphill or downhill, the target must be treated as being closer to the shooter. Taking the case of a 500 yard uphill shot at a 45 degree angle, envision the apparent range to the target (500 yards) as the hypotenuse of a right triangle, but the range which you must use to calculate the effective range to the target as the bottom leg of the triangle, the distance from the point of the shot to a line dropped down to the elevation of the shooter. In the case of this example, that actual 'aiming range' is approximately 350 yards. In practical terms, if the shooter elevates his point of aim for the range 500 yards, aiming 4 feet above the target, he will actually be shooting approximately two feet over where he should be aiming. This can easily produce a clean miss.Further detailed explanation of this is beyond the scope of this article, it is offered purely as a caution. Among other sources, the Lyman reloading manual for centerfire, typically offered as an 8-1/2x11 softbound book, has an excellent discussion and explanation of the phenomenon, and detailed explanation of how to calculate proper points of aim. There are other discussions of this available on line, search the web for them.
If we are thrust into survival situations, there will of necessity be a new etiquette of appropriate behavior developed. Old ways of thinking and behaving will be set aside, or unnecessary fatalities will occur on all sides. No longer can someone allow a potential threat to closely approach his position; no longer can a man with innocent intent safely approach a stranger's position. I cannot predict how this will develop, but I feel I must mention that new ideas and practices must develop.And above all, realize that when the shooter places his finger in the trigger well, mature and very carefully considered judgment must be applied in the choice to shoot or not shoot. When you have the potential for deadly force, the potential for deadly tragedy is at least as likely as a salvation. Never, ever lose sight of that potential when considering deadly force. And much thinking must be applied before hand; in the moment, considered judgment will be very rushed and the potential for mistake is huge.
William Michael Kemp
Stay armed and stay alive.