Armory, Self Defense, And EDC > General Firearm Discussion

"Firearms for TEOTWAWKI"-(PDF Book Under Construction)

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In his work on the subject of "Survival Guns" Mel Tappan made a basic two-fold division of the types of firearms one might want to secure for preparing for the unknown future.  The first were Defensive Weapons purposed to protect against "armed or otherwise dangerous human beings".  The second were Working Weapons meant for hunting and protection from dangerous animals.  I have further added a third category of specialty guns intended for specific non-regular uses like pest control, skills practice and other needs. 
I, like Tappan, believe that a Defensive Weapon requires perfect reliability with the absolute minimum level of maintenance.  They should be powerful enough to be effective in their role (high degree of stopping power) and capable of sustained repeat fire if required.  This limits the number of firearms that fit this category to mostly semi-automatic and some pump, lever and bolt action rifles.  I would also add that the ability to utilize a sufficiently common caliber (like .223, .308, 7.62x39mm in rifles and 9mm, .357 magnum, .45 ACP in pistols) is also a strong factor in the selection process.  But these weapons need to be dependable under the most stressful of conditions and wholly reliable.
Working Weapons, on the other hand, are typically a bit more precise in their function and with that precision comes the need for more cautious use and careful maintenance.  They do not usually need to be fired rapidly but do require greater accuracy.  It is also helpful if they are lighter as they will often be carried over a large area in order to locate game (although in some situations a Defensive Weapon may also be carried for long periods of time so this may be an issue for both categories).  The caliber chosen should reflect an understanding of the area where the prepper lives.  For those in Alaska and parts of Montana/Wyoming, for example, a heavy caliber that can be used on Grizzlies might be appropriate, whereas for most of us in the 48 states a caliber geared towards deer and elk might be more appropriate.  NOTE: In some cases this long-range hunting weapon may also serve as a long-range Defensive Weapon due to its intrinsic accuracy.  We will cover more of these factors when we explore Working Weapons in a later chapter. 


The requirement for a capable centerfire rifle in a common caliber is intuitive to many preppers.  And the options available in recent years have become almost overwhelming.  For example, when Tappan wrote in the 1970s there were only a few examples of "sports utility rifles" (commonly mistakenly called "assault rifles").  Now there are a huge variety of semi-auto action rifles available in multiple calibers, sizes and even colors.  The most popular firearm acquisition at the time of this writing is the AR-15 family of semi-auto sporters based on the venerable M-16/M-4 lined used by American and other military forces.  Many of these models were not around back at the time Tappan was discussing them.
Which means we have a much greater variety to choose from.  Let us jump right in and look at some considerations and options starting with Defensive Rifles:


1) The rifle picked should be known for reliability.
2) It should be in a common caliber.
3) Parts should be easy to find in times of relative peace in order to stock up.
4) The rifle should be powerful enough for its intended function.
5) It should be easy broken down for cleaning/maintenance purposes.

There are other calibers that could be used for defensive purposes, but due to the need for a common caliber we will stick with the most widely used.  For that reason we are going to look primarily at .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO, the Russian .30 caliber round (usually called 7.62x39mm), .308 Winchester/7.62x51mm NATO, and the venerable 30/06.

.223 Remington/5.56 NATO

Adapted from Wikipedia:

The .223 Remington is a sporting cartridge with almost the same external dimensions as the 5.56x45mm NATO military cartridge. It is loaded with a 0.224-inch (5.7 mm) diameter, jacketed bullet, with weights ranging from 40 to 90 grains (2.6 to 5.8 g), though the most common loading by far is 55 grains (3.6 g).

While the external case dimensions are very similar, the .223 Remington and 5.56x45mm differ in both maximum pressure and chamber shape. The maximum and mean pressures for some varieties of the 5.56 mm (different cartridge designations have different standards) exceed the SAAMI maximums for the .223 Remington, and the methods for measuring pressures differ between NATO and SAAMI. The 5.56 mm chamber specification has also changed over time since its adoption, as the current military loading (NATO SS-109 or US M855) uses longer, heavier bullets than the original loading did. This has resulted in a lengthening of the throat in the 5.56 mm chamber. Thus, while .223 Remington ammunition can be safely fired in a 5.56 mm chambered gun, firing 5.56 mm ammunition in a .223 Remington chamber may produce pressures in excess of even the 5.56 mm specifications due to the shorter throat.

WHATZ NOTES: I personally like this round as a defensive choice because of a few factors such as the number of rounds that can be carried due to the small cartridge size and the rifles it is available in like the Mini-14, AR-15, and others.  Many firearms people however think this round is not powerful enough for the intended purpose.  Your decision may be largely dictated by the type of rifle you ultimately choose but I recommend you spend some time exploring the various viewpoints of firearms gurus in print, online, and at your local range.


Adapted from Wikipedia:

The Soviet 7.62x39mm rifle cartridge was designed during World War II and first used in the SKS carbine.

The cartridge was likely influenced by a variety of foreign developments, especially the pre-war German GeCo, 7.75x39mm experimental round, and possibly by the late-war German 7.92x33mm Kurz ("Kurz" meaning "short" in German). Shortly after the war, the world's most recognized military pattern rifle was designed for this cartridge: the AK-47. The cartridge remained the Soviet standard until the 1970s, and is still one of the most common intermediate rifle cartridges used around the world. Its replacement, the 5.45x39mm cartridge, has less stopping power and armor penetration, but is highly lethal, has a flatter trajectory, and is more controllable in fully automatic fire due to the lower recoil. The change was in part a response to NATO switching from the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge to 5.56x45mm NATO.

On some occasions, this ammunition is referred to as 7.62 mm Soviet, 7.62 mm Warsaw Pact, or 7.62 mm ComBloc. It was also known in the United States as .30 Short Russian/ComBloc; the "Short" was to distinguish it from the older .30 Russian, which was the 7.62x54mmR. (Note that the "R" in 7.62x54mmR does not stand for "Russian", but "Rimmed".)

Hunting and Sport Use

Since approximately 1990, the 7.62x39mm cartridge has seen some use in hunting arms in the US for hunting game up to the size of whitetail deer, as it is approximately as powerful as the old .30-30 Winchester round, and has a similar ballistic profile. Large numbers of inexpensive imported semiautomatic rifles, like the SKS and AK-47 clones and variants, are available in this caliber. The SKS is so inexpensive as to have begun displacing the .30-30 lever-action rifles as the new "poor man's deer rifle" by being less expensive than the .30-30 Marlins and Winchesters that long held that role. In addition, Ruger produces the Mini-30 as a 7.62x39mm version of their popular Mini-14 rifles. Inexpensive imported 7.62x39mm ammunition is also widely available, though much of it is of the non-expanding type that may be illegal to use for hunting in some US states. However, both imported Russian ammunition like Wolf brand and American civilian manufacturers produce both hollow-point and soft-point rounds, which are suitable and nearly universally legal for hunting except in areas where the use of rifles for hunting is completely prohibited.

7.62x39mm ammunition has typically been one of the least-expensive centerfire rifle ammunitions on the market. It cost just over 17 cents a round for quality imported ammo in early 2006. In 2005/2006, prices began to soar (almost doubling in the US) due to the United States placing a massive order to supply the fledgling Afghan and Iraqi armies. Average price in early 2008 rose to 22 cents per round, bought in bulk packs of 500 to 1000. It is still cheaper than most handgun rounds and even some expensive target .22 rimfire ammunition. This cartridge has endeared itself to shooters in spite of its limited ballistics, because of the many inexpensive good semiautomatic rifles available for it, the availability of inexpensive ammunition, and because of its minimal recoil.

WHATZ NOTES: Due to the fact that it was such inexpensive ammo for such a long time as well as the two major offerings in this caliber (the SKS and AK families) this caliber is a favorite with a lot of preppers.  With ballistic characteristics very close to the well-loved 30/30 this round can be used for hunting as well.  Overall it is another fine choice like the .223/5.56mm NATO and commonly available. 

.308 Winchester/7.62x51mm NATO

Adapted from Wikipedia:

The 7.62x51mm NATO is a rifle cartridge developed in the 1940s and '50s as a standard for small arms among NATO countries. Specifications for the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge are not identical to the commercial .308 Winchester though they are safely interchangeable.

The cartridge itself offers similar ballistic performance in most firearms to the .30-06 Springfield that it replaced in U.S. service. Though shorter, standard loadings fire similar bullet weights at similar velocities. Modern propellants allowed the same velocity from a case with less capacity. The smaller case requires less brass and yields a shorter cartridge. This shorter cartridge allows a reduction in the size of the firearms that chambers it.

WHATZ NOTES: Some respected folks in the firearms community attest that this is the best caliber for survival/preparation purposes there is.  Unfortunately, most of the rifle options in this caliber are substantially more expensive.  Even so, this is indeed a full-power round compared to the .223 and 7.62x39mm options which is important to some peoples' considerations.  As stated above, look into all options and then decide what is best for your needs.  With offerings like the M1A, FAL, Saiga, HK91 and others there are numerous albeit expensive options.

30/06 Springfield (aka "Ought Six")

Adapted from Wikipedia:

The .30-06 Springfield cartridge (pronounced “thirty-aught-six” or "thirty-oh-six") or 7.62 x 63 mm in metric notation, was introduced to the United States Army in 1906 (hence “06”) and standardized, used until the 1960s and early 1970s. It replaced the .30-03, 6 mm Lee Navy and .30 US Army (also called .30-40 Krag). The .30-06 remained the US Army's main cartridge for nearly 50 years before it was finally replaced by the 7.62 x 51 mm (7.62x51mm NATO, commercial .308 Winchester). It remains the most popular big-game cartridge in North America, and among the most popular worldwide.

Commercially manufactured rifles chambered in .30-06 are popular for hunting. Current .30-06 factory ammunition varies in bullet weight from 7.1 g to 14.3 g (110 to 220 grains) in solid bullets, and as low as 3.6 g (55 grains) with the use of a sub-caliber bullet in a sabot. Loads are available with reduced velocity and pressure as well as increased velocity and pressure for stronger firearms. The .30-06 remains one of the most popular sporting cartridges in the world.

The newer 7.62x51mm NATO/.308 Winchester cartridge offers similar performance to standard .30-06 loadings in a smaller cartridge. However, the greater cartridge capacity of the .30-06 allows much more powerful loadings if the shooter desires.

WHATZ NOTES: This is the granddaddy of them all.  It was used by the US Military from 196 on in the old 1903 Springfields and M1 Garands, which are still both capable Defensive Rifles if you can find one in good shape.  It is a very capable round but correspondingly larger and more expensive than most of the other mainstream options. 


Okay, now I'm wading into a bit of a minefield.  Obviously there are MANY differences of opinion about which rifle is the best for a TEOTWAWKI scenario.  As such, there are many things to consider when exploring the possibilities.  Let's start with the type of action a particular firearm uses.


1) Semi-auto- For a defensive weapon this will probably be the best action for most people.  However, the potential for occasional jams and need for additional maintenance make this a contentious choice for some.  However, the fact that these firearms were initially designed for combat (although for that matter so were bolts, levers and pumps) make them the best choices for protective weapons in the minds of many.
2) Bolt-action- The legends of the feats of good bolt actions (like Sgt. Yorks 30/06 in WWI) are indisputable.  In fact, there are amazing stories of a Finnish sniper who took out 500 enemy forces during the Winter War against Russia in 1939-40 that might make one think these are a great option.  And they are... if you know how to use one effectively. 
3) Lever-action-In situations where the asthetics of an "EBR" (evil black rifle) might not be a good thing some people opt for the relatively fast lever action.  The "Redneck Assault Rifle" is an old design but a proven one.  And many of them have relatively good standard capacities in their tubular magazines. 
4) Pump-action-There are a small number of pump-action rifles that might be solid choices for defensive weapons, including the Remington 7615 which actually uses AR-15 magazines.  This is a relatively fast action as well and definitely an option where legal or other factors limit the availability of semi-autos. 

WHATZ NOTES: While I think all options have a possible place depending on your own personal preferences, there's a lot to be said for choosing the tool best designed for the purpose at hand.  That is the semi-auto hands down.  And with the current political climate it should also be your first purchase consideration as well.

With that said let's look at some options.  I'll highlight descriptive material from Wikipedia and go in roughly order of popularity in the preparedness community.


Adapted from Wikipedia

AR-15 (for Armalite model 15, often mistaken for Automatic Rifle or Assault Rifle) is the common name for the widely-owned semi-automatic rifle which soon afterwards became the fully automatic M16 and M4 Carbine assault rifles, which are currently in use by the United States military. AR-15 was the original name for what became the militarily designated M16, the assault rifle first used by the U.S. in the Vietnam War. The name AR-15 is now used almost exclusively to refer to the semi-automatic (commercially available) civilian version(s) of the M16 and M4 assault rifles.

All standard AR-15 rifles accept detachable magazines of widely varying capacities, and have a pistol grip that protrudes beneath the stock. AR-15 rifles are highly configurable and customizable, and are commonly fitted with several accessories, including bipods, bayonet lugs, folding or collapsing butt stocks, threaded barrels for the attachment of a flash suppressor or other accessories, and a Picatinny rail in place of the fore grip for the attachment of vertical grips, flashlights, laser sights, telescopic sights, and other accessories.

The AR-15 consists of separate upper and lower receiver assemblies, which are attached with two through-pins and can be quickly interchanged with no tools. Under U.S. firearms laws, only the lower receiver is considered a weapon and subject to purchasing restrictions. The upper receiver assembly is simply considered a part, and may be freely purchased and mail-ordered in most locations. This is a very attractive feature for enthusiasts, who often purchase a number of upper receivers (often in different calibers) and interchange them with the same lower receiver. However, one must be thoroughly familiar with firearms laws before doing this as it is possible to make an illegal configuration. For example, an 11" barrel with only a pistol grip is a legal handgun in most locations. Adding a shoulder stock, however, makes it a "short-barreled rifle" under NFA rules. It is a felony to assemble or possess such a weapon without prior Federal approval.

WHATZ NOTES: I have fired a few different AR-15s.  They are fun, accurate but somewhat expensive and becoming more so.  The .223/5.56mm round turns off some because of perceived lack of stopping power but they are used by our military for a reason; they work.  They have also become extremely popular because of the all the accessories you can hang on them and they are currently the most popular firearm selling in America according to several sources I've heard.


Adapted from Wikipedia

The AK-47 (contraction of Russian: ??????? ??????????? ??????? 1947 ????; Avtomat Kalashnikova obraztsa 1947 goda; "Kalashnikov's automatic rifle model of year 1947") is a 7.62mm assault rifle developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov in two versions: the fixed stock AK-47 and the AKS-47 (S—Skladnoy priklad) variant equipped with an underfolding metal shoulder stock.

Design work on the AK began in 1944. In 1946 the rifle was presented for official military trials, and a year later the fixed stock version was introduced into service with select units of the Red Army (the folding stock model was developed later). The AK-47 was officially accepted by the Soviet Armed Forces in 1949. It was also used by the majority of the member states of the former Warsaw Pact. The AK-47 was also used as a basis for the development of many other types of individual and crew-served firearms.

It was one of the first true assault rifles and, due to its durability, low production cost and ease of use, the AK-47 and its numerous variants remain the most widely used assault rifles in the world—so much so that more AK-type rifles have been produced than all other assault rifles combined.  (NOTE: The variants available in the US are civilian-legal semi-automatic functioning devices.  They are not true "assault rifles" in that they do not possess a selective-fire capability.)

WHATZ NOTES: The other very popular "black rifle" is the AK family imported mostly from Europe.  While these aren't as much of the "plug-and-play" aspect as the ARs they also have many aftermarket accessories that can be used to personalize them.  The AK is considered the most dependable defensive rifle available by many as it was designed to continue to work even in terrible conditions.  Variants are available in .223/5.56mm, 7.62x39mm (the most common) and the 5.45x39mm (AK-74 spinoffs). 



SKS (aka Simonov Carbine)

Adapted from Wikipedia

The SKS is a Soviet 7.62x39mm caliber semi-automatic carbine, designed in 1945 by Sergei Gavrilovich Simonov. SKS is an acronym for Samozaryadniy Karabin sistemi Simonova (Russian: ???????????? ??????? ??????? ????????), 1945 (Self-loading Carbine, Simonov's system, 1945), or SKS 45. The Soviets rather quickly phased the SKS carbine out of first-line service, replaced by the AK-47, but remained in second-line service for decades afterwards. It remains a ceremonial arm today. It was widely exported and produced by the former Eastern Bloc nations, as well as China, where it was designated the "Type 56", East Germany as the "Karabiner S" and in North Korea as the "Type 63". It is today popular on the civilian surplus market in many countries. The SKS was one of the first weapons chambered for the 7.62x39mm M43 round later used in the AK-47 and RPK.

The SKS is popular on the civilian surplus market, especially in the United States. Because of their historic and novel nature, Russian and European SKS rifles are classified by the BATF as "Curio & Relic" items under US law, allowing them to be sold with features that might otherwise be restricted. Chinese manufactured rifles, even the rare early "Sino-Soviet" examples, are not so classified. Because of the massive size of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, over 8 million Chinese SKS rifles were produced during their 20 years of use making the Chinese SKS one of the most mass produced military rifles of all time.

In Australia, the Chinese SKS rifle (along with the Russian SKS rifle) was very popular with recreational hunters and target shooters during the 1980s and early 1990s before semi-automatic rifles were banned from legal ownership in 1996. Since the introduction of the 1996 gun bans in Australia, the Mosin-Nagant series of bolt-action rifles and carbines have now filled the void created by politicians when the SKS was banned from legal ownership.
A sporterized SKS carbine fitted with an aftermarket composite stock and scope rail.

In the early 1990s, the Chinese SKS rapidly became the "poor man's deer rifle" in some Southern areas of the United States due to its low price, lower even than such old favorites in that role as the Marlin 336. Importation of the Chinese SKS into the USA was banned in 1994.

Due to its relatively low cost and widespread availability and usage, the SKS has spawned a growing market for both replacement parts and accessories. Many aftermarket parts are available to upgrade the rifle — sometimes so considerably that it bears little resemblance to the original firearm. This process, known as "sporterizing" (or by the somewhat derogatory terms "bubba'd"), may include items such as synthetic buttstocks, high capacity magazines, replacement receiver covers (which allow the mounting of scopes, lasers, etc.), different muzzle brakes, recoil buffers, bipods, and more.

WHATZ NOTES: I really like the SKS.  In fact, the first firearm I ever bought was an SKS when I became old enough.  Back then, ammunition was cheap so I bought a bunch and shot it up.  I still regret trading that rifle away, but have been able to shoot other examples in the intervening years.  They are very dependable, rugged, accurate (within their range at least) and still relatively inexpensive.  If you're planning to get more than one Defensive Rifle in order to have a spare or for other reasons, you can still get two or more of these for the price of one AR or AK.  At least for the time being.  

Ruger Mini-14/Mini-30/Ranch Rifle

Adapted from Wikipedia

The Mini-14, Mini Thirty, and Mini-6.8 are small, lightweight semi-automatic carbines manufactured by the U.S. firearms company Sturm, Ruger. The Mini-14 can fire both the popular .223 Remington cartridge and the similar military 5.56x45mm cartridge,[1]. The Mini Thirty uses the 7.62x39mm and the Mini-6.8 fires 6.8 mm Remington SPC. Since 2005, all models are marketed under the name Ranch Rifle.

In 1987, Ruger began production of the Mini Thirty. The Mini Thirty is chambered for the Russian 7.62x39mm cartridge, used in the SKS and AK-47, as many states prohibit hunting of deer with calibers smaller than 6 mm (.243 in). The 7.62x39 mm has similar ballistics to the well-known .30-30 Winchester. The Mini Thirty was only available as a Ranch Rifle, with integral scope base. Current production Mini Thirtys are similar to Mini-14's except for caliber.  In 2007, Ruger announced the Mini-6.8 utilizing the commercial 6.8 mm Remington SPC cartridge that has been growing steadily in popularity.

WHATZ NOTES: I always wanted a Mini-14 as a kid when I read through my dad's old survival magazines.  I've shot a few and they're fun and dependable with an action based somewhat on a downsized version of the M-14 (civilian version M1A) action.  However, they have really jumped in price if you can even find them.  I would also stick with the .223 version as there are more magazines and other accessories in that caliber as opposed to the Mini-30s and new 6.8 variants (In the interest of full disclosure I have not had a chance to fire the Mini-30s or Mini-6.8s and if you like those calibers they'd probably be good options for your consideration).  


In addition to this non-fiction book thread I'm working on here, I also posted the first chapter of a fictional story I'm writing called "Stronghold" over at the Survivalist Boards in their Books/Fiction subforum.  If you like preparedness/survivalist fiction check it out.  There are going to be a lot of ideas gathered from Jack's podcasts, as well as other sources, and I'm hoping it can teach some lessons and give ideas like "Patriots" and "Lights Out" do.


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