What firearms do you feel are most appropriate for long term survival and why?
(Dr. Bones says: Each day this week we will answer a question posed to us that is also being asked of 6 other preparedness bloggers. We will all answer the question on the same day; be sure to go to the other sites linked at the end of today’s response to see what they have to say. Also, feel free to answer the question yourself in comments!)
As a nurse and physician team, we don’t claim to be experts in firearms although we certainly have our ways of assuring our home and personal defense. I won’t state exactly what weapons we may have personally, but I will give you our strategy to economically and efficiently put together an appropriate store of firearms that will make sense for you. There are many, many differing opinions on this subject; this article is one from an admitted amateur.
From the standpoint of weapons, you will want to first have something that can serve the purposes of hunting and personal defense. For this, I would consider the shotgun to be the best place to start. A shotgun will allow you to hunt, sometimes inefficiently, just about anything you don’t mind picking buckshot or birdshot out of. It can also quickly end a home invasion in a decisive manner.
For those unacquainted with shotgun ammo, buckshot is essentially a lead load (or steel, tin, tungsten, polymer, etc.) that contain relatively large balls encased in a plastic 2 ¾ – 3 ½ inch “shell” with a metal base containing powder. They have more penetrating power than birdshot , which is composed of, usually, larger numbers of smaller balls. Shot diameter is offered in many sizes. It is measured in a traditional fashion, with 000 buckshot (pronounced “triple-ought”) being larger than 00 (pronounced “double-ought”). The larger the diameter of the ball, the more penetrating power, very useful when hunting big game like deer. The larger the number of balls, the larger the spread as the shell is fired, which gives you a better chance of hitting a bird in the air. Barrel length is also a factor here, with a “sawed off” shotgun having a larger spread pattern than a longer one.
The most commonly found shotguns are 12 gauge or 20 gauge. Gauge represents the inside diameter of the barrel, or “bore”. For 12 gauge, the diameter is 18.53 mm or 0.729 inches; 20 gauge is smaller at 15.63 mm or 0.615 inches. As a result, 20 gauge shells contain less powder and shot. This is, actually, an advantage, as you will have less recoil. Anyone who has fired a shotgun has experienced its recoil and, for petite individuals, it’s not pleasant and may disturb your aim. Therefore, a 20 gauge shotgun may be a good choice for a smaller, less experienced individual. Many, however, consider the 12 gauge more versatile.
For home defense, you must consider whether you want improved stopping power (Buckshot) or a higher likelihood of hitting an intruder (Birdshot). With 00 Buckshot, for example, you run a greater risk of having balls go through a wall of your home and striking innocents inside. With Birdshot, penetration is less and the likelihood of collateral damage is smaller, but so is the likelihood that you won’t end the confrontation decisively.
Once you have your shotgun, you might consider a rifle. Rifles have much greater accuracy at a distance than shotguns or handguns, and will be very useful for hunting purposes. Traditional hunting rifles are chambered in relatively large ammo, capable of dropping big game easily with a well-placed shot.
Since 9/11, many have obtained AR or AK platform rifles, for home defense. I won’t get into which is better here, as that conversation is more worthy of an entire book than a blog article. Home defense issues could be overpenetration with collateral damage, or a lack of stopping power when a bullet passes right through an intruder. In these circumstances, an invader can continue his assault before he bleeds to death. Newer rounds such as the Winchester’s .223 PDX1 are designed to fragment even more easily than standard AR ammo, decreasing the chances of overpenetration and causing more damage. Some have had their AR’s chambered in larger ammo to better serve the dual purposes of hunting and defense. AK rounds are acceptable for deer, but the classic issue of accuracy at long distance exists. Here’s an article on the assault rifle as hunting tool:
If you are not in a SHTF situation, remember that some states do not allow you to hunt with a semi-automatic weapon.
Which leads us to handguns. Handguns have relatively heavy ammunition in short barrels, and are less accurate than longer-barreled rifles. They have limited usefulness as a hunting weapon. For ease of carry, they may be useful in the hands of a trained person for home defense. I consider them a secondary gun for protection purposes. Having said that, handguns are very popular and most preparedness folk have them and, hopefully, know how to use them. I consider GLOCK to have an excellent, durable, and affordable line of handguns chambered in various calibers. There are many other excellent handgun manufacturers, like Sig Sauer, Ruger, Beretta, etc. The larger the caliber, the more recoil. The shorter the barrel, the less accuracy. Most revolvers have longer barrels, but I prefer the speed and simplicity of loading a magazine.
If you are in a survival group, consider the importance of uniformity in your selection of firearms. It is much simpler for everyone to use similar ammunition and weaponry, as everyone can use everyone else’s ammo in a pinch and a broken-down weapon will yield replacement parts for working guns. As many people already have some firearms in their possession, be prepared for a lively conversation.
So, there you have it, a discussion of survival weaponry from a complete amateur. We do regularly train with our guns, however, and this is the most important aspect of owning firearms. If you aren’t used to using a handgun, rifle, or shotgun, consider training classes. If you don’t, you will be more of a liability than an asset in a hunt or a defense situation. In that case, it’s a good idea to read some of our articles on treating traumatic injuries!