Apr 182013
Accuracy is of course important, but is mainly dependent on you, not your pistol choice.

Accuracy is of course important, but is mainly dependent on you, not your pistol choice.

This is the final part of a four-part article series on how to select the ideal pistol for preppers.  If you’ve directly arrived at this page, may we suggest you start reading from the first part – The Most Important Selection Criteria When Choosing an Ideal Pistol and then the second and third parts – Four More Selection Criteria to Choose the Ideal Pistol, and Caliber Issues When Choosing Your Pistol.

Phew.  So far we’ve covered some obviously important issues, some moderately important issues, and we’ve tried to persuade you that something some people consider of great importance – caliber – is actually not as important as you might have thought.  What else remains?

Here are four more factors to evaluate when choosing your ideal pistol for prepper purposes, and then, finally, a suggested ideal pistol for you to adopt.

9.  Size and Weight

How big and how heavy is the pistol?  Pistols range in size and weight from tiny pieces weighing well under a pound and fitting comfortably into a regular pocket to massive monstrosities weighing well over three pounds.

In general, bigger is better than smaller.  But there comes a point where monstrously big starts to become a negative factor.  Remember the primary purpose of a pistol is convenient portability – it is the ‘take with you everywhere’ gun.  For a really effective firearm, you need to sacrifice convenience and instead choose a rifle.

A larger – that is, longer barreled – pistol is slightly more accurate than a shorter barreled pistol,  The extra barrel length allows the bullet to better stabilize and probably emerge at a slightly higher speed and with slightly greater energy.  The extra barrel length also usually allows for a longer sight radius along its top – but note that accuracy is the second least important attribute we list for pistols.

A heavier pistol has two possible advantages as well as the obvious disadvantage of extra weight meaning more hassle to carry, and we again restate that you should not try to over-engineer and over-specify what you expect in your pistol.  A pistol is merely the gun you use to fight your way to your rifle – any real gun battle should always be conducted with a rifle, not a pistol.

On the weight issue, the heavier the pistol, the less stressful the recoil will be.  The weight of the gun ‘soaks up’ the recoil better in a heavy pistol than a light one.  Many people misunderstand this and think small light guns are the easiest to shoot – that is completely wrong, but we’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve heard either gun buyers saying ‘I want a light easy to shoot gun’ or an advisor (often a husband or father) telling someone (ie a wife or daughter) ‘choose that one, it is nice and light and easier to shoot’.

Secondly, a heavier pistol implies a pistol that has more metal in it, meaning less stress on the components because they are ‘over-engineered’ for greater life and reliability, and probably less sensitivity to individual cartridge configurations.  This is sometimes the case, but also sometimes not (for example the Hi-Point pistols which have very heavy slides as part of their simple blowback mechanism).

There’s one more thing about size.  A ‘normal’ sized pistol (ie 4 – 5″ barrel) is intimidating and may solve a problem without needing to be fired.  When a bad guy sees you confidently present your ‘normal’ pistol at him, he is more likely to back off than if you present a tiny little ‘pocket rocket’.

A tiny 2″ barreled pistol looks much less mean and scary, and because of that, it is more likely you’ll end up needing to use it ‘for real’.  Our feeling is that the intimidation factor is greatest with ‘normal’ pistols; if you have some ridiculous ‘tricked out’ over-size pistol, you start to look slightly foolish yourself and that also detracts from the overall ability of yourself to project a credible deterrent to whoever it is you’re encountering.

So we’re suggesting pistols with a 4″ – 5″ barrel and probably weighing 1.5 – 2.5 lbs as being best all-rounders.

10.  Ease of Carry and/or Concealment

Although we ourselves live most of the time in states where open-carry is lawful, we generally choose not to visibly open-carry our pistol(s).  In the ‘normal’ world, open carrying can place the person with the pistol at a tactical disadvantage, and requires them to always be conscious of who is around them and to be ready to fight to control the retention of their pistol from unexpected attacks.

It also shows any bad guys that you have a gun and where it is; you have no surprise factor at all in an encounter.  One more thing – rather than encouraging people to be polite and well-behaved around you, it can actually incite some fools (usually drunk) to provoke a confrontation with you, and the question ‘So what are you going to do about it, Mr Tough Guy?  Shoot me?’ is one we’ve heard expressed in such situations – situations where it would be totally inappropriate to present let alone fire your weapon.

So, in the normal world, our preference is to carry concealed.  That’s a whole discussion in and of itself, and may require some modifications to your choice of firearm.

But in an extreme adverse situation in the future, maybe the need to carry concealed is no longer as strong, and instead the need to be able to quickly access both your pistol and your extra magazines is of greater importance.  Maybe also, instead of potentially provoking encounters with people who know they can safely tease you with impunity, because if you as much as touch your pistol in a threatening manner, they’ll have the police lock you up so fast your feet won’t touch the ground (true); maybe in this case, in a situation where the rule of law has been suspended, people realize that it is an ‘every man for himself’ struggle, and that provoking a fight is more likely to create a tragic consequence for the provoker, and with no police likely to respond.

So our feeling is that concealability will be much less important when TSHTF, and that instead you will want to carry your pistol in a way that you can most quickly get at it – in other words, a traditional vertical no-slope outside the waist-band holster, and ideally with an obscured retention device for the holster if you’re likely to be in areas with higher densities of people.

By obscured retention device we do not mean an obvious SERPA style lock on the outside (away from your side) of the holster, and neither do we mean a strap with a snap catch over the top of the pistol.  Instead, we suggest a lever device of some sort on the inside (close to your side) of the holster that people can’t see and don’t realize is there – a ‘Level 3’ type holster such as, for example, this Bladetech product.

11.  Accuracy

We imagine some people have already left this article, shaking their heads in disgust at our lack of respect for the ‘importance’ of accuracy.

Yes, accuracy is important, but we place it in the second last position because almost any gun can outperform the person shooting it.  The accuracy/inaccuracy of a good pistol (such as this lovely Wilson Combat) might be +/- one inch at 50 ft when fired from a bench rest (the Wilson claims one inch at 75 ft).  But, in the field, with you shooting in a stressed situation, your accuracy will be +/- one foot at a 15 ft range (or maybe even worse).  The gun is 40 times more accurate than the shooter.

All accuracy is good, but any pistol that you’re considering is likely to have good accuracy to start with, and the path to better accuracy is not to buy a fancier more expensive pistol, but rather to train yourself to better use whatever pistol you do have.

So, in case it is not obvious, we do agree that accuracy is essential, but the path to accuracy lies not so much in your choice of pistol as it does in your choice to train yourself to use it accurately.

A factor which may impact on accuracy is the ‘ergonomics’ of the pistol.  If the grip is too large (or too small) that might have a measurable impact, but in general, with standard sized name-brand pistols, they’ll all massively outshoot you when it comes to accuracy – maybe only slightly so on a range, but massively so in a combat situation.

We’ve seen some people shoot well with one pistol and poorly with another, whereas other shooters have performed exactly the opposite.  Note that such a wide and random spread of results generally occurs with inexperienced shooters – the better skilled you are, the less your personal accuracy will vary with your choice of pistol.

A pistol is not designed to be an accurate weapon.  If you want or need accuracy, use your rifle.  Instead of being accurate to an inch at 50 ft, a good rifle is accurate to an inch at over 100 yards.

12.  Price

Last, and truly least, price.

Although we linked to a $3000+ Wilson pistol in the previous section, there’s almost never any need to spend over $1000 on a pistol, and many times you’ll find that $750 or less will be plenty to buy you the best possible pistol out there.  For example, Glock 17 pistols are selling on Gunbroker.com for $600 or less, and some local discount stores may sell them for as little as $550.

On the other hand, however, you have to wonder about guns that are ‘too low’ in price.  There’s a sweet spot from about $500 – $1000 which allows a gun manufacturer to make a no-compromise pistol that will function reliably and well; if you pay less than $500, there’s a worry that some cost saving strategy might impact on the gun’s ongoing reliability; and if you pay more than $1000, well, good luck to you, but don’t assume that just because the gun costs more, it is any better than one costing less than $1000.

Do you want to save a few hundred dollars on a tool that you’ll be trusting your life on?  No, we didn’t think so!  So, within the $500 – $1000 price range, focus on the gun and how it rates under the other 11 issues we’ve discussed on this and the other pages of this article series, rather than its price tag.

And the Winner Is?

We like guns.  We own guns.  Indeed, we like guns a lot, and own a lot of guns.  We happily ‘mix and match’ our carry guns from day-to-day, depending on what we’re wearing and where we’re going.  We have revolvers and semi-autos.  We have tiny pocket pistols in .32 caliber, and long-barreled .357 magnum revolvers.  We have .22 cal plinkers, and exotic ‘super-guns’ in exotic calibers (ie 5.7×28).  We have cheap guns and expensive guns, and we have – oh, heck, you get the picture.  We like all guns.  🙂

We like Sigs, Berettas, 1911s of all flavors, Brownings, Berettas, Walthers, H&Ks, and FNs.  Rugers are great, as are S&W, Springfield, and Colt.  And so on, through the long list of gun manufacturers.  You could present us with a pistol from pretty much any manufacturer and we’d sincerely thank you for the gift.  🙂

But if we had to choose one and only one gun to take with us into a serious survival situation, a gun that we could rely on working, every time, for many thousands of times, we don’t need to think twice what our choice would be.  By all the twelve measures above, we’d happily reach for our full size 9mm Glock 17 semi-auto.  Sure, we’ve added night sights to it, and adjusted the trigger, but we loved it and won distinctions with it as a totally standard pistol with no work on it whatsoever, and we just love it all the more now that we’ve tweaked it a bit.

Glock make four pistols in 9mm, and we have all of them (models 17, 19, 26 and 34).  The 19 is slightly more concealable than the 17, and the 26 slightly more concealable again, but we’ve found that we can always conceal our 19 just as readily as our 26, so the 26 sits unloved in the safe.  The 34 is a lovely gun, but somehow we find ourselves using our 17 as our ‘workhorse’ gun.

The current model Glocks are termed the ‘Gen 4’ series (because they are, sort of, the fourth generation of Glock pistols), and when they first came out, they had reliability issues.  But those issues have been resolved, although unfortunately they gave the Gen 4 series a bad reputation to start with – so bad that Glock decided to continue making the previous Gen 3 series alongside the Gen 4 until such time as the bad reputation faded.

You’ll sometimes find people who don’t realize that the updated Gen 4 series pistols are now as ultra-extraordinarily reliable as the Gen 3 pistols, and they will try to talk you out of choosing a Gen 4 for that reason.  Ignore them.

Other people will say ‘The Gen 3 is cheaper’; and while that is true, you get an extra magazine included with the Gen 4 which helps to bridge the price gap, and it is an all-round better gun.  As we said in the previous section, do you want to save $50 or less on a tool that you’ll be relying on to save you in an emergency?  Of course not.


In this extensive article series, spanning four parts and almost 8,500 words, we’ve looked at the issues that are relevant to you as a prepper for choosing an ‘ideal’ pistol.  If you were a target shooter, you’d have different criteria, and you’d have different selection criteria again as a soldier or police officer.  Our discussion is primarily for preppers.

Realizing that there is no such thing as an ideal pistol (or caliber) and that all choices embody many compromises and limitations, we none the less end up with the conclusion and recommendation that you outfit your retreat community with Glock 17 pistols.

This is the final part of a four-part article series on how to select the ideal pistol for preppers.  If you directly arrived on this page, may we suggest you start reading from the first part – The Most Important Selection Criteria When Choosing an Ideal Pistol and then the second and third parts – Four More Selection Criteria to Choose the Ideal Pistol, and Caliber Issues When Choosing Your Pistol.

Please also see other articles in our Defense category and Firearms subcategory in particular.

Jul 092012

There’s a bewildering variety of choice of rifles out there. Which one(s) is/are best for preppers?

One of the more polarizing aspects of prepping is that of firearms and their use, not just for hunting game but potentially for self-defense as well.

Some avid preppers prefer to have no involvement with firearms at all, and concentrate more on eco-sensitive sustainable living.  Others seem to devote most of their attentions to weapons and little to anything else.  We suspect, and gently suggest, that the best approach lies somewhere in the middle between these two extremes.

Like it or not, one of the preconditions for a Level 2/3 scenario is the failure of the rule of law, and if there is no-one else we can rely on to protect ourselves, our retreats, our stores and our families, we must be willing and able to do so ourselves.  While there are plenty of pejorative terms that are used to describe the gun-enthusiasts, there’s also a term that can accurately be used to describe the people who prefer to have no contact with firearms at all – they can also be known as, alas, victims.

In the lawlessness that will accompany a collapse of society, you must be prepared to protect and defend yourself, your loved ones, and your property, or else you’ll surely lose everything, having it taken from you by force.

We wrote before on why preppers usually own multiple firearms, and a reader subsequently wrote in to list the firearms he owned himself and why.

The reader referred to, more in passing than as a main part of his interesting commentary, owning some guns mainly due to the relative ease of finding ammunition for them as much as for any other reason.  This is a key point which we felt deserved its own article, so – some months later – here it is.

Choose Your Gun Calibers Based on Ammo Supply

In an extended period of social disruption, it probably goes without saying that people will run out of ammunition.  At the start of any period of social disruption, or just an increase in social anxiety and tension, you can expect to see ammo very quickly sell out in retail stores.

Indeed, even now, ammunition is in somewhat short supply – there have been ammunition shortages for much of the last four years; sometimes extreme in nature and sometimes patchy – both due to greater levels of buying domestically and also due to all the ammo being consumed in our various foreign wars which have been making it hard for the manufacturers to keep up with demand.  At present, ammo is getting in shorter supply again as people buy up prior to the November 2012 election – not due to any concerns about there being battles in the streets, but more due to concerns that if the present President is re-elected, he may act to restrict ammo sales.

Need we spell out that ammunition is definitely something you should stockpile?  It lasts a very long time (if stored in a cool dry environment, you’re probably looking at 50 years or more), and doesn’t take a lot of space.

Ammunition will skyrocket in value as soon as social disorder strikes.  It will become a valuable currency, although be careful who you sell bullets to, for fear of them being subsequently used against you!

The chances are that sooner or later, no matter how much ammo you start off with, you’ll end up running low yourself; or alternatively, you might come across some good value way of acquiring more ammo.  Other than to trade and resell on at a profit, ammo in a caliber that you don’t have any firearms chambered for is not very useful.  So for that reason, it makes sense to have firearms chambered for the most popular types of ammo.  That way, if you should come across a chance to pick up some more ammo on favorable terms, you can respond to the opportunity.

Similarly, if you run out of ammo, then if your guns use a common sort of ammo, you’re more likely to be able to buy some more than if they use a really strange uncommon type of ammo.

So, whether you want to have guns in common calibers to be able to use extra ammo if you have a chance to acquire some, or whether you want to have guns in common calibers to be able to get extra ammo if you need some, either which way, it makes sense to have a mix of different calibers among your firearms.

Here’s what we recommend.  And note that while we are talking about multiple rifles/pistols, we are not suggesting that you – as an individual – necessarily need to build up a huge arsenal yourself.  Instead, we use the term ‘you’ to refer, in the plural, to yourself and the other members of your group/community.


You should stock up on tens of thousands of rounds of .22 LR ammo, and have a range of rifles and pistols to shoot it.  The stuff is extremely cheap, as are the guns that use it, and .22 LR ammo takes up close to no space at all.  You can have ten times as many .22 rounds in the same space as you would ‘normal’ pistol/rifle ammo.

You’ll use your rimfire guns and ammo for training, possibly for ‘warning shot’ type self-defense, and for controlling small varmints.  You’ll not use these underpowered guns and ammo for ‘real’ self-defense however.


There is only one caliber of type of revolver to have – ones chambered for .357 Magnum ammo.  These will work perfectly well with both .357 MAG and .38 SPL ammo, which between them are far and away the most common/popular revolver ammo choice.

The .357 chambered revolver gives you ‘two for one’ because it works with both types of ammo.  We’re not suggesting you should stock .357 ammo in preference to .38 (most of the time we shoot .38 ourselves – it is cheaper and easier – less recoil – to shoot); we’re just saying to make sure you have revolvers that can accept either type of ammo.

Sure, a .44 Magnum or larger handgun comes with a higher dose of testosterone, but the ammo is scarce and expensive to start with, and will only get worse in a situation where ammo is hard to find at the best of times, and the gun isn’t very comfortable to shoot.  Furthermore, the .44 round isn’t really all that more lethal than a .357, and you can probably fire a .357 more accurately, definitely more comfortably, and more quickly than you can a .44 – in other words, you’ll get better results with the .357 than the .44.

And while there are also many other calibers – both bigger and smaller than .38/.357, none of them are worth considering due to their relative rarities and lack of special benefits.

Semi-auto Pistols

Here you have more choices to consider than with revolvers.  There are three main calibers in terms of popularity, which we’ll assess, more or less from most popular to least popular, as being 9mm, .45 ACP and .40 S&W.

Our suggestion – concentrate on the 9mm pistols and ammo for them, but also keep a small supply of .45 ACP and .40 S&W ammo, and pistols to use them too.  If you never need to use the .45 and .40 ammo, you can also use it as trade goods.

We don’t want to get into a debate about which is the ‘best’ caliber and cartridge.  You might believe that .40 or .45 cal pistols have more ‘stopping power’ and you might or might not be correct about that, although the most recent FBI studies are downplaying the importance of caliber entirely.  They have found that the most important factor in stopping power is not bullet caliber but the rapid placement of multiple accurate shots.  This is because all pistol calibers are ballistically ‘inadequate’, unlike most rifle rounds, they will stop an attacker only with a ‘lucky’ or a very well-placed shot.

We’re simply saying that in terms of a pistol caliber when prepping for a troubled future, 9mm is the best choice, not only because of its ubiquity but also because it is smaller and cheaper than the .40 and .45 calibers, and has less recoil, making it more easily controlled and handled by all shooters.

One more thing about these three calibers.  By all means, get reloaded 9mm or .45 ammo, but be careful with .40 reloads.  There is very little spare space inside the casing between the top of the powder and the base of the bullet, and if the bullet should be seated slightly too far, the pressures when the round is fired will be dangerously well in excess of what your pistol is rated to handle.

The other large size caliber of note is 10 mm, but it has never become very common or popular.  Ignore it.  There are many other uncommon calibers too – ignore them all.

Smaller sized calibers also exist, but most are too small/weak to be of practical use.  The one debatable exception is .380 ACP, and over the last five years or so there has been a huge increase in the number of pistols being made in this caliber, due to people wanting smaller sized concealable carry pistols.

You might want a smaller sized concealable carry pistol, in which case perhaps stock up with some .380 ammo as well as a pistol or two to use with it.  But this isn’t a caliber that is ever likely to be a major caliber that you’ll use in great quantities – if you ever have to use your .380 it will be only to fight your way to safety or to a larger caliber gun.


You’ll probably need more rifle caliber ammo than any other type of ammo (except perhaps .22 plinking ammo).  This is because you’ll use your rifles for hunting and as your primary self-defense weapon.

The number of rounds of ammo you’ll use for hunting won’t ever be too huge because hopefully you’ll typically be felling game at a rate of one animal per each well-aimed shot.  But if you find yourself having to fight off repeated attacks from gangs of well-armed marauders, you could quickly go through hundreds or even thousands of rounds of rifle ammo in a single session – not because you’re being attacked by that many opponents, but because your shooting is now a mix of ‘suppressive’ fire (keeping the other guys away) as well as more careful aimed fire to actually score hits on the bad guys.

There are three major military calibers – .223, also known as 5.56, .308 also known as 7.62×51, and 7.62×39.  There actually is a slight difference between .223 and 5.56, and between .308 and 7.62×51, but for our purposes and with modern weapons, they can be considered more or less interchangeably.

The 7.62×39 is the caliber that is used by the AK-47 and many other ‘communist’ bloc weapons (we use the quotes because most of these countries are no longer communist).  It is hard to find US manufactured 7.62×39 ammo – all the stuff we’ve knowingly encountered ourselves has been imported, so our guess is that in a major breakdown of society, there’ll be little more 7.62×39 ammo coming in.

For this reason alone we consider it the least favored of the three calibers; but having said that, there’s a huge inventory of this caliber ammo ‘out there’ at present.  People buy it in quantities of thousands of rounds at a time, and many people have AK (and the earlier SKS) type rifles to use it with, so as a trading good, it would be sensible to have some ammo, and it would also make sense to have some rifles that can shoot it too.  It seems that AK rifles are more tolerant of wear, damage, and dirt than are rifles chambered for .223 or .308.

One other consideration with 7.62×39 ammo.  Sometimes this ammo uses corrosive rather than non-corrosive primers, and we’ve heard, anecdotally rather than in our direct personal experience, that sometimes some of the ammo that is labeled as non-corrosive actually is corrosive.  Just about all other modern ammo out there, these days, uses non-corrosive primers, and it is easy to get ‘spoiled’ and not be as diligent with cleaning as is essential when using corrosive ammo.  If you are using 7.62×39 ammo, you will need to check to see if it is corrosive or not, and be more obsessive at cleaning your rifles.

The .308 round is a great dual purpose hunting/self-defense round, and we recommend this become your prime hunting caliber, and that you get some ultra-reliable very accurate bolt-action hunting rifles that are chambered for .308 accordingly.  The Remington 700 seems to be a well regarded rifle and is not unreasonably expensive.

The .308 round is larger, heavier, and more expensive than the other two of these three calibers.  It is also generally more lethal, and possibly superior in self-defense situations.  So if you have a semi-auto magazine fed rifle or two in this caliber, that would be a good thing too.

However, the same issues that saw the US Army and most other armed forces switch from a large-caliber round to a smaller caliber round apply with equal impact to you in your own self-defense requirements.  Smaller lighter rounds are easier to carry and store (and less expensive to buy), and rifles chambered for this round are easier to shoot (lighter and less recoil).  In most cases, the .223/5.56 is more than adequate for self-defense, although it is a less suitable round for hunting game.

We recommend that the major part of your rifle ammo be .223/5.56 accordingly, and that you have a number of AR-15 type semi-auto rifles to use with this ammo.

Now for a fourth caliber.  Until 1957 the main rifle used by the US Army was the M1 Garand, and chambered for the .30-06 cartridge, a cartridge first released back in 1906 for the Springfield M1903 rifle, and in use pretty much continually ever since.

Of all the ‘other’ hunting rounds (ie other than the .308) the .30-06 is far and away the next most common, due to its former military role.  While the ammunition isn’t quite as common as the other three types, it is the next most common, and it would be wise to consider adding some type of bolt-action sporting/hunting rifle to your collection in this caliber, and keeping some .30-06 ammunition in your inventory as well.

There are dozens of other hunting round calibers, but none of them are very common, and the same is true for the rifles in these other calibers.  Sure, they are often excellent calibers/cartridges/rifles for hunting and self-defense, but you’ll find the calibers/cartridges/rifles you have in these ‘big four’ calibers are more than sufficient for all needs, with one possible exception – see the next section.

Heavy Rifle

There is one important caliber and rifle family that you might wish to consider if you feel you may need to protect yourself against para-military groups deploying lightly armored vehicles against you.  That is the .50 BMG caliber, and some sort of rifle in that caliber to shoot it.

A .50 BMG Barrett or other rifle is very expensive, and the ammunition is very expensive too – both will cost you about ten times the cost of an AR-15 clone and ammo to go with it.  But having even a single rifle in this caliber and a few hundred rounds of ammo would give you a long-range stand-off weapon of stunning power and accuracy that could be used to keep bad people a long way away from you, and to punch through many types of cover to reach the bad guys sheltered behind.

Barrett and the other specialty heavy-caliber rifle manufacturers also make rifles in other calibers too, but these calibers are very unusual and hard to come by.  The .50 BMG is the most common of the heavy caliber cartridges out there, due to it being a military caliber cartridge used in various full auto military weapons.


Everyone is familiar with the classic 12 gauge shotgun.  There are other gauges available – usually smaller caliber gauges such as 16 gauge and 20 gauge and .410, and there are also larger calibers too – 10 gauge and 8 gauge.

But we suggest you don’t get distracted, and stick to 12 gauge only.  The smaller gauges (with the bigger numbers) are of little practical use, and the larger gauges (with the smaller numbers!) while being undoubtedly more powerful don’t really add much practical extra benefit in most normal situations.  The 12 gauge is close to universal in application and ammunition for a 12 gauge is the very most common type of shotshells you’ll find.

You’ll want to get some 00 buck shells and maybe some solid slugs for self-defense purposes, and birdshot shells in several different sizes for hunting birds (the smaller the bird, the smaller the size of shot needed, with – confusingly – the bigger the number of the shot type, the smaller the size of the pellets).

Shotshells come in different lengths – longer shotshells have more space in them both for more shot and for more explosive charge.  The 2 3/4″ length shell is the most common, but you should get shotguns that are chambered to accept 3″ shells too, so as to have more universal compatibility.  If you really wanted to, it would be appropriate to get shotguns chambered to accept the rare 3.5″ shotshells – they will still work perfectly well with the shorter shotshells too, and gives you even greater compatibility with all types of loads you might come across.

Most of the time, your self-defense weapon of choice will be your 5.56mm/.223 AR-15 style rifle, so you don’t need a lot of buckshot ammo for your shotguns.  Get more birdshot for bird hunting than buckshot for self-defense.


Your most important firearm in any Level 2/3 situation will be your rifle(s) – this is the best weapon for hunting with, and also for self-defense.  Shotguns can be useful for shooting birds, and in very limited situations, for self-defense too.

Pistols are of little or no value when hunting either game or birds, and are of minimal value as a self-defense weapon also, but they do have the benefit of being conveniently portable, so you’ll probably always have one with you, using it merely as a way to enable you to safely fight your way back into your retreat or to your rifle.

In addition to the guns you know you’ll need and use, if money allows, it would be prudent to buy some spare guns in other calibers, just in case you should subsequently have a chance to buy ammunition in a caliber that you wouldn’t otherwise have any use for.

If you were to buy only one gun, we’d recommend it to be a semi-auto .308 caliber rifle.  But hopefully, just like you don’t only have one knife in your kitchen or one screwdriver in your toolbox, you’ll choose to get a broader mix of firearms to serve a broader mix of purposes.

Because ammunition keeps a very long time, we recommend you keep a plentiful supply.

Apr 292012

How much ammunition - and how many guns - are enough?

We received an interesting response from a reader on the subject of how many guns a prepper should own, and when does it become excessive.

Here it is, slightly edited for form.

Thanks for your article on why preppers usually include firearms in their preparations.

I guess I’m a prepper of sorts myself (is there any definition of who/what a prepper is?) and wanted to share with you why I have more guns than you suggested.  Here’s a general sort of list of what I have and why :


1.  A .22 cal for plinking, training my children, practicing, and for small varmint shooting

2 & 3.  Two .223 cal for self-defense

4.  A 7.62×39 also for self-defense (in case I come across some 7.62×39 ammo and am low on .223 ammo)

5.  A .308 semi-auto for hunting or self-defense

6.  A bolt action .308 for hunting (commonality of ammo with #5 above)

7.  A .30-06 bolt action for hunting (due to the ubiquity of the .30-06 round)


1.  A long barreled multi-choke pump action 12 ga for shooting birds

2 & 3.  Short barreled 12 ga pump actions for self-defense


1 & 2.  Full size 9mm semi-autos

3.  Full size .45 cal semi-auto (as a spare, in case of running low on 9mm ammo and finding some .45 cal)

4.  Medium barreled .357 revolver (can take .38 too of course, another spare for ammo reasons)

5.  Sub-compact .380 semi-auto for concealed carry

6.  .22 cal for plinking and training and fun

Add all that up, and you’re looking at a total of not four or eight, but 16 firearms (and I’m not saying that is all I have, either).  But does that make me a ‘gun nut’?  I’m not even sure what or who a gun nut is, but I do know that some people would consider having this many guns to be seriously threatening.  It isn’t seriously threatening, it is just prudently preparing for a wide range of possible futures, especially to do with ammunition shortages.

I also read your comment about duplicate guns in case of failures.  That’s a good point – maybe I need to double up?  And as for how much ammo to store, that’s a good question too!

Anyway, thanks for the article.  I hope my comments add further to the discussion.

Apr 202012

The media love using pictures of seized 'gun caches' (which, by the way, are usually completely legal to own) such as this to vilify preppers and 'survivalists'. Note also how the shotgun on the right has been broken down to look like three different guns to the uninitiated.

Being a prepper often attracts unfair negative media attention.

Perhaps one of the reasons that the concept of preparing for disasters attracts so much automatic negativity is because non-preppers feel a semi-conscious mix of guilt and envy at seeing other people prudently preparing for emergencies.

But rather than admit this truth, non-preppers seek ways to sneer at and denigrate their more prudent fellow citizens, and one thing which they love to attack is the fact that the preparations many people undertake involve – along with hundreds/thousands of other things – purchasing a number of firearms and a quantity of ammunition.

Why do preppers usually own guns (and sometimes what seems like a ridiculous number of them)?  Are they all gun freaks?  Or is there a more logical reason?

We suggest there are two reasons why preppers have guns.  The first is to secure food by hunting, and the second is self-defense.

If one is in some sort of circumstance where there is no food coming in to the supermarkets, what does one do?  One does one of three things.

The first option is the least appealing – one simply starves.  And – yes, it is true one doesn’t need any firearms in such a case.  To be blunt, this is the option that, like it or not, non-preppers risk if there is a major disruption to our food supply (although see the third option below for their other alternative).

The second option is the most positive – one goes out hunting and fishing.  For sure, fishing doesn’t require a gun, and again, for sure, growing fruit and vegetables doesn’t require a gun either, but raising fruit and vegetables is not something that you can instantly start any time you wish, and start harvesting food the very next day.  Most crops are seasonal, and some trees take years to mature.  Getting fruit and vegetables might take a year or more to come on-stream.

Although fishing and growing crops does not require any firearms, hunting does.  So, people who are anticipating the possibility of running out of food, or who wish to augment and extend the supplies they have stored, need firearms – and ammunition for their guns – to go hunting.

Which brings us to the third option people have when they find themselves without food.  This is one that, alas, many people will have no choice but to adopt.  If they don’t have food, and if they have no way to hunt or otherwise gather food, and if they don’t want to just sit down and die, what will they have to do?

Yes, they’ll attempt to take food from other people.  And, in fairness, there’s no time for morality when a person’s life is on the line, is there, so one can understand why they would do this.  Not only can one understand why people would do this, prudent people will also anticipate such occurrences and plan and prepare for them.

Which puts the people who prudently prepared for food shortages in a difficult position.  They probably barely have enough food for themselves – why should they have to share their food with the same people who formerly would jeer and sneer at them, and who refused to similarly stock up and prepare for future problems?  This question is even more relevant and hard to answer if, by sharing their food, they then risk their own ability to survive in the process.

Even in cases where people aren’t risking death by starvation and attempting to beg or take food by force, other ugly encounters are likely to arise.  In any type of social disruption, looters quickly appear and seek to pillage and destroy property.

Preppers become prime targets for looters as well as for starving people seeking food wherever they can find it.

And – guess what.  Most preppers probably don’t want to be victimized and to passively allow all their time, effort, energy and money invested in their preparations be destroyed or stolen from them.

So – why do preppers have guns?  Simple.  For survival – both in the form of hunting for food, and in the form of self-defense.

How Many Guns Are Enough

If you are preparing for such challenges yourself, you will quickly determine that you need to have more than one gun.  You need two rifles for hunting – a small-caliber rifle for small game and varmints, and a larger caliber one for full size animals such as deer.  You also might want a shotgun for ducks and other birds, and a pistol for convenient ever-present self-defense.  Your shotgun and your larger caliber rifle would also be used for self-defense purposes too.

So that is four guns for one person, as a minimum – and if you’re preparing for an extended period of emergency, you might want to double up in case a gun fails and needs to be replaced.  So now we are looking at eight firearms for one person, and remember this is still a  minimum quantity (even though it sounds like a huge number to some people).

That sure sounds like a lot, until you understand the reasoning behind it.  Guns are tools, with different guns being better for some tasks than others.  For a comparison, how many knives do you have in your kitchen?  All knives cut, just like all guns shoot.  But different knives are better or not so good for different tasks, so a professional cook typically has a ‘set’ of many different knives, from tiny boning knives up to huge meat cleavers.  Plus he has a few old knives that still stay in the drawer, even though they are no longer used, and he probably has a couple of other knives he bought but never uses because they weren’t as good as he thought they might be.

It is the same with guns – indeed, it is safer to have multiple guns, because then you can best select the most appropriate gun for each task and use it most appropriately.

So, if one person has eight guns (four main guns and four spares), how many for two people?  Two people would want to have eight guns plus maybe just one (rather than two) sets of four spares – 12 guns for two people.  Three people might call for 16 guns, and so on.  Happily there is no law against owning multiple firearms and no restriction on how many guns anyone can own, so why not get as many as are prudently needed for a range of different future tasks.

Next of course is the question of ammunition.  Ammunition is small and compact so doesn’t take up much storage space, and lasts a long time (definitely in excess of ten years, usually in excess of twenty years if stored reasonably well) and is reasonably inexpensive.

Ammunition is also an excellent trading good.  If two people meet during an emergency, they might decide to swap things that they each respectively either have spares of and need some of in return, and ammunition in common calibers is definitely something that has huge value as a trading item in troubled times.  So how much to store?

That is one of the big questions preppers have to confront with everything they choose to stock up on, of course.  In the case of ammunition, one single bullet might represent the ability to fell a deer, providing enough food for everyone present for a week, or to save a life in a confrontation, and by the same token, the lack of a bullet might mean starving or being overrun and subjugated by lawless marauding hordes of looters.

Each of the four guns will require a different caliber of ammunition, and within that caliber, there will be a range of different bullet shapes, weights, and styles.

It seems prudent to lay in a stock of some thousands of rounds of ammunition accordingly, in a mix of the four different calibers, and with a range of different bullet types (and shot shell types).  Ammunition isn’t a large cost item, doesn’t take up too much space, won’t need to be thrown away unused due to short storage life, and is a key component of assuring the ongoing safety and survival of the group of people owning it.

Are Too Many Guns Dangerous or Threatening?

The media love to talk about ‘survivalists’ having huge caches of weapons and hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition as if this implies some degree of crazed intent on the part of the person owning the guns and ammo.

There is an unspoken implication that a person with two guns is twice as dangerous as a person with one, and that a person with ten guns is ten times as dangerous.  The same strange math is applied to ammunition – a person with 1000 rounds of ammo is ‘obviously’ more dangerous than a person with 500 rounds, and a person with 5,000 rounds is even more dangerous again.

This is nonsense.  The reality is simple :

A person can only shoot one gun at a time, and the gun they are using can only shoot one bullet at a time.

Having two or ten guns doesn’t make a person any more dangerous than having only one gun.  If it did, our professional soldiers would be equipped with dozens of guns.  Professional soldiers only have one or sometimes two guns (ie rifle and pistol); the same is true of most police officers too.  If owning more guns did truly make a person more dangerous, maybe there would be laws against it.

It is the same as cars and petrol, perhaps.  A person can only drive one car at a time, and the one car he is driving only goes at a certain speed with a certain amount of power, no matter if the tank is full of gas or nearly empty.


While guns hopefully and happily play a small part of our ordinary day to day lives, if there should be a disruption to our lives and the society in which we live, we may need to return to the ways of our forefathers and rely on guns more than we need to at present.

Prudent people, preparing for possible problems in the future, will include guns in their preparations both for the ability to hunt food and for prudent self-protection.

If you’re not a prepper, you have nothing to fear from preppers with guns.  They won’t need to use them against you, because you, as a non-prepper, by definition, will have nothing they want or need.  You should instead be concerned about other non-preppers with weapons, who might believe you have something they want or need, whether it be something essential for survival such as food and shelter, or something as irrelevant as a big screen television.