The six basic requirements for a firearm to be classified as a survival firearm, and in this article, we will cover each requirement so that you can make an informed decision when picking a survival firearm.
Six requirements for a survival firearm
To put it succinctly, your tactical preparation guns must, I repeat must be absolutely drop-dead reliable. It’s critical that every time you pull the trigger, you must get the proper bang with the appropriate projectiles leaving the muzzle. Reliable right out the box the gun came in is best. I don’t like guns that take a relatively long break-in period before they can be considered reliable.
In this age of CNC machining and with the modern materials that are available, I don’t feel there are a lot of legitimate excuses for break-in periods.
Give me a weapon that runs flawlessly, right from the box, without doing anything to it. I don’t care how trendy or popular the gun is in whatever circle or how much of a status symbol it may be to own; neither is of value for this purpose.
If you have to make an emergency evacuation, who are you going to get to fix that fancy (or extremely inexpensive) gun when it goes down?
It isn’t likely there will be a gunsmith in the crowd of angry, dangerous people attempting to surround you and your family who will volunteer to fix your weapon so that you can go ahead and defend yourself with it.
Your preparation gun needs to be able to take a beating without functional damage, especially guns intended for evacuation or travel. They need to function with a lowered levels of maintenance by you. There will be no supply line available to keep you and your gear up and running.
Your weapon choices should not be a type that will require replacement parts like new springs every few thousand rounds or other specialized services for the duration of the conditions.
When I talk about survival conditions, I don’t mean conditions one might encounter on the weekend camping trip or hike. I am talking about dirty, dangerous, painfully brutal conditions, conditions where you will be short of food, water, and medical supplies because of limited carry capacity. Too, you may be injured or ill.
I will be 61 later this year. Contrary to what some may believe, I feel I am still in good shape, but carrying heavy gear around on foot over long distances in terrible conditions doesn’t appeal to me much anymore.
So, do you think I’m going to want to lug around a fancy, piston-driven, heavy-barreled M4-type carbine with its acres of Picatinny rail and every accessory under the sun mounted on it for hours per day, maybe for multiple days?
How about the excellent and capable Springfield Armory M1A SOCOM II, which weighs in at 10 pounds without anything attached to the rails?
You think you can handle it now, sitting there reading this from the comfort of your armchair, but check with me after a day or two of dragging around these kinds of guns under the conditions I’m describing.
The tactical preparation gun needs to be simple to operate in all facets, including loading, clearing, making safe, and firing. This aspect is especially important in terms of getting the weapon to run from an empty and unloaded state if that’s how it’s stored.
Is there anything in the “make ready” process that you’ll easily screw up?
There is always something that someone can mess up, but let’s choose a system that keeps that potential to a minimum.
So, how quickly can you go from empty to boom without injuring yourself or someone else?
For me, simplicity also means you aren’t hanging bucketful of equipment from your tactical preparation firearm. That includes flashlights and most electronic sights. I know I’ll catch flack over that statement, but I think that the K.I.S.S. principle reigns supreme here.
The more electronic equipment you have on your weapon to rely on, the more likely it is to break under extreme conditions. Yes, I know we use these items on S.W.A.T., and the military makes extensive use of these items in combat, but both those circumstances are supported circumstances.
You won’t be supported in the same way. Your supplies will be finite, and unlike S.W.A.T., your weapons will be in use constantly (even in terms of just being carried).
How many types of batteries do you want to store at your home or lug around during travel?
How much advantage do you really get from that red dot sight?
Don’t get me wrong, during normal/peace times for law enforcement or civilian use and where resupply is not a problem, add whatever additional pieces of equipment you feel you need. But weapons selected for use in conditions of complete societal disruption should be capable of being brought to ready instantly, with minimum action needed on the part of the operator.
There should be no knobs to fool with, buttons to push, systems to check, or batteries to test. This is the same principle I empower when it comes to recommending police patrol rifles and shotguns for the department-wide issue.
The guns stay in their basic iron sight format. No electronics are allowed unless the weapon is personally owned and departmentally approved. This way, the individual officers not only can decide what and how many accessories they feel will be beneficial to them but how much additional gear they want to be responsible for.
Want this in simpler terms?
Your survival firearm, unless it is for shelter-in-place long-range precision, should be one you would be able to bury in the ground (in a protective container, of course), come back to months later, dig up, and be able to fire without failure
Survival guns must be effective in terms of completing the task assigned to them. This means that you can only evaluate a particular weapon based on what it is designed to do in order to judge effectiveness.
Let’s take the example of the 5.56mm AR-15 and its variants which work very well for a number of tactical purposes. In terms of dealing with single or multiple aggressors within 300 meters, it is generally very effective.
However, if a 5.56mm AR is the weapon you choose to take with you for protection against grizzly bears in the wilderness, then its effectiveness rating, and your I.Q., would be very low. If your primary mission is to address single/multiple human threats at ranges within 300 meters, there are a number of possible weapons choices for this purpose.
Of course, some choices will be better than others, and there are also survival firearms that may be chosen for this purpose that are totally unsuitable, and that’s what we are trying to avoid. Effectiveness in terms of a survival firearm used for defensive/ assault purposes includes its potential ability to hold off, stop, or turn away large masses of people.
Some firearms are extremely effective in stopping single offenders due to the amount of destructive energy each particular round puts out, but due to lower ammunition capacities, they would not be effective in dealing with a large number of assailants.
If you’ve seen the Black Hawk Down movie, you may remember that the two Delta sniper team members lost their lives after they volunteered to protect the downed chopper pilot (who was later captured) from hordes of assailants.
As depicted in the motion picture, the snipers were armed with 1911 .45s as their secondary weapons, but the ammo supply for the pistols was exhausted in short order. The .45 was very effective in its basic mission of personal defense. However, it was impractical in terms of being able to hold off large masses of angry, determined assailants. The lesson here is that, in order for a weapon to be effective for survival, it must have the highest magazine capacity possible.
While shelter-in-place guns can be of a wide variety of calibers since you will have room to store plenty of ammo, any evacuation gun should be chambered for calibers commonly available and popular in any locale, in case you are forced to resupply on the move.
I love the 6.8 SPC. In fact, my department sniper rifle is chambered in that caliber. But it is not the gun I am going to take with me when I evacuate, even if I had an M4 carbine chambered for it.
Stick with the calibers that are popular with civilian shooters, law enforcement, and military users, where not only ammunition is more likely to be available, but also magazines for your weapons.
The layered defense
Layering your defense is one of the most basic principles in dealing with multiple threats. It simply means that, ideally, we should have different survival firearms that are particularly effective for different distances.
If you plan to hunker down for the long term, this principle becomes of the greatest importance. If you are planning to bug out instead, it will mean that you have fewer specialized firearms that you will need to make work in a wider variety of circumstances. This is unless you have an exceptional transportation system. In general, the weapons selected should cover these basic ranges/conditions:
Military snipers can get kills out to 2,000 yards or so. However, this performance is hard to be obtained by the average Joe and is reserved for a few highly trained individuals with very specialized rifles, mostly bolt guns.
If we think of the average prepper or law enforcement officer, “long-range” can be considered anything beyond 100 yards, especially if we take into account that targets may shoot back.
In these situations, a semi-automatic rifle equipped with a lighted reticle variable scope of no more than 15-power works extremely well, although certain battle rifles with precision iron sights are also effective. Full-power battle cartridges on the order of .308 or .30-06 are excellent performers for this challenge.
Here, we must consider anything from 100 yards down to about 25 yards. For this, several survival firearm types come to mind, but basically, a high-cap semi-automatic rifle of intermediate caliber reigns supreme.
Close Quarter Battle
CQB or 25 yards down to eye-gouging distance requires high-capacity semi-automatic rifles, shotguns, pistols, pistol-caliber carbines, and edged weapons. The intermediate semi-auto rifle, especially with a bayonet affixed, is an excellent choice, as well.
Resources you might need:
How to build an underground shelter for less than $400
The only survival tree you should grow in your backyard