Joe the New Prepper has got a pretty good plan in place to accumulate water, food, medical supplies, toiletries and other necessities for his family for in the event there is an occurrence that prevents “doing business as usual”. In time, through careful study, it occurs to him that he has no provision for defense of his family and goods, besides the noisy Chihuahua and a well used softball bat that mostly reminds him of how much more athletic he was before he turned 40.
Invariably he realizes that the best way for him to even the odds is to acquire a gun. Or two. But Joe has no firearms experience and he quickly runs face first into the myriad of information, choices, calibers, manufacturers, styles, accessories and on and on.
Daunted, Joe approaches his neighbor Dennis, who Joe knows has at least a couple of guns. A half hour of conversation with Dennis leaves Joe more confused…Dennis talked to him like he already knew all about something which he-Joe-knows little to nothing. An hour perusing a few blogs on line helped to confuse Joe even more. “This is the best, that is the best, you need one of these, you actually don’t need one of these”…too much contradictory information left Joe feeling a little more than hopeless. So Joe decided to hop in the car and find a few gun stores. At the first, Joe got the blank “idiot” stare-like “if you don’t already know this, it is beneath me to explain it”. The guy at the next store answered Joe’s questions with the question “How much money have ya got?” In a half a day’s time Joe felt like he’d heard more, and actually knew less than he ever did about defensive firearms. Poor Joe.
Let’s cut to the chase. Point by point.
1. What’s the best handgun for defensive purposes?
The best handgun for defensive purposes is a combat worthy (this is key) handgun that fires a bullet that you can well manage for rapid follow up shots that fits your hand. It must be reliable, durable and “combat accurate”. Combat accurate is capable of 4 inch groups at 25 yards. A combat worthy semi auto is probably going to run you between $550 to $600 minimum, and easily upwards of that. If a weapon is issued to any major military or police force it is likely combat worthy. The point being that the weapon has been built and tested to endure thousands of rounds of fire with minimal stoppages (jams) in less than ideal conditions. You’ll quickly find someone that swears that their $200-300 handgun “goes bang every time”. But the question remains “Is the weapon such that I’d trust the defense of my loved ones to it?”
Typically, a defensive handgun is going to be a semi auto, due to rapid reload capability, but there is nothing wrong with a quality revolver in the hands of well trained shooter. It takes well trained fingers to reload a revolver (with speedloaders) approaching the speed of a semi auto, though.
A handgun, because it is small and shoots a medium-to-heavy bullet at medium velocities is a marginal man-stopper. It is not a main line defensive weapon, but they are handy to carry, and serve as a great backup in a true, self defense emergency.
Calibers are various and the things to bear in mind-how comfortable/manageable is it to shoot, esp. for follow up shots? How available is the ammo? If I have to “forage” for ammo some day, how likely is it I will find this caliber” For my money .22 LR, 9 mm, .40 SW, .45 ACP and .38/.357 mag are the only logical choices. They are available, they are popular, and (except the .22) they all provide an acceptable level of stopping power. Stopping power is a function of bullet weight and bullet velocity, and is usually measured in foot/lbs of energy, and typically it will be noted on the box of factory manufactured ammunition. There are several other calibers out there, they just don’t pass all the tests. Some are too powerful to effectively manage in a defensive scenario, some are to weak to be effective, some are not at all likely to be forage-able.
2. How many magazines should I have?
You should have at least three spare mags for each handgun at a minimum, and twice that is ideal. In a protracted WROL, mags will eventually break, wear out, get lost. For magazine fed defensive rifles, 10 mags per weapon is a good minumum.
3. Should I rotate my magazine(s)?
(That is to unload the magazine periodically to “rest” it).
NO. Steel springs have a fatigue limit, like all steel, and compression/decompression is what causes the spring to fatigue. Ideally, one has a small set of “range mags” that get used regularly, and other mags that simply remain loaded, and beyond that a few more that remain in the packaging and won’t get loaded until replacements are needed. Spare mag followers and springs can help restore old mags to good working order, so its not a bad idea to garner a few of those once you’ve rounded out your other preps.
4. If I get a semi auto defensive rifle what kind should I get?
First of all, a rifle is a much better defensive platform than a handgun due to stopping power and magazine capacity considerations, so in my mind, a rifle is kind of a must. And like handguns, a combat worthy weapon is practically mandatory. There are some inexpensive options out there, but my question, again, is “is this a weapon that I’d trust my family’s safety to?” That said, if resources are limited, a $600 weapon is better than none. Things to look for in a defensive rifle-the metallurgy of the barrel-“cold hammer forged”, “chrome lined” are good places to start. This assures longer barrel life. One thing I tend to avoid in a defensive rifle-barrel is stainless steel. You don’t want the extra glare, and some makers will use a less expensive 416 stainless steel due to ease (expense) of manufacture, and such products have proved to be less than durable, showy as they are. AR type weapons and AK type weapons are abundant and are chambered in calibers that are plentiful and likely forage-able in a tough situation. My practice is to stay away from cartridges that will be hard to come by if times get hard. A shotgun is also a great defensive platform at close ranges.
5. What kind of accessories do I need for my AR, or other defensive rifle or shotgun?
Number one-you guessed it-plenty of magazines. Then, a sling and a reliable way to attach it to the weapon. A sling provides that you can carry the weapon hands free and practically at the ready, which helps a ton if you have to: look at a map, forage berries, field dress a rabbit, forage firewood, build a shelter, eat your dinner, etc., etc., etc. Don’t cheap out on a sling. There are a bunch of good ones out there. Be thinking in the $50 to $75 range. A flashlight that you can affix to the weapon is also a plus. A scope might be handy, depending on the ranges you’ll be operating in, and many folks like the red dot or holographic sights. I like the holographic over the red dot, because the holographic doesn’t actually project light out onto the target, which helps you stay unseen. The main rule is to be trained and able to use the iron sights first, then consider augmenting the sighting system on your rifle. Things break, and batteries wear down, so its good to be competent with the basics before going on to the fancy stuff.
There are also boatloads of modifications one can make to an AR, or other types of defensive rifles, and a person can spend alot of money adding features and gear to one’s weapon. My rule is KISS-Keep is Simple Silly. In a nutshell, I don’t have unlimited money to spend on unlimited gear. I also don’t want to tote around a weapon that weighs ten pounds or more, when I can keep that closer to seven or eight pounds. Lastly, and for me most importantly I almost never augment a weapon with custom features if I feel that the features may erode my ability to operate with a similar weapon in stock trim. That is to say, if I have all the latest and greatest fancy stuff on my AR, and in the course of events I am forced to fight with my enemies’ weapon and his weapon is without all the “extras” could I be then handicapped in my ability to operate the weapon? In Chuck Yeager’s words, “Its the pilot, not the plane”. My ability to defend myself and my family should be a function of my training and my mindset, not my gear. That said, if, due to some impairment like arthritis or missing digits, a person needed an extended charging handle or a different trigger group, then it is what it is, and that person can be grateful someone thought up a devise to make the weapon usable. Short of that situation, I tend to avoid alot of the customization that is available for today’s weapons.
6. What else do I need?
We already covered magazines, so obviously ammo in abundance. You’ll have to decide how much of your financial resources you want to devote to that, but consider that in a really bad situation ammo will be as good as cash or better. You’ll also need holsters for your handguns-another area to not cheap out. A good quality belt. Mag pouches for spare mags. A pouch you can hang on your belt to put emptied magazines into. A good cleaning kit, spare gun oil, and extra cleaning solvent. Water tight containers (like surplus ammo cans) to store extra ammo in. Spare batteries if you have a flashlight on any of your weapons and/or for your holographic sight. And, as you round out your preps, spare firing pins, , recoil springs, mag springs and followers, bolt carrier groups. Redundancy, baby! And don’t forget training. “If you want to be good at a thing, do it 10,000 times!”
7. How many guns do I need?
“One is none and two is one”. When building a battery consider, for instance, that it may be more helpful to have two Glocks, or two Sigs, rather than one of each. Why? Because if one breaks, you can salvage parts from the one to keep the other running. Also, it minimizes the training aspect as you need be familiar with as few weapons as possible. Further, consider the applications. You may need to hunt to survive, so a bolt action gun in .308 gives you alot of versatility, as well as a shotgun (12 gauge is the order of the day, due to the possible necessity of foraging for ammo). .22 caliber handguns and long guns also add alot of versatility to one’s battery. Also, consider how many people will be in your group, and how to best suit their defensive abilities and needs.
8. Where can I go for more info?
Let me say, I’d be happy to answer questions if I can. Secondly, find a local gun store that wants your business bad enough to treat you like they do want your business, to answer your questions thoroughly, and to let you handle a variety of weapons to find the type/style/manufacturer that best suits your needs and your price range. If the person at the gun store tries to talk down to you, turn around and leave. You’ll find someone out there that wants to earn your business. The internet is also a great resource, but one does have to wade through a bit of nonsense at times to find the nuggets.
Remember – Safety First!
1. Treat every gun as though its loaded at all times.
2. Never put your finger in the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot.
3. Never, ever, point a weapon at anything you are not willing to destroy.
4. Double, then triple check to be sure a weapon is unloaded when handling.
5. Educate your family members on how to safely operate the weapons.
6. Store the weapons properly to be sure that no unattended individuals, especially children, can gain access to the weapons without your supervision.
Get all the training you can. Youtube has tons of videos relating to such.
By no means am I any manner of expert. However, I’ve studied the field carefully and I have more than a couple of decades experience with defensive firearms. While I probably haven’t even scratched the surface of all the questions that come up for someone that is new to firearms, I hope this has been helpful.
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