Thanks to all those who have commented so far on the 'question' post from Monday. It's good to get a gauge for where everyone is before launching into any discussion on a topic.
Based on those comments, I wanted to talk through the firearm part, since several folks seem to be figuring that out. There's no reason to worry about a holster before you've bought the handgun, a sling before you've bought the rifle or how you will carry magazines if you have neither.
And, I will preface this and future conversations by recommending having some emergency savings, food and water storage and other basics before diving into the deep end of fighter gear. I'd also recommend an assessment of risks that you see yourself facing and whether you would play an active role in the defense of your community or whether a support role might be more appropriate.
If you are skeptical of the need for a citizen to take up arms in defense of his community, religion, nation or liberty, please keep your skepticism to yourself and do a little bit of reading on both historical and current events.
Anyways, onto the gun talk!
In any kind of serious collapse situation - regional or otherwise - a handgun will be left wanting. Threats go from a couple of thugs at across the room distances to potential for armed mobs, organized gangs or governments gone tyrannical. The need for concealment is quickly replaced by the need for a more effective weapon--a rifle.
When facing that level of threat the oft repeated "a handgun is for fighting your way back to your rifle" holds true.
Many, many soldiers have marched into battle with only a rifle...not very many have marched into battle with only a handgun, and fewer of those likely marched back out again.
See this 'Devil's Advocate' post from recent T-Blog history for some more background - there are some great comments, including this one from from John Mosby sums up the role of handguns in full-fledged combat nicely:
"In a situation that mandates having a rifle in hand, a pistol really is a luxury. While the arguments can be made for different what-ifs that seem to require a sidearm, they are just that...hypothetical...If I'm taking a crap, in a field environment, I better have a Ranger buddy watching my (figurative...literal would be gross) six. If I'm inside a perimeter, I should have security out providing me warning that I need to pinch it off and pick up my rifle. In CQB....in a typical residential house-sized room? a) There are other people covering your sector as well as you. That's why we work with friends. If your weapon goes down and you have a pistol....chances are, you're not going to get it out and into action before you collide with the dude in front of you. I don't care if you're Wyatt Earp. Distances are too close and movement too fast. It can happen--has happened--but I've seen as many guys (in the real world, versus a training range) solve THAT problem with combatives or edged weapons as with a sidearm.
All of that having been said......I'll stick with carrying my sidearm. As Cooper once wrote....It's a piece of mind thing, and it's worth it to me to carry the extra weight."
A handgun is something you will likely want to have with you, but keep its importance in perspective--it is an airbag in case your primary stops working. As such, you shouldn't plan on carrying much more than two spare pistol mags on your fighting gear.
In terms of specific recommendations on a handgun for a combat load, the polymer wonder pistols are hard to beat in terms of weight, capacity, reliability and shoot ability...but, if you have a preference for and shoot something else better, then I wouldn't worry much.
I would also recommend a handgun that could be reasonably concealed, useful both in current times and after some kind of event but when a full fighting load may not be appropriate.
If you were very pressed for resources, you could skip the 'fighting handgun' all together and go without or press a subcompact 'carry gun' into the role.
When you encounter a list of 'must haves in your survival firearms battery', it invariably includes a pump action shotgun.
While I agree that a 12 gauge can be a handy thing to have around, I would also disagree that they are a must-have.
That's right. You do not need a shotgun.
Why? Shotguns excel at three things: hunting birds, firing non-lethal rounds and breaching doors. Neither of these are a big priority.
That said, a shotgun is a devastatingly effective weapon in trained, capable hands and within its range envelope. Slugs and buckshot will put a serious hurtin' on anything that walks this earth.
Shotguns are also legal in places where something like an AR-15 is not.
12 gauge is pretty much always available and the simplest option to reload in austere conditions and improvised components...as in a nail, a dowel, a primer, blackpowder and whatever you can improvise for shot. You can't do that with 5.56 or .308.
And, shotguns are generally less expensive than a rifle or even a big brand handgun - $250-$350 can get you a very nice, new-in-box shottie. Go with 'used' and there's even better deals out there.
If a shotgun was my only choice, I would sure as hell make it work.
But, if I had the choice between an AR-15 and a 12 gauge, I'd pick the AR-15 every time.
Fighting gear for shotguns bears special considerations because you dealing with loose shells, loaded one at a time. Getting fast, smooth and efficient takes a lot of practice, both dry and on the range. I will probably do a separate post for shotgun support options in the future.
On Fighting Rifles:
For your primary, I would strongly recommend an AR platform.
A few years back, the argument used to be AR or AK, but it seems that has mostly gone away. The AK used to have a price advantage, but these days that has mostly disappeared. A serviceable AR can be assembled for around the $500 price point these days.
Yup--the AK has the edge in durability.
The AR makes up for that with accuracy, ergonomics, the availability of training for the weapon system and the vastly simplified logistics it brings.
A 5.56 AR with a 16" barrel and mid-length gas system is the best bet for an all-around rifle. A 1/7 rifle twist would be the way I'd go today. Mine is a 16 inch, carbine length 1/9, but I bought my AR before midlength 1-in-7 was commonplace like it is today.
You will want a light on it, and if you can afford it, an optic - I would recommend a red dot like the Aimpoint PRO.
The Devil is in the Details: Logistics
A big part of the reason for recommending the AR is the simplified logistics it entails.
In the last post, WG wisely noted:
'Any weapon brings with it more than just the price tag. It brings with it the need to train, the ammo for training, the ammo to put away, spare parts, knowledge on how to fix and maintain that weapon, carrying equipment, other accessories. There is a logistical tail behind any weapon, and adding a weapon should not be taken lightly. The value of a weapon should be weighed against the stress to your personal logistical system. '
This is incredibly true. Ammo, magazines, optics, etc. all increase the overall investment of money and time required to have a weapon system in place and figured out.
Logistics become even more complicated when you add in a group dynamic, whether it's a training group formed before any troubles or something that comes together out of necessity after a collapse.
There will be more people to work with and more weapons to support. You can assume most will not be as 'prepared' for any troubles as you are and will need additional support--parts, maintenance, magazines, ammunition and so on.
Compare two fictional teams o' survivors/defenders:
Team 1 running:
- Steyr AUG
- Saiga 12 gauge
- Four ARs in 5.56
Add that to the added expense, difficulty and comparative rarity of getting magazines, parts, etc. squared away and things get even trickier.
Team 2, in comparison, are all running the same weapon...they need the same ammo, the same magazines, the same parts...and use the same manual of arms and require the same training, so if Timmy goes down, Joe Bob can pick up his mags and keep fighting. If Joe Bob's bolt shears off, Big Mac might have a spare kicking around his pack that they can pop in once they are back to base.
The AR-15 is everywhere. Yes, there can be some allure to the new/cool thing, but do the math and think through the logistics before making that deep dive.
Your gun buddies probably have ARs...and as noted, that is important in many ways, from training to splitting bulk buys to those simplified logistics if the crap ever does hit the fan.
Mil/LEOs use AR pattern rifles, magazines and have vast stores of ammunition.
Your local gun shop has stacks of ammo, parts and AR magazines a plenty...at least until another "firearmageddon" roles around.
And let's not even get started about the options that are available on the interwebs.
I recommend 5.56 for those reasons; yes, 300 Blackout and 6.8 SPC are more terminally effective. They also cost more, are less readily available and your friend's AR is probably chambered in 5.56.
If you end up with several ARs, then by all means move into alternate calibers if interested and you can support the cost and logistics that entails. But you'll still want to have an AR in 5.56 around.
Along the same lines, a lot has been written about 'battle rifles' in .308. FALs, AR-10s, G3 clones...usually with some derision about 5.56 thrown into the mix. If you can afford the rifle and the price of .308, IF you can handle the additional weight of the weapon and ammo, and IF your gun buddies are also set up with the same model of .308s, then I would not argue against 'em.
Similarly, if your group/family/friends all run AKs instead of ARs, then I would go with the crowd in that case.
"But what about..."
So you don't have an AR-15 and already have odd-ball rifle X and want to know what to do with it.
SKS: Sell it and buy an AR.
M1 Garand: Sell it and buy an AR.
Mini-14: Sell it and buy an AR.
Lever Gun: Sell it and buy an AR.
Get the idea? If you've got your freedom fightin' AR done, squared away and ready and want to venture elsewhere for personal interest/hobby purposes, cool. If local laws restrict you from having one, then that is another matter.
The Really Minimal Firearms Battery
This is a bit off topic, but it is related. Folks ask and there are neophytes out there looking for guidance: what is the smallest/least expensive firearms battery that I should look at assembling?
For post some kind of major collapse, I would not lose a ton of sleep over running an AR-15 as my sole weapon. It would be within arm's reach at all times.
But since we're also concerned with present day, under rule of law situations and the potential for a slow slide into chaos, a concealable pistol is needed, too. For me, that would mean a subcompact pistol of some kind...think Glock 26, S&W Shield in size.
For a third gun, I would add a full sized handgun with a light on it. Some folks can carry something like a Glock 19 year round, which would allow you to bypass the small gun for the regular sized one right off. Or, if you aren't able to or are not interested in concealed carry, then there's no reason to go with the carry piece over something bigger.
But, an AR and a subcompact pistol would do most of what you realistically need a firearm to do defensively. Concealed carry, check. Home defense, check. Combat? Check.
What about hunting? I'm not really planning on eatin' off game in a collapse, but .223 varmint rounds will kill small game dead, and a .22lr conversion will let you do so efficiently. .223 huntin' rounds have been used for deer, hogs, even elk with good effectiveness.
Long range? While .223/5.56 does loose some of its oomph at longer ranges, 300-600+ yards is entirely doable and will still render good hits. At 500 yards, m193 (55gr 5.56mm) still has around 300 ft/lbs of energy, which is in the ballpark of what 9mm has at the muzzle. If you step up to mk262 (77gr 5.56mm), you've got 463 ft/lbs of energy at 500 yards, which is in on the low end of .357 magnum at the muzzle.
Point is this: is it the 'best' for every conceivable role? No. But it is a pretty good all-arounder with manageable logistics.
A good, well outfitted carry gun and a good, well outfitted AR-15 is not an insignificant investment. Factor in the support gear, logistics and training parts, too. You will be far better off with a 'complete' set of kit to run two firearms than having four or five firearms floating around in various states of completion.
After that point, you can move onto other guns. But those two will give you the most functional bang for your buck.
Me? I did not have any wise soul dishing out this kind of sage advice when I started, so I fall into the camp of having more than a few firearms floating around with support gear in various states of completion.
And, of course, I am now too 'attached' to them to sell my shotgun to buy parts and n' ammo for my AR and so on, and all serve their own purpose, anyways. I'm in the process of getting the whole firearms battery wrapped up and sorted out, but it has been a long journey for not a ton of incremental reward.
So, if you are building up your arsenal and want to stay focused and efficient, concentrate on an AR-15 and a pistol or two, plus support gear. Hard to go wrong there.