> TEOTWAWKI Blog: $1k Arsenal - 2014 Edition



$1k Arsenal - 2014 Edition

We survival types like to toss around arbitrary dollar figure for buying up an armory o' guns. $1000 seems to be the average starting point, and for a long time it was something like an SKS, a budget shotgun and a lower-end semi auto like a Sigma or Ruger P95. Nod to TotalSurvivalist for the conversation starter.

My take:

The Long Gun - an AR-15
With a glut of ARs out there and prices dropping like it's hot, the ~$500 AR is not just a reality, it's pretty easy to achieve.

There were several deals out there this past weekend that woulda made it easy. But, those deals have past. Quick search this evening (Wednesday post-Black Friday) shows several possibilities:

Kit + Lower Build
  • PSA "Freedom" Kit for $420 Link
  • Take your pick of $40-$60 stripped lowers plus $25 FFL
  • Total: $505 plus some shipping, and looks like you'd need a rear BUIS
Complete Upper and Lower
  • Hardened Arms complete 16" upper for $349 Link
  • PTAC Blackhawk Lower for $146 Link
  • $495 and you don't even need to build anything. Plus FFL, maybe some taxes and shipping. And BUIS.
So, we're easily in the ballpark during the middle of the week, without sales and without trying very hard.

Will a $500 AR run? It should. I wouldn't buy anything too sketchy looking, but there are lots of shops out there putting together quality, very functional ARs for not much. I also wouldn't be afraid of building up a lower  - morons like me have been doing it in their garages for years.

Hard to go wrong with the carbine - it's become the go-to firearm of choice for freedom-loving survival types. Accessories, mags and ammo are everywhere.

For this thought exercise, I'll be lazy and allocate $600 to an AR-15, which will include back up iron sights, taxes and FFL transfer fees.

The Glock is the ol' standby recommendation for good reason. They just run, and they don't have a whole lot to go wrong with 'em.

Police Departments use them and eventually surplus them out in favor of newer models. These often get the refurb treatment and make it back out to dealers in excellent shape.

Surplus Glocks aren't that hard to track down, and they can be a steal of a deal. Here's a very tempting example - Glock 17 Gen 2 with night sights - at AGS Armament for the low-low price of $337. Toss in FFL fees and any shipping and you're still easily under $400.

Not satisfied? A very quick Google search turned up J&G Sales, Centerfire Systems and others with fairly similarly priced .40 S&W Glocks in similar price ranges. This place has one for $299, shipped!

When you can pick up a Glock for $350, it's hard to recommend any other budget semi-autos. They're by no means perfect, but Glocks have become the standard by which all other pistols are judged.

If you wanted something more easily concealable, the Shield is easy to get under $400, as are several other similar guns.

So, for right around $1000, you can grab yourself an AR-15 and a Glock with night sights--and be pretty well equipped in terms of firearms. Then comes range time, ammo, etc.
Under $500?
Rarely though do people with no guns suddenly come up with $1k to dump into guns. Budgets are often tight and $1k is still $1k.

$500 is a tougher budget to work with, and at that point you're often deciding between one quality firearm or two budget guns. I've become a fan of buying quality and what you want over the years, and would lead you towards picking one good gun over two lesser examples.

For one gun, a $500 AR is a decent choice for an all-arounder, but I think most average joe's would benefit more from a quality handgun. As an alternative, a pump shotgun with a light, sling and sidesaddle is very do-able at the $500 price point.

For two guns, if you really shopped around, you could land on a surplus/used Glock and a good pump shotgun for right around $500. There have been several waves of just over $200 police surplus 870s lately, and Mossberg Mavericks can be had in the $200 ballpark, too. For the price range, that'd be a pretty darn good combo and set one up well for home defense, zombies or what have you.

What's your take? Your $1k arsenal? What about $500? Pontificate in the comments section below.


  1. If you're willing to do a little searching you could come out pretty well.
    Your AR 15 build with a rear Iron sight for $550
    9mm KelTec P11 for $250 ish
    A couple years ago I picked up a Mossberg 702 plinkster from WalMart for $115 OTD.
    A little searching at local gun shops should pick up a single shot 12 or 20 gauge for around $100.

    That comes out to a little over $1000. Instead of the KelTec you could probably find a used K frame at about that price point. I think those would cover most of your bases.

  2. For $1000, I'd personally recommend a pistol, mags, ammo, and some type of training tool, as the pistol is the most versatile and practical firearm in all but the most intense survival situation.
    Glock 19- $500
    4 magazines -$100
    1000 rnds 9mm wolf - $200
    200 rounds Speer Gold Dot 124gr +p - $100
    LaserLyte 9mm Laser Training Cartridge - $77
    Raven Vanguard 2 holster: $34

    Pretty much a complete setup for basic training and defense with a pistol for $1000.

  3. $1,000 Starter kit
    I would say Handgun, Ammo, and accessories
    Handgun - Springfield XD 9mm $339 + 5.99 SH + $25 FFL (Slickguns)
    LAX 9MM reload AMMO - 1,500 rounds $285 (Slickguns)
    9mm Magazines - 5 X $20 = $100
    Carry Permit Fee - $80 (local cost)
    Holster - $50
    Few extra bucks for taxes, and hidden fee's.
    Train, train, train. With 1,500 rounds you can be a pretty proficient shooter. You'll have a carry permit and all gear to carry at all times and protect yourself. Then save up the next $1,000 and purchase a 5.56 AR rifle and accessories.

  4. Just to play devil's advocate on the AR-

    I've built a couple budget ARs and both have suffered from the tendency to stick cases. This is one of those issues that carbine-length gas system ARs appear to be particularly prone to (a Google search will ping back about a billion results). This failure is beyond the typical jam as generally the extractor damages the case rim and can no longer "grip" the case to extract it. The result? Game over until you break out the cleaning rod, and maybe a hammer too. This makes this failure particularly egregious in a SHTF, primary/only rifle situation.

    This is probably my number one gripe about the AR platform and the .223/5.56 round whose straight case walls, small diameter rim, and high operating pressures contribute to the issue.

    1. Sounds like that might be ammo and/or extractor issues...maybe a badly fouled chamber too.

    2. Your input is appreciated. Tried most of the simple fixes, which is why I have arrived at the overgassed/timing conclusion and it seems to be relatively common. Upgrading the extractor changed the symptom from the extractor slipping off the case rim to simply ripping a chunk out of the case rim! A heavier buffer seems to have been the biggest help.

      From what I have read, rifles with mid-length or rifle gas systems are less likely to behave in this manner... but generally are not in the entry-level price range...

      I don't want to say that an AR-15 is a bad choice for the money, and I really want to love the platform. But so far a rational evaluation of my experiences with it have left me feeling underwhelmed.

    3. I'm not a huge AR fan. I've built a few so I own a few, but am not a huge fan of the weapons system as a whole. I like the accuracy of the AR but prefer my AK's over the AR for general purpose battle rifle use... especially in a TEOTWAWKI situation. I have had plenty of cartridge problems with steel cased ammo in my AR's, but nothing a good slam couldn't remedy. I switched everything over to midlength gas systems (mostly because of the handguard) and have had better results than with carbine length. I'm no AR wizard, so my input may be useless.

    4. Midlength gas system uppers are easy to find in budget AR turf if that's your concern.

      There are a great many reliable carbine length uppers out there, so I would tend to suspect the build of a specific upper and ammo over dismissing the design as a whole. Given the choice, I would go with the middy tho.

      I don't recommend building the upper for your first go around; pre-built from someone reputable. Building a lower is much easier.

    5. Thinking through your specific issue, out of spec head spacing may also be to blame.

    6. The US Army has been using carbine length gas systems in 14.5ish inch barrel AR's for decades. The only times they systemically fail is when the guns are used for high rate of fire burst/ full auto over prolonged periods, basically filling the role of machine guns.

      I would clean the gun, lubricate it quite well then buy decent (Win/ PMC/ etc) ammo and give it another shot.

    7. Anon,

      Sound like your using some out of spec parts in your builds. Especially if your have the same problem each time you build and using same suppliers. It could be a head spacing issue. Hard to really say with out taking the rifle a part and looking at it. This not an uncommon problem when buy part from different vendors to get the cheapest build. Buying cheap only gets you cheap!!! Buy quality because your life may depend on it one day!!!!

    8. Good points all, and I'm glad to see that this led to some additional educational posts about ARs. I will probably take mine into the local gunsmith to verify proper chamber size and head-spacing, and proceed from there.

      I don't want to sound as if I'm dismissing the platform entirely, but the plethora of AR manufacturers and parts out there can make it very easy for a beginner to wind up with an out-of-spec weapon that is very finicky (like mine!). I personally believe the most widely available carbine-length gas systems are especially susceptible to over-pressure and timing issues. So in effect all I'm trying to say is caveat emptor.

      And I hear you 3rdman, if you can spend more money on the rifle, then you should wind up with a superior product. I suffer from severe cheapskate syndrome. But, the AR platform was designed to be made with late-1950s technology, and is relatively cheap to produce. It is one of, if not the, the most widely manufactured rifles in the United States, and paying upwards of a grand to acquire a reliable unit just seems overpriced to me.

    9. I am currently running a Bushmaster middy. Just completed a class with over 1,000 rounds through the rifle without cleaning. No jams or mechanical issues. I just made sure the BCG stayed wet.

    10. Nice! Sounds like a testament to the mid-length gas system, and a good operator. That kind of reliability would make me a true believer in the AR.

    11. I have to ask one question. Why not the Mini-14?

      They're only $800 (local).

      The rifle has a piston gas system which keeps the hot gases and carbon in the front and away from the bolt which aids in cleaning. You can get the rifle in stainless steel which helps fight corrosion. It takes all of 30 seconds to field strip.

      Now you might be saying to yourself, Mini-14s aren't accurate. But, let's be honest here. In a SHTF scenario, I don't care if my rifle is 1/2 MOA or 2 MOA, because realistically, in that sense, I'M NOT THAT ACCURATE. And unless you're a super Tier 1/SEAL/Delta operator, neither are you. Minute of Man is all I need.

  5. Noted the importance of training. This hypothetical is about the $1,000 budget arsenal. So lets stick to that. In my personal opinion, an arsenal should contain the following Rifle, sidearm, shotgun... This is taking into consideration that this $1,000 arsenal would be the very last 3 weapons that I could acquire and would have to last the duration of my natural existence. So, on a $1,000 budget just for the weapons themselves... here we go:

    Rifle: I agree that the budget AR may not be the best choice, here. While they make great truck or coyote guns, they may not hold the reliability that you'd want to stake your life on. With that being said, One may want to consider the SKS, or low end AK (WASR). Whoa whoa whoa... WASR 10?!?!? Those suck! Well, if you've been around WASR's enough, you're partially correct. Choosing the correct WASR is VERY important if choosing this platform. Some absolutely DO suck. Check your rivets, check your mag well, know what you're buying. A very decent WASR can be had for and around the $500 price point and will run dirty, dry, muddy, even rusted shut. If an AK variant isn't your bag, the SKS is a reliable option around $300-$450 (local sale). I just picked up an ugly Norinco locally for $250 from an old timer and it shoots like a champ. Keep an eye out.

    Sidearm: I cannot agree more with Mr. Wolfe on the trade in Glock. In my opinion the is ABSOLUTELY no better sidearm for the money. The .40 isn't my bag (can't get passed the whole "limp wristed" federal agent thing) but 9mm is a fantastic option for ammo compatibility in the US. Had at under $350... you couldn't make a better choice when it comes to reliability.

    Shotgun: A trade in 870 or even a new or used Mossberg 500 will run forever. Mav88's can be had at $150 on the used market. I don't think you could go wrong spending an extra $50 and meeting in the middle with a Mossberg 500. I've ran mine hard for years and have never encountered a problem.

    In all, the $1,000 arsenal budget is pretty easy to work with. I say we attack the $500 budget and open this up to some REAL pondering. Thank you.

    1. Good advice on going over the WASR with a fine comb. Mine only required a better trigger replacment and it runs as well as my MAK-90 from the very early 90's era.

      I would also add at least one single shot 12 or 20 gauge break open shotgun. Good to have an extra to be handed out to an otherwise unarmed person. With practice, can be reloaded pretty quickly. Many favored the .410 for 'varmint' protection around the homestead - the smaller load did less potential damage to any surroundings.

  6. $500 budget arsenal!!!

    This topic takes some REAL consideration! If all i had was $500 to go from no guns to guns... This is what I would choose:
    Back to the trade in Glock... I have to agree. $350 for ultra reliability in a sidearm platform that runs. I'd toss my $ there. Leaving me $150 to find a used .22 rifle (10/22???) This is an odd choice since the .22 isn't a combat rifle, but a you know what a .22 can get ya??? Any other weapon that you want. My experience taking squirrel and coon with .22's is that they're accurate. A well placed shot or two could land you a quality battle rifle... 'nuff said.

    Here's another way to look at the $500 arsenal:

    Milsurp. Yup, I went there. The Radom P64 is a fine little workhorse chambered in 9x18 makarov. The Tokarev in 7.62x25 or 9x19 is another option and can be had under $200. Ammo is not common in the 7.62x25 variety, so don't expect to be able to find it on bodies or stashed in cache's... but can be had a local gun shows quite cheaply. $200 on a sidearm leaves you at $300 to spend on a rifle...
    SKS? Nagant? Mauser (ugh... mauser)? Hard to say, but I'd probably stick with the SKS as the cheapest, most universal caliber in 7.62x39. The nagant may be a decent choice as well with the thought that a few well placed shots could land you the super rifle of your dreams, but staking ones life on a nagant if quite risky... in my opinion. With all this being said, I'd go with either the p64 ot the tok in 7.62x25 or 9x19 and the SKS. You'd have to hunt down the deals to accomplish this under $500... but I'd head milsurp with that budget, if in a pinch to acquire weapons. The thought process here would be to hopefully trade, scour the earth, or pick from the dead (did I do that?) a better weapons platform.

    1. "This is an odd choice since the .22 isn't a combat rifle, but a you know what a .22 can get ya??? Any other weapon that you want. My experience taking squirrel and coon with .22's is that they're accurate. A well placed shot or two could land you a quality battle rifle... 'nuff said. "

      I think you hit the nail on the head with this statement. I don't necessarily see the need, for my family and myself personally, to arm up with a bunch of combat weapons in the event of some type of SHTF/TEOFTWAWKI type of situation. We don't plan on killing anybody, however, we will protect ourselves, and in the process we will take whatever gear we can get from anybody who crossed the line and pushed us to our limits.

      For my $1000 budget, I would look for a quality handgun, a cheap shotgun, and a cheap 22 rifle. I think it is more important to have a reliable handgun, as our lives may depend on it more, the other two weapons would be more supplemental to our needs at the time. Mr. Wolfe's suggestion on the Glocks is spot on. You will not find a more reliable semi-auto handgun...you may find one that is equally as reliable, but not more reliable IMO. This is the route I would go for sure to secure a reliable, and quality pistol.

      For the shotgun and 22 rifle, I would look at a Maverick 88 and a Ruger 10/22. I've had a Maverick 88 for years and have had no issues whatsoever. I have teched it out with aftermarket stuff, but even in its most basic form, it is a very functional shotgun. The Ruger 10/22 is another exceptional weapon for the price.

      In a crappy situation, I'm hunkering down in my homestead. We have sustainable farming and living capabilities, we have cover and protection, and we have gear and supplies in place here. If somebody infiltrates our property, the first 22 shot from concealed cover will be a very violent warning to them, the next couple will either seal their fate or make their agenda very clear to me. If they get to the door, the shotgun and pistol will be ready to rock and roll...and if this type of situation would ever come to fruition, I'll have no problem accepting any "gifts" that I can scour from anybody's corpse that put my family in peril.

    2. Ugly Rooster
      Yup, preference to an AR for obvious reasons. But... on a budget? If you remove the perceived need to engage at 200+yards, then the 10-22 is a great budget defense platform. Then a quality pistol and a basic pump will handle heavy work in closer. Not preferred, but better on a budget. And the 10-22 is in the top 5 most accessory ready guns on the planet. A quick study of ballistics shows it may be sufficient for defense and happens to be quiet. Clearing malfunctions is super easy too. I highly recommend Ruger factory 25 round mags.

  7. "Will a $500 AR run? It should."

    I think you and I might be looking at similar evidence in a half empty vs half full sort of way.