The Bug-Out Rifle

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Prior to Y2K, during our spare time as gun magazine editors, two colleagues and I idly argued over what would constitute the ideal “Omega Man” gun, referring to the Boris Sagal-directed, post-apocalyptic science fiction movie The Omega Man, starring our beloved Charlton Heston.
I have obviously dated myself by referencing such an old movie. Today, the Omega Man gun would be described as the firearm for the Zombie Apocalypse.

The idea of the Omega Man gun was simple enough: What would be the one firearm to have in the event of a total social breakdown? Don’t think of anything as common as an earthquake, hurricane, financial collapse or NFL lock-out. No, we’re talking about a major event here, like a super volcano, nuclear holocaust or viral epidemic—a game-changer. What would be the best firearm to have in that (hopefully) unlikely event?

Oh, sure. I know what you’re thinking: Gun writers don’t have anything better to do than imagine the end of the world? I assure you that, as I write this, I am not wearing my Reynolds Wrap fedora nor I am I huddled in an underground bunker. It was the dire predictions about Y2K that started the conversation. However, such hypothetical scenarios are endless fun to speculate about, especially since popular and literary culture is rife with post-apocalyptic books and movies.
Sure, there are guilty pleasure movies like Zombieland, but there are also highbrow meditations on the subject, such as Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel “The Road.” And, if you indulged in either, you probably gave some thought to the kind of gun you’d like to have in that situation. Why? In most books and movies of the sort, the protagonist’s problems could likely be remedied with the right gun. Have you ever noticed that a “psycho killer” movie never has an NRA member among the pool of potential victims?
At the time, not only could we not settle on a gun; we couldn’t even agree on a caliber. One selected the 5.56 x 45 mm NATO, as he was former military, while the other editor, an armchair military historian, opted for the 7.62 x 51 mm NATO. I went with the historian.
AT LAST
The reason we couldn’t agree, I think, was that no such gun existed. Each had some “flaw” or, more correctly, was designed for a role other than surviving the dystopian landscape of Armageddon.
However, all these years later, I think I just may have stumbled on the exact right firearm for the Omega Man/Zombie Apocalypse scenario.
It is the ArmaLite AR-10 Carbine, specifically the 10A4CBNF 1913, accessorized with a Grip Pod and an ELCAN SpecterDR 1.5-6x scope. Here’s why.
CALIBER
The gun would have to fire a military caliber, since ammunition would be limited in an Omega Man scenario and military calibers would be most plentiful. That means 5.56 x 45 mm or 7.62 x 51 mm.
Reputedly, the 5.56 wasn’t designed to kill, but to wound. In the conventional wars anticipated at the time of the round’s adoption, killing an enemy combatant was considered inferior to wounding him. Killing him put him out of the fight, but wounding him put him out along with the one or two comrades who had to help him from the battlefield.
Furthermore, studies determined that small unit firefights were most often won by sheer firepower. Putting a lot of lead in the air caused the opposition to “melt away.” Thus, producing a withering hail of bullets could be more important than the efficacy of the individual rounds, and it is easier to carry and fire a lot of 5.56 mm than it is 7.62 mm cartridges.
The problem, though, is none of that applies in the Omega Man scenario. Your opponent may not have comrades to carry him off the battlefield. They’ll be no Evac choppers, no ambulances, no aid stations or hospitals. How can you place a strain on resources that don’t exist? It would likely be every man for himself, so you don’t want to wound. You want to put your opponent down to stay.
Firepower? Do you really mean to waste ammunition when cartridges are now arguably the most valuable commodity in the world? Each bullet would be so precious that the idea of suppressive fire would be inconceivable. The sniper credo of “one shot, one kill” would be espoused by every survivor lucky enough to be armed.
And what about range? While the 5.56 can be accurate out to 600 yards, it usually requires specialized ammunition at that range and, even then, its terminal effect is questionable. Regular military ball will be hard enough to find in our scenario; forget about specialized rounds. However, 7.62 is good at close range and can more easily make longer shots, and do so with better terminal ballistics.
And since you’d be abandoning the city for safety and to locate food-supermarkets will have been among the first things looted-a rifle wouldn’t be only a combat tool. You’d probably have to hunt, too, and the 7.62 is a better caliber for deer, antelope, elk, etc.
You could find yourself anywhere from the mountains to the plains, from forests to deserts, targeting everything from opossums to armored vehicles, so you’d need a versatile round. Given those criteria, the 7.62 would be the way to go.
PLATFORM
As for the gun itself, in the last two decades, the A2 enhancements answered practically all questions about the AR as a design. If you have doubts about it in 7.62 mm, remember that that was the design’s original chambering. The AR-10 is not a beefed up AR-15; the AR-15 is a reduced-size AR-10.
Additionally, in the interim since Y2K, the AR has ventured into the hunting fields with much success, such that virtually every major manufacturer is offering AR platforms in big-game calibers, often painted in camo colors.
LENGTH
The choice of the carbine over the rifle speaks again to the need for versatility. Some days you might have to take a long shot at a deer across a neglected farm field. On others, you’ll have to enter houses, stores or warehouses, scrounging. While a rifle would be best for the former, the latter requires compactness and maneuverability. The carbine’s 16-inch barrel and collapsible stock would provide those attributes. Oh, there’d be a trade-off at extreme ranges, but it would be worth it. Typically, you can afford a miss at 600 yards a lot more than you can at 6 feet.
RAILS
A flat-top receiver that accepts whatever sighting system you might scrounge would be decidedly advantageous. Things like scope rings, tools, etc., would not be in reliable supply. You want a system that can mount the widest variety of sighting options possible with minimal tools, adjustment and hassle.
However, the initial impulse is to eschew accessory rails in the post-apocalyptic scenario. The idea that you’d use something dependent on batteries when no batteries may be available seems silly. However, in our scenario, batteries may be available you just can’t rely on that or on anything that requires them. Also, rails aren’t just for battery powered components, and not everything that uses batteries is dependent on them. Thus, accessory rails would be a good, no-harm feature.
SIGHTS
The sighting system is undoubtedly the most difficult piece of the puzzle. The strong inclination is to go with iron sights. They’re simple and strong. They last and last. The problem is, will your eyesight?
It is much easier to shoot with an optical scope, but they tend to be more fragile. Also what power do you select? Something that is suitable for counter-sniping or long-range hunting is too slow (due to the reduced field of view) for close-quarters combat. And one that is set-up for close quarters is generally too underpowered to be much help at greater distance. Besides, adjusting for one distance or another is laborious and can change the point of impact.
Lasers? Red-dot scopes? Lasers are notoriously difficult to see in broad daylight and, besides, both lasers and red-dots are dependent on batteries, so they’re out.
The answer comes from Canada in the form of the ELCAN SpecterDR scope distributed by Armament Technology Incorporated. DR stands for dual role. The scope was developed at the behest of U.S. SOCOM because soldiers in the Middle East were having to transition between engaging the enemy at considerable distance to entering structures and conducting room-to-room searches. Typically, they were having to carry a combination of scopes or one scope and a multiplier, and mounting what was needed for the next anticipated duty.
The SpecterDR puts an end to that. The stout, super-strong scope changes from low-power magnification to medium/high-power magnification with the mere throw of a lever without changing the point of impact. There is a 1-4x but, with a 7.62 x 51 mm, I’d opt for the 1.5-6x. There is no middle ground with the SpecterDR. It goes directly from one magnification to the other with nothing in between. Despite its sophistication, the scope is nearly indestructible and so simple to use that the operator can change magnification in two seconds without breaking cheek weld.
Although the operator can choose between illuminated crosshairs or an illuminated dot, the reticle is actually etched on the glass, so the scope is usable with or without batteries. Further, the scope’s adjustments are in the base, not the tube. Sight in, remove the scope, remount it in the same position on the rail and it stays sighted in. And atop the tube is a ghost ring and post, ready to repeal Murphy’s Law.
ACCESSORY
The one perfect accessory for the Omega Man gun is the Grip Pod. Even if you’re not familiar with this product, the U.S. military and countless law enforcement agencies are. It is a vertical foregrip that mounts (without tools) to the underside fore-end accessory rail, helping you quickly maneuver the gun in tight spaces. But, at the press of a button, two spring-loaded legs shoot out and lock into place, forming a highly effective bipod for long-range shooting. To collapse them, simply squeeze the legs together and shove them up into the grip, where they stow back in place with an audible click, all without batteries.
OTHER OPTIONS
I went with ArmaLite because it’s the first name that comes to mind when I think of 7.62 mm ARs. Actually, there are now a number of companies that make ARs in this chambering, including carbines. Also, there is nothing wrong with the Springfield Armory M1A SOCOM II with Extended Top Rail or the DS Arms SA58 Para Tactical Carbine with the optional Short Gas System Rail Interface Handguard. Both would serve as well as the AR and, since both use M14-type magazines, squirreling away extra mags would be easy.
Yep, a dozen or so magazines, several weatherproof battle packs of ammo, a cleaning kit and a bug-out bag, and contrary to the song maybe paranoia won’t destroy you.

Reloading, A Beginner’s Guide Part II

In the first installment of our series on reloading, we discussed the methods and procedures for cleaning, depriming, and reloading straight walled cases. In this article, we will discuss reloading bottle necked cartridges. Most necked down cartridges are rifle calibers, but there are a few notable exceptions, notably .357 Sig and Tokarev. The FN 5.7mm cartridge is bottle necked as well, but it is a proprietary round and is very difficult to properly (and safely) reload.


Lyman Classic Tumbler

As with straight walled brass, make sure that your bottle necked brass is clean and free from debris. With bottle necked rifle brass, it’s generally a good idea to run your brass through a polisher. This cleans off powder residue as well as any dirt or corrosion from the brass. Make sure that once you are done polishing and cleaning your brass that there is no polishing media left on the outside or inside of the brass. Polishing and cleaning the brass helps make resizing much easier. Dirt, grit, or corrosion on your brass can scratch or damage your steel dies. Carbide dies don’t have this problem, but having nicely lubed clean brass means that you don’t have to pull so hard on the press lever when resizing.

Reloading bottle necked cartridges is actually fairly easy compared to reloading straight walled brass, but you do have to take the additional step of utilizing case lube. The primary difference between reloading straight walled cases and bottle neck cases is the resizing process. Bottle neck dies perform a lot of work with a single pull of the press lever. When resizing brass, the die not only resizes the case and deprimes the brass, it also has an expander ball that is plunged down the neck of the case so that new bullets can be seated.


Hornaday One-Shot Case Lube

When lubing your rifle brass, it is critically important to spray your case lube all around the outside as well as down the case mouth. This lubes the inside of the case for the expander ball. To properly lube the cases, set them all in a loading block with the mouth of the case up. Spray the cases on one side and from above at an angle so that the lubricant not only goes on the outside but also sprays down inside the neck. Turn the loading block so that all 360 degrees of the cases get lubed. Don’t be afraid of over lubricating the cases. You CAN spray too much (though it’s difficult), but it’s far better to use too much lube than not enough lube. Failure to use enough case lube will result in your case becoming stuck in the die. Getting a case stuck in a die is a nightmare scenario, so don’t do it! If you think you’ve got enough lube, go ahead and give the cases one more spray, just for good measure.

Once your brass is cleaned and lubed and you’ve got your resizing die properly adjusted and locked down as we discussed in our previous article, place your brass on the shell holder and lower the ram. You’ll begin to feel resistance as the expander ball is plunged through the neck of the case. One of the reasons that reloading necked brass is a bit easier than straight walled brass is that the dies for your necked down brass perform more operations with a single pull of the lever. The resizing die decaps the primer, resizes the brass, and expands the case neck to receive a new bullet, all in a single stroke.

Now that your brass has been resized, clean off the lubricant and inspect the brass for any cracks, creases, or bright spots near the head. A bright ring around the head at the base of the cartridge indicates stressed brass that will result in a case head separation. You may notice little dimples on your brass: this is not a big deal, and it occurs from using too much case lube. Large dimples occur when you have managed to use far too much lubricant. Brass with large dimples should be discarded.

In my experience, it is not usually necessary to measure and trim pistol brass after resizing. The same cannot be said about rifle cases. Use a dial caliper to ensure that all of your brass is the same correct length. You can also load the resized brass into your firearm to make sure it will chamber. Use a case trimmer to trim off any excess length.

Priming your rifle brass is the same procedure as priming your pistol brass. First, make sure that your primer pocket is cleaned out. Make sure that you have the correct size primer – large pistol and rifle primers can appear to be the same size, but they are not! Using the correct size tools and primers, prime all of your brass and make sure that the primers are seated to the proper depth. Primers that are set too high can be slam-fired in semiautomatic rifles.


Hornaday Seating Die

When loading your powder, make sure that you have the right kind of powder. Using pistol powders in a rifle case can result in over-pressure and detonation, potentially destroying your rifle and injuring or killing you. It is very difficult (though not impossible) to double charge a rifle case if you are using the correct powders. Still, pay close attention. When developing a load, always double check your loads against a current reloading manual. Start at 50% of the manual’s recommended load and work up from there. Once you have a load developed, make sure to periodically check your powder measure against a scale to ensure that it remains consistent and accurate.

The final process in reloading rifle ammunition is seating and crimping the bullet. Since rifle cases are not flared, it can be more difficult to seat a flat based bullet. Boat tail bullets are much easier to seat. If you are loading flat based bullets, it helps to have a bevel cut in the case mouth using a chamfer or deburring tool. While crimping is not necessarily required for rifle rounds, it definitely helps when you are loading large caliber or magnum rounds. Crimping is definitely necessary if you are loading for a tube magazine fed rifle, as it will keep the bullets from being set back. Some bullet seating dies also crimp at the same time. Seat the first bullet, then measure your overall case length. Once you are certain the length is in spec, lock down your bullet seating die and proceed to seat bullets in the rest of your cartridges.

As always, observe proper safety procedures when reloading ammunition. Make sure that you have a clean and organized work area that is free from distractions. Never try to watch TV or listen to the radio while reloading – you’re working with potentially dangerous explosives that require 100% of your attention. Always wear proper eye protection when reloading. Remember that lead and primers are toxic and wash your hands every time after reloading.

Cheaper Than Dirt! Interviews Julie Golob

Julie Goloski Golob began her shooting career at a young age under the careful tutelage of her father in upstate New York. Always a bit of a daddy’s girl, she soon took to the sport and began participating in matches. She has since rocketed to the top of the sport after proving herself on the US Army Shooting Team, and later again as a sponsored shooter. Julie has long been a role model for Junior Shooters and always takes time to talk to them and encourage their participation in the shooting sports.

Blake Miguez: USPSA Grand Master and Top Shot Competitor

After his stunning elimination from the History Channel’s new reality show “Top Shot” we managed to track down Blake Miguez to talk a bit about his background in the shooting sports and his appearance on Top Shot. To say that Blake is a busy guy would be an understatement: in addition to competing regularly across the nation and around the world, Blake works as a corporate attorney and helps to run his father’s businesses. Still, he managed to find time to talk to us over the phone about his experience.