Camping & Survival

Firearms for Dire Straits

two handguns with old and new rifle

These are uncertain times. Few of us have faith in our government or leaders. We have seen lackluster responses to genuine emergencies, failings within our infrastructure, even catastrophe. Fires and hurricanes are a fact of life.

Social upheaval may rear its head in the near future. These are dire straits. We still have a voice and a vote to make ourselves heard and must do so. We must also prepare for the worst.

Kel-Tec 9mm pistol
The Kel Tec 9mm is practically a must-have for the prepared American in times of dire straits.

Natural disasters have occurred during the calmest of political climates, but just the same the consequences have been horrible. The Galveston flood is one example. Galveston was a thriving city with a population of almost 40,000 at the turn of the previous century.

The town was important to shipping and railroads, and the population enjoyed many advantages. The destructive force of the Galveston storm is practically unequaled.

At least 6,000 and perhaps 12,000 people were killed. In those days, there was no FEMA; the government simply exerted its resources, and the military was called in to help. During the aftermath of the storm, one 125 looters were killed, almost all by citizens.

Looters and rapists did not prosper. One guardsman killed at least three looters in one day with his rifle.

The San Francisco earthquake was a far different event than the earlier episode when death came howling out of the ocean, but it was also a killer. The fabled New York power outage of the 1960s is among the first emergencies with a deadly human undercurrent.

A power outage by itself is not deadly in the sense that a storm or earthquake is deadly, but humans taking advantage of the power outage to loot and rape added a critical side to the equation. New York regressed to the Stone Age overnight.

two handguns with old and new rifle
Modern firearms are great choices, but there are classic handguns and rifles that will serve well during dire straits.

I am not one of those who state that society breaks down during an emergency. Rather, the cohesion of society has already broken down. A lack of respect for other human beings and an entitlement mentality has already sunk into the fiber of these men and women.

The breakdown in government response and natural and man-made emergency are simply an excuse to loot, rape, and destroy.

The breakdown of rule of law had chaotic results. With the police severely crippled as to response and forced to guard the most vulnerable areas such as hospitals and schools, the mob will rise and wreak havoc. I assure you the police cannot be counted on to help you.

There have been criticisms that the police show a desire to retreat during such emergencies. This was certainly not true during the 9/11 attacks or during actions in the early part of the previous century. But criticism of the police is something that must be taken in context.

During the L.A. riots and hurricane Katrina, the police may have been reluctant to engage looters.

After decades of fighting a losing battle with the protein-fed ex-con criminal class and being harshly criticized—even criminally charged when force is required—the police have little respect for our revolving-door justice system.

AR-15 magazines with Magula speed loaders
Be certain to stock up on magazines for dire straits.

Many actions, including the North Hollywood, CA, shootout, in which the LAPD behaved bravely with good discipline, are fought with felons who should have remained incarcerated but were not.

After being pilloried by the liberal media, faced with overwhelming odds and uncertain support from their political leaders, the police may hardly be blamed for backing off, regrouping, and letting events take their course.

While they may earn the scorn of some when everyone holds cops in such low esteem, from the local thug to the previous president of the United States, it is more than understandable that the police may not give a damn at the moment.

There are good peace officers who risk life and limb every day. But if you happen to live in one of those jurisdictions where the police are mainly concerned with ticketing citizens with minor infractions and seldom deal with real crime, you had best take your own counsel.

I hold a degree in criminal justice, and my profession entails rather sober and boring work at times. An observation that has remained constant for well over 100 years is that the active criminal population of a city is usually around 2 percent.

If that seems low, consider the odds: Many large cities have about 200,000 criminals to deal with against less than 5,000 officers, and the officers are parceled out in shift work. Thank God most people are honest!

Winchester Western .351 cartridges
These Winchester Western .351 cartridges have been around since 1940, and every single one fired normally. Good-quality ammunition enjoys a long shelf life and is handy in dire straits.

Of course, there are areas where the criminal population is much higher. My county contains about 250,000 people. That would figure out to about 5,000 active criminals, except that we are among the highest crime areas in the country. Fortunately, this crime is centralized in a few areas, although it spills out countywide.

We have a well-led proactive Sheriff’s Department, a professional municipal agency, and the usual small-town agencies of varying stripes. The police are outnumbered by 10:1 in total, but closer to 20:1 in the municipal agency.

Add to the active criminal population the hangers-on and lowlifes who will join the mob when it suits them and you see we have a problem.

The police will be outnumbered by a realistic 100:1. Add communication glitches and jurisdictional jealousy. As for your neighbors, there is a high percentage they will stand in the street and cry for the government to save them.

If there are any you can count on, you had better know who they are and make plans now.

I have worked a number of weather-related emergencies, including a particularly bad storm that claimed the lives of a number of people, both in their home and in accidents on the road.

Among the heroes were two firemen who navigated a snow-covered mountain trail to reset a radio repeater and restore communication.

A disabled child was stranded on the road and rescued, and my own children were in a church-based shelter for the duration. During this, the thieves were in full swing. Most thieves are lazy in the conventional sense, but they are cunning and sense an opportunity.

What all of this information should do is convince you that you need to be prepared.

Auto-Ordnance 1911 .45 pistol right profile
The Auto-Ordnance 1911 .45 is a no-frills GI .45. It is a capable firearm in dire straits.

There are many things you need to prepare with, and some are out of my field of expertise. But I can counsel you concerning firearms. You may not need a battle rifle and a tactical pistol, but you do need to be armed.

Working Firearms

A wood stove or gas heater may be as important as a good rifle, depending on where you live. Even if you live in Florida, a gas stove is good to keep warm and dry clothes. If you haven’t weathered a storm yet, you may not realize how much you will need.

The same may apply to firearms. The advantages and disadvantages of each type of firearm may be debated, but the important thing is to have a firearm. The real advantage is having something you are able to use well.

A bit of forethought is necessary because you may also have family members who need to be armed.

I have personal choices I think are good, reasonable choices for other family members. I have presented both my daughters-in-law with double-action Smith & Wesson .38 revolvers, each to suit their tastes.

One is a schoolteacher, and the other has two tours in Iraq and another in Afghanistan on her resume. Both are well armed.

Having something on your hip builds confidence. Facing a mob alone is suicide. Having a handgun close at hand is a comfort to the just and a deterrent to the evil. A skilled handgunner may hold their own against one or more looters in their own home. Show the adversary their own blood and they will often flee.

Unlike armed citizens and cops, thugs of this ilk have no concern for their own fallen. They leave them lying and retreat. I know of a particular case in which a gang was so eager to retreat, they ran over a wounded gang member with their vehicle.

Anything is better than nothing in this situation, but that anything should work. Avoid ineffectual calibers and ironmongery.

I doubt there is anything as bad as the defunct Llama pistols on the market today, but there are a number of pistols that do not work with a degree of reliability I trust.

Military surplus is often well worn, although a Romanian or Polish Tokarev in good shape would be at the top of the short list of good but inexpensive handguns.

The inexpensive brass-frame single-action revolvers should be avoided. There are pot-metal double-action revolvers that are not well suited to hard use.

Anything you use should be proofed. There are good used Smith & Wesson revolvers that will serve well. I am urging you to use what you have and use it well, but the baseline in defensive calibers should be the . 38 or 9mm.

I lump the .25, .32, and .380 ACP and the .32 Magnum in the same category. They are not enough for the job. You are in the situation of being armed with a deadly weapon but not well able to defend yourself.

Woman holding a pistol caliber carbine with a zombie target in the rear
Sometimes a pistol-caliber carbine is a good choice for young shooters in dire straits.

The .38 Special +P and 9mm +P are good defensive calibers, easy enough for occasional shooters to handle, and relatively available. I would not feel particularly handicapped with a 7.62mm Tokarev and good ammunition, but there are better choices.

If I could not carry at least a .38, I would prefer a .22 to the minor calibers. A good midframe .22 such as the Ruger Standard Model autoloader or the Taurus Tracker revolver will prove accurate and capable of making the most of anyone’s marksmanship skills.

The .22 is not the instant stopper we prefer, but then it goes back to showing them their own blood. I am not advocating the .22 over a centerfire, but everyone needs a good .22 and sometimes you go with what you know.

The handgun should be a true general-purpose handgun. We do not know what will come up.

A long-barrel hunting handgun or a short-barrel deep-concealment piece is not as useful in all situations. A red dot sight relies upon batteries and may be unhandy during movement.

If we expect our less interested family members to use a handgun, it should be a plain vanilla type.

I mentioned double-action revolvers. If you are willing to master the recoil and accommodate the muzzle blast, the Smith & Wesson Combat Magnum is still a fine sidearm. You may be surprised by the level of accuracy offered by quality Smith & Wesson revolvers, something often absent from modern polymer-frame, low-bid autoloaders.

If you like single-action revolvers, a quality example is far from useless. They are as good as any handgun for the one shot you may need.

There are standouts, even icons of reliability. I obtained a Beretta 92 in order to teach military-bound students. I have lost track of the inexpensive ball loads and lead-bullet handloads this pistol has fired, but it must be well over 10,000 rounds.

There have been no malfunctions of any type.

I added a solid-steel guide rod to tame the already light muzzle flip further. This is a controllable, reliable handgun that you can get a student up and running on quickly.

Major Matthew Campbell shooting the Beretta 92 pistol
Major Matthew Campbell finds the Beretta 92 good enough for critical use in dire straits.

If you favor the 1911, get a good one. This begins with the Rock Island Armory pistols. An underrated but effective handgun, the mil-spec Rock comes out of the box emergency ready.

If you care to invest in a Springfield TRP or Kimber Gold Combat, by all means, do so. The .45 auto is a great performer in its best renditions.


Arming yourself with a rifle shows forethought and preparation. A long gun simply makes sense. If you are lost in the woods or behind a wall in a riot zone, a good rifle is a potential lifesaver.

Not many of us have ice water in our veins. Your best performance on the range is not likely to be repeated in an emergency. The rifle makes the most of what ability you have.

I find that the average student will maintain his proficiency with the rifle to a higher degree than the handgun or shotgun over long periods of disuse.

When choosing a firearm of any type, you must answer the question as to what type of chore the firearm must handle. What type of incident do you wish to survive? Are animal attacks a part of the task? You need power.

To thwart a robbery, you may need an instant second shot. To feed yourself you may need accuracy or power or both. Let’s look at the reality of the situation. If you are lost or injured, you are at a disadvantage.

You need a good firearm to make up for these disadvantages.

Sitting around a campfire nursing an injury and listening to the coyotes howl is one scenario you may face. Being trapped in an apartment while looters ransack the neighborhood is another.

Big dogs get ugly when they are not fed, and these animals may be a real problem in short order in an urban environment. A good rifle is an efficient problem solver.

The power and complication of the rifle may depend on who is going to use it. If you are keeping rifles on hand for less interested family members, a good .22 is valuable.

The .22 has plenty of accuracy and penetration against human targets and is capable against small game.

Among the most reliable and all-around useful rifles I own is a Ruger 10/22 with the standard sights and a black synthetic stock. I do not add accessories, and I have yet to meet an extended magazine I trust completely until the Ruger X magazine was introduced.

With Winchester Wildcat 40-grain ammunition, it will group five shots into an inch or less at 25 yards. Being able to direct a bullet exactly where I want it to go on-demand is appealing. Anyone hit with a .22 is well advised to seek medical attention immediately.

At 13, the Ruger was my daughter’s bug-out gun. This was the only rifle she is familiar with.

I realize that the thought of a 13-year-old having a bug-out gun may horrify some folks, but the image of a slaughtered teenager is considerably worse to the author. The point is, the best rifle will be the one you have.

A few thoughts on obtaining food with the rifle. Be certain you know how to field dress and cook game. But rather than carry 8 pounds of hunting rifle, how about a 4-pound rifle and 4 pounds of food such as MREs?

Just a thought, but one that makes sense. You may decide you want more food and less ammunition and rifle.

I have not yet mentioned centerfire rifles, but by all means if you have a good one, consider its use in an emergency. The AR-15 comes to mind in terms of a survival rifle. I own several and have great respect for the type.

As for the 5.56mm and the 7.62x39mm, neither cartridge is ideal as an all-around rifle round for American conditions. The AR-15 features low recoil and good accuracy as well as a good ammunition reserve.

The cartridge does not have good penetration against light cover such as vehicles, an urban consideration. It is not an ideal deer cartridge.

I own a Winchester Model 1894 Trapper (16-inch barrel) in .30-30 WCF that I feel makes lots of sense as an emergency rifle. The rifle is flat with no handle or magazine to catch on brush or other obstacles. It is very accurate to about 100 yards, and the rifle hits hard.

Several handgun with paper targets
Whichever handgun you choose, master the piece and be certain it functions properly. You’ll be thankful you did when dire straits come along.

I have fitted mine with Providence Tool aperture sights, a close copy of the original Lyman receiver sight. The Winchester is reliable, and if there is a reckoning of your actions, it is a hunting rifle, not an assault rifle.

I load the Winchester Power Point in this one. A good short, fast-handling .308 is another excellent option. The .308 Winchester will handle 99 percent of the hunting chores on my table and serve well as a Katrina rifle as well.

While we may not think of a bolt gun, many are light, reliable, accurate, and affordable.

Battle Rifles

As a young man, I heard complaints concerning the M16 rifle from returning veterans, most concerning wound potential at longer range. There were reliability concerns with some rifles.

My grandfather’s generation and my father’s as well served with the M1 Garand. I have never heard a single complaint, ever, from anyone who used the Garand. The AR-15 is a fine rifle for small-unit actions.

It is overlooked, but once the American solider enjoyed air cover and was not in danger of air attack, the .30 rifle was less of a necessity.

My research tends to indicate that our rioters are not of the same stock as those who stormed the Shah’s palace in the face of 20mm Vulcan cannon fire. Show them blood, and they flee.

In the unlikely event I were employed in an urban defense situation, my M1 Garand rebuild would not be out of place.

Wrap your mind around a sniper at 200 yards in a bell tower. Will the AR-15 cut through light cover and ring his bell? While this seems cinematic, most of your adversaries will have been trained in tactics by the cinema.

They will be far easier to handle than those with military training. The main advantage of these firearms is in making us both truly safe and in feeling safe.

The bottom line in any practical discussion is that you must consider who will be using the gear and how practical it really is. In the end, a highly specialized firearm may be counterproductive. Choose a versatile firearm.

The reality of the situation is always foremost. The best emergency firearm is probably the one in the gunsafe that you use best.

Ammunition and Load-Bearing Devices

Your load-bearing gear must be up to the task. A heavy gun belt that keeps the handgun and holster properly in place and balanced is important. The holster must be either heavy ballistic nylon or treated leather.

A suede or natural-finish holster isn’t going to last long in hard use.

The holster and belt must be of first quality. If you use a Kydex holster, choose a good one such as the Blackhawk Serpa. The low bid is prone to break at the paddle. The rifle must have a good sling.

Most of us probably already have enough ammunition on hand to get us through a few days of danger. A few hundred rounds seems plenty barring a post-apocalyptic nightmare. If you choose your caliber in anticipation of an emergency, the choice will resound later.

If you deploy a .45-caliber handgun or 5.56mm rifle, ball ammunition is as effective as expanding ammunition in many cases. The big bores and the fast .223 are proven. On the other hand, RNL 9mm and .38-caliber rounds are poor performers.

Modern JHP loads are great, but perhaps a caliber that does not rely on an expensive or difficult load to find would be a good choice.

I keep 500 rounds of Winchester USA ball in .223, .308, and .45 ACP on hand at all times. It shoots well, and I am prone to pick at it and slow to replace it at times, but this program serves me well.

Whatever ammunition you choose, primer and case mouth seal are more important than potential wound ballistics. A cut-rate loading does not use such seal, and inclement weather will invade the case.

Per my research, the primer often survives while the powder is dampened. If the primer fails, the cartridge is easily extracted. If the primer fires but only partially ignites the powder, you may have a bullet stuck in the barrel. That is a real problem.

Ammunition for emergency use is critical. I do not like carrying spare ammunition on the firearm or the sling or holster, but a spare gun load should be carried in a proper ammunition pouch.

What are your favorite firearm for dire straits and why? Share your answers in the comment section.

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (56)

  1. Michael Allen, not sure where you saw anything racist, unless you think only minorities can be looters or criminals.

    While many consider .38 as the lowest caliber, and the author did at least point to the .22 LR, as a .22 LR can do some damage and with the higher number of rounds in a .22LR revolver and the ease of returning to target due to low recoil with a revolver or semi-auto, they can be very useful in defensive situations. Perhaps not the most desired, but functional and useful. That being said, I believe a .32, and .380 are both viable defensive rounds. A .32 was a round used by many European militaries and law enforcement for much of the 20th century, and the .380 is a 9mm short.

    That being said, while I would not refuse to carry a .22 LR, or a .380 or even a .32, I do prefer the .45 ACP in a good 1911. Old school I also like the Browning Hi-Power in 9mm, and the 92 is a good firearm, but as an armorer, there are far too many little parts and far too many people lose parts in the field.

    A good .22Lr or .22 WMR with a .410 is a good survival long gun, such as the Chiappa. Breech loading, one shot each, but you have the rifle and the shotgun combination. Not the best for defense perhaps, but a good basic survival weapon.

  2. Due to the versatility of ammo, I think the shotgun should be the first choice as preppers build their survival arsenal. In order, I’d recommend: 1) Shotgun, .12 or .20 GA (to tolerance). 2) .22 LR (Ruger 10/22, Marlin 60). 3) Handgun (.45 ACP -City, .357 MAG-Rural). 4) Modern Sporting Rifle (M4/AR15 or Ruger Mini-14). Bolt Action in .308 WIN, 30-06.

  3. I have a couple of Llama’s, they are reliable and fairly accurate. I will take any that the rest of you don’t want. Let me know. I have firearms in many different calibers; why, I can use most any ammo I find. Hope “Dire Straights” never happen and all this is just an interesting hobby.

  4. Re: RKC/ Michael Allen

    I too do not see any racist overtones in the article. In this highly fueled, mainly by the press, divisive nation that we all find ourselves a part of there seems to be the majority of us, myself included, looking for the faults of others instead of what truly binds us as a nation. Perhaps you have heard the saying, “seek and you will find”.
    I just hope moving forward we can look at another persons point of view without suggesting there is some hidden agenda. Why must we be subject to threat from outside for us to stay united. To fear what we don’t understand is an unhealthy way for us all to move forward.

  5. My personal “it’s hit the fan” bug out guns (I have much more for a bug in) are my Beretta CX4 Storm with the sleeve for 92 mags (30 round) partnered with my 92f pistol.
    I have a 92s (yes I have the mags that work on both the f and s) that can be carried by my wife.
    They are all 9mm but I can carry quite a bit of fire power on foot which might happen if I can’t make it where I’m going in the truck. My AR build is pretty light but still about 50% heavier than my Storm. I’m betting there are going to be more soft targets than hard targets so I won’t need the 5.56 to defend us.
    I have AR’s, AKs, shotguns and yes a trusty M1 Garand but most are just too heavy to carry on foot and if I have to dump my truck and hoof it they will be left behind.
    Plus, in the US 9mm will be the most available for the longest time. Second is likely 223/556.
    I would rather have something I can carry with spare ammo that will likely be laying around for years.
    Just my take on it.

  6. Boy, these snowflakes are everywhere and just lookin to read racism into ANYthing! Buddy you’re dead on with the breakdown of society. Great article btw, and I myself saw no implication of segregation either, just a oouple knee-jerking guys looking to instigate. Well rounded info and I get your seemedly conflicting take on the 22 cal, if one gets hit with a 22 inside say 125 yds anywhere in the trunk it’s gonna wreak havoc with your vitals, leo’s fear those more than the 9, whereas the 9 and 380 will pass thru or ricochet or not penetrate, in that order. Suffice to say a lotta good advice to contemplate. As to what I have, I’ll only say were country folk and armed as such. And were both legal citizens as far as weapons carry goes. Good article sir….

  7. I don’t see the .17 HMR mentioned in your article, but the Savage A17 is an awesome rifle. I have several of the 10 round rotary clips available and I love the rifle. When you hit your target with the .17 round, especially a flesh target, there’s pretty significant damage inflicted.

  8. Excellent article…….we think alike. The problem we have is I only have two friends close by with military/combat experience like myself that we can count on when necessary. The rest have no experience with weapons, nor own one, and are the the ones that WERE running the streets telling everyone, “Don’t worry, help (government type) will be here any minute now”….just as they did after Michael had us without, and yes the looters were everywhere. I actually sat out on our front porch with my AK-47 and my 1911 on my side. We had never seen so many out of place scum bags walking our street, looking for that chance. They were out like rats run out of a flooded sewer. They were like vampires, the walking dead….everywhere. I ran off a few from close by homes where they started onto their properties, thankfully without incident. Stay prepared, stay proficient, especially with your emergency weapons, food, water and procedures like my two buds and myself. Don’t be like the most of my neighbors…..”don’t worry, help will be here any minute now”. AND, don’t come to us to save you and yours. It’s dog eat dog, and don’t think it will not happen. Remember the story on the Ant and the Grasshopper…………..

  9. The best pistol cartridge in a SHTF scenario is 9mm Parabellum. Powerful enough to stop an attacker but small enough that you can carry an adequate supply both in your magazines and bug out bag. The recoil is manageable and easier for neophytes and smaller statured individuals to handle. 9mm also comes in a large selection of quality semi-automatic pistols. In addition to a service pistol, one might consider a licensed concealed carry handgun, also in 9mm, for tense circumstances where you have to be in public but don’t want to exacerbate the problem situation with a conspicuous gun on your hip.

    An AR-15 in 5.56mm with 62 gr bullets is the best long gun for SHTF. Like the 9mm, it’s powerful enough to stop an attack, but light enough for carrying. The recoil is mild, yet it is accurate and lethal up to and beyond 300 yards.

    Augmented with a quality 12 gauge shotgun and a powerful pellet gun for hunting, you should be set.

  10. I own & have used many of the firearms mentioned in the comments above. Ammunition in quantity in all calibers I use is on my shelves. I have been a military arms collector for many years so I have field stripped, cleaned & fired a wide range of weapons. After 20+ years of military service, including combat tours, I have had a good deal of tactical weapons training. My only point in mentioned this is to assure you that I have had some experience and while I don’t disagree with any of the comments I do question parts of some.
    My first question is how do I carry a couple pistols & rifles plus a shotgun in addition to 100s of rounds for each if I have to leave my home, camp or vehicle? Second, have I trained adequately with each of those weapons? An American soldier today frequently carries a combat load of 70+ pounds that will sustain him/her for at least 24 hours and includes an 8# rifle and 6, 8 or more loaded magazines. Not many of us over 50-60 years could do that especially adding a couple pistols & rifles with a couple 100 rounds of ammo for each.
    Maybe we ought to be thinking about absolute needs & proficiency with just 1 or 2 weapons and 3 or 4 loaded magazines.

  11. The only .38 that is worth mentioning anymore is the Colt .38 Super. The others you mentioned have proven inadequate against modern drug user criminals. The case of a Georgia mother who shot an intruder 5 times with a .38 pistol, only to have the intruder escape, is a good example. I prefer, however, for in close confines as an apartment complex, the Mossberg Model 500A in 20 Guage magnum.
    The 9 MM has been outdated since 1911. Keep in mind the AR-15 with .223 was originally designed as a rabbit hunting carbine in 1954, and I question it’s value for that.

  12. taurus pt111; taurus 9mm revolver ; ar15 ; ar15 pistol ; 9mm makarov ; 32/7.65 cz50 ; fedarms semi auto 12 gauge ; mossberg 835 ;arminius 357/38 revolver ; astra 357/38 revolver ; ballester molina 45 acp ; marlin 60 ; 2000 + rounds per weapon . food water lights fuel etc. hope i never need it .

  13. Bill
    LOL we must be brothers I need to trim the bushes— thanks for your comments that makes it worthwhile.

    God Bless

  14. Haha I always get a kick out of the folks who want to take issue with this or that. Excellent article. Well written, thorough consideration of our modern times. I like your repitition of the advice- use what you’re good with. And then you go on to say if you want something bigger, get good with it. Makes perfect sense. Prepare, and be prepared. I always say I’ll do it soon, but still haven’t done it. The lawn still needs to be mowed. I won’t care if its mowed if disaster strikes tomorrow. Preparation must be the priority, and firearm proficiency is a part of that preparation. Thanks again for the great article, and the motivation!!

  15. I have two pump shot guns two Winchester model 12 in 12 gauge that belonged to my dad made in 1964 and a 16 gauge made in 1948 that i bought from a friend. Both are in great shooting condition. I also have two Heritage ssa 22″s a sccy in 9mm and 3 .22 rifles. People always throw the .22 out as a defense weapon. And I understand the rounds limitations, but i can bring down feral hog deer with it i am pretty sure I can do the same using against a human. A .22 pocket pistol is my edc.

  16. My standard lot is fairly complete. The only things I would add are an additional rifle and a pump 12 gauge. Still working on getting the right shotgun for me. As for the group of guns that I would currently rely on if things went upside down:
    Glock 26 Gen 4 – this is my edc. Compact, easily concealable, abundant ammo (9mm), reliable, easy takedown. 3 shorty mags.
    Glock 19 Gen 4 – my favorite of the pistols to shoot. Same reasons as the G26. 5+ magazines that can be shared between the G19 and G26.
    Marlin 795 – light, semi-auto, abundant ammo (.22), scoped, reliable.

    I have a single action .22 revolver that is fun to shoot, but it gets dirty quick. I wouldn’t trust it to be as reliable as my 9mm over time.
    And my hunting rifle is a 300 savage. Absolutely wonderful beast of a gun, but ammo would be extremely difficult to find if I ran out. It would be much better to have a .223 or .308 / 30-06.

    At the end of the day, though, the best gun is the one you have ammo for.

  17. Michael Allen

    I do not think my comments were racist at all. I stated the facts concerning events that took place in our lifetime. While I may not look it at a casual glance I am not ‘all white’ and my relatives are a diverse lot of Irish, Scot, Native American, and black. My granddaughter will tell you quickly she is a proud black woman- although she is only four years old. Never would I advocate indiscriminate firing on people– in this case great discretion is required! Don’t confuse racism and the fact of the matter. The actions of some cannot color all of the race, white or black. Thanks for reading and please keep reading.

  18. Everyone should own 5 firearms and have 500 rounds of each on hand and know how to use them.

    1). .22 cal rifle – bolt or semi-auto
    2.) .22 cal pistol – revolver or semi-auto
    3.) Shotgun – 12ga or 20ga – pump or semi-auto
    4.) Center fire handgun – .38 special to .45ACP – revolver or semi-auto
    5.) Center fire precision rifle – AR15 to bolt actions like .223 to 30-06

    That’s my story and I’m stickin to it!


  19. “The AR-15 is a fine rifle for small-unit actions. It is overlooked, but once the American solider enjoyed air cover and was not in danger of air attack, the .30 rifle was less of a necessity.” Don’t disagree, but this article is about self-defense and self-preservation when the SHTF. Not all of us have the means, coin, ability nor proclivity to do a M1 Garand rebuild. Are you saying a well-maintained and well-practiced AR-10 trumps an AR-15 MSR? Sounds like that’s what you are saying to me.

  20. EDC is an SA XDe .45 with 3 mags. Ruger P95 in the nightstand with 3 mags. Mossberg SA20 with buckshot is handy, as well as a Ruger AR556. Wife has a Walther P22, a Ruger GP100, and a SCCY CPX2, all with plenty of ammo. Hope we’re covered.

  21. I have purposely built my arsenal in as few of different ammunition types as possible then stocked deep in each. .17 & .22, while being easily suppressed and great for taking small game should never be doubted as mid range equalizers.

    .380 defensive rounds are indeed highly effective self defense in that the controllable recoil allows for significantly faster target acquisition and controlled follow up shots.

    .38+p & .357mag are not only man stopping rounds in a small revolver that can be deep concealed but are able to take down dear at quite a distance when used in a lever action carbine or long barrel.

    .45acp is, well, .45acp !!! I have multiple five inch full barreled Colt and Colt variants stashed around me at all times. you will also find 4.75″& 3″ Colts carried in shoulder holsters just about anytime i’m in a suit or jacket with a deep concealed backup just because live is short.

    7.62mm x .39 as well as x .54 are stocked heavy and deep. Military ammunition in sealed ham cans are still available and I have yet to find a single issue with the steel casings.

    Half a dozen different ammunitions purchased well and stocked deep and I have a relevant round and weapon for anything and everything.

    We all have our favoriterite yound or weapon. The correct weapon is the one you have and as much ammo as you can store.

  22. This is a topic which is obviously important and which has also been the subject of great discussion and strongly held opinions. I grew up with .30 caliber rifles, .45 pistols, and .22 pistols. Of course, I favor those.
    My Desert Eagle 1911 in .45 ACP has well over 100 years of history and a reputation for great reliability and effectiveness. It is also the most accurate of the 25 or 30 1911’s I have owned over the years. It shares the advantages of proven components with the addition of performance enhancing improvements. Doesn’t require “magic bullets” to work its magic, even against those under the influence of mind-altering substances.
    For concealed carry I favor a Glock 29 in 10mm which fits in the pocket of my jeans quite well and is supported by two Glock 20 high cap magazines in my vest. The Glock handles a broad variety of 10mm and, in a pinch, shoots .40 S&W. I do not, of course, recommend that but I have run about 50 rounds of .40 through the pistol with no problems or malfunctions. Carrying the Glock in my pocket saves money on holsters and has worked well for more than 10 years at least. I spend the money I could have spent on holsters on ammo. Do to grip size, I put in a Precision Overwatch DAT flat trigger myself — me and You Tube. I also added True Glo fiber optic and tritium vial sights.
    I confess to having left my sainted .30-06 and moved to the .308/7.62X51 cartridge. I have a Ruger M77 Mannlicher style carbine (“cute little thing”, my wife says) and a “poor man’s MiA — an FN FAR for my long guns. Both carry low power scopes with lighted dot reticules and back up iron sights. I have a mix of ball ammo and 150 gr Winchester hunting ammo. Both shoot very well but admittedly there is more recoil from the little Ruger than its big brother, who has a bit of a weight problem. I discovered that after age 75 when I began to lose muscle tone.
    Finally, I have a dandy Browning Buckmark and several Ruger 10/22’s in various configurations. All quite accurate. We still hold competitions where we light kitchen matches from about 20 yards. Try that with your .22 pistol. Last, but hardly least, a 12 gauge Remington pump shotgun with interchangeable home defense and hunting barrels that hangs over the front door of our house. It has an extended tube mag which has to be removed before use as a hunting arm. It usually has the home defense barrel with 7 rounds of buckshot in it and another 8 rounds in a pouch type buttstock carrier.
    Others may argue the point but I feel adequately armed for most occasions. I try to shoot at least twice a month and vary my program throughout the year to keep an adequate skill level. At 78, I no longer contemplate “bugging out”. Age and condition persuade me to “bug in” and take as many opponents as I can with me to our reward. I do not necessarily expect to survive but I do expect to make any attackers pay a price. Since I am no longer mobile and have a few prepared positions on my acreage, any likely interlopers might be well advised to look elsewhere. Since I do not intend to go anywhere, I can indulge in rocket stoves, food storage, ammo supplies and other niceties of short term survival. We even have a hand pump for our well and keep chickens, rabbits and are looking to acquire a couple of geese to supplement our food supply and assist our standard sized “watch poodle”. Never let anyone tell you that a 75-pound standard poodle isn’t suitable as a watchdog and they do bite. Ours has tried to retrieve two long-distance runners and at least 1 UPS delivery man. The watch poodle replaced a Rottweiler and several hounds I could not keep on the place. The poodle stays close and can even come in the house at night. So far, best watchdog we have ever owned, other than biting the few long-distance runners who venture this far out in the country.
    We also have a cougar, deer, wild turkeys and other fauna on the place, periodically. So far, taking a turkey has been a matter of posting up in our back acreage and waiting for the flock to wander through. We rarely see the cougar and thus far he has chosen to avoid decimating our livestock.

  23. The author sounds knowledgeable of weapons and ammo. However, your politics are offensive to me as an African-American and gun owner. You have a suggestion to prepare to kill Black and other people that don’t look like you or this present imbecile of a President! Thought I’d share my oppoosite view – not every person of color is a threat to you and your society of potential vigilante, terrorists police and prepped followers.

    When chaos breaks out, if it does on a mass scale – many of you will be more of a threat to society than the thug, looter or gun carrying (runner when bleeding is present) persons who don’t look like you. This subtle form of hate is dangerous to civil society. Stop the madness. Focus on the features and benefits of being a prepared and responsible gun owner who will use proper discretion before randomly killing someone, without cause.

  24. “Firearms for Dire Straits?” I had no idea Mark Knopfler was into guns! Titling their biggest album “Brothers in Arms” makes sense now.

  25. 20 gauge Remington 870 18.5 brl 26 in brl in buyout box
    Marlin 336 in 30-30 WCF
    GLOCK 20 in .45 acp
    GLOCK 30s In .45 acp
    Smith & Wesson Shield 9mm (Wife)
    JRC In .45 acp
    Ruger single six 22lr/22wm
    Ruger 10/22

  26. One worst case scenario I prepare for, is a gaggle
    of bad guys coming at me. I have a selection
    of firearms with high capacity mags, 16 to 20 rounds
    per mag, with multiple mags loaded. Not all combat
    or close quarters shooting will be one shot, one kill.
    Just as cops and soldiers use multiple shots for fire
    suppression, I prepare for expanding multiple rounds
    by having high capacity mags or firearms. Wheel guns
    are great in the 7 or 8 round capacities. But nothing
    beats a couple of pistols in the 20 round capacity range.

  27. You’re confusing the 1965 NYC blackout, in which there was almost NO violence at all, with the NYC blackout of 1977, where there was indeed a great amount of looting, and some arson. I lived in NYC during both. I’m going to guess that you did not.

  28. You say the .22 is a valid choice, and mention the “flee when they see their own blood” concept, but then you suggest that round-nose 9mm and .38 are inadequate. So, are we dealing with people who laugh at neat 9mm holes in their heads, or people who flee in terror when a teenage girl puts a .22 in their bellies? You were doing well for most of the article, but this drift into “caliber war” seems out of place.

  29. I have lived in Galveston all of my life and can only assume you are referring to the great storm of 1900. I can attest to the fact that we have had many other bad storms that have left us without power and city resources and the citizens relied on the National Guard for protection from undesirables. After Rita I slept out on my patio because of no power or ac and it was not uncommon to hear a Stop command or a shot ring out in the night. I have what it takes to defend myself and my residence in a situation, thank goodness for the Guard, and our police department. Remember the old saying, “do not take a stick to a knife fight and do not take a knife to a gun fight.”


  30. My go bags each have a 3.5 inch 9mm and about 75 rounds for each. My personal bag also has the 10 22 take down and a couple hundred rounds. Trying to balance weight and all around use. My plan in a bug out situation is clearly escape and evade.
    I handload .223 with light 55grn soft points (technically, suitable for hunting). These are loaded to 2930 fps from a 16″ barrel. Have maybe 5000 rounds. These are all loaded in 30 rnd boxes and then grouped in 6 boxes and vacuum sealed. Thus, eliminating the need for tedious primer and neck sealing.
    I also load 9mm. Even at today’s ammo prices, I can load for half retail. I load segmented 124 grn jhp at about 1100 fps from a 4″ or 1130 from a 5.5 ” barrel. Maybe 5000 rounds of that as well. These are packed as the 223, but in four 50 round boxes. Both the 223 and 9mm are grouped so that they may be stacked in a standard 30 cal ammo can
    A load bearing vest is employed as well. This is only for when discretion is out the door. 6 AR mags, 5 G17 mags, small cleaning and parts kit for both. Holster for the glock. On the rear, an IFAK.
    All firearms run iron sights only, except in the case of the AR, buis to the holosun red dot and 3x magnifier.

  31. Great article! Lot’s of information and well presented. Personally my EDC is a Glock 30 (.45 ACP) and my go to long gun is a M4 style AR 15 chambered in 300 Blackout.

  32. Everyone has a personal taste in firearms of course, but I do find it odd that you were rather dismissive of “polymer-framed” pistols. Thousands of Glocks, or Sig Sauers have won their combat spurs in millions of combat engagements across the globe. If they are good enough for today’s military, they will serve you well when the chips are down. There is a reason law enforcement agencies and the military issue “polymer-framed” handguns instead of revolvers.

  33. I noticed you did not mention shotguns. Although I am well-armed with numerous revolvers and pistols from .22 through .45 Colt, .30 cal carbine, .30-06 , 7.62x 54R, I feel a GOOD quality pump or semi-auto shotgun should have been considered. Nothing quells a riot like a good riot gun it offers the advantave of birdshot, buckshot, or slugs. I also own a quantity of those as well.

  34. I live in FL and we dealt with scenarios similar to this, granted on a much smaller scale, during Hurricane Irma in 2017. Power was out up to a week in some places, and the bad element(s) knew that the police had limited resources.

    I had already built up a stock of XM193 and Federal 9mm (124g +P HST), and spent regular range time to get comfortable with both calibers. Had also accumulated batteries, multiple flashlights, water, protein bars (easy to store) and a good emergency radio. Blogs like these helped my preparation.

    While there were some nasty incidents as close as 2 miles from my house, our neighborhood was fortunate to come out unscathed.

    I have since added some Level III+ body armor to my emergency store. I hope all of this is theoretical, but believe in preparedness over wishful thinking.

  35. Thanks.
    Great article. Well written.
    We think alike.
    No batteries.
    What rounds are common and available
    Common sense.
    An Old Man told me one time. “Boy.
    If you don’t use your head. You might as well have two asses.”
    Good job.
    I will share.

  36. I agree with 9mm/40/45acp for handguns and 223/5.56 and 7.62/308 for rifles. Those are the calibers for modern semi auto weapons found everywhere which could become important if the emergency lasts for any period of time. My edc is a Glock in 357 Sig with the le version of the Gold Dot or Winchester T-round.

    I have a few hundred rounds for the 357’s which I feel is more than enough since my SHTF caliber for the most part is 9mm. That I have more than sufficient quantities on hand. 5.56 is my main rifle caliber for this scenario. Nothing is perfect but you need to compromise and be able to supply yourself down the road.

  37. NOOB!!! You talked something reliable and left out glock and an ak47, WOW, that ruined the revelency of this article for me for sure!

  38. The assault on lawful gun owners is very disturbing; especially, the various red flag laws gaining popularity. These assaults are unconstitutional by states and should be forcibly declared as such.

  39. Thanks for the article. I just want to ask however, are you saying my Ruger 380 is basically useless in a personal defense situation? I have that and a Mossberg 12 ga. for personal/home defense but if you think my .380 isn’t adequate I would certainly upgrade.
    Thanks ahead for your reply.

  40. Great subject Bob. I think everyone should have a 9mm and .45acp pistol and a 5.56 and .308 rifle with at least 500 rounds of each. A SKS in 7.62 x 39 would be a viable option or a good surplus Warsaw Pact AK. And last but not least a .22 LR rifle for small game, you are going to get hungry,

  41. 32 mag or even 327 is not to be sneezed at.
    Picked up a K31. Got plenty of ammo and also re load for it. Straight pull bolt with 6 to 10 round capacity. Excellent flat shooter.

    Levers are good as well and can run black powder easily. Real hard to make smokeless, not so hard to make black powder. Even with black powder the lever 45-70 with 9 rounds on board and running 405g slugs will handle even the largest na game or take out an engine block.

  42. I prefer a good 12ga. Like my 20″870 tactical model also a 10./22 ,abuckmark.22 ,as&w 9mm and an ar-9mm….remember guns are useless with no ammo….buy it in bulk you will save a ton!!!!….1000 rds.per gun on hand prperly stored!!

  43. I prefer a good 12 my 870 with a 20″ barrel. can shoot most anything with the right load and they are extremly common…also keep a s&w 9mm ,a buckmark a 10/22 and a ar-9 I keep 1000 rds.for each gun….remember a gun is uzeless with no ammo…buy in bulk you save a ton!!!

  44. I keep 2 12 ga.combat shot guns at my bedside….1 an 870 with a 20″ barrel. …12 ga is one of the most common rounds out there…also an ar-9mm ,10/22 a 12 with 18″ barrels a s& w 9mm, and an ar-15 with a 10.5″ barrel, also a good ole buckmark.22, and a cimmeronmodern .45 Lc….I try to keep a minimum of 1000 rds. Per gun…. If you by inbulk it is much cheaper!!!…..remember guns are useless without ammo

  45. Hi after researching this subject I settled on the Ruger 10/22 Take Down with see through Scope Rings so I could use the Iron Sights if my Trijicon Scope that I have mounted were to break as my long Gun, I also have the Glock 20 10mm with a 6” Barrel mounted into a Roni MCK Setup with Iron Sights, a Red Dot Sight, and a Viridion C5L Green Laser Flashlight so I could use it for protection from Animals when in the Forest and also Hunting if I had to followed by a Glock 27 40 S&W as my concealed carry Gun.


  46. I reload over 15 different calibers, and have > 300rounds in each.
    But in a high stress situation where I’m “bugging in” instead of bugging out, I’d choose the extremely popular/military calibers, .22, .223/5.56, .308/7.62, 9mm. I have thousands of empty casings in all of these except the rimfire, and I know that they are readily available at the local gun store, and at neighbors houses.
    Whether it is a foot patrol with a couple neighbors, bagging game, or defending the home front, I know these calibers and the associated firearms that shoot them will serve me in good stead.

  47. A “Dire Straight”!/? What exactly is a “Dire Straight” and what exactly does it mean?/! Last ditch fight, in an emergency, or something always on hand (i.e. within easy reach)…

  48. I 9mm close but rely on my 10/22 i know small rd .but in my habds accurate but gets dangerous up close my 10mm/40 ready

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