The firearm primer: answers to the questions you are afraid to ask
In unexpected crisis and emergency situations it is up to us to be able to care for ourselves and our loved ones. The old statement holds true that “when you need help instantly the police are only minutes away.” The scenes after Hurricane Katrina, the Rodney King Riots and other disasters may be etched in our memories and this should be enough to cause us to prepare ahead.
There are times when the police cannot even help themselves. We don’t need to be part of a wide-spread disaster to have a personal emergency and it would be better to be ready for an emergency years in advance rather than one minute late. The times are such that if you were ready today it might not be too soon.
“But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” 1 Tim 5:8
In a prolonged emergency situation, after immediate security, water is of utmost importance. Next on the list are food, clothing, medicines. In addition immediate protection for life and limb should not be neglected because none of these other items will matter unless you are prepared for self preservation when it is needed. The time to plan is before the need arises – once there is a need it may be too late.
Choosing the right firearms
“The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference – they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good.” – George Washington
There are three really great reasons to have a firearm available – 1) to protect yourself and your dear ones; 2) to hunt dangerous, destructive or delicious animals; 3) to keep despots respectful. We are fortunate that our forefathers planned ahead on our behalf and protected our God-given rights to be able to do these things as needed.
“The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed – where government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once.” Chief Justice Alex Kosinski – Ninth Circuit court 2003.
Before choosing a firearm, you must first identify the purposes for which the firearm is needed, then you can best chose which cartridge and firearm for your purpose.
The Rifle or Carbine
The rifle or carbine is the primary defensive weapon of every military in the world. It is able to stop a man-sized target with one well placed shot at both close and long distances. Most hunting and sporting cartridges in use today had their origins in military cartridges, and military rifles. Most militaries today – including our own military – use the carbine which is a shorter rifle – for its handiness, weight savings and maneuverability. These are also the primary armament used for hunting in virtually all areas of the world where they are legal.
While there are many different types of rifles and carbines available, for the purpose of this discussion we will only address three – the lever-action, the bolt-action and the semi-auto.
The lever-action is the rifle John Wayne used and had its beginning in the American Civil War. During most of the twentieth century more deer were brought to the pantry by a lever-action rifle with a 30-30 cartridge.
This combination works well out to 175 yards and this can be extended much further with the use of Hornady’s excellent LEVERevolution ammunition which is specifically designed to extend the reach and usefulness of traditional lever-action cartridges.
Marlin and Winchester are the most common names for lever-action rifles with Browning producing a contemporary version of the lever-action that handles modern cartridges. The Savage Model 99 is no longer in production, but there are many used ones which can be found and it is a very useful rifle.
The lever-action is still very functional as a home defense arm as well as a hunting arm. The lever-action does not “look military” and for some this is a consideration. But it is even more effective today than it was when it was winning the west because of upgrades in materials and better ammunition.
“Get the best [rifle] you can, of course; but do not worship it. Bear in mind that, whatever its trajectory and smashing quality, it is only a gun, and can kill nothing that you miss with it.” Horace Kephart Camping and Woodcraft 1917
The bolt-action is the most common hunting rifle today and has been on the scene since the last part of the 19th century. Most bolt-action rifles are accurate to distances beyond what the unpracticed rifleman can hold accurately.
Even today the bolt-action rifle is the choice for most military long-range sniper teams and most big game hunting world-wide including large dangerous game. Most bolt actions are rugged and simple to maintain and will provide several lifetimes of useful service.
The bolt-action also readily accepts a scope for quick and accurate target acquisition. Scopes not only make accurate shooting simpler for most people they also make shooting in low light possible. Very good brands for the bolt-action include Remington, Ruger, Winchester and Savage, which perhaps has the best dollar per accuracy ratio, also Stevens, made by the same company. In addition, Browning and recently Marlin is making a very nice for the price hunting rifle.
The semi-auto rifle or carbine has become the rifle of choice for militaries around the world. The American AR-15 is often one of the most accurate out of the box firearms of any kind you can hope to find. AR stands for ArmaLite the originator of these fine firearms.
It is the basis of the current and longest-serving family of small arms used by the United States military and is currently the most popular rifle type on the American civilian market. With that type of heritage semi-autos are turning up more and more in the hunting fields of America. The AR-15 is the shorter length action of the family handling the .223 / 5.56 NATO length cartridge.
The AR-10 was actually designed and produced first and it handles the mid-length .308 / 7.62 NATO length family of cartridges. The AR family of rifles and carbines are generally very accurate, reliable and very flexible – although not as handy to carry through forest and field as the lever-action and bolt actions.
Each AR can be readily taken down by simply removing two pins and the “upper” portion of the rifle replaced with another upper designed to shoot a totally different cartridge thereby making the selection of more than one cartridge for the same rifle a possibility.
“…arms…discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property. …Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding deprived the use of them. ” – Thomas Paine 1775.
There are most likely more AK-47 auto type rifles in the world than any other rifle or carbine. This is because the Soviet Union allowed other communist bloc nations to produce these in huge numbers and supply them to revolutionaries around the world. These are not accurate rifles, but are reliable and designed so a peasant could be taught how to use one in a short amount of time. They are not as common in the USA as other semi-auto rifles.
Another rifle with origins in the former USSR is the SKS which was the precursor to the AK-47. This may be the best semi-auto defensive rifle or carbine available for someone with limited funds to spend as they are still widely available and comparatively inexpensive.
They are adequately accurate and imported ammunition is also widely available and comparatively inexpensive and the 7.62 x 39 ammunition it shoots has enough power to be used for hunting purposes up to deer sized game – although I would recommend American ammunition designed specifically for hunting for this purpose. The Ruger Mini 14 and Mini 30 is another popular semi-auto available in popular and useful cartridges – .223 Rem., 6.8 Rem. SPC and the 7.62 x 39.
I understand the Mini 30 (7.62 x 39) is very popular in Hawaii for hunting pigs, some of which reach weights of over 700 lbs. And who can forget the Asian-American store owners with their Mini 14’s protecting their businesses from the roof tops against the roving bands during the Rodney King Riots? The AR-15 can also be purchased with the 7.62 x 39, the 6.8 Rem. SPC and other cartridges effective for deer sized game as well as self-defense; it is the only rifle commonly available which may be easily switched from one cartridge to another.
“I’ll let you know they never bothered him, All day and all night long, he had a gun on each shoulder and he marched from where our store was … to our home, and that was back and forth all evening.” Edith Carpenter retelling how her father patrolled with guns visible & other black residents armed themselves – Springfield Il riots Aug 14th 1908
Everybody needs a .22lr (Long Rifle) rimfire. There are more .22 cartridges manufactured and shot each year around the world than any other sporting cartridge. They are fun and inexpensive to shoot, and have many uses including practice, removing vermin and varmints, and self-defense.
Often it is said that the .22lr is not powerful enough to be used for self-defense, but when asked no one with this opinion has ever volunteered to be a target for one. I spoke to a young man from Mexico once who told of traveling with his mother as a child when they were stopped by banditos.
His mother produced an ancient .22 handgun and pointed it at one of the banditos and instructed them to leave them alone. One of the bandits said “that’s only a “veinti dos” – she responded “se’, solamente calibre veinti dos” (yes this is only a twenty-two). The two thugs looked at one another, shrugged and left.
The most popular .22lr rifle is the Ruger 10/22. It is reliable and fun to shoot, and easy to learn to shoot well. I also like the Marlin “Papoose” .22 also which is a “take-down” version allowing the barrel to be screwed off for easy storage or transportation or even back-packing. Marlin and Savage both make good, reliable, inexpensive .22lr rifles.
” … the right to defend one’s home and one’s person when attacked has been guaranteed through the ages by common law.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community
By making wise choices one can be prepared for any situation which might require a rifle or carbine. With a .22lr, a .223 Rem. and a good .308 one would be well suited for nearly any foreseeable purpose for which a rifle would be required (while many elephants and Alaska brown bears have been taken with .308’s that is asking a bit much from the cartridge.) These three are also generally among the most abundantly available rifle cartridges.
Cartridge Choices for Rifle / Carbine
Following is a list of suggested cartridges with availability, functionality, and usefulness in mind. Many of these are current, former or experimental US and NATO military cartridges. A number of others are European or former communist bloc military cartridges.
This helps with both ammunition and rifle availability and generally lowers costs as well. It also insures that the cartridges and the firearms that chamber them have been thoroughly tried and tested. Bear in mind that any cartridge which is useful for hunting will also have some application for self-defense.
I have included some common magnum cartridges. Be mindful that any with the Magnum designation will be more costly to shoot and stock ammunition for. And, the rifles which shoot these cartridges are generally heavier than other rifles suitable for the other cartridges and the recoil produced by these cartridges is often considered excessive for the average person.
Personal weapons are what raised mankind out of the mud, and the rifle is the queen of personal weapons. The possession of a good rifle, as well as the skill to use it well, truly makes a man the monarch of all he surveys.” Col. Jeff Cooper, The Art of the Rifle, founder Gunsight Academy
A handgun is for fighting your way to your rifle which you shouldn’t have put down in the first place” Clint Smith, Thunder Ranch Training Academy
Years ago I determined I would not go unarmed in the forest any longer. The incidence of people – even armed hunters – being attacked & consumed has increased over the years in the mountains where I live. Bears, especially Grizzly, lions and wolves have all endangered humans, even in town (I have a friend who had to shoot a 400+ lb bear through the Plexiglas door of her porch to save herself). It was pointed out to me that the book of Revelation foretells of an increase of beasts coming to attack humans.
Once when I was bringing out the meat from an elk I had hunted I saw an increasing number of wolf tracks. I was on my final trip with sled and a back-pack full of meat when the sun went down and things got a bit interesting.
While I was aware of the wolf pack shadowing me before darkness fell, after that they became bolder and howled and snarled and debated with me over the ownership of the elk. I must admit had I not been armed I may have felt intimidated.
had left my rifle back at the truck for convenience after my first trip but I was comforted by my Glock 29 which is a 10mm. With 12 rounds in the gun and 12 more already loaded in a magazine in my pocket I found the situation more interesting than intimidating. Since wolves can weigh as much as a human, I don’t think a band of human ruffians would have had any more success in robbing me than those wolves had. That’s the purpose of a hand gun – to be available any time.
“To him in whom the primitive virtues of courage, energy and love of adventure have not been slapped, there is scarce a joy comparable to that of roaming at will through wild region, viewing the glories of the unspoiled earth and feeling the inexpressible thrill of manliness sore tested by privation and hazard but armed and undismayed”. Horace Kephart Camping and Woodcraft 1917
There are two main types of handguns: the pistol and the revolver. Most pistols are semi-automatic, meaning the firearm will re-load its chamber after each shot and be ready to shoot with each press of the trigger. This is also true with the double action revolver in the sense that for each shot, the cylinder turns, aligning the next round for firing when the trigger is pressed.
There is a second type of revolver generally recognized as the “cowboy gun” which is the single action revolver. The single action revolver requires that the hammer be cocked after each shot before the next shot can be taken. A well made revolver is generally very rugged, trouble-free and simple to use.
The semi-auto uses a removable magazine which actually holds the ammunition. More ammunition can be prepared in extra magazines available for quickly reloading of a semi-automatic pistol if desired or required.
The magazine is sometimes incorrectly called a clip, but a clip does not remain in the firearm (generally a rifle) after the last shot, but flies out preparing the firearm for another clip full of loaded cartridges. The magazine on the other hand can be quickly removed and replaced with a fresh magazine. Pistols may be had with magazine capacity varying from as few as 5 to as many as 19 and there are magazines available which hold many more.
The revolver may be able to chamber from 5 to as many as 10 cartridges, and while not as quick to reload as a pistol there are speed loaders available for revolvers which make it almost as fast. Generally, revolvers are available in more powerful cartridges than pistols which is useful in certain applications; especially hunting and defense against large predators. The revolver is generally less finicky about hand loaded ammunition than an auto loading pistol, a factor which should be taken into consideration.
Some good brands of revolver are Smith & Wesson, Ruger, Taurus, Colt and Charter Arms. Some highly regarded pistols are made by Glock, Springfield Armory, Smith & Wesson, Kahr, and Kel-Tec. There are many other brands – some much more expensive and many less reliable or available than these brands, but these are tried, tested and available.
For a pistol cartridge I generally recommend the .40 S&W which is the most widely used police cartridge in America. If this proves to be too much recoil then a 9mm would be the next choice. The Glock is the pistol of choice and the one by which all other self-defense pistols are generally judged.
In a revolver the .357 is the place to begin looking. With the ability to shoot less expensive .38 Special rounds through the same handgun it is a very flexible cartridge and has the most impressive history of one-shot stops against criminals in the hands of police and armed citizens when the proper bullets are chosen.
Specifically for the .22lr I like the Walther P22 auto-loader and a Taurus 94 9-shot revolver. In the .380 auto the Kel-Tec P 3-AT is highly regarded and the Ruger LCP is a popular copy.
“I had my bible and I had my gun. And I knew I was safe. And I tell you what, I’m a regular Annie Oakley if you come fool with me or my family – I’m gonna let you have it buddy.” Rev. Marie Gilatus – Baptist minister New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina
.357 Magnum may shoot .38 Special cartridges
This is not reversible; as an example a .357 Magnum may shoot .38 Special cartridges – but not the other way around. Most of these hand gun cartridges may also be found in certain carbines and rifles.
“The mission of the defensive pistol is to provide immediate protection against unexpected, life-threatening criminal violence. Unexpected is the point. Forewarned, one would go out of his way to avoid the situation, while calling in the gendarmes; or if that were impossible, he would fetch a rifle or shotgun, which are decidedly more effective tools for repelling boarders than any pistol…” Finn Aagaard, Concealed Carry, Finn Aagaard Selected Works 2007
“You can say ‘stop’ or ‘alto’ or use any other word you think will work but I’ve found that a large-bore muzzle pointed at someone’s head is pretty much the universal language” Clint Smith Thunder Ranch Training Academy
I knew a man who was a burglar before he was converted and convinced otherwise. He told me that he was cured of his crimes – not by his time in prison, but by his short time staring down the barrel of a 12 gauge shotgun. The shotgun is probably the most flexible long gun you can own.
It is widely available, and legal to own in many areas – even nations – which limit the ownership of other long arms and hand guns. For the urban dweller this is probably the long arm you should look at first for self-defense. One of the primary safety rules for using firearms is knowing your target and what is beyond it.
With bird shot someone in an apartment or condo is less likely to have a shot continue through a wall into an unseen individual in another room – or building.
The primary choices for a Shotgun are:
- 12 Gauge
- 20 Gauge
Shotgun shells proved to be much more readily available in past ammunition shortages caused by various political and economic influences. This is something to be considered by anyone who has not planned ahead for unforeseen eventualities.
“If you use a handgun, the jury may understand, but if you use a shotgun, you are a gentleman.” A judge who wishes to remain anonymous.
Shotguns are very flexible and useful long arms. The most flexible and useful is the 12 gauge, but the 20 gauge is nearly so. Part of the flexibility of a shotgun is in the wide variety of ammunition which any shotgun may use.
The shotgun shell may be chosen with smaller pellets which are good for small game and various game birds. In a defensive context, shells with smaller and more numerous pellets provide a devastating effect with less chance of over-penetrating through walls and endangering people beyond the intended target. A shotgun may also use larger pellets and buck shot for penetration and stopping power.
These were originally designed for hunting big game and larger game birds and waterfowl, but have been useful in defensive scenarios by military, police and civilians. A shotgun may also shoot slugs which are designed for hunting big game and serve the same purpose as a bullet through a rifle.
The most useful and readily available shotgun for defensive, hunting and preparedness is a pump-action shotgun, although there are some very adequate semi-auto shotguns. However, a pump-action shotgun is much less likely to jam or reject ammunition which might jam in an auto-loader which is a consideration when choosing a reliable shotgun.
A shotgun may be fitted with a number of various barrels designed for different purposes. It may be fitted with a shorter barrel that is easier to maneuver for defensive purposes as well as certain hunting applications.
It can also be fitted with a longer barrel extending the usefulness for a number of specific hunting applications. And, it can be fitted with a rifled barrel or rifled choke useful in extending the accuracy range of shotgun slugs for hunting and certain defensive applications. The Mossberg 500 also has the unique attribute of a black powder rifle barrel which expands its usefulness in areas where muzzle-loader hunting is allowed or required.
The two shotguns generally chosen for the preparedness scenario are the Remington 870 and the Mossberg 500. These two shotguns are chosen by the military, police and hunters more than any other shotguns because of their usefulness and dependability. I have also heard good things about the Savage 350 and the Winchester 1300, although I have less personal experience with these.
“Among the natural rights of the colonists are these, First, a right to life, Secondly to Liberty. Thirdly, to property, together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can. These are evident branches of, rather than deductions from, the duty of self-preservation, commonly called the first law of nature.” – Samuel Adams
Choose your weapons
The time to prepare is before you need your weapons. Any working gun is better than your clinched fist and a telephone. The first rule for winning a gun fight is having a gun. The more you train with a firearm, the less likely you will need to use it. At the minimum you ought to have a handgun, a long arm, and a .22 in either persuasion, and then get some ammunition and some training and learn to be proficient with what you have.
The more proficient your are – the more confident you will be, and confidence is often what separates the successful from the vanquished. The late Col. Jeff Cooper used to say “you can’t make an appointment for an emergency”. If you knew the emergency was coming you would avoid it. Therefore do all you can to be prepared to get through any emergency and be in a position to help others if necessary.
Ammo is cheap… Life is expensive. Without ammunition your firearm is an expensive club. In the current climate you should consider stocking up on more ammunition than you think you can shoot. Just in the past few years there have been a number of ammunition shortages and none of them were directly related to legislation.
That situation could change any time, and any number of other factors could cause another shortage. In fact while there haven’t been any runs on the banks lately (that also could change instantly) there have been a number of runs on ammunition nationally.
If you choose from one of the common or very common cartridges in the list for ammunition you will most likely be able to find ammunition widely available. You will also find that this ammunition will be easily resalable in the future or during times of shortages. Common calibers and gauges of ammunition are also good bets for barter in uncertain times.
There are many brands of ammunition which can be considered adequate for practice and other uses other than self-defense. For self-defense and for hunting purposes it is important to get the best ammunition possible. Search the one-shot-stop ratio and don’t skimp on ammunition for these purposes, your life may depend upon it.
A handgun is a marginal stopper compared with almost any long arm so it is imperative to get the best ammunition possible to increase your odds of one shot stopping success. My first choice for a hand gun cartridge for self-defense begins with Cor-Bon, with the Barnes DPX bullet when possible.
There are many other very good defensive loads including Federal Hydra-Shok, Remington Golden Saber, Speer Gold Dot, Winchester’s Supreme Elite, and Hornady Critical Defense, among others. For hunting with a handgun and protection against large predators and other rogue beasts, penetration and power are of utmost importance.
For these purposes I look to Cor-Bon hunting loads, Buffalo Bore hunting loads, Federal hunting loads, and any of the various brands that use Nosler Partition bullets, all of which are designed with big game in mind.
“God created men and women, Col. Colt made them equal”
For rifle ammo once again you may stock up on military ammunition which has full metal jacketed (FMJ) bullets. For hunting you will need to acquire any of the many good types of hunting ammunition on the market which usually have a bullet meant to expand for quicker kills on animals.
There are many premium brands of ammunition which in most cases are worth their extra cost for their superior successful stopping ratios. I recommend Federal Fusion, Hornady Superformance and any of the various brands that use Barnes or Nosler Partition bullets. Hornady also makes the TAP brand of rifle ammunition designed specifically for civilian self-defense.
If you are using a traditional lever-action with a tubular magazine – like most 30-30’s and 45-70’s – I highly recommend the LEVERevolution ammunition by Hornady it will be well worth having over any other lever-action ammunition currently on the market today.
“Any gun will do – if you will do.” Dr. Ignatius Piazza, Front Sight Firearms Training Institute
Lastly get some training. If you don’t know how to use your firearm safely you will not be as prepared as you could be. Americans tend to feel prepared once they have the right equipment. Having a gun you haven’t trained with is like having a hammer and nails and thinking you have already completed your home project.
There are numerous excellent firearms training facilities around the nation; at least sign up for your local Concealed Weapons Course and learn as much as you can. You do not need to apply for a Concealed Weapons Permit just because you took the course, but it may be something you’ll want to do. Once you learn the basics you can become more proficient by dry practice.
Perfect practice makes one perfectly proficient – but poor practice only improves your imperfections. Learn to use your firearms and enjoy them when you can. The proper use of firearms is truly an enjoyable pastime and one of the more useful talents to have at certain times in life. If you were trained today, it might not be too soon. Today we are not preparing for a future time of peril, we are living in perilous times.
“A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be your constant companion of your walks.” Thomas Jefferson
Preparedness and Self-sufficiency solutions recommended for you:
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The Lost Ways (The vital self-sufficiency lessons our great grand-fathers left us)
Food for Freedom (If I want my family to survive, I need my own food reserve)
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Blackout USA (EMP survival and preparedness guide)