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Five Firearms for the Prepper’s Arsenal

roadwashed72By Beau Shea 

I got asked to write about guns that would be best for a “Prepper or Survivalist” by my editor who I often think of as a “Fool or a Dingus.” But, since I work for him, I studied these people and I realized that they aren’t that different from being a “Farmer or Rancher.”  They know that sometimes you have to be prepared to eat when you can’t get to the store or that the police aren’t coming because you live far out in the country.  I guess he was right, I am a Prepper of sorts.

The first trick is to realize that the best gun in the world isn’t worth a hot-good damn if you don’t have it with you.  I don’t know how many times I’ve driven up on coyotes or a nice buck while out feeding without a gun in the truck.  If you are going to prepare to survive (see how I did that Mr. Editor, putting those words together in a different way) I would pick a rifle that was light and easy to have around and a pistol that rode well in a holster.  Now you have to figure out what you will be shooting.

102272I think a Ruger 10-22 would be pretty hard to beat.  I also know there’s one riding around in my farm truck’s window rack. And before you get squeamish on me about “Killing Power”, I’ll tell you that I’ve killed quite a lot of stuff with it.  Let me be the first to admit that I’ve never killed anything bigger than a full-grown steer with one.  So yes, I know you can’t kill the really big animals with a .22.

10/22 Ruger with folding stock.

10/22 Ruger with folding stock.

Ruger’s managed to make an easy-to-pack little rifle that has a bunch of options if you just can’t leave well enough alone. You can put a folding stock on it (which is a pretty good option),  get magazines that hold up to 50 rounds (unless there are bigger ones or a belt-fed model I haven’t seen yet) or link two rifles up and fire them like a crew served weapon.  That looks fun, but my wife said no. It is versatility that raises the little Ruger above the rest of the .22 crowd.

My Wife Said "No."

My Wife Said “No.”

If I had to face life on my ranch with just one gun, or in my newly assigned life as a prepper, the 10/22 would be my choice — hands down.  Kids can shoot them easily and hit what they are aiming at and so can the fairer sex. There is no recoil to speak of and until the last couple of years, ammo was cheap and easy to get.  I stocked up years ago and I’m still coasting on my stockpile.  If you can’t get .22s and think my idea sucks because of that, you should have started prepping sooner.

For a pistol on my belt, I was pretty tempted to say I would take the beat up Ruger Mark 1 target pistol I grew up with, but my feeling have changed a bit.   On the plus side, I could feed the 10/22 and the Mark 1 out of the same box, but I really haven’t gained any advantage by having two guns that do similar things.  I think a pistol with more pop than a .22 is a better answer in case I meet a varmint in my fields away from the truck.

Ruger LCRx

Ruger LCRx

Where I live there are all sorts of varmints I might want to shoot and they are pretty different from one to the next.  I just bought another Ruger gun a couple of months ago and I’ve carried it a lot since then.  It’s ugly as homemade sin, but it weighs less than a pound and made mostly of plastic and aluminum that won’t rust being out in the elements like a good holster gun should be.  My Ruger LCRx is a .38 Special +P five-shot with adjustable sights and a three-inch barrel that gives it just enough sight radius to shoot well.

altlcrx72Here are my reasons for picking this cob-ugly thing for my survival handgun:  It is light enough to carry and heavy enough to kill.    I usually carry it around with four Keith-Style semi-wadcutters loaded to the gills with Accurate #2 and one shot capsule cartridge loaded with #12 shot.  The shotshell comes up first when you pull the trigger.   I hate snakes and there are plenty of them were I live.  Now I know I’m going to have justify not carrying some wazoo 125 or 158 grain jacketed hollow point bullets.  I just don’t have that much faith in the little .38 opening up at those velocities.  If they do open up, I suspect that the crush cavity (the part of a wound that is actually touched by the bullet) is going to be less than the cavity left by my non-expanding Keiths.  I will take penetration and a broad meplat over possible expansion in a .38 Special.  As another plus, I own the mold and can make them at home like a good prepper should.

I have to admit it took me a long time to warm up to my next choice.  I remember as a boy being disappointed the first time I got to touch America’s new (then at least) service rifle.  It rattled.  The plastic seemed cheap.  The cast receiver was rough.  The cartridge was tiny and the one I was using jammed more than was healthy for a soldier.  My friend, they have come a long way from there.

AR-15 Carbine in .223 Remington.5.56 NATO

AR-15 Carbine in .223 Remington/.5.56 NATO

After the Brady Ban let loose, the whole AR-15 market exploded into what have become some very reliable and accurate rifles.  Creepily accurate when you realize that the rifles use interchangeable parts and go together like dangerous Lego blocks.  With a stripped receiver, a Brownell’s catalog and single specialized wrench, you can make a custom AR 15 in the comfort of your own home. Except for the 10/22, no other gun has as many options and is so easy to work on in a home shop.

Sometimes trouble arrives in large groups and I’ll bet you two dimes to a nickel that this will be even more common if society goes off the rails.  No matter how steely-eyed you are right now, that thirty round magazine is going to look pretty attractive when the Hell’s Angels arrive at your house.  To me, the AR 15 is the better mousetrap: If you build it, they may come.  If you shoot six or seven of them, they will leave.  Add an AR-15 to your prepper collection and stop arguing that they are no good.  History is on my side on this one.

870 Remington

870 Remington

I see from poking around other articles that every prepper worth his dried beans needs a shotgun.  I know that there is one by the kitchen door in my house and I’m willing to bet most rural homes have them there too.  They are there because they are handy.  They are also durable things that you don’t have to worry about. I don’t remember the last time I shot the one in the Kitchen, but it’s still there loaded with #6 and it will work when I need it.

Just about everything you can hang off a shotgun.

Just about everything you can hang off a shotgun.

For a guy that is worried about the end of the world, shotguns are another of those weapons that are easy to adapt to specialized needs.  Some of the shotguns I’ve seen on the internet (but never in real life for some reason) look they stepped out of a sci-fi movie.  They have lights, lasers, holographic sights and spare ammo hanging off of every available surface. They look heavy and they need batteries.  The shotgun behind my kitchen door isn’t and doesn’t.  It will also be effective in another decade with its simple bead sight.  I think that the space-shotgun misses the point for preppers. Batteries make its logistics tail too long.

A good prepper’s shotgun needs to be reliable and versatile.  A Remington 870 Express, with its durable finish, is the perfect fit.  An 18-inch riot barrel that can be swapped in seconds for the factory sporting barrel, will only set you back a hundred bucks.  After that one option, everything else is up to personal taste.  With that combo you can keep the chickens safe, hunt or defend you home without breaking the bank.   With shotguns, keep them simple and remember that in your prepper’s scenario, they are more hunters than fighters.

There are two obvious guns left and only one spot to fill.  I would want to have a full-sized combat pistol but I would need a true hunting rifle.  Like all things in life: needs trump wants.  No prepper/survivalist could plan on surviving indefinitely without a hunting rifle.  For me, it would have to be a turn-bolt, Mauser-style action in a caliber that was common and easy to handload.  It would have to be a hunter first and a sniper second with enough range and energy to take any animal I would choose to kill.  This is a broad category and many cartridges and rifles will fit the bill.  I guess if you held me down and beat me with a stick, I would take Ruger’s Gunsite Scout in .308 Winchester.

Ruger .308 Winchester Gunsite rifle.

Ruger .308 Winchester Gunsite rifle.

The Scout idea came from the fertile mind of Jeff Cooper who imagined a rifle that was fast to the shoulder, reliable and powerful enough to kill what needed killing.  A number of rifles have come along claiming to fulfill Cooper’s dream, but none understood the practical concepts as well as Ruger.  With an Accuracy International-style magazine, controlled feed, multiple optics options and durable little emergency peep sight, this is a rifle for the end of the world.

RalphieAR15I’ve been put on notice that my next story needs to address handloading for the prepper/survivalist. I’ll keep this list and go from there.  These choices make sense from the handloading side as well.

Beau Shea