Pulling together a useful, flexible emergency preparedness plan, along with the appropriate support gear, is more of a journey than a destination. Moving to a different part of the country, a growing (and growing up) family and the arrival of new products on the market are just a few of the reasons that your equipment set may need to evolve. In the article Preparing an Urban Emergency Kit posted a few months ago, the emergency kit carry and storage options shown there are intended to be small, light and easy to store. So much so that the largest firearm suitable for use with them would be a sub-compact or compact handgun.
However, if you study the commentary of the experts who understand what it takes to survive urban and wilderness emergencies in which two-legged threats may be a factor, you'll find a common discussion thread which can be summed up like this: Handguns have their place in the emergency-defense lexicon, but a rifle is what you'll really want in a pinch. This is because rifles are easier to shoot, more accurate, have a longer effective range and, in most cases, are more powerful than handguns.
Is it possible to work a rifle into a compact, portable urban survival kit? Absolutely! There are dozens of options on the market today that can fit the bill quite nicely because they can be split in half or folded for easy storage in smaller spaces. But before diving into the sea of possibilities, I spent some time pondering what would be the most useful option in my particular situation. Here is a quick breakdown of the thought process that led to the field testing of the new Ruger PC9 Takedown Carbine along with the Hazard 4 Grayman Plan-B sling pack in this role.
My primary goal was to find a rifle that would be a useful and enjoyable traveling companion when my family goes on road trips into the beautiful deserts and wilderness areas close to home and in neighboring states. Cargo space is always limited, so a takedown carbine would be the best fit. I wanted a carbine capable of filling multiple roles, meaning, it should be powerful enough for personal protection in an emergency while providing a feature set, controls and a level of felt recoil suitable for casual outdoor family shooting time with the kids. Rimfire .22s are terrific for plinking and potting small game, and models like the Henry U.S. Survival Rifle are definitely easy to pack and can certainly serve as survival guns. However, the defensive capabilities of .22 rimfires are limited.
Although a rifle-caliber carbine is more powerful and offers greater range, it was important in this case to select a rifle that other family members would be comfortable working with. I've outlined the positive qualities of 9 mm carbines before, but let me touch on some of the specifics of the Ruger PC Carbine that moved it to the top of the list. It has a sporting shoulder stock, controls and trigger which are all nearly identical to that of the ubiquitous Ruger 10/22 rimfire, a carbine which we are all familiar with and enjoy shooting. That eliminates a good deal of learning curve even though the PC Carbine is heavier and the sight system is different. The 10/22-ish profile also has the advantage of not setting off any alarms in those areas where common “black rifle” features (flash hiders, pistol grips, and adjustable stocks) are heavily regulated or restricted. The two rifle sling studs make it easy to install a 2-point hunting-style sling like the braided paracord version shown here from Sandstorm Custom Rifle Slings.
In regards to ammunition costs (at the time of this writing) I found 9 mm available online for ~15 cents per round. That's more than .22 LR (~5 cents) but less than .223 Rem. (~22 cents). In addition to cost savings, I was looking for low levels of felt recoil (exceptionally mild with the PC Carbine) and a less concussive degree of muzzle blast and flash. The magazine well is fitted with a removable insert which can be traded out so that the rifle can be fired using either Ruger pistol magazines or Glock magazines. That means the carbine can be fed from the same magazines using the same ammunition as your emergency pistol, which is pretty darn handy. Other features that sold me on this platform as a multi-purpose, family-friendly platform include a smooth 4-lb. 4-oz. single-stage trigger (as tested), excellent iron sights, molded-in accessory rail for lights or lasers and adjustable length of pull (for a full technical write up of the PC Carbine, click here).
I took the PC carbine out to the range for formal benchrested accuracy testing at 50 yards using a compact Holosun HS507C Micro red-dot sight. Not only is this optic compact with a rugged CNC-machined 7075 aluminum housing, it has a solar panel which boosts the working life span of a single CR2032 battery to between 50,000 to 100,000 hours. NovX Ammunition's 65-gr. +P ARX fluted poly-copper solid produced a best single five-shot group of 1.60" with an average of 1.72". Hornady American Gunner 124-gr. +P XTP jacketed hollow points printed a best group of 1.16" and an average of 1.33". The tightest results were produced using Black Hills 115-gr. +P jacketed hollow points with a best group of 1.11" with an average of 1.26".
The next step was selecting a pack that was large enough to carry and conceal the carbine, along with magazines, ammunition and survival gear, without it being too obviously “tacti-cool” or overly large. There are some terrific sporting-style concealment backpacks on the market these days, including the Copper Basin Takedown ($99.99) and the Elite Survival Systems Stealth ($224.95). These packs blend right in with typical outdoors gear and provide plenty of storage space. They definitely deserve consideration if you have the vehicular cargo space to fit them. In my case, I needed something with similar features at about half the size.
Hazard 4 came to the rescue with the Civilian Labs Grayman series Plan-B sling pack. Designed specifically for professionals who have to relocate quickly, often in confined spaces, the Plan-B has a slim design for comfortable carry in the field and quick stowage in lockers, in between car seats and other tight spaces. The single shoulder strap allows the bag to swing around to the front of the wearer's torso for easy access to the two zippered front pockets, the zippered hydration pouch pocket and two side pockets.
The larger of the two front pockets would be ideal for a high-quality, pre-packaged set of emergency supplies like the Windham Weaponry's new First Aid/Survival Kit which contains first-aid supplies, water purification, fishing gear, a space blanket, fire starter, baseplate compass and a Mil-Spec gear and clothing repair kit all tucked neatly into a U.S. Navy approved waterproof 5“x 4” Aloksak bag for a total weight of just 8.6 oz. Because this kit is wholly self contained, it could be loaded into other locations in the bag as well.
The main pocket provides about 19" x 6.5" x 4.5" of usable cargo space with a mesh pocket and a movable padded divider (like those found in camera bags). The separated sections of the Ruger PC Carbine just fit into this pocket and the padded divider can be used as a retention strap for the receiver half of the gun. To pad and protect the barreled section, it can be wrapped in something both soft and useful, like a light jacket, before layering in the other supplies. The larger of the two side pockets will hold one 50-round box of 9 mm ammunition or two 20-round Glock pattern magazines.
The oblong hydration pouch pocket is particularly useful because the dual zippers allow it to open up along the top and down one side. Because the interior of the pocket shares nearly the same outline as the bag it can comfortably store a variety of longer items including 31-round Glock magazines, a small hatchet like the SOG Camp Ax and a heavy-duty survival knife like the Kizlyar Supreme Survivalist from CAS Iberia (I tucked in two magazines, the knife and the hatchet with some room left to spare).
As you can see from the photos shown here, I'm just beginning to organize this particular kit. But I'm quite happy with the results so far. The Hazard 4 Plan-B sling pack is just what I was looking for in regards to compact size and useful features. The 9 mm Ruger PC Carbine is an exceptionally flexible platform that the whole family can enjoy while having enough performance potential to be a viable option for personal protection should the need arise. The trade off for the low-recoil and inexpensive practice ammunition is an effective range limited to between 50 to 100 yards. If you want a greater level of performance than this, then consider moving up to a larger concealment pack paired with a rifle-caliber takedown carbine.