If you had to choose one gun-and only one gun-to get you through a disaster (be it traditional or zombie-related), what would it be? If you could have one firearm (that’s realistically available) to protect yourself, your family and your assets, what would it be and why?
Here are 10 choices made by some of the editors and contributors in NRA Publications. What would you choose? Let us know.
In a truly horrible disaster, where all semblances of law and order and society have broken down, why settle for anything less than the best option for fixed-position defense? Sure, the rare transferable model runs about $250,000, and your ammo stockpile better have a minimum of the same number of figures, but you'll be able to repel almost any assault on your home. A mass of looters, an adrenaline-crazed lunatic—and even some rogue aircraft—are no match for this 7.62 NATO motorized Gatling gun capable of 4,000 rounds per minute without overheating. And, while some might claim the sound of a pump shotgun's action is enough to scare off evil-doers, I'm reasonably certain the sound of a burst from this baby will scare off anyone inside a rather large radius. Just be sure to have a generator handy if the power goes out, because the M134 requires electricity to run its motor.
While there are much more powerful rifles, the Ruger 10/22 is one of the most versatile guns available today. It can be purchased in a multitude of configurations, including a takedown model, and it can be customized to suit anyone’s needs, even as a disaster gun.
Its .22 chambering is small, but deadly on a multitude of game animals, and with a good scope attached, it is extremely accurate. Ammunition is plentiful and there are so many already in the world that parts would be easy to find if the rifle ever breaks. It’s already fairly quiet, so rigging something to dampen the noise wouldn’t be too difficult, and it a fight, its light recoil would allow for extremely fast follow up shots.
In a true disaster situation, many will have more powerful guns, but the mind is the best tool for survival, and the Ruger 10/22 is just about as sharp as the human mind.
Winchester Model 70 Featherweight in .30-06
I really hate these exercises because I would have at least two guns–a rifle and a handgun–but I'll go ahead and play along. My choice of gun for when the pudding hits the fan would be my 1955-vintage Winchester Model 70 Featherweight in .30-06, topped with its Leupold M8 4X scope. Now why would I choose a 57-year-old rifle with a low-powered scope? The answer is reliability. It always goes bang, and through long experience I know where the bullet will land. Since I live in a rural area, I want a cartridge that is accurate, powerful and readily available. The .30-06 is capable of handling any target–man or beast–out to 500 yards and beyond. That little 4X Leupold has proven itself to be utterly reliable even after bouncing off a few horses. Sadly, some of the newer guns and optics need a lot of TLC in order to perform. In a pudding-hitting-the-fan scenario, access to an extensive tool kit or technical support may not be available, so that is the reasoning behind my rather plebian choice.
Springfield Armory SOCOM 16
I saw the scenes of despair, the aftermath of natural disaster followed by the human lawlessness. The looting, lawlessness, the depravity and the mishandling of the public trust by those tasked to protect the citizens of Louisiana. Then I noted the marked contrast between the tragedy of New Orleans and the devastated areas of neighboring Mississippi. In Mississippi, no public officials tried to take honest people’s guns away—to deprive them of the right to self-defense in the face of societal collapse. When you put signs out that say "Looters Will Be Shot," you usually don't have to shoot any. Opportunists and predators look for the weak, the vulnerable, the unarmed and the hopeless. An alert man with a rifle that knows how to use it is none of those things.
My friend Marty Morgan stayed behind in New Orleans—he lived on high ground and had plenty of food and water—and he had a rifle, an AKM. He survived the natural disaster no problem, but knew he might not live through the rampant anarchy that followed. There is no doubt in his mind that, if not for that rifle, he would likely not be with us today.
Handguns are handy in such situations—and I will always have one on my hip in such times—but a rifle is essential. A man with a rifle has options, he can put distance between himself and predators, and he has long-range firepower that is effective at long range, but devastating at close range. A man with a rifle can defend his home and family, or strap it across his chest and walk out, away from disaster and danger.
My ideal gun would be a Model of 1918 Browning Automatic Rifle; nothing says you are serious about a gunfight like a 16-pound, fully automatic rifle that puts .30-';06 on target at 550 r.p.m. But a M1918 BAR costs about what a new Suburban does (if one haggles properly), and there just are not that many that are transferable.
The rifle that lies ready for such a time for me is the Springfield Armory SOCOM, now called the SOCOM 16. The semi-automatic 16-inch barreled SOCOM–not the SOCOM II, which I like for the extra rail space on but found not as handy–is based on the M1A, which is itself based on the U.S. M14, the magnum opus of the U.S. Ordnance Dept. It is equipped with an effective muzzle brake and with a top rail forward of the action port that bears a Leupold 2.5x28 mm Scout scope. I also have an Aimpoint that serves for closer work. But the rifle has excellent iron sights, an enlarged aperture rear and a XS front post with a Tritium insert. It is chambered for 7.62x51 mm NATO, and feeds from one of the best box magazines ever designed. They only hold 20 rounds, but they feed like a champ. It has the power of a battle rifle, but can also be used for CQB if necessary. I can hit a man-sized silhouette at 600 meters, time after time with it. And I can clean a table of steel plates in seconds at 25 yards. My SOCOM has a Wildness Tactical web Ching, a shallow web cheekpiece that gets my eye in line with the Leupold's Duplex reticle. My only regret is a lack of a bayonet. A guy with a rifle might be dangerous to the criminal element, but a guy with a bared blade bayonet, well, he is obviously not only serious, but crazy.
As a hedge against perilous times, such as the aftermath of a natural disaster when civil disorder can become the rule of the day, the prepared law-abiding citizen should seriously consider acquiring a semi-automatic rifle that is reliable, is chambered for a commonly encountered cartridge and that features a folding stock and provision for a bayonet. A semi-auto is to be preferred for sheer firepower in the event of multiple adversaries, and a rifle is to be preferred over a shotgun or pistol for the advantage it provides in range. Reliability is the single greatest attribute of any survival arm, and a common chambering will ensure that the gun will be in the fight for the duration of even a protracted disaster. As to the folding stock, the gun is likely to have to be carried during all manner of activities during which both hands may need to be free. Suspending it, folded, in front of the body from a two-point sling or, alternatively, across the back, keeps it reasonably ready and out of the way. Finally, a mounted bayonet might provide a measure of intimidation that could dissuade er-do-wells from escalating a confrontation into a gunfight.
One example that meets the criteria, but is drifting more toward the collectible category every day due to its relative rarity and price, is the Ruger Mini-14/20GB-F. It was sold through law enforcement channels to police, prisons and others in the past and can sometimes be found secondhand at larger gun stores and through firearm auction sites. The Ruger is fundamentally a standard Mini-14, known to run well even if dirty and to digest less than perfect ammunition, but it offers the additional features of a right-side-folding metal buttstock that is quite rigid when extended and includes a bayonet lug and flash suppressor that accommodate current standard U.S.G.I. bayonets. The Ruger also has nearly fully ambidextrous controls, and its stout steel factory 20- and 30-round steel magazines, once restricted to law enforcement sales, are now reasonably priced and widely available. No gun is the perfect solution to every situation, but the Ruger Mini-14/20GB-F is more than capable of seeing the average armed citizen through the toughest social upheavals.
If I could only have one gun for the "End of the World" disaster situation, it's a no brainer: the M4 Carbine, chambered in 5.56x45 mm NATO. I can hear the M1/M14 fans sniggering already, so let me explain.
First, the rifle is a proven platform from a family of firearms that have served as the standard battle rifle for the United States for over 50 years, longer than any other service arm. Also, I have confidence in the rifle due to its service record and my personal training/experience with it as a soldier in the U.S. Army.
Next, the M4s and other AR-15s are prevalent and parts are easy to come by. Not only are these rifles stocked in military armories all over the world, civilian models can be had from many major manufacturers and can be found in gun shops and sporting good stores, even Wal-Mart. If I'm looking at having one gun to get me through, I want replacement parts to be easy to come by, and the high degree of parts interchangeability, even between government-issue and civilian models, ensures my ability to keep the gun running for a long time to come.
The previous reasoning also applies to ammunition. As a NATO standard round, I’m not worried about being able to scrounge some 5.56. Also, I have the option to fire any .223 Rem. ammunition I come across, and because of its popularity as a sporting round, I will probably come across a lot of it.
Finally, I have to recognize the customization options that make the M4 an ideal disaster gun. Equipped with a rail system, and mine would be, all manner of optics, lights, lasers, bipods, grips, etc. are on the table. In minutes this gun can transform from medium-range hunting rifle to close combat weapon.
To sum it up: known reliability; easy to find parts and ammo; and the only limit to customization is your imagination and the contents of your pocket book.
Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle
In uncertain times, one thing I want to be absolutely sure of is the ability of my gun to adapt to changing situations. It's tough to beat a scout rifle for an all-purpose arm, and Ruger makes a good one. The company's Gunsite Scout Rifle is chambered in .308 Win., which makes it suitable for a variety of roles at close, medium and longish ranges. Plus, the .308 is a popular cartridge, so I'd have a decent chance at finding ammo when my supply got low. Ten rounds in the detachable box magazine should be plenty for most situations, but I'd carry three or four extra, fully charged magazines in case a quick reload was necessary. The rifle comes with a sturdy set of iron sights, but I'd use quick-detach rings to mount Weaver's 4X Scout Scope on the Picatinny rail ahead of the receiver. I would also replace the rifle's flash hider with an AAC Blackout muzzle brake/suppressor mount and add the company's short, lightweight Mini7 can. No sense in drawing unwanted attention if you can help it. Finally, I'd equip the rifle with a two-point sling that’s quickly adjustable. Altogether, fully loaded, my setup would weigh around 10 pounds. I could carry this rig all day over all sorts of terrain without it becoming a burden. The Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle packs plenty of power but remains easy to handle. That's efficiency. Being efficient–and adaptable–is how I plan to survive.
Remington VersaMax Tactical Shotgun
Most of the Navy Seal wannabes who predict and even relish the thought of doomsday often opt for the highest capacity, fastest shooting, most tricked-out, puny-caliber rifle upon which they can lay their un-calloused hands. While I don't dispute the wonderful efficiency of a FAL or similar, high-capacity battle rifle–or even a M204 complete with select fire button and grenade launcher–for battle, I don't anticipate duking it out with zombies in the streets like some god-awful new superhero movie. Superheroes are for kids. I'll let the looters, desperados and do-wells battle for the crumbs. I'm getting out of town and shifting to evade and survival mode. Sure, I'll need a gun that I can level at an envious mob as I make a break for a relaxing campfire in the mountains, but more importantly I'll need a dependable, semi-automatic firearm with which I can kill large, small and flying game–for food. For these reasons, my hero is a Remington VersaMax Tactical Shotgun and a pocket full of slugs, buckshot and No. 6s–not Batman. The VersaMax, with its extended magazine tube holds 9 shells in any order so I can quell a small riot before picking off a flying goose as it flees the city park pond.
As I make my way to the country, whistling as I swing the fat goose–I'll be assured that I'll not only survive, but thrive on healthy venison–using modern sabot slugs it's a bonafide 150-yard gun–squirrels, rabbits, bears, turkeys, wild pigs, ruffed grouse and anything else that's protein rich and fun to hunt. The VersaMax Tactical doesn't come with a worthless pistol grip or a red dot sight that virtually guarantees you can't hit a flying anything with it. Rather, it's a nicely balanced, supremely reliable semi that holds bunch of 12-gauge shells of any length or configuration. What's more, there are likely more 12-gauge rounds in this country than any other ammo product, so finding extra ammo shouldn't be an issue. And if I venture from my little vacation back into the ravaged city at all, it will only be out of boredom and perhaps to trade some venison steaks to the Navy Seal Wannabes who, if they aren't dead by now, have worked up a gladiator-type hunger. I argue that a shotgun is the best close-range defensive tool ever invented, with slugs and a rifled choke tube it makes a decent rifle, and with birdshot I won't ever worry about going hungry, but instead, how much salt to add to the gravy.
SRM Arms Model 1216
I don't really care for trouble, and should a real disaster hit, I'm not going to go around looking for it. In the case that it finds me, though, SRM's 16-round, 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun should do quite nicely. Capable of unleashing 48 rounds in under a minute thanks to its detachable tube magazine, the 1216 would be nigh unstoppable in a close-quarters situation. And since Im letting trouble try to find me, thats most of what I'll be dealing with. The 1216 is versatile too—it can handle 2 3/4;" or 3-inch shells and does well with game loads, trap loads, slugs and more. Don't discount the psychological factor, either. There are going to be a lot of scared, irrational people in a post-disaster climate. The sight of the less-than-normal looking 1216 tricked out with a few accessories may be more than enough to convince potential threats that bothering me isn't a great addition to their "to-do" list–and that solution is preferable to ever having to put the gun into use. Granted, the 1216 doesn't have as many practical uses as some of the other choices out there, but that's what friends (with rifles) are for, right?
Any Black Powder Rifle
If worse comes to worst and I truly need to survive, I believe I would pick a black-powder rifle. This is the gun for long-term survival, because in an emergency situation, I can make my own gunpowder and bullets, plain and simple. Not only can I make 300-yard shots accurately, I can also load various projectiles if lead is no longer an option. I believe if the situation were to come to the worst, ammunition will be nonexistent. Short-term use of center fire rifles and pistols would be great for defense and warding off the apocalypses, but without ammo what can you do? I think many people are fixated on short-term survival and the notion that everything will be hunky dory before long. With the thought of having to live the rest of my dying years, surviving in the wilds of zombie nation; I want something for the long haul and I believe a black-powder rifle will suffice for many years of survival.