For us a SHTF scenario is pretty simple to prepare for; we won’t survive through most of them so there is little point in prepping for them. What we might experience here in Natural Disaster Central is a ‘protracted loss of services;’ a period of several weeks where water, power, food and public services (like Law Enforcement) are unavailable. Our realistic option in this case will be to hunker down, band together with neighbors and try to ride it out until order is re-established. This is at least potentially survivable for us, so it makes sense to prepare.
Under a scenario like this it is very likely that criminal activity will rise sharply, not merely from criminals being emboldened by the lack of legal consequences but also from people desperate to provide for themselves and their families. This means firearms will be essential. I think we’ve got that covered, probably for the entire neighborhood.
But I got to thinking; if we were fit enough to survive and could reasonably evacuate under more serious circumstances what firearms would be essential? What would we want if we did not expect services to be restored indefinitely and could evacuate to a place and a situation where we could survive long-term?
Here’s a list of firearms I think it would be good to have in such a situation. This is just my opinion about a hypothetical situation, not a ‘must-have’ list or a recommendation. Think of it as food for thought, and apply the ideas you find valuable to your own life and circumstances. Needless to say you should absolutely choose firearms you shoot well under the circumstances under which you anticipate using them.
Naturally you should comply with all local laws before the fact. Your odds of surviving these scenarios drop substantially if you are in prison.
# 1- Defensive Firearms
If you are responsible for your own defense against what can only be considered high-threat conditions these head up the list because if you don’t live you don’t need any firearms. Ideally you will have a rifle and a pistol, and the rifle can double up as a hunting weapon. To me the choices are kind of a no-brainer in a long-term scenario:
An 5.56 x 45mm AR-15 platform rifle or carbine and a high-capacity 9mm pistol, ideally a Glock. They are the most common defensive firearms around, so parts, magazines, ammunition etc. are going to be the easiest to find, scavenge or appropriate in the long term. They also tend to be quite reliable in use. Yes, there are arguments for a PCC and or other handguns but these make sense for a lot of reasons. An argument can be made for a .357 Magnum revolver based on versatility, the fact they will reliably run any ammo that fits in the chambers and ammo is common, but higher capacity may be a deciding advantage.
#2- Hunting/Foraging Firearms
If you are lucky to live long enough it is likely that either you or the community you settle with will do some subsistence-hunting. I think the absolutely essential weapon for this is a rifle or carbine chambered in .22 Long Rifle. Any rifle or carbine. Ammo is cheap so you can be well practiced and with good shot placement there are few game animals in North America that can’t be taken with a .22 at close enough range. In a pinch it can also flex into self defense, especially something like a Ruger 10/22 or other semi-auto .22s that have or accept high-capacity magazines. Ammo is also light weight, so you can carry a lot of it.
The second one I think deserves consideration is a 12-guage shotgun. It’s the most common gauge, and with the right ammo it can take any game in North America. A pump-action shotgun or semi-auto also flexes well into the self-defense role. If any of a number of constraints- budget, weight etc. forced me to choose between a defensive rifle and a pump shotgun I’d be hard-pressed not to choose the shotgun because it’s so damned versatile. I don’t know I would choose it owing to the primacy of the self-defense requirement, but there would be a mighty temptation to do so.
These are firearms that circumstances allowing might be useful to supplement rather than replace the ones listed above.
*A hideout/pocket pistol. Things will be chaotic and unpredictable, and in extremis any firearm is better than none. Ideally it should be genuinely small: a Ruger LCP Max might be the upper limit. Caliber commonality etc. really is less a consideration than with your other firearms; it’s a last-ditch backup that does not flex into any other roles so if you’ve got one box of ammo that’s probably a lifetime supply. One way or another.
*A .22 LR handgun. By this I mean a full-size handgun; something that can cover small-game hunting and flex into self-defense. Not insignificantly it takes the same ammo as your rifle or carbine. Rugers are good for this; they’ve been around forever and magazines interchange between most of them. They also hold ten rounds and the magazines are reliable. There are a lot of choices besides the Rugers, and most aren’t that expensive.
The defensive firearms are the priority because you have to live first and foremost. Start there and add as much as is reasonable and prudent, and don’t kid yourself about what your limits are. On the other hand I would under those circumstances seriously consider the .22 rifle and pistol. They can be used for defense, have commonality of ammo and you can carry a LOT of ammo.
*Extra Magazines. Not because you’re likely to be in a pitched battle where you’ll survive long enough to need them (though you might,) but because you may need to reload under circumstances that don’t allow you to recover the empties and you’ll want replacements.
*Guns. Lot’s of guns. Take with you every firearm it is genuinely practical to bring along. These aren’t just back-ups and replacements; they are trade goods and allow you to arm allies met along the way if it is reasonable and prudent to do so. Long-term survival is going to mean becoming part of a community, and some of them may need to be armed or have their armament upgraded. It is in your best interest to have them able to do their part when you are all in it together. The ‘genuinely practical’ stipulation is important; if you are evacuating in a vehicle that will mean more might be reasonable. If you are on foot it might only be practical to take your defensive firearms. Do what seems best in the circumstances and be realistic.
…YMMV. Circumstances, individual requirements etc. vary. I think this is a reasonable plan overall, but budget constraints, physical limitations and your unique situation will affect things.
I don’t expect an absolute SHTF event to occur and one we, my wife I, can potentially survive long-term is in the minority among the scenarios that could happen. For me this is more of a thought-experiment so take it for what it’s worth. Hopefully this was useful for you the whole thing will remain hypothetical.
Stay safe and take care.
Michael Tinker Pearce, 8 May 2023