When it All Goes To Hell…

Okay, Duh.

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

Kind of an obvious choice for SO many reasons.

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

The 10/22 is a solid choice on a lot of levels.

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.

Other Firearms?

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.

man, there sure are a lot of obvious choices here…

*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.

Travelling Light?

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.

General Thoughts

*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.

In Conclusion…

…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

The S&W Model 1902 Snubby- Not so Much a Thing as a Process.

Model 1902 Customized and cut down to a 2″ barrel

This gun has been in a near-constant state of change practically from the moment I got it. It had a 6-1/2″ barrel and a butt-ugly pitted black finish and not a few issues. Had a nice trigger though, and I could see the potential. I learned how to gunsmith on S&Ws with this gun. a fix here and a tweak there. Eventually it got cut down to 3″ and carried quite a bit, but when I got a later M&P and gave it the treatment the old 1902 was redundant.

Then a gunsmith buddy was getting some Model 10s and cutting them to 2″. I rather fancied the look and did the same with the 1902. I did a half-round front sight to complement the Noir vibe I was going for, did a full trigger job etc. The trigger is now glass-smooth and breaks at 6-1/2 lbs. double-action. The top of the hammer is checkered so the gun can still be thumb-cocked, and I actually made the single-action pull heavier; it was a bit too light for my comfort on a carry pistol. Now it’s nice and crisp but breaks at 4-1/2 lbs.

The trigger-guard is relieved on the right side for faster access from the safe position with the trigger finger on the frame.

I wanted a wide front sight for fast target acquisition, but I made it a bit too wide and precision suffered more than I could accept. I made a ‘note-to-self’ to change that, and today as I was unwinding after a seriously stressful couple of weeks I decided it was time to tackle the job.

I heated up the sight to loosen the solder and removed the old sight, then cleaned out the groove in the top of the barrel where it had been. I got some 1/8″ mild steel plate and cut and ground the new front sight, then ground and filed the blade thinner. I soldered the new sight in place, cleaned it up with 220 and 400-grit sandpaper, then re-blued it with Oxpho Blue.

The new front sigh mounted, soldered and blued.

Gives a much nicer sight picture, but the rest of the gun was looking a little care-worn, so I cleaned it with acetone and touched it up with the Oxpho too.

OK, time to see how it shoots. I grabbed a box of .38 Special ammo and headed for the range. I ran the target out to 7-yards and shot it. Seemed to be hitting a bit low and right. I ran a new target out to 7-yards and shot a hole in it , then used that hole as my point-of-aim.

Deliberate and rapid-fire at 7-yards. Hitting a couple inches low and right.

The gun is consistently hitting low and right. Should be easy enough to fix and I will at some point. I rounded things off with two cylinders of ‘Panic-Fire,’ meaning I dumped the cylinder as fast as I could. This was also at 7-yards.

Not ideal, but it would probably do the job.

I want to correct the sights, but there’s no urgency; this is not a carry-gun for me anymore. It’s a fine gun and great to shoot but I have better options. Honestly it’s already good enough for the sort of gun it is, but for me correcting the sights is more about craftsmanship than capability; I want it to be right.

I like the new sight; It allows for a good sight picture and correcting the POI won’t change that. And yeah, I stuck with the half-round sight for impractical reasons. It just feels right for this gun, to me anyway.

This is one I’m not going to part with; I’ve learned a lot working on this gun and had a lot of quality-time at the range. This is probably the end of the modifications and tweaking though, and it’s a pretty good place to stop.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 9 March 2023

.380 ACP: The Minimum Caliber for Civilian Self-Defense?

The Sig P238 and it’s variants are popular choices for concealed-carry.

I hear a lot of trainers, You-Tubers and internet uh, experts say that 9mm is the minimum viable caliber for self-defense, and .380 ACP is too weak. Huh. Real Life would be very surprised to hear that. Greg Ellifritz compiled the results of a great many real-world shootings and discovered that overall there wasn’t a nickels worth of difference in effectiveness between the calibers between .380 ACP and .44 Magnum.

Service calibers and magnums are demonstrably much more powerful than .380 ACP and capable of doing greater damage. How is it possible that .380 could be ‘just as effective?’ The simple answer, as usual, is that it’s not that simple. Self-defense shootings involve a mind-boggling number of variables and caliber is only one of them. Also .380 ACP is hugely more likely to be employed by a civilian than a law enforcement officer, and as a result there are wildly different dynamics in play.

Briefly: a police officer is more likely to be involved in a gunfight. A civilian is more likely to be engaged by someone that is seriously not looking for a gunfight. It appears that in the majority of incidents of civilian self-defense any gunfire will result in the baddies attempting to disengage and flee. .380 ACP will invoke this effect as well as anything, and with the standard for a ‘stop’ being that the bad guy ceases all offensive action you can see where the statistics are skewed. This is referred to as a ‘Soft Stop,’ and as stated very often caliber is irrelevant to producing this.

There’s little argument at this point that 9x19mm is effective, and it’s cheap and readily available. But is it right for everyone in every situation?

OK, that’s the Soft Stop. But what about the Hard Stop? This is when you are required to physically disable someone in order to get them to cease offensive action. It is possible that one or the other service calibers is more effective than one or more of the others, but gun fights are such chaotic events that is is difficult to establish this definitively. In fact no handgun caliber is 100% reliable in producing a hard stop. After many years of study the FBI determined that a bullet must have sufficient penetration to reach critical structures in a variety of circumstances, it has to actually hit those critical structures and it’s good if the bullet expands and does greater permanent damage. OK, there’s the baseline.

Practically every caliber can meet the first two standards, from .22 LR on up. .380 ACP ball meets those standards, but since it doesn’t expand it is sub-optimal. This doesn’t mean it can’t work, but it reduces your margin for error.

There are however several expanding loads that do meet the standard for penetration and do expand reliably. Not all of them by a long shot, but there are several, and I’ll let you do your own research on that. So if we accept the FBI duty standard as the minimum then .380 ACP works with some loads. In civilian self-defense shootings even getting close to the FBI standard is probably sufficient. Probably.

So is the .380 ACP the minimum standard for civilian self-defense? As a rule of thumb I’d say yes. OK, why is it the minimum? Because Ellifritz’s survey showed a marked decrease in effectiveness for calibers smaller than .380. There could be a variety of reasons for this; the types of guns the smaller calibers are chambered in, the idea that more skilled shooters will choose the more potent calibers and the list goes on and on.

With 13+1 capacity and modern defensive ammo I’d be hard-pressed to consider someone packing a Model 84 .380 poorly armed.

Mind you this does not mean that smaller calibers aren’t or cannot be effective, but on the whole why mess about with them if you have a viable option? At very least smaller calibers give less margin for error, meaning they can require greater skill to employ effectively in a broad variety of situations. Modern bullet designs may yet up the bar for smaller calibers, but the jury is still out on that.

Are there advantages to the .380 ACP over more potent calibers? Gosh, wouldn’t it be nice if there were a simple answer? For persons with low recoil tolerance due to injury, arthritis or other conditions the lower recoil and generally easier operation of the slide can be a definite advantage. Likewise the lower recoil of many platforms in .380 ACP make it easier to rapid-fire accurately for many people, and they may feel that trade-off is worth the potential hit in terminal ballistics.

Then there’s size. There are guns chambering .380 ACP that are significantly smaller than their 9mm counterparts, and below a certain size threshold 9mm gets notably more difficult to manage. It’s not unmanageable by a skilled and robust shooter, but there’s a point at which you might question if the longer recovery time between shots and pain during practice is worth the extra oomf.

We’re back to that whole ‘we’re all individuals,’ thing again. It may work better for some people for the reasons cited. For myself I can see trading the lower recoil and higher hit probability in rapid fire in a smaller gun as being worth it. I certainly wouldn’t feel helpless packing my wife’s P-238 legion, but if circumstances permit I will opt for a larger, more potent weapon. As always YMMV.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 3 April 2023