This is a gun board classic:
After some years now of reading internet bulletin boards, I think I’ve got the pros and cons of possible SHTF rifle choices figured out. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the following is my analysis based upon the wisdom of numerous gun board gurus (you know them, they’re always the first ones to tell you a particular model gun is “junk” and enlighten you as to why they have made the only logical purchases)…
The AR 15:
Great, awesome, unbelievable rifle(when it works). Can hit a fly in the butt at 300 yards (when it works). If one is ever attacked by a pack of feral poodles post-SHTF, this is the perfect defensive rifle (unless it jams, in which case you’re poodle food). The upside is that one can hang more plastic aftermarket doo-dads on it than a Christmas tree, which may effectively frighten away bad guys when the gun jams. Also, by simply changing the upper, one can convert it into a Ruger 10/22.
Could be a good rifle, but it’s not black.
Best obsolete rifle ever made (even if it isn’t black, but you can buy a black aftermarket stock that looks kinda like an AR). If you need to lay in a big mud puddle and shoot at bad guys, this is the rifle to have. It will shoot as well as ever (maybe even better) when full of mud and the ten round mag makes puddle shooting a breeze since unlike hi-cap mags, you can hold the rifle upright in prone (mud puddle) position. Major drawback is that everyone knows that in a post-SHTF situation one must immediately fire thousands of rounds, a task for which a fixed ten round magazine is ill equipped, which is why they invented the AK. You can buy aftermarket hi-cap mags, but they often jam, creating the illusion that one is shooting an AR when combined with a nifty aftermarket stock. Other major drawback is that the 7.62 x 39 round is not .223 or .308.
The AK-47 solved the difficult problem of firing thousands of rounds at approaching bad guys by allowing you to deftly change 30 round mags taped back to back, or for the truly ambitious, drum type magazines may be found. Unfortunately, buying an AK-47 is difficult, as they only come in full auto configurations. The good news is that a number of semi-automatic variants are available, allowing you to simulate an actual AK-47 by pulling the trigger really, really fast. Like the SKS, AK variants function best when filled with mud, but actually filling them is difficult as the hi-cap magazine makes lying in a mud puddle while shooting much more difficult. Fortunately, tactical experts from a mysterious facility known only to us as “the hood” have developed the “homeboy” method of handling an AK variant which promises to alleviate the hi-cap magazine vs mud puddle problem. One drawback of the AK variant is that (like the SKS) it’s not black, however, aftermarket vendors have corrected this tactical faux pas on the part of Soviet designers by offering black furniture for those “in the know”. Like the SKS, the AK variant also suffers from the troubling problem that the 7.62 x 39 round is not .223 or .308. However, recognizing this problem, Russian designers have created a similar cartridge to the .223 known as the 5.45 x 39.5. The problem of the 7.62 x 39 not being a .308 has not been addressed, as Russian poodles are apparently no larger than American poodles. Nevertheless, the quest to make smaller and smaller projectiles for combat weapons continues and rumors of a newer and better innovation known as the “pellet gun” have recently surfaced. We await an AR upper to accommodate this promising new caliber.
This unpronounceable rifle has a long history of military service. Napoleon reportedly had one. The unusually long 91/30 barrel combined with bayonet insures that it should be especially useful should a SHTF scenario involve the “redcoats” coming. The major drawback of this rifle is that it is a bolt action, which could make firing the prerequisite thousands of rounds at approaching bad guys difficult. However, if the Mosin owner and the bad guys are patient, one should be able to sling enough lead downrange by the time they are older than their rifle currently is. Like other eastern block rifles, the Mosin also is not black. This may be a possible reason why the Soviets lost the cold war. However, like the SKS and AK, western vendors have corrected this problem by offering an aftermarket stock in black. Unfortunately, none are available with a pistol grip. If Napoleon’s Mosin had a pistol grip, he may have very well conquered the world, but that’s another discussion. Other “carbine” type Mosins are also available, which would be the perfect compliment if one’s SHTF plan includes charging at bad guys on horseback while wearing a fur hat, swinging a curved saber and swilling a bottle of vodka.
While the Mosin-Nagant takes a step in the right direction by chambering a larger caliber, the CETME promises to actually be able to send the desired thousands of rounds downrange much like the AK, only with the “bang” being in Spanish rather than Russian. While promising, the CETME is said to fall short since it’s commonly known that the Century built models can only be fired once before exploding. The best-known solution is to use the CETME like a hand grenade, throwing it at the bad guys and hoping they try to fire it so it explodes on them rather than you.
The G3 would probably make a good post-SHTF weapon, but they’re full auto and Uncle Sam says you can’t have one. Because he said so and because “he’s the uncle”. Well, you could get one if you sold your house and lived in your car to pay for it, but that’s pretty much the same thing. The good news is that you could get a semi-automatic version like the HK91 or PTR-91 (and they’re black, a major improvement on the original CETME design). The major complaint about this design is that it has stuff like a fluted chamber and a roller-delayed blowback action, making it too exotic for a viable SHTF weapon. The other major drawback reported about this German improvement on the CETME design is that it’s not an M1A or a FAL.
The FAL is the freemason of rifles. Though you don’t run into them often, they’re reported to be everywhere and secretly control the world of guns. This explains why FAL owners tend to worship their rifles, often converting their gun cabinets into FAL shrines and performing bizarre candlelit rituals before their rifle, which only the initiated understand. For the uninitiated, the upside is that the FAL can be found in black furniture and has hi-cap magazines. FAL owners tend to taunt AR owners about their “poodle shooter” calibers, touting the ability of the .308 to penetrate such obstacles as trees. While this puzzles some, I suspect that the members of the FAL cult may have some mysterious knowledge that common gun owners do not. Perhaps when the SHTF and hordes of trees rise up to destroy the human race we will all wish we had a FAL.
The M1A is the ultimate SHTF rifle. We know this because M1A owners remind us of this constantly. Like the FAL, the M1A is capable of stopping a tree in its tracks. When the hordes of killer trees take the rest of us, FAL and M1A owners will likely be the only ones left to hash out who has the better rifle. Of course, we know the answer (because M1A owners remind us of it constantly). The M1A not only has superior penetration, it is extremely accurate at distance. Therefore, when the hordes of killer trees have all been mowed down, FAL owners will fall quickly to the hordes of paper silhouette targets come to avenge their woodland brethren. The M1A owners will stop the avenging targets with neat, 1 MOA groups center mass at 600 yards. At that point, the standard M1A owners will have to hash out which is the better gun with the SOCOM 16 owners to determine who will inherit the earth. A glaring design error in the M1A is that it’s not black, which is why they invented the SOCOM.
Other military style rifles:
There are, in fact, other military style rifles, which I have not mentioned. It is, however, widely understood that all of these other rifles will fail as soon as the stuff hits the fan and being less common than the others, parts will not be available, rendering them all useless.
Pistol caliber carbines and sporting rifles:
Aside from the biggies, there are carbines in pistol calibers, but as Jeff Cooper says about the .32, if your shoot someone with one, and they notice, they’ll probably get mad. Therefore, pistol caliber carbines are fun toys, but not a serious SHTF choice.
Sporting rifles are right out. They are not designed to fire the required volume of ammunition in a short period. Under such stress, their barrels will melt and droop like wet noodles, leaving the user defenseless.
Well, that’s about it. Thanks to the Internet and the plethora of gurus on it, I now have a comprehensive understanding of every possible SHTF rifle, even one’s I’ve never owned or even shot. Naturally, I had to pass this know-how on.
You bought the wrong gun!!!
Clunky, heavy, and overpowered. Essentially a Garand tarted up with a removable magazine, in a half-baked attempt to adapt a 19th century rifle design philosophy to the mid-20th century. Most often named as favorite infantry rifle by people who never had to hump a 10-pound wood-stocked rifle with lots of sharp protrusions and no collapsible anything on a three day exercise, or try to make it through a firefight with the standard battle load of five 20-round magazines.
Crude and inaccurate bullet thrower designed by and for illiterate peasants. Chambered in a caliber that manages to cut the ballistics of a proper .30-caliber battle rifle in half without passing on any weight savings to the grunt. Ergonomics only suitable for Russian midgets. Archaic cable trigger spring, crummy sights, no sight radius to speak of, no bolt hold-open device, and a clumsy safety. Favorite infantry rifle of Middle Eastern goat herders, guys named Abdullah, and backwoods militia types who like the fact that it shoots cheap ammo and has ballistics like their familiar .30-30.
Ergonomics of a railroad tie. No bolt release, and a locking system that requires three men and a mule to work the cocking handle. Fluted chamber that mauls brass, and violent bolt motion that dings the brass that didn’t get mauled too badly by the chamber. Stamped sheet metal construction, yet just as heavy as a milled steel M14. Safety lever that requires unnaturally long thumbs, and a trigger pull that feels like dragging a piano across a gravel road with your index finger. Favorite infantry rifle of Cold War nostalgics and third world commandos.
Underpowered varmint rifle burdened by a crummy magazine design. Nasty direct-impingement gas system that poops where it eats. High sight line, flimsy alloy-and-plastic construction. Generally favored by range commandos, tactical disciples, military vets who have never fired anything else for comparison, and Brownells addicts who a.) enjoy spending three times the cost on the rifle on bolt-on accoutrements, and b.) never have to use their rifle away from a dry, sunny range.
Flimsy plastic rifle with non-user adjustable fair-weather optics that fog up when a gnat breaks wind in front of them. Magazines that take up twice as much pouch space than others in the same caliber because of the “clever” coupling nubs on the magazine housing. Skeleton folding stock that is about as suitable for butt-stroking as a plastic mess spork. Twice as expensive as other rifles in its class because of the “HK” logo on the receiver. Preferred infantry rifle of SWAT cops, and soldiers whose militaries haven’t been in shooting conflicts since the 1940s.
Butt-ugly plastic shooting appliance with the ergonomics of a caulking gun. Five-pound trigger with no external safety makes it ill suited for its target market (cops who shoot a hundred rounds a year for qualification). Favored by gangbangers because the product name is short and rhymes with other short, rap-friendly words.
Clunky and overweight rip-off of a clunky and overweight German design from the 1930s. Shear-happy locking block, ergonomics that are only suited for linebackers, barely adequate sights that are partially non-replaceable, and low capacity for its size. Favored by Eighties action movie fanatics and John Woo freaks.
Overweight and overly complex piece of late 19th century technology. Low capacity, useless sights in stock form, and a field-stripping procedure that requires three hands. Favored by people who are at the cutting edge of handgun technology and combat shooting…of the 1960s.
Wildly overpriced, heavy for its size, low capacity in most iterations, and blessed with a finish that rusts if you give the gun a moist glance. Gas tube has a tendency to roast the trigger finger after a box or two of ammo at the range. Favored by gun snobs who think that paying twice as much for half the rounds means four times the fighting skill.
Top-heavy bricks with the rust resistance of an untreated iron nail at the bottom of a bucket of saltwater. Ergonomically sound, if you have size XXL mitts. Some minor parts made in Germany, so the manufacturer can charge 75% Teutonic Gnome Magic premium. Favored by Jack Bauer fans and wannabe Sky Marshals/Secret Service agents.
Archaic hand weapons from a bygone era, the missing link between flintlocks and autoloaders. Low capacity, and reloading requires a lunch break. Heavy for their capacity, unless you’re talking about airweight snubbies, which hurt as much on the giving end as they do on the receiving end. Rare stoppages, but few malfunctions that don’t require gunsmith services, which are hard to come by in a gunfight. Favored by crusty old farts who just now got around to trusting newfangled smokeless powder, and Dirty Harry fans with unrealistic ideas about the power of Magnum rounds vs. engine blocks.
Refinement of a 19th century blackpowder design. Weapon of choice for militaries who either couldn’t afford Mausers, or had ideological hang-ups about Kraut rifles. Rimlock-prone cartridge that only barely classifies as a battle rifle round because of blackpowder derivation and insufficient lock strength of the platform. Favored by Canadians with WWII nostalgia, and people who think that semi-auto rifles are a passing fad.
Fragile frame designed around a popgun round. Near-useless safety in stock form that’s only suitable for the thumbs of elementary schoolers. Strangest and most circuitous way to trip a sear ever put into a handgun. Favored by wannabe SAS commandos, wannabe mercenaries, and Anglophiles who think that hammer-down, chamber-empty carry is the most appropriate way to carry a defensive sidearm.
Plastic boutique scatterguns made by people with the martial acumen of dairy cows. Hideously expensive, and therefore popular with police agencies that get their equipment financed by tax dollars.
Long and lightweight receiver that’s impossible to scope properly. Overpowered round, twenty-round magazines that run dry in a blink, and an overall weapon length that’s only suitable for Napoleonic line infantry, but utterly useless for airborne and armored infantry. Made by Belgians, a nation with a military history that is limited to waving German divisions through at the border. Favored by Falklands veterans, Commonwealth fanboys, and people who think that dial-a-recoil gas systems are the epitome of infantry technology.
And now, YOUR CALIBER SUCKS TOO!!!
European popgun round that’s only popular because the ammo is cheap for a centerfire cartridge. Cheap ammo is a good thing for 9mm aficionados, because anything bigger and more dangerous than a cranky raccoon will likely require multiple well-placed hits. Wildly popular all over the world, mostly in countries where people don’t carry guns, and cops don’t have to actually shoot people with theirs.
Chunky low-pressure cartridge that hogs magazine space and requires a low-capacity design (if the gun needs to fit human hands) or a grip with the circumference of a two-liter soda bottle (if the gun needs to hold more than seven rounds). Disturbingly prone to bullet setback, expensive to reload, fits only into big and clunky guns, and a recoil that has an inversely proportionate relationship with muzzle energy.
Neutered compromise version of a compromise cartridge. Even more setback-happy than the .45ACP, and setbacks are much more dangerous because of higher pressure and smaller case volume. Manages to sacrifice both the capacity of the 9mm and the bullet diameter of the .45. Twice the recoil of the 9mm for 10% more muzzle energy.
Highly overpriced boutique round that does the .40S&W one worse: it manages to share the capacity penalty of the .40 while retaining the small bullet diameter of the 9mm. Noisy, sharp recoil, and 100% cost penalty for ballistics that can be matched by a good 9mm +P+ load. Penetrates like the dickens, which means that the Air Marshals just had to adopt it…only to load their guns with frangible bullets to make sure they don’t penetrate like the dickens.
Legacy design with a case length that’s 75% longer than necessary for the mediocre ballistics of the round due to its blackpowder heritage. On the plus side, the case length makes it easy to handle when reloading the gun. This is a good thing because anyone using their .38 in self-defense against a 250-pound attacker hopped up on crack will need to empty the gun multiple times.
Inadequate for anything more thick-skinned than Northeastern squirrels or inbred Austrian archdukes. Semi-rimmed cartridge that is rimlock-happy in modern lightweight autoloaders. Doesn’t go fast enough to expand a hollowpoint bullet, and it wouldn’t matter even if it did, because the bullet would only expand from tiny to small-ish.
Overpowered round that generates manageable recoil and muzzle blast…if you’re a 300-pound linebacker with wrists like steel girders. Often loaded to “Lite” levels that turn it into a noisy .44 Special while retaining the ego-preserving Magnum headstamp. Considered the “most powerful handgun cartridge in the world” by people whose gun knowledge is either stuck in 1960, or who get their expertise in ballistics from Dirty Harry movies.
.50 Desert Eagle:
The Magnum of the new century. Realizing Hollywood couldn’t escape their Magnum fetishes, they had a handgun that fits the same stopping power quota of .44 Magnum and all of its filthy drawbacks. Popular amongst steroid filled movie actors who needs big guns to compensate for the steroid struck testicles. Comes in a baby variant for junior.
Super-high pressure cartridge that beats up gun and shooter alike. Very brisk recoil in anything other than all-steel S&W boat anchors, with a shot recovery that’s measured in geological epochs for most handgun platforms. Often underloaded to wimpy levels (see “.40 S&W”), which then gives it 9mm ballistics while requiring .45ACP magazine real estate.
Designed by people who thought the 9mm Luger was a bit too brisk and snappy, which is pretty much all that needs to be said here. Great round if you expect to only ever be attacked by people less than seven inches thick from front to back.
Lots of recoil, muzzle blast, and noise to drive a 9mm bullet to reckless speeds in an attempt to make up for its low mass and diameter. Explosive fragmentation and insufficient penetration with light bullets; excessive penetration and insufficient expansion with heavy ones. Still makes only 9mm holes in the target.
Ingenious way to make a centerfire .22 Magnum and then charge quadruple price for the same ballistics. Awesome chambering for a police weapon…if you’re the park ranger in charge of the chipmunk exhibit at the zoo, and you want to make sure you can take one down if it turns rabid on you.
Direct violation of the maxim “Never do an enemy a minor injury”. Designed by folks who wanted to retain the bullet diameter of the .22 rimfire round, but take a bit of the excessive lethality out of it. Favored by people who don’t feel comfortable carrying anything more dangerous than the neighbor kid’s rusty Red Ryder pellet gun.
*Author of first 1/3 of this article still unknown