This is the first install­ment in a series of papers to edu­cate the new prep­per about what weapons they should have on hand.  I’m approach­ing this from a SHTF sce­nario and while I’m not advo­cat­ing using any firearm in an offen­sive man­ner, I stress that being able to use one to defend your­self is imper­a­tive… so when I use terms like bat­tle rifle or stop­ping pow­er, keep the defen­sive mind­set.  One term, how­ev­er, you will not hear me use is “assault weapon.”  This term was coined by the left wing gun grab­bers and it does a dis­ser­vice to any firearm plat­form to call them that.  Keep in mind, we have a defen­sive mind­set and “assault” is an act of aggres­sion… and the last thing we need is our own ranks bad­mouthing our guns.

The first, and prob­a­bly most impor­tant gun to con­sid­er is the car­bine.  It is the main infantry weapon for every mil­i­tary force on the plan­et for good rea­son.… shot­guns, hand­guns, and plink­ers have a pur­pose and place in the sur­vival­ist armory (and we’ll get there) but for abil­i­ty to reach out and touch some­thing with a high rate of fire, you just can’t beat a car­bine.  Just like any oth­er type of firearm, there are quite a few car­bine plat­forms on the mar­ket to choose from… and even more com­pa­nies that make them.  For sim­plic­i­ty sake, I will stick with the most com­mon plat­forms and the most com­mon cal­ibers.… but keep in mind, this analy­sis isn’t com­plete and you should find a gun you like and stick with it.

To analyze/compare car­bines, lets think of what one is used for: it’s both a defen­sive weapon and hunt­ing rifle.  So it must func­tion well as a CQB (close quar­ter bat­tle) weapon and have rea­son­able accu­ra­cy out to sev­er­al hun­dred yards.  Now let’s con­sid­er the round it shoots.  In an urban envi­ron­ment, a car­bine should be able to kill a deer sized ani­mal with a well placed shot… and shoot through a sheetrock wall still pack­ing enough pow­er to edu­cate an assailant about the dif­fer­ence with cov­er and con­ceal­ment.   Now con­sid­er if you have to bug out on foot… you may have to car­ry your car­bine (and ammu­ni­tion and mag­a­zines) quite a long way.  And if you plan to cache sev­er­al of them or must choose between stor­age food and a gun, cost could be a prob­lem depend­ing on your choice of weapon.  So lets take a look at the major plat­forms on the mar­ket and ana­lyze them based up accu­ra­cy, stop­ping pow­er, weight, cost, ammu­ni­tion avail­abil­i­ty, and over­all accep­tance as a bat­tle rifle.

AR-15 (and its clones)

When most peo­ple think of a car­bine, they think of an AR-15.  If you were to choose one as your pri­ma­ry defense weapon, you would­n’t be unhap­py.  From its con­tro­ver­sial mil­i­tary intro­duc­tion in the Viet Nam era to the star wars guns you see on the mar­ket now, the AR is a proven plat­form that just seems to be get­ting bet­ter with time.  There are a wide range of con­fig­u­ra­tions of the plat­form (20″ heavy tar­get bar­rel, 16″ bar­rel m4, flat top, left hand, the list goes on) so you can find one that fits your needs and body struc­ture.  There are cur­rent­ly count­less man­u­fac­tur­ers sell­ing AR’s or AR com­po­nents so parts, mag­a­zines, and acces­sories are read­i­ly avail­able.  It has a low recoil despite the super­son­ic round and its light weight.  Its shoots a very com­mon cal­iber so stock­ing up on ammo should­n’t be a prob­lem (but keep the caveat in mind that in times of need, the com­mon cal­ibers are the first to fly off the shelves). It has decent accu­ra­cy over long range and is equal­ly adept at close range.  But the AR plat­form does have draw­backs.  The .223/5.56 round is quite frankly under­pow­ered round, espe­cial­ly in an urban envi­ron­ment.  It lacks the abil­i­ty to shoot through much more than a win­dow cur­tains and retain its shape and ter­mi­nal bal­lis­tics… car doors, refrig­er­a­tors, even sheetrock, will deform the bul­let con­sid­er­ably and dimin­ish pen­e­tra­tion into the intend­ed tar­get.  And as a hunt­ing round, it lacks the knock­down pow­er nec­es­sary to drop a deer in its tracks (unless you’re capa­ble of reli­able head­shots) so the abil­i­ty to track wound­ed game is a nec­es­sary skill.  The accu­ra­cy that is such a ben­e­fit on open fields is unnec­es­sary for the 25 or 50 yard shots you would com­mon­ly need to take in an urban envi­ron­ment… and the flash sight pic­ture (aka bat­tle sight index) on an AR does­n’t lend itself to defen­sive accu­ra­cy much past 10 yards.  Also, keep in mind, in com­par­i­son to many of the oth­er bat­tle rifles list­ed here, it ranks right up there in terms of cost (approx­i­mate­ly $1000 for a base mod­el).   My over­all rat­ing of the AR-15 for the sub­ur­ban prep­per would be an A…it will get the job done well, but has a few draw­backs the oper­a­tor must under­stand and work around.

AK47 (and its clones)

Just as an Amer­i­can would think of an AR-15 when they think of a car­bine, some­one from east­ern Europe would think of an AK.  The AK is prob­a­bly the most man­u­fac­tured and wide­ly dis­trib­uted bat­tle rifle in the world… and for good rea­son.  The 7.62x39 round is an effec­tive, heavy hit­ting round for an urban envi­ron­ment.  It has the abil­i­ty to punch through thin met­al, walls, glass, etc while retain­ing its shape and much of its ter­mi­nal ener­gy.  And the 30 cal­iber pro­jec­tile does a great job tak­ing down deer size ani­mals.  The guns abil­i­ty to run while hot, dirty, or in pieces is noth­ing short of leg­endary (yes, I said in pieces… I’ve run mine with the dust cov­er lay­ing at my feet).  The gun is on the light side as is its ammu­ni­tion so car­ry­ing it over long dis­tances isn’t too much of a chore. The AK and its ammu­ni­tion are his­tor­i­cal­ly inex­pen­sive ($400) so you have the abil­i­ty to buy sev­er­al and arm your fam­i­ly mem­bers, to cache them at retreat loca­tions, or sim­ply have a spare… or just buy only one and spend the rest of your bud­get on beans and bul­lets.  The bat­tle sight index on an AK allows for fast sight acqui­si­tion and tar­get pic­ture… and the accu­ra­cy in close range rivals an AR.  How­ev­er, on the “con” side of things, the AK does­n’t have a very good sight sys­tem for long range shoot­ing (short sight radius with lim­it­ed adjust­ments) and accu­ra­cy past 100 yards suf­fers.  Also, the guns aren’t very ergonom­i­cal… they have a short stock which makes it uncom­fort­able for a per­son of large stature to oper­ate… and the safe­ty must be manip­u­lat­ed by remov­ing one hand from the fir­ing grip.  Over­all, I would rate the the AK47 the same as an AR, A… it will get the job done well, but has its draw­backs.


The M14 is a proven bat­tle rifle still in use by the US mil­i­tary today (though not as a pri­ma­ry issue firearm).  The accu­ra­cy of the M1A is unpar­al­leled in a semi-auto 30 cal­iber firearm… espe­cial­ly in the high­er grade Nation­al Match or White Feath­er edi­tions of the gun.  The 308 car­tridge is eas­i­ly obtain­able and a wide vari­ety of ammu­ni­tion can be found from 168 grain ball match grade ammo to heavy grain, soft point expand­ing hunt­ing ammu­ni­tion that will reli­ably take down an elk size ani­mal.  Since the gun is wide­ly accept­ed and dis­trib­uted, the mag­a­zines, parts, and acces­sories are easy to find.  Even with the heavy recoil of the 308, the ergonom­ics and action of the gun make it a joy to shoot.  The design of the sights allows for easy acqui­si­tion of a bat­tle sight index… and the bar­rel off­set makes accu­ra­cy on close range just as effec­tive as a prop­er sight pic­ture does on long range.  But there are prob­lems with the M1A.  It is a heavy firearm to car­ry… and the 308 car­tridge pro­hibits car­ry­ing large amounts of ammu­ni­tion for a lengthy peri­od of time.  Also, the cost is very pro­hib­i­tive… a base mod­el will run around $1400 and the high­er end tar­get mod­els will be over $2000 (add optics and you will dou­ble the cost).  I rate the M1A a lit­tle low­er than the AR and AK, a B… it’s a great gun and would serve you well, but the heavy weight and price tag make it a sec­ond choice for me.

Mini 14/Mini 30

Rugers answer to the M14 on the civil­ian mar­ket was the Mini 30 and Mini 14… they shoot 7.62x39 and 223/5.56 rounds respec­tive­ly.  They are less expen­sive than an AR-15 or M1A but more expen­sive than an AK-47 (around $600 new in box).  They are light­weight with lim­it­ed recoil and the stock design and safe­ty on the front of the trig­ger guard make them ergonom­i­cal­ly friend­ly… so the guns are fun to shoot.  They shoot stan­dard ammu­ni­tion that is wide­ly avail­able… as are the mag­a­zines and after­mar­ket acces­sories.  The sights are decent (though not very durable) and offer rea­son­able accu­ra­cy to 100 yards.  The detach­able box mag­a­zine offers a decent rate of fire but that is where the guns are inher­ent­ly flawed… they are mod­eled after a renowned bat­tle rifle but don’t offer the dura­bil­i­ty of it.  They don’t hold up well to exces­sive use (I tried to run one in a 2 day car­bine class and switched to an AR on day two).  The front sight post has no pro­tec­tive cage and can be bent or bro­ken off.  Find­ing repair parts is near­ly impos­si­ble (Ruger would much rather have you send it back to them than put repair kits our on the mar­ket).  My rat­ing of the Ruger min­is is a C… as a farm/ranch gun kept in a pick­up or on a trac­tor they are great, but as a bat­tle rifle they just don’t hold up.


The SKS is a Chi­nese (and sev­er­al oth­er coun­tries) bat­tle rifle import­ed to the US in droves.  They are cheap (around $300) and shoot the eas­i­ly found 7.62x39 cal­iber.  The 30 cal­iber pro­jec­tile and sight sys­tem do a great job on deer sized game out to 100 yards.  The ergonom­ics are decent and the weight soaks up the recoil of the 30 cal­iber pro­jec­tile pret­ty well… but isn’t so heavy to make car­ry­ing it a chore.  They are a durable firearm and hold up well to heavy use.  But there are a few draw­backs to the gun that sim­ply just can’t be over­looked.  The design of the rifle does­n’t allow for tra­di­tion­al optics to be mount­ed (the scope tube blocks the rails for reload­ing).  Also, the non-detach­able box mag­a­zine does­n’t lend itself to easy reload­ing unless you’re a wiz with strip­per clips… so main­tain­ing a high rate of fire is near­ly impos­si­ble.  I would rate the SKS the same as the Mini, C… a good gun if none oth­er are around but not my first choice.

Keltec Sub2000, Highpoint Carbine, etc

There is an entire cat­e­go­ry of guns on the mar­ket that would I advise against pur­chas­ing… pis­tol cal­iber car­bines.  These guns are fun and cheap to shoot but in terms of sur­vival, they serve a very lim­it­ed pur­pose.  They aren’t capa­ble of tak­ing down large size game… and even if they were, the accu­ra­cy they offer does­n’t lend itself to more than a 50 yard shot (at best… the effec­tive, accu­rate range of these weapons is prob­a­bly 25 yards).  The one advan­tage I see to hav­ing such a gun is con­ceal­a­bil­i­ty and mag­a­zine com­pat­i­bil­i­ty with a hund­gun.  The Kel­tec Sub 2000 is a prime exam­ple… it offers sev­er­al mod­els that take mag­a­zines from glocks, smith and wes­son, etc.  I would rate these guns as a D on my scale… if any­thing, they are a BUG (back up gun).  You may find it use­ful to keep one of these car­bines in the trunk of your car (where legal)… but I would­nt rely upon it as a pri­ma­ry per­son­al defense weapon or hunt­ing tool.

I hope this write­up has helped some of you “firearm chal­lenged” folks look in the right direc­tion. Look for oth­er posts in the com­ing weeks deal­ing with shot­guns, hand­guns, and plink­ers.


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