Monday, November 14, 2011

3 Firearms 4 Life, Part III: When It Hits the Fan

File Under: With Both Barrels

When Your World as You Know It, Changes

Thus far in the series we have discussed the area-specific needs for metropolitan to wilderness environments, within the confines of everyday living in a stable society. In this edition of “3 Firearms 4 Life,” we break free from that mold and try to determine what 3 firearms will provide the broadest tactical benefit in a world that has or is experiencing societal decay of one degree or another. For this discussion, we will be delving into the concepts of SHTF and WROL and how these affect decisions on defensive solutions. Originally, these topics of SHTF and WROL were to be 2 distinct segments, considered separately; however, given the nature of these scenarios SHTF and WROL need to be considered together. In order to understand why this is and what this all means, let us take a moment for a brief vocabulary and philosophy lesson on these terms.

For many individuals in a discussion on preparedness and survivalism, the terms Sh*t Hits the Fan (SHTF) and Without Rule of Law (WROL) are synonymous and are interchangeable. For those whom make a distinction between the two, the exact definition can vary from one individual to the next. In the context of this topic I will define the two terms as follows:

SHTF is a natural or human-instigated emergency or crisis of a singularly extreme degree. This may be a single event of unprecedented magnitude or a combination of events, that place an unbearable strain on the recovery resources of an area. SHTF usually has numerous chain or sub-events, and has a prolonged possibly escalating period of onset. In a SHTF situation one has the overall sense that all societal infrastructure whether hard or intangible has failed or has been decimated. When SHTF your very geography may become compromised and thus no longer tenable. SHTF differentiates itself from an emergency or crisis in that it may quickly or eventually become imperative that you leave your home or your retreat (a.k.a Bug-out, Bail Out) to move to a safer location.

WROL on the other hand does not require a physical collapse or any physical trauma to the environment whatsoever. WROL is a condition where the government no longer has the means to effectively control the segment of the population determined to commit criminal acts. WROL may proceed (cause) a SHTF situation or it may follow (grow from) SHTF. In WROL the physical infrastructure may still be intact, however, there is no body in place to operate or maintain it. The onset, duration, and recovery time will vary based upon the instigating factors, the strength/cohesion/legitimacy of the preceding/resulting government, and the magnitude of damage inflicted during WROL. Bugging-out may or may not be a consideration during WROL, however, encounters with potentially heavily armed and/or armored human aggressors definitely will be.

Although distinct occurrences we must consider SHTF and WROL simultaneously in order to acquire a solid strategy for surviving either scenario. Using the imagination, one can envision how SHTF and WROL could flow into each other with relative ease. In this situation, your personal protection takes on a heightened level of importance versus the previous scenarios. This does not necessarily imply roving gangs of psychotic cannibals as depicted in post-apocalyptic media; however, infrastructure may or may not be present, anarchy will likely be pervasive, and should you need to leave your home for any reason (whether to acquire supplies, information, or to move to safety) you have an increased chance of encountering someone who wishes to do you harm. This scenario stretches the fitness of the 3 Firearms concept to its limits as you will need to satisfy the needs of personal/home protection, survival, and potentially offensive/combat use. Moreover, your environment of operations may be urban to wilderness or anywhere in-between – your 3 firearms will have to bridge this gap.  

The nature of SHTF and WROL make two scenarios where, without question, you want your long-arm within reach or at least within sight at all times if at all possible. However, this is not always possible, probable, or even plausible. Times will arise when you cannot have a rifle or shotgun and times when brandishing such for the world to see will cause you more harm than good. For these times we have revolvers and pistols; and, as you probably have noticed, a revolver or pistol forms the basis of my firearms triangle.  Either system ensures you will be always capable of engaging a threat at distance with as much firepower as possible, even when a more potent solution has been lost, taken, or left-behind. A revolver or pistol should never be your sole means of protection, nor what you want to go-to if a better option is on hand but you should never exclude it from your arsenal.

So, what is the sidearm of choice? The answer is simple. You want something that a) meets the minimum criteria for stopping your number 1 threat (humans), b) is plentiful in the ammunition and parts department, and c) is simple, reliable, and durable. On the North American continent, particularly the contiguous 48 States, and probable just about anywhere else for that matter, one caliber and one firearm fits that bill. You probable will not be able to go a day without stumbling over a store, private home/retreat, police station, or military building, where firearms can be found, that does not have massive quantities of 9x19mm Parabellum (9mm) a.k.a. 9mm Luger ammunition and numerous found Glock G17/19 semi-automatic pistols. Thus the Glock 17 chambered in 9mm, much to my personal consternation, wins the draw. The Glock is proven – both in reliability and durability – and with no manual external features, it is brain-dead simple to operate. It's ubiquity ensures you will always be able to find replacement Glocks or replacement Glock parts. If you get into a conflict that can only be resolved by using your firearm, you may have to put down numerous attackers, more than you likely would have had to in your entire pre-collapse existence. Moreover, you will be tasked with doing this quickly, both under stress and under fire. The 9mm is the minimum self-defense caliber against human aggressors and the Glock 17 has a standard 17 rounds of it at your disposal, given it the fewest and fastest reloads of any other revolver or pistol.  Neither this pistol or this caliber is my favorite choice but one cannot ignore reality, this combination will get the job accomplished provided you've done your part with shot-placement and diplomacy. You could choose something else, but at what cost?

The next choice is even simpler than the first. SHTF and WROL is characterized by uncertainty. What will I encounter? What numbers will I encounter? Will it be armed? In what environments will I have to defend myself? How will I eat? The tactical solution to an uncertain engagement is overwhelming force to accomplish the base mission. That means if you are uncertain what you will face you certainly want to have a 12 gauge pump-action shotgun at your disposal - the king of the hill for versatility, simplicity, reliability, durability, and commonness. You will find more than enough ammunition to deal with all levels of threat and put food in your stomach if you've bugged-out of the city. Should your shotgun suffer a critical malfunction you can find parts or another shotgun that should be relatively the same to operate as the one you lost. Of a secondary consideration is the psychological affect of a shotgun against a human due to its commonness and mode of operation. Everyone knows what a shotgun is and what it does; if it can be heard clearly, the racking of a pump-action shotgun's slide is unmistakable. If you see or hear a shotgun coming you know whats coming next and that might be enough to deter or disorient an attacker who is even remotely predisposed to be so. Further, barring destruction of the central nervous system or a massive amount of blood-loss, a gunshot wound cannot cause a stoppage by physiological means. One can reason many stoppages, especially those achieved by tactically inferior cartridges, are psychological in nature meaning the attacker fell or stopped due to a psychological reaction to being shot. More stoppages do not occur by this method because a person must realize they have been shot and form a reaction to that event. Numerous factors both chemical and physical can prevent or delay the realization of being shot and allow the aggressor to persist – even though they may eventually perish from the wound or wounds. A shotgun may be able to overcome this hurdle because: a) a shotgun is hard to miss, b) is loud when it fires its cartridge c) has a large, bright muzzle blast and d) strikes the target multiple times, registering multiple impacts with the central nervous system. In the hands of a skilled operator a shotgun can quickly drop several unarmored individuals in a mob, ratcheting up the anxiety and fear of any remaining aggressors. The shotgun will not deter someone desperate or determined enough to do you harm, but it may encourage someone still on the fence about it to reconsider his or her options.

Down to our final selection and many good options left to fill this spot. What you choose at this point will depend on what your particular focus would be. If your focus is on silent survival you might add a rifle chambered in .22 LR to insure you always have something to eat. If you are hunkered down in a well-fortified, well-supplied retreat, and you can see for miles around you, a long range rifle chambered in a common caliber like .30-06 Springfield might be the ticket for protecting your larder. Maybe if you are making a beeline for the wilderness, something handy in the brush like a lever-action carbine in .30-30 Winchester or .45-70 Government is what you will depend on to keep you safe and fed. The choices are as numerous as the situations you are likely to encounter. However, in this scenario our focus is on personal protection in the event you encounter hostile humankind. Additionally, we are looking for anyway to make all our choices as multi-use as possible while fitting the criteria of simple, durable, reliable, and common. You want something capable of fighting and hunting. When it comes to felling 2 and 4-legged creatures soldiers and hunters alike reach for a rifle. You will need to engage targets anywhere from spitting range out to a couple hundred yards depending on your location. If you are using this rifle to hunt you will need your cartridge of choice to cleanly killing a wide range of game. For this role, a .30 caliber rifle (.308/7.62mm caliber) will be what you want. This caliber has many suitable candidates that are readily available in the United States: the aforementioned .30-30 Winchester and .30-06 Springfield or .308 Winchester (7.62x51mm NATO) are iconic cartridges, receiving their legendary status from decades of performance and results in hunting, military, and law enforcement applications. Due to availability of surplus (and new) ammunition and surplus rifles, many individuals will choose the 7.62x54mmR Russian, a proven battle round that is intermediate in power and performance between the .308 Winchester and its parent cartridge the .30-06 Springfield. All of these cartridges are readily available in platforms suited to tactical engagement or in sporting styles that can be easily accessorized to perform in this arena, and any will serve you well. For my main battle rifle when SHTF turns WROL, I have personally chosen the AKM variant semi-automatic rifle chambered in 7.62x39mm. The basis of this choice is the rifle's track record of simplicity, durability, reliability, and commonness coupled with the 7.62x39mm's terminal performance. With ballistics similar to a .30-30 Winchester, the 7.62x39mm out of an AKM is a true all-arounder capable of dealing with targets, human and animal, within 200 yards. The AKM is a proven and thus popular battle rifle so when SHTF happens you will have no problem finding ammunition, replacements or replacement parts. AK-47 the very best there is – it will put food on the table and bad guys in the dirt. 'Nuff said.  

  • A full-sized semi-automatic pistol chambered in 9x19mm Parabellum
Glock G17
Chamber: 9x19mm Parabellum (9mm Luger)
4.49” barrel
17 round capacity
steel slide / polymer frame
22.04 / 31.91 ounces (unloaded/loaded)
hexagonal rifling
Retail: 545 – 560.00 USD
Alternatives: Taurus 24/7 G2, Taurus PT 92, Springfield XDm, Beretta 92FS, Sig-Sauer P226, CZ-75b, EAA Witness, Ruger SR9, Hi-Point C9, Browning Hi-Power
  • A .308/7.62mm caliber rifle
Century International Arms GP WASR-10
Chamber: 7.62x39mm (Russian)
16-¼” barrel
30 or 40 round magazine
wood / steel
7.50 pounds
compensator, bayonet lug
Retail: 448 – 475.00 USD
Alternatives: Arsenal SGL-21, M91/30 Mosin-Nagant, Marlin 336, SKS, AR-10 variants, Ruger M77 Hawkeye, Savage 116 FCSS, Winchester Model 70, Remington Model 700, Ruger Mini-30
  • A smoothbore 12 gauge pump-action shotgun with a 18-20” barrel.
Mossberg 835 Ulti-Mag
Chamber: 12 gauge 2 ¾”, 3”, 3 ½”
20” barrel
5 round magazine
blued steel / synthetic
7 ¼ pounds
adjustable trigger, overbored vent-rib, thumbhole stock
Retail: 420 – 450.00 USD
Alternatives: Remington 870, Mossberg 500/590, Maverick 88, Ithaca Model 37 . H&R Pardner Pump Protector, Savage Arms Stevens Model 320/350

Those are the 3 Firearms 4 Life in WROL/SHTF. Assuming thorough planning, perfect execution, tenacious follow-through, and a bit of fortune you have survived SHTF and WROL. Whether you have hunkered down in your home waiting for the situation to stabilize, made it safely to your retreat far from the epicenter of trouble, or are living low and rough out in the woods – you survived. No matter how comfortable you are, you are safe, secure, and alive; and, that is the entire purpose of the 3 Firearms philosophy. You have been given a chance many less prepared individuals will not have: to live another day. For that alone you are truly fortunate. Unfortunately, just as you are settling back into a semblance of normalcy the worst SHTF situation imaginable happens – the dead return to life and walk the Earth. The moment everyone dreaded, was not sure would happen, but nonetheless prepared for has come. Stay tuned for the discussion we have all been waiting for – 3 Firearms 4 Life, Part IV: Zombocalypse Now! Life at the End of the World.  

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