Do It Yourself

Choosing The Right Survival Gun for the Job



How To Choose The Best Survival Gun For Job

Ask any “gun guy,” and he’ll not only have an opinion, he’ll have the opinion. Ask any “pistol-packing mama,” and she’ll not only offer an answer, she’ll offer the answer. At every shooting range, in every gun shop, at every hunting lodge, the question has been asked, answered and asked again. “What is the right gun?” Specifically, what is the right gun for home defense?

I set out to try to find a definitive answer to the question, and I arrived at one and only one inescapable conclusion: The diversity of opinion on the “perfect” gun for home/personal defense ranges wider than Michael Moore’s already overburdened waistline.

Before I offer you my own take, let’s establish a few ground rules. There’s only one statement on which everyone ought to agree: If you need a gun, you’d bloody well better have one. I’m sure that a baseball bat seems like a good substitute; but if your home, life and/or the lives of your loved ones are on the line, you’d be better served by staying out of arms’ reach of the assailant. I don’t care if you’re Quentin “Rampage” Jackson, Randy Couture and Brock Lesnar all rolled into one. If you can stop a home invader before he gets his hands on you, you’re better off. Besides, the fact that you look like a Mixed Martial Arts champion didn’t scare him enough to keep him out of your house in the first place.

What You Need to Know To Choose The Right Survival Gun:

Power isn’t everything

The fact that you own a Blaser R8 chambered in .375 H&H is pretty cool. But you’re not looking to stop a charging rhino at 100 meters; you’re looking to stop a charging crackhead at less than 10 meters. Unless you live in one of those Malibu palaces Barack Obama’s Hollywood friends call home, you probably lack both the square footage and the sight lines to make any of the larger hunting calibers a good choice.

Also, high-powered rifle rounds will not only go through a criminal, they’ll go through the wall behind him, the framing, the exterior stucco, the neighbor’s exterior stucco, their framing and their living room wall. Leave the elephant gun in the safe, Bwana. In fact, the power rule applies to virtually any of the larger-game hunting/sniper calibers.

I own a PSL. It’s a Romanian-made designated marksman rifle built on a stretched-AK platform and chambered for the 7.62x54r round. It’s actually a fine weapon, an excellent deer rifle, and is effective at distances exceeding 800 meters in the right hands. It’s also a lousy choice for CQB. Not only is the PSL overpowered for standard home dimensions, it’s about 4 feet long. Have fun turning the corner next to the downstairs bathroom while carrying a canoe paddle. Moreover, if you miss your first shot, the recoil may make a decent follow-up shot hard to come by once the bad guy is closer to you than your muzzle brake.

Know your gun

Outside the politics, a gun is just a machine. Take it home, learn to disassemble it, clean it, oil it and maintain it. After you learn proper care and feeding of your firearm, take it to the range and learn how to shoot it. The same gun your buddy uses to dot I’s and cross T’s at 50 feet won’t just jump into your hand and begin making smiley-faces on your Shoot-n-C’s from the jump. Whatever weapon you settle on, you’d better know how to handle every stage of owning it. If it’s for home defense, you’re literally betting your life on it.

Be comfortable with the gun you choose. Some of my friends believe that comfort should take a backseat to effectiveness. Of course, some of my friends are speaking from live combat experience. Rangers knock down Islamofascists in Waziristan a world away from your kitchen. A home defense scenario is as bad a situation as most people are likely to encounter. If you’re going to have to engage some scumbag in a firefight, give yourself as much of an advantage as possible.

Size matters, sort of. A .40 to the forehead will end any dispute. So will the aforementioned .375 H&H. But so will a .22. My wife owns a Ruger 10/22. The stock has been repainted in a color Glidden refers to as “French Lilac.” It wouldn’t be my first choice for virtually anything. But it can punch holes in paper at 100 meters, meaning it can punch holes in humans at 15 paces. Remember, you’re not trying to start a firefight; you’re trying to end one. Don’t discount the .22 just because it’s small. It won’t matter to the assailant. Small caliber firearms are lightweight, accurate and easy for even small-framed people to wield even in French Lilac.

The Shotgun Myth

Actually, the shotgun myths. Don’t get me wrong; shotguns are excellent CQB/home defense weapons. But they’re hardly the room-clearing bulldozers depicted in the movies. Contrary to popular belief, you do have to aim a shotgun, even at inside-the-house distances. Bird shot from a Winchester Defender 1300 will expand more than buckshot, but it won’t knock down a guy who’s 15 feet away from you if you aimed 3 feet to the left of him.

Always aim, even with a .12 gauge. I really do recommend bird shot over buckshot and slugs. No. 6 birdshot is lethal inside 15 paces. While slugs are potent man-stoppers, they will also pass through a lot of material before coming to rest. That’s fine if you live on the Kennedy compound not so much if you live in a subdivision. If you choose a pump-action shotgun, don’t make the ridiculous mistake of racking the slide as a warning. The assailant is already in your house. By racking the slide, all you’ve done is give away your location. He might run; but he also might take cover, draw his own weapon and wait for you to step into a killbox.

Also, I can’t imagine heading to a gunfight without chambering a round first. Save the theatrics for the Stallone films.


Pistols versus rifles

Which is better? In general, both/neither. Again, it’s a matter of comfort and confidence for the individual defending his home. If I can ping some thug in the dome with my cute little NEA .22 magnum derringer, then the .22 magnum is a fine choice. If I’d rather “slice the pie” with my AR, then that’s the right choice.

However, I would remind you that a properly wielded pistol is wielded at arm’s length, making the shooter’s profile only a couple of inches shorter than the same person with a standard AR. Don’t discount the AR just because it’s longer. Just remember the earlier rules: Know your surroundings.

Pistols versus pistols

Revolver or semi-automatic? Conventional wisdom holds that a revolver is a better home defense weapon than a semi-automatic because fewer moving parts means fewer chances for Murphy’s Law to appear in the middle of your house on fight night.

But today’s firearms are generally made to high- and tight-enough standards that a well-maintained firearm in the hands of a reasonably intelligent person will work when the time comes.

A note about ammunition

Excepting shotguns, load your weapon with hollow-point rounds. The design of hollow-point rounds ensures greater expansion of the wound channel, damage to internal parts and less chance of rocketing through the target and out the other side. Kill the attacker, not the neighbor’s cat, nor the neighbors.

With all of that in mind, here are my choices:

“Tactical” shotguns

From Mossberg, Benelli, Remington and many more, the short-barreled shotgun loaded with birdshot is immensely powerful, reasonably accurate, fairly easy to maintain and comparatively inexpensive. The aftermath will be messy, but better to clean the carpet than be cleaned out of the carpet.

Pistol caliber carbines

These guns get left out of a lot of similar discussions, and I’m not sure why. Police officers across the Nation carry .40 service weapons. Why not add a little length to the gun, thereby giving it more muzzle velocity and less recoil? Besides, PCC’s are still short enough to move around in CQB without a hitch. Thanks to HK, Kel-Tec, Beretta and others, PCC’s are plentiful, inexpensive and a lot of fun to shoot.

The Taurus Judge

Load it with 410-bore shotgun shells, not the .45LC rounds. Keep in mind, 45LC and 45ACP are not the same caliber. The AR-15. Minimal recoil, excellent accuracy and plentiful ammunition make the AR a no-brainer in nearly any situation.

Ultimately, I can offer two pieces of advice upon which everyone from the combat-tested veteran to the driven-hunting dove shooter can agree when it comes to guns and home defense:

  1. Have a gun.
  2. Win.

The rest is up to you. I hope you never have to test any of this. The best way to handle a gunfight is to avoid it entirely. However, if someone else forces one upon you, choose wisely. Your life may literally depend on it.

Check out these related articles:

The Second Amendment – Why Our Founding Fathers Wanted Us To Have Guns

Ammunition Shortage Is No April Fools Joke

Best Survival Guns Reviews | The Ultimate List

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  1. TPSnodgrass

    July 16, 2014 at 9:23 AM

    Great article Jack! Well written. Any firearm, is better than NO firearm and a pointy stick. Far too many people get caught up in the tacti-cool aspects of their “favorite” firearm, instead of practicing diligently.
    All that tacticool crap hanging off your favorite “CQB rifle”, may look neat, but if you can’t use it effectively, it’s a complete waste of money and time.(range use from a static position isn’t actual practice)

  2. Left Coast Chuck

    July 16, 2014 at 11:48 AM

    Very good article. Not one of these one-answer-fits-all articles that we see so much of with regard to self-defense firearms choices.

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  4. James Macklin

    July 18, 2014 at 6:31 AM

    Good points.
    I’ve seen it for 50 years, husband, boy friend or father takes wife, girl friend or daughter to a gun shop to buy a gun for self-defense.
    The clerk behind the counter may have been hired because he’d work for minimum wage.
    He will say, the 357 Magnum, or the 40 caliber Glock or maybe some other gun because the store has that in stock. Yep they’re all good guns but they aren’t suitable for the first gun for a new shooter.
    Learning to shoot is a lot of fun, with a good quality .22 LR. Trigger pull, sights and low recoil and noise make the new shooter feel comfortable. Even a heavy stainless steel Euger SP101 fired with +P 38 or worse a 125 grain 357 will scare most new shooter, they will develop a FLINCH even if they are wearing good hearing protection and their hand and wrist will be sore.
    Assuming money is not an issue [it always is] my beginners arsenal would start with a Ruger LCR .22LR to be followed weeks or months later by a Ruger LCR 357 and several boxes of 38 Special Midrange Wascutters.
    For a shotgun, for home defense a 20 gauge loaded with #2 steel BBs, probably semiauto with a 20 inch barrel.
    Rifle, the Ruger 10/22 is always right with .22 LR ammo. If a higher power rifle is expected in the future, there is nothing wrong with a buying an AR-M4 and a CMMG .22 LR conversion. Or you can buy dedicated rifles in .22 LR for training and a center-fire version in the same or another pattern.
    What ever guns you buy, for safe home defense a handgun in a holster on your belt, IWB or or outside should always be within arms reach because home invaders rarely make appointments. A gun on your person, loaded is safe from children and the children are safer from possible home invasions.

  5. Keith Rockefeller

    July 19, 2014 at 8:55 PM

    It is a great article, but it is essentially a repeat of many other articles out there. The best point is that the best gun, regardless of caliber, is the one you can shoot reliably.

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  8. Robert

    April 15, 2018 at 11:03 AM

    Your article is good and to some, very informative but on one thing you are right and wrong. You say the 45 LC, or Long Colt and the 45 ACP, are not the same caliber.
    A 45 Caliber is a 45 Caliber. But there are many loading’s or Cartridges in the 45 Caliber and they are all the same caliber but they are also very different.
    You are right in saying the 45LC and the 45ACP are different but they are both 45 Caliber right along with the 45/70 or the 45/90 but they are all of different loads and velocity, therefore have different uses.
    They are all the same Caliber because they all use a 45 caliber bullet. But they are all different because they all have different cartridge cases and loaded with different powered loads.

  9. Rick

    June 7, 2018 at 7:06 AM

    a 410 will stop them in there traks .

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