Choosing Your Survivalist Weapons Battery

As a kid, I had a serious addiction to anything “Weapon”. When it came to weapons, I was most enamored with firearms of every caliber, shape, and purpose. I bought the book “Small Arms Of The World” at 12 years of age, and the rest is as they say, history. I have been involved in the firearms world since I was about 7 years old, but I started serious study when I was about 11 (the reason behind purchasing the book). I have read a number of well known and obscure books on the topic of firearms, but the majority of those books was geared towards firearms for defense and survival/hunting.


Another book that I bought at a young age was “Survival Guns” by Mel Tappan. Although over time, I have come to realize that some of the info he put out in that book was overkill, I also realize that most of it, even though dated, is still relevant today, as it relates to choosing firearms for a long term survival situation in the TEOTWAWKISTAN scenario. Below are some thoughts and suggestions concerning firearms choices I have made, and hopefully it can help you make some good choices of your own.

You don’t need Tappan’s 47 gun, no frills survival battery, but I believe the average person  does need more than one firearm for effective survival and defense shooting after a collapse, if you can be based out of a retreat/Fixed location. Below I will show different groupings of firearms that combine the different attributes inherent in different types of guns. They generally have a semi-auto compact rifle, a compact, centerfire pistol, a full size, centerfire pistol, an accurate long range centerfire rifle, a repeating shotgun, an accurate .22LR rifle, and a compact .22LR,L,S pistol.

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Top to Bottom: Ruger Gunsite Scout rifle .308Win Caliber, Mossberg 590A1 12 gauge shotgun, M4 variant of the AR15 rifle (w/ Ciener ,22LR kit not pictured), S&W M29 .44 Magnum revolver (left), Keltec PF9 9mm pistol (right)

If you could only choose one gun, what would it be? You’re saying “JC, that statement is too broad to make an educated choice.” right? It is, but the fact remains that for overall survival under most circumstances, a compact, semi-auto, centerfire rifle is probably the best choice. I prefer .30 calibers, whether it’s the .308Win (7.62nato), or the 7.62x39S. Both have a good track record for reliability and good penetration, and both are able to use cast bullets if need be. In this category I’d choose the M1A SOCOM or Scout, or the AKMS (folder) AKM. Although the .223Rem (5.56nato) does not function at acceptable velocities with cast bullets (the high velocity that makes the .223 so effective cannot be attained with cast lead bullets), it would be foolish to say that you should not have an AR in your Battery. Parts and accessories  abound, EVEN IN WALMART! Even though I can’t use cast lead bullets out of a reloaded .223 brass in a self defense load like the .30 cals., I can however, use a Ciener AR .22LR conversion for small game, and that’s something in the versatility department, right?

Next up, I’d want a compact pistol. “Why a compact pistol?” you say. The simple fact is that generally if you need protection at close range, it’s more than likely from a two legged predator, not a four legged one. Carrying a pistol concealed does not tip your hand to a bad guy till it’s too late for him. Whether your compact is a 9mm Nato or .45ACP, does not matter. The capability of “The nut behind the butt” does. For a regular compact carry pistol, I would not carry less than a 9mm Nato, simply because they are available in a small enough package to be easily concealable (my PF9 weighs less than 16 ounces loaded). Pick a pistol with a good track record, and practice with it.

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Top to bottom: Match M1A .308Win,  Mossberg 590A1, M1A SOCOM .308Win, Glock G21 .45ACP (left), AMT Backup .45ACP (center), Glock G30 .45ACP (right). Add in a .22LR rifle (the AR-7) and this is the selection set I’d choose. All firearms in this selection (except the .22LR) will shoot cast lead reloaded bullets if necessary.

Next up would be a reliable full size pistol. “What, not another long gun?” Nope, not yet. A good, reliable, full size pistol is easy to shoot well, can be carried around the retreat comfortable (remember, we don’t need to conceal this one). A full size pistol generally has 1/3 more if not twice as much in magazine capacity, and even though it is only a “Self defense first aid kit”, it is more effective in doing its job to getting you to your rifle than that little compact will. If your compact has a full size model that uses the same ( just bigger) mag (G17 and G26, G21 and G30, etc), I’d suggest getting one of those for logistics redundancy.


The compact AR-7 assembled


The AR-7 with action, barrel, and magazines inside the stock.

Another factor to consider when looking at what full size pistol choice you are going to make, is what type of target might you be defending against. If you live in a remote area that has large, dangerous game, choosing something like a .44 Magnum revolver (the Desert Eagle is a “boat anchor), might be a good choice, especially if you are out in the wilds a lot. Planning on engaging a grizzly with a pistol is foolhardy at best, but if your out and about gathering wood 50 feet from your rifle, and you then see the beast 50 yards away, the pistol in hand beats that rifle on the other side of the moon (might as well be).


Next on the list is a rifle designed for hard hitting accuracy. As I’ve said earlier, I’m a fan of .30 cals, and the .308Win in particular (I’m also a .30-06 fan as well), and that is the caliber I’d choose simply because it’s still an issued US military cartridge, and like the .223/5.56, it’s widely available. No one is going to argue the long range accuracy and effectiveness of the .308Win. There’s a reason it’s still the issue machine gun and sniper rifle cartridge. Whether you choose a semi-auto or a bolt gun is up to you, but a number so semi-auto rifles available are as accurate as a lot of bolt guns. Here again, as with the pistols. If your choice of compact rifle has a larger counterpart, it makes logistics sense to get the same operating system with the same mag type (M1A, AR10, etc).

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Top to bottom” Match M1A .308Win, Mossberg 590A1, AKMS 7.62×39, Glock G21 .45ACP (left), AMT Backup .45ACP (center), Glock G30 .45ACP (right). All firearms in this selection can use cast lead reloaded bullets if necessary.


Now we’ve gotten to the shotgun. It’s hard to get more versatile than the shotgun. The variety and type of loads that can be fired from the shotgun cannot be topped by any other type of handheld long gun. Buckshot, birdshot, slugs, less lethal, less than lethal, flares, and “Shellcracker rounds” are a few of the types available for the shotgun. I have been using shotguns for hunting since I was 12 when I carried it my first year deer hunting. The shotgun is equally good at hunting or defense (it excels at close quarters defense). Although it’s not something I would put at the top of the list, I also would not leave it off if I had a choice in the matter. I prefer pump action shotguns, but some modern semi-autos are pretty decent (won’t cycle the non full poer shells though), and should not be overlooked.

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Top to bottom: Match M1A .308Win, Mossberg 590A1, M4 AR15, Beretta M9 9mm (left), Keltec P3AT .380ACP (center), Keltec PF9 9mm (right)

One advantage of the Mossberg 590 that is pictured in this post, is the fact that it will accept an M16 type bayonet. “Why is that important for a survival weapon?” you ask. “Why not?” is my answer. I understand that bayonet charges are not in vogue these days, but this isn’t about a bayonet charge. This is about your position being overrun, and maybe not having the ability to exit the premises. Having that pointy tip on the end of a 9 shot riot gun that can effectively engage bad guys at 100 meters with slugs can’t hurt, can it? What makes the grass grow?

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Top to bottom: Mossberg 500 12 Gauge with 18 inch defense and 26 inch hunting barrels, Ruger Gunsite Scout rifle .308Win, Marlin 880SQ .22LR, S&W M29 .44 Magnum revolver (left), Taurus M94 .22LR revolver (right). The firearms here are primarily hunting arms.

Small and some medium sized game can effectively be taken with a good, accurate .22LR rifle. Although it can effectively kill most small and medium sized game (fox and coyotes, etc.), killing the bigger animals efficiently generally needs optimal conditions. Optimal conditions is not something that you should plan in a TEOTWAWKISTAN scenario. The .22 rifle is great for small game, but there’s a reason hunting small game with a shotgun might be necessary. You could be tired, hurt, and/or starving, and using the shotgun might be the only way you’ll hit the mark on a rabbit bent on running a 2 minute mile.

First Fox

12 years old, 35 lb. fox shot through the head at 70 yards with a Springfield 1922 .22LR

The Last firearm on my list is a .22LR pistol. Although there are a number of good, accurate .22’s on the market, I choose a revolver, simply because it will fire all types of .22 ammo (Long Rifle, Long, Short, CB caps) as a repeater. This “kit gun” type of small revolver can be an effective small game killer (I kill squirrel with it regularly), and works well for running a trap line or dispatching downed big game. It’s not a necessity, but is really nice to have for certain purposes.

On a separate, but equally valid note, I am a big fan of combo guns. My first gun was a Savage M24V .223Rem/20 Gauge, and it was used for everything from squirrel to deer till I bought my next gun 5 years later. I picked that model because I believed it was the single most versatile survival gun available, and the rifle caliber was the same as the M16A1. Use of a combo gun along with caliber adapters (upcoming post) makes it even more versatile, and for survival hunting, it’s hard to beat.


Left is the Remington Model SPR94 Spartan 12 Gauge/.308Win. Right is the Savage M24V Series D .223Rem/20 Gauge.

There you have it, my choice for a “Survivalist Battery”. It works for me, and that’s what I try to give you in this blog, my experiences. Your opinion may vary, but make sure you think worst case scenario through as much as possible before you dismiss it.


American by BIRTH, Infidel by CHOICE



29 thoughts on “Choosing Your Survivalist Weapons Battery

  1. Cool post. A cranky old NCO’s opinion…

    There are two rifles. M14 and everything else.

    There are two pistols. M1911A1 and everything else.

    There is only one shotgun. Remington 870 M&P.

    “Fer squirrels n’ such” CZ455HB.

    (OK… M40A1 to make life miserable for malcontents.)


    • Of course I agree with your choice for rifle (and I know you’re also a fan of the AKM), and even though I like the 1911 (I’ve owned a few), I like the G21 better because it’s lighter (G21 loaded with 13 rounds weighs the same as an unloaded 1911), it has a higher mag capacity (13 as opposed to 7/8), its doesn’t have an external safety and it’s somewhat ambidextrous (I’m a lefty). Also, due to ergonomics its perceived recoil is lighter. The Mossberg 590 has bee the issued shotgun since 1988 (when I bought my first one), and other than being the issued shotgun, it is also ambidextrous (safety at the back of the top of the receiver). Most 20 inch barreled shotguns with extended mags also only have 7 round mags, the 590 has eight. Hell, Remington doesn’t even make a shotgun with a bayonet mount, and putting something like that on a shotgun as an aftermarket accessory seems less than robust. Of all long guns, it makes the most sense to me to have a bayonet on the shotgun. If I was right handed, I’d be more of a Remington fan (I still have to qualify with one though), but I’m not so…. Never used that model CZ, but if it’s anything like the ones I have used, it’s a winner. The Marlin 880SQ pictured will put 10 rounds of Winchester Power Points (the load it likes best, even better than Eley Match) in 3/10’s of an inch (3/4 MOA). That measurement is pretty much “Minute of Squirrels Eye”, and I don’t think I can shoot better than that, even if the gun could (that was a REALLY good day when I shot that group). Of course the M40A1 is the “no brainer” accuracy rifle, and you’d know (better than anyone else who would show up here to comment). Hell, I went back (had a few in my early 20’s) to M14 type rifles because of the conversation you and I had at your place about rifle accuracy, national logistics sources, and their relation to weapon choice, and not right after that, the Feds pulled the M14’s out of the mothballs for Afghanistan (I was using FAL’s at that time, I know you like those too, but…..).

  2. I looked through twice and didn’t see any blue guns. You are obviously a fraud and don’t know what you are talking about.
    And no garottes either…

    • I was going to do a “Can’t own a real gun” section, but I decided to do that in my upcoming “Airguns” post. Garrotes don’t fall under firearms, they fall under “Gay Affectations Used By Wannabes”. I haven’t done that post yet either. It goes along with throwing stars (they kill on impact, don’t ya know), and the Kasari-gama. If I was going to carry anything even similar to a garrote as a weapon, it would be the kasari-fundo (yes, I learned how to use it in the first martial art instruction I ever received while in college, thanks Doug and Stephen), and that’s due to its ability to be multi purpose (choking, blocking, trapping, striking). For a guy who is supposed to be a “Seasoned, well read” martial artist, you’d think he would have brought that up. It can also be a defense weapon, unlike the garrote.

      • A nice group of firearms,that said,would really not like to see the good quality air rfiles “disparaged” as just a can’t own firearms so this will do,the Sheridan Blue Streak 5 mm me dad bought and passed on to me deserves better!

        I am still piecing in me head a .308 build as finally finished the .300 and love it,that and excepting barrel .300 will use all the 5.56 parts ie BCG/magazines ect.I did though do a complete/separate build.The bug has bitten me and thus the .308 is next.

        I will say also like the 1911,just comfortable with it and do best with it hitting what I aim at,have tried many friends Glocks and just doesn’t work for me personally,with millions of fans world wide realise tis me and personal preference,not the Glock.

        I look forward to air gun review,especially if you can borrow/have? a large caliber one.I would love to try one but with the costs for a large caliber one just cannot justify it.I would say between a new bow in me future the world holds together(Martin) and a new build am pretty well going to be broke in the “sporting goods” dept.

        • The “Blue Gun” part was a joke, these types of posts are serious, and I won’t joke around in them just to get a dig in on Kernal Scambo. I would love to do an air gun review/post and include a large caliber airgun, but I don’t know anyone who has one (I’ve thought about getting a .50 cal). .300 BO huh? It’s definitely a good survival caliber, I won’t get one till they make a factory piston version (so I can shoot cast lead). The new Ruger “convertable” has that, but I just want an upper, and they aren’t (Rugers) available as “just uppers” from what I’ve seen. Upcoming posts on “Airguns”, Blackpowder Arms (flintlocks)”, and “Compact, Portable Reloading kits”, and “Cartridge /Converters/Adapters” will be out soon. No “Fluff” (Scambo) in those posts, just substance.

          • The reason I went with .300 was adaptability to what I had 5.56 in regards to mags/bcg’s/trim/cut cases and reload ect.I thought was just going to get,well a barrel,you know how that goes!I basically assembled/some fitting work/polishing ect. a whole nother rifle,then,of course,a whole nother site and glass combo,sigh.I noticed among other options could go .458,the reality is unless wild boar hits New England is that at some point need to stop.The amount of brass in recycle bin for 5.56 at buddies range is a little silly,we are getting to a point on choking on cleaned/decapped brass and have given some to friends in tough financial spots or bring em over to reload.

            There we go again,had no idea the piston would be appropriate for cast,a whole nother direction to head in,thanks!Just more money,but,more options.

            I love black powder,just shooting a Pietta replica,want to cast lead balls,still having a tough time getting powder right that am trying to make on me own.A lot of fun/noisy/smokey but always need to keep in mind still a deadly firearm.That said while being safe does remind me a bit of being a kid with fireworks!

            Look forward to the upcoming posts but need to stash my cash before reading(like that will help!).

  3. MDT
    Great site.

    On the subject of ”Choosing Your Survivalist Weapons Battery” and specifically the part of the article not being able to reach high velocities using cast bullets. If you get a chance too, check out Corbin’s Swaging & Forming Dies. Making jackets for .223 using spent 22LR brass.
    They carry jacketing/forming die sets for just about every caliber.
    A buddy of mine had one of these setups and turned out great shooting bullets.
    I was amazed how well they shot.
    Might be a good barter currency one day.
    Here’s a link to their site:

    Best Regards,

    • There was an article by Corbin about that very thing in an issue of Survive magazine back in the early 80’s, I have it somewhere. Yes, that would be a great item to have at you retreat after hard times hit, especially for trade good with someone you trusted.

  4. Well I do carry wire. For snares. I also knap flint & make bows and stone tipped arrows. My Hickory longbow and bamboo arrows are dead silent. So is my “Attl -Attl” spear thrower. If I wanted to hunt and stay under the radar I’d use the above for big game and for small game brush up on my sling and snare/trap. Guns are loud! and tell EVERYBODY , Hi come get me! I have firearms. Everything from a flintlock longrifle to AK’s; But LOUD. If I was “survival hunting” I think I’d rather not be known about.

  5. I noticed that you cammo taped the gas regulator/tube/barrel assembly on that scoped M1A. Does that effect zero or harmonics? Does it tend to overheat?

    • It’s not tape, it’s a spando-flage type of cover. I either paint the barrel, or cover like this (that M1A barrel is stainless). It can be pulled back over the handguard/stock or slid off the front if necessary. No, it does not effect harmonics, as there is no tension, or significant actual pressure placed on the barrel.

  6. Nice article, and nothing I can really disagree with.

    Couple’a things though, and first one is a biggy.

    Before you figure out what tool set you need – what’s the job? Define what you need by what’s in, around, available in your AO. Currently mine is Southwest, Urban/suburban. My needs are considerably different from someone in the Arctic Circle, or living on a ridge in Arkansas. Once you can define what the problem (job) is, then the tool choice will follow.

    Minor update is – if you’re going AR7, try to find an earlier one. I own all of the manufacturer’s AR7 products (Armalite, Charter, Henry, etc). The earlier the rifle, the sturdier and better it is. I’d opt for an Armalite over a Henry, for instance.

    • We kind of covered that. Self Defense rifle and concealable handgun, Big game (some big game is bigger and more dangerous than others) rifle, Small game rifle. The rest are more out of convenience, but can help fill in gaps if need be. I still have my CA AR-7 from when i bought it in 1988, but have put a recent Henry version through the ringer, and it did fine. The new ones have something better than the old ones, and that is they hold a mag in the receiver within the storage compartment of the buttstock, but the older CA and Armalite did not.

      • Ah, OK, understood. I just brought that point up due to the fact that many people are looking for a list of items to purchase, without being willing to do the research in the first place.

        As to the AR7, it’s a trade off. I agree that it’s nice to have two mags available, but the earlier ones had a much more durable barrel sleeve and front sight assembly, in contrast to the plastics on the current models. As long as you’re using full power .22lr they all seem to work OK….

        • If they won’t do a little of their own specific research, they won’t get anymore help from me. I’m not holding their hand, just pointing in a direction I have found works for me. Considering the “Emergent” nature of what the AR-7 was designed for, the plastics are not a deal breaker. If I’m worried about overall longevity, I’ll get something like the Marlin 880SQ. I plan on trapping wild game, and have .32ACP cartridge adapters for my .30 cals.. The AR-7 fills a gap that if need be, other firearms or methods can also fill concerning small game.

  7. Some nice firearms up there sir. My boyhood battery, supplied by Dad was a Marlin 81 .22 bolt action, Ruger Super Single-Six rimfire revolver, a Tasco 4x scoped Remington 600 Mohawk .308 Winchester, and a Remington 870 12 ga. Wingmaster, the last one my 1st ‘payed by me by mowing lawns’ gun, but Dad had to purchased because I wasn’t of age. Later on, I purchased a ‘few’ more, but truth be told the four could keep my occupied for the rest of my life.

    Lots of great memories – a day in the woods is never time wasted. Thanks for the post.

  8. Before I bought a shotgun for “survivalist” purposes, I would buy a rifle geared toward effective performance with cast lead bullets. That means something in a .40+ chambering. .45-70, or perhaps .444 Marlin. Something that can accommodate enough low-quality garage-made blackpowder to launch a bullet cast from old fishing sinkers and wheel weights at a useful and repeatable velocity. The most critical limitation on ammunition will be primers — and it’s no more difficult or expensive to stockpile magnum large rifle primers — to ignite blackpowder, Pyrodex or salvaged shotgun shell powders — than large or small rifle primers for .308 Win or 7.62×39 cases. Straight-wall cases like the .45-70 are also easier to resize and do not have the same issues with case stretch that bottlenecked cases do.

    The shotgun really doesn’t do anything — as an anti-personnel weapon — that a semi-auto rifle can’t do better. Running down a list of its disadvantages… Small magazine capacity, slow reloads, short effect range, poor accuracy, excessive recoil, bulky ammunition, crap sights (for the most part)… It’s no accident that even the most hoplophobic of states and nations allow their subjects to own shotguns with relatively few hoops to jump through.

    Would I buy a shotgun? If I was stuck in someplace like the UK, where anything more effective was reserved for the crown’s servants, then yes. In a free country? I’ll take another M4gery —or an SKS if my funds are that tight — that can do a better job at greater ranges.

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