Compact Defense Rifles For The Survivalist

Update from 2016,

As a Survivalist, your primary role is not as a combatant, but as a “Jack of All Survival Skills”. As I’ve said before, a Survivalist should be a jack of all trades, master of some (specifically the life saving and protection arts). A Survivalist needs to understand farming/gardening, animal husbandry, woodsmanship, mechanical repair (vehicle, farming implement, and firearm), and the technical/tactical skills of first aid (TCCC), extended wound care, coupled with the defensive tactics implementation of firearms, blades, and empty hands.

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While this is an extreme type of activity while having a rifle slung on you back (most rifles will flop around on your back), the Keltec SU16C is light enough that it isn’t a problem.

Although a Survivalist should always be ready to fight after a SHTF scenario has taken place, that is generally not his primary task on a day to day basis. If there is a good possibility that a fight will happen, and it is possible to carry more than just a pistol, you carry a rifle, period. Carrying a full size rifle all the time every day is extremely inconvenient if your primary tasks are not that of a grunt, and you have a choice.

While growing up on a farm, I can tell you that if you are carrying a full length rifle around (us kids didn’t have handguns, but during hunting season we always had a rifle handy), you are always looking for a place to stash it so that you can accomplish the task you are involved in.

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Full size long guns are very inconvenient to carry while doing everyday chores.

Although a Grunt usually doesn’t have a dire need for a compact rifle unless he is operating out of a vehicle, the parameters of what a Survivalist needs and can use can be very different. A Survivalist uses the type of rifle we are talking about for defense of himself and those under his care. While the combat rifle is EVERYTHING to an Infantryman, the rifle is only one tool of many to the Survivalist.

Enter the Compact Fighting Rifle (CFR). Having a rifle that is reliable, durable, powerful, and compact is a tall order. There are a few out there, but they’re few and far between. I generally will only use a system that has been adopted by a military with high standards (this doesn’t apply to .22LR’s). I’m still waiting for the AR-10’s to be vetted and proven reliable to my satisfaction (still a lot of the feedback has been negative),  so I’ve never owned one.

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A pic of a DSA SA58 (FAL) carbine I had back in 2002 during the ’94-’04 federal gun ban. No threaded barrel (integral brake) or folding stock was allowed, and this was about as compact as you could get with this type of rifle.

Others in the 7.62N (.308Win) category that I actually have owned and used are the M1A (M14), HK91 (G3), Valmet M76 (Finnish AK) and FAL, and I can vouch that, from my experience, they’re all reliable weapons with good reputations. In the last 31 years I’ve owned one HK91, one M76, seven FAL’s (of various configurations), and four M1A’s (of different configurations).

In the assault rifle caliber category, the majority of what I’ve owned were AK’s or AR’s with a few Mini-14’s and one Daewoo K2 (A Fed Ban model). I have had a dozen AK’s of various configurations, and a half dozen or so AR’s ( mostly carbines).

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Although the M1A Socom in an EBR stock is somewhat compact, it’s loaded weight of 14.5 lbs. with an optic makes it somewhat cumbersome to be considered a “Compact Fighting Rifle”.

The US military has used the short M14 (16 inch SOCOM with Sage EBR stock) that weighs in at 13 lbs. empty, and is 34 inches long. The HK91 with the factory collapsible stock weighs 10 lbs. and is 33 inches long. The FAL carbine with folding stock is 8.75 lbs. (without rail handguard) and approx. 27 inches long.

In the rifles of the “assault rifle” calibers, you generally have the AKM and the M4 variant of the AR-15. The average folding stocked AK (7.62x39S or 5.56N) weigh in at 7.5 lbs, and is approximately 26.5 to 28 inches long. The average M4 weighs in at 7 lbs. and is approximately 33 inches long.

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Of course we’d all love an SBR, but who wants to do that paperwork? Options in this category for the non SBR guys is the “Pistol” version w/ brace of the full size rifles. 

In the bullpup category (all the mil models are 5.56N), readily available, military tested rifles available to civilians, are generally the IWI Tavor TAR-21 and X-95, and the Steyr AUG A3. The TAR-21 is approximately 26 inches long and weighs in a 8 lbs.. The X-95 is almost exactly the same. The AUG A3 is almost 9 lbs. with its optic, and a little over 28 inches long. All the specs listed above are factory tech specs reflecting rifles with no accessories and no magazine.

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Although the Keltec SU16C is a lightweight and capable rifle, I would relegate it to the “Truck Gun”, or “Get home Bag gun” and not give it the position of “Combat Rifle”. Empty, this rifle weighs right under six pounds with the optic and is 26.75 inches long. The only reason I still have this rifle is due to it’s super light weight and compact size.

So what is available for the Survivalist in the category of compact semi automatic rifles? We are going to look primarily at side folding stocked rifles, and Bullpups. I have never been a big fan of the Bullpup design, but I know some people that love ’em, and have nothing but good things to say. In the following paragraphs, we are going to look at what the practical weights are of different rifles when compared to the caliber of the rifles being covered.

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Probably the most popular of the semi-compact fighting rifles. The M4 version of the AR-15 is usually around 33 inches long (stock collapsed) and in this configuration weighs 10.5 lbs.

First up, we’ll look at some Bullpups to see what their specs are. IWI is a well known manufacturer and is known for it’s reliable rifles. Pictured below (rifles in the center and on the right) are the Tavor’s X-95 and the TAR-21. they are both chambered for 5.56, and with muzzle brakes are 29.25 and 28.5 inches long. With a tac light, IR laser, and Elcan 4x optic, the X95 weighs 11.3 lbs, and the TAR-21 weighs 11.75 lbs.

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The rifle that is pictured to the left is an M1A Scout in a Rogue chassis. The overall length with muzzle brake is 30 inches, and with a 6x Trijicon optic, tac light and DBAL IR laser, this rifle weighs 16.3 lbs. (compact but very heavy). Both the Tavor bullpups and the M1A (not in the Rogue chassis) are considered to be combat tested systems, and although there are a number of other bullpups out there in the 5.56, the Tavors seem to be the most economical in the combat tested category.

There really isn’t any combat tested .308 bullpups available out there that I’m aware of (the Keltec RFB is not combat tested), but as I’ve said, the M1A platform is a time tested system, and it has performed well in the Rogue chassis through a number of tactical rifle classes for the owner.

Next up we have two folding stocked Sig rifles. One is the model 556, one is the model 522 (it’s the owner’s cheap shooting “training rifle”). The 5.56N chambered 556 weighs in at 12.35 lbs. with an Elcan 4x, Vltor bipod, and a tac light. Overall folded length is 28 inches and 36.25 inches with stock locked open. The .22LR 522 weighs 12 lbs. with a Trijicon 6x optic, a Vltor bipod and a tac light. Folded length is approximately 27 inches and 34.5 inches with the stock extended.compact-rifle-post7

When this type of comparison is done, the calibers of the rifles in question are typically of the “Assault Rifle” variety. Although there are a number of compact rifles available in the usual 5.56×45 or 7.62×39, there are a few available in 7.62Nato (.308 Win). One such rifle is the DSA SA58 (FN FAL) Compact Tactical Para Carbine.

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DSA SA58 (Para FAL) Compact Tactical Para Carbine with a 30 round mag at the top. AKM with Magpul Zhukov folder on the bottom.

Most will tell you that you can’t compare a battle rifle with an assault rifle in size or magazine capacity. Below are some picks of the FAL in comparison to a AKM with a Magpul Zhukov folding stock. The FAL weighs in at 11 lbs. with an optic, tac light, and DBAL laser. It’s overall length is 37.75 inches, and the folded length is 29 inches.

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In the compact defense rifle category, it’s hard to beat the FAL Para or a folding stocked AKM.

In comparison, the AKM that is pictured weighs 10.5 lbs. without any accessories, is 36.5 inches long, and 28.25 inches folded. Here’s an interesting comparison. With a 30 round magazine the AKM weighs 11.75 lbs. and the FAL weighs 13.75 lbs. with 30 round mag. Normally, battle rifles use 20 round magazines, since they are the most convenient. Since people like to make the apples and oranges comparison with these two rifle types, I figure I’d show that the size disparity isn’t as great as some would have you believe.

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The AKM pictured on top of the SA58 showing the size/profile is almost exactly the same, but the 7.62N cartridge far exceeds the performance of the 7.62x39S.

In contrast to the AKM with side folder shown above, this AKMS is a lot harder to put optics on.

 

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The DSA SA58 Compact Tactical Carbine with it’s normal 20 round magazine weighs 12.25 lbs.

I mentioned earlier that you can own firearms that appear to be similar to the regulated short barreled rifles (SBR’s), but are actually regulated as pistols. I talked about this type of firearm in this post, and for the purposes listed here, it would be foolish not to consider a firearm of this type without serious thought.

Besides there small size, they can be carried loaded in many places you can’t carry a loaded rifle. The 11″ ParaFAL OSW pictured here is 23.25″ inches long when the brace/stock is folded, and 32.5″ long unfolded. It weighs 13.25 lbs. loaded (with a 30 rounder) as pictured here, and ballistics are 2325FPS with around 1800 FT LBS. with 150 grain Mil ball (I listed this because I was told it wouldn’t do any better than a 16″ AK ball ballistics. This shows that’s not the case).

The 11.5″ SIG M400 weighs in a 10.5 lbs. as seen (loaded) and including the DBAL. With the SB Tactical PDW Brace collapsed the length is 27″ long, and 29.5″ long extended. Both of these firearms have a Primary Arms Holosun HS505C solar powered red dot. The FAL has the short mount, and the M44 has the space for iron sight co-witness.

If you are looking for a super compact defense rifle, it’s hard to go wrong with one of the bullpups we talked about earlier, an AKM folder or FAL Para. There are a number of good rifles available to civilians these days, and the most important thing to keep in mind is that when you make your selection and purchase your rifle, TRAIN WITH IT! It makes no sense to have something for that purpose, but to not train and become proficient in it’s use.

This post is about being realistic. Be realistic in what you think you will be doing during a SHTF situation. If you think you will be running from firefight to firefight, like your Modern Warfare 3 video game, you need to read some of Selco, or FerFal’s stuff. Be realistic in the rifle you select as your “Go to gun”. A compact rifle for a Survivalist beats the Hell out of a typical full size Infantry long gun for all but a few limited uses.

Being practical, being realistic, and being ready is what it’s all about. Just like most people won’t carry their handgun if it is too large or uncomfortable for them to conceal, so to, the compact rifle will be carried more in a SHTF situation while doing the chores if it’s not a pain in the ass to transport.

JCD

"Parata Vivere"- Live Prepared.
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Brushbeater On Mountain Men And Survivalist

Brushbeater spells out the winning combination of the skills and mindset which made the mountain man a world class Survivalist.

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The Mountain Man as a Rifleman: An Analysis of a Better Survivalist Strategy

mtn-menWhen it comes to survivalism, prepping and general self reliance, an overtone of a militant nature flows through the veins of many. Rightfully so. The ability to skillfully protect what is near and dear to a community is the backbone of why one would prepare. Often enough this necessitates a high focus on military weapons and tactics in an effort to mirror that same capability. Its not that such a focus is wrong- it is not, entirely- but rather a modification of Light Infantry method, or a rejection of such in lieu of a better approach, may be far more effective while keeping you and yours alive.

Take the historical Mountain Man from the fur trapper era. Rarely were they the lone wilderness dweller types as romanticized, but rather were usually private contractors that served dual roles as both trappers and scouts for the US Army. While hunting or scouting in small groups, these men were constantly on guard for everything from combat with hostile native tribes and predators to natural disaster to flat out bad luck. By necessity they had to be a jack of all trades, and a master of quite a few just to survive. This should sound familiar to many. Their requirement to live is your goal, whether you realize this or not.

mtn-men2Another glaring fact to coincide with this reality is that the furtrappers of yore were not Infantrymen of any type; in many cases the men of those groups had served in various uniforms during wars of their respective eras, some were criminals running from a rough past, and others just misfits or all of the above, but at this point they were hunters and most importantly, scouts. There existed no support for them in any immediate sense. Outposts were usually days away at best, with material usually being sparse as-is even when it arrived. Their only assets were their wit, their marksmanship, their teamwork, and their ability to remain hidden and sustained through healthy knowledge of their terrain. They were Survivalists of the strongest type. It is necessary then that their experiences serve as a lesson and guidelines to how a mutual assistance group or militia would work in a grid-down world versus attempting to mirror a disciplined and predictable Light Infantry model with limited or no required assets.

Haweye.jpgFollowing a man’s best asset, his wit, skill as a marksman often was the measure of quality and made their  reputation. James Fenimore Cooper’s Natty Bumppo (also known as Hawkeye) was the perfect illustration of this, being a mixture of many of the legendary frontiersmen of the day.  In every case be it fiction, woodslore, or real, the ability to streamline and perfect practical marksmanship is the most critical skill a man at arms can have and in a practical sense should be one of the benchmarks of your own training. You should be able to estimate range, know the approximate trajectory of your own rifle, and be competent enough to know at what range you can make a clean kill- and more importantly- when you can’t.

In stating this, it must be recognized that merely shooting from a bench or under controlled conditions cannot equate skill in the field. Shooting fast at stationary targets, alone, cannot achieve such skills either. The former does not push the shooter beyond a comfort zone, the latter only wastes resources and assumes a reactionary stance, reflective of police and military tactics during peacekeeping occupations. Having done the later overseas, it is no model anyone should adopt as their own on these shores. Neither work for any sort of effective defensive plan. The mountain man, knowing that every round must count, and every round will give you away, worked diligently to know where those rounds were going before they were sent. Marksmanship was every bit as much about making a clean kill with that one shot as it was conserving their own resources.

mountain man horsesIn the small unit sense, mountain men were team hunters. Each man in the team knew how to move quickly and quietly while assessing terrain. All the skills of team movement, such as knowing where each man in the group is in the hunting party, having an experienced pathfinder and tracker taking lead, and the others watching for any and all signs of danger, all being well versed in land navigation, were exactly the model of small unit prowess that many seek today. Further, they knew when and where to make an effective ambush, whether it was to kill game or getting the better of a team of hostiles.  The ability to see the game first meant the difference between them living another day or dying a very, very miserable death. In that sense their hunting party is synonymous to a type of Light Infantry, where one is hunting and only concerned with winning and withdrawing versus taking and holding terrain for follow on forces.

mountain man blanketWhere this leaves you, the soul concerned only with protecting his own God-given liberty and posterity, is to view your skills, training, and equipment in a different way than some in the contemporary sense may. The mountain man of yore had no illusion of their place in the world- they were not Infantrymen of any standing army and had no desire to be, had no supply line aside from what was on their backs or could be procured, and above all else, knew wholeheartedly the very fine line they tread between life and death. For some, perhaps that was all part of the thrill of living. But all of the above was and is predicated upon their skill with a rifle; the ability to make the shot under any condition while tired and cold. Simple and effective kit, a good rifle, and the skills to make it all work was, and remains, the most effective model of survival and personal defense versus training to be exactly the opposite. The traditional mountain man scout, both individually and as a team, serves as an effective example of what the survivalist should strive to be. The jack of all trades and master of quite a few, including expert proficiency with his chosen weapon. They were not Infantrymen nor troops of any real kind; simply hard, stubborn, self reliant and skilled men. And you should be also.

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Go study, practice and do likewise.

JCD

American by BIRTH, Infidel by CHOICE

Revisiting The Smock, And Stocking It For Survival, A Part 1 And 2 Compilation

As many who know me can tell you, I think the SAS style combat smock is one of the most utilitarian pieces of kit a Survivalist can have when it comes to clothing selection. In the following post, you will see why.
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Revisiting The Smock, And Stocking It For Survival PT. 1

 

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I have been using the SAS type smock for a couple decades, and although I haven’t changed much in the way it is stocked, there have been changes over the years. What is in the smock changes, but what that gear is supposed to do has not. A piece of clothing such as a smock will carry A LOT of gear, and the key is to have enough to survive, but don’t load it down.

First let’s talk about the smock I now use and recommend. I used to recommend the smock made by Begadi, but unfortunately it is no longer made, and was extremely expensive (about $150). The smock I’ve been using is not only cheaper (about $80 and that includes shipping from Germany), I like some of the features better. It is sold by ASMC, and the smock link is here.

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The smock is made out of 65/35 Poly/cotton ripstop, which means it dries pretty fast, but does not have some of the drawbacks of all nylon clothing (human torch anyone). The shoulders and elbows have a heavier, cordura like, water repellent fabric covering them, and the elbows come with removable elbow pads.

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The hood has a few feature which I really like. One id the adjustment in the back which will keep the front of the hood from obstructing your peripheral vision. The second is the wire that can be shaped to keep the sides back, also helping with your peripheral vision, and the hood doesn’t hanging down in your face.

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If you buy one of these smocks, be careful how what size you get. If you are getting it as an everyday coat, do as the company suggests, and get a size smaller than you normally do. If you are getting it as a field smock, with the possibility of wearing insulating layers under it, get the size you normally would. A friend recently found that out, as he ordered one size smaller, and found out wearing a field jacket liner of heavy fleece significantly inhibited his freedom of movement.

 

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The liner in the smock (where there is one), is not the heavy liner you would expect and nothing like a US Army field jacket has. The smock is lightweight enough to be worn in warmer weather, and has large “Pit zips” to help vent, as well as only buttoning the front (instead of zipping it up) of the smock helps with the airflow issues you might have. The “Canadian style” buttons are great when you are trying to button or unbutton with gloves on.

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One of the only things I do not like on this smock is the right sleeve pocket. I believe it is designed for some type of first aid dressing, but is ridiculously large, and I’ve dealt with it in two ways. On my OD smock, I removed it and covered the area with a velcro panel. On my flectarn smock (it is my regular hunting jacket), I sewed the sides of the pocket down. This allows me to still used the pocket, but it has less volume, and sticks out a lot less.

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Cuff adjustments are velcro, waist adjustments are of the string type (ala army field jacket), and it also has a skirt tie for when the wind is really bad. You’ll notice in some of the pics that their are fabric tabs all over the smock. This is a way to secure camouflage (natural or man made) to the smock for obvious reasons.

Overall, it is a great lightweight, multi purpose jacket, and except for the things mentioned, I have nothing but good to say about this as all around field apparel.In part two, we’ll talk about the survival kit I carry in it.

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Revisiting The Smock, And Stocking It For Survival PT. 2

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In Part 1 we discussed the smock that I recommend, and why I recommend it. In this post we’ll cover what survival items I carry in it, the “why” and the “how” of it. My smock carries items that are geared towards survival if I have lost all my gear. They cover these basic categories: Shelter, Water procurement and purification, food in a basic short term sustainment pack, tools for shelter building and food procurement, and fire making.

In the “Shelter” section I have one main item, which is supported by the length of 550 cord which will be shown in an inner pocket. I use a military “casualty” blanket. This is another way of saying heavy duty space blanket. This is a heavy duty tart that is 5’x7′, with grommet holes on the sides and corners. One side is OD green, and one side is silver. These make excellent lean to shelters, and can also be rolled up inside to keep ones body heat in as much as possible. I carry the Space blanket in the back pocket on the smock.

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This looks like it would be bulky, but it is far from it. It lies flat and if any gear sits on top of the pocket, it does not dig into your back or your ass. Next, since we already started with the back pocket, we will just go through the pockets and see what they hold.

Up front you have six pockets, two bottom cargo pockets, two top cargo pockets, and two zip up napoleon pockets behind the top cargo pockets. On the side you have two lower cargo pockets, and one sleeve pocket on the left sleeve. As I said in part 1, I removed the right sleeve pocket that this smock comes with.

First we’ll start with the left sleeve pocket. Three items are in this pocket. First is a small fixed blade knife. I use the CRKT Ritter RSK MK5 because it is small, sturdy, and can be used for a spear point if needed. Next is a military type magnesium fire starter block, as a last ditch fire starting implement. Third is a old style military field dressing for serious bleeder/wound issues.

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Next up we’ll go to the top left side pocket. I carry a Minimag LED with lithium batteries. Why a minimag? Because they’ve been around a long time, and they work. Why LED? Because it doesn’t have the bulb breakage problems that the standard does, it’s brighter, and lasts longer. Why lithium batteries. They last longer in storage and don’t leak. There is plenty of room in that pocket for other things that might need carried (you can’t fill up every space, first it would be too bulky, second it’s a back up, not your primary gear conveyance, right?).

Napoleon pocket, top left. I carry a neck gaiter for cold, and a pair of aviator flight gloves. The gloves are good for cold down to about 20 degrees if you’re moving around, about 30 degrees if you’re sedentary. The neck gaiter is one of the best cold weather items you can have, and makes a huge difference in your heat retention. ‘Nough said.

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Top right cargo pocket. This is the LandNav pocket. Their is a good baseplate compass, with a magnifying lens on it (back up fire starter also). There is also a small button compass inside the top flap of the pocket as a back up. Once again, extra room is there for other items later.

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Top right napoleon pocket. The only thing in this pocket is a stormsafe notebook, a pen and a mechanical pencil. They are stored in a heavy duty waterproof bag that can be used to carry other items of water if needed.

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The bottom left cargo pocket contains three items. First is a pair of cold weather aviator gloves (both types of aviator gloves are fire resistant). These are for cold down to about 5 degrees (what I’ve used them too, but I run “Hot” so YMMV). The other items are a roll over black electrical tape and a bic lighter that is in a metal case with scissors and a small blade (never have enough blades, right?).

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Bottom right cargo pocket contains three items. An old German army pocket knife which has a knife blade, saw, screwdriver, corkscrew and awl. There is two types of headwear in this pocket. One is the old standby OD green wool watchcap, the other is a coyote brown goretex boonie hat. This covers shelter building, and repair, keeping the head and shoulders dry, and along with the cold weather gloves, and neck gaiter, staying somewhat warm.

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The left side cargo pocket contains a a collapsible water bottle, and that is it. The left side is where I wear a holster, so this side needs to remain relatively flat. It can be used with the water purification tablets I will mention later.

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Right side cargo pocket. In this pocket is a Spec ops Cargo pocket organizer that holds a number of survival items. The items are as follows: Bic Lighter, Bottle of ibuprofen and antacids, bottle of water purification tablets, a piece of contractor grad aluminum foil 3’x12″ (used for heating up the water for the ramen seasoning packets), MRE Chocolate milkshake packet, ziplock bag of ramen flavor packets (like boullion cubes but flat), three Datrex bars (600 calories), and one small sealable waterproof bag.IMG_20160321_153528-1

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Note: All six cargo pockets have D-rings inside the pocket, and all items  are “Dummy corded” when possible to reduce loss. Also, everything is “Jump” tested to make sure  they make no noise when moving.

IMG_20160321_155014  Inside right pocket contains a map in a ziplock gallon size freezer bag with a protractor.

 

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Inside left contains 50 feet of 550 cord for shelter building and other tasks, and another bic lighter wrapped with 2 feet of 100mph tape (repairs and fire tinder). Below is a Buddy of mine, Bergmann in Alaska, with his idea of some additions to a survival smock. We have talked about this a good bit, and as you can see, some of the ideas we both had, and some I poached.

Well, that’s about it, any questions or ideas, pleas let me know.

JCD

American by BIRTH, Infidel by CHOICE