During an emergency situation, keeping yourself and your loved ones safe is your responsibility and primary concern. In addition to the basics of food, water, or shelter, you may want to include a firearm in your preparation.
For the purposes of our discussion, I am going to define an emergency situation as something less than a total collapse of society or invasion by a foreign country. Something more along the lines of a hurricane, tornado, or other event resulting in a temporary breakdown of power grids, supply chains, and/or law and order.
In these situations, almost any weapon is better than none, and if you are a hunter, you may already have what you need. A shotgun or rifle in semi-auto, pump, or lever action is an effective tool for defense. But if you are starting from scratch, or don’t feel adequately armed, then read on.
Probably the most commonly recommended weapon for defense, the shotgun combines ease of use with low cost and devastating firepower. In an emergent situation, especially an extended one, the shotgun will provide a healthy deterrent to looters and other ne’er-do-wells. Loaded with buckshot it imparts devastating energy on target, and overpenetration (through a human) is limited.
For defensive purposes, I usually recommend a pump or semi-automatic gun. Most shotguns provide five to seven shots before reloading and handle ammunition from birdshot to slugs interchangeably. Pumps are also very affordable, with several models available for less than $200.
Despite lacking magazine capacity, double-barrel shotguns are still effective and intimidating, remaining a viable defensive tool in areas where shotguns of greater capacity are restricted.
The disadvantages of a shotgun compared to pistols or rifles is recoil and capacity. Firing a load of buckshot from a 12-gauge pump can be an eye-opening experience for the new shooter. For that reason, a 20-gauge is a good choice as a starter weapon.
As with anything else, practice is a must. Contrary to what you see in the movies a shotgun pattern is relatively small at close range. Get familiar with your weapon and shoot it till you are comfortable that you will hit your targets.
In my opinion, this is the best gun for emergency preparedness. The main advantage of a handgun in an emergency is accessibility and concealability. Sometimes it is advisable to be armed but broadcast that you are. In these instances, a compact but powerful handgun like the Glock 19 or Ruger Security 9 is a good companion.
I remember reading a while back regarding the chaos surrounding the evacuation of Florida ahead of a hurricane. The highways were bumper-to-bumper, and gas was in short supply, with rest areas crowded with desperate travelers, all nearly out of fuel.
The author and his family had full gas cans from home in their trailer and were understandably nervous about attracting unwanted attention while refueling their two vehicles. They were able to find a spot between semi-trailers to work out of sight, and all adult family members were carrying concealed pistols and able to provide security without having to uncase a long gun and further draw attention.
The moral of the story is that concealed handguns gave the family immediate security and peace of mind in a situation that had the potential to get ugly but thankfully did not. They had their pistols on them and ready, not cased up in the car. All the practice in the world is useless if you do not have your weapon on your person.
It is said that the pistol is the hardest firearm to master. I would agree with that. It helps a lot to learn from someone who knows how to shoot a handgun well and can explain to you how to do the same. (If you want to know more about shooting a pistol accurately then click here)
While some do not think of a rifle for defensive work, it is an exceptional tool for this task and the second-best gun (in my opinion) for emergency preparedness. There is no better firearm to defend a homestead from looters, and the appearance of a military-style weapon with a “banana clip” is intimidating to some.
The best rifles for an emergency scenario will be semi-automatic and fed from a detachable magazine. Chambered in an intermediate caliber like .223/5.56, 7.62×39, or 300 Blackout, a rifle offers a balance of range, power, and controllable recoil.
Compact pistol-caliber carbines like the Hi-Point, 9mm AR-15, Kel-Tec Sub-2000, or Aero Survival Rifle also could fit the bill. Ammunition logistics are simplified by having a carbine chambered in the same caliber as your pistol. Depending on the model, magazines may also interchange between weapons. The pistol cartridge gives up range to a rifle cartridge but is still effective out to a hundred yards.
If you already have a full-power rifle, like an M1 Garand or FAL, you are good. Just stock up ammo and mags. Ditto if you have a lever-action rifle like a Winchester 94 in .30-30 or Rossi 92 in .357 Magnum. While not ideal compared to an AR or AK-style rifle, the lever-action is no less lethal and has 6 to 10 rounds on tap. In some areas where semi-automatic firearms are restricted, they are the next best thing.
I have left out bolt-action rifles simply because a lot can happen in the time it takes to work the bolt. I would rather have one than nothing, but if faced with more than one threat, I would grab my 10/22 and a 25-rd magazine of CCI Mini-Mags over my .30-06.
An exception to this would be the Ruger American Ranch Rifle, which accepts AR-15 magazines. The rifle has a short bolt throw, compact barrel, and decent capacity. This rifle would be the best setup for a bolt-action that may see use in an emergency.
As this world gets stranger and more unpredictable, incorporating a firearm into your preparedness plans makes sense. Choose your weapon, practice with it, and know your state’s laws on the use of deadly force in self-defense. Stay safe out there and plan ahead.