Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Rifleman

People who have read this blog over the last couple of years know that I don't spend a lot of time talking about one of the more popular collapse-related topics -- firearms and self-defense. This is not because I don't believe that there is a need for or right to self-defense, and not because I don't see a utility use for firearms, but I because I think that access to and use of firearms is going to be less common in a post-collapse world than people expect it to be. People sometimes seem to hoard weapons like there actually will be some sort of zombie apocalypse, or they will be the first line of defense against an invading foreign army, or... This costs a lot of money at times, makes a nice attractive target for thieves, may cause you to run into legal trouble, and generally misses the point of global collapse. A new Dark Age isn't going to be resolved in a generation or so, and ammo on average only lasts 40-50 years before primer and powders begin to go bad.

On the other hand, there are situations where firearms will likely be useful and handy items, potentially even lifesavers. The ubiquitous 9mm pistol is probably the ideal sidearm, in whatever brand you pick. There are a lot of options for rifles as well, from old-style lever actions to $3000+ M-14 clones. Plenty has also been written about the AR-15 family, and it is well-represented in the "prepper" circles. However, modern semi-auto rifles are complex items with plenty of moving parts. While they are relatively reliable, there is still the issue of either stocking plenty of spare parts, or potentially having to improvise a fix. They can be more finicky about ammunition (steel cases don't always extract right in AR-15s, and bullet weight can affect functioning in other rifles). Also, they are not legal in some places, and may raise eyebrows in others. Lever-action rifles are generally restricted in available calibers, and while some people advocate them because you can have a pistol that fires the same cartridge as a rifle, this tends to limit the functionality of the rifle (i.e. nothing bigger than a .44 Magnum) and mean that a person is likely going to be forced into using a revolver as the matching pistol (.357 or .44 generally).

Bolt-action hunting rifles are another option. They are readily available, usually don't suffer from legal restrictions, are relatively inexpensive (I think a Ruger M77, for example, sells for around $650 or so, and used hunting rifles of all types can be found for much less than retail, with only a little use), have simple mechanicals, come in a wide variety of calibers, and can use various types of bullets without problem. There are some drawbacks to bolt-action hunting rifles, however. They are generally designed to exclusively be used with scopes, which means that most of them don't come with iron sights (for shooting without a scope). Scopes are also mounted in a "short eye relief" position, and are usually higher magnification (3 to 9 power, at least), meaning the shooter will have a limited field of vision through the scope at closer rangers, and will also have a shooting posture that isn't as "natural" as using a rifle without a scope would often.

To address these problems, some years ago Jeff Cooper defined a concept called the "Scout Rifle," which was meant to basically be the most practical all-around rifle, capable of both self-defense and hunting, able to bring down game at a decent range, a good caliber, light, and able to withstand various weather conditions. In other words, if you had to spend some time in the bush, the rifle which would be able to do whatever you wanted it to, and not make an unpleasant companion, due to size or weight. Commonly chambered for .308 Winchester, it has become a "niche" rifle for people looking for the most practical all-around longarm.

It's these same qualities which make it an ideal type of rifle for people concerned with post-collapse needs. People may object to having a rifle with a limited rate of fire for defense, but a bolt action can be worked relatively quickly, and I would also ask exactly what people seem themselves doing once the stores close and gas dries up. Are they trying to get by on a daily basis or are they looking for trouble they don't need to find?

As for the rifle itself, "Scout Rifle" is a generic term, but various examples have been put into production by several companies, or a person can take an existing bolt-action rifle and modify it to this type of configuration. The exact criteria is: 6.6 pounds or less, 36 inches or less in length, forward-mounted low-power telescopic sight, "ghost ring" iron sights in case the scope is damaged, "Ching Sling" (fast adjustment sling), .308 Win/7mm-08 Rem/.243 Win caliber, and able to hold a two-inch group at 100 yards. Steyr, Ruger, and Savage make rifles that meet this criteria, in a wide range of prices. It is also possible for a person to assemble a Scout Rifle using an off-the-shelf rifle in a suitable caliber and modifying it. For those on a budget, a possible conversion would be taking a Mosin-Nagant carbine as the base rifle, or an SMLE "Carbine."

Of course, the rifle is only half the equation. The person pulling the trigger is just as important. Proper instruction on operation and safety, as well as time at the range to learn how to shoot, is vital. Rifles may be easier to shoot than pistols, but people who go to the range once a year to "sight it in" with a handful of rounds, and do nothing else, aren't doing themselves any favors.

While some people are not comfortable with firearms, they do serve a legitimate purpose and need at times. Even if not necessary for self-defense or hunting, livestock protection is a valid use. Realistically, most people are probably not going to need a battery of military-grade semi-auto rifles with night vision and hundred round drum magazines. If you want that, tt's fine, but I would guess it would be money that could be going to something else. On the other hand, a good working rifle, designed to be a jack-of-all-trades, might be far more useful in daily life and be there "when you need it."


  1. I have been preaching a similar concept for years, simpler is better and longer lasting. People want sudden collapse though. I want sudden collapse. Sudden collapse sorts the wheat from the chaff rather quickly. Wanting something and dealing with the reality of a slower more painful collapse are two different things.

    I appreciate though that you mention that firearms will not be as available post collapse as people think and I believe that you are right on the money with that. I own a Ruger Gunsight Scout rifle precisely because it has potential for lasting a long time, I should be able to pass it down to my son and I intend to learn how to reload as well so perhaps he will as well. Even still, the raw materials for gunpowder and whatnot may not be commercially available at some point and thus, eventually all firearms will resemble clubs.

  2. The Ruger Scout looks like a nice rifle indeed. While guns as a whole seem simple, they're one of the top-tier products of an industrial civilization, both in the manufacture of the weapon and the ammunition. I figure that what will be produced post-collapse is largely going to be of the flintlock variety, as the technology simply won't be there to do do anything else. While people will argue for the reliability of some semi-auto rifles and whatnot, the reality is that more moving parts means more stuff to break. I'd rather have a Mosin-Nagant that fires than a DPMS that doesn't.

    The fast vs. slow collapse argument goes back and forth. I'd rather see no collapse at all, but society seems determined to ram its head someplace it shouldn't go, in spite of people shouting from the rooftops for a generation or two by now where we're going wrong. When 7 billion people are wrong, there's not a lot of point to being right.

    There's two sides to reloading. If you shoot a lot, it's worth doing. If you're intending to store reloaded ammo, the shelf life isn't as long, generally. As a hobby, it's more relevant than golf. I haven't done it for a while, but enjoyed it. A single-stage press and the nice extras aren't horribly expensive -- the RCBS start kit + a pair of cheap digital calipers is around $340, maybe less if you look around. I would start by loading handgun ammunition -- .38 Special or .45 ACP, preferably.

    Speaking of clubs, at some point, I'll write a couple of entries on more primitive weapons.

    1. I will look forward to that. It just so happens I have several modern remakes of more primitive weapons because I feel that long term they are more relevant.

      I also wish that collapse were not happening, I was merely pointing out that my preference. Zombies happen to be my "thing" but it's more because of Romero than because of the current onslaught of poorly scripted zombie drivel coming out of what passes for the entertainment industry these days. Romero once said that his zombies were a metaphor for us eventually consuming ourselves, the snake eating it's own tail so to speak. I buy that (pun intended) and I think that our current and future troubles hinge on it. I don't really expect to see the level of attrition from collapse to be the same as a zombie apocalypse or a comet striking the earth or a nuclear exchange. In my opinion our attrition will look more like "I can't afford to have children" and whatever necessary steps one might need take to ensure that, possibly leading to greater attrition. It's going to be a mess and I hate to tell the "Arm Yourselves for the zombie Apocalypse" crowd that while there is likely to be a greater number of desparate people as the wheels roll forward on collapse, chances are they will need only to remain vigilant and proactive (in most cases) to avert personal any case, thank you for the reloading advice, I will follow it. I think that as a hobby it could have some short term benefit with the "Arm Yourselves"

    2. The 9mm is a fine choice. I think the prices on say the Browning Hi-Power clones are very resonable; thinking of the Charles Daily HP, for example. A 9mm side arm is handy, relatively easy to conceal and there is tons of ammo around. I think having about 300 to 500 rounds on hand is good eenough to get one through the horrible initial period when collapse brings out the worst in people. Beyond that things will settle down into the new dark age. Just remember one thing: if you DO decide to have and brandish a firearm you damn well better be resolved to use it. Forget about the simple fact that you have a gun as a scare tactic against someone intent on entering your space. Center 'em up in the sights and pull the trigger or don't have a gun at all. AND PRACTICE WITH YOUR WEAPON before you need it to defend yourself.

    3. Actually, I don't know what the availability is lately, but the M1951 was a nice, simple, and rugged pistol. Confrontation seems like a good thing to avoid most of the time, and isn't necessary unless people are determined on hurting you or taking what you have (in a post-collapse world, theft takes on a much more profound level of harm, if you consider that having an item may make the difference between life and death).

      Last, I agree about practice, but for everything, not just for self-defense. However, a lot of activities can be combined both into practice and recreation. Sport shooting is one example, so is raising a garden or microfarm, homebrewing, homespun crafts, etc.