Prepper Guns: Firearms, Ammo, Tools, and Techniques You Will Need to Survive the Coming Collapse (2016)

HANDGUNS

Picking a Handgun

Which defensive pistol is right for you?

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S&W 1911 in a Galco holster.

Prepping for survival is different than the concept of a carry gun in good times. We must plan for any contingency and the worst-case scenario will probably be much different than we found back before the world took a turn to the crazy side.

We may still have to deal with someone trying to rob us of our wallets, just like in the old days, but we may just as well find ourselves fighting for our lives against an angry mob or a terrorist attack. In that light, the higher-capacity handgun argument makes some sense. Not just because of what’s in the gun, but also because of the amount of ready-to-use ammo we will have with us. If we have our gun and two extra magazines, it will be argued that the amount of ammo with a high-capacity “Wonder Nine” will be much higher than for a 1911 .45. With a Glock G17, for example, you will have one in the pipe and three fully loaded seventeen-round magazines for a total of fifty-two rounds of ammo, or more than double what a 1911 shooter will have with the same two reloads.

Of course, you can always carry more magazines and that’s advisable if you are in a true survival situation. But part of prepping is being prepared before problems occur. For most, that includes buying and carrying a handgun now.

One of the popular platitudes of modern-day gunfighters is, “two is one and one is none.” I am not really sure that makes a lot of sense from a grammatical standpoint, but the concept is that you should always carry two guns: a primary and a backup. Not horrible advice, but it can open the door to some extreme ideas. I know people who carry two handguns and multiple magazines for each. They will be well prepared for a fight, but that’s a lot of weight to lug around every day. There must be a balance that lets you operate each day within the boundaries of current society. If you are in a survival situation, that makes complete sense. In fact you are probably under-equipped. But if you are carrying every day in our current, “mostly” functioning society it might be a bit of overkill to have multiple guns and hundreds of rounds of ammo in magazines all stashed on your body. I am not saying they are wrong, just that we all need to find the balance that works best for our unique situations.

If you subscribe to this idea honestly, then you should have a rifle with you, as that’s better in a fight than a dozen handguns. But if you start carrying a fighting rifle everywhere you go, you will become well acquainted with your local SWAT team. The point is that as this concept of backup escalates, at some point the amount of guns and ammo you are lugging around becomes a burden. You need to find a balance between your everyday carry needs as they stand today and the load-out you will bring to war.

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S&W M-340 .357 Mag.

This relates to what you carry on your person, not what is in your vehicle.

For me and many others, everyday carry is a primary handgun with two extra magazines. There are times when I will add another backup gun, but they are pretty rare. I know that I could well regret that if I am caught in a complete SHTF situation, but I have judged the odds and decided I can live with the risk. Your results, as they say, may vary.

Often the gun I carry is a 1911 or a S&W Shield in .40 S&W, both with relatively low magazine capacities. In fact, I often carry a S&W J-Frame Model 340 revolver. It’s a five-shot .357 Magnum, so even with two reloads I have less ammo than one magazine for a Wonder Nine. That’s what I carry now, in our “sort-of-functioning” society. But if problems continue to escalate with more riots and social unrest, or if we experience a catastrophic change where society fails and it becomes survival, I will change my carry guns to reflect those times.

I recognize that there is a flaw in my logic with my current carry guns. My friend Scott Ballard made his living in harm’s way for many years. These days he is an instructor at the Sig Sauer Academy in New Hampshire. When talking about carrying a gun because it’s convenient or because it’s the best tool, he said this:

“I will not disparage those who do, but I am not able to make convenience a primary deciding factor for the weapon I carry. I find that capacity is a close second to shoot-ability on my list. Finding a solitary hunter is a rare thing amongst the predatory human animal.”

As a gun guy who makes his living writing about this stuff, I buy a lot of guns and as a result I have lots of options. I am lucky enough that I have multiple guns and can carry a lightweight gun like the Shield today, but can switch to a full-capacity handgun at any time. If you are buying your first, and perhaps only, carry gun, you need to study the issue and find the balance that works for you.

If you are prepping and/or buying your primary carry gun and can only afford one gun right now to protect you in any survival situation, then some kind of a high-capacity handgun makes sense.

I know I suggested elsewhere that it be a 9mm for reasons of expected ammo supply, but it doesn’t have to be a 9mm. This book is going to be filled with contradictions and this is one of them. That doesn’t mean they are wrong.

The 9mm makes sense from an ammo supply point of view, but from a performance aspect it’s lacking. The main argument on the performance side is for high capacity and that argument has evolved and changed. Thirty years ago the 9mm was pretty much the only option for high-capacity handguns. Today you can get big magazine guns in almost any chambering. If we put the .45 in the same double-stack design pistol, most of the full-size guns have a magazine capacity of thirteen or fourteen rounds. Most .40 S&W pistols will have fifteen-round magazines while the Wonder Nines usually have seventeen in a magazine. At least that’s what the gun that started all this, the Glock G17, holds. Some might argue for the Browning Hi-Power, which was around long before the Glock and is a fine handgun. The Hi-Power magazine holds thirteen rounds. So I’ll give the argument all the help it can get and go with the Glock’s seventeen-round capacity.

While many will still argue for the higher capacity of the 9mm, I think the logic of their arguments is often flawed or at least incomplete. First, I don’t think you should plan your strategy around how much you are going to miss, which seems to be the theme of a lot of the guys arguing for a high-capacity handgun. It’s also poor strategy to pick a gun with a less powerful cartridge just because it holds more ammo. This is another common argument, “I have seventeen shots; I’ll just keep shooting.” The problem with that is the other guy might have the same idea and he might actually hit you. The goal is to strike the bad guy with the first and every shot you fire. That may not be the reality, but it damn sure should be the goal. That first hit may well be the only hit and so it should be as powerful a blow as you can strike.

Shooting under stress is far different than shooting at the range. It’s folly to think you can just keep shooting and hitting the bad guy. He is going to react and move, probably attacking you. A moving target is difficult to hit, particularly if you are moving too, and you should be. Forget multiple shots or precise shot placement; you will be lucky to get any hits at all in a fast-breaking, stress-filled, panic-fueled fight for your life. I think it’s a far better idea to use the more powerful cartridge with a better chance to end the threat as fast as possible with that one hit.

The .40 S&W wasn’t around thirty years ago when the Glock G17 began a revolution in handgun design. Today it is, and it is chambered in guns with high magazine capacity. That revolution in double-stack handguns has also prompted new high-capacity pistols in .45 ACP that we didn’t have then. With the bigger, more powerful cartridges logic says you will not need as much ammo. If you pick a .40 S&W double-stack you are only down six rounds total with a loaded gun and two extra magazines from a 9mm, but you have a more powerful handgun so you should be more effective. If you go with a double-stack .45, you are down nine rounds.

I will point out that most .40 S&W and 9mm handguns use the same basic grip frame size while the .45 ACP (and the 10mm) need a longer, front-to-back magazine which results in a larger grip frame. While for many that’s not a factor, it is for short-fingered guys like me, and I have trouble reaching the trigger correctly with some striker-fired guns like the Glock in .45 ACP. Many women and small-statured shooters may find the same problem with a double-stack .45 ACP. This does not apply to all guns, as I can shoot the single-action trigger guns like the STI 2011 .45 ACP handgun just fine. Where I struggle is with double-stack .45 ACP guns with striker-fired actions, which usually have the trigger positioned farther forward than a single-action handgun. Bottom line, try a gun on for size before you write the check.

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.45 ACP.

So, let’s get back to the cartridges. In an increasingly partisan world, if there is a gun-related subject that is sure to create an argument today it is defensive-pistol cartridges. This saga plays out on the Internet every day with the arguments running the gauntlet from reasonable and concise to total dumbass mode. The “full-retard” side is often argued by those who mistake their opinions for fact. Those people usually have developed those opinions based on reading the crap posted by foolish little boys hiding in their mom’s basements and blogging about guns they have never shot.

At the other end of the spectrum, I have some elite military friends who have seen a lot of combat, including with handguns. Almost to a man they do not like the 9mm because they have to shoot the bad guys too many times. (Yes, I know, they have different ammo. But remember, it’s the ammo you may be using in a survival situation.)

If you are just not sure, learn all you can about as many guns as possible. Then try as many guns as you can. Go to shooting ranges and shoot other people’s guns. Prowl the gun stores and handle a lot of different handguns. Find one that fits and functions for your specific needs.

Then buy two of them. It’s going to be a tough ol’ world out there and you can’t take any chances.