Prepper Guns: Firearms, Ammo, Tools, and Techniques You Will Need to Survive the Coming Collapse (2016)
The “Other” Double Stacks
Single-action, double-stack, hammer-fired guns—it’s what Glocks want to be when they grow up.
Top to bottom: Sig Sauer P225 X5 Competition, Sig Sauer P225 X5 Tactical, STI Tactical DS in .45 ACP, and STI Marauder.
What if you could have the best of both worlds in a defensive handgun? The magazine capacity of a double-stack, striker-fired handgun, but with the slick, single-action trigger of a hammer-fired pistol like the 1911?
Perfect, right? Well, you can.
This style of handgun dominates most serious, action shooting competition. In those competitions where the style of handgun is pretty much open to the shooter’s choice, and not dictated by the rules, these guns are used almost exclusively by the shooters who have the option and resources to buy one. That’s because there is no other high-capacity handgun that is as easy to shoot fast and accurately.
So if they are the best at winning shooting competitions, then it stands to reason that from a purely technical, shooting standpoint they are also the best option for defense. One upside to a user like me, they are the guns I compete with so I know them well and shoot them better than any other handgun I own.
Some will argue that a striker-fired or even a double-action only trigger is safer. But that is a training issue, not an equipment issue. Remember, for years before the striker-fired guns came into prominence a lot of law enforcement types carried 1911 handguns. Funny, they were considered safe enough then. The only thing that really changed was that the nanny state grew stronger and the hand wringing old ladies of the world are now in charge and making way too many decisions.
If you are willing to train and stay sharp with your handgun, these single-action pistols may be a better option. Except for one thing. As a rule, the guns and magazines are much more expensive than a polymer gun, and they can be heavy. (Well, okay, I guess that was two things; math was never my best subject.)
As always, I can only comment here on the guns I have used, so if you don’t see one, it’s not an indication of anything other than I can’t cover every single gun on the market. Here are a few of the guns I have tried and can recommend.
With handguns, like most things in life, you get what you pay for. Take the STI 2011 series for example. STI is a leader in double-stack, single-action handguns and they are some of the finest handguns made.
This is the gun that most serious competition shooters use. STI’s top-of-the-line Open Class guns go for as much as $3,700 (MSRP in 2015). Shooters pay that for a reason; these guns win. They are not only superbly accurate and easy to shoot, but their reliability is nearly 100 percent. Remember, in action shooting sports, just as in life, there are no alibis or reshoots allowed. The gun must run.
Many of the 2011 handguns designed for competition can make great carry guns. I have a custom STI with two uppers so that I can switch between 9mm and .40 S&W. All I have to do is change the upper and the magazine to switch from one to the other. I got it for competition shooting, but this gun is 100 percent reliable and holds a bunch of ammo. I would not hesitate to carry it in a survival situation. If it can survive several years of hard-core 3-gun competition, including tough matches like the MGM Iron Man, it’s tough enough for survival.
STI Marauder. This gun is designed for 3-gun competition, but would work well for defense as well.
One of my friends, Eric Reynolds, has an STI Edge 2011 in .40 S&W that he uses in USPSA competition. More recently, for 3-gun, I am shooting the new STI Marauder in 9mm. These guns can pull double duty as a defensive pistol and would be an excellent carry gun during a survival situation. With their flared magazine wells, they are a bit difficult to conceal, but those can be removed and the guns are easily configured for concealed carry.
They all have relatively light, three-pound or less triggers, but so what? They are still safe handguns that will not fire if you do not pull the trigger. If you train with them they are as safe as any other handgun but they can perform at the highest level—performance levels that other guns may not be capable of achieving. In a survival situation, isn’t performance pretty high on the list of good things in a handgun?
STI makes guns for a wide range of use, not just competition. The STI Tactical handguns are for defensive use and are considerably less money than an Open Class race gun. Sure, they are still expensive, but you get what you pay for. They might not be for everybody, but the hard-core gun guy who wants the best possible fighting handgun and isn’t concerned about the price would be hard pressed to find a better option.
The STI Tactical DS in .45 ACP that I have been using retails in 2015 for $2,199 with night sights. The lightweight aluminum frame model adds one hundred bucks to that. You can buy three or four plastic guns for that price. You can also buy three or four magazines for a plastic gun for the cost of one steel STI magazine. But for the prepper who wants the best in defensive handguns and for whom cost is no object, these pistols are works of art. The fit and finish are superb, they balance perfectly, and they run like a Swiss watch.
This STI .45 ACP holds a lot of ammo.
There are multiple magazine options, but the high-capacity magazines can hold as many as twenty-six 9mm cartridges, twenty-two rounds of .40 S&W, or fourteen .45 ACP cartridges. The grip frames are small enough, even in the .45 guns, and with the position of the single-action trigger even stubby-fingered hands can manage the guns easily.
They also make a 2011 in 10mm, but as covered elsewhere, it’s probably best for a prepper to stay with the more common cartridges because ammo will be easier to find in most circumstances.
If money were not a consideration I think that I would be hard pressed to find a better handgun for survival than the STI Tactical in .45 ACP. I have been shooting one quite a bit this year and have really come to like this gun a lot. My only serious complaint is that the trigger is too stiff, a bit over six pounds on the gun I have. That’s to appease the political side of the LE departments that will not allow a light trigger because of perceived safety issues. It’s a problem that is easily fixed by a competent gunsmith. If I owned this gun I would do a trigger job, but alas, it’s a loaner that will need to go back unaltered to STI one sad day.
While the STI guns are very well represented in the competition world, they are not by any stretch as common as, say, a Glock with the rest of the gun world. While Glock magazines might be pretty easy to locate on the black market, not so much with these more specialized handguns. It makes sense for a prepper to buy extra magazines and to stock up on a few spare parts.
The Sig Sauer, single-action, double-stack guns are in a bit of flux as I write this. Due to political pressures, the Germans stopped exporting handguns to the United States in 2014, so Sig is ramping up production in their new factory in New Hampshire. The upside is that most of these new US-made guns will cost considerably less than the imported handguns.
Sig Sauer P226 X-5 Tactical 9mm.
I shot a P226 X5 Competition in 9mm for several years of serious 3-gun competition. These are big, heavy guns that shoot well and manage recoil for very fast split times. I also have one of the P226 X5 Tactical model guns that is about ten ounces lighter. These are both 9mm handguns and share the same twenty-round magazines. They are very well made and reliable. The only issue I experienced with thousands and thousands of rounds through four different P226 X5 Competition guns over a five-year period was the external extractor would wear out and stop working. I am happy to report that the new US-made guns will change to a stronger external extractor. With that, there is not a single serious complaint with these guns, except that they are expensive and heavy.
Sig P226 X5 Competition.
That aside, the Sig Sauer double-stack, single-action handguns deserve a serious look from any prepper.
Once again, if you go this route, pick up lots of magazines and have a spare parts kit. These are fine handguns, but not common enough in the world to depend on the black market supplying any replacement parts or extra magazines.
Browning Hi Power
Of course, the old standby here is the Browning Hi Power. This was John Moses Browning’s final gun design and he was working on it when he passed away.
The 9mm Hi Power, introduced in 1935, is small and compact, so it carries well. Unlike some Walthers of that era, the Hi Power maintained a single-action trigger.
The Browning Hi Power.
The Hi Power was available in .40 S&W for a while, but Browning dropped that cartridge. I always liked this gun in .40 S&W and I regret not buying one when they were being made. You might find some on the used-gun market and those I have seen are priced well below what the 9mm Hi Power is commanding on the used market.
The double-stack 9mm magazine holds thirteen rounds and some aftermarket magazines will hold fifteen rounds. The gun I have has an ambi safety and three white dot (actually rectangular) sights. Browning also offers the gun with adjustable sights.
The gun is not without its critics. It has a magazine safety that prevents the gun from firing without a magazine inserted. This is undesirable and unnecessary in a fighting gun.
Most serious students of defensive pistol shooting advise never shooting your gun dry and having a pistol that can fire without a magazine so that you are still in the fight during a mag change, at least with one shot. If there is a magazine safety that prevents the gun from firing and something happens during a mag change, you are screwed. This feature is also said to contribute to the heavy trigger pull common to the Hi Power (almost eight pounds on my gun). Both, of course, are correctable by removing the magazine safety and tuning the trigger. That probably voids the warranty, but who cares; in a survival situation there are no warranties. Also, the hammer can hit the shooter’s hand, as the short beavertail does not protect the shooter from the hammer spur. A bloody hand is a common complaint from Hi Power shooters.
This gun has a very strong following and is very popular with hard-core gun guys. I suspect it’s second only to the 1911 in terms of a cult following from the traditional defensive pistol guys. The Hi Power has also seen a lot of service with law enforcement and military, particularly in Europe. While not as common as a Glock or even a 1911, parts and magazines should be available for the Hi Power due to the sheer number of handguns on the market.
The design is a bit old and antiquated by today’s standards, but the Hi Power is still a relatively small, all-metal, high-capacity handgun with a long history of reliable performance.
It’s a little expensive when compared to a polymer-frame gun, but the Hi Power will always be a viable defensive handgun. If you are the kind of prepper who would like to be just a little bit different than the other guy and you have a strong sense of tradition, this gun might be just what you need.
In my never-humble opinion, double-action/single-action pistols are an abomination. They are the Bruce Jenner of handguns, a gun that can’t make up its mind what it wants to be. To my thinking, they were designed by fools to appease the lawyers and politicians and from a technical and tactical standpoint DA/SA is a ridiculous concept.
Am I being too subtle here?
I hope not.
If I am, just to be clear, I don’t like these handguns.
Most advocates I know are cops who were forced to use them by their departments and just kind of got used to the design. No one I know who is gun savvy and has a choice picks a DA/SA as his number-one choice for a defensive handgun.
That said, there are a lot of them on the market and most are a double-stack, high-capacity design. They are often sold at a reasonable price. They are, for the most part, serviceable handguns and they will work. It’s sort of like buying a VW bug; it will get you where you are going, but there are much better options.
I have several DA/SA handguns and I shoot them often so I can stay sharp with the design, but if TSHTF and you want one, come see me; they are the first guns I will barter away.
The DA/SA design goes back to the European-made Walther handguns introduced in the 1930s. This was well before the surge of striker-fired handguns and their rise to popularity here in the United States. As far as I have been able to find out while researching the issue, the DA/SA concept was based on fear and ignorance. There were those who believed that a cocked-and-locked hammer-fired handgun looked “unsafe,” which led to much wringing of the hands with the sheep. So they decided that if the gun could be carried hammer down with no safety to worry about, it would accomplish two things. First, if there were no safety, an untrained shooter would not forget to disengage it in a fight. Secondly, they believed that the first shot with a hard, double-action trigger pull would somehow be safer. I suppose it would be, at least for the target. Compared to a single-action handgun or even a striker-fired pistol, these guns are difficult to shoot well out of the holster with a fast first shot. There is a third reason too (that math thing again). With this design, the uninformed public would not be wetting their collective pants about a “cocked” firearm visible in a cop’s holster.
I think it was Jeff Cooper who suggested that it might be best to just deliberately dump that first round from a DA/SA into the ground and get it over with. I think he said it in jest, but he is often criticized even today for that statement, although he had a point.
When I put out the question of why this gun was created, one crusty, unfiltered gun writer posted this on Facebook about the design and its roots:
“To understand Eurotrash pistol designs, it must always be remembered that Europeans consider a pistol as something to be used to shoot people who are bound, kneeling and facing away from you.”
He is probably right, but I guess I’ll just go with the more PC explanation of the design that it is so the gun can be carried in public without spooking the sheep.
A shooter can do well with a double-action trigger; millions of revolver shooters have proven that time and again. The trouble is that the DA/SA gun uses that long, double-action trigger pull for the first shot and then shifts modes to a single-action pull. It’s a two stage with a very long take up, but with a lighter single-action-type trigger at the end. It has a much different feel than the trigger pull from the first shot.
So the first shot will be a long, hard, double-action pull, while the next and all subsequent shots will have a much lighter single-action trigger pull, usually following a long take up. As if you don’t have enough else to worry about in a crisis situation, remembering that transition will be a chore. Often the first shot will miss because of the horrible trigger pull and then the second shot will also miss because the much lighter pull startled you and the gun went off prematurely. If you are lucky, the bad guy might give you a third chance to get it right.
I believe that this design was conceived and used by people who do not really understand guns and shooting. It’s a political compromise to appease the public who may be frightened by cocked-and-locked guns and those who advocate minimum training for cops. It’s better to risk the cop’s life with a poor handgun, than to risk a poorly trained cop shooting somebody because he can’t keep his finger off the trigger. The political police chiefs, politicians, and the lawyers all love these guns; gun guys generally do not.
If you train with them, you can master the DA/SA handgun and shoot reasonably, but why? You are far better off to pick a consistent trigger system and stick with it. While I am also not a fan of double-action only, semiauto pistols, at least they are consistent. They, too, were conceived to be used by people who do not train and to appease the politicians, lawyers, and police chiefs. It’s thought that the hard trigger pull will make the bad guys safer from a negligent discharge. It also makes them safer from being hit by a bullet intended for them. The double-action only might make a little sense in a cheap, small carry gun because it keeps the manufacturing cost down and the function simple. If you are fighting with one of these at powder-burn distances they work fine, but they are a compromise at best. A full-size, DA-only semiauto pistol makes little sense for a civilian looking for a defensive handgun because there are so many better options.
FNH has a unique approach to this concept with its polymer-frame FNX-45. This is a DA/SA gun, but with a twist. The decocker is also a safety. So you can carry the gun “cocked and locked” with the safety on, or you can decock the gun and use the DA/SA mode with the hammer down during carry.
Of course, there is a bit of a downside. First, there is no grip safety like with the 1911 or 2011 handguns. I know a lot of shooters think a grip safety is an unnecessary redundancy, but in a single-action, hammer-fired gun I kind of like that redundancy. Safeties can work their way off and a little backup insurance is not a bad thing. I understand that some guys, including guys I respect and listen to, pin the grip safety to deactivate it on a carry gun. I prefer to tune it so it will release easier and keep working. Not a huge issue, but something to think about.
(Note: A few days after writing this I witnessed a 1911 with the grip safety deactivated fire three times as the shooter attempted a magazine reload. He hit the trigger with his finger while gripping the gun to release the magazine, causing the gun to fire. Then the recoil caused the trigger to bounce on his finger and fire twice more. It was 100 percent shooter error, but if he had not taped the grip safety down to deactivate it, it would not have happened. This was during a pistol match and he was disqualified. But it could have had a more tragic ending, as the gun was out of control. That grip safety is on there for a reason. In retrospect, maybe it is a huge issue.)
The other downside of the FNX-45 is that if you push hard on the safety when the gun is cocked and locked, it will go past the center detent stop and decock the pistol, so now you are in DA/SA mode. I suspect that in a fight, your adrenalin-fueled thumb is going to do just that.
On the other hand, this is a .45 ACP with a fifteen-round magazine and an adjustable grip with interchangeable backstraps that accommodate most hand sizes. The gun is reliable, powerful, and holds a lot of bullets. It’s also affordable, with pricing in line with most of the better polymer-framed guns.
Like I have said elsewhere in this book, I will often contradict myself. I am not a fan of DA/SA guns, but I do like this pistol. I have actually used one in a 3-gun competition and have shot them quite a bit on the training range. I am a fan of the .45 ACP in a fighting handgun and this gun deals with the issues raised with this cartridge in some other handguns, such as magazine capacity. The FNX-45 is affordable, it has a large magazine capacity, and is designed so that people without mutated, giant-sized hands can shoot it well.
It offers a very good option for those looking for an affordable double-stack, high-capacity handgun in .45 ACP that, even if you have stubby fingers like me, is pretty easy to shoot.