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

HANDGUNS

The Little Fellas

Backup guns for bad situations.

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Ruger LCP.

The firearms industry has its share of platitudes and, like most, they can be cute and catchy the first time you hear them. But by the eleven-millionth time some dorky, bearded butthead in tactical garments repeats it to you with a smug “I-am-smarter-than-you” look on his face, you want to choke him out.

One saying that reached that level of annoyance years ago is, “two is one and one is none.”

It means simply that you should always carry two guns. I suppose there is some credibility to this in our daily lives, but the philosophy has reached absurd heights with some of the tactards. Sorry, but for now I am not carrying two full-size Glocks with a dozen loaded magazines in addition to my “open carry” AR-15 carbine and battle load of eight fully loaded thirty-round magazines, plus a backup pistol, just to go to the grocery store to buy bread and milk. My abused knees hurt enough these days without that extra weight.

However, it does make sense at times to have a backup pistol. If we enter into a survival situation where society has degraded, it would be a must. I am not talking about an extra fighting pistol here, although that would not be a bad idea in times of serious trouble too. Rather, a backup handgun that is hidden away and is in addition to whatever larger handguns you may carry.

There are a lot of scenarios in which this could prove useful. Your primary handgun could run dry or stop working. You might lose it in a fall or any of a hundred different ways. Or perhaps you are captured by bad guys and disarmed. I know that sounds pretty Hollywood, but stop and think how the world might be if there is no government, no police, and no rules. Anything is possible and we ignore that at our peril. Maybe it is tinfoil-hat stuff right now, but it could well be reality someday. A lot of smart gunfighters in the Old West kept a derringer-type handgun hidden for these kinds of scenarios. They lived in times and places with little or no law enforcement and they had to solve their own problems; maybe we should take a lesson. Even now, in your everyday life, how many times have you taken off your carry gun and then later stepped out to the driveway to retrieve something from your truck or maybe to take out the trash? What if there are people with bad intentions waiting for you? The list of possibilities is pretty long and to be honest this book is not about exploring all those, it’s about the guns you may need. But when we do consider even a short list of potential problems, it all leads to a compelling argument in favor of having a deeply concealed backup gun.

The midsize guns like the S&W Shield, Ruger LC9s, Glock G43, or even the J-Frame-size revolvers are just a bit large for this category. They are fine backup guns, but what I am exploring here are the smaller guns, ones that fit easily and unnoticed in a pocket, yet are still viable in a fight. Perhaps we should call them a backup to the backup gun.

The mini-guns like the NAA rimfire revolvers are a bit too small. They are a little underpowered and tough to hit anything with past the “screw-it-up-their-nostril-and-pull-the-trigger” range. They are more of a backup to the backup of the backup. Great little guns, but one step past the concept we are exploring here.

This category is pretty much defined by the polymer-frame .380 autos that became so hugely popular a few years ’bout the time “shall-issue” concealed carry laws started sweeping the country, the little polymer frame .380 ACP guns became popular. It started with the Kel-Tec P3AT. When Ruger announced the LCP in 2008 and put the force of the Ruger name and marketing behind it, the LCP was the most popular handgun in the world for a while. That launched a revolution of micro .380 handguns and a multitude of gun companies offer them today.

The tiny guns are lightweight, inexpensive, comfortable to carry, and easy to conceal. But the .380 ACP cartridge is considered by most self-defense experts to be underpowered and inadequate. Most loads produce at best a puny 200 foot-pounds of energy with the popular 90-grain bullet.

Factory ballistics for Federal Premium Personal Defense Hydra-Shok ammo (one of the best ammo choices) lists the .380 with a lightweight 90-grain bullet at 1,000 feet per second from the muzzle. This creates 200 foot-pounds of energy which, to be honest, when trying to stop a drug-crazed, prison-hardened bad guy . . . ain’t much.

It’s even less in the real world where the ballistics are diminished by the short barrels used in the sub-compact pistols, often losing more than 10 percent of the published velocity. That drops the energy down to about 180 foot-pounds or lower.

A true fighting cartridge like the .45 ACP with a 230-grain Federal Hydra-Shock has 414 foot-pounds, an increase of 159 percent, or 2 ½ times the energy of the .380. There is also a 27.32-percent increase in bullet diameter and a 155-percent increase in bullet weight. All this matters.

Also, the little guns tend to have hard trigger pulls and crude sights (or in some cases no sights at all) making any sort of precision shooting difficult. As with any defensive firearm it’s imperative that you practice with the guns, but even with training they are close-range-only handguns.

My point is, these are not a great choice for a primary carry gun. However, as a backup last-line-of-defense handgun, they are pretty much spot on.

You can find some micro pistols in smaller cartridges, but it’s a mistake to carry one. Rimfire cartridges are not powerful enough for serious defense, nor is the .25 ACP or really even the .32 ACP. The .380 ACP is not really a fighting cartridge either, but it’s getting closer. Its supporters are quick to point out that the new ammo has vastly improved the effectiveness of the .380. That’s true, to a point. I bought my first .380, an AMT Backup, back in 1985. At that time .380 factory ammo was not all that refined. There were some hollow-point loads that didn’t expand or FMJ bullets that also didn’t expand. Today we have better options. The bullet technology that was developed following the Miami FBI shootout in 1986 trickled down to this cartridge as the ammo companies chased the boom in sales of the guns. The result has been ammo with better terminal ballistic qualities. (Terminal ballistics are what the bullet does after hitting the target.) But, putting a supercharger on a Volkswagen beetle does not make it win NASCAR races. There is only so much that bullet technology can do. Any bullet still needs horsepower driving it to be effective and there is a serious lack of power from any .380 ACP.

That said, the .380 ACP has been around since 1908. It has been used by various military and law enforcement agencies as well as for civilian self-defense by millions of people. It has seen a lot of use in Europe where their liberal guilt has edged them into using cartridges for law enforcement that don’t hurt people as much.

James Bond used a Walther PPK that could have been a .380, but was probably the even less powerful .32 ACP. He always got a one shot kill, even on moving targets, often while he was shooting on the move himself. So it has to be effective, right?

Ian Fleming, the author who created Bond, admitted that he was not an expert in the field of firearms, and said, “Quite honestly, the whole question of expertise in these matters bores me.” So, using Bond as example is kind of foolish.

Fantasy aside, the .380 has kept a lot of people alive and made a lot of bad guys not alive. It might not be a hard-core fighting cartridge, but it can stop a fight. It doesn’t matter in this discussion, because the bottom line is the .380 ACP is the most powerful cartridge available in this class of handgun, so it’s the cartridge of choice by default.

There are some 9mm handguns that are getting down to being very close in size to the .380 polymer pistols and they might merit looking at, as the 9mm has considerably more power than the .380 ACP. I must say, though, that some of the mini-sized 9mm handguns I have tested have not functioned reliably. Often a finicky gun will like one particular brand of ammo and will run well with that. If you sort through the ammo on the market you can often find something with a decent defensive bullet that will function, but for a prepper that causes problems as we are not ensured that specific ammo will be available in the future.

I might add that not all of these polymer .380 handguns are created equal, either. The reliability of those I have tested has run from very good to pretty awful.

Here is a look at some of the guns on the market that I have tried. There are plenty of .380 micro pistols on the market. Some I have tried and they are not here for a reason, but most I simply can’t comment on because I have not used them. If you are looking to buy one of these guns, do your homework. There are a lot of great micro guns on the market and a few that are not so great. Make sure you spend your money on quality and reliability.

Kel-Tec P3AT

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Kel-Tec P3AT.

This is the gun that started the category. I have owned one for a long time. After a few hundred rounds it broke. They replaced it and this one is running great so far. So I can’t complain about the customer service. It’s less expensive than a lot of the other handguns and has been around a long time, so it has a track record.

The gun weighs 8.3 ounces. It is 5.2 inches long, 3.5 inches high, and 0.77 inches thick. The magazine holds six rounds.

Ruger LCP

The Ruger LCP I have has never hiccupped, even once. True, it’s new to me and I have maybe only 150 rounds through it, but usually problems show up early and this gun is really making me like it. The LCP has a great reputation and is considered to be among the best of the polymer .380 mini guns. The gun weighs in at 9.65 ounces empty, so you hardly know it’s in your pocket. It is 5.16 inches long, 3.6 inches high and 0.86 inches thick. The magazine holds six rounds, as do all of these pistols.

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Ruger LCP .380 with laser sight.

Smith & Wesson BODYGUARD

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Smith & Wesson BODYGUARD .380 with laser sight.

Another gun I have had for a while that has never failed is the S&W BODYGUARD .380 ACP. I trust it enough that I gave it to my wife to use as a carry gun. It’s just slightly heavier than some of the others at 11.5 ounces. It is 5.25 inches long. S&W doesn’t post the other dimensions on their website, but I measure it at 0.7 inches wide and 3.8 inches high. The gun’s larger sights are easier to see than those of many of the other micro pistols. But they are black on black, which is not the best for defensive sights. Mine came with a laser sight, which makes a huge difference when shooting with these little guns.

Glock G42

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Glock G42.

The Glock G42 is, like all Glocks, well made and very reliable. It weighs 13.76 ounces empty, which is 4.11 ounces more than the LCP. The G42 is 5.94 inches long, which is 0.78 inch longer than the LCP. It’s also 0.53 inches higher and 0.12-inch wider. Those numbers don’t look like much here on the page, but in your hand the G42 is considerably bigger than the other guns. To my thinking it is a bit on the large size to be used as a deep cover, backup gun. But you may disagree. Check it out for yourself. It’s a great .380, but I think Glock made a mistake making it this large. The G43 in 9mm is only a little bit bigger and makes more sense as it’s chambered for a more powerful cartridge.

Diamondback DB380

This is the Florida gunmaker’s signature pistol. I have to be honest, the first one I had didn’t function very well. But they replaced it and this new one runs fine. I probably have a bit more than one hundred rounds through it without any ammo-caused issues. I have mixed and matched the ammo and it seems to digest most of it pretty well, with one exception; it’s just one of those incompatibility things.

The DB380 is a well-made gun that has decent sights that you can see and shoot with. The front has a large white dot. The windage adjustable rear sight has two smaller white dots. I can run my six-plate MGM plate rack with this gun from ten yards relatively fast. With many of the other micro 380 handguns that is impossible, as they lack useable sights. The DB380 weighs 8.8 ounces. The length is 5.26 inches, height, 3.75 inches and width, 0.750 inches.

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Diamondback DB380.

Kimber Micro Raptor

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Kimber Micro Raptor.

If you like the small size, but not the plastic, then the aluminum-frame Kimber Micro Raptor might be the gun you are looking for. This is more or less a scaled-down 1911 with a hammer, ambi safety, and single-action trigger. The trigger pull on my gun is way too high at ten pounds. It needs some work to bring it down to make the gun viable as a shooter. It has highly visible, glow-in-the-dark, three-dot sights and is one of the most shooter-friendly micro guns when it comes to hitting a precision target. Good sights make a difference.

If you like 1911 pistols and are looking for a deep cover backup pistol, this might be your gun. The gun is 5.6 inches long and 4.0 inches high. I measure the width at 0.71 inch. The downside of all that metal construction is weight. It’s still very light at 13.4 ounces, but when you compare it to the Ruger LCP at 9.65 ounces, there is a difference. Enough to matter? That’s up to you. The other issue is cost. This is a custom shop gun from Kimber and their current listed MSRP is almost two and a half times the MSRP for the bare-bones Ruger.

Lasers

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A laser sight is a big asset to any handgun.

I am a huge advocate of lasers on all carry guns, but can’t stress enough how much they change the way we can shoot these little micro pistols.

Yes, you read that right. I am writing about lasers on prepper guns. Let’s face it, if you stock up on batteries and store them properly you can get years or maybe even decades of use from a laser sight. Why would you not do that?

I had a guy on Facebook recently post that I was all wrong about survival guns. He had it all figured out and insisted that a flintlock rifle and two flintlock pistols were the way to go. He even planned to make his own black powder.

That reaches new heights of stupid when you think it through. How long will he last against a gang of bad guys armed with AR-15 rifles and pistols with laser sights? None of us will live long enough to see the world’s supply of guns and ammo exhausted to the point where we are forced to return to making black powder and shooting flintlocks. It’s all a great romantic notion, but not practical. Neither is avoiding any modern sighting system because it uses batteries. If you run out of batteries, where does that leave you? Right where those who say we should not have them at all want us to start. Meanwhile, we can have several years of use of the better sights. So yes, put a laser on your micro pistol and stock up on batteries. It lets you hit stuff and that’s important.

Conclusions

I think that a deep cover backup pistol is a very good idea for any prepper. The micro-size .380 ACP handguns are perhaps the best option for that use.

These micro pistols can save your life. If you carry one, train with it often. Load it with only the best ammo and put a laser sight on the gun. Learn and understand the limitations of the cartridge and act accordingly. The .380 ACP is a long way from perfect, but if it saves your life you won’t care.