Prepper Guns: Firearms, Ammo, Tools, and Techniques You Will Need to Survive the Coming Collapse (2016)
Guns for Bugging Out
When the shit hits the fan nobody can predict the splatter pattern.
This bag weighs ninety pounds and has food, water, medical supplies, shelter, and fire-making gear. The guns that you bring ensure you get to keep that gear.
In the world of understatement it might be a classic to say we live in uncertain times. Floods, fires, severe weather, social or economic collapse, and terrorism all hang over our heads like the sword of Damocles.
It’s been proven time and again that in the real world, it’s the self-sufficient, problem-solving person who survives, not the “victims” who beg for the government to save them and whine and complain when it does not.
It would appear more and more that it’s not so much if disaster will find you, but when. There are times when it’s best to hunker down, arm yourself, and wait it out. But there are other times when you need to move and move fast. This chapter is about those times.
It doesn’t really matter what—tornado, wildfire, hostile troops, or a raging mob—but something very bad is headed your way. You need to evacuate now, in fact now is almost too late. You have ninety seconds to get yourself and your family out the door, into your vehicle, and down the road.
(Let’s be honest, it’s not going to work for me. I can never find my damn truck keys!)
You could well be in for an extended stay away from home and you will probably be on your own. You can’t count on “the social safety net” to protect you and feed you. Survival for you and your family in the next few days or even weeks depends on what is in the vehicle when you pull out of your driveway. But you have only seconds to load up.
You may not be able to find food, water, shelter, or safety unless you provide it yourself. You will probably encounter desperate people who may be armed. Law enforcement may not be around of if they are they may not be helpful. In fact, the opposite, it’s far more likely that they will try to disarm you. Your family’s only first responder is you, so be ready.
The first thing to remember is firearms; partly because this is a firearms book, but even more importantly because without them you have no way to protect the rest of your survival gear.
Back when Y2K was the next looming crisis, there was an exchange at a neighborhood Christmas party. One participant was a gun owner and an NRA member (me). The other was a social worker who is anti-gun (my neighbor). The social worker was talking about all the food, seeds, and water she had stored in preparation to the possible social collapse. The other guy, who may have consumed a few adult beverages in the spirit of the season, interrupted her and asked if she had any guns. She spat back at him with the predictable venom of a committed anti-gunner that she most certainly did not. Then she condescendingly asked him what he had done to prepare for the coming social collapse.
“Nothing,” came the reply.
“You are a fool,” she said.
“Maybe, but I am a fool with guns, so I’ll just come to your house and take your stuff.”
I was just yanking her chain and having some fun. I got a wifely elbow poke in the ribs for my trouble, but the message was clear. The social worker, in predictable liberal fashion, asked me to “give” her a gun a few minutes later.
Enlightenment is always a wonderful thing to witness.
For the record I turned her down. I did offer to help her buy a gun, but only if she would let me give her and her family some training and if she joined the NRA. That was the last I heard on the matter. Y2K passed with a whimper and she stuck her head back in the sand where it firmly remains today.
Now that we are facing a much more real possibility of social and economic collapse, she refuses to believe it. Like all true progressives, her faith is firmly behind the government and the system. Oh, yeah, she still hates guns.
I really don’t expect people like her will do well after the collapse. It’s like the Duke said, “Life is hard. But it’s harder if you’re stupid.”
I know we all think that we will never leave our homes or retreats. We have prepared for disaster and plan to ride out any crisis there. But it can all change in a heartbeat, no matter who you are or how well you planned.
Don’t think for a minute you are immune to a disaster that can force you from your home. I would use one of my close family members as an example. His house came under an evacuation order during the California wildfires some years back. He packed up his wife and young daughters and sent them to safety in a hotel several miles away. He, his adult son, and a few employees stayed and used the heavy equipment he owned to clear the trees and brush back away from the house, preventing the fire from reaching his home. Then they gathered the heavy equipment, the life’s blood of his business, into a nearby open field and kept an armed watch over it to prevent looting. All the while they kept a 4x4 truck pointing out of the driveway, fully gassed up and ready to go at a moment’s notice.
In the end they did have to deal with looters and managed to scare them off without shots fired, but if he had evacuated he would have lost thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment. The police were no help. They couldn’t have cared less about the looters. Instead they tried to intimidate the guys fighting to save the house. Every day they would come by and threaten them with arrest. They would also get on the loudhailer and shout things like, “We need a headcount so we know how many body bags to bring.” But, looters? They didn’t even want to talk about them.
In the end they saved the house and the business because my relative was resourceful and self-dependent. Some neighbors who simply trusted in the government returned to find everything they owned stolen or in ashes.
Those who believe in the nanny state will no doubt say they were fools to defy the evacuation order and to take things into their own hands. But this is a guy who runs a successful, multimillion dollar construction business. He takes risks every day that most of us would never consider. He is also smart enough to evaluate the risks and make the correct choices. Had he simply done what he was told by the government, his family might be living in a FEMA trailer right now.
Self-sufficient people with brains enough to make decisions built this nation. If you are going to survive a disaster you must be one of them. If you are going to act like a sheep, meekly follow every order, and expect the government to take care of you, life after TSHTF is not going to be pretty.
So for those of you in charge of your own lives, let’s take a look at bugging out.
Full disclosure: I am a gear nut and a bit of a hoarder. In spite of decades of international travel and backcountry hunting trips I have never mastered the art of packing light. I am constantly fighting with airline clerks about the weight of my bags and there are packhorses and bush pilots reported to have put a contract on my head.
My bug-out bag is stuffed with a lot of gear and it continues to grow and evolve as I discover more things that I see as helpful. Right now, you almost need a crane to move it!
I am a big, strong guy and my plan is to get it to my truck, which is only about twenty feet away. If that fails, I can carry it long enough to get out of the immediate area (after all, I have carried a lot more weight when packing out moose quarters or backpacking to hunt sheep). Once I am in a safe area there are a lot of things that can be jettisoned to get the weight down.
I am tempted to go into a long and wordy dissertation on what should be in your bug-out bag, but I must remind myself that this is a gun book. So the focus will remain on the guns. Regardless of what is in your bug-out bag, you need to be able to protect yourself and your gear.
The quick version is that my bag has the food and gear I would take for an extended camping trip. Plus firearms.
My bug-out bag has food and gear as well as guns.
It’s important to remember, you cannot add anything you need once you bug out. You can always get rid of things, but it’s all but impossible to add to the kit once you are out the door, so mine is stuffed full and heavy. That includes a pistol that stays in the bag at all times.
I have a full-size, 1911 .45 ACP handgun dedicated to this bag. This is a spare in addition to my normal carry gun. If I don’t have the time or opportunity to bring my normal carry gun, this one is in the bag. If I do have my carry gun, this 1911 is a spare, which is never a bad thing. I keep it in the open center pocket section of the backpack, inside another small bag, where I can access it quickly. This bag can be removed and worn on its shoulder strap. That gives me easy access to the handgun, while adding a level of “diversion” camouflage. The bag is “tactical” looking, but doesn’t scream “gun.” The gun is a Smith & Wesson 1911 .45 ACP pistol, with four spare magazines (five total) and one hundred rounds of Federal 230-grain Hydra-Shok ammo. I also pack a holster and a couple of mag holders so I can transfer the pistol to my belt. There is a SOG SEAL Pup fixed-blade knife attached to the bag, which also can transfer to my belt. Guns are great, but at times I believe that a knife is the best survival tool you can have.
I also keep a Leatherman and a smaller fixed-blade Swedish FireKnife, which has a fire starter in the handle. As with firearms, redundancy is important in knives. One is never enough.
If you bug out, every adult in the party should have access to a long gun, rifle or shotgun, as well as their primary handgun. It’s easiest if all the long guns are the same, so that ammo and magazines are interchangeable. The Brownells 3-Gun Competition Case is perfect for storing them. This soft bag has compartments to hold two long guns as well as the pistol, all the magazines, and some ammo. It also handles well, as it has backpack straps.
I don’t believe you can have too much ammo, particularly if you are in a vehicle where weight is not a major issue. With my truck hauling the weight, I would pack a minimum of two hundred rounds for each gun, but more is better. One reason is that if this problem goes on longer than expected, ammo will be very good currency for barter. You will probably be able to trade it at a premium for food or medical supplies.
If you decided to bring a shotgun, it should be 12 gauge, as it will be much easier to find ammo if the crisis drags on for longer than expected. Any rifle should be a NATO chambering for the same reason. Civilians are not restrained on bullet selection as is the military, so with good bullets, the .223 Remington should serve well for most of your survival needs. If this goes bad enough that you must forage for food, the .223 Remington will work even on big game, if you use selective bullet placement. It makes sense to pack a few boxes of ammo with hunting bullets like the Barnes TSX, Hornady GMX, or Federal Trophy Bonded Tip to use for foraging.
Remington Model 870 modified for tactical use.
Every adult member of the group should carry at least one handgun on them at all times. One good option is to use your current carry gun, as that’s what you know best. I suspect that most of us don’t carry our handguns on our person while at home. You need to store them someplace, so why not get in the habit of storing your carry gun with your bug-out gear. It’s right by the door anyway, so it makes sense. You come in that door when you arrive home so you can drop off your gun. You leave by that door when you exit, so you can gun up before heading out. If security is an issue, a small, tasteful safe will complement the decor of the room.
Make sure you have extra ammo and some extra magazines for the carry gun in the bag. Again, the more common cartridges make more sense. It’s going to be easier to find 9mm, .40 S&W, or .45 ACP ammo than .38 Super or .45 GAP.
You have three goals here. Short term is to survive the day and perhaps the next few days. The second is, after the immediate crises have been dealt with, to survive until you can go home. That might be a few hours, a few days, or even a few months. Finally, you should also have a long-term plan just in case things are permanently FUBAR.
Did I mention I am a gear junky? If possible, I want to make sure I have lots of guns with me if I have to leave. My plans are to bug out by truck and my truck can handle lots of weight. If I have time to get them out of the vault I have two other 3-gun competition bags full of guns. Each has an AR-15 M4-style carbine in 5.56 NATO with ten thirty-round magazines, a 12-gauge, short-barrel shotgun with an extended magazine, and a handgun with ten extra magazines. I also have another rifle case with an AR-10-style carbine in .308 and ten extra twenty-round magazines.
I have three hundred rounds of ammo for each gun ready to go. The shotgun ammo is split with 150 buckshot, one hundred slugs, and fifty rounds of birdshot for foraging.
This is a lot of guns and ammo and a lot of weight, but we are a large extended family group and I have a plan to meet at another location with several other family members in the case of a serious national emergency. We cannot be absolutely certain they will arrive with their guns and what I bring may be all the entire group has to survive with. I would much rather have the problem of too many guns and too much ammo, than not enough of either. Once again, guns and ammo will be worth a lot for barter.
There is overlap in any survival situation and the guns you use here will also serve to protect you at home. But you must remember that in a “bug-out” situation things are different and you must pick your guns accordingly. You will only have what is with you and if for some reason that’s not working there is no option to switch. If you need another gun you can’t go to the safe and get it like you can at your home or retreat. You can’t grab some extra magazines or another box of ammo. If the shotgun isn’t working, you can’t just pick up a rifle. If your gun breaks you can’t replace it. So it’s best to select the best. Don’t skimp on the guns; buy high quality. Also pick the model and cartridge carefully.
In many bug-out situations you will need to travel light, often with the guns you can easily carry. While I plan to load up my truck, there may not be time. Plus that approach puts a lot of guns at risk.
If there is a fast-breaking emergency and you have seconds to evacuate, your bare bones, “hit the door running” guns may be all there is to protect you and your family. In that light, the options must be weighed carefully when setting up your bug-out gear.
If you must bug out on foot and/or try to keep a low profile and fly under the radar of local law enforcement or nosy neighbors, you may be forced into bringing only your handgun, as it is easiest to conceal. Still, a rifle is far better to have for fighting and foraging. It’s far easier to shoot a deer or even a rabbit with a rifle than a handgun. So even if you must keep a low profile, consider that you can take an AR-15 rifle and break it down so that it will fit out of sight in a backpack. Every situation is different and you must plan for what works best for you.
If you are on foot, every pound that you carry is important. That means fewer guns and a lot less ammo. So it is even more crucial that you choose carefully when preparing your bug-out guns.
When bugging out, you will be best served with an AR carbine and a high-capacity handgun.
This is your primary firearm for defense and for foraging, so a lot of thought must go into your choice.
If you are bugging out with one long gun, I think we can eliminate the shotgun rather quickly. It has a very limited range, even with slugs. While a specialty shotgun with a scope and rifled barrel using sabot slugs is capable of accuracy to 150 yards or farther, a smoothbore “tactical” shotgun with Foster-style slugs is reliable to about seventy-five yards at best. (Yeah, yeah; I know you can hit targets farther than that. But not with the precision needed and not under a wide range of stressful situations, and not every time.)
Slugs weigh more and take up more room than rifle cartridges.
The ammo capacity of a shotgun is very low, five to eight shells for most tactical models, and they are extremely slow to reload. Finally, the ammo is heavy, bulky, and difficult to transport. Twenty Federal TruBall slugs weigh two pounds, while twenty Federal 55-grain Ballistic Tip .223 Remington rifle cartridges check in at half a pound. The volume of space that the ammo takes up is hugely different, with the shotgun ammo requiring many times more cubic inches than the rifle ammo.
There is a lot of misinformation out there about defensive shotguns. The common belief that you can’t miss with a shotgun and that it takes little or no skill to operate is a Joe Biden myth. Running a fighting shotgun effectively takes a skillset that is close to the level of difficulty to that of running a rifle effectively. If you are in a fight where you must reload, the needed skills for a shotgun are beyond what it takes to be effective with any tactical rifle. The most common AR-15 rifle magazine holds thirty shots and can be swapped for another fully loaded magazine easily in two seconds. The shotgun holds five shots and it takes most people two seconds per shell to reload in a stress situation. So that’s ten seconds just to reload five shots.
While a shotgun is a very good tool for foraging, especially if you are trying to shoot little critters that scurry and fly, there is not much else it can do that a rifle can’t do as well or better. If weight is not a huge issue, I would encourage at least one shotgun in any survival group that is bugging out, but only as a backup and never as a primary long gun.
A magazine-fed, semiauto rifle is by far the best choice for a bug-out long gun. It can do anything a shotgun can do and a lot more. In the hands of a trained shooter it is very effective for close-quarter battle (CQB), yet it can reach out hundreds of yards with precision. A magazine-fed rifle is much faster to reload, has a much larger magazine capacity, and uses ammo that is lighter and smaller than any shotgun. A battle rifle is just as effective as a shotgun at close range and exponentially more effective at longer distances.
The logical choice is between the .308 Winchester and the .223 Remington for a bug-out rifle. The nod goes to the .223.
The rifle you choose should be powerful enough to fight with and it should have a ready supply of ammo. That means it should be a popular cartridge, one that is also used by law enforcement and the military. That probably eliminates the AK-47, AK-74, and other such rifles. It also eliminates cartridges like the .300 AAC Blackout or the 6.8 SPC. They might be good cartridges, but how easy is it going to be to resupply ammo? It is much smarter to pick a cartridge that is popular with civilians, LE, and the military. That means the .308 Winchester or the .223 Remington are your best options.
Of the two, the .223 is probably the most common, particularly if there are military forces in the area. It’s a smaller cartridge that is easier to transport in quantity than the .308. The magazines and the rifles are also smaller and lighter. While I generally tend to gravitate to larger cartridges, in this case, when you weigh all the factors, the .223/5.56 emerges as the best choice, particularly when using civilian ammunition and expanding bullets. We are not bound by foolish nineteenth-century rules made by dopey politicians, and unlike the military, we can use the most effective bullets.
With high-quality bullets, the .223 is a viable defensive round. It will also serve for foraging. While I don’t like it for sport hunting big game, the rules are different when survival is the goal. The .308 would be better for foraging, but the .223 will suffice and when weighing all the other options, the .223 is still in first place as the best choice for your bug-out rifle.
Civilians can use expanding bullets in their rifle ammo, which are a lot more effective than military ammo.
Depending on availability, I keep my rifle magazines loaded with Federal Premium 55-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip or Hornady Tap 55-grain V-Max ammo. Both are good choices for defensive use and they shoot to the same point of impact from my gun. I also load at least one magazine with Barnes Vor-Tx ammo with 55-grain TSX bullets. This is a better bullet for foraging big game and will still work well in a fight. In fact, I understand the TSX bullet has been tried and tested and it will work extremely well for shooting bad guys.
There are a lot of magazine-fed, semiauto .223 rifles and carbines on the market and we look at most of them in other chapters. Many of them are good guns, but I think the clear choice for bugging out is one of the AR-style rifles.
It’s important that the rifle be able to use both .223 and 5.56 ammo, so it must have a 5.56 chamber. It must also use AR-15 magazines, as these are very common and easier to find than other styles. That reason alone is enough to make the AR-15 the top choice. A light, easy-to-transport carbine is probably best. I am a strong believer in optical sights, but the gun should have a backup set of iron sights as well.
I am a gun guy who makes his living shooting and testing guns. (Well, not really. I get paid to write. But I write about guns and so I must test them to write about them. It’s a great way to make a living.) While I am in love with every gun I meet, I am not married to any of them. I play the field enough that my “favorite” gun changes often.
My current bug-out rifle is an M4-style carbine that I built from parts I ordered from Brownells. It is basically the same gun that most AR makers sell as the M4 model or some variation on that. It is a semiauto, civilian version of the select-fire M4 carbine used by the military. Mine might have a different forend, buttstock, or trigger than yours, but they are all the same basic configuration with a 16-inch barrel and an adjustable buttstock. This short, carbine-style AR-15 is probably the best choice for a bug-out long gun. It is short enough to wear on a sling comfortably, it’s easy to shoot, fast in a close quarters fight, and accurate enough to reach out several hundred yards if necessary.
My gun has a 3X Trijicon ACOG as the primary sight. I also have a red-dot reflex sight on an offset mount for close work. I carry a set of pre-zeroed iron sights in my bag. The gun is equipped with a Crimson Trace CMR-204 Rail Master Pro Universal Green Laser Sight & Tactical Light. This gives me a laser that is visible in daylight as well as in the dark and a bright weapon-mounted flashlight.
I am a strong believer in laser sights on all defensive rifles and handguns. They allow you to focus on the target, they work well in poor light, and add a “compliance” factor that will often eliminate the need to shoot. Make no mistake; not shooting is always the better option.
Lights, lasers, and red-dot sights? No doubt somebody will criticize me for suggesting anything that needs a battery for use in a survival situation. Don’t bother. I have heard all the arguments, and they only work if you don’t think too hard about things. The best tool you have for survival is your brain. Don’t limit it with foolish thinking or romantic notions about survival. Think everything through to the end and consider every aspect. This is about staying alive by the best means possible, not living some fantasy life.
I get it that a lot of survivalists have some romantic notion that it’s all going to be Mad Max and they get to be a badass with a crossbow. Or they think that they can go live off the land like the mountain men, using a flintlock rifle and a tomahawk. Well guess what, the mountain men updated their gear every chance they got. John “Liver Eating” Johnson, the guy that Jeremiah Johnson was based on, might have started his mountain man career with a 30-caliber Hawken, but he upgraded constantly. As soon as they proved reliable, he got a repeating Spencer cartridge rifle. He also upgraded to repeating revolvers and upgraded those to cartridge revolvers as soon as he could. He survived a lot of fights and died of old age. Part of the reason he lived so long is that he used the best fighting gear he could find. He didn’t get stuck on stupid and stay with his muzzle-loading flintlock because of some romantic notion. Those notions simply do not have any place in survival.
This Mepro MOR Tri-Powered Reflex Sight with Red Laser combines a red-dot sight with a visible and an IR laser. This is one of the finest fighting sighting systems available. Why not take advantage of it as long as the batteries last? The reticle illumination uses a fiber-optic collector system during the day, a miniature self-powered tritium light source at night, and a three-position LED enhancer for different ambient light conditions. This allows the sight to work without batteries in any lighting condition.
Think about it; why not use the best you can find for as long as it lasts? I see no point in handicapping yourself, particularly with guns you are using to defend your life. Especially when that handicap can mean the difference between winning and losing. Yes, lights and lasers need batteries. Yes, batteries will deplete and will be hard to replace. So what are you suggesting? Don’t bother with them? Take a rifle with iron sights and be done with it? That’s foolish, don’t you think?
I keep fresh batteries in the sights and lights and spares with the gun. That allows me the use of the light, red-dot sight, and laser, which in their given circumstances of use are the best options available. If all the batteries become depleted and I can’t find replacements, I’ll take the light, red-dot, and laser off the gun.
Where does that leave me? Right exactly where the knuckleheads wanted me to start out. Well no, actually I’ll still have the ACOG. But then again I have even seen survival “experts” argue against optical sights because they can break. Anything can break, that’s why you should have redundancy. If the batteries fail and the ACOG breaks, I’ll use the iron sights. In the meanwhile, before any of my gear is broken, depleted, or whatever else is supposed to happen to it, I’ll have a few months or perhaps even a few years of using a rifle that is far better equipped to win a fight.
That subtle point may save somebody’s life, maybe mine, maybe even the short-sighted guy who didn’t think I needed a laser. If all of the electronics and optics crash and burn, which is unlikely, I will still have my iron sights. The upside is I can fight better with the other sights while they work, so I might be alive at that point when the batteries are gone. Without the best gear possible, the chances of surviving are reduced. We are all going to die someday, but it would be damned embarrassing to die because of foolishness.
I recently made some changes here. While I own and shoot just about all types of handguns, I am a hard-core 1911 disciple. There is a reason it’s the handgun the protagonist in my novel The 14th Reinstated used to survive a scenario much like what we may be facing. For a long time that is the gun that resided in my bug-out gear and as mentioned, there is still one in my bug-out bag. But for my primary bug-out handgun, the one I keep ready to go and expect to have as my carry gun, I switched to another.
Simple: magazine capacity. You can only carry so many magazines when you bug out and the 1911 magazines I use hold eight cartridges. So I decided to look at double-stack handguns. Considering pricing and availability, that more or less meant exploring the world of striker-fired polymer handguns. There is a wide range of handguns in this category and I have experience with most of them. That said, I don’t think you can go wrong with any name-brand handgun.
Cartridge selection, though, is another consideration. My stubby fingers don’t play well with most striker-fired, double-stack .45 ACP handguns, as the grip is too big and the trigger too far forward for me to use properly. I don’t care what some on the Internet are saying, I don’t trust the 9mm. Unlike most of those “experts” I have actual experience shooting things with handgun rounds. I have seen a lot of human-size game shot with various pistol cartridges and have watched the 9mm fail horribly time and again on hogs, deer, and black bears. The true warriors I know who have used pistols in battle during multiple engagements universally tell me the 9mm fails on two-legged critters as well. While there is a strong argument for the 9mm because of ammo availability, in this circumstance, I’ll pass. Call me old fashioned, but I want a cartridge that starts with a four.
I have seen the .40 S&W perform well on hogs and even deer. While I think it’s too light for sport hunting, seeing this has instilled more confidence in that cartridge than I have in the 9mm. I also know of a lot of shootouts where it stopped the bad guy very effectively. In the end, though, it’s just math. The .40 S&W has a bigger bullet and carries more energy than the 9mm. How can that be a bad thing?
While most of the better, high-capacity handguns will work well here, I swapped out the 1911 in my bug-out vest for an S&W M&P40 VTAC handgun in .40 S&W.
There are a lot of excellent handguns in this category and I had to make a choice when deciding which gun will go in my bug-out gear. Most guns didn’t make the first cut simply because of popularity, or the lack of it. The two most popular striker-fired, double-stack handguns are the Glock and the S&W M&P. That means that it will be easier to find magazines and parts for these guns. Some of the more obscure guns might be well made and dependable, but if you lose the magazines, finding replacements will be difficult.
I looked long and hard at the Glocks and even had a G22 in my vest for a while, but in the end I decided I like the M&P better. Much of that is the ergonomics; the M&P just fits my hand better and I like the grip angle.
I also like the metal magazines for the M&P in a bug-out bag situation. They are tougher and usually drop free from the gun more reliably than plastic mags. While the Glock mags still seem to work fine, they often will not drop free from the gun when empty and must be pulled out.
Durability? Glocks are hard to beat and they set the standard. But the new generation of M&Ps is pretty good too. I see them all the time in competition with thousands and thousands of rounds through them with no problems.
I can put a Crimson Trace laser on the M&P easily, where on the Glocks the laser will add bulk to the already big-for-my-hands grips. Of course, the LaserMax guide rod laser works fine in the Glock and doesn’t change the grip. I have the green model in my G23 and it works great, so there are always options.
All that said, I own a bunch of Glocks and will buy more. I am not a fan of the grip angle, but they are simple, tough, and reliable.
Today’s prepper has lots of options for guns and cartridges, options that were not available a generation ago.
Of course, I own a bunch of M&P handguns too. My favorite carry gun right now is a .40 S&W M&P Shield. Bottom line, I don’t think you can go wrong with either gun, but I had to make a choice and I picked the M&P.
Another reason is that this VTAC model has a sighting system designed by Kyle Lamb of Viking Tactics (Kyle is a true warrior with real life experience—look him up). The sight combines fiber-optic and tritium night sights so that it works well in any lighting scenario. Of course, I also installed a Crimson Trace Lasergrip sighting system.
The biggest reason for changing to this pistol is that the magazine capacity is fifteen cartridges. I have almost doubled the ammo in any given magazine over the 1911, while still using an effective cartridge. I’ll give up two rounds of magazine capacity (over most 9mm handguns) for terminal performance that means I probably won’t need them. The .40 S&W is a very common law enforcement cartridge, so ammo should be available.
Any good defensive ammo will work, but always make sure it runs well in your gun. I load my magazines with Federal 180-grain HST JHP. It is affordable, is excellent defensive ammo, and has a good track record with civilians and with law-enforcement use. My son-in-law is a federal agent and this is the same ammo they are issued. He tells me it has a good record in the field and that he trusts it, even off duty, to defend his life and the life of my daughter.
Carrying It All
How to keep it all ready to go is another issue. The key is to have it all in a package that you can grab and go. After experimenting with several systems, I finally settled on a load-bearing vest. It’s a BLACKHAWK! Omega Vest, Cross Draw/Pistol Mag model. One big attraction is that they offer this vest with a holster set up for lefties.
In the vest, I have the loaded M&P and four extra loaded magazines in the pistol mag pouches. I also have two more magazines in the radio pouch along with a high-quality flashlight and spare batteries for the lights and lasers.
The three rifle-mag pouches have room for two magazines each, so I have six loaded Brownells thirty-round AR-15 magazines in addition to the two with the rifle. Finally, I have a SOG SEAL Pup knife attached to the vest with a Benchmade folding knife also in the dual pouch. A knife is second only to your firearms for a survival tool and having two gives me some redundancy. The knives are not for fighting—if it comes to that, you messed up—but for a million other chores from processing game to peeling potatoes.
I have a belt holster and a couple of magazine pouches along with a spare box of ammo in a bag that is attached to the vest. This lets me move the S&W to a concealed carry position. That allows me to be armed without calling attention to myself in situations when wearing the vest would not be a good idea.
This vest hangs by a door ready to go, so all I need is to grab it, the rifle bag, and my bug-out bag on the run. If there is time I’ll get the other guns and gear, but if seconds count, this is what is going with me.
While the vest can attract unwanted attention if it’s worn in an urban area, it has everything I need in one place. I can toss it on the back seat, or hide it inside a backpack, trunk, or tool box. If the circumstances are right, I can wear it.
The rifle, two magazines, and backup sights are in a diversion bag that looks like a case for a musical instrument. That helps to keep it out of sight unless it’s needed. Remember, you are probably going to hit some check points and keeping your guns hidden is the key to keeping your guns.
If I can wear it without attracting unwanted attention, I have a two-point Vero Vellini tactical sling on the rifle.
I have never liked single-point slings, but when I was writing The 14th Reinstated I got lazy and gave one to the protagonist. I had a longtime Delta Force operator read the manuscript to make sure the fight scenes were accurate. The only change he suggested was a two-point sling. His reasons were many and all made tactical sense, but he made the point best when he said, “None of my guys would ever use a single-point sling in combat.”
Good advice from a guy who has been there, got the T-shirt, and then wore it out.
It’s important that you never give up your guns. But at some point that choice might be made for you. Remember during Hurricane Katrina, when law enforcement took the guns away from law-abiding citizens and left them defenseless? I think it’s a good idea to have a backup gun of some sort—one that hides easily on your person, in your vehicle, or in your gear. While I love my S&W J-Frame .357 for its “hideability” and its power, a gun that uses the ammo you already are carrying makes sense. My hideout gun is a S&W M&P Shield in .40 S&W. The sights are Trijicon HD night sights and I have a Crimson Trace LaserGuard mounted on the gun. (Are you seeing a pattern here yet?)
My backup gun is a S&W M&P Shield in .40 S&W. The sights are Trijicon HD night sights and I have a Crimson Trace LaserGuard mounted on the gun.
It’s my personal carry gun much of the time, but when I am not carrying it, I keep it with the bug-out gear, along with the holster and spare mags. Of course that’s so that it goes with me; once we are bugging out, I’ll hide it in a place I have no intention of mentioning in print.
Keeping Your Guns
This is controversial, but the police and military are not necessarily your friends in an emergency, bug-out scenario. They are trying to deal with an out-of-control situation just as you are. They will be scared, confused, and will react in a way they think is best for them. Remember, many law enforcement personnel, particularly the political bosses, do not like or trust armed citizens. The police on the street will not know who you are and won’t have time to explore the issue. Chances are high that if you have an encounter, they will disarm you and take your guns. This will leave you defenseless in a time when the system is failing and you are on your own.
Sure, there are a lot of good people in law enforcement or the military who believe in the Second Amendment, but they don’t wear signs to identify themselves. There are plenty more who will use this emergency as an excuse to take your guns. You can’t know which way anybody is leaning, so the best approach in my opinion is to avoid contact with them, if at all possible.
If you are in areas with people who may go to the police and report you, or where the police may see you, keep your guns hidden. It’s important to have a defensive firearm with fast access, so practice concealed carry with your handgun. That means you should have a carry holster somewhere in your bug-out gear.
Keep your rifle out of sight and in a diversion bag that does not look like a gun case. Keep your vest or bag full of ammo and magazines out of sight. Lock them in the trunk or put them in a large backpack or hidden under camping gear. Expect to be searched, as the Constitution will be ignored, so hide all this gear as well as you can until you are out of the urban areas and away from the multitudes of “authority figures.” If you just look like another helpless sheepeople to the guy doing the search, he might not make a big effort. If you look “tactical,” act defiant or have pro-gun stickers all over your vehicle, he probably will be more diligent about finding your guns. A lot of survival is going to be flying under the radar.
The most important thing is to keep possession of your firearms, even if you have to give up access temporarily while in transit. That might be an acceptable risk in exchange for having them with you later.