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


What about Machine Guns?

Rock ’n’ Roll is fun, but do you need a full auto?


This is a question that pops up sooner or later in every discussion about survival guns. So let’s deal with it right now. Should you get a machine gun? Right now, as a citizen, it is possible; but is it important or even smart for a prepper to buy machine guns?

First of all, it’s not easy or cheap. The trouble is, here in America, in “the land of the free,” it is extremely difficult to own a full-auto firearm. Prior to 1934, there were no restrictions and it was very common for citizens to own these guns. But in 1934 the National Firearms Act was put into place, severely regulating machine guns and several other categories of firearms.

The NFA didn’t ban machine guns outright, so I guess the guns weren’t all bad in the minds of the politicians. Nothing is ever so bad that it can’t be taxed, so instead of a ban, they put a $200 tax on machine guns, as well as short-barreled rifles and shotguns. Two hundred 1934 dollars is the equivalent of more than $3,500 today, so it amounted to a ban for most people. I guess the government deemed that only the rich had a right to these guns. But still, they didn’t trust the rich all that much either. They had to register the guns with the government and get formal permission to own them.

Of course, government officials claimed that the law was due to the crimes being committed with these guns. But that’s always their excuse, even today. Some believe that there was another reason.

Consider that Prohibition ended in 1933. First of all, that would have also ended most of the crime they claim they were addressing, as it was almost exclusively related to the trafficking of illegal alcohol, a fact that was largely ignored. But the end of Prohibition also put a lot of people out of work. All the government treasury enforcers, the guys whose mission it was to protect us from ourselves and make sure that nobody had any alcohol-infused fun, needed jobs.

Surprise, surprise. Now with the NFA, they had new taxes to collect and new laws to enforce. American jobs were saved and the world was again a good place to be a jackbooted thug.

Then along came the 1968 Gun Control Act. This one decided that only guns with a “sporting purpose” could be imported. That ended the importing of any machine guns, because no government official could ever conceive that shooting is a “sport.”

In 1986, the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act was passed. The bill was supposed to be a win for gun owners and was intended to prevent the federal government from registering guns or gun owners. But at the last minute, William Hughes, a Democratic congressman from New Jersey, added an amendment that called for the banning of machine guns. Charlie Rangel used some very sketchy and questionable maneuvering in Congress, and they adopted H.R. 4332 as an amendment to the final bill, which was passed and signed on May 19, 1986, by Ronald Reagan.

I’ll get hate mail for pointing this out, but Reagan, who was said to be the most pro-gun president in recent times, also sold out gun owners by supporting the Brady Bill, although it was after he was out of office and no longer needed our votes. He was a great leader and one I miss, but he just proves the old adage, “The only enemies that guns have are rust and politicians.”

No politician can ever be trusted with your gun rights, not even those we think are on our side. This was exactly the point of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. We just seem to have forgotten a few points that the founding fathers thought were important.

Other than being grossly misnamed, the result of the 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act was that machine guns made after 1986 could not be sold to citizens of this country. Any made prior to that date could be sold and transferred under the NFA rules. So it was official. Exactly what our founding fathers feared had come to pass: Only the government and the police can buy newly manufactured machine guns. The rest of us apparently can’t be trusted.

The pre-1986 machine guns have become known as “transferable” machine guns. According to the information available, there are only 182,619 transferable machine guns in the United States today and that number can only go down. So as might be expected, the prices for transferable guns have gone sky high. Ten grand gets you an entry-level piece of crap. For a high-quality gun in good shape, expect to pay double that or more.

It’s often argued, and I believe not incorrectly, that all this is to ensure that American citizens do not have the ability to fight back against a tyrannical government, even though that was clearly the intent of the Second Amendment to our Constitution. But it doesn’t matter; the government has spoken and machine guns are for all intents and purposes off the table for civilian home defense, so I will now get off my soapbox and get back to the business of guns for preppers.

If you have access to a machine gun, that’s great. I would assume you know how to use it well and there is little doubt that it’s a great fighting tool. As Randall Curtis, the long-time Delta operator who is consulting on this book, pointed out:

There is something about a full-auto weapon going off in your direction that makes you think harder about “getting after it” than semiauto rounds going off. That full auto gets in your head.

So it can have a deterrent effect.

Randall’s job for the past several years has been to instruct military forces and police all over the world. He added more info related to the use of machine guns:

I have been taught—and continue to teach—that the tactical use of the machine gun is the most casualty-producing weapon that can be immediately employed. It’s basic “infantry tactics” when setting up an ambush that you initiate the ambush with the most “casualty-producing weapon,” and that is generally the machine gun. Remember, an ambush is also not just an offensive operation—it is also used in defense of bases and with security patrols that are conducted to enhance security, by disrupting enemy offensive operations and/or to expand your perimeter.

The machine gun is considered an area weapon—meaning that it is not a precision weapon system—so to emphasize some points you mentioned, once it is used your intent is that any personnel in the given impact zone are “hostile” (bad guys).

The point here is that we as civilian preppers play by different rules than the military. But if your home or compound is under attack, I think it’s safe to assume that anybody downrange is your enemy. Here, a machine gun would prove to be a useful defensive tool.

A machine gun’s effective use is via six-to-nine-round bursts, and you are correct when you said it takes training to get guys to use them effectively. Then there are all the other issues of malfunctions, etc. For defense, they are a must for any perimeter and the ultimate Final Protective Line (FPL), where your perimeter is about to be overrun and you “rock ’n’ roll” across the front axis of your perimeter in hopes of “mowing down” the assaulting enemy.

Again, this is a predictable and possible scenario for preppers. If you are under siege and attack and it’s a last ditch, do-or-die situation, a machine gun could be a very important tool.

Another issue you hit on, but not in depth, was using controlled bursts. There are times that it can be beneficial—and trust me, we (where I used to work) had some debates over this. Using two-to-three-round bursts rather than semiauto fire can come in handy when there is a moving target, you are moving, or both you and the target are moving. It throws a “spread” or group of rounds out, increasing your chances of hitting the target.

So, there is little question that a machine gun can be a very useful tool for a prepper. It’s easy to assume that you may have access to them sometime after a crisis begins. The military and police use machine guns, and some of them will enter the black market or simply be available to pick up. However, if you are in a location where there are dead cops or soldiers lying around for you to take their machine guns, you are in the wrong place. I would think the most important goal is to get the hell out of there.


The author shooting an MP5 submachine gun.

So, the obvious question is should you, as a prepper, buy machine guns? Well, consider a few points. First, they are horribly expensive. You can buy a lot of semiauto AR-15 rifles for the price of one transferable machine gun these days.

Also, if you have a machine gun legally, the government knows you have it, because it must be registered. That can bring unwanted attention.

My advice is do not worry about buying machine guns unless you have so much money that you just don’t care.

Besides, if you don’t have a machine gun, I would not lie awake at night worrying about it. Randall made it a point to use exactly those words about the fact that he does not own one.

The good news is that it probably doesn’t matter. Aside from being a lot of fun to shoot, machine guns are best used in war and not for civilian defense. They serve some important tactical uses on the battlefield, but for civilian defense they probably create as many problems as they solve. It really pisses me off that we can’t have them, but the truth be told, in most circumstances, I would rather have a semiauto in a fight to protect my life, family, and property anyway. (The exception being the scenario explored earlier, where my position is about to be overrun.)

Consider also that our ammo resources in a survival situation will be limited, and the wasteful full-auto “spray the countryside mentality” can deplete it very quickly. Just look at the statistics from the Government’s General Accounting Office (GAO) stating that in Iraq and Afghanistan the United States has fired an estimated 250,000 rounds of ammo for every insurgent killed. I don’t know about you, but my ammo supply cannot sustain that ratio for very long.

Furthermore, unless there is total and complete collapse where there is no longer any form of government, you need to be mindful of the law. Even in a survival situation, we may be held accountable by the law, and as Charles Dickens pointed out so well, sometimes “the law is an ass.” While it may seem to favor the bad guys more than the good guys, we must remember that we can’t protect our families if we are in jail.

There are a couple of old adages here we should keep in mind: “You are accountable for every bullet you fire.”

“Every bullet you fire has a lawyer attached to it.”

That means you need to be aware of what your bullets are hitting. It’s one thing to shoot the bad guys, but if an innocent person is hit, you can face legal charges and even jail. Even if there is a total collapse and there is no longer any law or government, we are still the good guys. We have a moral obligation to protect the innocent.

Full-auto guns make that accountability very difficult. When bullets are spitting out of the barrel at 600 to nine hundred rounds per minute, you can’t be sure of where they are all going to end up.

Full-auto guns are not like what you see in the movies. Rambo standing there pouring fire from a belt-fed machine gun held in one hand is total Hollywood crap. Machine guns are very difficult to control. Each year at SHOT (Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade) Show, during events like “Media Day at the Range,” there are opportunities to shoot several guns the day before the show starts. I go because there are almost always some machine guns loaded with OPA (other people’s ammo). One year there were a few guys from one of the gun makers with “Tactical” in its name who had some full-auto AR rifles and a pallet of ammo.

You know the type—Oakley sunglasses, shaved heads, and goatee beards, pumped-up arms covered with tattoo sleeves, and pants with way too many pockets. Late in the day one of them was spending more time flirting with a pretty girl than doing his job and he handed a loaded rifle to an older guy to shoot without paying any attention.

Proving that we men never outgrow it, the old guy was clearly trying to show off for the blue-haired ladies with him. He bladed to the target, tucked his left elbow into his waist and balanced the full-auto gun on the tips of his extended fingers, just like he had no doubt seen some 3-position rifle shooter do with a .22 rifle sometime in the past. When he pulled the trigger, the gun went full rock ’n’ roll and the muzzle arched up and over his head. It probably would have shot one of the blue hairs behind him if “Mr. Badass” had not woken up and grabbed the gun.

The point is, full-autos have a mind of their own and they don’t suffer fools very well.

Another time, I was in a firearms manufacturing plant in Russia. We were in an underground shooting tunnel, where the Russians were doing their best to embarrass us. I guess their idea of good PR was to bring in their best shooter to show up all the writers. It wasn’t working out very well for them, as we were kicking this guy’s butt pretty hard. Then they brought out a machine pistol. After their guy shot it a few times he handed it to one of our party, another older guy as it turns out.

He ignored any cautions about holding on tight to the pistol. He said, “I have been shooting guns for fifty years; you don’t need to tell me anything.” Or at least that’s what we all heard. But when he turned loose with that full-auto pistol, the muzzle climbed like the national debt under Obama. I remember watching the impacts on the cement roof as they walked in a spaced pattern from downrange to directly over our heads, just like in the movies. There were Russians diving under the tables and screaming words in Russian that no doubt would have gotten their asses swatted with a wooden spoon if my mother had been there.

Finally, the magazine ran dry and it got very still in that tunnel. After about thirty seconds of silence, a very pissed off Russian took the gun and our handler led us out of the shooting tunnel and upstairs to the bar, ending the shooting for the day.


Machine guns are very good at turning ammunition into empty cases very quickly.

The point is, except in very experienced hands a machine gun can become an uncontrolled animal. The recoil is not a one-time event, and the muzzle will try to climb off the target. Forget all that Rambo crap you saw on television; the best machine gun shooters work with bursts, not rock ’n’ roll. Besides, at full rock ’n’ roll, a stick magazine empties very, very quickly. Unless your gun is belt fed, you will be at slide lock, wondering what the hell happened, in a blink of an eye.

To become skilled with a machine gun requires hours and hours of practice, burning up thousands of rounds of ammo. Even if you do that, you will still have more control and probably be more efficient in a fight if you shoot with the select-fire option on semiauto. This allows you to aim each shot and know with some precision where it will impact. Semiauto allows you to pick your targets and make each shot count. Sure, it’s slower at going bang-bang than just spraying with full-auto, but if you want every shot to hit a designated target, semiauto is the way to go. Most of the experienced Elite Forces guys I know who have a lot of combat experience will almost always work with the semiauto setting when the goal is to kill the bad guys with some precision. Full-auto is fine for suppressing fire, but when you want to shoot and kill people who are trying to kill you, semiauto is usually better.

Don’t assume it will be slow. While you will not be pouring as much lead out of the barrel, it’s possible to do very fast aimed shots with a semiauto. For example, one of the practice drills we do is the 2x2x2 drill, proving that a semiauto can move bullets out of the barrel very fast.

The drill is three targets, usually about five to seven yards from the shooter, but that can vary. Start with the gun in the low ready position, the way you would have a rifle if you were exiting a vehicle or perhaps moving through a building. At the buzzer you raise the rifle and shoot each target twice, for a total of six shots. Almost any shooter can do it in two to three seconds and with practice can learn to do this in about 1.6–1.7 seconds. The very best will shave a few tenths of a second off that. My personal best is 1.3 seconds. Kyle Lamb, a former Delta operator with the Army and one of the top trainers in the country, has a video of doing it in 1.26 seconds. Remember, to count, every single shot must hit the scoring ring on the target, signifying a kill zone hit. That is, reacting to the buzzer and then putting six shots on three targets, all hitting the kill zone in 1.25 seconds. So let me ask you, do you see anything slow about that?

For the record, I recently participated in a 3-gun match that had a stage starting with a similar set up. There were three targets at about five yards. The shooter was given a full-auto AK-74 with ten rounds loaded. The goal was to have at least two hits on each of the three targets. An amazing number of competitors failed. Most of those who succeeded slowed down and worked the trigger for short bursts. Those I watched who flattened the trigger and emptied the magazine in a single burst all missed. Because the hits counted, I am sure that every single one of them could have gone faster with their semiauto competition rifles.

The great thing is that as long as you don’t live in one of the more restrictive states, buying and owning the best semiauto fighting rifles is easy. If you do live in a place like California, New York, or Connecticut, my best advice is to move. You don’t want to be there when the TSHTF anyway.