SHTF Stand Alone Armory, Best Budget Choices
Best Guns for SHTF Preparedness/ The Stand Alone Armory
I had the opportunity to meet a young man through a mutual friend. In his mid-twenties, he was just getting started in his adult life. He graduated from college and became an engineer, but his education had left him ill-prepared to survive in a hostile world. He had a beautiful wife and a new baby daughter, both of which had caused a major shift in his priorities. When we’d first met, he had just purchased an expensive Sig handgun ("because the more expensive, the better it must be") and now was in the market for a rifle. After our initial discussion, I convinced him that training was the most important aspect of self-defense. The best equipment in the world won’t protect you unless you can do your part. Unlike many people to which I give advice, this young man actually followed it.
We are blessed to have an excellent local range that has a heavy match schedule as well as a constant series of tactical classes from top-level instructors. Our young friend began to take classes and started showing up at the tactical 2-gun match. This is a competition that tries to test some tactical concepts on each stage as well as malfunction testing. It would never withstand the extensive rules of the major organizations but is a great place to learn some aspects of dynamic shooting. The new father jumped in with both feet and purchased an LWRC piston drive rifle along with a Glock 34 and began training in earnest. Like many of us, he believes that there are hard times ahead.
A couple of months into his tactical training journey, tragedy struck his family. He was an only child and lost both of his parents in an auto accident. As a result, he inherited his family's property and a fair settlement. He chose to invest half the money because a good prepper tries to prepare for all eventualities. The probability of a "No SHTF" scenario is also a possibility, and strong investments for the future are a good prep too.
His family's property was at the base of the Smokies about 90 minutes from our metroplex. So, he decided it would make the perfect bugout location. With the safety of his wife and daughter in mind, he chose to purchase a bunker, and have it installed by a professional company. This is where he would store his preps and it gave him the choice of living on the property above or hide down below if a situation warranted it. After laying out a budget for his prep materials, he came to me and asked, “What kind of guns should I buy to store in the bunker?”
This posed an interesting question, of a Stand-Alone Armory? A collection of firearms, magazines, and ammunition that would be buried, waiting for an event that may never happen. One separate from our personal collections, not that different from caching. After purchasing the bunker, long term storage food, and other necessary items, we were left with a limited budget. I’ve read many articles concerning the best guns for SHTF and rarely agreed with them, so I put my mind to the task. I thought I would share our choices with you and address why we chose specific items.
- First, a fighting rifle of AR type. I’m a big fan of military rifles, especially exotic, expensive ones. I love guns that have a lot of “dick factor." But for SHTF, you want something basic, common, something you will be able to find ammunition, magazines, and parts for. With this consideration, there is nothing better than the AR platform. In his case, we purchased a DPMS Oracle and added some parts to make it fit his needs. There are so many great choices when it comes to AR's. We chose this one because it was going to spend most of its life buried underground. DPMS has built a lot of Oracles and they’ve worked the bugs out this model. We spent as much on the optic and mount as we did setting up the rifle. Our friend added a Trijicon TR24R because of its durability, quality of glass and the fact that it doesn’t need batteries. We spent a couple of matches testing and tuning the setup, then he stored it with several thousand rounds of quality brass ammunition and twenty magazines.
The choices he made were because he was looking for specific qualities. He could have spent a lot more on this rifle, but it would have been at the expense of the optic, ammunition, and magazines. In the end, he had a reliable, accurate rifle with an outstanding optic.
- One of my old military axioms has always been "Two is one and one is none":
We discussed buying spare parts for the rifle and chose to buy everything in the form of another AR. Our friend picked a smaller “Armbrace” pistol version with a shorter barrel. The smaller AR-Armbrace fit his wife well and we were even able to get her to train with it a little before it went underground. I won’t try to convince you that shooting some action matches is good tactical training. But, running a rig through a couple of them will test the gun, magazines, and ammunition. It is significantly better than shooting from a static firing line or on a bench. At least, you are moving around, shooting in different positions, reloading, all under a little bit of stress. All of which will play a part in any real-life scenario.
We found a good deal on a Trijicon MRO and a co-witness mount on the local gun trader. Magazines and ammo were already stored, and it made the cost of adding this pistol-armbrace to his armory significantly less than the first AR.
- It was time to add some handguns. The same criteria were still in effect: ie. reliability, performance, and commonality. There are many great handguns out there, but when looking at the criteria, one easily stands above the rest. “The Glock”
The next question was. “What caliber?” We could choose 9mm, 40cal, 45acp or 38/357 all are common in this country. It would be wise to be able to use any of them but was it feasible to do so without breaking the bank. Money spent here would mean a sacrifice somewhere else. We scoured the net for deals and came up with a great one.
On Gunbroker.com we found LEO trade-in Glock Gen 3’s. We started looking at G17s and G19s but quickly found that G22s and G23s were significantly less, about a hundred dollars less. The 40cal cartridge has become less popular as of late. As a general rule, these guns are carried a lot and shot very little. As LEO trade-ins, they came with 3 mags each and were a good choice. I broke out the calculator and did some figuring. We could buy the 40cals and almost have enough money left over to buy 9mm conversion barrels and 9mm extractors. That’s what we chose to do. We got a G23 and G22 with 3 mags each, then a barrel and extractor to convert each gun to 9mm.
I’m a big fan of using factory mags, but there are some cases where this can be ignored. Magpul’s Glock mags are one of these. We bought a couple of 15 rounders for the short grip and ten 21 rounders that would fit both pistols. Our young friend had already started making his own ammunition for matches, so a quick call to Montana Gold and a case of Hollowpoint 124gr bullets were on the way. His Dillon reloading press would provide several 30cal ammo cans full of quality ammunition for a fraction of the cost of buying in bulk.
- When looking at ammunition calibers, 38/357 are just too common to ignore. Looking for value here, it had to be a .357 because it can shoot both. There were some good inexpensive choices, Taurus makes a reliable wheel gun. I’m not a revolver guy, but when I buy one, it’s always a S&W. But, they’re top dollar and we were looking for a bargain. After some shopping, we chose a used Ruger SP101 in .357. The thing is built like a tank and accurate as hell. It ended up costing a little over $300. Money well spent this would always work and be there for that common-caliber when needed, a choice you can never go wrong with.
We had 9, 40cal, 38/357 all covered, that left us considering a 45acp. In the end, we chose to wait. It would be nice to add a quality 1911 or a G21 to the armory, but that would have to wait till a later date.
By this time, we had spent 2/3rds of the allotted money. Ammunition and magazine costs had eaten up significantly more than the money spent on the guns themselves. But, all of this is designed to put those bullets on target if the need arises. The guns are worth nothing if you can’t feed them. Magazines break and get lost, you can't scrimp on that. You need to carry a lot of them, there’s usually not time for reloading a spent mag in the middle of a firefight. It’s always better to have too many than too few. They make excellent barter items and that commonality thing means there will be lots of potential buyers.
- Time for one last big item. We chose to go after a .308 semi-auto rifle and ended up back at DPMS looking for an Oracle in that caliber. The basic rifle was very inexpensive, not much more than the 5.56 versions. We dressed it out with some furniture and accessories to make it his own. Once again, we spent a lot more on the glass. There’s a lot of great choices out there. But, we chose the Vortex PST Gen2 1-6x scope. Added ten 25 round P-mags and a couple of cases of .308 ammo (OUCH!).
We could have gone with a bolt gun, but the AR10 was just as cheap. It’s suitable for hunting and fighting, whereas a bolt gun is not as universal, there's nothing like being able to rounds down range on target, hard-hitting and fast.
- Down to our last few dollars, our final purchase was a pump shotgun in 12 gauge. Our choice, a Mossberg model 500, 7+1 with a bead sight, on sale at a big box store for around $300 dollars. It took a little convincing, our young friend wanted an 870, but I was able to change his mind with one trip to the gunsmithing area of our shop. The 870 is a great gun and has a better fit and finish than the Mossberg’s, but there is one weakness. It’s the only part I ever really see that breaks on the pumps, the ejector. (And sometimes the extractor, in my experience.)
The 870's ejector is riveted into the side of the gun and the part costs about $50, then you’ve got to put it in. Or, pay someone who knows how to put it in. The Mossberg’s ejector is a much simpler piece and it can be installed without even breaking the gun down. All that is necessary is a flat head screwdriver. Spare ejectors can be gotten from Brownell’s for less than $10 and if you’re going to buy one, then just buy two or three. (It could be a greater barter item than you realize.)
We added a couple of boxes of buck and birdshot ammo and were done.
- The Ubiquitous .22. We didn’t even buy one. There was an old Stevens single shot bolt gun found in the attic. Our friend believed it had once belonged to his grandfather. We cleaned it up and took it to the range. It was accurate with some quality CCI 22LR ammo. We added a couple of bricks to his ammo stockpile and he had a little game getter.
Remember, we were setting up a stand-alone firearms battery, one designed for self-defense. In an SHTF situation, we’re not expecting to run into any game wardens and you can hunt well with all of these guns. There were other things we discussed purchasing and even made a point of possibly adding them at a later date.
*An AK, one set up properly, not festooned with Chinese crap. If you were ever to capture one, it would probably be poorly set up.
*A Pistol Caliber Carbine, preferably one that took the same Glock mags as your handguns. Add a suppressor and that is a very special combination.
*A .45 caliber handgun. There are lots of great options here. From the classic 1911's, the Glock G21, or the Sig P220 are all excellent candidates.
If our friend can bug out early, he can take all his gear from home and add it to his bunker, great. But if he arrives with nothing or his wife arrives ahead of him or any other number of other possibilities. He will have a basic armory with which to go to work (protect his family, hunt for food, whatever need arises, preparedness trumps those who are not).
This is an idea that can be easily transitioned into caching. There are so many great choices out there, yours will probably be different than ours. In a time of red flag gun laws and confiscations, the only bad choice is to have nothing. And remember training trumps all. Don’t get lost in the trap of all the shiny gun toys. I’ve got a buddy who's got fifty in his safe but couldn’t dig up 500 rounds of ammo. I never see this guy at a class or a match. Don’t be that guy. Build alliances, be prepared, be ready. We tried to get the most capability for the least money. If you have ideas and would like to write an article or share your ideas, please contact us and we’ll publish it on the site.
Ben Stone firstname.lastname@example.org