Posted on March 24 2019
“If it’s good enough for the military, then it’s good enough for a prepper.”
This statement assumes that the U.S. military makes only smart buying decisions, which we all know isn’t true (ACU uniform or black beret anyone?) But, the biggest assumption might be that life as a prepper in the apocalypse will be like life as a soldier in war.
With over 28 years in Special Forces, working in remote locations, I’m here to tell you this isn’t remotely true, and the differences between prepping and war should drastically alter rifle selection for a prepper. (We’ll talk about pistol selection in a future blog.) A prepper rifle should be a survival tool, which is not necessarily a war tool.
Five Ways a Prepper Rifle is Nothing Like a Combat Rifle
1. Assumption: Preppers will primarily need their long gun for attacks or missions.
The Reality: a prepper will probably need to have their gun on them while living everyday life. Think of life on the frontier in the 16th century. Contrast that to a warfighter that typically typically relies on their gun only when in war zones, or when they go outside the wire, where a fight could occur. A prepper scenario contemplates a person gardening, building, cooking and playing with his kids, hopefully with his rifle within arms reach every minute of every day and night. A war fighter usually (not always) returns to a place of relative safety within a base or a safe house.Then he carries a well-maintained weapon into the field for short periods of intense potential enemy contact. Surviving in war is only one, small aspect of survival in TEOTWAWKI.
Recommendation: A prepper rifle must be compact and light and fill multiple rolls. Does every prepper know what their rifle weighs? Will the rifle take game if the chance presents itself? Will the gun serve as a defensive weapon on a homestead or bug-in location? Will the prepper still have their gun with them when a random fight or game meat presents itself? The difference between an eight-pound rifle and a six-pound rifle would likely be the difference between having a gun and not having a gun on-hand when trouble showed up. It also could be the difference between putting small game on the table or not, because wild game never waits for a man to get his gun.
2. Assumption: Preppers will understand their rifles like war fighters know their rifles.
The Reality: unless a prepper was in the military or law enforcement or has dollars to spend on lots of training, it is almost impossible to know your rifle as well as a war fighter knows his rifle. Particularly among SOF operators, a rifle (and all its idiosyncrasies) becomes a well-worn, everyday tool. After tens of thousands of rounds in every imaginable condition, the war fighter knows each nook and cranny of his weapon system. On the contrary, a prepper has to divide his attention between family, farm, garden, solar array, livestock, food storage…a thousand things that never distract a war fighter.
Recommendation: A prepper rifle should be simple, and a prepper should settle into two or three weapon systems, probably for life. Many systems are designed for the soldier or law enforcement officer and have been designed with high-performance or added safety features. The AR and Benelli Super 90 shotgun come to mind. These systems are complex, even when they don’t break. Simplicity is probably worth the loss of some performance.
3. Assumption: Preppers will be able to pick their fight like war fighters often pick their fight.
The Reality: day or night, preppers will get a fight whenever or however the fight finds them. Preppers probably will not have any concrete barriers or HESCO walls to protect them. Most won’t have twenty-four hour security forces with belt-fed machine guns. War fighters can also customize their rifles to the patrol or fight they’re seeking. The biggest place this comes into play is night fighting. In my extensive experience with ReadyMen, very preppers are equipped to find targets and effectively aim their rifles at night. Even fewer practice shooting and running their weapon system at night. And, if civil disorder in the past is any indication, most trouble comes at night.
Recommendation: A prepper rifle should provide the greatest chance of hitting a target day or night. That may require an electronic sight or, at best, a laser or IR laser (with NVGs.) Or it might require a shotgun with a larger shot pattern that increases the chance of hitting a target in the dark.
4. Assumption: Preppers will fight and win battles.
The Reality: getting out of fights ("breaking contact" in military speak) should be the norm. Avoiding fights at all cost will significantly increase the chances of survival. In a world where tiny cuts can turn into deadly infections, prolonged fights are nonsensical. Preppers should either kill or intimidate an enemy into running away, or run away themselves. “Winning” a battle is an unlikely prepper scenario (but is commonly the objective for war fighters.)
Recommendation: Consider different rifles for different situations. The 5.56 round may be great in some prepper circumstances but certainly not all of them. Take into consideration distance, available game animals, options of resupply, reload-ability, and probable self-defense scenarios.
5. Assumption: Preppers will have enough ammunition to defend themselves like a war fighter.
The Reality: There will probably be limited ammunition and almost no ammunition for training others. War fighters essentially have limitless resupply. The 5.56 round, in particular, is well-designed for suppression of enemy forces—where one soldier fires a high volume at the enemy while another soldier maneuvers. This application of firepower is usually beyond prepper scenarios because of limited supply, training and coordination. This one reality vaporizes one of the main reasons the Army likes the AR round. The 5.56 allows a shooter to carry more rounds, but one of the biggest reasons for carrying more rounds is to suppress and maneuver. During the Kennedy administration, a formula was used to determine how many bullets were being spent to kill “X” number of enemy. The more bullets a solider could carry the more enemy he could kill. This math does not pencil out in a post-apocalyptic, prepper scenario where “body count” does nothing to reduce the ambient threat.
Recommendation: Don’t count on fighting in a team. Count on fighting like an Old West settler, with limited ammunition for homestead defense. Rarely, if ever, will preppers train to fight like U.S. Marines, so don’t imagine that their service rifle will suit you as well as it does a Marine. Even if you were a serviceman, you won't likely be able to count on the rest of your survival community to fight like trained soldiers. Less than 7% of the population are veterans and 45% of them are aging—from the Vietnam era and beyond. The youngest Vietnam veterans are now in their sixties.
This conversation invariably leads to the question: “If not the AR, then what?” There are many good options, including some models of the AR, but those options will depend on the nature of your homestead and your bug out plan.
Are you bugging in near a big city? A shotgun might be a vastly better option than a rifle.
Are you fleeing to a farm with broad fields of fire? A scoped .308 bolt action rifle might serve better than an AR.
Do you have a liberal gun budget—a virtual “blank check” from the spousal unit? You might consider the 7.62 X 51 Robinson XCRM, The SCAR Heavy or the M14.
Do you live in California? Consider a Springfield M1A for bugging out. Your horrible gun laws might save you from buying an underpowered calibre, especially considering the open ground common to California.
In a future blog, we’ll drill down specifically on alternatives to the AR and the 5.56 round.
For now, don’t ever forget that the selection process utilized by the Army DID NOT consider the needs of citizen survivalists--not in the slightest. So, when you pick your next rifle, don’t think like a solider. Think like a survivor.