Last Gun in the Apocalypse – Readyman

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Last Gun in the Apocalypse

Posted on November 29 2018


You can mold bullets from battery lead. You can recondition primers. You can reuse the heck out of brass. What you can't do is make smokeless powder without modern manufacturing. I'd be happy to be wrong on this, but I haven't found a way.

So, when the powder is gone, so are the modern rifles.

Adios, sweet ARs. Too bad you couldn't eat gunpowder made from bat dung.

[Technically, some ARs can shoot a few times before jamming like a Rastafarian on black powder, but it's not a good idea. I'm looking for guns that will work well with BP.] 

I set out to find and acquire a rifle that historically sat astride muzzle loading black powder and the invention of smokeless powder. If I could have the last cartridge-firing rifle in the post-SHTF world, that sounded nice.

As many will know, one of the few and probably the best was the .45-70 Government. Soon after the cartridge was invented, so was smokeless powder. As a result there are few guns that function reliably with black powder. To find one, you must thread a very tight historical gap.

Shiloh Rifle in Big Timber, Montana makes replicas, so I ordered one and in two short years it arrived. Luckily, it was inexpensive.

It wasn't at all inexpensive. But it's beautiful.

Next step, I've order the particular reloading supplies from Midway and I'll make some cartridges. After that, I'll seek out one of the few repeating rifles from the Civil War era, the Spencer Repeating Rifle.

Next step after that (on order as I type):

Spencer Repeating Rifle, from the same transition time between black powder and smokeless powder)

In the unlikely event of the apocalypse, and in the even more unlikely event that everyone will run out of bullets, and in the even MORE unlikely event that I'll still be alive... I might have the last gun that shoots cartridges: my Shiloh "Forever Gun."


  • Tim Nalley: June 14, 2019

    Flintlock rifles are easier to make and repair in a grid down situation and only need powder and flint to fire endlessly. The Feds do not consider them firearms, most gun laws do not apply to them currently. Blackpowder is simple to mix (proportions are a skill) but needs to be “corned” to prevent its three components from separating in storage or transport. Mix, pour in a burlap bag, wet thoroughly, squeeze out water between two surfaces, dry in sun, grind up with wooden tools. simple. Feds do not consider them firearms. Save the cartridges for real need, like gangbanger armies.

  • Azriel Collier: November 30, 2018

    Basically, any modern made black powder rifle or handgun is made of modern gun steel and with the keeping of the original thickness of the barrels and the receivers, one is able to mix in whatever oxidiser they want into their black powder so even beefed up reloaded black powder into AR shells and the semi and fully auto functions will work properly. But then, primars are an issue and the old school cartridges used the same cap used in muzzle loaders that fit on the nipples. And those can be reused with packing of guncotton and that solves that issue, that is as far as beefed up black powered guns are concerned. How to reload a modern primer for the modern cartridges so they can work again, that is beyond me. Seems that once the primer is used, it would be too damaged to reload and make functional again.

  • JohnG: November 30, 2018

    You can get components for black powder by the 100lb bag – tho not exactly a cake walk to get it mixed right. I think the bigger trick is getting a hold of primers.

  • Muleskinner: November 30, 2018

    Theoretically you can load any cartridge with black powder, but here are recipes for makeshift powder that would work a bit better in a pinch…the trick would be figuring out how much to use for a given caliber.

    Potassium Chlorate and sugar 50/50 mix
    Sodium Chlorate and sugar 50/50 mix
    Potassium Percholate and sugar 2 parts Potassium Percholate and 1 part sugar

    You can also use match heads…simply scrape the flammable material from the match stick…
    39 matches for 5.56
    61 for .243
    16 for M1 carbine
    45 for 30-30
    58 for 7.62X51
    74 for 30-06
    8 for 9MM
    15 for 38 SPL
    26 for .357 mag
    27 for .45ACP

  • David M: November 29, 2018

    One other possibility: The Moisin-Nagant 91 rifle (the 91-30 would probably work just as well—just has a shorter barrel which would cut the muzzle energy of a black powder round somewhat. The ‘91 as originally designed and built fired black powder cartridges. Virtually all found on the market now have receivers that were made for smokeless or re-heat-treated to allow the use of smokeless. You can easily buy reloadable brass ammunition and should the situation require it, cast your own bullets and load the same cartridge with black powder. Obviously, it won’t have the same power as a smokeless round, but it certainly served the needs of Czarist-era Russia. Some were even made in the United States for the Czar’s army (and never delivered)—by then, they were built for smokeless powder.

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