The difficulty in picking out one weapon for a doomsday scenario is that there are so many possible scenarios that it’s hard to find a one-size-fits-all firearms solution. One thing that occurred to me is this: If society has only partially collapsed, or if armed gangs have taken over parts of the city (think Mogadishu or Beirut here), then appearing in public with a military-type weapon can be a very risky thing to do, especially if you are not identified as being a part of (and thus under the protection of) one of the “militias” or groups that has control of part of the city. Essentially, the weapon would mark you as a “player” and not an innocent bystander. That might not work in your favor . . .
In that circumstance, appearing harmless is actually the best “defense” you could have. So, while the “modern sporting rifle” is the weapon of choice for a large part of the survivalist community, I could see where a concealable handgun would be the “best” weapon.
Here’s another scenario, closer to home (literally.)
Suppose you have some kind of Katrina-like local disaster. Your home is unavailable or un-defendable. Or you’ve run out of supplies. So you take to The Road, Cormac McCarthy style, to try and make it to some kind of public shelter with your family in tow. After a harrowing struggle, you make it to the Superdome or Red Cross shelter, or some similar place of temporary safety. You breathe a sigh of relief.
But wait! There’s a heavily armed police officer or National Guardsman at the door. The Power That Be are frisking everyone who comes in, and checking bags. Anything that looks like a weapon is tossed into a trash bin next to the entrance: guns, knives, clubs, anything. (Can’t have folks attacking each other in the shelter, can we?)
Assuming you armed yourself before fleeing your home, some issues present themselves. Do you toss the gun into the bucket, knowing that your chances of ever seeing it again are approximately zero? Knowing that you would then be defenseless (a) inside the shelter or (b) if for whatever reason you have to leave the shelter?
Not being searched isn’t an option. If you want to get your family in the shelter, you’ll get searched. Even the baby will get patted down. Do you stay outside, armed but not protected? Or do you trust your fate to the loving arms of the state?
A lot of gun owners on the internet would do the macho posturing thing: “They can have my gun when they pry it from my cold dead hands!” But would you really do that? Especially if it was not just you, but your family that you would be denying the food, water and shelter offered by the shelter? I don’t think I would.
Guns are valuable and useful but at the end of the day it’s all just stuff. Stuff can be replaced. People can’t.
Such possibilities, IMO, are much more likely than the Zombie Apocalypse scenario, where you just load up your BFG9K and start blasting away at all comers.
So, in the most likely immediate scenario, your “end of the world” gun should be disposable. It’s going to break your heart to toss grandpa’s old .45 he carried through France and Belgium into the bucket. The thought might make you risk leaving your family to the mercy of the elements or marauding zombie gangs.
But in that scenario, I submit that it’s the right thing to do. After all, the goal of the exercise is not to arm oneself, the goal is to survive.
[NB: We thank Martin Albright for his service in the U.S. Army.]