Something wicked this way comes. We all know some kind of new gun control is likely to happen, and it may be a political catastrophe. If we’re lucky, we might escape the coming anti-gun apocalypse by the skin of our teeth and the resolve of pro-gun stalwarts in the House of Representatives . . .
But if ARs and normal-capacity handgun magazines are banned or become non-transferable relics, which remaining long guns will be the most useful and effective for home and personal defense? What will we be buying in five years, or at least until/unless any pending AWB is repealed or overturned? This isn’t the time to surrender, but it’s time for some serious contingency planning: any field commander must have a plan for how to respond if the enemy turns his flank.
Feinstein, Biden, Schumer and Obama seem to have modern sporting rifles and normal-capacity magazines in their crosshairs at the moment. For the sake of argument, this article assumes that they’ll be outlawed. Not subject to a ‘manufacturing and new sales’ ban, not ‘subject to NFA registration’ or ‘may be possessed but not transferred.’ I mean gone. Prohibited. Contraband. Vanished. I pray it never comes to this, but we need to think about it.
Note: Please don’t fill the comment section with plans for boating accidents and buried weapon caches in the New Mexico mountains: nothing you say on the Internet is ever anonymous and nothing is ever erased. If those be your plans, please don’t advertise them here and please don’t provide the government with free evidence against you.
For myself, I respect our imperfect system of government so I plan to do my fighting in the legislature and in the press and at the ballot box. You’re free to choose otherwise, but I don’t plan on going to prison for the sake of a lump of metal and plastic.
Plan For The Worst, And Purchase Accordingly
Some low-capacity autoloaders, or those with internal magazines like the M1 Garands and SKS might make it through unscathed. If you have one (or can find one) that’s great, but I wouldn’t count on any modern rifle with a detachable box magazine getting out alive. There will be a few named exceptions like the Remington 740 series and the (hunting-style) Browning Automatic Rifle, which have never been made in great numbers and for which high-capacity magazines are either rare or nonexistent. I don’t think the straight wooden stocks of the M1A and Mini-14 will put them on the right side of any new law as it did in 1994, however.
In the world of rifles and shotguns, this leaves us with single-shots and manually-operated repeaters: Bolt-actions, lever-actions and pumps.
Bolt-actions aren’t terribly relevant for home or personal defense unless you live in a really wide-open neighborhood, like central Wyoming. And where all the bad guys advertise their intentions from hundreds of yards away. And then hold really still.
If your only choice is a bolt-action rifle, choose one with as short a barrel and as large a magazine capacity as you can find. Lee-Enfields or Swiss Schmitt-Rubin carbines would be the best options among these poor choices, but their slow rate of fire and overpowered cartridges will put you at a serious disadvantage compared to other long guns.
I don’t suggest that bolt-action rifles will have no value in a TEOTWAWKI scenario, but that’s not what we’re talking about here so we’ll move on.
Pump-action rifles are very quick to operate, just like their smoothbore shotgun cousins, but they’ve never been very popular and they’ve never been manufactured in great numbers. They’re likely to become even more scarce in this current political climate, so if you’ve got your eye on a Taurus Thunderbolt like this one you’d best pull the trigger right quick.
Box-fed pump actions like Remington Model 760s are made in a range of powerful rifle calibers, but they only hold 4 or 5 rounds. I used to have a lightweight 760 in .35 Whelen, which handled very quickly but kicked like the elephant rifle it almost was. Tube-feeders like this 14+1 round Thunderbolt in .45 Long Colt can actually exceed an M1 Garand or SKS in their ability to sling lead downrange wholesale-style. Fortunately they’re not all quite as long as the one pictured here.
In the absence of semi-automatic rifles, lever-action rifles and carbines offer perhaps the best combination of handling, speed, firepower, and ready availability for defensive uses. Those in rifle calibers are good; those in pistol calibers are even better.
.30-30 lever guns are light, compact, powerful, accurate and affordable to shoot. With a few carefully-chosen accessories like the XS Lever Rail shown here, you can turn one into a Cowboy Assault Rifle like Ryan did. Just let’s don’t call it that, lest Dianne Feinstein soil her dainties and try to ban them, too.
Pistol-caliber lever guns, when you can find them, are even better than rifle-caliber models: they’re smaller and lighter, with less recoil and more magazine capacity.
At realistic defensive ranges from the muzzle out to 50 yards, their pistol cartridges get the job done on medium-sized targets: the big .44 Magnum and .45 Long Colt knock down game like the hammer of Thor himself, and even the smaller .357 Magnum punches almost as hard as a .30-30.
In your author’s humble opinion, these pistol-caliber lever guns are the most practical manually-operated defensive and survival carbines available. They have one significant drawback, however, in that they’re scarce as hen’s teeth right now. Marlin used to dominate this market segment, but production has been interrupted since their assimilation by The Freedom Group.
Rossi makes a slightly lower-priced alternative to the all-but deceased Marlin, and Henry makes their breathtakingly lovely brass-framed Big Boy, but you’ve got to keep your eyes open and move quickly when you find one in stock. At the time of writing, there were no Rossi or Marlin pistol-caliber carbines to be found anywhere, and only a few Henrys. The Henry factory in Bayonne, NJ was clobbered by Hurricane Sandy, and they’re just now getting their production line sorted out again. (Click here for their press release.) That’s actually pretty remarkable, considering that many parts of Sandy-battered NY and NJ are still wastelands.
Note: the Henry Big Boy is accurate and stunningly gorgeous, but you can only load it by removing the magazine tube plunger and dropping in rounds one by one. This makes it rather less practical for defensive uses, but if you kept one short-loaded in the gun safe those 8 or 9 rounds would probably see you through any home DGU without the need to reload. 8 or 9 rounds isn’t much compared to an AR, but it’s as much as any maneuverable shotgun can hold.
Shotguns in general have several defensive advantages over rifles and carbines:
- They’re available everywhere: Wal-Mart, Dick’s, Big 5, etc
- Pump guns are cheaper than remaindered Steven King paperbacks. $250 and a few boxes of buckshot will set you up right.
- They’re cheap to shoot: practice ammo costs only 20 cents a round.
- They’re extremely reliable (especially pumps) and they’re all simple to use.
- Any center-mass buckshot hit is likely to cause instant incapacitation, and rapid death.
- Use of smaller #4 buckshot will minimize overpenetration through drywall and doors without sacrificing stopping power.
Hunting-style semi-automatic shotguns will probably survive any impending AWB, and they have much to recommend them as long as they’ve got a useful magazine capacity of 4+1 or 5+1 rounds. If a hunting shotgun is all you can find, buy a spare 18″ or 20″ barrel to make it more maneuverable. Preferably with interchangeable choke tubes.
Shotguns are fantastic for home defense, and semi-autos are even better. But not their price: you won’t touch a good one for less than 3x the price of a solid pump. Benelli, FN, Remington and Mossberg autoloaders are the industry standards but none of them are cheap.
For years considered the ne plus ultra of defensive civilian and police firepower, the pump-action shotgun’s reputation for terminally decisive combat power is well-deserved. I won’t hazard a guess as to which pump shotgun features might be banned in any DiFi/Obama AWB, but I’d bet that they’re all pretty safe. Except, possibly,’evil’ features like the pistol grip and magazine extension shown above.
Luckily, all it takes is a few minutes with a screwdriver to turn a panty-soiling ‘Assault Shotgun’ into a boring-looking ‘Grandpa’s Hunting Shotgun’ like this one. Either of these shotguns will serve perfectly as the ‘big gun’ that you’ll use your handgun to fight your way to in a gunfight, and either of them is likely to decide the conflict quickly in your favor once you reach it.
A standard pump-action shotgun will have a 4+1 or 5+1 round magazine capacity if you use 2 3/4″ shells like you should, and you can cheaply increase your firepower with a buttstock shell carrier. A sidesaddle shell carrier (or magazine tube extension) is even better, but not quite as cheap.
Pump-action shotguns have such a long history with American sportsmen (and such limited use among spree killers) that they’ll probably be among the last guns to face serious restrictions. As with autoloading shotguns, make sure your defense shotgun has a manageable barrel length of 20″ or less.
Double-barrel shotguns are also marginally viable as defensive weapons, and you probably didn’t know that the NYPD used them until 2002. They’re not useless, but they’re much less practical and rather more expensive than a decent pump shotgun.
Stoeger’s ‘Double Defense‘ shotguns have short barrels and accessory rails, which make them marginally more practical than a presentation-grade Beretta or Holland & Holland. Their automatic safeties are a PITA, however, and their lack of automatic ejectors makes your (already frequent) reloads even slower.
Single-shot shotguns are all but useless for defensive purposes, and bolt-action shotguns have but a single purpose in life: selling them for $50 at misguided gun-buyback programs. Lever-action shotguns are rare, expensive, and much less practical than they seem at first glance. Save them for their collector value, or for cowboy action shooting.
What’s It All About, Alfie?
We shouldn’t have to be thinking about this, but we do. Dianne Feinstein and company are gleefully dancing in the blood of dead children, thrilled at the chance to trot out the gun-control schemes they’ve been working on for years while they waited for a tragedy horrific enough to justify them.
But if Feinstein wins this round, we’ll still have homes and families to protect. And we’ll have to do our best with the long guns still available.