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By David Kenik

The following article originally appeared in Handguns magazine and is reprinted here with permission.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was driving on I-95 in Massachusetts listening to the attacks unfold on the radio while heading towards Boston to teach a three-hour seminar. When I got to the office where the class was being held it was only the sobbing receptionist that broke the deafening silence that greeted me. We decided to press on with the training program and during the class breaks we watched the towers burn on television. To describe it as surreal would be an understatement. When I got home early that afternoon—already wearing my pistol, as normal, I took a rifle and shotgun out of the quick-action safe and put one on each side of the house . . .

That probably seems extreme to some, but, at the time nobody knew how far the attacks would go. I was not expecting terrorists to attack the rural section of the state I lived in; what I feared was panic. If the attacks had continued or gotten closer to home, fear could have set off panic, rioting, and looting.

In the weeks following 9/11, I increased my stores of food, water, and yes, ammunition. While I had enough ammo for personal defense, I didn’t have enough for social unrest. If that doesn’t sound like a logical enough excuse, I expected ammo to become quite scarce and expensive—which proved to be true.

The food I stored has since been consumed and rotated, and the ammo stash has increased, despite my ongoing attempts to deplete it. Now, with recent events, we have more reasons than ever to stock up again.

Probability of Crisis

Before you say social unrest caused by a terrorist attack in this country is not likely, keep in mind that a terrorist attack is not the only thing capable of inciting civil chaos. Think “act of God. ” An earthquake, volcano, hurricane, or any other kind of devastating natural event can bring polite society to its knees. Anytime unprepared people are left to fend for themselves, chaos will ensue. People will be killed for food, water, shelter, and just for the “fun” of it. Law enforcement will be all but non-existent and society will be a free-for-all with criminals reigning terror over the rest of us. Before you say “not likely’, think two words: Hurricane Katrina.

The physical and social effects of Hurricane Katrina were a national tragedy, not just because of the flooding, but also for the ineptness of government officials at all levels. Local, state and federal governments all failed miserably in their feeble attempts at providing assistance.

Katrina is but just one recent example, but it proved without a shadow of a doubt that we can depend on no one but ourselves for our safety and survival. Even though the impending doom of the storm was known well in advance, the government could not provide for the victims’ need for food or shelter and it could not protect them in any sense of the word.

But, what is probably most disturbing is that not only could they not stop the looting, rioting, murders, rapes, assaults, and robberies, but police, at the direction of elected officials, purposely disarmed law-abiding citizens, thus eliminating any chance for personal survival in the face of violence. Imagine watching a gang rape your wife or daughter because the police, while they couldn’t evacuate you or bring you food or water or stay and protect you, had time to swing by and confiscate your guns for the greater good and safety of the whole.

The atrocities that occurred after Hurricane Katrina galvanized the country and I hope it finally started to sink into our collective consciousness that we have to be prepared to take care of ourselves—whether it be a personal attack, terrorist bombing, or natural disaster, we can’t depend on anyone else for our safety and our survival.

Value of a Handgun

In the shadow of Hurricane Katrina, survivalists – or should I say realists – stocked up for what is commonly known as SHTF situations. While I’m sure that it’s been going on for quite a while, I just recently noticed an interesting trend in what ammunition people are stockpiling—there is a significant bent towards stocking rifle ammunition.

While that may sound reasonable, since we all acknowledge the fact that rifles offer far better stopping power than handguns, I think a handgun is more appropriate for the average citizen. Before you jump all over me for that transgression of thought, allow me to explain; it’s not that I think a handgun is more effective, it’s that in times of social unrest, I think a handgun is more practical.

Defending yourself in a home is one example. In my training classes, I often ask the participants what type of weapon they prefer for home defense. Typically, more than half state that they prefer a shotgun because of its devastating stopping power. They usually change their mind however, after I run them through a home protection scenario where they have to negotiate corners, open doors, operate light switches, and control the movements of family members.

A shotgun, as well as a rifle, is a two-handed weapon and is virtually impossible to operate effectively with just one. For instance, to keep from giving your position away and to prevent a gun grab when negotiating travelways through the home, a gun should not protrude beyond a corner or through a doorway.

To survey around a corner or pass through a doorway, a long gun must be lowered or raised to keep it from view. Due to its length and weight, that’s not easy to do with just one hand. Nor is it easy to get a long gun back on target in a hurry from a raised or lowered position if you are controlling it one-handed.

The same thing is true with the operation of door handles and light switches. Furthermore, in a dangerous situation, family members may need to be physically controlled. You many need to hold them at bay behind you and/or guide them in a particular direction. This again forces you to control and operate a long gun with just one hand.

While a short-barreled rifle or shotgun is most often the weapon of choice for law enforcement entry teams, there’s quite a difference between an entry team and a typical homeowner. First off, police entry teams are highly trained and practiced. Secondly, they work as a team. One officer can operate the doors and deal with innocents while other members make entry and take care of business.

If we consider our ability to live and operate in society that is plagued with ongoing and excessive violence yet still partially functional, the handgun will simply be more practical in the majority of likely defensive scenarios, both in and out of your home. If you need to venture out of the house, carrying a visible long gun will most likely instill panic, as the public will not know if your motive is self-defense or crime.

To a criminal, your weapon may broadcast “shoot me first” or you may become a gang target for the purpose of relieving you of your weapon. In your workplace, a long gun will most likely not be looked upon with kindness, to say the least. A properly concealed handgun would incite none of those reactions.

If during a crisis you are wandering around seeking help, the presence of a visible long gun will most likely deter any assistance from coming near you. Think of the people standing on their roofs in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina waiting for a lifeboat. How likely is it that they would be picked up if they were holding an AR-15 or shotgun?

Carjackings also are a serious and common occurrence in times of riots and looting. If you’re traveling, the manipulation and firing of a handgun from a car is far easier than a long gun, regardless of how easy it looks in the movies. A handgun can also be easily passed back and forth between driver and passenger if needed.

Imagine that you are going sixty miles an hour through traffic while trying to manipulate a rifle into position. Easy right? All you have to do is aim and fire without killing yourself or a bystander. While not easy or recommended, in a life or death situation a handgun can be fired much more effectively while driving or even while parked for that matter.

As I stated in my premise, while a handgun doesn’t offer the best stopping power, it does offer far greater practicality in terms of its operation in various situations. And it won’t incite panic since its presence can be hidden.

Weapon Choices

In times of social unrest, there are many considerations in regards to choosing your weapons that may not apply to normal criminal defensive situations. Defending your property’s exterior and interior perimeter spaces from multiple attackers or repeated attempts will probably necessitate that you arm family members, neighbors, or both, depending on your tactical situation. While you may be properly armed and trained, consider the fact that you may find your neighbors are not.

If you’re like most gun owners, you own several different types of handguns in various calibers. In a perfect civil defense scenario all of your handguns would be the same make, model, and caliber so ammunition, magazines and parts can be shared. The world is not perfect and having a dozen or so identical guns in hand is highly unlikely.

The best choice of weapon for a shared security situation may actually be in fact a revolver since you will likely be giving guns to people with limited understanding or training in firearms or personal defense. Revolvers hold an advantage over semi-automatics since they are easy to learn and quite intuitive.

Thinking Ahead

Whichever way you go, be sure you have plenty of ammunition. It is best to store it in a cool and dry location. I store fully loaded magazines and spare ammunition in GI ammunition boxes with desiccant packs. The GI boxes are sealed with a rubber gasket to help keep moisture out and they are easy to pick up and carry as well.

The police confiscation of handguns from law-abiding citizens that we saw in New Orleans clearly demonstrates another reason to have multiple firearms. While we now have a federal law making gun confiscation illegal in times of crisis, are you willing to bet your life on it? Store guns and ammunition in different locations so if some are illegally confiscated you will have others available.

Value of Long Guns

While handguns make for a more practical choice in most situations, long guns do have a place in personal defense. To defend against certain home invasion scenarios, I’d grab my handgun and gather my family in a previously agreed upon safe room. Once secured, I would use a long gun to defend us against anyone attempting to breach the safe room. This necessitates having a room in your house designated as a safe room and having it stocked with long guns and spare ammunition. It’s good to keep a cell phone there as well to contact the police.

In the case of severe civil unrest, if a need to face a mob arises, a rifle or shotgun would of course be preferred. A long gun is preferable in the case of a need for intimidation and deterrence, such as sentry duty. Lastly, there are few substitutes for a long gun if you find yourself having to hunt for food.

In time of riots, disasters, and terrorism, you will have no idea what you’ll need and when. The idea of getting out of town will be moot as roads will be jammed with evacuees. You will have to rely on what you have stored, your training and your ingenuity in order to survive. Your handgun may just become your best friend.

David Kenik


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  1. new shooters ask me quite a bit about which guns to buy. in the last few years none of these people were interested in hunting. it’s all been about the uncertain times we live in. for new shooters i tell them the holy trinity. rimfire rifle, shotgun and handgun. unless you’re experienced military or willing to invest heavily in training weapons like the m4 are probably not the best bet. i say this for my area of living. the bay area in ca. if i lived in rural surroundings the centerfire rifle would be on the list. i have hunted and have military experience but do not claim to be an expert. just my opionions. handguns are very important for the readiness and concealment factors.

    • I live in a community of about 5,000 people and about 400 of them are Mormons. The original preppers. Not only preppers but red neck Texas preppers. They easily have over 100,000 5.56 rounds because most are all retired and active military and police. They also carry .40 S&W or Glock side arms. I carry a 308 sniper and a 308 gas gun, LaRue OBR 7.62 and a S&W .40. 🙂 In Texas we also run suppressed it’s only $200 for the registration and you can get a suppressor for about the same. Unfortunately the suppressor for my LaRue cost $700. My gun has a selector switch for suppressed fire.

  2. I can’t remember who exactly said it (maybe Jeff Cooper), but I like it.
    “A pistol is for protecting one’s person from unexpected attacks, but a rifle is for the extension of one’s will.”
    That’s the general gist of it, I can’t remember the whole thing.

  3. Sad to say, but as long as you’re not near the ghetto or major cities you should be safe from civil unrest.

    • Not so. If the power is out in a large area for more than 3 days those in the ghetto’s and major cities are going to spread out like ants looking for food. Only if you’re more than 100 miles from any urban area might you be safe.

    • I have to disagree. We just had a major power outage after a storm on the East coast and my friend (who lives at the end of a rural lane) was amazed at how many “goblins” were out driving around late at night, possibly due to the only working A/C being in their cars and being bored from no TV.

      He said at least two of them went as far as testing the locked gate at the entrance to his farm before he hit them with a spotlight and told them to move along.

    • Moving out to the country was the best thing my wife and I ever did. Our gun collection increased rapidly and we learned a huge lesson after the first big snow storm/power outage about being prepared.

      All my city friends joke that they would come to our place. I’m quick to tell them they’d never make it past the neighbors.

  4. A handgun can also be more easily concealed than a long gun not just from private citizens but from uniformed thugs who seek to confiscate guns even if they have no legal or moral right to do so. If fleeing among masses of refugees a handgun can be concealed in a holster or a bug out bag.

    I’m not a frequent shooter and have not gone through a professional shooting/handgun shooting self-defense course. I’ve chosen the Ruger SP101 357 4″ barrel as my home defense/trail gun/bug out gun. I can of course use a variety of 357 or 38 for various shooting needs.

    I am considering matching that up with a Ruger 5.5″ or 7.5″ barrel semi-auto .22 pistol as a post-disaster bug-out backup/light hunting gun. After reading the post here some weeks back about the stopping power of the humble .22 I’ve gained renewed respect for it.

    • aharon. i chose the ruger single six. one cylinder handles short, long and long rifle. the other shoots 22 magnum. i have great respect for the 22. i started life on a farm and saw some large animals took down with. also, some of the less law abiding members of the family took deer with the 22 rifle and a bright light.

    • .22 magnum is a surprisingly powerful round, and regular .22s come in more combinations than any other round.

  5. I find myself asking how would you response when police are going door to door confiscating firearms like after Katrina? NRA video showed law abiding, cooperating citizens brutalized or at least violated and left defenseless.

    • In a SHTF situation like that where it’s more practical to survive than to make a point, perhaps having an old, non-working clunker gun to give over would be useful. Keep your real guns hidden, give them some old POS, and get them to move on.

      • Better be good at hiding them because they are coming in. If they find one stashed gun they are going to tear your house and yard apart.
        Disarming people was a top priority for them in Katrina, very disturbing to see.

      • A clunker and a good story is the way to go. If they tore my house apart and stole my guns (they should not be there anyway) and if they did not find my M1a, I would shoot as many as I could in the back when they were leaving (or at least I would want to). Are we in America or what?

    • “I’m sorry officer. I sold those guns some time ago to a person whose name I don’t recall, and I believe they moved out of state.”

  6. see how well your opinion holds up in court. always remember that these events, like katrina, end with the rule of law being re-established. then you have to justify your actions in a court of law. less sabre rattling and more thinking.

    • Seeing how theft of a firearm is a felony and it’s illegal for the state government to seize guns here during an emergency it’d really show everyone what a joke the entire system is if they prosecuted a citizen for defending themselves against outlaw bands of armed state employees.

      • Go ahead and try to get away with it. Prison food sucks.
        Any plan you have needs to include moving from the problem, you can’t hold out for too long. And if you engage LE acting ” in the wrong ” you are going to lose one way or the other.

        Forget about being vindicated because some talking head says the LE were out of line. You are going down regardless.

        Understand this: we have heavily armed authorities who will do what their bosses tell them. And they don’t care.

        • Thats why you have to be prepared to die (and not go to prison). An example must be made (unfortunatly you are collateral damage for a future common good) as agencies will review the slaughter (as I would have shot several in the back) and make sure it dont happen again (hopefully) by making better laws. If they can come in the door like that and do such things, than you are no longer an American.

  7. For the Katrina failure mentioned at all levels of government it depends. Louisiana really messed up especially at the state level. I was involved for Mississippi and can say that went much smoother. As for the Feds, there were preparations and most went well for states other than Louisiana. Again the state government was difficult. Throw on top of that the media and it’s reactions, well they have to bear a good bit of responsibility to how people view Katrina. I suspect if this occurred during Obama’s watch the media would be completely different.

  8. it might show what a joke the system is. and it could show you how little 1 man can do against a team. i never met rambo in my time in the military. glad to make your aquantence now. and if you do manage to survive, what then. years of court battles and maybe prison. like i said, more thinking is needed.

    • I will not turn my firearms over to the authorities if I have committed no crime and they are the ones breaking the law by demanding I turn them over in the first place.

      If they’re wiling to kill me for lawful noncompliance and subsequent resistance if they force the issue then they’re no better than any South American death squad or organized criminal enterprise.

      • You are absolutely right. But you’ll be no less dead.

        If ever faced with dealing with the authorities in a full-on SHTF event like the Katrina aftermath, I will be:

        A) AVOIDING

        If option A proves impossible I will go with option B, which will be an attempt to reason with/placate them somehow in order to get them to move along.

        At no point will I be having a “My taxes pay your salary” type argument on my front porch with armed men already likely hot, tired, hungry, and antsy about the less savory elements of society taking the opportunity the event may have offered. This is on top of the fact that if these same LEOs wanted my guns on a good day I’d all too likely get flash-banged if not shot.

        This issue is one of many reasons that I agree with the author on the handgun being primary in civilian SHTF preparedness.

        They won’t try to confiscate what they don’t see.

  9. I lived through the LA riots. I think I’m ready for chaos, but you never quite know what to expect. Flexibility and multiple options make sense to me.

  10. skyler, i slip the rimfire in there for a number of reasons. when i introduce newbies to guns i don’t want them to just buy one self defense weapon and leave it at that. the rimfire is cheap enough to buy and shoot and less punishing for people. people who don’t think of themselves as gun people can be drawn into the sport this way. and at urban distances the 22 rifle can be quite effective in an emerncy.

  11. don’t misunderstand what i’m saying about the cops taking your guns away. at no point do i think the cops or anyone has the right to take legal guns away from law abiding citizens. but i live in a house full of women, some as young as 4. to start a firefight with leo or gauard units to simply prove my point is putting people i love more than myself in the line of fire. i will take that chance against a home invading bg because allowing him control of my loved ones is not an option.

  12. December 21st of this year should be interesting. A herd goyim might panic and stampede. Or they might just buy tons of ammo and food driving the prices up all autumn. Neither is desirable. Luckily I’ll be vacationing in the countryside then.

  13. Is it really an either/or situation? Depending on the scenario a long gun (shotgun for me) slung to the rear and a handgun either holstered or in hand. It does take some training to transition quickly or draw quickly.

    • no it’s not an either/or thing. this is america. buy what you want and can afford.i just recommend that basic lineup for people who are just getting started. i always hope they’ll get into and expand from there.

  14. You know, If SHTF, it would be different for every scenario. For natural disasters or diseases, it’d be holding down your fort until national aide came (hopefully). If it was the famous ‘zombie’ spread, i’d find a few allies with a shit ton of ammo to help with, grab anything explosive, and get to a high point or country area to hold the fort. If it was an invasion/war, I’d definitely be f**ked any way you put it, but hopefully I could defend our country as much as humanly possible and hold back anyone for as long as humanly possible. Other SHTF scenarios most likely fit into one of the above answers.

    Back to the invasion/war topic though. I think most people have an idea on what they would do if there was an invasion of another country on American soil, but I know the truth is that whatever country invaded would be ruthless, and I’d surely die either way. I’d rather die defending my freedom than die a coward.

  15. nope, liberals. Nothing to see here. Just filthy animals doing what they do every day, as a precursor to what has happened several times in the last century. Ban guns, ban all freedoms. Then the killing can begin. This is how the left has rolled for many decades.

  16. Few things cross draw vest with clips ready to go
    AR with a single point sling with a pressure switch on the fore grip with 240 lumen strobe

    With those few things you have emlinated the need for either or
    Also just from personal experience you need to become a volunteer at a local fd or pd get to know the people that will come for your guns I bet if they know you they just might over look you
    Food for thought


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