09 April 2011

Practical Survival Firearms Pt 3 of 3


For personal protection, the shotgun has no peer. It is a graphically devastating weapon. For most of the purposes considered in this article, a pump-action 12 gauge is hard to beat. Although the 20 gauge is a very comfortable and effective gun to shoot, it’s best reserved for hunting. This is because you’ll have a hard time finding either buckshot or slugs for the 20. Wal-Mart, for example, rarely even carries the heavier 20 gauge stuff, simply because there’s not enough demand for it. And it’s hard to get them to special order things sometimes. A lot of men buy a 20 gauge for their kids or wives, but they mostly use them to hunt birds or rabbits, so most stores don’t see a need to carry anything but the smaller shot. There just aren’t very many people who hunt deer with a 20 gauge, or use it for defense.
Not that there’s anything wrong with the 20 gauge; we have two of them. But for a survival situation, the 12 gauge is a much better choice, simply because of ammo availability. Police, military, other survivalists, militia members, ranchers, etc., all use the 12. If you do insist on using the 20 gauge, and plan on storing a bunch of shells to make up for non-availability, what happens if you have to “bug-out”? You can only carry so much, and leaving the gun behind shouldn't be an option, as I think a shotgun is mandatory. When you use up what you can carry, you’ll just be out. You can’t carry all that reloading stuff with you, either. I personally am not really stocking up on any reloading supplies. Of course, I have a bunch anyway, just because it’s a serious hobby of mine, but I figure when things go bad, I would rather have all those components already assembled into something that I can use.
Something else to consider is power. While the velocities of the 20 gauge are comparable to the 12 gauge, the weight of any given shot charge or slug is much more with the 12. Granted, this generates a little more recoil, but my 5’5”, 140-lb. wife can handle a 12 just fine. (She also prefers a .44 mag to hunt with. It’s all in the training.) The 20 gauge usually shoots a slug that either weighs 273 grains or 328 grains. And I have one “recipe” for a 341-gr. slug. Compare that to a 12 gauge that shoots slugs weighing anywhere from 437 grs. to 575 grs. That’s a hell of an increase in delivered energy, which translates to penetration and longer range. Twelve gauge slugs are also good medicine for “hard” targets; i.e., cars, block or brick walls, and so on. Not as good as a .308 or 30.06 in some cases, but still very good.
As far as buckshot goes, #3 buck is the by far the most common for the 20 gauge. If you get much bigger than that, the 20’s little shell just doesn’t hold enough pellets to do any good. If the 12 gauge only holds between nine and 12 double-ought buckshot pellets (depending on manufacturer and type of wad used), you can safely assume that the 20 would hold only five to six of the same pellets. While you can put eight pellets of #1 buck in a 20 gauge shell, most 12 gauge loads will hold 16. In any case, you’re not looking at a very dense pattern from the 20 for defensive purposes.
A couple of the best choices for defensive shotguns are the Mossberg 590 or 500, and the Remington 870. While some will tell you that the 590 is far and away better than the 870, it really comes down to what you like. I’ll admit that the 590 has a slight edge over the 870, simply because it was designed solely as a combat shotgun. It really has no sporting purpose. There are plenty of after-market accessories available for both the Mossberg and the Remington. Also, Winchester makes a couple of suitable defensive-type shotguns, but I have no personal experience with them.


A question I get asked frequently is, “How do you suggest I store firearms and ammunition in such a way that I would not lose them in the event my house burned down or was broken into or Uncle Sugar wanted to come get them for one reason or another?”
One way is to buy one of the waterproof containers available almost everywhere (and cost too much), slide your gun into a rust-proof storage bag, put it in the container, then bury it somewhere. The method I recommend, however, works just as well and will protect your guns indefinitely.
Buy as much 8-inch PVC pipe as you need from a water/sewer materials distributor. Eight inches in diameter is larger than you will find at any hardware store. Get the kind of pipe designed for handling sewer water rather than fresh water (ask for SDR35). The water pipe works fine, but is unnecessarily heavy and expensive. There are three kinds of caps you can get to seal the ends. One kind is glued on and is permanent, but if you’ve never installed pipe before, it’s easy to miss a spot with your glue and thus allow for leakage. Another kind of cap is rubber gasketed. To use these, bevel the pipe back about 3/4 of an inch with a rasp or grinder, smear an even coat of lubricant on the pipe end (any kind of liquid soap will work), then slip the cap on. If done correctly, the seal will be absolutely 100% air and water tight. The third kind of cap uses a glue-on adaptor with a screw-type plug. You just glue the adaptor to the pipe end and the plug screws in to it. But these are unnecessarily expensive and just about impossible to remove without a BIG wrench. In my opinion, the gasketed caps are the best choice because to remove them, you can hold the pipe between your legs and kick them off or use a rock. No tools are required. To put them back on the pipe, just use a little liquid soap as you did the first time. You should have room for two long guns, a couple of handguns, and a little ammo for each in a 4-foot section of 8-inch pipe. Since scoped rifles, rifles with fixed mags, and even some open-sighted rifles with a lot of drop in the stock may not fit into a 6-inch pipe, spend just a little more and buy the bigger 8-inch stuff.
Now that you have your pipe prepared, clean your guns as you normally would, leaving a very light film of oil on them. Forget cosmoline or heavy grease; Break-Free is my preference. Slip each gun into a breathable case, then put it into your pipe. To make an effective dessicant, put some crushed sheetrock or kitty litter on a cookie sheet and bake it at 300 degrees for about 30 minutes. Fill a sock half full with your homemade dessicant, tie it off, and put it in the pipe. (If you don’t like the homemade method, you can always go spend a bunch of money on special dessicants that some people say you just can’t live without.) Before sealing, keep the pipe in the house for a day or two to make absolutely sure that the interior is as dry as it can be. This is especially important if you live in a humid climate.
Bury the sealed pipe somewhere away from your house, preferably half a mile or more depending on the population close at hand. If possible, bury it vertically in order to present a smaller target for metal detectors and ground penetrating radar. If you must bury it close to your home, try to place it parallel to metal pipelines, under the edge of a metal-reinforced concrete slab, under a fence post, etc.


In closing, I would like to offer my suggestions for a practical arsenal. For the individual that is solely concerned with wilderness survival and personal defense, I would suggest, at the very least, a .22 handgun and rifle, a centerfire handgun, and a shotgun. The .22s provide you with the means to practice a lot for the price of peanuts. As I noted at the beginning of this article, a .22 will do 90% percent of whatever needs done. The centerfire handgun or the shotgun will provide you with all the defensive capabilities that you’ll need for any dangerous game or bad guys you’re likely to run across in the woods.
For folks who are concerned with the state of the nation and the rough waters that lie ahead, I would suggest all the above, along with a centerfire rifle in one of the configurations we discussed earlier. Remember, you can’t have too much ammo. I would recommend you have a minimum of 1,000 rounds for each centerfire rifle, and 500 to 1,000 rounds for the shotgun, with about half of that being birdshot (such as #6 or #4) and the rest in heavy buckshot and slugs. The birdshot is just as deadly at close range as the bigger stuff and is also suitable for small game hunting. I’d also suggest 500 rounds for each centerfire handgun, and as many .22 shells as you have room to store. I truly believe that .22 ammunition may be the standard by which barter with, at least for a time. I think the time will come when a box of .22 shells will buy you a chicken or two or a set of flashlight batteries.
See that every person in your home who is old enough to shoot is properly trained in the use of all these guns, and that eye and ear protection is available.
There are many other things concerning the troubled times that await us that I’d like to share with you, but that’s another story.

Copyright 1999 by Cope Reynolds

This article may be freely copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes, as long as it remains unedited as to content (which includes the title, the author’s name, and copyright information), and this notice is attached.

Cope Reynolds (Desertscout)
Southwest Shooting Authority
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