Friday, April 29, 2011

Long Arms for Survivalists

Handguns are awesome. You can take them places you can’t take a rifle or shotgun. A handgun is that thing you always have, always loaded, ready because you never know when you might need it.
However, a rifle, shotgun or carbine will stop people faster than a handgun will. It packs more punch and is more accurate. There are many good conventional hunting rifles that are great for self-defense. Any pump (or even semi-auto) shotgun is a conventional hunting tool that doubles as
Now that I own a pistol, I’ve been looking at a rifle or carbine to augment what I have. Most ‘hunting’ rifles are bolt-action, which is a hinderance to self-defense. I figure only semi-auto would do. I’m not a fan of .223 black tactical semi-auto rifles. I actually rather like the AK-47, which is carried by countless people in third-world countries who can’t devote much time or money to making their gun work. It just has to work. But as I see it, the problem with choosing an AK as a defense rifle is perception. Perception matters. Being perceived as a nut survivalist with an AK (or thousand-dollar tacticool rifle) is not a good thing. Shooting someone with an AK (or black rifle) and then seeing that weapon held up against you in a court of law is not a good thing. Perceptions do matter.
What’s your take on decent rifles/carbines for self-defense? Would a reliable AK be worth the attached stigma, or are there other ways to go?
Thank ya kindly, and take care,
Tin Man

Hi Tin man, thanks for your email. The first weapon you should own and the one you should be most proficient with from a realistic defensive point of view is your handgun, for the reasons you mentioned. As underpowered and inaccurate as a handgun may be compared to long arms, it can be carried with you at all times, and that outweights all its disadvantages. The 9mm in your hands is worth more than a Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) at home.
In an ideal world we would all have unlimited time and funds, but that’s rarely the case. At least I put most of my effort into being proficient with the handgun, and the CQC that revolves around it. That doesn’t mean you don’t bother knowing how to run a long arm, but since time and funds are limited I don’t train as much as I do with the pistol.

Having said that, you should own a long arm and know how to use it well. Shooting cans in the back yard, or getting “lessons” by Uncle Joe, who’s neighbor was in the Army and gave him a couple pointers doesn’t cut it. Every round you fire without having received prior professional defensive training is wasted money. Think about that when pondering on the cost of the class you’re considering taking.

Few hunting rifles will fill the role intended here. Scoped bolt action rifles are ok for long range shooting, but what you want is fast follow up shots in case you miss or, like it will most likely be the case, you’re attacked by more than one bad guys.
Shotguns have lots of stopping power at short range, but while many firearm experts recommend pump shotguns because of its mechanic ruggedness, its not exactly a simple weapon to operate and requires some skill. Semi auto shotguns fire in semi auto, but then again reloading can be more trouble (expect Saiga style) and shotshells being more flexible, they aren’t as reliable as pump shotguns.
If you go for a long arm, I think the best call is a rifle caliber carbine instead.

Carbines and Rifles for Defensive Purposes

FAL Para Congo

I like the FAL because it fires the very respectable 7.62 NATO round, the design is proven and ergonomically sound. Unlike some modern rifles, the FAL was made to last longer than the person using it. As a very respectable and affordable alternative, the AK47 or AK74 is very hard to beat. You’re talking about AKs selling these days for Usd 500 or Usd 400. Maybe not pretty or incredibly accurate, but the AK works, shoots accurate enough and its simply the most rugged semi auto rifle in the planet. After getting a nice Glock pistol I’d skip the shotgun and get an AK47, a handful of mags and a few boxes of soft point ammo.
Image from

These days given ammo prices, pistol caliber semi auto carbines are an interesting alternative. Variants like the MP5 in semi automatic may not have the firepower of a rifle, but it sure can afford cheap training as well as ammo logistic advantages. Still, with today’s AK and 5.45 ammo prices it makes sense to go for that.
The rifle will of course stay at home so that considerably reduces the chances of you having it at hand when needed. An option is having a pack in your car’s trunk, along with a rifle and a satchel with mags. An armored vest with load bearing attachments is also a good idea. It depends on your overall plan and what you can afford.

As for the stigma you mention, I don’t believe in that. A gun is a gun and the authorities wont go any lighter in you because your rounds are fired from a deer gun or a sniper rifle. Instead of worrying about such things its better to a) have the right tool for the job, in this case defense b) Only use it when the situation demands it. Shoot someone uncalled for an even if it’s a single shot 22LR Chipmunk you’ll go to prison none the less. Massad Ayoob can tell of hundreds of shooting incidents where the issue ended up in court. The gun does not matter. What you do with it does. Train so as to not make mistakes and only shoot when lethal force is called for.

Generally speaking and for realistic events in which it may be used, 9 out of 10 times you’ll use a handgun instead of the rifle even if you own it and know how to run it. None the less there’s still that 10% that makes it worth getting and having some basic notions on how to use it properly.

Join the forum discussion on this post


Anonymous said...

Regarding the reliability of the FAL, one of the employees of DS Arms (one of the major purveyors of FAL type rifles in the US) in a recent thread on the FAL Files said he visited the IMBEL factory in Brazil (the primary Brazilian military arsenal). During his visit, he saw them rebuilding FALs which had been in service since the 1970's. He asked them how frequently they had to be rebuilt. Their answer: every 30,000-40,000 rounds. He asked them how long it took before a rifle had to be retired because it was worn out. Their answer: they never wear out.

I don't know that I completely believe the last statement, for at some point I would think the receiver would fail. Nevertheless, the point is valid that a FAL in civilian hands will likely last more than the owner's lifetime.

See for the original thread (first post in the thread).


David said...

Don't waste money on a rifle that isn't accurate. A rack-grade AK will often disappoint in the accuracy dept.

Developing skill with a rifle requires a gun that is more accurate than you are. There's a good reason AR-platform rifles are popular (they often are very accurate and scope well).

Rifles beat pistols for power, penetration, ease of accurate shooting, and range. Of these, an inaccurate rifle only has power and penetration going for it; you primarily lose the range.

A 6.8x43 AR offers a lot of useful attributes unless one plans on fighting in a Mad Max scenario.

Don Williams said...

Shotguns (both pump and semi-auto) may jam if you get mud or dirt in the receiver.

Diving to the ground may gain suddenly in appeal if 7.62 rounds start perforating trees, car doors, walls,etc.

OF course, you are probably screwed anyway in that kind of situation if all you have is a shotgun.

Anonymous said...


Accuracy in semi-auto military rifles for civilian purposes is an over-rated attribute. Remember that as civilians we are not planning on shooting people at 500 yds. Most self-defense type situations will happen shorter than ~200 yds at the most, and I would think 50-100 yds is much more likely. At those ranges an AK or FAL is more than accurate enough to get the job done and are much more rugged than AR type rifles. If you're talking about hunting, then accuracy does matter, but in that case you will probably be better off with a dedicated bolt rifle in that role.

As to caliber, while there may be a .396 shazaam wonder cartridge for a particular application, if you can't find it in the stores, it doesn't do you much good. I would much rather stick with a common caliber (e.g., .30-30, .30-06, .308/7.62x51, 7.62x39, 5.56, and 5.45 being some of the most prevalent rifle calibers) because they are easier and cheaper to acquire, especially in bulk quantities (military calibers are particularly available in bulk due to the surplus market). If you can buy cheaply and in bulk, you are more likely to practice and become proficient with your chosen rifle. You can also be sure that if we see ammo shortages in the future, the ammo manufacturers will make primarily the common calibers, while it may be nearly impossible to acquire your favorite .396 shazaam cartridge.


Anonymous said...

I like both the AR15 and the FAL, but am on a budget. Are there lower priced alternatives?

Anonymous said...

I'll throw in my 2 cents. A rifle for home defense is VERY risky. The rounds from an AK-47 will not only go through your walls, but also through the exterior of your home and into your neighbor's home. I have seen videos of them ripping thorough wood and cinder blocks like butter. An AR-15 is not as powerful, but there is still a concern.

My personal opinion is, get a pump action shotgun and load it with Buckshot. You want to stop the attacker with 1 shot, and stop him (or her- let's be PC here) as fast as possible. Because, while you are shooting them, they are likely shooting at you.

If you have to "bug out" then take your rifle. However for defending the interior of your home, use a shotgun.

FerFAL said...

Maldek, I had to erase your comment. Such conversion will get you a room in a federal prison and besides, illegaly converting a 5.56 to full auto in no way compensates for the poor 5.56 ballistics, at least not when talking carbines.
Guys, please dont comment about illegal activities. When in doubt, just dont do post it. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

As to cheaper alternatives than an AR or a FAL, you are basically limited to a stock AK-47 from a lower end manufacturer like Century Arms. These can be found fairly readily for ~$400-500. They won't be pretty, and you will need to check the gun for canted sights, bent gas tubes, etc., but if you get a good one, it will work. If you go for one of the higher end AK's, you will end up spending as much as you would on a basic AR or FAL.

When I was figuring out which long arm to get initially (I now have several as part of my resource diversification), I concluded that I did not want a bottom of the barrel Century AK (just a personal preference). For a little more money, I found a good deal on an older Century Arms (I think) built FAL on an Imbel (Brazilian) receiver (these are some of the best out there) with Austrian parts and 10 mags.

The older Century FAL's are often built on imported Brazilian or Argentine receivers and are excellent values provided they have been assembled properly (get a gunsmith to check it out before shooting it). If you know where to look (e.g., Gunbroker or the FAL Files marketplace) and are patient, you can find them for under $800. For a budget FAL at $1000 or so, the DSA Imbel FAL is a good deal, too. Stay away from guns built on Century manufactured receivers which are of substandard quality and often require considerable time and money to get working properly. Other bad choices include guns built on Hesse receivers (generally terrible quality) and some Entreprise receivers (not all are bad, but the company has a very spotty reputation).

I hope that helps.


Nolan said...

In my part of the country, the only time you would even have the chance to shoot over 150 yards is from a tall building or across a fresh clear-cut.

Maybe I'm just dense, but I can't see a situation short of a total government breakdown where I would use any rifle to defend myself from an attack. If a threat is far enough away that a rifle is needed to hit it, would it not be advisable to just avoid the situation? I'm not trying to be argumentative. I sincerely don't understand.

David said...

Jonathan, would you hunt deer with 147gr FMJ ammo? Then why is the availability of mil-spec FMJ ammo for 7.62 NATO, 5.56 NATO, or the Russian cal's all that important?

I don't grasp why $1/shot expanding bullet ammo is required for a 150 lb animal that can't shoot back, but non-expanding, non-fragmenting FMJ's are great for defense because they're cheap.

Accurate rifles matter because nobody practices long with a gun they can't hit a target with. Practice matters, and only a gun that challenges the rifleman will get practiced with.

I see lots of folks comment on forums like this who strike me as having little if any range time with what they "recommend."

I like the 6.8 I mentioned because I have lots of time behind 5.56 & 7.62x51. 'Nuf said.

Don Williams said...

Re Nolan's question: "If a threat is far enough away that a rifle is needed to hit it, would it not be advisable to just avoid the situation? I'm not trying to be argumentative. I sincerely don't understand."
1) One of the things that cause bitter disagreements about firearms is that the people arguing have different circumstances in mind when they are arguing for a particular gun.

2) In normal times, a shotgun and/or pistol makes sense. If someone invades your home it makes sense to get behind a barricade in your bedroom with a shotgun and call the police. If someone comes after you then they definitely have ill intent and you want the stopping power of a shotgun across a room in low light at a moving target.

It's not a good idea to wonder around a dark house with a pistol because of the risk of ambush, but if you call the police everytime you hear a noise, they are going to put you on their kook list. A pistol is harder to take away from you than a shotgun in a hallway with doors.

3) When people talk about assault rifles, they often have paramilitary combat in mind because things have collapsed into African style chaos. If you are behind the walls of a fortified compound, a 7.62 FN FAL --and even an AK-47 -- is good for stopping a human wave attack coming across 200 yards of open ground. (Well, except after dark, hee hee.)

4) If you are more sensible, then you and your neighorhood watch should keep the kids behind the walls of the fortified compound while you go out on patrols to find and ambush any hostiles. For that condition, you need the general purpose nature and accuracy of an assault rifle because ranges to attackers may vary and the attackers will often be hiding behind cover (walls, base of trees,etc) with only a small part of their body exposed.
Most shots will be at 100 yards or less and rarely over 200 yards.
You need 30 round magazines and rapid fire either because you are ambushing an enemy or trying to escape an ambush the enemy has sprung on you.

5) If you are on your own in a rural retreat, then the only chance you have against a bandit gang is to be a sniper hitting them at long range and at random times. For that , you need the extreme accuracy of a bolt action rifle because you need "One shot One kill". I.e, you shoot once and then move on to a new position.
If you shoot several times, the gang can pinpoint your location and surround you with flanking movements.

6) Or at least that is the way it works out in the computer games.

7) If you are not convinced, check out the movie "Heat" and see the bank robbery escape scene toward the end.

Don Williams said...

PS The effective range of a handgun and shotgun is about 40 yards or less. That is really not far if you are outdoors and someone with an assault rifle is coming after you -- they can stay back at 100 yards and hit you. Your handgun or shotgun rounds won't penetrate most cover -their rounds will.

Anonymous said...

Nolan, I'll try to help you. Yes, you won't need a rife that close, but you will need a Shotgun. It's not for distance, but for stopping power.

This link should explain everything:

hsu said...

About the suggestion of leaving a pack with a rifle in the trunk of your car, my suggestion is DON'T.

Don't leave anything important in your car.

Chances are, you already know several people who have had their car broken into or stolen. Chances are, you or a family member will get their car broken into or stolen within your lifetime.

Do you really want to explain to the cops that someone broke into your car and stole your rifle? Worse, do you want to explain to them that you leave your rifle in your car on a consistent basis?

Anonymous said...


I don't hunt currently (although it is something I have considered getting into in the future), but if 7.62x51 FMJ is enough to kill a 200 lb man, it's good enough to kill a 150 lb deer. It may not be optimal, but it will get the job done. I also never said that you should only buy FMJ. For practice, milsurp FMJ is widely available, but for serious encounters/hunting, it would probably be wise to also have smaller quantities of soft or hollow point ammo.

I also don't doubt that what you say about 6.8 SPC being an ideal cartridge is true (I don't have experience with it, so I can't comment), but it is a relatively new cartridge which is not readily available in any great quantity. In the civilian world where most of us are on a tight budget, I think the ready availability and lower cost of the military cartridge types is a powerful argument in their favor which far outweighs the other benefits of other, more specialized cartridges.

As to accuracy, unless you're shooting a Mini-14 or some other notoriously inaccurate rifle, most military rifles will shoot better than the nut behind the trigger. The AK and FAL, while not as accurate as the AR, are more than accurate enough to do the job in a 'social' situation. What you say about practicing with a rifle that challenges you, does have merit, however. I would suggest for training and practice a good .22lr. This will allow you to concentrate on the mechanics/fundamentals of shooting (trigger control, sighting, etc.) without the recoil or cost of the more powerful rounds. Learning good technique should enable you to make the most of whatever rifle you choose for serious encounters.

To the anonymous poster asking about budget alternatives to the AR/FAL,

I also remembered that there is another alternative to the AR/AK/FAL for those of you on a really tight budget -- the SKS. It fires the same 7.62x39 cartridge as the AK-47, and was the carbine used by the Soviets while transitioning from the earlier weapons of WWII to the AK-47. They can be found for $200-$300. It has its limitations (no detachable box magazine since it uses stripper clips instead and no good way to mount a scope), but for the price it's hard to beat.


Matt said...

For less expensive options to an AR or FAL platform there are only few, and less expensive is open widely to interpetation.

In semi-auto it is mostly the SKS in 7.62x39 or the Ruger Ranch Rifle in .223, 7.62x39 and 6.8SPC. The SKS would do well to be restocked and have removable magazines added.

Remington still makes semi-auto and pump action hunting rifles for reasonable (less than a grand) prices. Often they can be found used. The pumps have recently been made in .308win and .223rem as "police" rifles. Come with good iron sights and detachable magazines. Not as tough or reliable as an FAL, but be easier to find or more affordable used.

Lever Action rifles in 30-30win might be okay if you learn the manual of arms to keep topping the magazine. Not as good as a semi-auto, but sometimes you have to go with what you can get.

DaLucche said...

My Zastava PAP 7.62x39 (double stack conversion) and Federal Arms FA91 (CETME) .308/7.62 Nato is a great combo :)

I was looking at Saigas for home defense, but due to the BATFE possibly banning them from being imported, the prices have risen to two times what they are worth. A $350 gun being bought up for $800 bucks. Unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

Ferfal, perhaps being in the US just has me programed this way, but I really prefer the AR platform. I have a Ruger SR-556 in 5.56 and I recently bought an Armalite AR-10 in 7.62. Both these rifles beat the living hell out of my AK when it comes to accuracy, and the AR-10 hits harder, and they are so much easier when it comes time to add neccessary accessories such as good sights. They do cost more, but $1200 is within the reach of 75% of Americans if they will throw the alcohol and cigarettes away. Or quit eating out 6 days a week. In any event, I don't fill like just getting by when my life is on the line. And I'm not talking about the FAL, as it is a quality rifle. Just my 2 cents.

templar knight

David said...

Jonathan, I sincerely hope you would never hunt deer with 30 cal FMJ. No, it is not adequate just because the .mil has used FMJ in battle. Today's .mil uses OTM bullets for serious work, which is as close to a true hunting round as the lawyers allow.

To each his own; I just suggest that training with a .22LR is for beginners and does not translate to a centerfire beyond the novice level (triggers are very different and recoil even in the 5.56 is very different, as you know).

Today's gun enthusiasts shoot far more than most soldiers. Training with small arms is reportedly rare for most .mil but we civilians are free to practice at will.

I concur that an SKS is rated well by those who have trigger time with them (I don't). It's a low cost alternative for very the budget-minded. I went "cheap" for years, but eventually went full circle to the AR, but not in the inadequate 5.56 which requires 75-77gr expanding bullets for relative utility. If my life depends on it, I prefer to chose something my research and experience tells me is the best I can acquire. Your mileage may vary.

Shy Wolf said...

Some monster problems with giving people advice on 'which weapon should I buy?' surface immediately when we don't know the person asking.
How much money do they have to spend? What kind of strength do they posess? What is their 'ultimate' goal/reason for owning a particular weapon? etc...
When it comes to money, many people have more than adequate amounts to spend on Top of the Line Colt ARs (or whichever), and tend to think everyone has the same kind of bucks to spend. Too many of us have AR taste on a used 30-30 budget. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with the 30-30 as a defensive weapon. Easy to use, non-threatening looking if one is concerned with that, and accurate as 99% of the rifles on the market. Loads can be the new soft-tip round or old fashioned 150gr RN. (Gabe Suarez has DVD on using the 30-30 in combat, if you're interested in that route-rifle.)
Did I mention the 30-30 is light? Half the weight of an AR or AK, a bit more recoil but not so much as to be painful.
Or the pump rifles- better those in a civilian style than the civilian semi-autos, IMO. (The Rem. semi-.308 was mentioned: it's a pig of a rifle, innacurate, and frail.)
SKS, if one needs a semi auto at a very reasonable price for a hardy, more accurate than AK (though who's shooting is a factor) and uses a fairly powered military round.
As the article mentioned, the people were living in the country- a rural area, not with neighbors ten feet away. (Though if the neighbors were five feet away and I needed to shoot an intruder, I'd worry about the neighbors after I finish the perp.) Many recommend the shotgun as an interior defensive weapon, mainly because of the buckshot factor. If I've got a hostage situation, there's no way I'd use a shotgun- unless the hostage's survival was no consequence or I was using a slug.
I doubt most who recommend shottys for inside a home have ever tried using a full size shotty in a hallway or getting out of a room, going thru doorways, with one. Rifles aren't any better, though short barreled are some better.
Regardless what you get, practice with it in your home, in your car, in your yard, at a range.
Use a pistol or revolver in your home, use a rifle outdoors. Leave the shotty for jungles, brush, and birds.