Firearms for Catastrophic Disasters





Introduction: Firearms for Catastrophic Disasters

About: David is a professional firearm instructor and Emergency manager, his website is devoted to teaching individuals how to be better prepared for life and life's disasters. He has done hundreds of projects fro...

The Shepherd School, and the website were originally designed strictly for firearm training, we did it that way on purpose, because at that time, I felt it was my calling to help train citizen to be able to protect themselves and their families from predators (mostly the two legged kind).  At that time I was still working in the prison and the reality that evil exists was constantly being shown to me.  Now that I work in emergency management, I have a softened approach, and see the other side of people working together to help each other also exists.  I also find that people have the capacity to deal with hardship in either generous and positive ways or negative violent ways depending on the situation and the resources they have available. 

Prepping, and living the prepper lifestyle is now starting to become more popular, just like the old “back to the land movements”, but survivalism and survivalists still carry negative connotations.  I don’t understand this as they are basically the same thing.  People that take extra time to build additional resources and skills as a safety blanket or insurance policy.  This idea was recently discussed on an email group I belong to.  Basically they said that a “prepper” WAS a “survivalist without the guns”.   I tend to agree with that, since to me I don’t care as much WHY I’m stuck in a disaster and to the fact THAT I’m stuck in a disaster.

One thing I am adamant about in the disaster prep world is that anyone that has all guns and no food is setting themselves up for murder…  I will say that again.  Anyone that believes that a large scale disaster is possible and takes time to prepare for it, and does so solely by buying firearms and ammunition is either consciously or unconsciously stating that if the manure ever flies they are going to use their guns to take food from people without guns.  Those people are the reason people like me spend money on weapon preps. 

Personally, I love guns, but at this stage I would rather buy a $500 country living grain mill, or a $600 honey extractor than another AR-15 upper.

But that’s because its our households theory to prepare in depth and balanced.  We don’t have top of the line anything until we have quality everything…  Meaning, you first have to have 72 hours of gear, food, light, heat, first aid, and defense – Get the bare basics.  Then get a month of gear – better quality.   I’m not going to spend 4 or 5 grand on a Generation 4 night vision scope to sit on a $3000 dollar M-14 rifle if the only food I have is two cases of Ramen noodles.  However, I am not going to try to protect a year supply of freeze dried food with a whistle and a rubber slingshot either.

That being said, weapons – especially firearms, do have a place in a prepper’s lifestyle.  But these firearms need to be chosen with the same care we spend on making sure we get the best quality storage food for our money.  We have to compare quality, price, our needs, our wants, and all the added costs to get a firearm that works in our program.

To me the most important aspect of a gun is reliability.  I know that if I have to use my firearm in a emergency it’s a BAD DAY, and since the statistical probability of a BAD DAY is low, I don’t want to tempt Murphy with a firearm that cannot shoot 3 rounds in a row on the range without a malfunction.  Get a gun that goes bang every time with NO exceptions.  Cool guns with neat little stories or exotic ammunition is cool to show your buddies, but a disaster gun needs to be practical and reliable.

The next is that it needs to shoot ammunition that is common.  That means something you can get at the local hardware store or wal-mart.  Adoption by our military or police is also a good sign that it is a common round.  That means 22lr, .38 spl, 9mm, .40, or .45 acp, 12 guage, .223, .308, 30-06 and the like.  We can debate all day long that 10mm or .38 super is the best round for handguns, or that nothing beats a .35 whelen for hunting big game , but if you cannot find any ammunition then your firearm is a un-ergonomic club.

It needs to be big enough to do the job, that means at least .38 in a handgun, and .223 in a rifle, and some would consider these to be marginal.  While it is true that nobody likes to bleed, and a .22 can kill, I don’t want to have to face off a desperate and starving biker gang with a .22 pistol.

It needs to be cheap enough that you can afford to fit it in your budget, along with ammunition, needed accessories, and training.  While I pine over a Barrett M98, it costs more than my last two cars, rounds cost about $2 a shot, and I don’t have a single place to fire it.  I don’t own any truck or any gun I am afraid to get muddy and scratched.  I don’t beat up my tools, but I bought them for work.  If your gun is too pretty, or too costly to use, then lock it up and buy something else that you will use.

Few items in a prepper’s kit is as personal as their choice in (or even to have) firearms.  Its worse than ham radio guys and their gear.  I am not going to tell you what to get, but if you buy something you can afford, that you will train with, and that you have put some thought into, I am sure you will be fine.

But, just in case you are wondering.  We went with common guns that most “gun-people” have, and instead of buying different brands, we have stuck with buying multiples of the same make/models for redundancy.  Of course, once you have one of each, guns go back on the bottom of the list until you are buying multiples of the wheat grinders and radios…

Our Picks:

  • .223 AR-15 with many magazines
  • 12 gauge Remington 870
  • 9mm Glock 19 with many magazines

Of course we do have some revolvers, 1911’s and a odd WWII bolt gun here and there…



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    It always strikes me when I see prepping videos from USA, and there are weapons and ammo and weapons and ammo...

    It's sad but seems like a symptom of weak trust people have on each other. Don't get me wrong: if you need them, you gotta have them... it's just a petty that it has to be that way.

    Wanna hear another version? I'm from Italy, and even if we lived the war in Jugoslavia at our gates and we have Mafia as you might have heard, no one in Italy or Europe thinks to weapons as the first thing.

    To me weapons are NEVER the SOLUTION to a problem. To me they are the START of a bigger problem you escalate to when you where not able to solve a lower level one.

    I think that getting to a way of thinking that will ensure you (sort of) never need to have to use weapons is more important than having guns at all.

    If "bad guys" (that makes me laugh, there always needs to a bad guy somewhere so that we can shoot him... right?) comes to you to loot your stuff and not to me, it means that probably you did some mistake I did not.

    My two cents

    19 replies

    I respect your opinion, but I disagree with the premise that weapons are never the solution to a problem. They might not be the best solution, or the only solution, but a wise man once told me "Son, if you have to resort to violence and it doesn't solve your problem you aren't using enough of it".

    That being said, the majority of the work I do in preparing for emergencies revolves around the non-violent. Guns are nothing more than specialized tools. My website, my writings, and my mindset are based around finding best use of tools to solve problems. My brain is the best weapon I have, but since I cannot throw it at “bad guys” I like having a Glock handy.

    Einstein once said "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it", and I believe that to be true, but when an Italian Mobster is fitting you with cement shoes, quoting Einstein won't stop the concrete from setting.

    I would love to live in a world where violence was not a solution; However, I have worked several years in various state penal institutions, mostly in maximum security. While there I have interacted with human beings that do not recognize anyone's rights but their own. The willingness and ability to use violence is the only way to ensure safety when dealing with people with that mindset.

    I have been to Italy while in the US Marine Corps, and recognize that it has some lovely features, but Italy’s history with anarchy and fascism, especially during WWII, does not cause me to see it as a model government.
    America is not as old as the European nations, and we do things differently. While the way we do things might not always be “better”, our basic premise concerning a citizen's role in government, or the concept of rights, or limited government are not the same.

    I hope to never have to use my gun, just as I pray never to have to use the items I have stored away for hard times, but the premise of this instructable was - if we had a catastrophic disaster, where looting and brigandry was rampant, what would be the best tools to have. Personally when dealing with a hungry mob that wants to take food out of the mouth of my wife and infant son, I would rather have an AR-15 than the high ground in a moral argument.

    By your words seems like "if violence does not work use MORE violence". I'd lie to point out another thing: you did not used terms like "reasonable force" once. You used only "violence". That makes me think... bad things.
    Guns are not "SPECIALIZED" tools, are tools made for one reason only: kill. So they are KILLING tools. Using a killing tool to solve a problem implies that killing might be a solution to a problem.
    Eistein was right: if a Mobster comes to me I KNOW I'd have not big problems in outsmating him. You did not understand Einstein: he ment you have to be more INTELLIGENT, not more violent...
    Italy by no means has ever been a model, I can tell you.
    The DIRECT and LIVE and LATE confrontation with a risk situation is NOT the only way to deal with things. It's the difference between good soldiers and good cops: while good solderis HAVE to escalate the level of confrontation (violence) cops have to do all they can to DE-scalate it.
    One las thing: prepper do one thing well: we PREPARE, so we see things comming and, if we are good, we avoid having to fight at all.

    I am sorry, it seems like I am having a hard time getting my point across without aggravating you, I think you are a pretty smart guy, your posts and instructables bear this out. But it is a shame you seem to be fixating on the words used and not the message. In my blog, in my firearm book, and in the firearm classes I teach I spend way more time on what is reasonable. I am fond of saying "anyone can teach someone HOW to shoot, its the WHEN to shoot that is much more difficult."

    You are smart, and it is clear you believe that you can out think any situation, but that is not always the case. What happens when someone just as smart, but more desperate and armed with better tools decides they want your stuff.

    Let me give you a scenario, you can tell me what you would do.
    Catastrophic earthquake wipes out fuel transmission lines, bridges, and communications infrastructure. It has been 3 months since stores were open. Since you have prepared for disasters and had some food, you have only lost 20 pounds, while your neighbors are walking scarecrows. While you are out foraging for firewood (or whatever), a group of them have decided to break in an take what you have. After all, how long could you last watching your kids starve to death, while your neighbors did not seem to be starving?

    You come home, unarmed, and find your family tied up in the corner, and your neighbors (armed) in your home taking the last of your supplies.

    Obviously asking them to stop won't work.
    Do you think hitting them would stop the threat on your family?
    If that amount of violence is not effective, should you increase it? Maybe pick up a broken piece of furniture to use as a club?
    If that isn't effective, but you manage to get a gun from them, would that stop the threat?

    IF, not when, you resort to going hands on with a threat - using violence, then you are committed to finishing the fight. If your level of violence is not effective you have to increase it to the point it is effective.

    The operative word in gunfight is not gun - it is fight, if I loose my gun, I am going to use whatever my closest weapon is, but I would get better results with a gun, than my teeth...

    Guns, as I see it, are tools - very specialized tools granted, but tools, and they have a purpose. But you have to be aware that you cannot win every situation, and sometimes there is no good answer.

    You can think bad things about me if you wish, but I when I taught Criminal Justice, I used to tell my college students (and pistol team members) every-time the concept of use of force (which is a PC term for using violence), "I love everybody, but I love me more". I do not choose to hurt anyone, but if they want to start the ball, I want to make sure I not only have the best tool, but I am better at using it, use it faster than them, and have a platoon full of buddies to back me up.

    I guess we are just going to have to disagree on the proper use of guns and if they are tools or just evil incarnate.

    Hi tngun.
    First of all thanks for you reply, and for the effort we are making here to share ideas without getting to one of those too many pointless and endless discussions on the net.

    I'd like to point out that I'm not 100% against arms, under some aspects infact I like them (who doesn't). The thing I hate to see is another: 99% of the time (official stats are not exactly 99% but close) guns are missused or used when there was no need and it end in tragedy. A tragedy that could be avoided if only guns were not there. Compare the stats of all states in the world: less gus-less "incidents".

    Men think like this: " I got a gun, I AM the GOOD guy, you make me some trouble, I thing I might have the right and need to shoot you"... happends all the time. It's a people problem, not a "tool" problem.

    As you your shenario: all I'm telling you now is real, I Had to show it to TV too... Many strategies are also dealth with at my site
    I got 3 different places I store my food, anought for 9 months or more for my small family. I could affort to loose one and still have the other 2. Plus the food in my home... (italians GOT food... ;-) )

    So the idea is that I CAN be fooled, and I have to think about that too. I can be stolen/forced to share, but not three times !!

    First rule: don't be a target. You are (pretend to be) hungry as all the other, you hide your family, you stay inside, you are a grey man, you are not there, nobody even notices you nor can guess.

    Our home have reinforced concrete pillars and brick walls, no wood. So breaking in is by far HARDER then kick down a common american house door, held just by part of a 2x4. Here it's all bricks, cement and steel.

    And we got dogs ;-)

    Thing is that the shenario is not REALISIC at it's base, here. That could only happend in a total war case, EMP, or worst. Realistic cases (see what happened lately in India: 3 days without energy) don't get to that point at all !!
    It did not happend in Haity during the Tzunamy, did not happend in Japan during Fukushima. It did not happen INSIDE Sarajevo in three years of siege (outside was war).

    So we have to make a point clear: are we talking about War conditions or Disasters? Why we all think that an emergency HAS to lead to a WROL situation? We had two major quakes in Italy in the past 3 years, but It did not happend at all !!

    On the other hand, in a WROL or WAR situation scenario, I totally agree with you, but that is not the same page as an Emergency or a Disaster,

    Thanks again.

    The point made in the list of gun facts and John Lott's work is that in the US, where there is LESS gun control, there are LESS problems with violence.

    Emcy, unfortunately, the "The thing I hate to see is another: 99% of the time (official stats are not exactly 99% but close) guns are missused or used when there was no need and it end in tragedy. " is incorrect.

    Read John Lott. Possibly you are basing your information on another country, as in Italy, but the numbers are not correct... In fact nearly opposite.

    Could you please post me a link to those stats and theyr source? How do those stats cope with those on the FBI Annual Crime Statistics on their web site? (that's where I took my data from)

    Hah, finally found this thread.
    The Adobe downloads are free, but you need the reader.

    My favorite quote: "Fact: Comparing crime rates between America and Britain is fundamentally flawed. In America, a gun crime is recorded as a gun crime. In Britain, a crime is only recorded when there is a final disposition (a conviction). All unsolved gun crimes in Britain are not reported as gun crimes, grossly undercounting the amount of gun crime there.21 To make matters worse, British law enforcement has been exposed for falsifying criminal reports to create falsely lower crime figures, in part to preserve tourism.22"

    "GOOD" thing to know...
    Still two "sad" (just not to call them wrong) facts don't add up to make a single "good" one.
    The fact that GB stats are not as good as one might think does not mean a thing. There are A LOT of countries that are far more violent than USA. Got already 10 in my mind but don't want to name them no to start another discussion or to change the focus of the topic.
    Say that country "XYZ" is far more violent that USA and that there are far more gun crimes, say 10 times more. Does that make you any happy or solves something? I don't think so...
    It's all in this questions: "do you want gun crimes in the USA to be:
    a) less than today: one is one too much
    b) as much as today or more

    Security is definitely a first; however, people can and will find ways to circumvent it. Part of security is defence though...
    I disagree with you in the fact that it is a very realistic scenario. After Katrina there was mayhem, people were looting and fighing in days. I wasn't there however I am from Florida and have experienced a few hurricanes and in the really bad ones there was rampant looting. I remember people fist fighting over gasoline at the pumps. The sad fact is wether it is in a war scenario or a disaster; people are very prone to panic.

    I worked in more than one disaster, and anecdotally (I was assigned elsewhere, but I personally know the witnesses), of hurricane evacuees pulling weapons on shelter staff. Some shelters had to pull in highway patrol troopers to stand at the food lines so the first evacuee did not steal all the hamburgers to sell to the others in the shelter. If evacuees can literally rip out and steal the seats out of the trains taking them to safety, what do you think they would do if there were no safe place to go?

    It seems there is a lot of controversy on this issue. I am a veteran. I also worked in Iraq as a civilian (with no weapon) six months after the war started. It was very unsettling having no protection there...but I made that choice and stuck it out for about 6 months. I now live in Wisconsin, in a semi-bad neighborhood. We have a lot of crime and violence - just a couple streets down from where I live. Everyone I know has a gun or more than one. I have done everything else in my power - yet haven't bought a gun yet. Need to prioritize and put some money towards one basically. I had some issues with a break-in a couple years ago - and I bought security cameras with night-vision and motion-sensitive - so they only record once there is movement. Those help, yet not so much because even if there is a break-in lets say, the cameras aren't going to inform me of it until later...if I'm alive. Like I said, we have a lot of crime here - recently a single mother who lived 10 miles from my home was murdered and there was a massive manhunt along my street, all the way from Rockford Illinois to Janesville WI. I am right on that path. There are many more stories or incidence like it everyday but I get too upset if I watch the news on it too much. My son is in a school here. People here have guns - the "good" guys and the "bad" guys - the ones who are punk teenagers on the streets and the people trying to protect their homes and families. I don't think it's wrong - I think life is TOO PRECIOUS and TOO SHORT and TOO VALUABLE to not have one. Which is why I need to get one. As a parent I need to do everything possible to protect my son - whether there is an emergency or not.

    I have a stockpile of food and other items as I do couponing and it helps save money. I just haven't done anything in the area of protection with a weapon. If you lived in my area I think you'd want to have one. Last story - the other day I was horrified to hear a couple streets down from me, a man my dad's age exactly was delivering papers or something of the sort, went to get them from the trunk of his car and 15 teens and people in their early 20s beat him nearly to death & robbed him. He's still in intensive care and hardly know what happened to him - yet his face was so damaged he needs to have multiple surgeries to even look anything like he did before. WHY??? I don't understand why people are so evil...I am so sad by what happened to him and can't comprehend it. Police only found 4 people involved...I feel protection is totally necessary. I don't like weapons to be honest, but don't blame the "good" citizens who just want to stay safe.

    Sorry but most of this makes no sense to me...
    Ok, you live in a violent siciety... I'm sorry about that. The world is full of bad people. Agree on that too...

    But "life is too precious" not to have way to kill someone? this really puzzles me...

    Protection is one thing, guns are another. Guns are used to HURT someone that hopefully is not you, they ARE NOT made do protect anyone: those would be body armors.

    Guns and arms in general are only PART of a protecion program. Thinking that guns ARE the protection tool would get you killed. This is a choice motivate solely by fear.
    I hardly belive that poor man could have better chances if he had a gun. I rather think that the gun would be used against him and/ore that there would be one more "bad guy" or "punk" armed around.

    Thanks for your comment. I don't want to argue - and I understand what you're saying. I will try to be more clear. I did not say life is too precious not to have a way to kill someone. I have never even hit a person in my life (other than my brother when we were kids!). I hate violence. I agree with you about needing to have several ways to protect yourself. I have done everything in my power or means to create several ways of protection. I think having a gun is one way to protect oneself and my home. I don't want to kill anyone and don't ever plan on it. I also don't plan on anyone killing me, my son or anyone i know. But it happens. I have personally been physically attacked on numerous occasions. I am grateful to be alive right now. One of the times I was attacked was in a shopping mall store - as a 17 year old, just trying something on to wear. The owner of the store attacked me. This stuff happens. I don't know why people feel the need to prey on others and hurt others. I don't want to do that. But if you have any kids, you'll understand the deep need to protect. That is all.

    Also, you wrote: I guess that stupid people are even more difficult to "regulate" or to remove from society, and that the two things don't produce nice result when they meet. It's just cause-effect. <--that i agree with 100% and that defines a lot of violent people in the city in which i live. My crime rate where I live is higher for murder, rape and robberies than Los Angeles, California. It's unfortunate. And a lot of the people in this area are unemployed, living on government assistance and have a lot of time on their hands to hang out in the streets or do whatever they want. We have a lot of issues here...I value my life and my son's life and having a gun as one method of protection is a smart investment, in my opinion. I was in the Army previously so I understand how to stay safe with it and I was trained with the use of them anyway. Take care!

    I TOTALLY AGREE with you about the PROBLEM. Not about the SOLUTION.

    Ok, so during Katrina people got mad. Did anybody SHOOT each other? If so did it make things better or worst? what happened to the shooter? did anybody react? In the other examples I mentioned shootings did not happen (at least not on a regular 'normal, accepted,tollerated' basis)...

    The problem is as, you stated, "people are not prepared (in their minds too) to a disaster, so when it happens they are prone to panic, confusion and that results in violence and looting". 100% right

    I CAN'T AGREE that the solution is "MORE WEAPONS"... cause this leads only to more casualties as they are already prone to fight, they would have better means to do it resulting in killing. Does anybody want that? Does anybody want to make a disaster scenario even WORST ?? I don't.

    Of purse "we are THE GOOD GUYS", they are the looters, we don't steal, they do. We just take the food we need for our children... [add more self justification çr@p here] ... so we have the RIGHT to use our weapons against them should we ever feel the urge to do so".... That's not my line.

    If society raised selfish people that are not capable to share and think as a community, the solution is not weapons, is "MORE COMMUNITY", more sharing, more values, more empathy, more respect, more cooperation, more education, more preparedness, less TV, less shopping, less selfishness.

    Still it can happend, and I know it does, that some "SOAB" pulls out a knife and tries to steal your stuff... but if you are part of a community, and the people feels this, it will be he, his knife against a community, not an individual. And a gun would not make things any better. It never does.

    It's not a movie... In movies the 'bad guy' gets killed and that's it, endidng titles. In reality this is the beginning of a whole new set of problems that could even be worst.

    Once a wise man said "I pity the society that needs heroes". I would add that I pity the society that need an enemy, most of all the one that finds those enemies within herself.

    I understand your point of view, but there is no GOOD solution. I carry a pistol everyday but I have never used it. It is there "in case". In case I cannot find a better Solution. Trust me I will be just as happy to run and not have any conflict at all. However I know that there are times when violence is the only option. If you do end up cornered and unable to escape; what is your solution? I certainly do not want to die. I won't call it bad versus good however I will say it is defence versus offence. I will defend myself with the same level of aggression that my opposer wishes to inflict. That counts as reasonable force in my book. I will try to handle it at the lowest level possible but I can't force the guy that wants to hurt me to lay down his gun and fight... All TnT is trying to do is prepare for those people that will be aggressors in the event of a catastrophe. I also have to disagree with your statement on how more weapons create more casualties. I first want to say that people can and will kill without guns. Second the people that are likely to kill during the Chaos, will not be casualties if the others do not fight back. Guns in the right hands will reduce casualties. People who are responsible will do what they can to not have to kill but are ready...

    Hey no problem, They both go boom... LOL