The Arsenal

I think that questions most often asked by people who are getting into armed survivalism concern what guns to buy. While it may be easy to say that any gun is better than no gun, some are better than others, in addition, the average survivalist is often dealing with a different set of priorities than the average gun collector, target shooter, hunter or professional user.  This book is written from the standpoint that the survivalist is not a full time professional user of a firearm, however should the need arise, the survivalist becomes a semi-professional firearms user; a force to be respected in a combat situation and an able hunter.

With respect to armed militia membership, the average survivalist is capable of serving in a militia with the weapons described in this chapter, but militias may require a degree of compatibility among weapons.  The set of guns described in this first section is generally consistent with those recommended in Michigan, Montana and Texas militia literature.  As an independent person or group, you may be inclined to set your own standards for interchangeability of ammunition or spare parts. I am writing this book primarily for the benefit of the inactive fighter who is arming as part of several contingency plans.  Political objectives and realities that would inspire one to clandestine warfare should be considered in their proper context. I am not writing this book in support of any particular group or aspiring regime.

Those who would be contemplating direct involvement in guerrilla warfare on an extended basis should seriously consider spare parts and double the normal amounts of ammo for storage with each gun. Reliance on captured weapons and equipment should be only a last resort option since such sources are unreliable at best and enemy personnel are likely to use up most of their ammunition in preventing you from capturing any of it intact. Stealing weapons also usually places you at odds with those who you may someday need to form an alliance with. It also involves a serious degree of what we could easily regard as hostile and criminal activity.

For most survivors, the best option is to purchase guns, equipment and ammunition through a well thought out plan.   You should get a basic set together as soon as is realistically possible, then work on supplements and upgrades as time and opportunities allow.   Take a realistic look at what you can afford and how soon you need to buy certain items.  Timing can be important with frequently changing laws that affect prices and availability of certain firearms.   Just make sure that you do not overspend too soon.   Many (if not most) "gun enthusiasts" suffer from the same malady as hot rod and boat enthusiasts; maxxed-out credit cards. 

In case you have been wondering; yes, there is such a thing as spending too much on an arsenal.  Survival gurus all over tell me about people they have met who could probably outgun an average infantry platoon with what they have just lying around the olí homestead (loaded) while maintaining only a week supply of food and an even shorter supply of toilet paper.  By no means should arms and armament surround every aspect of a survivalist's life.  The survivor should, however have a realistic view of the purpose of the survival arsenal with realization of the fact that even a minimal survival arsenal does contain more armament than most people care to own.

With careful shopping and some compromises features and quality, a respectable core set can run under $1,000. Many people, however, will find themselves spending around $2,500 per person including accessories and ammunition for a set of decent quality weapons that they are really satisfied with. These estimates are likely to increase as firearm prices are forced up and availability is forced down through restrictive legislation and high market demand.  On the other hand, some studies have shown that increases in violence and destabilization of the social order are accompanied by a proliferation of weapons that causes a decrease in weapon prices.

Consider that a good, even upper end core set costs about the same as any other "adult toys" like a motorcycle or jet ski.   Most Americans buy guns for their recreational value and the chance to associate with and compete, both formally and informally with other shooters.   You may buy these weapons strictly for the survival, and find that they can be very enjoyable toys to own.   One good thing about firearms is that they tend to hold their value and often appreciate in value over time.   

Remember that most firearms are durable goods. They have a service life of at least fifty years and easily as long as a hundred if maintained properly. There is a cumulative effect to the number of weapons in a given place. People might argue where the point of saturation is, but gun sellers usually have no problem gaining repeat customers when newer and better models come out. This does not mean that the older models simply disappear into the recycling bin like old cars and refrigerators, but they do eventually circulate into the drawers and closets of those who accumulate old things. Ammunition on the other hand, should be treated as a form of fuel, once it is used, it must be replaced. Ammo storage must also be rotated through the years, with older stocks replaced or supplemented by newer stocks.

There are four types of guns that each survivalist should have as the core of a personal survival arsenal. Some writers in the commercial gun magazines use the term "battery" instead of "arsenal", but I intend to use the term "arsenal" in spite of the political ramifications because an "arsenal" takes ammunition, accessories, and spare parts into account while a "battery" is usually a reference term to a "mini-collection" of guns and nothing else. Only three of the guns in this core set need to be actual firearms. I will also cover most of the good supplements to the "core arsenal". The guns that are added to the core arsenal will be called the "supplementary arsenal" while both groups together will be called the "basic arsenal". Anything else will be called "trading stock", "loaners", "the sporting pieces" the "collection" or the "extended collection". For purposes of this book, I will use the terms and definitions below to categorize the types of guns that a person might own or wish to acquire. An additional glossary is included in the appendix.

Core Set - Those guns that are individually owned, maintained and controlled by the survivalist for personal use in the various survival situations that call for the use of hunting and combat firearms. This set will include a rifle, a shotgun, a handgun, and some sort of sub caliber gun, be it a rifle or handgun in .22lr or a pellet/BB gun. This set of guns will generally meet any militia requirements that an individual would be expected to meet for participation in militia activities. A survivor should generally focus on "legal" guns for the core set since they are to be kept fairly available and openly used in lower category survival situations where it is best not to provoke the authorities.

You can reach a detailed review of each type in the links below  the webs may be more extensive than you think...    Use the buttons or the 'hotspots' in the picture below to navigate this section on the basics of the core set. 


Supplementary Arsenal; Those guns that a person adds to the core set because they fulfill a certain purpose that may not be adequately addressed by the core set. This will include special purpose weapons for unique tactical or game scenarios. This will also include special training weapons and paintball guns, in addition to any special hunting arms. Examples would be sniper rifles, submachine guns, carbines, silenced firearms, scout rifles, PDWs (large automatic handguns generally used for vehicle crew defense) long barreled hunting shotguns, additional .22s and air guns, and specialized hunting guns that are set up for specific species of game, like a .300 magnum for moose or buffalo. These guns may also include multiple sets of "core arsenals" for loan to needy friendlies who either do not have a complete core arsenal of their own, or have somehow lost theirs.

There is an entire chapter with lots of links on the subject, you might want to bookmark this page so you can navigate back, or better yet, finish browsing this page before you take off on one of these links. 

Supplementary weapons - Chapter Three

Basic Arsenal; All of the guns in the core set and the supplementary arsenal that are being accumulated and maintained for use in survival scenarios. This group may include guns that are owned of shared by several individuals who are part of the same cooperative group. This may also include group purchased weapons that are maintained by a group armorer who does not retain sole ownership. Examples would be sets of training guns, like a set of target rifles or paintball guns, a hunting rifle that is shared by several family members, or a heavy weapon like the Barrett .50 cal or a class III .30 cal machine-gun that is purchased by the group for retreat defense.

Loaners; These are guns that the survivor or group keeps around for the arming of friendlies in the event that there is a need to multiply forces. A lot of survivors keep favored older guns as loaners, being that they desire them for personal use, but they are too valuable to sell or trade away. Some people will obtain loaners for use by friends and associates who cannot travel with weapons or may be only able to travel with limited numbers or types of weapons. Examples would be several SKS rifles kept by a rural survivor whose urban friends who must be discreet in their travels and only carry handguns.

Expanded arsenal; This set of guns includes all of the various guns that the survivor keeps as part of any contingency plans. It includes all the the personal weapons and loaners.

Trading Stock; These are guns that are owned primarily for trade or sale. Since firearms of any type are likely to be valuable in a long term survival scenario, many people have taken to the idea of keeping extra guns around so that they can be traded for goods and supplies in a barter economy. Others have found that they can supplement their everyday income by engaging in the firearm business as a part time dealer or "gray market trader" and even supplement the purchase of most of their basic arsenal. Be aware that the constant rotation of the basic arsenal through sales and acquisitions can cause logistical problems with ammunition and spare parts compatibility, not to speak of familiarity and training.

Sporting Arms, Sporting pieces; These are the recreational hunting and target guns that are not maintained or reserved as part of any survival arsenal. Socially and practically, owning these firearms is little different from owning skis or golf clubs.

The Collection; These guns are owned for various intrinsic purposes whether they are war relics, art pieces, curios, or unused heirlooms. These guns generally are retained on the basis of their value, not utility. Many assault weapons have become so rare and valuable, they are retained by their owners as investments rather than as components of a survival arsenal.

Most U.S. law enforcement agencies employ the core arsenal concept, although they may call it something else. The California Highway Patrol ensures that each patrolman who takes a patrol car out on a regular shift carries a service pistol (S&W 4006) a 12 g pump shotgun (Tactical Response 870) and a semi-automatic rifle (a basic AR-15) with a couple of magazines. They tend to shy away from super high tech whiz-bang weapons that would make the officers targets of outlaws who are out to steal guns. By carrying guns that are no better than what is available on the open market, they can expect a reasonable parity in firepower against even well armed opponents while banking on superior shooting skill and tactics. The officers can carry out their daily duties without he added stress of securing highly destructive full automatic weapons they way military personnel have to. Private owners may want to take this into account when selecting guns for survival. Thieves will always have the desire to take your guns, but it may be wise to avoid making yourself an irresistible target by carrying several thousands of dollars worth of loot in plain sight. Of course, this may have an adverse affect on your intimidation/deterrence value in dangerous places. The trade off is between tactical capability, intimidation value (a valid quality) and the degree of added risk of making yourself a more desirable target for bandits. If you get caught up in the third point, you might be falling into the trap of the people who would rather that you not have a gun in the first place.

The guns covered in the first section are generally intended to be used by one person who would carry and / or use the guns one or two at a time while keeping the others available for personal use nearby. Shared guns can be considered part of the supplementary and basic arsenals, but not the core set, which is personal in nature and needs to be replicated for each and every able bodied member of your group. With this in mind, a lone survivalist who wants to cover all of the bases without depending on any allegiance to a group might find himself buying more than a core arsenal so that he has supplementary guns available when specialized needs arise. Survival groups should get together from time to time and compare personal arsenals so they can have an idea of who is getting what in order to coordinate their capabilities, again, it is assumed that each able-bodied member has a core set. Older persons or people who do not anticipate participation in certain activities may reduce their personal requirements in the core arsenal and forgo the idea of a supplementary arsenal altogether. This might be the case where the group has designated fighters and designated support personnel. Group members can then get a better idea of what guns to buy as individuals so that they can provide the group with a well-rounded basic arsenal yet retain some degree of compatibility.

The survivalist chooses firearms on the basis of utility and versatility. These two factors stand first and foremost in the selection of weapons for the core arsenal. This means highly specialized, limited use guns take a back seat to guns that can be applied to multiple uses. This is not to say that a rare Colt revolver or fine Merkel shotgun has no purpose, but guns like these have limited use as survival weapons and ought not be subjected to the harsh conditions that survival guns may be called to serve in. On the other hand, a full automatic MAC-10 with a suppressor may be a good close range combat weapon, but it is not good for much else, and does not fill any niche in the core set.

Two factors to consider are the standardization of weapons within a survival group or militia and the importance of at least a passing familiarity with weapons that are commonly available.   It is necessary for group members to at least agree and understand what supplies of ammunition they should stockpile.   It is smart but not necessary to be able to work around shortages in one caliber of rifle ammo by keeping extra weapons in commonly available calibers.

Survivors who are not actively in a group might see the value in keeping several guns of different types that are likely to be the standard of friendly or enemy groups.  This helps with compatibility not only in exchanging ammunition and spare parts among friendlies, but making the maximum use of ammunition and spare magazines obtained during the survival crisis.  This is not only the case with supplies captured from enemies, but supplies available through commercial channels or picked up after a battle between other hostile factions that the survivor was not involved with.  An extensive collection of firearms in common military calibers guarantees that the survivor will have ammunition available for at least one or two of the guns.  

Fashion must also take a back seat to function. You can usually hunt just as well with a military caliber semi-automatic rifle as you can with a purpose built hunting rifle. You may also be able to fight as well with a plain stock Mini-14 ($350) as you would with a fully "decked out" Sig 550 ($3500) assault rifle. I stress it is wiser to focus on a food storage program instead of a subsistence hunting program for most survival scenarios. Likewise it is better to share your abundance of resources with them than it is to have gunfights with them. Think about it. Two neighbors spend and equal amount of money on an anticipated survival crisis. One buys an SKS, a case of ammo and enough food for six people for a year. The other guy buys a Steyr AUG, a case of ammo, a night vision scope and six weeks worth of food for two people. Which is the more responsible survivor?