I have never been a prepper. My modest amount of guns and gear have mostly centered around my passion for suppressors, personal defense weapons, concealed carry pistols and useful accessories. Like many of you I have bins full of gun related items that looked great on paper, but in practice fell short of actually being useful. To top it off, I’ve chuckled at the Boogaloo memes that have worked their way through social media, believing that it was mostly fantasy, stemming from basement dwellers reading books like and . But here we are, the entire world changing before us, with a great deal of uncertainty in the weeks and months ahead, and I thought that it might be important to lay out some SHTF guns and gear. Not to fan the flames of panic, but in a calming, therapeutic, prepping sort of way.
Note: Sh*t Hit The fan (SHTF) is a reference to your whole world being upended in a short period of time.
TFB Podcast – Behind The Gun
I guess this is as good of a place as any to announce that we are launching a new podcast in a few weeks. TFB’s Behind The Gun podcast will be published once or twice a week here on the blog and on all the major platforms. Like the blog and TFBTV, the podcast will be a fact-based format featuring conversations with industry leaders about their successes and failures over the years. We recorded about 20 VIP interviews and interviews with most of the TFB/TFBTV staff at SHOT Show 2020. I think it went well and it should be informative and fun, but ultimately you guys will be the judge.
I bring up the podcast now because, almost like a premonition, I started off each episode by asking each guest a warmup question:
“The world is ending tomorrow and you can only take one gun with you. Which one and why?”
Irony, foreshadowing, dumb luck – whatever it was, we now have some insight into what the leaders of our industry would carry into the apocalypse. Stay tuned for their responses.
But, as Snoop would say, “back to the lecture at hand” ( 1992)
SHTF Guns: KAC/Colt AR-15 – Short Barrel – 5.56mm – Suppressed
My choice for an end-of-the-world firearm is an AR-15 carbine chambered in 5.56 mm with an 11.5” barrel. I chose the AR-15 platform because of my familiarity with the operation, cleaning and maintenance, the ability to source parts and the ease of making repairs, modularity and accessory options as well as general ergonomics. AR-15 Magazines are disposable, plentiful and inexpensive.
The 11.5” barrel length is important because I feel that it is the best balance between bullet velocity and overall compactness. There will be those who swear by 10.3/10.5” barrels and those who swear by 12.5” barrels. The truth is, everyone is right. If you are comfortable shaving off an inch or two in the name of portability and usefulness, a MK18 is a solid choice. Keep in mind, that velocity is extremely important, especially for smaller diameter bullets.
If bullet velocity is more important to you than length and weight, go with a longer barrel. As a quick reminder, anything with a barrel shorter than 16” and a shoulder stock requires an approved ATF NFA application and tax stamp. I know we are discussing end of the world scenarios, but even in the apocalypse you still need to fill out government forms and pay your taxes (snort). If you believe that we’ll all be alive in 30ish days, and would like to make a proper (and legal) short barreled rifle (SBR), use our step by step ATF EForm guide here. Otherwise, a solid pistol stabilizing brace might be an alternative.
It should come as no surprise to you guys that my SHTF gun includes a suppressor. Suppressing a 5.56mm SBR will never result in a hearing safe gun. However if you’ve had the chance to compare the blast from a flash hider only AR-15 versus a suppressed AR-15, you’ll know that a few shots with unprotected ears will be disabling. And the shorter the barrel, the worse the blast will be – people don’t think that unburned powder be like it is, but it do. Shooting suppressed will also help conceal your location from your adversaries – the USMC knows.
II. Your Landscape/AOR Overview
Your environment can and should have an impact on your SHTF firearm choices. A Brooklyn hipster will have different requirements than a Idaho outdoorsman. Concealment, threat ranges, cartridge loadings and more will vary wildly based on your Area Of Responsibility (AOR). My AOR is fairly rural, with major population centers being about an hour and a half away by vehicle.
You should do an honest personal risk assessment for yourself and your family to figure out strengths and weaknesses and base your SHTF gun choices on those needs – maybe the Barrett .50 isn’t the best load out after all. Or maybe it is.
You should also consider whether you will ever need to “bug out” (leave your castle for safer ground). Lugging around heavy guns and ammo gets tiresome, even if you are just unloading it from a minivan.
After my risk assessment, I settled on two main guns as go-tos in a time of crisis:
III. Specifications – Base Firearm
This build is an “everything you need, nothing you don’t” premise that focuses on utility and durability. To me, having a pinned front sight base/gas block was more important than a free-floated MLOK rail. Since low light needs are a very important consideration in adverse situations, a quality weapon light is a must in my opinion.
IR/ Night Vision is important if you have the resources. Be sure to check out TFB’s Friday Night Lights series’s hosted by Nick Chen for all your illumination needs.
Note: Everything listed here in this article was purchased by me at retail prices at the vendors noted below. I waited for sales/deals and pieced everything together over about year and a half period.
Since the sunset of the Assault Weapons Ban in 2004, the options for both factory built and piecemeal AR-15 builds has increased in both quantity and quality. I could list out a host of reputable manufacturers, but it will be hard togo wrong with any. Here’s my build:
As alternative, complete lower and groups can be purchased if you’d rather buy complete:
IV. Specifications – Modifications and Accessories
Once again, keeping with the usability mantra with this carbine, I only added accessories that have a specific purpose, with additional criteria of durability, reliability and weight savings.
V. SHTF Guns – Ammo and Magazine Choices
Ammunition choices are seemingly personal choices, but really are heavily dependent on science and testing. For me, a proven barrier blind round is a bit more important than MOA accuracy. Barrier blind is a term that refers to a bullet that can maintain much of its shape, velocity and expansion abilities even after passing through a barrier like glass or wood. The soft point of the Fusion round isn’t a sub-MOA dream, but at realistic defensive distances it is plenty accurate to get the job done.
I also stock both M193 and M855 ammunition – for SHTF loads, stick with factory firsts and not the factory second versions of these loads, often labeled as XM193 and XM855
For a Compact carbine, I prefer 20 round magazines. I own over 100 Surefeed Magazines and have yet to have a malfunction. They are light, inexpensive and well made.
Note: I have a new rule: black magazines for .223/5.56, FDE magazines for 300BLK and grey magazines for special loads (MK12 77gr Berger, etc).
VI. Fielding/Range Time
Fully outfitted and loaded with a 20 round magazine, this SHTF gun weighs in at about six pounds. Which for a suppressed, light/laser/optic equipped carbine is pretty svelte. Carrying, shouldering, shooting and manipulating a light carbine is a dream compared to some of the behemoths floating around out there.
I chose a standard 50 yard zero for my SHTF setup. As a basic reminder, point of aim and point of impact will change on either side of your zero; distances under the 50 yard zero will have a slight hold-over under offset – meaning you hold the dot over your intended target. The amount will vary up until point blank range where the offset equals your optic height above the bore. Doing drills on the range is actually easier than writing that process down, so I hope I got that right.
I only mention these basics because the overwhelming majority of defensive shots will be taken at distances less than 50 yards. And, of course, different ammunition loadings will have different zeros.
The short barrel and ultra light weight of the Delta P Brevis II Ultra make this carbine easy to maneuver and fast swinging. Suppression levels are modest – if you are forced to take a shot without hearing protection you probably won’t have severe hearing damage. This is on par with most 5.56mm suppressors, especially on short barrel hosts. Besides being air-weight, the Brevis is a direct thread silencer, meaning there are no tolerance stacking concerns or mounts to come loose. For a full-size suppressor, there are downsides to a direct thread setup – mainly length. Micro or “K” cans will benefit from a direct mount. For SHTF guns, that would be my preferred method of attachment.
Cycling is smooth and recoil is slight with this 11.5″ AR-15. It is important that you run all your intended ammunition through your rifle/carbine to ensure proper cycling. Weak ammunition may cause failures. Over gassed systems may cause failures. My preference has always been to use adjustable gas blocks over changing buffers or spring weights. But in keeping with simplicity with this build and preserving a solid pinned FSB, I opted for the SureFire OBC. Luckily it runs 100% with ejected cases landing between the two and three o’clock position (muzzle is 12 o’clock obviously).
VII. SHTF Guns – Conclusions
This is my carbine. There are many like it, but this one is mine. A lightweight 11.5″ AR-15, suppressed with white and IR weapon light capability is nearly perfect for my needs. The nine inch SIG MCX you’ll see next week would probably surpass this build if it were lighter and 300BLK ammo was a little easier to find.
Make an honest assessment of your skills, requirement and surroundings and decide which SHTF firearm works best for you. Thanks for reading TFB.
This content was originally published here.