Firearms in a TEOTWAWKI

By Gilfner

Lately I’ve been thinking real hard about firearms in a TEOTWAWKI situation.  Maybe it’s just  me trying to find a way to justify to my wife the purchase of more guns.  I really love guns of all types, they just fascinate me and I can’t really explain why.

Part of what I’ve been thinking about is ammunition. Or should I say a lack of ammunition? Even someone that has stockpiled hundreds of rounds of ammunition and/or reloading supplies has a finite supply and can’t afford to use it unwisely.

Don’t get me wrong, one of my favorite categories of firearms are the semi-auto tacti-cool variety.  But even my trusty 10/22 might not be the best rifle for varmint hunting in a TEOTWAWKI situation. 

Because it’s semi-auto, even with only the 10 round magazine, I know I will tend to take an ill-advised, rushed shot and fire multiple times upon the inevitable miss.  Obviously, this is not what you want to be doing if replacement ammunition is not available.

For example, when I was in high school, my step-dad got an older Winchester single shot .22LR bolt action rifle.  It has a long barrel, a hooded front site post & the rear site was a target style peep site.  Initially I wasn’t at all interested in it because I had a 10/22 with extended magazines.  We lived in the country & I could just go for a walk from the house to go shooting.

One day, for a change of pace, I took the Winchester and two or three 50 round boxes of .22LR out shooting.  I still remember what a great time I had for several hours. I shot as much as I wanted and I still came home having used less than a box of shells.  I can’t remember taking less than 300 rounds out with the 10/22 and having as good a time!

Obviously, it’s not about having a good time after TEOTWAWKI.  But, I know that every shot I took, was one where I took my time to take the best shot I knew how to do in order to hit my target.  And it was partially because I didn’t have the luxury of a rapid follow up shot.  Most of us will do the same thing and will tend to use more ammunition with a semi-auto firearm.

Now, this is not to say there won’t be situations where a good semi-auto will be the correct choice.  In a defensive or other combative environment, a semi-auto is definitely the way to go.  But, you will still need to be very aware, that there isn’t a big box store you can run to afterwards for re-supply.  Every round of ammunition you shoot is one less you will have the next time you need it.

Also, consider the caliber of your ammunition very carefully. After TEOTWAWKI, it is very unlikely you will be able to find or trade for the less common types of ammunition. So if you have a gun with an unusual caliber, realize that it will probably be good for nothing more than a wall hanger once you run out of your stockpiled ammunition.

Calibers like, .22 LR, 9MM, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, .223, .308, 30-06, 12 gauge and possibly 7.62×39 (AK47/SKS ammo), .38/.357, 30-30 are going to have the best chance of obtaining more ammunition.  Notice that most of these calibers are ammunition that is or was being used by one or more government’s military.

It’s also a good idea to consider what people you are trying to group with have.  It might be worth going into a caliber that isn’t as common if everyone in the group has a gun in that caliber.  You can combine your purchases to buy larger quantities and get volume discounts.

For example, a friend of mine has two Mosin-Nagant’s in 7.62x54R.  Since they are so cheap (~$99 on sale), I am recommending this rifle to another friend in the group that doesn’t have any firearms yet.  If he gets one, I will probably get one as well, so that we all have a rifle with common ammunition.

Also, surplus ammunition for this caliber is very cheap, so we will be storing it.  But, the drawback with this kind of surplus is that it’s not reloadable and uses corrosive powder.  This won’t be a problem as long as we store enough ammunition & keep the rifles clean.

As a side note, these surplus rifles can be one of the better investments in firearms there are.  When I was in high school, I remember that M1 Grand’s could be purchased for ~$200. Now they are over a $1000. In the 1990’s, the AK47’s & SKS’s started to be imported in bulk.

I remember Yugo SKS’s selling for ~$70, now those rifles are usually $399.  AK47’s were ~$100 and now can’t be had for less than $499 and frequently much more than that.  Several years ago the Mauser’s were selling for ~$150, now they can’t be had for less than $299.  Since the 1990’s when AK’s came out how much has a Glock gone up in value?  Maybe $200?

Maybe the real issue is that, if there is a TEOTWAWKI event, everyone will need to quickly come to the realization that once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Conserve your ammunition. Practice now while you can get more ammunition, so that you are a better shooter.  That will help you make the most of every shot you do take.

PS- When I was in college, my step-dad sold that Winchester .22 LR and I sure miss that rifle. If you get a gun you really like, make sure you hang onto it and buy plenty of ammunition for it. I have made the mistake of letting good firearms go too many times.

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12 thoughts on “Firearms in a TEOTWAWKI”

  1. Good post.

    Very, very good point about ammon availability – it doesn’t matter if you hunker down or displace to another location, there is a finite amount of ammo to be had. Even if one has a shipping container full of ammo and/or reloading supplies, there may come a time where it is exhausted. Bullets, boots, and beans are must haves for long term survival in a dangerous world.

    When I was in grade school. my grandfather used to take my cousins and I out squirrel and rabbit hunting. He always made us use either a single shot .410 or a bolt action .22 (I think it had a tube magazine, but that was a loooooong time ago). Thinking back, he was very particular about making that one shot being the only shot we needed. I have to admit though, he still fed us if we missed.

    Two of my sons have gotten very good with their bows (including one who uses an old Ben Pearson recurve without all of the pullies and sights). They bring home as many deer as I do and while I am still cleaning my rifle they are kicked back on the porch.

  2. Great article and some good points. Remember that the surplus ammo, particularly Eastern Bloc 7.62×39, use corrosive primers. This may be the least of your worries in a TEOTWAWKI scenario, but right now it is a concern. Be sure to clean your rifle after shooting.

  3. Gilfner,

    Great post!! I couldn’t agree more! I also had the Remington Bolt action vs 10/22 experience as a teenager. Wow the borrowed 10/22 was fun, but the game was brought back with the Remington. A couple of years ago, I encountered a Winchester Mdl 68 (probably exactly what you had based on your description) and picked it up as a TEOTWAWKI/fun gun. Other than the exceptional balance, the other selling point was its ability to consume all .22 ammo (shorts, longs, long rifles, CBs, and super colibres).

    The ever present dilemma of serious gun owners….. PRACTICE vs. STOCKPILING.

    When I can, I purchase ammo in bulk. With the economy, that becomes more and more a thing of the past. My current method is “Buy Two / Store One / Keep What I Have.”

    While Dry-Firing has replaced much of my range time, the need to hit the range out of necessity, or even to relieve some stress, means time to buy ammunition. I try not to use any existing ammunition (though I do try and rotate it) for practice. When I go to purchase ammo for practice, I try and buy an equal amount for storage (50 rounds for practice equals 50 rounds for storage, 200 rounds for practice equals 200 rounds for storage). This limits my number of rounds for practice, which also causes me to make each shot count. More benefit for less rounds.

    I can’t stress enough the need for CONTINUAL dry fire practice! I dry fire a minimum of 5 nights a week (often 7 nights) for just 5 minutes or so. The benefits became glaring evident several years ago while working for a local gun store. As an employee, we were constantly picking up guns in the cases and dry firing them during slow times. While it was not “intentional” dry fire practice, it was “de facto” dry fire practice. The results were surprising. Though I had not seen a range or fired a live round in excess of a year, during my annual POST qualification, I scored a perfect 250 on three different handguns, as well as perfect scores on the shotgun qualification and an almost perfect score (threw one round) on the rifle qualification. While I’m sure I was having a better than average day, there was no other reason for such scores other than dry fire practice. Since then, dry fire practice has been a regular thing. While I don’t always shoot perfect scores, I do shoot well above what I would shoot if I limited myself to only range shooting practice. The art of “being the bullet” is a heck of a lot easier when the gun isn’t exploding and jumping in your hands.

    On a different note, when stockpiling ammunition, remember that you should be storing a minimum of two different kinds of ammunition. For TEOTWAWKI, you will need to store practice rounds AND “carry” rounds. While being able to purchase ball/FMJ ammo for cheap is a wonderful thing, remember that by all standards (except perhaps for .50 BMG) that ball/FMJ ammo is CRAP for shooting things that shoot back at you (or even wild game). You need to be storing hollow points/ soft points as well! The effectiveness of these rounds (HP/SP) on soft targets FAR out-weighs the economics of surplus FMJ rounds. Yes, you’ll need FMJ for practice during TEOTWAWKI, and perhaps even a magazine or two to be carried for “semi-hard targets,” but the bulk of your serious ammo should be with a serious bullet type (HP/SP). Additionally, while shotgun slugs are wonderful things that put a smile on my face and a skip in my step, remember that the bulk of your TEOTWAWKI shooting will likely require bird-shot.

    Lastly, be careful of what type of ammunition you’ll be storing. Like you mentioned, a lot of the surplus ammunition is corrosive, which means that you’ll also need to stockpile good cleaning solutions in order to keep your firearms operating. Also, a newer problem is “GREEN” ammunition. Much of the “green” ammo uses “lead-free” primers that breakdown over a period of about 10 years. When storing bulk ammo, it is easy to have ammo older than 10 years. Go out of your way to avoid the “lead-free” primers when purchasing for storage.

  4. During the great Obama ammunition drought, the only calibers available were the odd balls. You could find .357 Sig, 10mm, 9×18 Makarov, .45 Gap and the like but the common calibers weren’t anywhere to be found. In an wrol situation I would expect the same thing to happen. People will shoot up the common caliber stuff and then they will be aremed with high tech clubs.
    My solutions are to store as much ammo as I can afford and have a percentage of guns chambered for the calibers that are likely to be available, and stock up on reloading stuff. Some very useful weapons, like the Mosin-Nagant mentioned in the post, have large amounts of fairly cheap surplus ammo available. The 7.62x54R stuff may be corrosive and non-reloadable but the corrosive primers stay syable for far longer than the more modern primers. Buy some sealed cans of the stuff and stash it.
    The Makarov 9×18 steel case ammo is currenmtly pretty cheap also. AIM Surplus has newly manufactured hollow point ammo for less than $12 a box of 50 shipped to my house when I buy 500. Now the Makarov is a nice little pistol, but the sleeper carry gun is the CZ 82. CZ still makes the .38o version, the 83, and so parts are very available. While a new 82will cast $600, the 82s are available with a C&R license for $200 and less, often with 2 magazines and a holster. I own too many of these and everybody I’ve let try one loves it, a lady that shoots with us demanded I sell her one after she tried it. t is a small all steel gun with a capacity of 12 + 1 and an American style magazine catch, a bargain.
    The 7.62 Tokarev surplus ammo is pretty much dried up, but if you can find some, the pistols sell for about $200, the Yugoslav ones are best, and they make decent self defense rounds. They are a high velocity 30 caliber and are what the famed Russian Burp Guns were chambered in. Supposedly these rounds can penetrate the Nato helmet and light body armor for what that’s worth.
    Just a word on the C&R license, it is 10 bucks a year for 3 years and lets you buy some of the guns wholesale and direct, as in having them shipped to your house. Also some of the big mail order houses will give you a dealer discount if you send them a signed copy of your license. Yup, the government will know who you are and you have to keep some minimal records, but to me it’s worth it. But then I believe the government already knows who we are, there is no privacy on the net and if you have ever filled out a 4473 to buy a gun from stre, they definately know who you are.

  5. I got typing too fast an I apologize for the typos. The last line should end “a gun from a store” The $600 CZ is the 83, there are no new 82s available. The corrosive primers stay stable not syable.

  6. Thanks all for the kind words and excellent responses.

    @ANDBBMO, thanks for the comments about practice in general & dry firing in specific and about FMJ vs JHP’s. I know both of these, but completely forgot to include them.

    @james nelson, I am coming to appreciate the surplus firearms segment more and more. I think part of it is that for the past several years I’ve been focused on some basics, (IE – A shotgun, a couple AR’s, a 1911, a good hunting rifle, etc). I’m now in a place in life that I have several basics covered and I’m financially able to get more interested other guns. Thanks for the suggestions, I will be looking into them.

    Hopefully, the article will get many more people thinking and critically evaluating their specific firearm & ammo situation.

  7. @James Nelson, what reccomendations do you have, if any on modern ammo to stock? Examples would be WWB, American Eagle, UMC, Federal, Golden Saber, Hornady, MagTech etc. Basically the brands that are at most stores in bulk.

    You seem well versed in this topic and it has been something I have thought about many times. Money can be tight at times so I would like to make sure I spend it wisely.


  8. Just a thought…..

    If you plan reasonably, you might not always be shooting at ‘zombie hordes’, you might just want lunch.
    Don’t discount black powder arms. You can buy them onliine/mail-order because they are ‘non-firearms’ according to BATF (James Butler ‘Wild Bill’ Hickock IS rolling over in his grave – That’s the high-pitched whine you hear in the background, and the “Old West” stories of cowboys shooting the heads off rattlesnakes ARE true – if you put a big, hot, very slow piece of lead downrange at a rattler its senses and reflexes take over and it strikes at the ball – this does not work with modern high velocity rounds. )

    Pyrodex powder is not very expensive, nor are balls, percussion caps and wads. Molds are not expensive, either, and if TSHTF, there will be wheel-weights available as raw ammo on every road. Your kids can get taught to make their own black powder and caps – search online …..

    I’m not a great fan of flintlock arms, even though good to have, but once you shoot a percussion cap-and ball “Navy Colt” revolver, slow and limited as it may be, you may well discover that no “modern” firearm even comes close in the ‘natural point and shoot’ capabilities. I recommend giving it a try, at less than a $200 investment, if you shop around, or borrow one for an afternoon. It is something to think about.

  9. Any name brand ammo will store for decades as long as it is kept in a cool dry place. Heat is bad for ammo storage and excessive moisture can cause the brass to corrode. The only ammo you mention that I am not a fan of is Magtech, any name brand ammo should be fine for long term storage.
    Full metal jacket ammo in calibers less that .45 is not terribly effective and tends to over penetrate, it is fine for practice or trade in a wrol situation. Hollow point ammo can be expensive and it pays to shop, i like CDNN as a mail order house because they get close out lots of law enforcement ammo and have good prices. Right now they have Winchester Range 135 grain .40 stuff for about $160 per case of 500, this is a super deal. They also have the Federal 124 Grain +p+ 9mm law enforcement ammo for $25 for 50. Other sites to look at are Ammoman, Ammotogo, Sporytsmans Guide, always compare prices and be sure to figure shipping into the mix. For example, Ammoman includes shipping in his prices.
    For practice or hunting or pest control, learn to reload and stock up on components, this is the economical way to go. Reloading is another big topic too big for here, Maybe I could put something together as a guest post later.

  10. I think the author makes some good points about blowing through your ammunition stockpile. My prediction is that most people will shoot up most/all of their center-fire ammo to survive and some months later most people will be down to .22 lr to survive on. It might be a good idea to have several thousand rounds of .22lr and a rifle that can be used in defensive mode.


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