Layering your Weapons

By Bret Gould

Combat is nothing new.  Unless we factor in a few technological advances, small arms and their uses, have changed little in the 20th century. For example, an ’03 Springfield in 30-06 has everything in common with a custom 30-06.   In hand to hand and cutting weapons, there is nothing new under the sun.  One of the areas needed to be studied is layering the weapons.

The great Bruce Lee once made the supremely profound statement.  The only thing that changes in combat is distance.  This is a critical factor in today’s  world of specialists.  I know boxers who only do hand techniques. MMA guys who don’t use weapons.  Guys who only do sniper rifles or guys who only do pistols.  Folks, with what we have on the horizon, especially after the recent election, one must be a general practitioner not a specialist.  We all must have enough cross training to be able to hit targets at long range and transition to a bowie knife if needed.

We need to think like our ancestors did.  The frontiersman of old, had his trusty bowie knife and tomahawk matched up for a variety of reasons.  For one, they used the tomahawk for fighting and for shelter building.  The bowie knife was also used for fighting and a multitude of purposes.  Our frontiersman also had his rifle.  Skill with a rifle is paramount.  The great Jeff Cooper stated that the purpose of a rifle is to project power at a distance with speed. It gives one a lethal reach with precision.  The proviso is to bring a real rifle. Yes folks I know the .223 is the death ray and carries more bullets.  I choose the .308 and carry less bullets because each of mine can kill at 800 yards and pierce cover. 

Our frontiersman had his pistol.  A pistol is a defensive weapon but an important weapon.  A study of combat tactics reveals that one carries a pistol like insurance. You have it in case something happens. If you know something is going to happen, you bring a battle rifle or a sniper rifle.   Also be aware that pistol shooting skills requires more maintenance than rifle shooting skills.

So what do we do with layering?  We stack our skills along with our weapons , in a manner with which we can deliver force into a target with multiple options.  But why do we need all these options says the reader?  Because combat is unpredictable. And distance changes.  Ask a veteran of Iraq or Afghanistan  why they are carrying the same battle weapon that Rogers Rangers carried in the french and indian wars over 200 years ago.  Same reason, you run out of ammo, or a gun jams and the bad guy is right on top of you.  You pull out the trusty  tomahawk as our forefathers did and whack the fool until he stops.

So we need a good knife. I recommend a cold steel Kuhkri or Natchez Bowie.  The khukri can take a man’s head off of his shoulders with ease.  The bowie can do the same with slightly more effort.  The khukri is a better overall knife but the bowie, with the sharpened back edge is so versatile in a fight. Old Jim should be smiling now to see us still using his blade.  I like the cold steel natchez bowie for many reasons.  It gets very sharp. It balances perfectly for a knife of this size and it gives power with reach.  I use an imamba tomahawk by Jared Corry at omnivore blade works. He is a superior craftsman.  This is part and parcel of basic combat kit. We have covered the basic close range hand weapons.

Let’s add a pistol. something in a caliber starting with a 4 if we are serious.  Folks, I have been in law enforcement for 26 years and a firearms instructor for 14 of those years.  Buy a quality pistol as your life depends on it.  I personally like the glock and the 1911 for different reasons.  I like the glock because more than 75 percent of the cops in America use it. That means a ready pool of holsters, parts and magazines along with ammo .  I like the 1911 for it’s superior ergonomics and also the ready pool of parts.  With the 1911 being in service for 100 years, lot’s of parts exist and ammo is common.  Folks it is hard to go wrong with .40 or .45.  Now there are lots of other good pistols out there. I make my choices out of parts availability.

Rifle selection is serious business. In putting together a team we must layer here as well. We give our best shooters our sniper rifles in .308 or bigger calibers.  The venerable Remington 700 in it’s accuracy versions is very hard to beat. Yes, you can spend more money but exactly how accurate can you be? We back this up with a group of men armed with .308 battle rifles.  The venerable FN FAL, once called the right arm of the free world, used by 93 countries. It is battle proven and reliable, with parts abound.  The G3 and it’s many versions, the HK-91 and PTR 91.  The Mercedes of rifles.  It is accurate, brutally reliable and parts and magazines abound.  Our home grown rifle the M1a.   Also a  god buy. also look at match and sniper M1a packages for dual use guns. Now folks, many will ask about the Ar-15.  I do like the Lwrc gas piston rifle in 6.8 spc. It is a match accurate, hard hitting rile.  Also very good is the Pof rifle in .308.  Now you ask about the venerable AK 47.  Yes we have a place for it.  Even though it is not a battle rifle, we are layering our firepower, so we put several on the team. This give us a high volume weapon with good stopping power.

So here we have it personal weaponry, layered in application, used tactically to cover all ranges.   we are now equipped for combat.  Be salty and be ready.


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  1. What no shotguns to repell boarders?

    The battery should include 22’s both pistol and handgun for practice and small game, even defense

    I like the idea of both 223 and 308 or 06, take in account of where you are located in the midwest there are a lot of areas where shots beyond 300 yds are rare. Even in WWII most engagements were inside of 300 yards, in Nam there were a lot of fights at 25 yards.

    For most people 223 will be all they ever need, add in a relatiely inexpensive bolt gun (Savage 110 comes to mind) in 308.

    Bear in mind the most popular calibers, and the guns in those calibers, 22lr 2 most popular is the 10-22 and the mark II, 223 AR-15’s are the most popular and there a lot of them out there so parts wise I’ll likely repair an AR before I find parts for either my PTR91 or FN-Fal 9mm is the most popular centerfire handgun round, and there are a lot of Glock 17’s and 19’s more than there are Glock 21’s, M&P 9mm is very popular I like 1911’s but mine are chambered in 9mm now most of the parts (Not all) for a 45 will fit on my gun as far as repairs go.

    Now it would be wise for those starting out to look at guns that there are alot of spare parts, magazines etc, in calibers that are affordable and easy to get.
    I am also an Instructor, and in all day shooting classes student start getting tired quicker if they are shooting 40 or 45, more recoil does take it’s toll, and those that are smaller female or elderly handle 9mm better, and some practice enough to get pretty good
    Guns and ammo are just one part of preppng 40 caliber costs 20% more than 9, 45 nearly 80% more 308 double what 223 costs. Now I’m a shooter first prepper 2nd but I have to admit I cringe when thinking about shooting 45 or 308, not from the recoil, but from the cost standpoint
    First learn to use what you have, and understand the limits of the guns you have if looking to add to your battery do your homework, and purchase quality
    Bear in mind guns like Mosin Nagants are pretty good quality, and right now ammo is still pretty affordable, but once the surplus dries up, ammo will get expensive, it happened with 7mm Mauser, 303 British, 8mm mauser, will with 762x54R
    For sharp pointy things look to Ka-Bar, Ontario, SOG and some Cold Steel, they all have quality fightin knives (SOG has goood prices on hawks) under a $100, I’d much rather have 5 $60 Ka-Bars than one $300 knife, any blade can be damaged or lost
    If you have a $1000 to buy a gun do not buy a $1000 gun, buy a $600 gun, and then get magazines and quality accounterments (Holsters mag pouches slings, and a few spare parts (gas rings for AR’s, recoil springs for 1911’s, perhaps a spare extractor) etc) and ammo and take a class, the ammo you waste trying to teach yourself would likely cover the cost of the class and you are less likely to imprint bad habits, that the Instructor is going to try to reverse.

    I was one time shooting in a combat Shotgun match, and there were a lot of very expensive custom shotguns and the guys knew how to use them, I had a Benelli Super 90, anyway this local farmboy drove in and watched for a bit, then ask ifhe could enter, and he did, he came up to the start with an old marlin single shot, bolt action in 16 gauge and we all watched in awe as he cleaned our clocks, lesson learned

  2. Bret,

    I don’t mean to be contrarian, but rather the Devil’s advocate. As an ex-cop you have the value of a perspective that I sorely lack as well as the benefit of being around for a little longer. Having said that, I subscribe to the theory that common sense and good ideas care not from whose lips they pass. The ability to shoot 800 yd. is admirable, but as of right now it is about 795 yd. farther than 90% of all fatal incidents involving police. Varying data exists, but most fall within the sub-25 yd. range. Obviously the ROE may change radically at some point, but at least it’s a place to start. I would tend to think that civil unrest would mirror police shootouts more so than troops vs. troops. At least initially. To further bolster your article, I was dismayed to read reports of the 5.56 underperforming out past 300 yd. in Afghanistan. Now to the point. I currently reside in VA, land of trees, trees, and more trees. The nearest point at which I have an 800 yd. CLOS is the interstate. In a situation WROL I would be highly suspect of being able to 1) identify friend/foe and 2) envisioning a situation in which I would need to advertise my location even 500 yd. away. In my situation and from my perspective, I prefer maximum rounds and minimal recoil for something that can put a human at room temperature from 25-150 yd. I do like the barrier penetration of the 7.62, but opted for the higher round count/less recoil and weight of the 5.56. I suspect if I lived in the plains, my choice would be different. I foresee combat in heavily forested areas being much much closer than 300 yd. My only true data points for this are the vast difference in hunting here vs. in TX where there are fewer trees. The ranges increase dramatically the fewer the trees. It has been my experience that few people have as much situational awareness or common sense as your average deer, and I’ve had some walk within a half a dozen feet of me. Lastly, as much as I love the FAL and it’s sucessor, the SCAR (can’t believe you didn’t mention it), I worry about parts. An AWB could cripple owners who depend on importation of crucial parts. The market would dictate if that void would be taken up by domestic manufacturers, and that’s a big maybe with the market share occupied by owners of the FAL/SCAR/G3. The same with many Combloc guns. There is a dearth of aftermarket parts, that has only recently begun to be addressed. At the very least, even if an AWB wan enacted, the parts suppliers would still exist domestically for the AR. Parts could be bought, one way or another. It is a whole other story messing with importation of that stuff. YMMV. My old man is on the same side of the issue as you (but in TX I can see about 1/2 mile in every direction from the roof of the house). Just some thoughts. I think we’re on the same side of the REAL issue and that’s what counts…and that those big 7.62’s are going in the right direction.

    Sic semper tyrannis,


  3. Other than replacing the tomahawk with a Spetsnaz shovel (it’s easier to bury the remains with a shovel than with an ax), I believe the author has a well reasoned selection of weaponry.

    Several reasons to carry a really good blade – no ammo required, it’s ready to play with right out of the box, and it has a built in silencer (if you opponent is still screaming after the first slice, hit him again until he stops).

  4. I like the concept of layering. As mentioned in multiple previous posts, I am an advocate of a survival battery of firearms. I would like to add that your arsenal must consider all members of the family, and more specifically, their strengths, weaknesses and capabilities. This may expand the number of weapons beyond a simple Bowie Knife, .45 ACP, .223 assault rifle and .308 bolt action sniper weapon. Additional variables include your situation, are you “Bugging In” or “Bugging Out”. Will you be fighting your way out of a city or defending a farm? I cannot see more than 100 yards looking at any of the cardinal directions around my house. Consequently, the larger calibers of .308, 30-06 or 30-30 are not required to engage potential threats surrounding my home. Before I became a “Prepper”, I owned firearms in .38 SPL/.357 MAG, .45 ACP, .22 LR & .20 GA. When I became convinced that economic collapse was inevitable, I bought weapons in .380, .223 REM and .12 GA. Periodically, I would purchase some rounds for each system and put them together in an ammo can. After 8 months on this program, I picked up a Smith & Wesson Governor revolver. I then had to insert .45LC/.410 GA rounds to each of my containers. Right now, I am reluctant to add any weapons in calibers that I don’t stock. Even if I was offered a great deal on a .308 WIN, .44 MAG or 9mm, I would likely decline. I am too far committed to my program to change it. I admit, it has been very expensive to buy these different guns and ammunition. I just keep telling myself that versatility will pay off in any SHTF/WROL scenario. My recommendation to folks planning on a survival battery remains (in this order): .12 or .20 GA Shotgun (to tolerance) and mixed #00, #4 & #6 Buckshot plus slugs, .22 LR (Ruger 10/22 or like Semi-auto), handgun (.357 MAG – rural, .45 ACP – urban), assault rifle (Mini-14 or M4 in .223) and large caliber .308 or 30-06 (bolt action from reliable gun company: Marlin, Savage, Ruger, Kimber, etc. Remington 700 is the most popular.)

  5. Oh I like shotguns. I have a nice red jacket saiga 12. I’m considering getting one of the new duckbill spreaders for mine. Alot of you only think of only in terms of reach , also consider stopping power. Consider that our own special forces invented and now utilize the 6.8 spc due to lack of stopping power of .223. Stopping power is a factor not just reach. Read about Vietnam and how the Viet Cong knew that the .223 would not go through trees but the .308 fried from an m-60 would mow through them. Folks it comes down to putting down your opponent. I agree with Dave Lauck that .223 is great for light work or a perimeter rifle but it lacks stopping power. Recall on the show Deadliest warrior when the GSG 9 went up against La swat. >223 vs 6.8. Watch how .223 puts a hole in the dummy while 6.8 splits it down to the chin. People in what we have coming you wont be there for kool aide and cookies. If a gang of thus comes out to play , you want to be able to put them down like the rabid dogs they are. And I have several Ruger .22’s for those hunger moments.

  6. Great info in both the main post and in the comments. These gun related posts always seem to cause debate. Round and round we go, how hard hitting, penetration, reach and stopping power. Seems to me it’s often a debate about the merits of a 12 pound hammer VS a 10 pound hammer. Both, if used with proper skill will get the job done, I wouldn’t want to get hit by either. Sometimes these debates draw on facts that don’t really lend to current reality. I’m not sure what kind of trees grow in Vietnam (perhaps balsa or paper mache) The trees in my area, large enough for someone to hide behind won’t be peep holed by a 308. Don’t get me wrong, when it all crumbles I’ll gladly make room for any/all of you and your weapons at my farm in return for your help defending it, and I’ll even spring for the beer and snacks. At some point, which round penetrates most thoroughly, which will leave the target most dead and which will excavate a body cavity more completely becomes hair splitting.

    • Mr. Gault –

      Thanks for the comments. When seeking cover in your neck of the woods – find a tree – a BIG tree – and pray your opponant is shooting a .223 or 5.56 and not a 7.62 NATO or .308.

      Your point well taken.

      My next article – The 9mm versus the .45ACP versu the .40 S&W versus the 43 1/2 Rourke round.

      Should be interesting.


  7. I will take your advice and follow it. I’m no ballistics expert but please…….. am I to believe without first witnessing that a 308 would penetrate a 2 foot diameter oak….. 2 foot diameter being minimal coverage for a slender person. If a zombie takes shelter behind a 6″ pine post…. well… I guess they’ll get what they deserve.

    But seriously, will a 308 or similar really penetrate a 2′ diameter tree…… I need to know.

  8. I found a site where someone was testing 308 and 223 calibers through wood, 8.5 diameter maple and a couple inches of wet phone book. both penetrated thoroughly! Now that’s not 24 inches but as we know a diameter is only thickest in the middle, thinning toward the edges when sited from a head on perspective. This sheds new light on my “peep hole” comment.

    • Mr. Gault –

      Yes – I would be cautious behind that 2 foot tree. There are a lot of factors – is the tree green or dead? What is the range? What is the ammunition type? Bigger is better and whatever you do – don’t get behind a well house for cover. You’ll likely fair better than a Twinkie in Rosanne Barr’s dressing room – but not by much.


  9. Just did some price checking 5.56 40-55 cents a round, I can get 308 as low as 68 cents a round, and 6.8 SPC starts at about 80 cent a round (luckygunner) Now for those prepping for longterm and should things go south for an extnded period, I’d opt for 223, one cost, two most people can handle 223 and not flinch like hell, (my girl friend will hit with the first shot, and miss the rest with a 308, but she will continue to hit the target with 223)
    If a person is on a budget, but will practice with 223 on a regular basis they can become effective if they chose 308 but practice half as much due to cost they will not likely become effective
    6.8 is a spendid round, why the military was to short sighted to adopt it is beyond me, and I have eyed it for years, but the cost factor
    I’m not aguring caliber choices or peformance of a given caliber, know your gun, and know it’s limits, train to be effective with what you have. So if all you have is a shotgun, know you may have to wait to engage at less than 50 yds, if all you have is a Ruger 10-22 you may have to dump the whole magazine in one guy at under 100yds, and if the guy is beyond 300 yds you may not stop him with an AR15
    SF’s in Vietnam found they could not lay down enough fire power with the M-14 against human wave charges, but the 16’s worked very well.
    I’d rather have my group actually hitting those dogs with AR’s than missing with 308, when I tell the group there will be a training session on the range, alll of the AR owners show up every time, but the one guy who swears by 308 shows up about every third time admitted it was the cost factor that kept him from attending

    So in closing weather it is 5.56, 762×39, 308, 30.06, 8mm Mauser, or 762X54r, tae it out of the closet take it to the range and learn to use it

    If you are looking to buy, and the sky is the limit then get the match grade gun, if you are limited get what you can afford,

    “The sword is more important than the shield, and skill is more important than either. The final weapon is the brain. All else is supplemental.” — John Steinbeck

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