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A pipe wrench can be used to loosen a pesky bolt under the hood of your truck. It’s not the perfect tool for the job, but it will suffice and get you moving again, which is your ultimate goal. In a similar way, firearms are also tools and, like the wrench, they can and should be employed to their maximum potential and effectiveness when and as appropriate to ensure your safety and security. However, in many urban centers, where firearms could often serve their primary purpose, they seem to be out of place.

Many gun restrictions are created in response to crimes committed in cities. Something bad happens and makes headlines, and the firearms involved are assigned the blame, then regulated or made illegal in an effort to reduce the likelihood of those crimes happening again. Because of this scenario, some laws in cities restrict ownership of many common types of firearms that law-abiding citizens depend on for their safety. States with higher-density cities or numerous smaller cities in close proximity to one another tend to have more of these restrictions. This situation puts many people in these areas in a tough spot because they want to be able to defend themselves but don’t want to be at odds with local laws.


Most restrictions are created based on the perception of what makes a firearm dangerous, often in an environment of anti-gun political bias. Generally, the focus is related to the guns’ actions themselves, particularly semiautomatics, and their accessories and attachments, based on their connection with prior or potential crimes. In some locations, adjustable stocks, removable magazines and/or magazine capacity, bayonet lugs, pistol grips and other attachments are

said to be characteristics of a “dangerous” firearm. Next to attachment governance is a complete ban of a certain type of action. Massachusetts, for example, has banned sales of all AK and AR type weapons.

A unique entry into the firearms world is the predominantly polymer KelTec SU16. This model will fit magazines in its foldable buttstock and readily accepts STANAG magazines.

To a large extent, these laws are established without sound knowledge of how the firearms work or the recognition that it’s the user who committed the crime, not the gun. Right or wrong, the laws are passed. If the law is ignored, an individual would become an outlaw and might lose the ability to possess firearms and suffer other penalties as well. In rural areas firearms are often part of the way of life, but cities and suburbs are less accepting.


The level of protection and types of tools employed in defense of one’s family and home are completely subjective and depend on location within the city, geography of the terrain, nearby obstacles, and the surrounding buildings. While many of the firearms listed on the following pages are potentially beneficial, they will be unsuitable in some locations. For example, a high-rise complex may have an ideal vantage point where a potential threat can be observed from far away. In this type of situation, engaging a threat with a .22 short at an extended distance would be ill-advised.

Areas close to major urban centers, such as New York City, offer more potential for disaster and chaos than most other areas. Large cities’ dense populations, mixed with high crime rates and difficult firearms regulations, mean defending a home might become very hard in the future.

A benefit of possessing a firearm is how versatile it can be. A rifle commonly used for hunting can reclaim a new life as a home defense tool. Training with a firearm for use in both situations increases the amount of efficiency and familiarity, improving overall safety.

It would be time well spent to study and think about the versatility of firearms considered for use in urban areas following a disaster. There are several things to consider:

  • Overall distance to engage or monitor a potential threat. Greater range means utilizing a different tool than if the threat is on the other side of a door.
  • Types of use which firearms will encounter. This means both pre- and post-SHTF scenarios must be considered.
  • Ability to safely and effectively store the firearm.
  • What inherent benefits that firearm has. There may be a better choice, depending on many variables.
  • Overall perception that a specific firearm can imply. A firearm can often provoke a reaction of awe, fear/respect or derision based on looks alone.


Where long distances are encountered, bolt-action rifles can be increasingly effective. Common calibers, such as .308, are not just easy to find but are often chambered in easy-to-maintain rifles. Police forces also use bolt-action rifles in urban areas. The Savage 10 Scout is one such example. A .30-06, like that found in the Savage 111, will achieve a broader effective range for hunting and defense than most other calibers available.

I’m a personal fan of lever-actions. While you won’t encounter me trying to clear a room in my home with a .45-70 Marlin, properly set-up lever-action rifles can cover some distance while remaining powerful. One of the most common hunting guns in history has been the Winchester 94 in .30-30. It still remains an extremely common caliber choice even if its range is limited.

AR variants are becoming more readily available, and their prices have dropped significantly in the past few years. Unfortunately, that is met with stronger opposition from some quarters and more legislation trying to ban them altogether.

Henry Repeating Arms has created the Long Ranger in .308 to bridge the gap between a lever- and bolt-action. Pointed bullets are not used frequently in lever-actions because of the potential to set off the primer of another round when loaded into a tubular magazine. Henry feeds these bullets through a stack magazine. This means that the Long Ranger can use common ammunition types while being faster to reload than a bolt-action. One downside to lever-actions is the increased movement of parts and tools necessary for maintaining them over an extended period of time.



Staying well-armed and safe in and around the home is as essential as being able to reach out far beyond. There are some exceptional direct alternatives to the AR and AK platforms. The purpose is for simple modularity, inherent in the design of the AR, and ease of functionality and maintenance, as seen with the AK. For those states without action bans and only feature bans, the Lee Armory Hunter is an AKM with a Monte Carlo stock. It’s not the first, but it does make this a legal option for difficult states such as New York, California and New Jersey. Likewise, the Franklin Armory Reformation circumvents several potential restrictions imposed on the AR platform as well as NFA standards.


I’m always amazed by the ingenuity of some when they are faced with specific challenges. When complete actions started to become regulated or banned, some companies up the ante, especially when people don’t want an SKS as their only option. M+M produced a mixed weapon that utilizes AK magazines in a new, unique action and platform: the M10x. The capability it affords to defend the home without the restrictions or fear surrounding a particular action are immeasurable. Likewise, KelTec’s SU16 does the same for the AR platform. KelTec is not without its faults, but it utilizes AR magazines and a foldable, compact design molded in polymer.

Urban areas offer unique vantage points to properly defend a home in a TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) situation.

For those who want to stand out against the crowd, MarColMar has reintroduced the CETME-L to the American market. The CETME-L was the 5.56 rifle for Spanish forces during the 1980s and utilized STANAG magazines. It’s a unique gun, if not very ergonomic. The CETME-L is not a wall hanger, and will truly raise some eyebrows. However, it’s an option for those locations that dislike AR rifles. If the bolt system is appealing but caliber is not, Century Arms also has their C308. The C308 is a .308 caliber CETME-C rifle that was used by Spain shortly after WWII.

While typically thought of as a rural hobby, long-range shooting is beginning to find its way closer to urban areas and has valid and practical applications if SHTF.

These firearms represent an alternative to the AR and AK platforms. They have their uses and functions, but this caliber is often unused for hunting medium game, such as deer. The pure ingenuity and design characteristics make each of these firearms a potential replacement for the AR or AKM platform. Care should be exercised, however, as many of these firearms may soon be restricted due to potential policy changes.

The M10x and Hunter rifles are newer and more acceptable designs based purely on legislation or visual design concerns. Neither makes the gun more or less powerful or useful.

AR platforms are not always a legal option in cities and some U.S. states. While they are easy to build, they are not always allowed, so other firearm options should be considered.

Keep in mind, effectively using these firearms means proper training and the addition of other items such as scopes, grips and magazines. While each has very few working parts, they do require a bit of knowledge and wisdom. Semiautomatic firearms are known to encounter a plethora of potential issues, and knowing how to properly diagnose and remedy those issues is the key to successful use.


Firearms aren’t for everyone. They certainly aren’t for every occasion. For some, the noise alone is enough to prevent post- SHTF implementation. The .22LR has been around for over a century and is quieter than most firearms. Perhaps most notable, it’s inexpensive to shoot.

There are many .22LR designs to choose from. The most iconic is the Ruger 10/22, and while it’s an excellent rifle, I prefer the Thompson Center T/CR-22. It has proprietary parts and can still utilize almost everything made for the Ruger 10/22. Thompson doesn’t offer a takedown option, so it’s harder to carry. Even the 10/22 takedown is difficult to carry discreetly. With that in mind, the Henry AR-7 is a stowable, space-saving option with a storied lineage.

“Scary looking” rifles such as the MarColMar CETME-L and Century Arms C308 may look dangerous, but they are less powerful than bolt actions due to their gas and bolt systems.

To add to that, Chiappa makes a single shot break-barrel called the Little Badger. This gun features a threaded barrel for ease of cleaning with the adaptation of a solvent trap.

Realistically, these aren’t primary options for home defense, but they certainly are enough to be a deterrent and to supply food on the table if necessary. The goal with this caliber would most likely be discretion, ease of storage, and a moderate cost of a firearm and ammunition. Space is limited in most urban climates, so this makes for an excellent option. The reduced sound signature is one of the greatest benefits of .22LR. It’s crucial to stay quiet when discreetly trying to hunt squirrels, rabbits and rats in the apocalypse.


Shotguns have been wielded as home defense tools for as long as they have been around. Furthermore, they are one of the least restricted and most versatile firearms available. For hunting, a sole shotgun can be used for everything from fowl to deer with proper ammunition choices. One can never go wrong with a pump-action or single-shot either. Semiautomatics have also been used reliably for decades. There is a reason the USMC relies on semiautomatic shotguns.

The Marlin 1895 in .45-70 is capable of reaching out to 1000 yards using factory ammunition

When space remains a concern, a Remington V3 TAC-13 can fit the bill. It is compact and carries very little recoil. As a semiautomatic, it has a bit of a learning curve, and difficulty compares to something like a Weatherby SA-459. But the easiest to use would be a pump action, like the Mossberg 500, or a single-shot. One benefit to a single-shot is the use of inserts that allow pistol calibers to be used, like those produced by Chiappa.

With a forward scout scope, a bolt-action can still be utilized with extreme efficiency. Models like this early Savage 10 Scout, are often used by police across the United States.

The Henry Long Ranger utilizes a unique bolt system that forces as much gas forward as possible, making it incredibly accurate. The lever is an added benefit for quick reloading.

The challenging part of shotgun use is the subsequent recoil and limited effective distance. Past 50 yards, it’s challenging to produce an accurate slug shot, and lightweight individuals might be thrown by the recoil. Buckshot and birdshot will always be essential to a home defense shotgun, and the versatility in both pre- and post-SHTF use is innumerable.


What’s that you say? You don’t want to possess a firearm in the home? No problem! Grab a crossbow! Sincerely, grab a crossbow. They are louder than you’d think, but they can rightly be utilized for hunting and self-defense. Of all the options, most crossbows are among the slowest and hardest to effectively use. Strength is required to manually cock the string back, knowledge on arrow distances and force to properly aim, and storage are all possible drawbacks. As with every other option, practice is required for proficiency.


The Franklin Armory Reformation, Chiappa Little Badger, Henry AR7, KelTec SU16, and Remington V3 TAC- 13 are all compact firearms that can be packed away while occupying very little space.


Every item and tool should satisfy a singular and necessary need. It’s also necessary to consider the possible use of a tool in a unique and abstract way or environment. When, or if, SHTF, it is best to prepare now. While firearms aren’t the core focus of any preparation, they are unquestionably a significant one and many would declare them a requirement. When ownership of certain tools becomes difficult, source and use alternatives. Regrettably, the need to prepare in this manner is necessary based on shifts in attitudes and cultural environments and rapidly becoming a way of life. No matter which option you choose, it’s better than having no option when you need it.


The Franklin Armory Reformation is one of the oddball rifles on the market today. While not legal in all areas, it bypasses some of the restrictions in state and federal laws. The Reformation is not a rifle nor a shotgun. With the integration of a straight-rifled barrel, it bypasses many of the firearms definitions and is placed into an “other” category. Likewise, since it is not a rifle, pistol or shotgun, many of the NFA regulations defining short-barrel rifles do not apply. Currently, the Reformation is the only gun of this type. Despite the benefits, there’s a reason it stands solitary. Ballistically, the Reformation lacks the range needed in alternatives of the same caliber. For example, a .223 fired from a rifle barrel of the equivalent length may reach out to 400 yards with little difficulties. Regrettably, the Reformation starts producing keyhole targets in as little as 50 yards.


Accessories and ammunition are just as vital as the firearms. A rifle with no sights is just about as useful as a loud baton. These categories are where personal preference takes priority. Finding the most comfortable and appropriate accessories that make it easier to wield your particular rifle can save hassles in the long run. For example, a holographic sight is not the worthiest accessory for a long-range bolt action. Likewise, a large magazine fixed to a compact rifle may be difficult to maneuver by someone with shorter arms or stature. Practice and find the solution that works best for you and your rifle.


Lever-action rifles are often misjudged. They are frequently represented as an antiquated, cartoonish effigy of a proper firearm. The reality is considerably different. If someone must enter the public eye with a firearm, a lever-action might give them a potential advantage. Common caliber variations range anywhere from .22 short to .50 Alaska. Walking through a metropolitan area with a lever-action may arouse some attention, but most individuals view it more as a western movie prop than a lethal firearm and may underestimate the lethality of the user. So, go ahead: Play Cowboy.


Century Arms
(800) 991-4867

Chiappa Firearms
(937) 835-5000

Franklin Armory
(775) 783-4313

H&R Pardner
(866) 776-9292

Henry Repeating Arms
(201) 858-4400

KelTec Weapons
(321) 631-0068

Lee Armory
(602) 715-2188

M+M Industries
(866) 926-5419

MarColMar Firearms
(765) 983-8200

Marlin Firearms
(800) 544-8892

(800) 363-3555

Remington Firearms
(800) 243-9700

(800) 370-0708

Sturm, Ruger and Co.
(336) 949-5200

Thompson Center
(866) 730-1614

(307) 675-7800


Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the January, 2020 print issue of American Survival Guide.