It is inherent in the term “doomsday” that conditions will be disorderly and dangerous. Some of the danger may come from natural forces, but there is also the likelihood of having to face human and non-human predators. Many of those with a propensity toward violence are also those least likely to plan for disaster or to have a store of food, water and medicine. Their survival plan will be, basically, to steal and pillage. Your survival plan needs to include the ability to stop that pillaging.
The choice of weapons will be determined to some extent on the environment or, in military terms, the AO (Area of Operations). If you have a cabin in the woods and will likely have a chance to take game for food, then a rifle usable for hunting big game may be desirable. However, for those in an urban environment, self-defense will be the primary use for weapons. The two missions are not mutually exclusive.
For example, in a rural area, one of the 7.62x51mm AR-type rifles, such as the SIG 716 Patrol, is useful for combat, hunting, even mid-range counter-sniping with a proper scope.
In the urban environment, a 5.56 x 45mm AR-type rifle should suffice for most missions. Don’t forget that for the M4, the SureFire 60-round magazine gives a lot of ammo for dealing with marauders. A couple of other 5.56x45mm rifles of which I am especially fond are the Steyr AUG A3 M1 and the SIG Sauer 551A1. The AUG has the advantage of being a bullpup, which keeps its overall length down and allows it to be handled well in confined spaces, including a vehicle.
An alternative that would allow the less expensive stocking of ammunition is a rifle or rifles in 7.62x39mm caliber. I have a folding-stock Norinco AK-47 that I have been using for years; it carries well slung or in a pack. It has a bayonet, which I consider a plus for dealing with various situations. I also have an excellent SIG 556R, which offers all of the features of the SIG 550-series of rifles but in 7.62x39mm. An added advantage of this SIG rifle is that it works with an array of different AK mags.
Normally, for doomsday planning, I recommend as few types of ammunition as possible to allow stocking up on what is needed. For rifles, 5.56x45mm and/or 7.62x51mm, as well as .22 Long Rifle, should cover any possible needs. I recommend a rifle or carbine with a bayonet lug and bayonet, as this combo excellent deterrence to threatening individuals. Ammunition will be a necessity that might become hard to replace.
If operating from a stable location, reloading tools, bullets, powder and primers may be stockpiled to supplement the ammunition on hand. Other calibers such as 9x19mm, 7.62x39mm and 12-gauge shotgun should be stocked in the quantities that you can afford. One advantage of 7.62x39mm, especially, is that it may be acquired in sealed tins for long-term storage. Some of the other military calibers may also be found in sealed battle packs that make storage easier. Also store cleaning supplies and spare parts for your weapons. Manuals are important, too.
An alternate rifle, especially for someone living in an area with strict laws governing assault rifles, is Steyr’s Scout Rifle. The Scout is designed to be an all-around rifle that may be used for combat or hunting. In 7.62x51mm with Leupold’s 1.5-5 x 33mm VX R Scout Scope, the rifle may also be used as a counter sniper rifle.
As the Scout Scope has an illuminated FireDot reticle it is quite usable in low light, but for doomsday usage, I would recommend laying in a supply of batteries. Another advantage of the Scout Rifle is that it has a 10-round magazine with a spare 10-round magazine carried in the stock. In addition to the Scout Rifle, I have also considered a custom-built ROBAR QR2F, a 7.62x51mm NATO caliber rifle with a 16.25-inch barrel and folding stock. This rifle offers ½ MOA or less accuracy and is very compact.
One or more handguns are also a virtual necessity for doomsday scenarios, though the rifle still takes precedence. I would recommend weapons in 9 x 19mm caliber, as the ammunition may be obtained readily and stockpiled. The other caliber of handgun that would be useful is .22 Long Rifle. The pistol would be useful as a backup to the rifle, but also as a propinquity weapon that could be handy while performing tasks such as chopping wood, getting water, building, planting—anything that required the hands to be free. The pistol would also be useful when it seemed advisable to be armed but not be obviously so.
For example, it might be advisable while bartering to not appear threatening. The pistol can always be at hand and is usually more quickly accessed. Today, there are many small, easily concealable 9 x 19mm handguns such as the Walther PPS M2, S&W Shield, Kahr PM9 or Glock 43. Any of these could be close at hand without being visible.
Larger-capacity 9 x 19mm pistols are more suited for open carry. My first choice for post-doomsday would be a Glock 17 or Glock 19. Glocks are legendary for reliability and durability. Repairs are rare and when needed can be carried out readily. Only a few sets of spare parts would be needed to keep a Glock or Glocks running indefinitely.
Personal familiarity and preference are important in choosing a handgun. As a result, an argument can be made for a favorite handgun for facing doomsday. Whether a .45 1911 or a .357 Magnum revolver, it will suffice if enough ammunition is stored, and spare parts and the ability to maintain the weapon are considered.
Because the handgun will not be a primary weapon, some concessions can be made about caliber to meet needs of family members. For example, my wife feels most comfortable carrying a .32 Kel-Tec or .380 Kahr, so I keep a few hundred rounds of ammunition for each. The .22 pistol offers great versatility for hunting or self defense.
If you own one with a registered suppressor, that offers the option of hunting small game without attracting attention. Of course, it could also be used to ambush marauders and eliminate them silently. Ruger is known for making reliable and durable .22 auto-loading pistols.
In a post-doomsday society or during any breakdown of law and order, the shotgun is an invaluable weapon. At close range, the fighting shotgun is a devastating weapon, but it is also a great intimidator. I have used multiple excellent self-loading shotguns. In fact, my house shotgun for years has been a Remington 11-87P self-loader. I also like the fast firing high-capacity SRM 1216 shotgun.
However, for the post-doomsday scenario I would recommend a pump action. The two standbys are the Remington 870 and the Mossberg 590. Both are proven with military and law enforcement, and are designed for combat usage. On the combat shotgun I like a ghost ring rear sight to allow more precision in placing shots at longer ranges. I also like a sidesaddle shell holder or one that slips over the stock putting ready reloads with the gun. There are also slings that double as bandoliers.
A light mounted on the shotgun is also useful. Although a shotgun is pretty intimidating without a bayonet, the Mossberg 590A1 Tactical offers a bayonet mount and comes with an M9 bayonet. Although standard Remington 870 and Mossberg 590 shotguns are excellent, I do use a Scattergun Technologies 870 that offers some enhancements in reliability and combat worthiness. For most preparing for doomsday, instead of getting a Scattergun Tech 870, I would recommend getting two 870 combat shotguns.
Post-doomsday, the shotgun will also be invaluable in taking small game and birds. The typical combat shotgun is in cylinder bore, which is not the best for hunting things with four legs or wings. But some combat shotguns come with interchangeable chokes, so multiple chokes could be acquired. Although 00 Buckshot is the standard fighting load, #1 Buckshot or #4 Buckshot puts more pellets down range and may not over-penetrate in an urban area.
Other weapons may be part of your arsenal as well. A crossbow or hunting bow is silent and allows retrieval of its bolt or arrow some of the time. Skilled bow hunters will find the bow a real supplement to the arsenal. Bladed weapons are important, too, for possible close combat.
Multiple heavy-duty folders for utility and combat use should be stocked. I am fond of Benchmade folders but have used others that are excellent. I also like to have fixed blade combat knives. Good ones are available from multiple sources. Cold Steel offers good fixed blade fighters at a reasonable price. I have a couple of Randalls I’ve used for years. I also use Extrema Ratio and Kizlyar fighting knives. The latter are very high-quality knives from Russia. Find a couple of fixed blade fighting/utility knives that you like and add those to your gear.
The combat tomahawk has proven itself again with troops fighting the war on terror, and I consider it an invaluable addition to close combat weapons. I also like the Kukri, which is devastating in close combat and also makes a useful chopping tool.
ADD YOUR FAVORITES
I’ve made suggestions about some firearms that I’ve found especially useful, but each of you reading this will have your own favorites. The basic doomsday arsenal will be based on a few guns—a centerfire rifle and handgun first, with a .22 rifle and a shotgun important additions. If arming a family of four or more, some additional concealable handguns and .22 rifles would be my first choices.
Remember, too, just buying the weapons and having them isn’t enough. Everyone who might use them in a family should be trained to use them safely and effectively. Some basic training in the skills applicable to combat shooting is desirable as well. Most of what I’ve discussed is common sense.
“Doomsday” means different things to different people, but I think for most it implies things are not going to be good and bad people will be around. Having the ability to defend yourself, your friends and family, your home or camp, and your supplies will be a necessity. Finances, local laws, location and other factors will dictate your weapons choice. But if the only weapon available is a .22 rifle, that is still way better than no weapon at all.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the Doomsday 2016 print issue of American Survival Guide.