Firearms Primer
Updated November 2, 2001

Like many issues, the choice to have guns among your survival gear is up to the individual. Both Stan and I grew up in families that had firearms. My dad was a Marksman in the Army and Stan was captain of his school small-bore rifle team and also beat the NRA National Champion in an unofficial match while attending the US Air Force Academy. If gun laws were such in Australia, we would include them in our survival gear. As it is, they are permissible only under certain circumstances.

Many folks have written saying the weapons issue should be addressed whether for personal protection or hunting game. As a self-professed gun illiterate, a knowledgeable friend in law enforcement, wrote this concise and informative primer on useful firearms.

Different people's experience can produce different findings and weapons is no different. Shortly after the Firearms page was uploaded, another law enforcement officer, Erik, offered his analysis based on his experience. Erik is a professional law enforcement officer and firearms instructor full-time. He's also a 10-year veteran of active and reserve military. If you would like to contact him, Erik's email is

Our third contributor is also a law enforcement officer in Western Australia with a total of 18 years to his credit. Six of the 18 years were spent with Special Forces in the Australian government. He has also studied various martial arts including Judo, Ju-Jitsu, Ti-Chi and Karate for over 30 years. Below you'll find valuable information regarding personal protection applicable for most countries.

Overall the three men have similar takes on guns, but it's always valuable to discuss some of the finer points. The original text is in blue, Erik's contribution is in green and our Australian law enforcement officer's expertise is in purple:

Primer on Personal Security

Firearms are merely a means to an end. First and foremost, it must be remembered that a firearm in the hands of an inexperienced person will do as much damage to them or their family as it will to the object that they wish to shoot.

There are countless examples of children being seriously injured or killed because the weapons were not secured or the various parts, i.e. stock, bolt and ammunition etc. were not stored separately.

There are also many stories of persons having had their firearm taken from them and the offender turning the weapon on the owner.

What I am alluding to is that there is no substitute for proper training . Remember, shooting is a skill which needs to be kept current as does your first aid skills. If you are going to have firearms, learn how to deal with firearm-related injuries.

In relation to the type of firearm required, it is important to decide what the firearm is intended for, i.e. the procurement of food or for personal protection. There are three basic types of firearms to be consider and each has a particular killing zone. The killing zones are as follows:

1. Personal killing zone - distance to target 0 to 10 meters (0 to 33 feet)
2. Middle killing zone - distance to target 10 to 100 meters (33 to 328 feet)
3. Long range killing zone - distance to target 100 to 1000 meters (328 to 3280 feet)

A further point to consider is where am I going to carry the firearm.

Special Forces training indelibly imprints on the mind of its members the three areas that items are kept. They are :

1. On the person: These items are on you at all times, and include:

  • Personal Survival
  • Medical
  • Protection Items (A K-Bar knife is recommended which is a Marine solid core, straight blade, survival knife.)

2. On webbing: These items are within arms reach all the time, and include:

  • Emergency Water
  • Shelter
  • Warmth
  • Food Items
  • Personal Protection Items

(An Emergi-Pak from TECFEN Corporation is recommended along with 1 litre of water, a hand gun and ammunition.)

3. In pack: These packs should be stored "ready to go" in an area that can be accessed very quickly, i.e. keep one in the house, one in your vehicle etc. and include:

  • 5 litres of Water
  • Small Tent
  • Change of Clothing and Footwear
  • Food for 5 days
  • Personal Medical Supplies
  • Fold Down Survival Weapon

One weapon will not satisfy all of your requirements so consider your choice carefully.

For a hand gun, Special Forces carry a revolver. Revolvers require less maintenance than pistols. Pistols have many moving parts and if you are unfamiliar with the weapon they are prone to jam. The United States Air Force has what I consider to be one of the ultimate survival hand guns. The revolver has 3 barrels and 3 cylinders enabling a rapid change from a 22 caliber, to a 38 special to a 44 magnum.

The 22 caliber is used for hunting small game; hollow point rounds are recommended. Sub-sonic rounds can be purchased to lessen the sound if noise is a consideration. "Stinger" ammunition (also 22 caliber) is recommended for larger game up to the size of a medium sized dog. It has a higher velocity than the standard 22 round and with a pentagonal hole in the projectile rather than a "Hollow Point". The projectile fractures evenly on 5 points resulting in increased trauma to the game.

The 38 special can be used for larger game as well as being a formidable caliber for personal protection. Finally, the 44 magnum is capable of inflicting huge traumas to everything it hits.

My recommendation for personal security in the home would be a 12 gauge or 20 gauge shotgun with an 18 or 20 inch barrel. The 20 gauge has a lot less kick and performs almost as well as the 12 gauge. 00 buck (buckshot) ammo is the equivalent of firing a dozen rounds from a 9mm handgun all at once, and is the most deadly gun made. The short barrel is good for large game under 100 yards with slug ammo, and with a longer barrel and different ammo you can hunt any kind of bird, rabbits, etc. Barrels are interchangeable. A Remington 12 gauge with a 28 inch barrel can be had in the US for about $210 new. A .410 shotgun is good for rabbits, but not for protection unless you can hit someone in the eyes with it.

Most of this is true, except for two points:

1. The recoil of a shotgun is so severe as to be difficult for most women, small men, or younger children. For these people, I would recommend a pistol-caliber carbine, such as the US M1, Marlin Camp, or Ruger. These guns are available (US) in the same price ranges as a shotgun.

2. The lethality of the shotgun is often overestimated. In many shotgun patterns, close to 50% of the pellets may miss or hit non-vital areas, even at close range. Follow-up shots are difficult because of the recoil. Accuracy is a MUST, so you have to practice with this or any other firearm.

For protection, a good semi-auto rifle in 7.62x39 or .223 (5.56mm) is, in my opinion, the best choice. It has low recoil, high capacity, and is very accurate, even out to up to 400 meters. It can also be used for hunting small game, or, in the case of the heavier 7.62 round, even deer. Examples include the Ruger Mini-14, Colt AR-15, AK47 or MAK-90, SKS, or M1 Garand.

Lever-action rifles in .30-30 are also a good alternative to a semi-auto. Winchester Model 94 or Marlin 336 or 30AW.

For a personal protection handgun, the most deadly is the .357 magnum revolver with a 125 grain hollow point bullet. It far surpasses Clint Eastwood's movie .44 magnum for one shot kills. However, the .44 magnum with a 6 inch barrel or longer, is the best hunting handgun available without going to some of the more exotic calibers. A revolver is simple to use and trouble free. I recommend a Smith and Wesson .357 for ease of use and cleaning, or a Ruger .357 for durability if you are going to drag it through the desert, swamp, jungle, drop it from an airplane, etc. Tarus makes a very good and inexpensive gun too.

I concur with this, except remember again the .357 recoil is tough to get used to.

For a semi-automatic handgun, where I work, new Deputies are required to carry a Glock .40 caliber. It is the most efficient and deadly available and an excellent gun. It's one of the new "plastic guns".

I don't have a quarrel with the Glock in a survival situation, but the .40 is not a good idea. 9mm is just as effective when shot accurately and is much easier to obtain in large quantities.

Everyone should have a .22 rifle. It is good for target practice and is more deadly than some of the larger caliber guns due to the high velocity of the bullet causing deep penetration. I know people who illegally shot an elk and a trophy deer at close range with a .22. I get a lot of disagreement from people, but if I had to choose one all-around gun to have it would be the .22.

I agree wholeheartedly with this.

For hunting, a .270 rifle or larger with a scope for big game is best. Smaller calibers are used, but most hunting articles I have read say the 30-06 is the best hunting rifle for North American big game. I use a 30-06 but prefer my sons .270 since it has so much less kick. Shoot what you are comfortable with. For smaller game such as varmints, a 22-250 is very good.

Your semi-auto 7.62x39 I mentioned earlier should be adequate for deer. .30-06 and .270 are excellent calibers, but I would suggest .308 (7.62x51mm) because, again, it is easy to obtain in large quantities.

Again with rifles, there are many to choose from the 177 air rifle to the 50 caliber. With a 50 caliber Browning sniper rifle with telescopic mounts, a kill shoot in excess of 3000 meters (10,000 feet) is possible. The longest confirmed kill by a 7.62 x 59mm round was 2,800 meters.

My personal choice in rifles would consist of 2 weapons. The first would be what is known as an over and under. What this means is that a 22 caliber rifle sits on top of a 12 gauge shot gun. Remember in survival, everything needs to have more than one use.

My second rifle would be in 5.56 mm (223) caliber. This is a standard military round preferred by the United States and Australian Defence Forces. The temptation is to go for a weapon like the AR15, M16 or Styeir rifle. All of these rifles are military weapons capable of single shot, semi-automatic or fully automatic fire. Once the testosterone levels have subsided, a bolt action rifle should be your choice. Handled correctly a bolt action is almost as fast as a semi-auto and there are less things to go wrong. Remember, the simpler it is, the better in a survival situation.

Remember, to stockpile ammo, you need a lot of it. I recommend military calibers, because the surplus market allows you to buy in quantity.

Revolver: .38 Special Auto-Pistol: 9mm NATO (aka 9mm Parabellum) Rifle: 5.56mm, 7.62x39mm (Soviet), 7.62x51mm (NATO)

It would seem inappropriate to use a 7.62 x 59mm (standard NATO round) to hunt rabbit, but it may be very appropriate to hunt predators such as bear or man.

Eventually we would run out of ammo, so reloading becomes a necessity. Reloading is expensive to get started in, but once the initial investment is made the ammo is cheap to make.

A good sources of reloading supplies is:

5875-D W. Van Horn Tavern Rd.
Columbia, MO65203-9979
FAX 573-446-1018

I have read both Erik and the other officer's comments and I agree with a lot of what they have said, but in the end it comes down to personal choice and reasons for purchase.

Stay with weapons that have a common caliber, have minimal moving parts and learn the associated skills that go with hunting. Those associated skills are tracking by sight and sent, snares construction, animal butchering, camouflage and concealment. In addition to these skills, you will need to know the animals habits and movements. Also, learn what defenses the animal possesses; nothing should come as a surprise in a survival situation - surprises kill.

If you intend to use modern methods to hunt at night such as Night Vision Goggles, infrared red or thermal imaging, sound or movement detectors, learn there capabilities and limitations.

For purchasing and licensing of firearms, it is recommended that you attend your local Police station to obtain your state's current legislative requirements. Some states require you to belong to a gun club before purchasing firearms. This is a common sense approach as it allows you to try several types, makes and models of firearms before purchasing your own. It also means that you are trained correctly in the use, care and safety of you firearm.

A final note, remember experience is the only true teacher.

Equipment, Supplies, How-to Books

Wideners Reloading & Shooting Supplies
P.O. BOX 3009 CRS
Johnson City, TN 37602
Phone: 423-282-6786
Fax: 423-282-6651
Order Line Only: 800-615-3006

Reloading supplies are normally easy to come by. HOWEVER, when HCI (Handgun Control Inc.) and President Clinton attempted their gun grab several years ago, it was almost impossible to get primer caps (ignites the powder) at any price due to so many gun owners stocking up in case they were successful in their hair-brained scheme. Things are back to normal now, but shortages will occur again with the next gun grab attempt. Now is the time to get all you can get.

I am not an expert about guns and didn't own one until I was in my early 30's long before I became a Deputy Sheriff. As for a crash course in self defense, the best defense is to practice, practice, practice with the weapons you have. I have put 30,000 rounds through my S&W .357 and still practice. I have put 10,000 rounds through my .22 rifle just for fun since the ammo is cheap and easily available. I recommend a supply of 10,000 rounds be kept for when the crunch comes.

Practicing with a hunting rifle like a 30-06 is expensive so reloading is the only option. I recommend as much ammo for it as you can afford since this is going to put food on the table for a time, as well as for a "reach out and touch someone" defense at long range. Premium bullets run about $1 a round or a little more.

In America joining the NRA or Gun Owners of America is critical if we want to keep our guns. I am a life member of NRA, and a member of GOA. Both have web sites. The NRA has 39,000 gun safety teachers and can be reached at

Gun Owners of America:
8001 Forbes Place, Suite 102
Springfield VA 22151
Phone: 703-321-8585
Fax: 703-321-8408

For an organization in Australia comparable to the NRA check:

Sporting Shooters Association of Australia Inc.
P.O. Box 906
St. Marys, NWS 1790
Phone: 02-9623-4900
Fax: 02-9623-5900


Requirements for owning weapons are now severely restricted in Australia. The official gun recall for semi-automatics and pump action shotguns went into effect 30 September 1997. There are a few circumstances which allow citizens to own a weapon. The general law states you must belong to a gun club and have proof of actively practicing. In some states, you must attend at least twice each year, other states require monthly attendance and in still others, just being a member is enough. Another circumstance where having a weapon is permitted is if you own at least 100 acres and need the weapon for varmint control. A third option is if you hunt or target shoot on a farmer’s property who has at least 100 acres. The farmer must write a letter stating this is your purpose which is submitted with the application. Since laws vary from state to state, check the requirements for your area.

This information does not cover everything there is to know about owning and operating a firearm, but it is a good place to start. Oftentimes when we are very new to a topic, it helps to understand the basics so we can at least ask intelligent questions. This primer and the links should be enough to get you started; however, the choice to keep firearms and ammunition is up to the individual.

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