Today I am sharing another post from our pals over at progunmillennia.

Today, we’re going to discuss setting up a rifle for a hypothetical end-of-the-world scenario. It may seem like a straightforward process to some, but it’s a little more nuanced than the typical gun store answer of, “I’ll just grab an AK with iron sights.” We’re going to examine the multifaceted idea of setting up your rifle for a post-apocalyptic setting, a dystopian future, or whatever scenario you choose.

At First, Less Is Not Always More

This may be confusing at first, but bear with me. If you’ve already purchased a Gucci night vision or thermal setup, don’t automatically discount it because “It UsEs BaTtErIeS!” The same applies to rifles with optics that require batteries.

Yes, eventually batteries will die and you’ll need to be judicious when using them. However, these tools still provide a major force multiplier against those who don’t have them. Having the option to use them during the first wave of whatever is happening, which will likely be the most intense, could prove invaluable.

To the uninitiated, this is how unfair having night capability is: You could be walking outside in the darkness, not knowing why your retinas are being burned out, while someone with night vision has an IR laser pointed at your face. They could be ready to give you a dirt nap and you wouldn’t even know what’s happening. Thermals can also be used to see your hot signature against buildings or foliage from hundreds of yards away. They may not be able to positively identify you with it, but detection is the first step toward investigating more and potentially engaging you. And anyone who has spent time around firearms will know how superior optics are to iron sights.

So, don’t discount something based on the sole criteria that it requires batteries. You can still hold on to that advantage for a time. Plus, batteries are EMP proof if that’s your chosen scenario. This means you may get lucky enough to scavenge for some for at least a little bit. It also assumes your equipment doesn’t require a weird battery that’s hard to find. “But how will batteries help if my optic is fried?” If that was a genuine concern of yours, you would probably be taking that into account when storing your equipment (most of us aren’t obviously).

Logistics Takes Priority

Less common calibers are not your friend in these scenarios. Sure, they may be ballistically superior and some certainly have their merits. However, there’s one small issue with them —you won’t find them. We’ve all seen how quickly ammunition availability can dwindle, and that was with the silly Kung Flu. Imagine something far more serious. A gun without ammunition is about as useless as it gets.

There are two main counterarguments to this concern and I would like to offer counter-counterarguments to them. The first is that weird calibers don’t fly off the shelves like common ones do because less people need them. Though in some areas this may be true anecdotally, the basic law of supply and demand quickly disputes this overall. This also has the presupposition that people are still buying things rather than simply raiding stores. If I found an unmolested Academy or Walmart that had any source of ammunition left, I’m taking it even if I don’t need it in hopes of bartering with it later. The second is that people can stock up with enough ammunition to last a lifetime. This can be true, but it forgets about one very real aspect. You may need to leave your compound, safehouse, campsite, or whatever if it gets raided or taken out by a natural disaster like a forest fire or tornado. In these scenarios you must leave quickly and prioritize what you bring. At best, you could have enough time to throw some stuff in a vehicle, but you may have to leave your lifetime supply of the chosen hipster caliber. Why not stockpile a common round and have the flexibility to scavenge if needed?

Of course, this applies to firearms platforms too. Weapons require maintenance and having something proprietary won’t be easy when trying to find spare sparts or magazines. Here comes the, “This guy is just a Tactical Timmy who thinks AR’s and Glocks are the answer.” I would follow the same theme if I lived in the Middle East or West Africa. AK’s would be the obvious choice since there’s no shortage of ammunition or parts in that part of the world.

Stop Exclusively Thinking of Home Defense Scenarios

Concepts like escalation of force and disparity of force need to be discarded in savage environments without rule of law. The idea of planning around “common home defense” events is flawed. Your training needs to be all encompassing and your mind needs to switch from the 15-yard-and-in mentality.

“If I engage someone from 200 yards, I’m gonna need the best lawyer in the world.” During stable times like now, I absolutely agree. In fact, that’s an obviously responsible mindset. However, for these scenarios, lethality takes precedence over liability. Distance is your friend. Use it to your advantage. The likelihood of you running into another marksman pales in comparison to finding some chud who simply knows how to pull a trigger.  The closer you get to the enemy, the more even the odds get. It’s better to settle things on your terms from further away, or ideally, choose to evade if possible. This concept has been addressed ad nauseum here. I implore you to understand how crucial creating distance is, especially when operating alone.

Armed Is Armed

Choosing a weapon with a less intimidating form factor has been brought up by several prominent figures. The idea is if marauders or some tyrannical regime comes across you holding Cornpop’s double barrel shotgun or grandpa’s bolt action, you’ll look like less of a threat. Admittedly, someone holding an AK does look a little less friendly than someone with a shotgun for duck hunting. They could deem you as a non-combatant and leave you alone, in theory. Jeff Cooper’s Scout Rifle concept comes to mind here.

However, I tend to disagree. Armed is armed. Even if you have an over-under 12 gauge or single-shot .30-06, I still don’t want to be on the receiving end of it. And I’m going to make sure I don’t. Many would also share the same sentiment. Don’t leave your survival up to others’ grace. If you’re going to be armed, commit to it. Use the tool that best allows you to protect yourself and your loved ones.

What Rifle Should I Choose?

Taking all the above criteria into account, the choice is quite vanilla. Since I live in the U.S., it would be an AR-15 chambered in 5.56x45mm. Spare parts availability, magazines, and ammo can all be found quite easily here. These components can be stacked deep beforehand and are more easily sourced during a cataclysmic event. Even if every shelf is empty, the majority threats you’ll face will most likely have an AR of some sort. If you survive, it would be nice having the option of resupplying off them.

How Should I Set It Up?

Regarding specifics of the rifle, the barrel length should be 20” because it takes full advantage of the cartridge design. With a 20” barrel, even regular ball ammo becomes devastating because of the velocity. If using a suppressor is an option, then I would most likely go with a 16” instead to make the rifle at least somewhat maneuverable.

Notice I didn’t mention 11.5” or 13.7” or whatever the flavor of the week is now. “A 16-20” barrel is awfully long. Most fights are urban. What if you need to clear a house?” The answer is easy: don’t. Anyone who truly understands CQB will avoid it at all costs. If I absolutely had to clear a structure, then I would make due. Plenty of men before us have cleared houses with M16’s. It isn’t ideal, but it can be done using the right techniques. However, I’d much rather wait for someone to walk out of a structure and ambush them from a distance. A longer barrel gives a higher degree of confidence at distance, in terms of both external and terminal ballistics. Understandably, this doesn’t sound like a cool setup like many are used to seeing from Instagram operators playing in glass houses.

Where a lot of people screw up when setting up their rifles, or contingency planning in general, is they what-if scenarios to death. The consequence of that is setting something up that becomes mediocre at everything. You can’t have a 10.5” upper ideal for CQB and also make it work super effectively at distance. Plan for what you want to do with the rifle and go from there. Personally, I want something that helps me create distance first but can work up close secondarily, and my rifle setup mirrors this. This is a great segue into another main concern when setting up a rifle —optics.

Optics Selection

I’m a huge fan of variable optics, whether they are low or medium powered magnification. In these scenarios, they shine for a few reasons. They don’t necessarily require batteries, they allow a better reconnaissance of an area, help with positively identifying a target, they can work decent up close, and greatly aid in low percentage shots.

Many modern scopes have illuminated reticles. In some designs, the center of the reticle can be illuminated and act similarly to a red dot at lower magnification (albeit with less forgiving eye relief and eye boxes). Illumination is also beneficial when aiming at a darker target or backstop. However, you don’t need to use the illumination for the scope to still work. It will work with or without batteries and still provide a much more precise aiming reference than a fat front post on your typical iron sights.

Magnification also helps with scouting out an area and positively identifying your target first before engaging. It’s kind of important to see everything in your area and knowing who or what you’re shooting at. Also having the ability to engage partially obscured targets is a huge advantage that’s often overlooked.

For example, let’s assume you have a bad guy shooting at you from 100 yards away, a very manageable distance for most. Can you make that shot with a red dot? Sure, no problem. Now, let’s get away from the flat range mentality where targets face us broadside, fully exposed without cover. You’re going to be lucky to see anything other than half a head, an arm, and maybe a foot or knee if they’re getting sloppy with their use of cover. Can you make a shot on one of those minimally exposed areas of the target with just a dot now? Possibly, but it’s going to take a lot of focus and time, both of which are at a premium in this instance. You would be much more confident in your ability to shoot a foot at 100 yards with a little magnification.

“But the foot isn’t a vital area. Who cares?” Well, the dude whose foot just got shot certainly cares. He’s basically 50% less mobile now, in excruciating pain, and considerably less combat effective. Know what’s better than a normal enemy? A slow one that’s bleeding. This could be enough to deter him and make him skedaddle on out for fear of being flanked. It could be enough to get him off balance and fall out of cover, which would offer you an even better shot. The point is, don’t limit your options and take whatever the enemy will give you. A variable optic of some kind really embodies this idea.

Final Thoughts

Image is from a post on Sniper’s Hide here.

In this world, the idea of a 16-20” rifle with magnification makes a lot of sense for most applications. While it isn’t a cool kid setup by modern standards, like most things in life, pragmatism trumps everything else. If it works, it works.

Ultimately, your setup is your decision alone. However, I’d like to encourage the readers to think critically about their terrain. Don’t automatically associate urban areas with red dots and rural areas with magnification. I’ve been in heavily wooded areas where the most generous line of sight was 50 yards. In this case, a simple red dot and a super short 10.5” makes a ton of sense. I’ve also seen plenty of built-up urban areas with distances that at least necessitate the use of a MK12. Like many most things in life, the ambiguous answer is, “It depends.” Examine your needs and make your own informed decision, rather than relying on clout and affirmations from social media.


1 Comment

  1. LSWCHP says:

    I’d be interested to see the same assessment for handguns.


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