Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Disaster Preparedness Part Four: What About Da Gunz?

In the first three parts of this series, I covered the likely disasters we face in Southern California, then discussed the gear and supplies I prepared, and finally the skills that would be needed in the event of a disaster. In this post, I'll discuss the issue of weapons in general and guns in particular.

This is a bit of a contentious issue among the general population as evident by the controversy surrounding Barack Obama's recent executive orders regarding gun control.

Anyway, among the disaster preparedness crowd, however, guns are often viewed as necessary for hunting and protection. Where I grew up (rural Northern Michigan), guns were just part of life. Almost everyone hunted, though a very small number of people owned guns for sport shooting or were collectors. People rarely owned guns for personal protection, but they were available if needed. They were viewed as useful tools.

Are they really necessary for disaster preparedness, though? Let's explore the pros and cons.

The Advantages of Guns

  • Guns ARE a great tool for personal protection, especially when defending your house against home invaders. If there was a disaster that resulted in a shortage of food, water, and medicine, looting would be an inevitability. Guns shouldn't be the first line of defense against looters, but would certainly be useful.
  • Guns make hunting far easier. I spent my entire youth hunting a wide variety of game with an equally wide variety of weapons. Guns are definitely a huge advantage because they allow you to kill game from a distance. That's useful in almost any environment, especially the mountains, desert, and urban areas (you know, for hunting stray/ abandoned pets) in and around San Diego. 
  • Guns can be a powerful deterrent. If other people are up to no good but know you're armed, odds are good they'll leave you alone in favor of an easier target. 
  • Guns can serve other useful purposes. The loud report can be used as a signal. If the gun has a scope, it can be used to start fires. Same deal with the smokeless powder in the shells and cartridges. If the bullets aren't jacketed, they can be used as writing implements. In a pinch, a gun can be used as a club. 

The Disadvantage of Guns

  • They can be dangerous. This is especially true for people that do not have a lot of gun safety training. I routinely see idiots making fundamental mistakes with gun handling, including not keeping it locked up, not treating it like it was loaded, not checking the breech to see if it's loaded, keeping their finger on the trigger, etc. 
  • They're usually expensive. Good guns are not cheap. Being well-prepared for a multitude of disaster scenarios would likely require multiple guns and ammunition, which could easily cost thousands of dollars. If you're on a tight budget, there would be quite a few higher priorities.  
  • They require practice to become proficient. Shooting isn't something you can do a few times and expect to see good results, especially if the gun is used in any sort of real-world situation.
  • They announce your presence. Guns are loud and the muzzle flash can be seen from considerable distance. In some cases this may be a good thing, but most of the time would be bad news. Contrary to Hollywood's portrayal, "silencers" don't actually silence firearms all that much.
  • They take up space. This is probably more of an issue if you're on foot, but still a consideration. Most guns weigh between five and ten pounds, plus ammunition. If you're hiking fifty miles, that's a lot of additional weight to lug around.
  • They can be fragile. Most guns are fairly delicate and require routine cleaning and other maintenance. In a disaster scenario where there could be flooding a debris everywhere, this could be an issue. 
  • You have to be willing to actually use it. While a survival scenario has a tendency to motivate people to do things they may not otherwise be willing to do, using a gun for hunting or personal protection requires you to be willing to take a life AND face the legal, moral, social, and psychological consequences of that decision. 

My Approach

When I weigh the pros and cons, the pros always win out. All of the cons can be negated or minimized with planning and preparation, and guns dramatically simplify and expedite food procurement. The type of guns chosen for disaster preparedness go a long way towards shifting the decision in favor of adding guns to the disaster preparedness plan. Specifically, these are the guns I would choose, along with the rationale. The list starts with the highest priority and progresses to the lowest priority.

  • Gun #1: 20 gauge pump - This is my jack-of-all-trades gun. It can be used for small game and birds (with bird shot), personal protection (buck shot), and taking larger game (slugs.) It's light, the disbursed shot doesn't require precise aim, it's fairly simple and easy to maintain, and is easier to shoot for women and children (compared to the larger, more popular 12 gauge.) The shells are cheap and fairly easy to reload. 
  • Gun #2: .25 caliber air rifle - Surprised, right? I love pellet guns. The primary advantage is silence. Most only make a tiny fraction of the noise of a gun, and the larger .25 caliber pellets, with practice, can be used to kill animals as large as coyotes. The Benjamin Marauder would be my choice here.
  • Gun #3: .22 caliber rifle w/scope - A .22 bolt action can usually fire any of the .22 cartridges, including the .22 LR (which is cheap and plentiful) and the .22 magnum (which can be used to take large game... and don't ask how I know that.)
  • Gun #4: One of the Glock pistols - A pistol isn't a higher priority because they're primarily used for personal protection. I just don't see a high probability of a scenario going down that would require a weapon that could be concealed. Having said that, one of the Glocks would be my first choice. They're reliable, easy to maintain, and it's pretty easy to change barrels on the various models to accommodate different calibers. If situations changed where the likelihood of having to escape the area on foot increased, the portability of a pistol would make this the #2 priority.
  • Gun #5: A .30-06 or .308 bolt action hunting rifle w/ scope: Now we're getting into excessive firepower, but hey, why not? If I were spending any time in the wilderness hunting large game (like mountain goats), I'd want something with far more range than the 20 gauge and far more stopping power than the .22. In the ridiculously unlikely scenario of the U.S. being invaded, it would double as a decently capable longer-range anti-personnel weapon.
  • Gun #6: A .22/ .410 over/under -  This would actually be my choice as a first gun for kids. It combines the longer-range precision of a .22 with the disbursed shot of the mild .410 shotgun. 
The list could go on, but really, a large cache would be unnecessary. More guns would take up valuable space, would be excessively expensive, and, if others know about the small armory, would potentially make us a target if shit got really bad. Few looters would risk their lives to steal a few cans of green beans and Spam, but they might risk their lives for enough guns and ammo.

Guns I Would Personally Avoid

Based on my assessment of the possible disasters we could face, there are a few commonly-hoarded guns I would avoid. 

  • Anti-personnel gun (AR-15/ AK-47 and their derivatives) - While fun to build and shoot and a favorite among preppers, these particular guns don't offer enough significant advantages to offset their high price and relatively complex mechanisms. 
  • 12 gauge shotgun - I love 12 gauges, and they DO offer more versatility than a 20 gauge, but the mule-like kick tends to make them a poor choice for kids and weak women. 
  • An easy-to-conceal small pistol - The logic for this gun usually revolves around the idea that you'll be in a situation where you don't want people to know you're armed. I just don't see a likely scenario where that would happen. 
There you have it - my thoughts on guns in relations to disaster preparedness. This list is specifically developed based on the particulars of my situation. As such, your mileage may vary. I am interested in hearing other opinions, though. Share them in the comments section!


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