When the SHTF, a rifle or shotgun in your hand?

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Jul 20, 2004
Central Ohio
Okay, forgive me fellow THR members, I have sinned. For years, I have planned to acquire a long gun. Search, and you can probably find threads I started on the subject. But, there was always something that got in the way. Something that came up. A new handgun. New leather gear. Computer hardware. Car repairs. Etc. Etc.

After watching SHTF in NOLA, the time has come. My birthday is in a month. Four weeks to research, scrimp, and save. It will be under $500, for certain, so I won't be asking for advice on an M4gery, all dressed up and ready to go. Just a long gun for better firepower than my handguns, function more than beauty. Heck, I'd even consider a "lowly" SKS at this point.

If it happened where you are, in a suburban/urban environment, which do you want in your hand for a long gun? Shotgun or rifle. Please explain why you made the choice you did, so I can make my choice accordingly.
In the urban setting you are talking about I would go with the shotgun. You are not out to harvest food you are protecting you and yours. More rounds than bolt action guns, wider field of fire with shot for multiple intruders. You will typically be in close quarters. Luckily these groups of looters till now as reported haven't used any other tactics than we outnumber you and want what you have so the stories of six shootin pistolaros (sp) have been able to fend them off.

A shotgun is good to 50 yards unless you have slugs. If you are going to use slugs, get a rifle instead.

The bad guys could easily threaten you beyond 50 yards.
Shotgun or carbine

If I didn't already have a .308 Main Battle Rifle (MBR) and I was budgeting and I was in a hurry, I would vote for either a shotgun or the venerable SKS carbine.

With the shotgun there is no question the Rem 870 is the hands down favorite, with the Mossberg a close runner up.

Just about any SKS will do, but steer away from the big 30 and 40 round banana clips as they are reported to have many problems.

10 rounds of 7.62X39 plus strippers for relaoding is not a bad setup for SHTF CQB on a budget and you can reach farther than the shotgun if you need to.

That's my $0.02...Hope that helps
In an urban area, a shotgun makes good sense to me. I'm not in a suburb, though, and I have a lot more practice and training with my rifles than my shotguns. I'd have my M1 in my hands, no doubt about it.

FWIW, if I were in your position, I wouold strive to get the best long gun I could for my budget rather than several cheapie pieces. Like, say, a CMP Garand rather than an SKS.

Basically, with a rifle in a decent caliber: if you can see it, then you can hit it, and if you can hit it then you can take it out. Even if it's a vehicle.

Shotguns do quite a job on people that aren't armored, but they strike me as a bit more specialized, with less capacity. I was seriously considering getting a super-sexy shotgun off the board, but I couldn't figure out why I'd ever grab it over a rifle I already have.

Maybe I would if I knew I'd be with a team who would carry rifles, in which case I could use the shotgun in those areas where it works best. If it's just me or me and the wife though? Rifles and handguns.

I'd even take a bolt-action .30-06 over the top-of-the-line defensive shotgun in a SHTF scenario.
Yeah - I should note that I live in a rural area, on 5.5 acres.

Ditto on the Garand -- cheap, and it's hard to find a rifle that's objectively "better," though an easy way to mount a low-power scope would help.
For $500 you can get a SKS and a NEW 870 Express. And have enough left over for 1000 7.62x39 and 300 or 400 12 ga Birdshot.

You could get an AK and a shotgun for the $500 as well if you shop around.

Right now I'm thinking capacity is king. Ranges will be short; you probably won't shoot until they approach your house/business. As we've seen in NO they are moving in packs so you might have to engage multiple targets. Granted most will turn tail at the sight of firearms but as they get more desperate who knows what will happen.

Get something with the highest capacity you can. I'd vote for the AK in 7.62Com right now with about 10 30 round mags a 1000 rounds.

Ak- $330
1000 rounds 7.62- $100
8 extra mags- $100

A little over your price limit but those are rough prices a little shopping can get it in your range.
If you are only going to get one long gun get a 12 gauge pump.

My nine-shot Mossberg 590 with ghost ring peep and blade front shoots slugs well out to 100 yards. Buck and birdshot do well from it's cylinder-bore barrel too. Backed up with a good handgun, or two, it'd be formidable.

The Remington 870 is another good choice although it is harder to get the combination of larger capacity and rifle sights on an 870 at the same price as the Mossberg. On the other hand,there are a bunch of used 870s around.
Pump ShotGun

In the scenario we are seeing in NO you are looking at survival at short ranges, you aren't preparing to take and hold ground. You have bad guys, snakes, dogs and other animals.

With a shotgun you can carry a mix of ammo that will take care of anything you might come up against. Sort range snakes, rats, cats, coons and most dogs some number 4 shot. Longer range25 to 35 yds, bigger dogs, other animals buckshot. Longer range out to 100 yds. slugs. You just can't beat the versitility of a shotgun.

Must people don't practice enough with rifles to be good enough to engage targets with a rifle in a rapidly developing situation a shotgun with shot will give you a larger margin of error. You aim 1/2 inch to the right of the target with a rifle you miss, with a shotgun at any range greater than a couple of feet and you will hit the target with some of the shot.

And any living person with an IQ greater than their age respect a shotgun.
We've hashed this out before. For urban unrest, the answer is clear: an intermediate cartridge carbine, such as an AR15, AK47/74, etc.

1. A rifle or carbine has an effective range in the hundreds of yards. A shotgun with slugs is limited to maybe 100.

2. The rifle has less recoil and is more controllable for follow-up shots.

3. The rifle has a much higher capacity (vs. maybe 9 in the shotgun). Its reload time is fast, and it will need to be reloaded less often. Reloading a shotgun is slow and fumble-prone.

A lot more problems can be solved with an M4 vs. a shotgun.

A lever action 30-30 would do you fine. Relatively high capacity when compared to most bolt guns and much longer range than a shotgun. A good Marlin can be had for under $300.
If the $500 does not include your first 1,000 rounds of ammo get the best example of a AK-47 you can find. It will still be running when all the others are dust. It is accurate enough to 200 yards, powerful enough, and several 30 round magazines will not add much cost. I have AR-15's, pump shotguns, and counter-sniper rifles and would choose the AK over all of them if it came down to one. If I was in New Orleans right now as a part of a security detail etc. the AK would be my only choice.
I'd vote SKS or preferably an AK pattern rifle.
Either is proven reliable, but the AK will hold more ammo in reliable magazines. You can also get lower capacity AK mags should you see a need.

Either way, you're golden.

A shotgun is nice, but I think the rifle is the more useful long gun in this case.

FWIW, I wouldn't feel under-gunned with scatter gun or rifle.
Forget about the rifle in your hands AND the shotgun slung across your back at the same time. Your mobility will be horrible and you will be banging into things.

Having both a shotgun and a rifle for one person does not make sense. It is not like you will have a caddy that can hand you the appropriate one.

In a home defense scenario, pick the shotgun. For a SHTF scenario, your bad guy could be hitting you from distances your shotgun can't reach. Pick the rifle.
If some weird reason I could only have one I'd take a pump shotgun and a wide range of slugs and shot. I'd like it to have a folding stock for handling in a vehicle.
Both. You carry one, your SO/squeeze/partner carries the other. A fire team has twice the personnel of a lone wolf solo op and maybe ten times the life expectancy.

Good inexpensive choices are a Big Four Pumpgun,the ubiquitious SKS and/or a HBAR. That's Hill Billy Assault Rifle, the venerable 30-30 Winchester 94.
My recommendation?
Big 5 is selling 8 round 'defense' shotguns, mossbergs, 20"bbl, for $219 right now. Police trade ins are common under $200 depending on where you live.
Another $100 for 250 rounds of 00 buck.
$40 for two 25 round bandoliers
$10 for a buttcuff that carries 6 rounds
$15 or so for a sling, or about $50 for a tactical sling
Whats that, $400ish before taxes and any shipping?
(Get a shotgun.)
Every red blooded american should have a defense shotgun.
To answer some questions that came up:

1. No limitations on either/or situation, except budget.

2. I have 9mm and .38/.357 handguns (plus .22).

3. Wife will need hands for the two children, so she gets a handgun.

THanks for the help. Keep going, please.
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