A few days ago, a guy at work came up to me and asked me for a bit of firearms help. He told me he’d saved about $1000, and was looking to get a handgun and a long gun plus a few accessories to set himself up for a SHTF type situation. He didn’t want junk, either, but he did realize he’d have to pay for good stuff that would last. (I love hearing that!) So I thought for a bit and told him what would work well for his situation…I’ll list that later.
But I’m sure for many people, getting started with firearms that will provide security and provide food when they are on a ramen-noodle budget is a bit daunting. After all, keeping the bills paid and the lights and heat on HAS to be the first priority, before you can start prepping for a situation that may never rear its head. Putting enough money aside to buy quality firearms can and will be hard if you simply don’t have a huge income. On a personal level, when I was a young single buck with nobody but myself to provide for and a great income from a contractor job, I was luckily able to secure some great firearms for myself, and hold onto most of them through the metamorphosis that brought me to my current state of two kids, wife, a mortgage, a dog, and two car payments. I was lucky, and was able to obtain 99% of the stuff I needed before the money crunch hit. People just starting out on their own, or suffering from the current economic hardships will be in a completely different spot. I am also going to assume that people may not have much in the way of firearms knowledge to go along with a curtailed budget. We’re starting from scratch here.
Let’s assume you ate PB&J every day for several months, sold a few unneeded items, and were able to scratch together the aforementioned 1000 dollars, a budget that must purchase one handgun and one long gun of good quality, and any accessories such as holsters, slings, etc., that you may need to get you through a crisis. For this exercize, we will not include ammunition in the overall cost, as that will vary widely based on what you prefer for ammo types and what is available. Let’s get started.
What are we looking for here?
To begin, let’s define what, theoretically, would define a high-quality SHTF gun. People automatically think an AK- or AR- type variant with doodads and options galore. Yes, under many situations, a high-capacity semi-automatic is ideal, but not if we’re on a strict budget…an entry level AR-15 will easily chew through our $1000 maximum without any room for a handgun or accessories. So that’s out. What we’re looking for will have the following qualities:
-Availability. The guns we’re looking for will be very common and easy to find. Obscurity is a problem in a Worst-Case Scenario. Yeah, that pre-war commercial Mauser sporter in 9.3×62 may be beautiful and seriously cool, but if you can’t find ammunition for it anywhere and no spare parts, it’s a tent stake. A gun that will be found in police cars, gun shops, and other people’s hands will have a ready supply of scrounged ammunition, magazines, and spare parts if needed. Buying a gun in a common caliber may put you in the line to get ammo everybody else wants, but it’ll also mean that caliber will be easy to find later down the road.
-Ruggedness. Flimsy shit won’t hack it. There, I said it. A good rifle/pistol combo should be as close to impervious to the elements as possible, able to survive being dropped with no major harm done, and live through being a tool. it may live its life in a holster or slung over a pack. It needs to work when you need it most after being subjected to wear and tear. Military-tested firearms are a big bonus here; you know they’ll live through what you can throw at them. A rugged gun won’t need as much of a spare parts stash as well, something to consider if you’re not mechanically inclined, or willing to fix stuff.
-Simplicity. The more complicated a gun is, with levers, switches, battery-powered lights and lasers, added-on unnecessary junk, and needless intricacy, well, is the more that can break or leave you fumbling with accessories when you need it. The KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid) mantra will serve you well. If you don’t NEED it (I’m looking at you, person who thinks laser sights are really cool), don’t get it. Gadgets add weight that you’ll be lugging in addition to your GHB/BOB. Simple guns will also be easier to operate under duress…something not to be taken lightly.
So, within those above parameters, what are some good suggestions/combos? Well, here’s what I recommended for the fellow in the beginning who asked me what I thought, and I think it’s a great combo for most, if not all situations. I know many will roll your eyes and go, “oh, brother!” but the fact is that this combo fulfills all of the above requirements, and will (theoretically) serve you well when needed.
Combo #1: Glock 17/19 or 22/23 and Remington 870 Express combo
Why it works: The Glock may be the most ubiquitous pistol of our time (sorry, 1911 guys.). It is everywhere. Parts and accessories are everywhere. And even though it has the aesthetics of Liza Minelli after being run over with a dump truck, it works. And it works well. The pistols are incredibly simple and tough, and easy to find in gun shops and via private sales. The high capacity of the magazines means that only a couple need to be carried for most daily missions, saving weight on you and minimizing accessories needed, saving money. Get one in 9mm or .40 S&W, as the pistols are smaller in frame and more common than the .45s and 10mm. There are no levers, no crazy safeties. Point and shoot. They are as accurate as you need them to be. Alternate choice: Smith & Wesson M&P series. (I personally prefer the M&P pistols, but they’re not quite as common.) Price: About $550 new, $400 +/- used. Go used, look in the police trade-in market.
The Remington 870 is quite simply the most-used, highly tested pump-action shotgun of all time. Literally millions of them are out there, because they work. Simple, with large, rugged parts, they don’t die. Any police officers who have seen what these guns go through in daily use as patrol car long guns can attest to this. They are easy to accessorize if needed, but they really don’t need much. When you look for one, try to find a used combo as pictured above; they have the rifle-sighted slug barrel and the longer bird barrel, making the gun versatile enough to shoot slugs accurately at 100 yards or wingshooting game birds. Price for the combo new: About $500. Used for combo: $300. Sometimes used or police department trade-ins can be found for the $200 mark with the slug barrel, but they’ll be a little on the “previously enjoyed” side, meaning they may need to have springs and small parts replaced. But it’s a screamin’ deal. Tip: look for the synthetic-stocked version for extra toughness. 12 gauge is the caliber to go with, 20 gauge if you’re female or smaller-framed. Alternate choice: Mossberg 500/590. They have dual extractors which is a biggie, but aluminum receivers, which I’m not too fond of…but it’s been chosen by the USMC as the combat shotgun of choice, so who am I to argue?
I think the above combo is a great one, and one that I would gladly field myself, knowing I had something versatile and powerful enough to do whatever I needed when the chips were down. Add in a Blackhawk! SERPA holster or similar kydex holster ($40-50 new) and dual magazine pouch ($30 new) for the pistol, and a good nylon web sling (about $10-15) for the shotgun, and brothers and sisters, you have everything you need for under the $1000 budget, if you were careful and bought used.
Speaking of buying used, the internet is your friend. Gunbroker, Auction Arms, GunsAmerica, and similar online auction sites are excellent ways to find exactly what you’re looking for. Online Facebook groups, local news paper classified, local gun shops, and private sales are all the way to go to find what you’re looking for on the cheap. Be dilligent, and you’ll find good stuff for not much money. I promise.
Other guns I considered for the fellow, all of which will serve somebody well (some better than others depending on situations) and all of which can be found for $400 each when buying used. Happy hunting!
-Smith & Wesson Models 66, 65, 19,13, 10, 64, 17, 18, 14, 15.
-Ruger Speed-Six, GP101, SP101
-Ruger P85 (ugly, but tanks)
-H&R Topper/158 break-open: (special mention and worth looking into: high quality, very inexpensive, multiple calibers/gauges!)
-Savage Model 24/42 – break-open combination guns, meaning rifled barrel over a shotgun barrel. Another excellent way to go.
What else you got out there? What would you buy if you had nothing but $1000 and the world as we know it was ending next week?