Dear Professor Prepper,
I’ve heard that I should have both a combat rifle and a hunting rifle. What do you think?
Get yourself an AR15 and a thousand rounds of PMC ammo, and then stop worrying about it and get on with your life.
If you want both rifles, great. Have at it. But if you are serious about prepping in the spirit of prepping, then there is no competition to the AR except lightly from the AK. I say lighty because it all depends on if your prep-scenario includes unstructured urban combat. The AK excels at spraying bullets. Great for taking over Mogadishu, but surviving during a dark period in the US, not so much.
In most prepper fantasies, one imagines living off the land, hunting and fishing for food, and keeping a low profile until civilization returns. Nice idea, but totally unrealistic. First of all, the moment it hits the fan, it’s going to be a free-for-all with everyone on their own. There will be no hunting, only poaching. And poachers follow totally different rules, if any.
Some envision a hunting camp and game hanging from nearby trees. Well, imagine hunting in Afghanistan or Iraq, or Sudan for that matter. Hunters will also be hunted. And hanging game will become a grocery store.
First of all, every easily shot animal will be easily shot. That includes horses, cows, goats, dogs, and any moving type of wildlife. If you truly don’t know where your next meal is coming from, or how long you are on your own, you will hoard game even if it means most of the game is wasted. Hey, leaving that Bambi walking around does not mean it will be there when I need it, so I better take it now.
So in less than a week, anything that even weakly resembles hunting is gone for good.
Let’s get down to business. Any gun whose names can be abbreviated with postal codes will rule, with Arkansas and Alaska taking the lead. ARs are highly accurate arms with plenty of combat experience. The fast but small bullet will drop any game under 300 lbs. if cleanly shot. If you are poaching bear, you might want to think through your plans since a mad bear tends, unlike a deer, to attack its attacker.
Sure, this might be a good reason for a .308 in the AR platform, but for many of the same reasons you should go with a 9mm over a 10mm or .40 S&W, stick with a 5.56. If it ever comes to absolutely needing the .308 over a .223, then you planned poorly. The differences between a 5.56 and a .308 are largely on paper. Both will kill. Both are accurate. And both drop deer. If you must have the added power of a .308, then why not a .338? Or a 45-70, or a .460. The essential keys on this ring are 1) reliability, 2) abundant ammo, 3) accuracy, 4) light weight, and 5) interchangeability of parts.
AKs shoot a heavier bullet but were never designed for long range accuracy. Yea, I know there are AK fanboys who have accurized their guns, but after replacing the stock, barrel and loads of receiver parts, I’d argue it’s no longer an AK in the spirit of what Mikhail had in mind back in 1947. But AKs are not in the same league as ARs. Just as Hyundai vehicles are totally different from Toyota pickup trucks. One is cheap and almost disposable, but highly reliable in its short life. The other is more precise, and has a longer range without attention, better quality, and tighter tolerances in its guts. There is a tradeoff between accuracy and a strong digestive track. AKs can eat junkfood all day, can sprint quite well, but suck at marathon running. ARs can be pickier eaters, but not vegans. They will serve up a heaping dish of lead up close, and still poke holes in flesh at 500 yards.
Those who profess the need for hunting rifle of popular caliber should think through the real numbers for which the gun is suited including the weight of ammo, the weight of the gun, and if scoped, its usefulness at close range such as under 50 feet. Sure, I’d love to have one handy for the specialized tasks a hunting rifle serves well, but there is no way it would make the cut if I have to load the car/truck and hit the road. And it would not even be under consideration when on foot.
And while we are on the topic of ARs, skip the tactical furniture. If your AR’s weight is more than 20% aftermarket add-ons like lights, optics, HWSs, stock enhancements, oversized quad-rails, laser sights, night vision, stock storage filled with 123 batteries, extra bolts, etc. then get a grip on your manhood and ditch some bling. I see many so-called “Katrina guns” all Barbie’d up to the point they need scheduled maintenance whether or not they are used. The first tumble down the stairs or mountain side will selectively remove all superfluous accessories from your Barbie. Let’s just skip the middleman and avoid the excessive bling in the first place.
Here’s what will happen the moment you venture out during daylight with your snazzy Barbie gun. You will appear so tacti-cool that you’ll be shot on sight, most likely in the back of the head. Tactical gear is a flashing blue-light special that your pack and pockets will be filled with a treasure chest of survival goodies, ammo, and high-end cutting tools. Don't advertise yourself as an ammo dump! If you want to remain alive in an urban environ, then you better look like no more than a homeless man with a gun. Someone to stay away from, but not to bother robbing. If a possible threat has a gun, they do not need your gun so likely they won’t initiate a fight. If they don’t have a gun, then you are more of a threat to them then a victim. But if you have tactical gear oozing out between your cracks, then you are a hard target worthy of takedown. Go play laser tag to see just how fast you’ll be killed.
So, in answer to the question about a rifle, a basic AR with iron sights is 95% of the equation. Then you can customize it for your needs filling out the last 5%. An EOTech HWS is a good add on, but unless you plan on pulling some pretty stupid stunts and getting yourself into a Mexican standoff, simplify your firearm. Get a basic AR15. Practice once a month with a hundred rounds. Enjoy life now and stop worrying about if you made the right decision. You did.