February 2006

Firing Line: 02/06

Re “Waiting on Rita,” Part II
November 2005:

Todd, personally I think your choices are about as good as it gets under the circumstances. The 10/22’s advantages are numerous and convincing. If you wanted a slight variation on the theme, I think you could say what one handgun and one long gun? One answer is exactly what you went with; another would be a .38 Special/.357 Magnum instead of 1911 .45 ACP could be a personal alternate choice. The other answer to the same question is a .22 LR handgun and something else, such as the 12 gauge, AR, Mini or whatever) for the long one.

Derek M.

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Can I take two? :) Springfield Armory TRP Operator w/light rail and Surefire X-200 weapon light, and a J-frame Smith.

Tim Lathrop

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I love this question! I also have an extensive collection of rifles and handguns that would break my heart to grab just one and leave the others behind in an evacuation. If it came to that, though, I would have to grab the rifle I built for my daughter this year. It’s a Ruger 10/22 with a Green Mountain bull barrel with Williams fire sights and a quick-detach 4X scope. I also have several 30-round magazines that would fill my pockets on the trip. Ammo would not be a problem either, because more than 1000 rounds fits comfortably in a backpack. Try that with a .308! Yes, it makes me shake my head to leave the ARs, SKSs, Enfields, and FAL behind. I think those are better suited for defending ground, where the light, mobile, and easy to handle 10/22 is just right for a retreat.

But that doesn’t include the pistol that would be holstered on my hip; as sure as I would take my shoes I would have my Safari Arms Matchmaster along for the ride. Only because of the 1911s I have, it accepts the five Chip McCormick Power 10 magazines I have and functions flawlessly. The others are a little iffy with that combination. I think you have to take for granted that your readers are going out the door with a combination of pistol and rifle. Thanks for the mental exercise!

Jim Lee
Fishers, Indiana

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I just read “Downrange” and have found myself in that dilemma more than once. The latest was hurricane Charlie when I lived in Tampa (it missed, too.). At that time my wife was serving overseas, so I packed everything: two German shepherds, two shotguns, a Garand, an ‘03, Sig P220, etc.! However, if I had to choose just one and my wife is along, it would have to be our Beretta CX4 Storm (.45). My wife is petite and carries a 9mm Sig for her job (and qualifies on the M4 and MP5). The only way she is accurate with a .45 round (my pistol round of choice) is with the Storm. We both love this little carbine. It is small, light, has a red dot sight and is very intimidating as far as looks go.

PS: Of course, as a former Marine, I would love to have a roof-mounted MK19 grenade launcher.

Tod Hale
Arlington, Virginia

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I would pick the Hi-Point 995 carbine in the 9mm caliber. It is very accurate, short, and easy to manipulate. If the one gun had to be a pistol, I would take the Model 92 Taurus, because it has never jammed and is very accurate.

George Bowen, Jr.

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I was moved by your editorial, and as a fellow Texan, I, too, had the visions of the aftermath that Katrina had left behind. To answer your question as to what weapon of choice I would “take to the hills” in the event of some unexpected event: AK-47. It is clear to me that because the AK is a “good to go” weapon under the most severe conditions and could be used effectively by both the young and old with ease, it would be my choice w/o question. Also 10 mags and two drums with a case of ammo would be part of my “must have” list of items.

MJ
Dallas

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My trusty (slightly modified, trigger and sights) Kimber 1911 Stainless (series 1). Five loaded mags and 500 rounds of ammo — just to weigh down the back of the car in case of snow. A guy never knows where he might have to go.

Jay Cowan

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If I had to choose only one gun to take on the road, I would choose my Sig Pro in .357 Sig. I choose this because it is small, portable, and my wife is almost as proficient with it as I am.

Rod Tracy
Rock Springs, Wyoming

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I read your “Downrange” for November 2005 with a good deal of interest. Living up here in the East Mountains of New Mexico, I can’t really think of a catastrophe, except for maybe an earthquake, that would lead us to evacuate. But if we had to evacuate, I’d take both our vehicles (Ford Escape & Crown Victoria). Since there is already an S&W M696 in the Crown Vic, and a S&W M686 in the Escape, the one-gun-to-take rule is already fulfilled. However, if time allowed, after loading four Labrador retrievers and other survival equipment, plus whatever family treasures would fit; I’d take the following:

For me: Springfield Armory 1911 and Ruger Mini 14. I’d try and have three loaded mags for the .45 and four 30-round mags for the Mini. There would be 200 rounds of .45 ACP and a bandolier of .223 on stripper clips for the Mini 14.

For the lovely Mrs. Duke: A Beretta M-96 with three 12-round mags with 200 rounds in reserve. Also her beloved Remington 870 in 12 gauge w/100 spare rounds.

Sounds heavy? The pistols are obviously for self-defense and the rifle is for the same, but can also take game up to small deer. The shotgun could also be very useful as a small-game gitter. If I could, I’d also throw in a couple of pocket pistols, too.

Sound paranoid? If there’s danger and the civil authorities are seizing guns, I’d like to sneak one or two out just for the safety and survival of it.

Robert Duke

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Have to be my H&K P7M8 by default. By default of de rheumatoid arthritis. Reloading my Ruger GP 100 would be too difficult for me. The limitation of my 12-gauge side by side is that I would have to reload every two shots, the P7 has four extra magazines and a plethora of other ammo on tap. It also does not care what I put in it as long as it is 9mm Parabellum. It will cheerfully put the bullets where I point them. Lot to be said for that.

As for the shotgun, some years ago I proved that whether it was loaded with birdshot, buckshot or slug was irrelevant at typical antisocial ranges. I used a Mossberg riot gun loaded with birdshot, buckshot and a slug, stepped off three full-distance paces and fired each of them into a sheet of corrugated roofing that was just laying around. The three holes were very close to the same size.

Some years after that little affair, I had jury duty with a trauma nurse from Baylor Hospital here in Dallas, and he said that there were no known survivors of an upper-torso hit from a shotgun. I can’t speak for you, but it resolved that old question fully for me about stopping power.

Jose Silva

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I enjoyed your editorial in the November edition. As an Okie, we don’t get threatened with hurricanes much, but we have the constant spring tornado warnings. I always pretty much ignored them until May 1999 when an F-5 Tornado passed a few blocks from my house and leveled neighborhoods all around me. Unfortunately, I haven’t done a lot of planning for an evacuation, and you raised some good questions. I think I would take my trusty Springfield Arms 1911 and a couple of boxes of hollowpoints. For my wife and grandson I would recommend my trusty old military M-1 carbine with four or five loaded 15-round magazines. My carbine wears an Aimpoint red dot sight that is detachable. I would hate to leave my several S&W revolvers behind (one has sentimental value, I carried it as a city police officer for about 10 years) … then what about my Mauser 98 or M-1 Garand … or Remington 700 … not to mention the shotguns and 22s. I guess I just have to stay behind and prepare to defend the gun safe.

Jerry E. Jensen

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I would take my “Thunder 5” that shoots .410 shotshells (00 buck) and .45 Long Colt. This is very good for close-up problems, a .410 to shock and a .45 LC to finish. I might take a 4-inch Taurus .44 Magnum as a backup.

Richard Abel
Baltimore, MD

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I enjoyed your November “Downrange” article. I have a very similar story that took place directly after hurricane Katrina that I would like to share with you. I live in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, about a half mile from the beach. We suffered minimal damage, while neighbors four blocks away lost entire homes. Before the winds completely died down, I was out and had the generator fired up. Our TV signal is provided by satellite, and by the powers that be was intact and running fine.

We started getting pictures from New Orleans before we even knew what kind of situation we were in. I always take the first week or two after a storm from a very security-conscious position. There are those who would have their way with you. You see them driving around after roads are open, casing neighborhoods, looking for areas to return after dark. The videos from New Orleans were extremely unsettling. I’ve had neighbors come up missing things in the wake of storms, and Katrina was no exception. My family and I rode the storm out in our house. This included my wife, my 11-year-old son (who is an artist with his Rossi .22/.410), my two older boys with their wives, and my grandchildren (11 and 7 months old). We have always been a shooting family, but I now had people in the house that have minimal shooting experience, my new daughters.

Like you, I opted to tote my full-size Colt 1911, relying on its superior stopping power without the danger of multiple dwelling penetrations possible with the .44 Magnum. I’m easy, but what should I turn the rest of the family loose with? My choice was the H&R single-shot 12 gauge. Its ease of operation is bar-none, and it has the presence and unequivocal power to get the job done. To further simplify, I mounted a Mini-Mag to the barrel. I checked the alignment, and where the beam goes, so does the buckshot. I filled the butt-stock shell holder and gave a quick class to those needing it in how to operate, and placed it in the corner of the living room. We managed to make it through the aftermath without any serious incident. If the situation had taken a darker turn, I could have returned to the home armory and outfitted the boys with their favorite weapons, but by the grace of God it didn’t come to that.

It’s funny what runs through your head in a situation like this. I think the key to both our situations was to keep it simple, and keep it safe.

Neal C. Hrabak
Ocean Springs, Mississippi

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Being from New Jersey, where private citizens are not legally able to carry hollowpoint rounds in their firearms for personal defense, are not legally able to carry a magazine with more than 10 rounds, and suffer draconian procedures to get a purchase permit, let alone a carry permit, my choice of carry pistol is a first generation S&W 4053, DAO, with the standard 8+1 capacity loaded with 180-grain Winchester or CCI Blazer FMJ rounds.

I generally carry two spare magazines for a total of 25 rounds at my disposal. To have any more in your possession for any reason other than range shooting is to invite a charge of illegal possession of an “arsenal for unlawful purposes.”

As to the S&W 4053, while not the newest or most fashionable of all handguns; it was the sidearm I carried before I retired from law enforcement and was required to surrender my hollowpoint ammunition. It is still the one with which I feel most comfortable. It shots a 2-inch freehand group center mass at 25 yards and at 7 yards, five rounds disintegrate the Q on an FBI target.

R. R. Bedford

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I liked your editorial on what guns you would take with you if you had to get out of Dodge. That is a subject that my buddies and I talked about after Katrina. We call the guns we would take “Go To Guns.” Having a nice collection to choose from, it is a hard choice, so instead of two, I have five. I have a Springfield 1911 TRP and a Bianchi case that holds five mags (it was a three-mag pouch, but I took the dividers out and it became a perfect five-mag pouch) loaded with Wilson mags and 230-grain Winchester Rangers. The second gun is a 3-inch 686+ that would have Speer Gold Dot .38+P for the wife. I have three speedloaders loaded with the same ammo and three speedloaders with 158-grain .357 magnum. In my pocket is my Kahr MK9 with 124-grain +P Gold Dots and one extra mag in my pocket. I would also throw a couple extra boxes of each round in the car.

As for long guns, my ultimate go to gun is my Remington 870 with 18-inch barrel, Scattergun ghost ring sights, side saddle, cuff-on buttstock and two-round extension for the magazine. This gives me 19 rounds at my disposal of assorted rounds: Five slugs and the rest reduced-recoil 00 buck, plus I have a bandolier with 25 rounds of buck and slugs plus a 25-round box of birdshot.

Last gun is my Colt M4 with A2 sights and eight 30-round mags with six loaded with Federal 69-grain Gold Match an two loaded with SS109s. If I had time, I would put them all in my truck.

Evan
Long Island, New York

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You asked what would GT readers take if they had to choose just one gun, stuff it into a packed automobile, and hit the road with a couple million of their new best friends. My weapon of choice would be an AR-15–type short-barrel carbine with a collapsible stock, an optical sight (like the Barska Electro Sight or the Leupold CQT4), a guard-mounted laser sight and tactical light, and a couple (OK, four) 30-round magazines. As much as I like my 9mm semiautos, in an extreme situation (think Katrina, roving gangs of looters, no power or light), pistols just don’t have the firepower or range that I would like to have in such a situation. On the other hand, with the stock collapsed the weapon is small enough to work inside an enclosed space, where you would normally want a handgun.

By the way, when I evacuated for Rita (an unnecessary exercise, as it turned out), I packed all of my firearms (four pistols and the above mentioned rifle). I wasn’t anticipating needing to use them all, but I was also not willing to imperil my neighbors by leaving them in the house for looters to find, if it came to that.

James Heimer
Houston

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My 10/22 would be high on the list. It and as many loaded mags and loose .22 ammo as possible. My wife’s Model 19 S&W with speed-loaders would probably be No. 1 if we could only take one. It’s easy to conceal and when push comes to shove, a .357 makes a bigger hole than a .22. Also it’s one of the only two loaded guns in the house. The other, my Single Six, is too slow to reload, and even with the magnum cylinder in place, is no match for a full-power .357. It’s like life insurance, hope we never need either, but it’s comforting to have.

Walter Elam

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For close encounters, I would bring my Sig .229 in .40 S&W and 100 rounds of ammo, Winchester 155-grain silvertips and Federal 165- to 180-grain Hydrashoks. And to “reach out and touch someone,” I would take my Norinco SKS rifle with removable scope and about 150 assorted rounds of metal cased and commercial ammo. I have a 250,000-cp H-3 light with built in battery and enough SureFire, Pelican, and Streamlight tactical lights to go around, because we’d be driving after midnight. If the roads are clear, we’d drive the highways, otherwise we may go via local roads or sit at home. I feel the darkness and the lights would give us an advantage over any predators who may be in wait by the open roads.

My girlfriend would bring her Sig 226 and 115-grain assorted ammo and a Remington 11-87 slug gun with extended magazine and Improved Cylinder choke tube. She’ll be carrying about 30 rounds of 000 buckshot and about 100 rounds of hunting ammo in steel BB, and lead No. 4, No. 6, and No. 7 1/2s. My son can handle his 20-gauge IGA Coach Gun very well and will be issued that with about 20 rounds of No. 4 Buck and some No. 6 low brass, or a Marlin .22 semiauto with scope and 40-grain SGB by CCI. Of course, we would be in constant compliance with any concealed carry and locked box laws.

We’d have the gas tank filled and would be keeping 5 gallons of gas in reserve. I’d bring a tent, sleeping bags, food and water for 4 days. I’d bring a gasoline-fueled camp stove and cooking kit in case we can find fresh food.

Andy Sinn

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I’d take the rifle that lives in my Grab & Go knapsack: a .22 caliber Charter Arms AR-7 survival rifle. You know the one; it’s the semi-auto survival rifle that breaks down into its own watertight stock. No fancy scope, just the fixed iron sights. Two clips in the stock and another four in a pouch on the Army pistol belt and suspenders rig that also holds my converted-from-a-Model-1896-Swedish-Mauser-bayonet survival knife, a small Vietnam War-vintage first aid kit restocked to deal with minor cuts, blisters and pains without having to open the pack, and two Army canteens. Next, I’d pack 100 rounds of 40-grain solid bullets, 50 rounds of 38-grain hollowpoints, and 50 rounds of birdshot in a waterproof box in the pack.

Why this rifle in particular? First, it is lightweight, breaks down for easy carriage, takes up very little space, and can be assembled in seconds if you think you will need it. Second, it’s rugged and shoots straight over short ranges, reassuring to someone like me who doesn’t get a chance to shoot as often as he’d like, living in an officially antigun state as I do. Third, it’s simple and reliable, which means if my “but-guns-are-dangerous” wife ever had to use it, she could figure out how easily. Fourth, .22 ammo is available everywhere. Finally, if you have to use it and you can shoot a rifle like a rifle and not like a shotgun, it will perform for you.

In the survival situation you postulated, in my opinion the AR-7 is a good compromise between portability, lethality and utility. That’s why I have it.

Roy Jaruk

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That is an interesting question: It’s the kind of question that makes me glad I subscribed to Gun Tests. My wife and I have thought about this very issue. And it’s the main reason we bought a midsize-SUV Chrysler Pacifica the week after Katrina struck. We live in Delaware, which has been lucky for a long time as far as hurricanes are concerned; sooner or later, that luck must run out.

Gun-wise, we would choose our Saiga-12 shotgun. This particular model has a 22-inch barrel with an ultra-tight choke. It has two five-round magazines, and three eight-round mags I brought home from Russia. It’s ultra-reliable, wonderfully accurate, and looks extremely deadly. Its appearance alone might reduce or eliminate the need to fire it. My wife and I have run thousands of rounds through this gun without a single misfire or mechanical problem. We know how it works, and what it’s going to do. Nine rounds of 3-inch-magnum double-ought buck, delivered in a two-second burst, would stop anything short of an eighteen-wheeler. And there would be 26 more rounds loaded in magazines, ready to go (with two cases of birdshot under the seat, just in case).

I have DE and PA carry permits, so our escape route (northwest, into the mountains) is pre-mapped.

Bob Mitchell

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I stayed in Houston, but packed a Rock River 1911 Commander .45 with four loaded magazines, a Winchester 1300 Defender loaded with buckshot and a folded Kel-Tec SU-16 with 10 loaded magazines in my vehicle when I traveled around town. My wife, who made a 23-hour trip to Dallas with my sons, said she didn’t want to take a gun, so I hid a S&W Model 915 with four loaded high-capacity magazines in her car. She didn’t have any problems on the journey, but if she called me with a situation, I would have told her where the gun was and let her make the decision whether to use it or not. My 13-year-old son is proficient with a handgun, but does not have the maturity and judgment to deal with those situations yet.

Kevin Winkle
Product Coordination Editor

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You got to choose two weapons; so do I. For me: Glock Model 30 with four mags loaded with Winchester 230-grain Personal Protection Loads. For the wife and kids: M1 carbine with four mags loaded with 110-grain FMJ. For the trunk: Ammo can with 200 rounds for each. Why these? Because I can throw mud in both and they will still shoot.

Kirt Pankow
Macomb, Michigan

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My choice would be a Taurus Model 941, 4-inch .22 Magnum revolver. Why? This model carries eight shots, comparable capacity to many .22 autos. But based upon personal experiences of using a semiauto in Viet Nam, we found that semiautos in wet, dirty environments do not fare well. Too close tolerances and get jammed up easier that a revolver. (In my job, Long Range Patrol, we traded off our .45s for .38 revolvers the helo pilots carried. I would imagine being on the fringes/or in a storm that we are talking about would qualify. Carrying the .22 Magnum, I could carry a lot more rounds in a smaller space than larger calibers, and weigh less. I believe .22 Mag hollow-points would do very well on man-size critters. Also, the gun is more easily hidden in a car or on a person than larger-caliber handguns, and it’s very accurate.

I have made several plans for emergencies, and in addition I would also include an 18- to 20-inch pump in 12-gauge.

LTC Dennis D. Stellmacher
Salt Lake City

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I am a retired police officer with 32 years experience. If limited to a pistol, it would be Colt .45 Commander (all steel) customized by the gunsmith at Gunsite many years ago. Ammo: Federal Hydra-Shoks loaded in five mags. This was my last duty weapon, and I used it for competition as well. Always works. My choice if it did not have to be a pistol would be an older Marlin 1894 .44 Mag, without that stupid crossbolt safety. I’ve had mine since 1974. It has a Williams Foolproof rear and a Hiviz front sight. It rode in the trunk of my car the 6-plus years I worked in plain clothes. In a real situation I’d take both, and my wife’s .38 Smith 4-inch M&P for her, loaded with WW 158-grain lead hollowpoints.

W. A. Temple

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I was displaced twice last year because of Frances and Jeanne. The “gun”/firearm I took with my wife and I was a CZ75. It has the capability of high-capacity magazines; easy to use and control; fits like a well-made glove in my hand and rounds would be accessible if I needed more.

Dan Brunger

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You pose a good question regarding the “one gun” to have with you in times of natural disaster or civil unrest. For me, the answer has always been the same. On September 11, 2001, I returned to my office at 8:15 am, after leaving a professional conference in Baltimore at 6:30. I received a call from a friend at 8:45, reporting a “plane crash” at the World Trade Center in New York, and asking if my son (then attending NYU Law School, some 14 blocks away) was OK. While attempting to reach him, I heard from my assistant that a second plane had struck the undamaged tower, and that another plane had struck the Pentagon. Later, my daughter, who was teaching school in Arlington, Virginia, told me that everyone felt an earth tremor as the plane went in. Finally, I reached both children on their cell phones and verified that they were safe. Immediately, I drove the 4 miles from my office to my home, and armed myself.

Into the trunk of my car went a Colt AR-15 HBAR with Trijicon ACOG 4x32, six spare 20-round magazines loaded with SS-109 ammunition, and a case (500 rounds) of the same ammo. The car always contains a first-aid kit, two or three knives, compass, Sure-Fire flashlight, and a windproof lighter, among other supplies. Thus prepared, I drove to my wife’s workplace, and assured her that the kids were safe.

I did not consider my reaction extreme or unwarranted. At the time, nobody knew if the attacks in New York and D.C. were part of an overall attack by terrorists or a foreign power. As was demonstrated so graphically in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Americans cannot depend upon their government to protect them or come to their aid in times of crisis. We must maintain our vigilance and be prepared.

Dr. J. Gregory Vermeychuk
Newark, Delaware

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I appreciate the many letters I’ve gotten from GT readers on the “one-gun” question. This has been a mind-opening discussion I’ve really enjoyed moderating. I’ll periodically include additional responses in Firing Line.

Thanks again,
Todd Woodard