I’ve been thinking about rifles again; in part prompted by the utter lack of centerfire rifles in my gun locker. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about this concept of a “Homeland Defense Rifle”, i.e. the first rifle you would grab to defend your country in the event of a total “Shit Hits the Fan” (SHTF) situation. Since I’m in the market for a rifle, and I don’t hunt; I figured it might as well be a Homeland Defense Rifle (HDR). Below, I’ll list out the capabilities I think this rifle should have, then I’ll go through various action types and list rifles that I think would fit the bill. Again, please bear in mind that this is entirely the subjective opinion of me. Your actual mileage may vary.
Caliber – You’d probably want your rifle to be chambered in a relatively common caliber, in the event that you’re reduced to scrounging for ammo. This doesn’t mean just military calibers either, as .270 Winchester (for example) can be found in practically every sporting goods store in the nation.
Capacity – My perfect HDR would have an ammo capacity of at least 10 rounds, and should be able to be reloaded via detachable magazines. I would make the exception that a rifle with a fixed magazine that can be rapidly recharged with stripper clips is just as acceptable in this regard.
Accuracy – Sub-MOA groups not required. Honestly, you need to be able to hit a man sized target in the upper body at 150 yards with the standard sights on the weapon every time. Most rifle engagements during WWII took place at 30 yards or less, so I might even be willing to shrink that 150 to 100 yards if pressed.
Sights – Rugged, fixed sights are preferable (for me at least). In the event of a very naughty situation, I distrust anything with batteries, glass, or moving parts, because these things can break; and if they do Murphy Hizzown-Bad-Self will ensure that your neato-torpedo EOHolotech-CQB-Ultimate-Xray scope breaks at the most inconvenient time possible. Like when you’re taking fire. Iron sights are really, really hard to break.
Size/Weight – Not too heavy? This depends on the strength and endurance of the poor bugger who is going to be lugging this thing around. If you’re strong enough to tote a Barrett .50 around, go right ahead. I’d go for something lighter, as I am of small stature.
Action type – I’m accepting all applications in this category. For the HDR, you may have a semi-automatic, a lever action (I went there), or a bolt action. I would probably rule out single shot rifles since they don’t allow for serious sustained fire. I would add the caveat that if you’ve got a single shot .223 and that’s it, than learn to use it well and to reload it in a hurry.
I’m flying by the seat of my pants here, so if you think of anything else, let me know. From here, I’ll break out the three main action types, and list a few rifles that I feel would be good contenders.
Ishapore 2A1 – Essentially, this is a Lee-Enfield rifle re-engineered for the higher pressure 7.62 NATO round, instead of the standard .303 British. These were new manufacture rifles made in India at the Ishapore Armory, hence the name. This would probably be my first choice for a HDR if I was going with a bolt action. Chambered for a powerful and common caliber, the magazine is detachable, the sights are excellent, and the Lee-Enfield models have a bolt that allows for very fast operation.
Spanish FR8 – This was a stopgap rifle issued to the Spanish military and police. The linked website gives a pretty good picture of the rifle, but essentially it’s a 7.62 NATO rifle on a Mauser action. I like that.
Ahab’s Dream rifle – A Bolt action .223 built on a Mauser action with an 18 inch barrel. Fixed magazine that can be charged with stripper clips or loaded with single rounds. Boy…that would sure be cool.
Honestly, I should just skip this section. Everyone knows that what I’m going to type. Volumes have been written on why the AK or the AR are The Best Rifles Ever, so I’m not going to enumerate the reasons below.
AK/Clones – Do I actually need to explain this one?
AR/Clones – See above.
SKS – …come on. It’s cheap, ugly, but it takes a licking and keeps on ticking. Plus, it can be had with detachable magazines or a fixed magazine if that strikes your fancy.
I probably left some onenulls pet rifle off this list, but for the sake of brevity, I’m listing the rifles I would take in the order I would take them.
I can hear you all now. “Lever actions? Are you crazy?” The answer is probably.
30-30 Rifles – I’d say you’re well armed with a .30-30 lever gun. Again, the round is very common, although not a military round it can be found at almost every sporting goods store in the universe.
I guess I revealed my bias towards fixed magazine rifles for guerrilla/survival type situations. Oh well, such is the life. I’m probably going to go buy a new rifle here in the next month or so. I really do need a good reason to stockpile centerfire rifle ammo. I’ve already got 2700 reasons for Nancy Pelosi to hate my house, I reckon I should probably give her at least 500 more.
Rather than rifles I would recommend carbines or lever actions that use pistol rounds.
You mentioned that most WWII engagements took place at 30 yards or less. The carbine/lever actionweapon fits into that niche very well.
Another plus is that the rounds are VERY available plus you would standardize rounds for both teh carbine/lever action and your pistol.
A good example, i.e. what I am saving for ;-), is …
The Henry 44 magnum/357/45 Colt
and a matching pistol
I actually completely agree that pistol caliber carbine might be a better choice for a SHTF/guerrilla type situation.
I’m actually planning another post on pistol caliber “survival” carbines sometime in February.
Bear in mind however that if I knew I was going to get into a gunfight, I’d bring a rifle every time. I’d also bring lots of friends with rifles. And maybe a buddy with a shotgun.
You mentioned a bolt-action (Mauser-type) 18″ barrel carbine in .223. May I suggest that this rifle already exists? Try the CZ 527:
I bought one in 7.62x39mm, and it’s probably the most accurate-shooting rifle we own. I bought it for myself, but it’s pretty much become my wife’s deer rifle. Her last sighting-in for this years season produced a cloverleaf of holes at 100 yards.
They’re essentially a “mini-Mauser”, with the controlled-round-feed and claw extractor. Ours is beautifully made, and shoots any 123 or 124 grain Sov-spec ammo (0.311″ dia. projectiles, rather than US-std 0.308″) to the same point of aim.
The barrel is 18.5″ (just a smidgen longer than the 18″ you wanted). They’ve got the shrouded iron sights for back-up, should your scope fail at an inopportune moment. They only way in which they fail your SHTF criteria is the removable magazine…it’s a 5-round.
The ONLY drawback to these beautifully made little carbines is the cost. But, TANSTAAFL, sometimes you do get what you pay for.
You probably shouldn’t have shown me that rifle. Now my credit cards are going to be begging for mercy.
I do have to ask though, what does “TANSTAAFL” stand for?
TANSTAAFL = There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch – Robert Heinlein, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.
And, why no Springfield? No Garand? The US Army (with some slight assistance from the Marines) did put a world of hurt on a bunch of people with those two rifles. Both are easy enough to handle for close up work, and still reach out and touch someone at 400 yards. I would probably choose the M1 for the semi-auto, but either would be very effective.
Honestly, I thought about the Garand and the M14 for quite some time. I ultimately didn’t list them because they’re not what I would carry.
Plus, this list could have been a lot longer. You should see my outline notes, I’ve got pages of rifles that I had to parse down for the sake of brevity and clarity.
Of all places, you can find the CZ 527 in 7.62x39mm at WallyWorld:
It’s STILL $488, though.
When I first bought mine I was thinking, “short-range deer rifle”, and put a low-magnification (1.5-4.5x32mm) relatively inexpensive Bushnell on it. It shot so well, I decided it deserved a much better scope, and put a 3-9x50mm Leupold VX-II on it. I’ll admit it looks a little funny, that short little carbine with the huge 50mm objective scope, but nobody laughs after they get a chance to shoot it.
Worth every penny.
Well…now I have to buy another gun.
We’ll see how far “My readers said it was awesome” flies with The Wife.
I agree with the SKS. I have a russian SKS with a longer barrel, and I am amazingly accurate with it. If I was defending the house though, I’d go with a shotgun.
How about: “My reader’s WIFE says it’s awesome”?
Hahaha, I should totally try that.
If you’re gonna tote a long gun, take a real rifle: 7.62×51 or .30-06 fit the bill nicely. AK’s are great (I’ve got two) but are just carbines, with reduced range and power. Ditto for the 5.56, regardless of barrel length.
Why a thirty caliber battle rifle? Well, cause it does anything a carbine does, plus much more. I like the ability to shoot through most things, and the ability to hit with authority out to 500 yards. (This is where some laugh, but this old Marine rifle expert can still do it.)
In 7.62×51 I’d take a DSA STG, a high quality version of the FAL. Accurate, reliable, and brand new magazines are still available for about $10.00 a pop. In .30-06 you can’t beat the M1 Garand. Mine is a CMP Danish return with a beautiful chrome-lined barrel.
Of course, it’s not the gun, but the person behind it that makes the difference. The Ishapore Enfield is nice, as is the FR-8, as is the ’03 Springfield, as is any reliable, accurate rifle that you can hit with. When the shit hits the fan you can always upgrade to your dead foe’s weapon. Just watch your front sight.
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