I and other authors have discussed BOBs and their use, packing and such thoroughly here on The Survivalist Blog and elsewhere. One thing that does not get too much critical analysis is what kind of firearm you should keep in your BOB.
Don’t misunderstand: there is plenty of discussion about the guns themselves as they relate to the BOB, like the fact you should have a dedicated firearm or supplementary firearm as part of your BOB loadout. Rifle, shotgun or pistol? What caliber? How much ammo, etc. All good and worthy considerations for a BOB gun.
More rarely do I see conversations get into more nitty gritty detail about the why of it all, and what we need that BOB to do for us. Things don’t happen in a vacuum, and it is very easy for gun guys (your author here included) to get lost in the weeds on the gun’s merits versus the gun as it fits the mission of the BOB. Remember, the mission drives equipment selection.
In this article, I’ll be reexamining the selection of a gun for your BOB, and hopefully give you a few additional points of consideration that might help you make a decision based on practicality, not wants.
The Basics of Guns and BOBs
This article will not be a detailed dissertation on BOBs, except as their use and equipage relates to our topic today. If you need to spin up on the ins and outs of selecting, packing and using a BOB, you will find plenty of info here and elsewhere.
For most preppers, selecting a gun for their BOB is hardly given much thought. That’s forgivable, because the most obvious solutions seem to make the most sense, and indeed they do much of the time! The usual choice for a BOB is either a person’s daily carry pistol (and hence often just some extra magazines or ammo in the BOB with the assumption being the person is never without their handgun), or a long gun of some type, usually a rifle but often a shotgun.
Both methods make sense: if you carry a handgun absolutely everywhere, it stands that some spare ammo is usually carried on or about the body with it. Usually a single spare mag, or speedloader or handful of loose cartridges if a revolver is carried. Taking that a step further any person grabbing a BOB preparing to escape would want even more ammo on tap with their other supplies.
Quite a few preppers decide rightly that desperate times call for bigger guns than a little bang-bang, and choose to kit out their BOB with a long gun. The long gun will either be attached or inside the BOB or kept next to it ready to grab and skedaddle. The long gun will have ammunition stored inside the BOB, on the outside of the BOB in pouches or inside a chest rig or other load-bearing equipment with the BOB.
Another decision that is hard to argue with, as long guns are tools for decisively solving serious social problems efficiently, whereas handguns are weapons of convenience we rely on because they are easy to carry and conceal. The only rub with a long gun is that they are large, heavy and have correspondingly heavy ammo. Both will gobble up space in your BOB that might be better spent on other life-support equipment.
Ounces make pounds and all that. BOB’s that are fully kitted up can easily tip 50 lbs. So you must consider how much space and weight you can spare for an additional (if any) gun and ammo before dumping 10 loaded magazines in there.
Selecting a gun for a BOB is not always done purely on the basis of self-defense. Some folks consider the fact that bugging out at all means they may not be coming back for a long time, if at all, and choose to arm themselves with a firearm that will also lend itself well to putting food on the table.
Others see two-legged animals as the single biggest threat and justification for going forth armed at all, and so optimize their choices based on that. No animal on earth is as dangerous as another human being.
To be fair, you can certainly use any given gun for both tasks; it is usually the accoutrement and additional equipment on the gun (sights, scopes, lights) that help classify it as a “hunting” or “tactical” gun. It is entirely possible to have one gun that will do both well so long as you have the ability.
No matter which flavor you choose, the core characteristics you are searching for remain the same. The once characteristic any gun must possess to be considered is it must be mechanically reliable and of robust, durable design. There is an awful lot we can argue over, all day and all night, so long as that one element is achieved.
A major SHTF event is no time to doubt that your firearm will perform as expected in all times and in all conditions. Make sure your chosen gun works without question, no exceptions!
Keeping a Gun in the Car as Part of a Bug-Out Plan
I have noticed an increasing trend among civilians these days who profess a desire to keep a long gun in their car, or already do. The reasons for this vary, of course, and I have heard everything from being “ready” for the next mass spree killer to simply having the gun prepacked in the family battle van to speed up bugging out should the time come.
It is this later answer that concerns us, as it does make a certain amount of sense. If you are evacuating in a certain vehicle, anything that is already in the vehicle does not have to be loaded in the vehicle when the time to get out Dodge is nigh. Seconds spent grabbing and loading do count during a crisis, believe that.
Cars and many trucks also have the advantage of being able to keep a long gun and other goodies out of sight in a trunk or under a rear bench seat instead of attached visibly to a pack or carried to the vehicle in your hands or over a shoulder.
This again makes sense, but you must consider the risks prior to committing to keeping a gun in your car full time. I’ll say this as clearly as possible: cars are not secure storage containers for firearms! Cars get broken into all the time. Consider anything in the passenger compartment to be lost if this occurs, barring you have installed an aftermarket safe or strongbox. The trunk is somewhat better when it comes to smash and grab robberies but this does not help you if the car is stolen.
Do you really want to risk your guns falling into the hands of criminals for any purpose? Think long and hard before you decide to forgo keeping the gun on your person and under your control by leaving it in a vehicle at all times.
Firearms for Bugging Out
The following recommendations for firearms suitable for bugging out are my own, and I have provided my case for all of them below. Understand everyone has their own opinion for this, and my choices are not the end-all, be-all of guns for disaster readiness. I hope my explanations of why for each of them give you much food for thought on your own choices.
I enjoy arguing the merits and comparative advantages of all kinds of guns and related equipment as much as anyone and I firmly believe that while there may not be a tip top true “best” in any category, since we have so many good choices, there will always be plenty of choices that are clearly superior to many of their competitors. Use the same critical analysis to inform your own selection but remember ultimately that what matters most is that you know what you are doing with your gun, and the gun itself is reliable, loaded and close at hand when you need it.
Consider the following options for your dedicated Bug-Out Bag gun…
Full-size or Compact Handgun
Includes quality holster, magazine carriers and spare magazines. It may seem counter intuitive to include only a handgun in your BOB vs. a long gun, and especially if you already carry a handgun daily, but it makes a lot of sense from the perspective of bugging out.
One, many folks don’t carry a true fighting handgun as their EDC piece. They carry something smaller, less robust, or even something that uses a suboptimal caliber for convenience and ease of carry. When the balloon goes up you may want to maintain a low profile, including staying concealed, versus having long gun where everyone can see it. That being said you will also want a gun you can kick some ass with, and a proper service handgun is just the ticket.
The best guns in this category have excellent service records and reputations for reliability and shooter friendliness. Many of them will be able to mount a WML in an appropriate holster, increasing their capability. Their reliability, capacity, and ruggedness make them a major asset in hostile conditions. The ability to hide them again while keeping them close at hand is a major perk only a handgun offers.
Their ammo and magazines are lighter and take up less space than rifle cartridges or shotshells, allowing you to pack in more of both for the same weight and space envelope.
Consider a Glock, Smith & Wesson M&P, Beretta M9/92, CZ P-07 or P-10, H&K P30 or VP9, or quality 1911.
.22 Handgun with Optic and Suppressor
I can hear you now: “Charles, wait just a damn minute! You just got done riffing on people who carry a small caliber handgun, and now you are recommending one! What gives?!” Right you are, reader, you caught me.” But hear me out anyway. When I am recommending a .22 pistol as part of a BOB, it is as a system designed to do many things well.
Compared to your average tiny mousegun kept in a pocket or ankle for concealed carry, there is nothing small or svelte about a fullsize .22 handgun. Consider a Ruger 22/45 or Mark IV, or a Browning Buckmark. They are light, yes, and that is part of the recommendation, but they are not small. So what else do they bring to the table? Simple: a modern .22 LR handgun shoots like a house on fire and can be kitted out with accessories that make it a viable problem-solving tool across many domains.
For instance, a Ruger 22/45 with an MRDS and suppressor is a frightfully quiet, lightweight, accurate and reliable tool for hunting, or self defense without attracting too much attention. The .22 is not a particularly effective cartridge but it is certainly lethal and dangerous with the right load. You will not be conquering the wasteland with it but it will turn an attacker room temperature if you do your part.
The other major perk of this system is how light and compact the ammo is. You can carry 500 rounds in the space of 150 rounds of 9mm or .40S&W. The magazines themselves are super light and thin, so you can carry plenty of them.
Oh, and I hear a few of you out there going nuts over the purported reliability, rather lack thereof, of rimfire ammo. You cannot be blamed for thinking that, for the longest time it was true, and still is if you buy cheap as can be big box ammo. If you buy quality .22 and load it into a quality pistol, you will probably be surprised at how reliable the system can be.
So grab some subsonics, high-velocity and some general purpose rounds in between and you’ll be all set for surviving when you bug-out.
Consider a Ruger 22/45 or Mark IV, Smith & Wesson SW22, or Browning Buckmark.
Rifle or Shotgun
When you really need to get work done with a gun, you leave the handguns put away. Rifles and shotguns both have more than enough power to decisively neutralize human attackers if you do your part, and also exhibit far greater range and hit potential than handguns. Another bonus is their typically greater performance against all kinds of intermediate barriers, perhaps most importantly vehicle glass and bodywork.
Whatever long gun you choose, make sure you think carefully about how much ammo to include, as it gets heavy fast. A few loaded AR or AK magazines take up lots of space and add significant weight. That ammo may not last as long as you think. Shotguns are great for mulching highwaymen and rioters up close, or crunching into cars with slugs, but their ammo is so bulky and heavy your will necessarily be limited on rounds you have available.
If you are not using a magazine fed design, ammo management will be an issue, as loose rounds will need to be contained in pouches, holders and other accoutrement for ready feeding into the gun. Keeping ammo in their factory boxes, while protective, is a poor use of space in your BOB.
That being said, when the chips are down and it is time to fight, you’ll be glad you are toting a long gun instead of a handgun alone. No other tool you can carry can put down a bad guy quite like they can.
Consider a quality AR or AK, or a lever action rifle.
Bugging Out often means bringing a gun as well. You are wise to do so, as desperate people and criminals alike may wait on your path to safety when society gets turned upside down. All the varied types of guns have advantages and disadvantages. It is up to you to choose which ones will serve you best, and then work to minimize its weaknesses.
Charles Yor is an advocate of low-profile preparation, readiness as a virtue and avoiding trouble before it starts. He has enjoyed a long career in personal security implementation throughout the lower 48 of the United States.