How To Select Firearms On A Budget

January 21, 2012, by Ken Jorgustin


Guest post: by ‘TripodXL’

The dictionary defines logic as; a science that deals with the principles and criteria of validity of inference and demonstration: the science of the formal principles of reasoning. Basically this means that you use a reasoned basis, i.e. based in supported fact and deductive reasoning, to determine a particular path or decision that logically follows the preponderance of the calculated and obvious evidence.

The flipside of this coin is to use personal opinion for decision making as opposed to facts. Now while personal opinion may satisfy your internal personal desire, and most people will go with personal opinion, even though the evidence would show otherwise. This is perfectly “normal” in human nature, but it is not good for survival. It stuns me how stubborn people are on some topics, one of which is the BEST firearm for a particular survival situation because of non-factual perceptions, when the factual evidence shows otherwise.

You will hear people say things like “it shoots harder”, which can have two distinctly different meanings e.g. “it is very difficult to shoot” or “it has more muzzle energy at impact” and the latter is typically what people usually mean when you get them to explain what they said. Another one that people use is “high caliber”, what does that mean? If it means higher powered, then that equates to higher muzzle energy. If it means a larger caliber then you have a larger diameter bullet. Another term you hear that dovetails with that one is “high powered rifle”. Does that mean just the muzzle energy in absolute terms, regardless of caliber, does it mean just higher power in general or does it mean higher power in a particular caliber? Who knows? That is the point I’m trying to make. People will make decisions based on information that they’ve heard all their lives and just accept it as fact, even though it probably isn’t, or they will parrot what they heard grandpa say about his “thutty thutty” and how “hard it shoots” without questioning it’s validity.

When your survival is on the line (and you do want to survive, don’t you?), what is more important, your pride and your opinion, or what is best for you and yours? At some point, if it isn’t too late, you have to come to a point where you realize you don’t know everything about a topic and count on someone that does, regardless of your personal, one-sided point of view. You may have to acknowledge that some people that you look up to and “parrot”, don’t really know what they’re talking about. That’s a tough on “grandpa”, but yeah, you’re gonna have to come to grips with it.

To select a firearm there should be some defined criteria to use for the selection.

1. The first is the general quality and use of the weapon and the cost versus other alternative weapons.

2. Second is the performance, which includes accuracy, rate of fire, ease of use and dependability.

3. The third criteria would be durability, including the mean time between failures (MTBF), along with repair-ability. Repair-ability includes the AVAILABILITY of parts AND ease of repair.

4. Fourth is the COMMONALITY with other weapons AND ammo.

I think these four selection criteria are easily verifiable, objective and factual for determining the best weapon choices. If all other things are equal, then pick the one that you prefer, but seldom does that happen. Or, if money is no object, then buy what you want, lucky you. Most of us don’t have that luxury!


10/22 Ruger .22 LR

First, the number one weapon for any survival weapons cache is the .22 LR rifle. That’s a no brainer. Therefore I won’t explain it. The rifle of choice is also a no brainer. Now I said use, quality and cost of the weapon versus other alternatives. One salient and overriding fact is the fact that you NEED a semi-auto rifle of some sort in a survival situation and I don’t think that anyone can really argue otherwise. Yes, you can get a quality bolt action, rim fire, rifle for $120-$140, but since you need at least one semi-auto rifle, and since this should be your first and potentially only rifle, it should be a 10/22 Ruger .22 LR rifle at about $190.

It meets the performance standard, the durability and commonality. It is high quality, accurate, has high volume of fire and very dependable. You cannot survive a firefight with a bolt action .22 LR. With a semi-auto, .22 LR you at least have a chance. It’s durability is legendary, and deservedly so, and to repair it, short of running over it with a tank, a bolt and a trigger group will take care of any significant probable failure. As far as commonality, .22 LR ammo goes with out saying. What other .22LR semi-auto do you think you have a high probability of running across in the rest of the SHTF world, that you could use parts and magazines from? That should take care of .22 LR rifle.

Of course, I picked the most popular .22 LR and won’t catch much flack over it. But remember the principles. Not every choice will sit well with you, but it will be the right firearm, in general.


Glock 17

Now, you need a handgun. The first intuitive choice is to get a .22 LR; e.g. Model III Ruger, semi-auto pistol so that you have redundancy. That is a valid tactical concept but I think an even better tactical strategy is that you need a center fire handgun with significantly more stopping power than a .22 LR.

Now, before I finish the handgun choice, let me state, without equivocation, “I hate an effing plastic gun”. “I hate DAO (double action only)”. I am a dyed-in-the-wool 1911A1, .45 ACP fanatic. Period. Nothing shoots as sweet as a good single action trigger pull. I love a steel handgun. BUT that is my OPINION, it is my preference, it isn’t factual or evidence based. It also isn’t the best choice for survival circumstances. You ready? Here it comes. Drum roll, please. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrummpp! Glock 17, ooh, yuck! Plastic! First, I’ve heard people say they want the simplicity of a revolver and don’t want the complexity of an auto. Let’s check that out, factually.

With a revolver, you point and click (shoot). You press the button and open the cylinder and reload. Then point and click. Okay, now the Glock 17. You point and click! Hmmn! You push the button and mag comes out; insert new mag. Point and click!!! Hhhmmnn!! Maybe I missed something. Oh, yeah, the Glock has 17+1 rounds and the revolver has 6 (yeah there’s a 7 and an 8 shot, big deal), at some point round count matters, even over caliber. The functionality of a Glock is mechanically the same as the revolver; i.e. you pull the damn trigger and shoot, you push the button and reload.

The Glock 17, Gen 4, is cheaper than all but the most basic 1911A1, its quality is without compare, its accuracy is unassailable and its dependability is without question, period. Its MTBF is higher than any other gun tested. Revolvers are tested in “thousands of rounds” and semi-autos are tested in “tens of thousands of rounds”. Oh, yeah, commonality. It is the most sold center fire handgun in the U.S. So, if you need to repair it, you just put the parts in, you don’t have to be a gunsmith. If you need a magazine, ammo or parts, bet that guy you just found has some. If not, then the next one will. The most common center fire handgun ammo you will find on an unconscious National Guardsman, or anyone else for that matter, will be 9mm, not .357/38spcl, .45 ACP, .40 S&W, .44 magnum etc.

What other 9mm, polymer, center fire handgun, or any handgun for that matter, would you want to have in your hand if you needed ammo, parts, accuracy, dependability, firepower and ease of use and repair. Now, I didn’t say you would like it. IT AIN’T ABOUT LIKE. It’s about all the things I mentioned above and the expedient logistics that go with you surviving in spite of your bias. You can’t refute the logic. Yes, you can say you want something else, but you can’t refute the logic.


12 Ga. Mossberg (OR the other two)

Okay, 3 and 4 are a push as to which one you get next. This one is situational and only you can determine which one comes next, but the need for both is without question. Your tactical circumstances should determine what you get next. You NEED a 12 Ga. shotgun AND a lightweight, accurate, moderate range (300-400 yards), center fire carbine.

So, here we go on the 12 Ga. shotgun. You should have one, if at all possible. The first two alone (.22 LR rifle and 9mm handgun), at least give you a fighting chance to survive lethal confrontations. Now, you need some oomph! A 12 Ga. Pump will give you that, along with dependability, accuracy, high rate of fire, high MTBF, reparability, and commonality of ammo. There are three brands, all of which are comparable, except for price and they are Winchester, Remington and Mossberg.

An 8 shot, straight stock, groove and bead sight, synthetic stocked, double slide, can describe all three. The Mossberg 500 A “riot gun” versus comparable models of Winchester and Remington, is $209 as of January 2012, compared to $330 + or more for the other two. Now these are real world prices, NOT MSRP. You can find the 500A for $209 all day long and I have yet to find an 870 for less than $339 and I go to a lot of gun shows (the largest ones in the nation) and gun shops. A $100+ will buy a lot of stuff. It will buy 5K rounds of .22 LR, ammo; it will buy the parts for backup repair, etc. The Mossberg is just as durable and functional as any other shotgun made. We used them over in the desert and GIs prefer them to the other shotguns in our inventory.

As far as the criteria, they’re the same as the others except for price. You don’t have to like it, but it’s true and if you’re on a budget, it’s the way to go. If you buy one of the high-end SPX 590 models, there is no comparison. It is the only shotgun to pass the Mil-Std 3443G (MIL-S-3443G, 1995) for shotguns in the U.S. military, and it is 1/3 to 1/2 the price of a comparable Remington 870. These are indisputable facts. You can’t go wrong spending your money on the Mossberg OR the other two for that matter. Now, if money is no object feel free to get whatever you want, but that is not the point of this article.


The military (both ours and the Russians) did studies in the late 40s as to the nominal ranges that infantrymen would engage the enemy. What they found was surprising. Most men would not shoot AT the enemy. They would shoot TOWARDS them, and they would only shoot when they were within 200 yards. That was a big surprise. The philosophy of both governments changed from the long-range potential of standard big bore, higher powered calibers, to something of lesser range and lesser weight, since the infantryman was not going to use the greater potential accuracy and lethality anyway.



You need, as part of your survival weapons, a small bore, center fire rifle for LONGER (not long, longER) range targets and more precise shooting at those ranges as well as a carbine-sized weapon for CQB in an urban/suburban environment. There are four rifles that come to mind.

First is the generic bolt action .223. Go back to the .22 LR rifle selection process to figure out why this one isn’t right. That leaves three rifles. The Kel-Tec Su-16, the Mini-14 and the AR-15 style rifle/carbine.

The Kel-Tec is a neat, light, functional rifle. It takes STANAG (NATO STANdardization AGreements) magazines, e.g. regular AR-15 magazines. It is the least expensive of all the three rifles, though it is very HARD to clean. It is better to have one of these than nothing, although the jury is out on its long-term durability.

The Mini-14 is very functional and very durable. Supposedly, Ruger has dealt with the accuracy issues with the previous generations of Mini-14s as compared to AR-15s, and improved them. Both the Kel-Tec and the Mini-14 are very difficult to clean and to repair. Yes, the Mini-14 is very durable, but you can’t get the parts for either of them, the Mini-14 or the Kel-Tec SU-16, like you can the AR-15s, if they do need repair.

First, you can’t get any parts that are “gunsmith” installable from Ruger or Kel-Tec. They won’t sell them to you, period (and there is no aftermarket for them, so they aren’t produced by anyone else). That includes barrels, and most of the trigger group and they use proprietary magazines for the Mini-14. That leaves the AR-15 based carbines and rifles as the only alternative that satisfies the criteria given for the selection process.

The most sold rifle in the U.S. (OBTW, this is where we live, not Africa, not SWA, not SEA, not the Balkans, not China, not S. America etc., we live in the U.S.A.) is the AR-15 style rifle. It outsells all other rifles by orders of magnitude. FYI, the price of good quality ARs is down in the $600 range, the Kel-Tec is in the $450 range and the Mini-14 is in the $750 range, new.

AR-15s are accurate out to 600 yards for the 20” rifle version (it’s what they shoot 600 yd service rifle competition with, and they out shoot MATCH M-14s, ask the Marines). They are accurate, well priced, reliable, durable, easy to repair, easy to use, have a high MTBF and above all have the ultimate commonality of being the service rifle of the U.S.A. That way ammo and parts are not an issue. With the right ammo, it is the perfect lightweight carbine for close to intermediate range self defense and survival.

Now, which one should you get? I would use the standard carbine length, 16” barrel “M-4gery” (that is M-4 forgery, a play on the pun). I would only get the 20” full sized AR-15A2 rifle if I lived where there were some wide-open spaces. I would not put any bells or whistles on it, just a plain AR with the standard A2 iron sights and the Mil-Spec 6-position collapsible stock for the carbine.

As to brand, there are many out there and the names that come to mind are Rock River Arms, DPMS, Double Star, Olympic Arms and many other reputable manufacturers. The main thing that you want to look for is that it is a FORGED receiver weapon, made from 7075 T6 anodized aluminum. You can go to and look around and make an educated choice from the testimony on the forum. If you have absolutely no knowledge about ARs at all, then find someone to help you.


Now this would be where the article should end with me summarizing the four weapons, the 10/22 Ruger, the Glock 17, the Mossberg 500A and a quality “plain Jane” AR-15 M4gery. Now, I would not tell anyone this is the ultimate list of survival firearms. It is though, based on objective selection criteria, the best four choices for your first four firearms. This is based on a MINIMAL budget, maximum utility and getting the best bang for your buck (pun intended) versus its value and use to you as a survivor.

If you wanted to make it more inclusive, you could include a large-bore, scoped, bolt-action rifle. You could also include the .22 LR Ruger pistols that we ditched in the handgun selection. Another add on, to expand your capability to use other calibers that you may come across in surviving, is to acquire an AK style carbine/rifle. The only other thing to add to cover MOST potential populous ammunition would be a .357 magnum revolver just to eke out the most you can from ANY available ammo supply, for as many years as possible.


I know some of you are gnashing your teeth about now, over the fact that I’ve excluded your favorite pistol, rifle, handgun, shotgun or caliber/both. Let’s start with .40 S&W. It is a COP cartridge and they will shoot themselves out of ammo when TSHTF. Yes, some civilians have them but not as many as have 9mm. They (cops) will run out of ammo before most civilians and they will become a useless societal force unless supported by the military and what do they shoot?

On the point of the AK, it isn’t a small-bore rifle, it isn’t as accurate as an AR and it doesn’t meet the commonality of parts and ammo criteria. It has its purpose, but not here in the “first four” budget. Here are a few other salient facts about AKs. Over 90+% (it’s actually higher than that, I’m just being generous) of the 7.62×39 ammunition AND parts in the U.S. are imported from overseas. How long do you think that will continue in a SHTF situation? How much of it do you think you will find in a National Guard armory? How many parts do you think you will find there for your AK? How many magazines? The spare parts for an AR fit in a Ziploc, but the AK-47 parts don’t. AK costs are rising, but AR costs are falling. An AR has better accuracy than an AK (significantly better, that’s a fact, it’s not negotiable).

I stood in a room with over 25 Rangers in battalion and asked them “If you had the chance to pick up an AK or an M4, both fully loaded, which one would you pick up?” They laughed. They thought I was bullshitting them. No officers were around, just me and they said “are you kidding Sarge, it would be the M-4, who’d be stupid enough to pick up the AK, is this a trick question?” I also asked them, since they came from different platoons, if they had ever seen one fail. Their answer to a man was “no”.

My career has spanned almost 4 decades and I want people to have the benefit of my experiences and be able to survive. I share this because I want to. I have never seen an M-16A1, A2 or M-4 fail that wasn’t broken to begin with or had bad ammo (dead primers or malformed). All rifles break and all rifles need to be cleaned, period. If you don’t take care of it properly and maintain it properly, it WILL NOT work properly. If you think AKs never need to be cleaned, how come the Russians issued cleaning kits with them? Also, they are not 300-400 yard rifles, at least not on purpose. So, all the BS from uncle Bubba, about the M-16, “made by Mattel” back in 1963/64 is not valid today, regardless of how much he hates them. Read the history of the M-16.

I am a decorated combat veteran. I am a professional military instructor. I am a certified NRA instructor. I am a state certified Concealed Handgun instructor. I also teach private classes for tactics, techniques and procedures for immediate action scenarios. I have been an NRA 3-gun competitor since 1976. I have competed in International Air Pistol, Service Rifle, IPSC, small bore rifle, I teach the rifle and shotgun merit badges for the BSA and engage in other martial style competitive shooting. I was one of my units designated marksmen and one of the “expedient gunsmiths”. Most of the online, armchair, commandos have none of the individual experiences that I have, much less the sum of them. Anyone with similar experience that has a reasoned, thought out, cogent thesis, is welcome to disagree with me and we can discuss it along with those with questions. I think that I have provided the inexperienced with a viable, easy-to-understand and appropriate course for understanding and getting the best firearms for their survival dollar. Survive well. Enjoy.



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