Article title : Priorities in choosing a frugal survivalist rifle.
So a few articles ago I made a list of characteristics for a frugal survivalist rifle (see below) and of course in these lists there is always the question of priority : which item is the most important ?
Here I will try to answer that question. But first, the list :
1- low firearm acquisition cost
2- low ammunition acquisition cost
3- low legal difficulty to acquire
4- effectiveness against non-military enemies below 200 yards with use of light cover (US house walls, cars)
5- useable (shooting, basic maintenance) by untrained people
6- useable (shooting, transporting) by people of feeble constitution
7- ruggedness or easily replaceable parts
Bonus : 8- forgiveness about expediently reloaded ammunition (only relevant for the post-collapse environment, but it's something you have to bear in mind if you're going to have only one type of weapon)
Of course the question of what is important is connected to the larger question of what your plan actually is : how much money do you have, how much time etc. This list can be an inspiration for any other piece of equipment in your setup.
I. Most important : procurement
Out of any context, the obvious more important issue is existence. If you have a weapon, you are much better off than if you had none. Even if it has issues with any other aspect of the list, it is there.
So the most important set of characteristics is related to procurement (points 1,2 and 3). Of all three aspects the legal difficulty to aquire is the most important. You need your firearm relatively fast and without too much issues like waiting for a green light from the authorities. It there is some kind of restriction linked with it, it might very well end up confiscated in the future, although that is not the problem right now.
About the price aspect, of course it's high on the list since it's a “frugal” rifle, and frugal is a polite term for “little money”. All sorts of combinations are possible but I would say that the cost should combine the price of the rifle, the price of 120 rounds for it, and of course shipping costs etc.
Why 120 rounds ? First because you'll need to shoot 20 rounds with it to get accustomed to it and notice any issues, flaws etc. so in effect you'll still have 100 rounds when the collapse (point of impossibility of further acquisition) has started.
If you stop at the procurement stage then you'll choose a BTN (“Better Than Nothing”) rifle, well described by Jim several times here, most likely a benjamin gun (http://bisonprepper.blogspot.fr/2017/10/benjamin-gun.html ), a 100 dollar shotgun or .22LR rifle, all single-shot.
To me the worst gun that passes the first test (it exists) is a Remington rifle with an X-Mark Pro trigger (your weapon may fire unexpectedly) with a stout, uncommon cartridge (like the .270 WSM for instance) and a well-worn barrel. The reason why you still have it is that it has next to no resale value. It stout recoil will no sit well with your 12 year old child, the ammo is expensive and difficult to find. Even if an experienced shooter uses it, the lack of accuracy makes it near useless. But it is there.
If you have the possibility to afford better fuction, it means you are better off than the guys with that rifle, but it also means you are going to spend more than for a BTN firearm.
The question to ask here is : how much are you willing to pay for each added function ? It depends heavily on your preferences, on the cultural images that are present in your head, and your experience. Let's use the list to explore the functions (not in the list's order, though).
IIA : The most important aspect is aspect 5 (useability by untrained people). In fact we can consider that if a person doesn't specifically train to fight with a rifle he's untrained. I have seen countless horrors in basic handling and shooting in my 13 years at my local gun range. So I consider that everybody is untrained.
Break-open weapons are the most easy to understand, followed by revolvers and bolt-actions, in that order. To the neophyte, lLever actions are not really that intuitive.
Semi-auto weapons are very complicated for the untrained, and magazines add to the confusion.
Of course, the high consumption of ammunition that go with semi-automatic fire and magazines are not frugal at all.
IIB : aspect 6 (useable by feeble people). If you are going to have a standard in your weaponry, then it will have to suit the weakest member of your group. This means that you have to choose a handgun round or an intermediate round, for several reasons : the recoil is lighter, but that light recoil also lessens the fear of pulling the trigger, flinching or firing with eyes closed etc. Also, such calibers are more economical to buy or to reload, sometimes significantly (especially cast bullets on revolver rounds)
IIC : it may seem strange that the primary function of a firearm, its terminal effectiveness, appears so late in this list. My point is that if the people can't get the thing working in the first place and even if they do they close their eyes or flinch when shooting then the bullet won't be fired, or won't hit where it should.
Of course, accuracy is a nice thing to have, but it costs extra. All weapons are reasonably accurate. Extra accuracy comes at a high cost that is not justifiable for amateur shooters. Maybe you, the reader, will have some proficiency in shooting that justifies a better rifle (a .30 caliber hunting rifle), and then you will have specialized weapons in your group, but this is already above frugal. (I do believe it is very important, but it is not frugal).
The cartridge is where you'll have to make a personal choice. This question alone deserves a separate article, and most articles in the shooter/prepper world revolves around this. But notice how it comes almost last in the list of priorities here.
III. The last aspect : long-term
You can go with shoddy weapons, but if you want your weapons to last, it involves also a higher cost (although very expensive weapons can also be shoody, either by design or by the materials involved).
I covered the “frugal” aspect here but not the “survivalist” aspect yet. If you guys survive the collapse then you find yourself in a world where industry doesn't exist anymore and maybe you can find an amateur craftsmen somewhere. You will probably have to do the repairs yourself.
Two schools exist here, for firearms or any other mechanical object : either the thing is rugged and doesn't break, or it follows a standard and you'll use replacement parts (they may even be a guy who will manufacture those parts, or if not, hey it's a business opportunity !)
I wrote that existence is the most important, it is then logical that absence of repair is the most important aspect here. If the thing is rugged then first your people won't break it by using it (it emphasizes the need for a simple weapon) and then it will stand the test of time (corrosion, freezing, ultraviolet light etc.)
Some parts are meant to absorb damage, like stocks. Stocks can be made at home with a lot of time, whereas plastic parts cannot. You might think that after the collapse there will plenty of AR parts around, but that is simply a gamble you're making. If you already have a weapon which can be fitted with wooden stocks then you don't take any chances.
The very last aspect on the list is the reloadability of the cartridge, and the forgiveness of the firearm to handle it. Reloading is a separate skillset. I know I could afford the ammunition (most importance aspect, see above) buy reloading spent brass, so it definitely comes into the equation, but in a long-term perspective. The bright side here is the ability to reuse cartridge cases and spent bullets (which you cast back to useable shape), the shadow side is the need for specialty items such as primers and powder. Both may still be manufactured post-collapse, or not (if the specialized knowledge has disappeared), either way you're better off stockpiling these ahead of the collapse. Again, it all depends on your assumptions.
As in everything with survivalism, at one given time the last can has been opened, being a can of spam or a can of powder.