Letter Re: Retreat Locale and Firearms Selection Questions from a Newbie Easterner

I am a new reader of SurvivalBlog but I am already hooked. I realize that I am woefully unprepared to defend and care for my family if and when TSHTF. I live in New Jersey and commute to New York City every day, and work in finance. After 9/11, when I lost several dear friends, I took some steps to prepare for a short (several days to a week) disruption or an attack. I purchased a generator, several hundred MREs, bottled water, and iodine pills. I even applied for a firearm purchase permit but never bought a weapon.

Working in the capital markets, I have see firsthand over the last few month show how close we have come to a complete breakdown in the monetary and payments system. As a person who is generally a free market advocate and non-interventionist it troubles me deeply that the government has had to step in to try and salvage the banking system. However, I can say that in the days before some of these programs were announced, we were probably much closer than people think to a severe systemic financial collapse. I saw firsthand the panic and fear that prevailed on Wall Street in those few days, and it was real.

Hopefully we will be able to pull out of this current crisis. But in the spirit of preparing for the worst, I realize that I have much to do in order to get ready for TEOTWAWKI. So I do have a few questions that I hope you can answer. While I am sure some of these have been answered for previous newbies, I would greatly appreciate your opinion and advice.

What is your suggestion for a retreat location for someone living in New Jersey? I have read your “Recommended Retreat Areas” section and it looks like most of us east of the Mississippi are in some trouble. However, I am tied to my current location in terms of my employment and extended family. I am relatively blessed in terms of financial resources, so it is potentially feasible for me to purchase an out of state second home to use as a retreat. I do worry about access in a SHTF scenario. Highways potentially clogged, gas in short supply, etc. Is a 2-to-3 day drive by car or longer escape location feasible? There are relatively rural areas within 2-5 hours by car that we could choose, but none approach the remoteness most on this site seem to favor.

This also seems to be a common question but what about firearms? New Jersey is quite restrictive. The permit I got after 9/11 expired so I recently reapplied and should get my new permit in a couple months. I am not a complete neophyte but pretty close. I have hunted a few times with friends and have done some target practice at the pistol range. I know I need training. I also fear that the new administration may impose even more restrictive legislation limiting access to firearms so I want to move relatively quickly in assembling what I need. Here is what I am thinking:

handgun: there is no concealed carry in New Jersey so for home defense I am thinking something on the larger side, maybe a S&W Night Guard in .357 Magnum? Or does an autoloader with a higher capacity (maximum 15 round magazines in New Jersey) make sense? Maybe the SIG P220 in .45 ACP?

.22 rifle Suggestions? Id like something I can also teach my son on (he is 7) in a few years. What do you think of the US Survival .22LR? How big should I go? I don’t think I’m going to need something for very big game but who knows. Is a .308 sufficient or should I look for something heavier like a .338 Lapua or a .30-06? Should I also have a tactical rifle? Remember that New Jersey has a pretty broad definition of “assault rifles” that are banned.
Shotguns: Likely would like to have at least one “riotgun” type and at least one for hunting. Suggestions?

Ammunition: How much is enough?I have seen that Cabela’s sells reloaded/remanufactured rounds in bulk. Are these a good deal or are factory rounds superior to the point that the bulk reloads should not be considered?

Training: I am planning on taking several of the NRA courses that are available in my area for each of the weapons types I purchase. I have read the glowing reports on Front Sight and will try that as well if I can get the time. Any other suggestions?

I know I have a lot to learn in many areas such as food gathering/storage and basic survival. I have learned a lot from you already. I appreciate all you do on this blog, Jim. You provide a great service.
God Bless. – S. in New Jersey

JWR Replies: You are in a difficult locale, but I quite regularly get similar questions from consulting clients in Washington DC, Baltimore, and New York City.
I recommend that if you can afford it, that you buy a rural retreat, and stock it very well. If you prefer a warmer climate, then I recommend eastern Tennessee. If you don’t mind cold and snow, then consider the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Pre-position 90% of of your tools and logistics at your retreat. If you are worried about burglary, then rent a commercial storage space that is near your retreat.

As I’ve mentioned in blog many times, I recommend that you keep always enough gas in cans on hand for one trip “Outta Dodge”–to get you to your retreat. (This ties in with the need to pre-position nearly everything at your retreat.)

In answer to your question on handguns: In New Jersey, your best bet is probably either a Springfield Armory XD in .45 ACP or perhaps a Glock Model 21 ( also .45 ACP.) BTW, you should take advantage of Front Sight’s Gun & Gear & Training offer–that includes essentially free XD pistol. BTW, low cost firearms training is also available from the RWVA in the east and the WRSA in the west.

In answer to your other questions:

>.22 rifle Suggestions? I’d like something I can also teach my son on (he is 7) in a few years. What do you think of the US Survival .22LR?

The US Survival .22 LR–like all of it predecessors including the original Armalite AR-7–has a tendency to jam. It also has a fairly rudimentary peep sight that in my opinion has an overly-large rear aperture. I recommend that you instead buy a Rogue Rifle Company Chipmunk .22 single shot rifle for your son. Depending on his maturity, you can probably start training him with it under very close supervision at age 7. (The Chipmunk is a tiny rifle. It is made to the minimum dimensions allowable under Federal law.) For the rest of the family, buy a stainless steel All-Weather Ruger 10/22. Once your son is about 10 years old, you can buy a spare stock for the Ruger and saw off about two inches from the butt to provide a shorter length of pull, for transitional training. Slightly used “takeoff” standard birch wood stocks are readily available for under $15 each, since Ruger .22 rifles are often used as gun rebuild platforms, typically using fancy laminate target stocks.

> How big should I go?…

The .308 Winchester will suffice for everything two-legged or four-legged in North America with the exception of grizzly bears and moose.

> Should I also have a tactical rifle?…

Keep an inexpensive .308 bolt action in New Jersey and .308 battle rifle (as well all your magazines over 15 round capacity) in a wall cache at your retreat in a free state. As previously noted in SurvivalBlog I generally recommend the FAL, L1A1, HK91, AR-10 or M1A. And, FWIW, up until a week ago, I would have also recommended waiting for the about-to-be-released Kel-Tec RFB .308 or the Rock River Arms (RRA) LAR-8 .308 Caliber, in Mid-Length. However, in today’s market, beggars can’t be choosers. Buy whatever .308 battle rifle you can find, but be sure to line up at least eight spare magazines first. (You don’t want to be stick with a rifle with one magazine!)

> Shotguns: Likely would like to have at least one “riotgun” type and at least one for hunting. Suggestions?

Buy a Remington 870 Express 12 gauge Combo set. (These come with both a bird barrel and riotgun barrel. It takes less than two minutes to switch barrels. BTW, Mossberg also produces a quite similar “Combo” set, that is very reasonably priced. The only drawback is that the Mossberg 500 Combo’s bright blued steel is more prone to rust than the phosphate finish on the Remington Express models.

> Ammunition: How much is enough?

“Enough” is a subjective term, depending on the depth and duration of the situation that you anticipate, how much bartering you plan to do, and how much trouble you expect to encounter. (In an urban or suburban area, you might have to fire hundreds of warning shots to repel looters. But here at the ranch, we are in the process of filling at least five deer and elk tags this season, but we’ll likely fire less than 10 cartridges.) If anything, err on the side of larger quantities. Any ammo that excess to your needs will be worth its weight in gold for barter and charity.

>…I have seen that Cabela’s sells reloaded/remanufactured rounds in bulk. Are these a good deal or are factory rounds superior to the point that the bulk reloads should not be considered?

Bulk reloads are fine for target shooting but only can be depended on for self defense shooting situations if they come from a reputable maker, such as Black Hills Ammunition.