A Weapons Systems Approach to Firearms and Training

Being well-armed and trained is a cornerstone of preparedness.

I’m writing this to reiterate and expand on a subject that I’ve briefly mentioned several times in the more than 12 years that SurvivalBlog has been published. This is the concept of a taking a Systems Approach to firearms and firearms training.  By this, I mean changing your entire mindset about simply “buying a gun.”  You are not just buying a gun. Rather, you are acquiring a weapons system, including logistics and training.

Here is a thumbnail list to consider:

  • The Firearm Itself
  • Ammunition. (At least 1,000 rounds for each primary rifle or pistol.)
  • Magazines (At least six per handgun and 10 per rifle.)
  • Spare Parts
  • Reference Manuals
  • Modifications and Upgrades
  • Bipods
  • Registered Suppressors
  • Optics (and spare batteries for them, if needed)
  • For Precision Rifles: Rangefinder and Kestrel (and spare batteries for them)
  • Targets for Zeroing and Training
  • Ear Muffs (preferably electronic)
  • Magazine Pouches
  • Dump Pouch
  • Web Gear Harnesses or Plate Carriers
  • Holsters or Scabbards
  • Slings
  • Transit/Air Travel Cases
  • Cleaning Equipment
  • Home Vaults and/or Rural Caches

As I’ve written many times, training is crucial. Owning a gun doesn’t make you a competent shooter any more than owning a surfboard makes you a surfer.

In short, you need to approach equipping yourself much like modern day infantry soldier–complete with your own logistics “tail.” These days, that includes batteries for night vision optics and rangefinders. In the civilian preparedness context, only the soldier’s bayonet is superfluous. (And some might argue, even that might come in handy.)

I would rather own just a couple of guns with a full complement of ammo and accessories–as well as the training to go with them–rather than owning a dozen or more guns with just a smattering of logistics and marginal training. It all comes down to effectiveness.

Also note that at least one of your rifles should have a detachable night vision optic.  My favorite is the well-proven AN/PVS-14 monocular, preferably Generation 3 or 3+. They are available from several companies that advertise on SurvivalBlog.

That, in my opinion, is the rational approach to arming yourself in the 21st Century. It is a strategy that will serve you well. It is also an approach that will provide for your children and grandchildren, regardless of future legislation or shortages. – JWR


  1. I would add “compatibility” with family/group members. When you think about the family/group being a “system” that system also needs to be interoperable. everyone carrying their own unique weapon presents both operational and logistical issues.

    1. That is a great point and the main reason I chose to abandon the AK platform in favor of AR rifles as our go-to SHTF weapons. Parts availability, commonality with LE and military, and ease of operation were also factors in my decision. Although the reliability of the AK is legendary, the ability to carry more ammo per pound and the fact that my family members found it exceptionally difficult to seat an AK mag under duress sealed the deal. Not to mention I can travel in a 50 mile radius and find enough spares to build an AR with little problem.

    2. Yup, NATO standardized on a handful of calibers so that they could share ammunition. Each group should standardize on weapons so that magazines and ammunition are interchangeable, both rifle calibers and pistol. If you go with a 5.56mm/.223 as your standard rifle ammo, you should also have a larger designated marksman caliber, either .308/7.62 or 30.06.

  2. Under logistics and training, Brownells has an excellent series of videos on disassembly cleaning and reassembly of firearms. There 4 part videos on the SKS and the AK are very good.

    1. and with google/other search engines, you can download just about any manual/schematic/video for any type of firearm and keep them on a thumbdrive or other portable hdd to have whenever you need them

  3. i thought about getting rid of my glock 40 until the other day i realized the only diff between it and my glock 9 is the barrel…all those extra mags i have for the 40 are the same mags for the 9…the frame is the same…i could buy a 357 barrel and essentially have 3 guns on the same frame…and for any of you not familiar with the newish magpul mags for glocks, they work great for half the price…if nothing else, buy a couple and use them in range days/training to avoid abusing your stock mags…

  4. Critical concepts to introduce and reinforce. On magazines: While training LE personnel I suggested each officer have three sets of magazines. One for training, one for duty and a spare set. So if an officer’s individual load out was four magazines on his body and one in the rifle, his or her minimum compliment would be 15 magazines (5X3=15). Make sure new magazines function properly and are free of internal burrs or obstructions (very rare). Leave the duty set and training set fully loaded. Burn and replace the duty ammo yearly at one of the training sessions. The reasoning behind leaving the training mags loaded too is to discover any magazine weaknesses in training rather than on the street. I realize that leaving magazines loaded does not significantly impact reliability over time (so leave them loaded), however this strategy is simple to employ, costs virtually nothing and gives the officer a slight edge in projected reliability, so why not? Training magazines will suffer the rigors of training. They will be knocked around, dropped, thrown, stepped on, kicked, abused, maybe run over, repeatedly reloaded and more. Typically these mags will continue function perfectly with a bit of maintenance (removing the base plate, spring and follower to get the rocks, sand and dust out of the magazines, no lubrication whatsoever here folks, just a clean rag to pull through the magazine body and wipe the spring and follower), a great confidence builder for personnel. If you ever have a magazine failure you are able to rotate a tested and reliable spare magazine into service without delay. Last, keep in mind that the original GI aluminum magazines were designed to be disposable. While they work great, the polymer magazines will be less susceptible (not immune) to most physical damage over time.

    On Glocks: In converting Glock calibers, as long as the parent case is the same (.40 S&W to .357 sig comes to mind) the magazines, slide, extractor and ejector are virtually the same (although there is some discussion of the .357 follower being slightly different). When converting from a .40 to 9mm or vice versa, there are subtle differences. For training purposes the conversion is physically safe. As the Glock gets dirty, dusty, wet, etc. and its design tolerances are pushed to their limits, you may start to experience issues. so while OK for training, maybe not so much for duty or defensive use where reliability is critical. Of course, in a pinch you take what you can get.

    Just my 2c.

  5. You guys nailed it here. “Amateurs discuss tactics, professionals study logistics.” Being able to supply and maintain your fighting force is critical to success, and key to this goal is interoperability. If everyone is using a common platform, you’ll need a smaller stock of spares. If everyone is using the same caliber, supplies can be shared. And perhaps most overlooked, if that platform happens to be common to the local LE and military, TTPs and a well established supply chain already exist.

    1. What makes you think that LE and the military will “share” ammo and spare parts with “mere civilians”? My view is that LE and the military will most likely have a dim view of armed civilians when the SHTF. Especially given the current recruiting base that LE and the military have to choose from in 2018 America.

      America has already experienced gun confiscation at the hands of our LE and military in New Orleans in 2005. If you don’t know this, you haven’t been paying attention.

      I don’t expect, and certainly will not seek, any help from Officer Friendly or Captain Murica when in a SHTF situation. That may well get you “hauled in” as a “partisan”, “resister” or an “enemy of the State”.

      1. Snotty, I’m thinking less in the case of “sharing” and more in the case of “alternate procurement method as” it’s a hell of a lot easier to get something if it already exists in large qty, I.E. stockpiles of existing magazines, spare parts, ammo than if it doesn’t.

      2. When thinking about human nature, I suspect it will be more about the relationship between first responders and “mere civilians.” If under extreme circumstances you had the resources, who would you be most likely to share defensive/offensive resources with, someone you know and trust or a stranger? LE and military share a certain commonality in their training and experiences. They generally read each other quickly (there are always exceptions) in developing confidence in each other. Maybe consider involving yourself in some form of public service as a volunteer, reserve LE, HAM operator, etc. My experience is that an individual who believes s/he is apart from a general group will, through their actions, words and body language telegraph it, adding to any segregation. When LE or military are in a position to share their defensive/offensive resources, their top questions may be, “just who are you?” “What are you about?” “Are we actually on the same team, can I trust you?” “Will you have my back like I will have yours?” Positive relationships go a long way in overcoming many of these obstacles. Just remember, these are generalizations, there are always exceptions (one of the few circumstances where “always” is an appropriate term…lol). Whether a “mere civilian” is an ankle biter or stand up, first responders will likely figure it out if they have the luxury of time to do so, if not, it falls back to the relationship. Last, remember, some first responders are elitists, some are incompetent (go figure), most fall in the middle and are generally decent individuals doing the best job they can under difficult circumstances.

        1. Amen on the most LEOs fall in the middle.
          I would also like to point out that many LEOs and military are Preppers or Homesteaders.

          I have one daughter in the AF and a son who is both LE & military reserve – they would walk away before siding with an unconstitutional regime.

          Back to guns – we have worked together with family to own similar weapons.

        2. OK, from the responses my comment is eliciting, clearly I failed to explain what I meant by “established supply chain”. I do not expect the military or LE to want, need, expect, or like “help”. What I’m saying is that there are a lot of companies making, stocking, and distributing parts for the AR platform in bulk. While it may be cool to have Belgian wonder rifle, or crazy cool one of a kind pistol, to me it makes more sense to have something you can get parts and ammo for. In normal situations the economies of scale will help keep costs lower, in a bad enough situation you’ll be able to find or, uh… “find” parts and ammo more easily if it’s common. Plus there’s a ton of gee-whiz info available on these platforms.

        3. As far as recent experience with the US supporting “civilian” groups the question seems to be”Are you a terrorist?,yes take what you want and let us know what else we can get you”.Including chemical weapons to use in false flag operations.

  6. Hey Old paratrooper, All The Way, Bro! I believe it would take a unique situation for military and LEO to share ammunition and spare parts or other resources. I truly believe the only situation that would warrant that would be a physical invasion of foreign troops on our soil, where military could rely on the citizens who formed “underground” groups. Any other situation would be admittance of loss of control and that just wouldn’t be compatible with preserving Continuity Of Government.

  7. Ammo type may dictate weapon choice. In the artillery, we picked the delivery system for the weapon we wanted to deliver on target. If you want to use subsonic short .22 rounds for stealth, you must have either a tube magazine or a revolver. Can’t shoot short .22 from a 10/22 or a pistol.

  8. I often wonder about the availability of ammo in a SHTF scenario. They say the AR-15 platform has become most commonly owned rifle in modern times, but I wonder about all those $69 SKS rifles that were sold years ago. I always see huge piles of cheap russian made steel cased 7.62×39 in various stores. Last time I looked, a 40 round box was going for about $10 at Walmart. I can’t help but think every Bubba and his half brother has an SKS in the closet and a couple boxes of ammo in the underwear drawer. Personally, I wouldn’t plan on buying or trading for ammo AFTER a SHTF situation. However, I’d have reloading equipment so I could disassemble someone else’s odd ammo I can’t use (like the .303 brit or the .222 rem) and use the powder and projectile to reload what cartridges I do use.

  9. professor Wagstaff I might add a robust single shot rifle that can handle those unknown powder types you scavange from those odd calibers , you may have difficulity ID’ing the powders for use in a different caliber . Falling block actions (modern made) are some of the strongest actions made (I.E. Ruger No. 1 ) . in a total collapse situation a simpler Firearm that is non ammo sensetive may be a VERY good back up, Revolvers , single shots . If you plan on going against a well trained larger good , you have failed at that point . Stealth and Mobility are life .
    It may get very interesting in the near future I say we will be lucky to have at least 2 to 4 more years to get prepared or we may only have a couple of months depending on the out come of the Mid terms . at this point good advice get the gear to travel fast and light in interesting times. and stay away from crowds.

  10. JWR, thanks for making that comprehensive list, it covers the bases very well, and makes it easy to see how you should approach arming oneself, and being well trained as well as equipped. It’s a good list, but, I don’t think your average Joe could afford all that stuff unless he bought it incrementally. Might take a while too. By getting these exact things on a budget, I was able to get them incrementally, and I give thanks to G*d I had the time to do it in the first place. I also learned a lot of short cuts to getting there, as well as how to comb the bushes for great second hand stuff. I’m working with a first time shooter right now, where money isn’t an issue for him, but knowledge of this stuff, and the things to look for, are. He has a better understanding of all of it, because I sent him here to get the low down. Thanks!

  11. Although I standardized on 9mm Glock handguns some years ago, with the much lower prices on police trade-in Glock .40S&W models I am considering adding a few of them even though it means another caliber to stock up on. Locally, 9mm training ammo is about $1/box HIGHER than .40 training ammo. In the used market I often see Glock 22/23/27 handguns in decent shape for $350 or even less and it is hard to pass up.

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