Which Rifle Will You Grab? Armageddon/SHTF/Social Collapse Scenarios

What is Armageddon/SHTF/Social Collapse? These days, it could be any number of calamities. Perhaps widespread rioting, looting, and general violence. Or the grid crashing. Maybe it’s a terrorist attack. Certain natural or man-made disasters might qualify. Is an invasion that far-fetched? What comes to your mind when we talk about a “Stuff” Hits The Fan (SHTF) scenario? And really, these days, is anything that unlikely, given the bizarre events we’re witnessing in history? I’m pretty sure if someone told me that it was raining lobsters and cheeseburgers, my response might be, “Well, that’s par for the course; it was bound to happen at some point.”

a riot
Coming soon to a neighborhood near you. Chaos, rioting, social unrest, whatever it’s labeled as this week. Undeniably, we are living in troubled times. A good rifle might be our salvation if push comes to shove. [Photo courtesy of iStock Photos]
But seriously, who can deny that we’re living in epic times?

Some friends and I were debating around the topic of what the perfect SHTF scenario firearm would be. You know, that kind of creative banter that friends sometimes engage in. It’s sort of fantasy, but sort of getting closer to a literal sense than many of us are comfortable admitting. SHTF scenarios may not be realistic, but they do provoke a critical debate over the capabilities of our gear.

Purpose-Driven Weapons

Many of us have our favorite weapons for certain situations or missions. Varmint hunting, medium or large game hunting, target shooting, competition, defense, etc. Some people are fortunate, in that they have a gun for each mission, much like a golfer has a club for each task on the golf course.

Others are not as blessed and have only a few (or one) weapons to cover all the jobs that we might come up against. Readers may recall that axiom, “Beware of the man with one rifle — he probably knows how to use it.”

Just the same, it’s nice to have a number of options from which to choose.

What’s The Mission?

I always try to look at what I’m trying to accomplish with my equipment. What’s the mission? Sometimes, the mission might not be very clear. I’m trying to come up with a vague scenario in my mind that might fill the bill. Let’s say there’s a regional or even national catastrophe that requires me to secure my property from others.

I live in a small town of a couple thousand people in the Northeast. While it might be sufficient for me to lock down my own property and help my neighbors, that might not be quite enough in some cases. I might want to or need to shut down my street to prohibit hostile people from getting close to our community. Or, in a more extreme case, we could literally shut the entrances to our town down, as there are about five roads that it would take to do that.


What sort of weapon would you want to set up a roadblock? Personally, I want something that will punch deep holes into vehicles and make them stop moving. This is an advantage against those who might like to attempt to penetrate our defenses.

Bullet holes in a car door.
Some vehicles are shockingly bullet-resistant. This is the car door from a Nissan Sentra (early model) that resisted penetration by several calibers. .308 finally got through even when 12-gauge slugs failed. This was from a Vehicle Tactics class that the author attended. [Photo: Jim Davis]
A couple of rounds into the radiator/engine compartment will make most vehicles falter. Firing through the windshield at the driver if there’s a threat to life is a faster way to bring things to a halt. Remember, we’re talking about a SHTF scenario here in which there’s societal breakdown. Serious stuff.


If “It” is hitting the fan, I want to go with the heaviest caliber practical until I can figure out what exactly I’m going to need to do with the weapon.

While I like the .223/5.56mm NATO and am a fan of it for anti-personnel use, it’s not a cure-all. It’s not great at penetrating buildings, and sometimes, we have to punch through building materials to reach the bad guys. Same with vehicles. The more penetrative rounds, such as the M855 Green Tip, have a steel core and will offer more penetration than standard M193 ball ammo. Even so, they are not extreme penetrators, generally speaking.

M1A and spare magazines.
The .308 is a sizeable round that gets things done. For penetrating vehicles, the .308 is at the pinnacle of general-issue rifle rounds. See that muzzle brake? It is phenomenal at reducing muzzle rise. [Photo: Jim Davis]
That leaves us with the next (larger) American battle rifle cartridge: the .308/7.62x51mm NATO. Most standard .308 military rounds are around 150 grains, give or take a little. That’s close to three times heavier than the M193 of the 5.56mm round. Simply put, it hits with more oomph on target. How much more?

A 147-grain 7.62 bullet fired at 2,750 feet per second has 2,468 foot-pounds of energy. Compare that to the 5.56mm 55-grain round traveling at 3,260 feet per second with 1,294 foot-pounds. Or the 62-grain 5.56mm round, traveling at 3,110 feet per second with 1,325 foot-pounds of energy. We can see that the .308 exhibits roughly twice the energy that the 5.56mm rounds do. That added energy helps it to punch through inert materials, which makes a difference.

As far as stopping humanoids is concerned, the 5.56mm seems to check off the boxes well enough. However, the 7.62x51mm is a spectacular man-stopper. As Jeff Cooper was fond of saying, “Things shot with the .308 tend to stay shot.” Plus, the .308 penetrates body armor better.

I have to say, a 20-round magazine of .308 rounds is just plain reassuring. And with that, let’s look at my platform of choice.

Springfield Armory M1A Scout Squad Rifle

If “It” ever hits the fan, there’s a strong possibility that I’ll grab my M1A Scout Squad Rifle. Why would I specifically choose that rifle? I’m glad you asked, as there are a few reasons.

Chiefly, because it is the .308 rifle that I have on hand. However, there are reasons why I chose this rifle.

I love it because it’s a classic. There’s just something about steel and wood rifles that harkens back to decades gone past. Okay, so this portion of why I chose the rifle is purely subjective and personal. But there are actual, bona fide reasons beyond me just thinking the rifle is cool and classic.

Author with Scout Squad rifle.
Reliability. Power. Maneuverability. Controllability. Style. Class. The M1A Scout Squad rifle has it all. [Photo: Jeremy Charles]
Reliability. Few people would question the reliability of the M1A (at least, those who have used the platform). Simply put, the M1A is supremely reliable, and the action and design are well-vetted over decades of use. In fact, some of them are still operating in the US military. Considering they were first issued back in the 1960s, that’s saying quite a bit.

Firepower. As I said, the standard method of feed is a 20-round magazine of .30 caliber bullets. Similar to the BAR of World War II fame. Which is nothing to sneeze at!

Controllability. The recoil of the M1A Scout Squad rifle is extremely tame. In fact, it’s so mild that the look of surprise on peoples’ faces when they fire the first round from this rifle is priceless and one of shock. Most say, “I thought it was going to kick more!” The muzzle brake on the end of that barrel does its job astoundingly well. Plus, the rifle is not a lightweight. And it has a good recoil system. All of these factors combine to deliver a pleasant-to-shoot rifle that can rapidly put a lot of steel on target.

Durability. This rifle is built to last and is seriously solid.

Maneuverability. The 18-inch barrel of the Scout Squad makes it efficient to handle, far more so than a full-sized M1A.

M1A, spare mags, mag carrier.
The M1A/M14 has been around since the mid-1960s, or around a half-century. It has endured that long for a reason. Even though it’s not general-issue for our military, it is still issued for certain roles, which is a remarkable period. Yes, there are more modern designs, but the M1A simply will not die. [Photo: Jim Davis]
Okay, we’ve sung the praises of the Scout Squad rifle. Let’s look at its shortcomings. It’s heavier than most 5.56mm rifles like the AR-15. Obviously, we can’t carry as much ammo with us when the caliber is .308 (compared to 5.56mm). However, the .308 still packs a lot of punch, even at several hundred yards. While the muzzle brake is superbly efficient at reducing muzzle rise, it causes a muzzle blast akin to the Jolly Green Giant smacking you with an open hand over the ear. It is loud! Finally, many would say the platform is antiquated when compared to more modern systems such as the AR-15/AR-10 or the SCAR. I’ll concede that the AR15/AR10 has the best ergonomics and controls of any military arm ever invented. I don’t have much experience with the SCAR, so I’ll withhold comment there.

I can live with those shortcomings because I’m not planning on humping this rifle mile after mile over hill and dell. It is, however, the rifle I’d grab if I didn’t know what I was going to be facing and I wanted to err on the side of caution. No, it’s not the rifle I’ll reach for in a “bump-in-the-night” scenario. For shooting through folks and other stuff, though, it shines.

Jim Davis served in the PA Dept. of Corrections for 16 ½ years as a corrections officer in the State Correctional Institute at Graterford and later at SCI Phoenix. He served on the Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT), several of those years as a sniper, and also the Fire Emergency Response Team (FERT). For 25 years, he was a professional instructor, teaching topics including Defensive Tactics, Riot Control and Tactical Operations, Immediate Responder, and cognitive programs as an adjunct instructor at the DOC Training Academy. He was then promoted to the title of corrections counselor, where he ran a caseload and facilitated cognitive therapy classes to inmates. His total service time was close to 29 years. He was involved in many violent encounters on duty, including incidents of fatalities. He is a dedicated Christian and attributes any skills that he has to the glory of God.

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