Editor’s note: We’re continuing to rerun Clay’s series on urban defense. As mentioned in the introductory episode we republished last week, things have changed since 2018 and Clay has published a book this year, titled, “Concrete Jungle: A Green Beret’s Guide to Urban Survival” that dives further into this topic and includes important updates. I suggest you check it out if you haven’t already.
I am beginning my series on Urban Defense with everyone’s favorite part: the hardware. I guess that makes sense because this is GunsAmerica after all. But before we get to the fun part, a quick disclaimer and then a brief recap of our scenario for newcomers who missed the introductory episode.
Clay’s Guide to Urban Defense
- Series Introduction
- Ep. 1 Rifles
- Ep. 2 Other Things That Go Bang
- Ep. 3 Ammo: The Amount You’ll Actually Need
- Ep. 4 Hardening the Home
- Ep. 5 Surviving In A Concrete Jungle
- Ep. 6 Escape from NY
Disclaimer: I’m not an Attorney
I am not giving legal advice. Not even close. As anyone that knows me will tell you, I am the last guy on earth to be advising you on when it’s okay to go hot. I pushed the limits enough for multiple “talking-to’s” from JAG in an actual combat zone, which is reason enough for me to live in Mooseballs, Idaho now.
Sound good? Okay, moving on.
The Violent Left Rises
Setting the stage for our scenario. You live in the inner city. Antifa goons have taken it over. The problem ballooned from a small riot to an open insurgency overnight. You are stuck in your residence. The police have left the area, retreating behind the perimeter created by the National Guard outside the city. Mobs roam the streets seeking to punish the One Percent, Three Percenters, people with different colored sneakers, and anyone that looks like they may have voted Republican or Libertarian once in their lives. Not to mention the gangs of opportunistic looters and street thugs who see this event as an open season for depredation. Burning cars light up the night, and all that is missing is Bane giving orders and the trucks with the neutron bombs circling the beltway. John Wayne and the Calvary are nowhere to be seen, you are on your own.
We are also assuming that you live in some type of hardened building, like a concrete apartment complex, or one of the old stone buildings common to eastern cities. The firearms portion of this series works equally well for the suburbs, but the defense is different. We will cover that in detail next episode, but most 2×4 built American homes are indefensible in real terms. It would take three of them to reliably stop a bullet and the fire danger is much greater.
So here you are, huddled in the darkness with your crying children. Your martial prowess and skill with firearms will most likely decide if you survive the night. What should have been on your shopping list to increase your odds of seeing daylight?
Rifles are the greatest tyranny-stopping tool that has ever been devised. In terms of man-portable combat power, nothing is more flexible or deadly than a modern rifle. You are going to absolutely want at least one of these, preferably multiple.
In terms of reach, no other firearm even comes close. Under normal circumstances, rifles don’t have much of an appeal to city dwellers. But in a situation like this, where you might also be receiving rifle fire, nothing else will do. The rifle platform also has the shortest learning curve, if you need to arm someone besides yourself. Think about a new shooter with absolutely zero experience. Are they more likely to hit a 25m target with a pistol or an AR?
The two great debates in terms of a rifle for urban defense are caliber and style of rifle. As it relates to caliber, I feel it is best to narrow the field to common and affordable options. We’re talking: 5.56, 7.62×39, and .308. No surprises there.
For the style of rifle, semi-auto is the best choice — hands down. But depending on your area’s pre-collapse gun regulations, you may not have the same choices I do. So, for our options packages we will break that down into two categories. Free City (e.g. Dallas, Atlanta) and Non-Free City (e.g. New York, Baltimore).
Free City Defense
For a free city, a
military-style modern sporting rifle is exactly what you want. Depending on your caliber, an AR-15, an AK-47, and an M1A are all excellent choices. I am not a huge fan of AKs, except that they are relatively inexpensive, so for me, it really comes down to the other two. So, which one do I want?
Amongst my peer group, we have had the 5.56/.308 debate for urban combat within the last 6 months. To be clear this peer group consists solely of multi-tour Iraq SOF veterans that have had an opportunity to use both. And unlike a discussion you are likely to find on a forum amongst strangers, it was serious and without references to anyone’s appendage size or racial heritage. The actual question put up was caliber in a sniper rifle, but that is easily transferred to a battle rifle. You get a little more lethality out of a 20-inch SPR-style barrel than a normal 16-inch 5.56 barrel, but not a huge figure.
I would like to tell you we solved the world’s problems and came to a consensus, but we didn’t. It was about a 50/50 split, and both calibers have merits. I feel the same way. I’ve shot people with 5.56 and 7.62×51 and they both work. All things being equal I prefer the 7.62×51, but I don’t feel naked with a 5.56 gun.
The benefits of 5.56 are mostly weight and volume. The gun weighs less, so it is easier to carry. It recoils less, so you can shoot it faster. The ammo weighs less, so you can carry more of it. Weighing two popular loads from Hornady, 5.56 is about half of .308 in ounces. Which means you can pack literally twice the ammo in go-bang terms. And since you are your own log train, the ammo also costs less. Significantly. If I were recommending one AR-style rifle, the Springfield Armory SAINT Edge is arguably the best dollar spent in the category.
The .308 has some things going for it too. You will notice I left 6.5 CM, .300 Win Mag, and some of my other mountain favorites off the list, even though they will outrange the .308. The. 308, in turn, will also outrange 5.56, but it is a discussion hardly worth having in an urban environment. In a city you will be hard pressed to find a shot past 400m, and past 800m is almost impossible. Even straight down a long road the terrain and refuse will mask an opponent at that distance. So in terms of reach, the two are basically a draw.
What the .308 does, in my opinion at least, is put people down harder. Yes, I have had a bad guy walk off a .308 round. There is no magic bullet. But cumulatively, I have liked the results better from .308 than 5.56. This is usually about the time someone chimes in with “shot placement, blah, blah, blah,” to which I say this. Snap shoot a sprinting bad guy with a 1-second exposure between alleys, 300m away. Then tell me about aiming for the heart or whatever. Arguably the most dangerous man this nation has ever produced blasted a jihadi in the butt cheek with a .308, causing him to flee into the night. Unhappy for sure, but very much alive.
What .308 absolutely does better is penetrate barriers, which is worth considering. Even with my SR-25, one of my favorite rounds was de-linked 147-grain machine gun ammo. Match-grade 175 grain will start to outpace it around 600 meters, but as mentioned above, that is rarely a concern in the streetfight. The 147 grain, with its thick copper jacket, proved very adept at defeating barriers smaller bullets wouldn’t. Brick, thinner concrete, mailboxes, cars — it is a winner for certain. For an extra dose of the good stuff, remember this. Machine gunners in the European theater of WWII generally preferred belts of armor piercing rounds for urban fights. It won’t expand in people, for certain. But it still leaves a 30-caliber hole, which is nothing to sneeze at. And it will chew right through a brick building, to devastating effect for anyone on the inside.
In .308 caliber weapons, there is a wide variety of options. Given that range is not an issue, I would be leaning towards a 16-inch barrel for this one. An AR-style is a good option, and I like them. As is the FN-FAL, G3, or SCAR-H. But if I had to pick one, it would be the M1 SOCOM 16. Short, reliable, and it comes out of the box with tritium sights!
Non-Free City Defense
Now for those of you in a non-free city, your options are severely limited. You are still going to want a rifle, and semi-auto if you can. My first choice would be the SKS, cheap little bastard that it is. I remember when you could still buy one with a spam can of ammo for $90 all day long and twice on Sunday. Prices are closer to $500 now, without the bullets. The SKS is at least very reliable and easy to shoot. The biggest reason I like it for you non-free city guys, it loads fast. Using stripper clips to feed as opposed to “detachable magazines,” it does circumvent most nanny-state red tape. And 7.62×39 is nothing if not cheap. My second choice would be an M1 Garand, though they are a bit more expensive. They also load from a stripper clip, a relatively quick affair.
If semi-auto is absolutely off the table, we have a third tier of weapons, the old school bolt action. Most people are going to tell you to the military surplus route and pick up a Mosin Nagant or a Mauser K98. But a recent check of prices on those presents another option. For pretty much the same price, or cheaper, you can get a Ruger American in any caliber you like. I reviewed the Ruger American Predator recently and came away impressed. At $430 on GunsAmerica, you are not going to find a better bolt action for the price.
Lastly, don’t rule out the lever action. Having recently been reacquainted with a Model 89 from Big Horn Armory, this is an excellent choice. Normally I recommend them in pistol calibers, but for this exercise, .30-30 is the choice. Because .30-30 is nearly identical ballistically to 7.62×39, which is reach enough. Light, fast handling, and they pack some teeth- the cowboy original can’t be ruled out.
If you take nothing else from this column it should be this: you need a rifle. And preferably several friends with rifles. It doesn’t have to break the bank, and there are options for any location, including the People’s Republic of Chicago or Los Angeles or New York. Because when the mob is on your block, you need a gun that has a stock!
Next week, we will conclude our weapons discussion with scatterguns, peashooters, and other things that go bang. Stay tuned.