SHTF Gun – The Old School End Of The World Gun

Matt E
by Matt E

Over the last few weeks, the TFB crew has discussed a number of times what their End of the World gun would be if they had to just pick one. I was rather torn since I typically carry a 10.5 AR pistol in my truck on a daily basis. The more I thought about it, there’s no way I would be stuck with a really short 5.56 barrel on my end of the world gun. Pete started this series and encouraged everyone to write their perfect gun and for the most part, I agree with Pete’s choices. The main difference between Pete’s choice and mine is the fact I live in the rather flat areas of Michigan.

Living in West Michigan is interesting just for the fact there’s a good mix of wide-open land mixed with urban areas. One thing I will openly admit right now is the fact I oftentimes train with something and fall in love with it. Some of my choices for gear haven’t been changed in over a decade. Honestly, I just enjoy certain pieces of gear because I know how to use them. Don’t get me wrong, I love the latest and greatest but if I need to rely on just one rifle till the end of days, I want every piece of that gear to run flawlessly for as long as possible. Let’s jump into my SHTF rifle for the end times.

Landscape and AOR Overview

West Michigan is an interesting landscape with wide-open fields and farmland that goes on for miles sometimes to dense urban cities and towns. It’s a tough mix when it’s time to pick out a correct barrel length, but it’s an important aspect if you decide to build a rifle specifically for your area.

For my situation, I went between barrel lengths of 13.7-18″ and finally decided on the ultra common 15.1″ 1-7 stainless steel barrel (sarcasm). It’s all fun and games saying you want a full auto belt fed until you have to haul the ammo around. Even a minimalist 308 AR10 rifle gets heavy after hauling it around to the local Costco to grab toilet paper and Cheetos to go back to the safety of mom’s basement.

Base Rifle Specs

The biggest debate for me when putting a SHTF rifle together is going either proven and reliable or modern and lightweight. Some will argue there’s a number of products out there that cover both aspects and there’s no denying that’s true. I decided to go with parts I know will survive any punishment I put it through to build a true go to hell and back type rifle. I took roughly 14 months to piece this rifle together buying from various vendors and companies at either full price or sales when various vendors offered free shipping or promotions. Heres what I decided to build:

Lower Receiver – Knights Armament MFG CO Lower Receiver.

Brownells will occasionally get these in stock. I bought mine from them last year

Grip – Mil-spec A2 Pistol Grip

Keep it simple and this is easy to replace down the road.

Stock – B5 Systems SOPMOD Stock

Simple, reliable, and has a great feel when shouldered.

Trigger – Mil-spec Trigger

A mils-pec trigger may not feel the best but they have never let me down and with a good bit of polishing can really feel nice over time.

Trigger Guard – Mil-spec Trigger Guard

Reliable and simple.

Lower Parts Kit – Armaspec Lower Parts Kit

I installed a Milspec safety selector for simplicity.

Complete Upper – Type-A Rifle’s 15.1 RECCE Rifle Upper Barrel – Type-A 1/7 Twist 416R Match Grade Heavy Profile Barrel

Based off the original SOCOM design and is an affordable option compared to the Douglas barrels. Douglas barrels are a great option if you can find the correct barrel length for them.

Gas Block – Badger Ordnance MK12 Stainless Gas Block

I did this to keep the gun correct for the RECCE rifle era.

Handguard – Knights Armament AR-15 M5 Rifle RAS Handguard

Probably one of the most durable handguard I have ever used. I previously had one on a rifle growing up and it was beat like a red headed stepchild without any issues.

Muzzle – Allen Engineering AEMB Muzzle Brake and Collar System

This collar and brake system was one of the cooler pieces of gun tech to come out of the early 2000’s. The suppressor is insanely quiet. More to come on the AEM5 down the road.

Accessories and Modifications

For this build, I decided to keep it simple while leaving room to add accessories I would have on me if certain situations call for it. Adding multiple accessories onto the front can cause the gun to be extremely front-heavy and I would rather have a well-balanced rifle over a bunch of crap I may or may not need. Below is a general list of things I have on the gun and will include the additional accessories below the general accessories.

Optic – Leupold Mark 4 CQ/T 1-3x14mm

This is an extremely old optic and is one of my favorite LPVO with the overall size and weight. It may be dated and bulky to today’s standards but it’s been incredibly reliable throughout the years and hasn’t let me down for the 15+ years I’ve owned it.

Vertical Grip – Chopped Down Knights Armament Picatinny Vertical Grip

Knights Armament sells a full-size vertical grip and I ended up chopping it down and reassembling it. If there’s any interest in seeing how to do this, I may write up a how-to tutorial but there’s a number of videos online showing how to shorten the vertical grip.

Back-Up Iron Sights – Troy Industries Metal HK Style Sight Set

Well built iron sights that are well worth the money. KAC’s sights are also a great option but are very expensive and sometimes hard to find.

Weapon Light – SureFire M300 Mini Scout

I love the overall size of this light and with 500 lumens it’s not the brightest option but has always been bulletproof reliable for the number of years I have used them. I know there are brighter lights on the market but it comes down to it, I would rather use something I can trust with my life and know it’s reliable than something I don’t have experience with.

Tape Switch – Surefire SR07 Remote Dual Switch

The basic Surefire tape switch works fine but the dual switch really I nice for momentary or constant light.

Suppressor – Allen Engineering AEM5

The AEM5 suppressor system is almost 20 years old but compared to something like a SilencerCo Saker, it’s definitely a quieter suppressor. If I can get my hands on a DB reader I will do a comparison but it’s a fantastic suppressor and has quite the following still.

Sling – Edgar Sherman Design Sling

The ESD sling is a lightweight quick adjustable sling that’s easy to use. I’ve been using this sling for about 7 months and have had an excellent experience with it.

QD Sling Mount – Magpul RSA Quick Detach Sling Attachment

The downside to running an older style Picatinny rail is the fact there’s not many QD sling attachments built in. The Magpul QD mount attachment makes it very easy to attach a 2 point sling to the rail.

Additional Accessories I Keep With The Gun

Bipod – Harris Bipod with LaRue Tactical QD Mount

Harris is affordable and extremely reliable. The LaRue QD mount makes life way easier for installing and taking the bipod off.

IR Laser – Steiner DBAL-12 Dual Beam Laser

An IR laser can be bulky on a rifle but with night vision is a legitimate game changer and makes life insanely easy to shoot at night.

Magazine Choice and Ammo Selection

Ammo Types

For ammo, I usually look at the twist rate and length to determine what I want to shoot through it. I’ve had great luck shooting 77gr Black Hills Ammo as well as 77gr SIG match grade ammo through it for the longer shots or getting tighter groups. I’ve played around with Federals 69gr Gold Medal Sierra Match ammo as well. With those I will typically have .75-1.25 inch groups at 100 yards with precision ammo.

I have also shot about 1,200 rounds of 62gr SS109 ammo through it with good performance as well. The groups will usually be 1.25-2″ but typically that is loose pack bulk cases so the ammo isn’t exactly consistent.

This Rifle shoots really well with SIG's 77gr Match grade ammo

Find 5.56/223 Ammo

Magazine Choices

For magazines, I often go with a few different metal variants that I’ve used for years. My first choice for magazines are the SureFeed E2 magazines, they are fairly inexpensive and bulletproof reliable. In the past, I have beaten the crap out of these mags during range days and overall wear and tear with zero issues. Typically, you can find them on sale at GunMag Warehouse and Brownells for $12-14 depending on capacity and color.

If the SureFeed magazines are out of stock, I will often buy the C-Products DuraMag as an alternative. The C Products Defense magazines are a great option as well. I have never had issues in the past and usually, these will be less expensive than the SureFeed magazines. Typically, the magazines will be $9.99-12.99 depending on where you go.

Find AR-15 Magazines

Range Time

The base rifle without a suppressor is incredibly balanced with most of the weight being right around the magwell. I tried to keep the front clean of accessories to keep the front end weight low, but even with a suppressor, it’s still extremely well balanced. Don’t get me wrong, I love a 13-15″ M-LOK rail on a rifle but a shorter rail does keep the accessories and weight further back. Shooting this rifle is surprisingly easy with the suppressor and at 100 yards I will have consistently 1 inch or smaller groups with no point of impact shift.

Moving with the rifle during drills is very easy despite it not having a super short barrel. Being a 5.56 rifle, it keeps the weight relatively low while offering a decent amount of firepower. The mil-spec trigger may not be anything to write home about but it’s definitely improved with little time and simple polishing. Don’t get me wrong, I am well aware the majority of this rifle is old technology. The majority of this gear has been out for 10+ years and while some may say it’s an outdated setup, these parts have been out long enough to be tested and built a reputation of being some of the toughest pieces on the market.

Final Thoughts

If I had to take one gun to rely on in an end of days type scenario, it would definitely be this rifle. My choice falls in between Jame’s Jack Of All Trades rifle and Pete’s 11.5″ SBR but for my landscape and surroundings, I think it’s the perfect rifle for the job. The 15.1 RECCE rifle has a great balance of weight in hand and has enough barrel length to reach out but is still relatively short for mobility.

It may not be everyone’s first choice but I grew up shooting these style rifles and I trust them to be insanely durable. Let me know what you guys would pick for a SHTF type rifle and why you would pick it in the comments below. If you have any questions feel free to shoot me a message on Instagram @fridgeoperator. Stay safe out there!

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Matt E
Matt E

I'm an avid shooter and love educating whether it's at my job or in the shooting community. I'm an average joe that really loves talking with other people about firearms and other passions.I'm active on Instagram on @fridgeoperator.

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3 of 145 comments
  • ICommented ICommented on Apr 26, 2020

    I’m torn to what my SHTF go to gun would be. I guess the different S that hits will dictate which gun. If it’s a running and gunning situation where the target is human threats, I would probably grab my Sig M17. It is a bravo model with a Delta Point Pro on an X5 grip with mag funnel. I keep (5) 21 round mags with my M17.

    If the apocalyptic threat is a military invasion scenario, I’m grabbing my Bushmaster AR. 16” barrel, full length free float hand guard, Trijicon ACOG.

    If the chit hitting the fan is a localized threat to my home and family, I would likely grab my Mossberg 835. The shotgun sits behind the door with magpul stock and slide grip, 18.5 security barrel, and LPA sights. A Choate magazine extension allows 7+1 capacity. The point I love about the 835 is that they are built like a 590A1 but are 3 1/2 inch capable.

    I have many other guns, but one of these would be what I want. However, in the SHTF scenario the gun I get to first would be used.

  • Jay Jay on Apr 27, 2020

    "Old school" TEOTWAWKI, if i Had to pick JUST ONE gun?

    Probably my vz.24 with a modern steel bayonet.

    If a semi auto is called for, mind you if we can only pick ONE, I'm wondering why people aren't calling for an M1A or FAL, something you could hunt larger game with, extend your kill radius, etc. This shorty AR thing doesn't make sense if the idea is ONE gun.

    • Int19h Int19h on Apr 27, 2020

      @Jay Russian poachers often hunt brown bears with SKS, because why waste extra money on a larger cartridge when the good old x39 works just fine.