Sunday, August 9, 2009

Praxis Request: Rifle for Urban Setting?

Gran Torino, 2009.

Walt Kowalski: Get off my lawn . . .

Smokie: Are you f-cking crazy? Go back in the house.

Walt Kowalski: Yeah? I blow a hole in your face and then I go in the house... and I sleep like a baby. You can count on that. We used to stack f-cks like you five feet high in Korea... use ya for sandbags.


I received an email from a Threeper, saying that he was "noodling what type of rifle to acquire," and asking my input. I present below the email and a follow-up. My first impulse was to suggest the M1 Garand, my second, the .30-30 lever action, but what are your thoughts?



I am an old guy like you, who has spent most of his years in urban environment where having a rifle was not practical. There were no ranges around where I could practice. On the other hand, a handgun was very practical, and I have carried at times a S&W Mod 19, a Kahr PM9, and a Kimber full size 1911. I like the Kimber the most, and carry it often.

Your articles, and before that Kim du Toit's on the Mosin Nagant were intriguing. If I got a rifle, I really wouldn't care to have an AR 15 variant rifle. I also don't particularly like shooting a souped up .22 cal. round, though that is probably just aesthetics on my part.

So here's my question. Other than an "assault weapon" (yes, I know. But in 25 years I have not been able to convince the wife that AR 15s and other semi autos are not "assault weapons.") what would you recommend I purchase, and why? As I see it, it needs to be in a common caliber, something I could reload, something that doesn't scream "scary military rifle" to the wife, is reasonably accurate at distances typically shot, can be fitted with a scope (my eyes ain't what they once were) and costs under $300. Is there anything like that? . . .

Best wishes,


In a follow-up email, responding to my question about whether or not the rifle desired should be semi-automatic, Wade added:

As to the rifle, no it doesn't need to be a semi. Indeed, I was thinking of maybe a lever, but was unsure of the ubiquity of ammunition for these rifles. But, as to whether you can make it a praxis, sure. You can add that I am looking for a defensive rifle. Trees, buildings and such generally limit site lines to 100 yards or less. .30-06 (and of course .223 Rem) seem to be the most generally available ammunition looking through my Midway catalogue. The Garand would be a natural choice, but these have become expensive. So, if your readers could put me on to a class of weapons, or a specific make and model, that would be very helpful to me, and possibly your other readers.

Oddly, I am not the type who usually panics. When hurricanes come through, or the occasional snow, I am not one of the ones out buying out the stores. I didn't stock up in the 70s because "the ruskies are coming." On the other hand, we have some extra food, could last a few weeks. I always fill up when the car gets down to 1/4 tank. I have a flashlight by the bed, keep the batteries in the smoke alarms, have extra batteries easily available. You know, sensible stuff. But what is happening now gives me pause.


Dr.D said...

an SKS

Billy Beck said...

Why the Marlin?

I've still got my Dad's Winchester Model 94 in service around here. Coming up on forty years, and it's still slammin'. Pretty damned handy in the hundred-yard fight, I would think.

BrianF said...

Marlin 336 in 30-30. Used for around $250. Use a set of ghost ring sights to make it easier to aim, or mount a scope up front-- scout style.
30-30 is readily available most anywhere, and can be handloaded to handle everything from squirrel to zombies. Additionally,to anyone unfamiliar with firearms it appears to be one of those "cowboy" guns-so it aint scary looking.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I'll take all the 30-30s you can round me up for $250.00! Especially Marlins! Sure wish I lived near you to get in on those kind of deals, that's for sure.

Toaster 802 said...

I have to agree with BrianF. A slight sight up grade, and you have a cowboy tactical rifle that can put up a decent (for non military type fights} rate of fire, can easily topped off, and is light to carry. I love the Garand, but you cannot top it off without a lot of goofing around. plus basic 30-30 ammo is about cheap and easy to find as it gets. In 44 mag and carrying a sixgun, you can put a lot of lead on target up to 100 yards effectively and only have to buy 1 type of ammo. As handy now as it was a 100 years ago.

Uncle Lar said...

I'll cast a vote for a Marlin 1894 in .357 along with a DA revolver in the same. Both will also digest .38sp quite nicely so use a very common readily available caliber. Fairly mild recoil especially the .38 in the rifle, but a full house .357 loaded with a jacketed soft point will take most NA game at 100 yds.
And the lever gun and revolver shout cowboy not militant.

Anonymous said...

Don't overlook the .357 levers. This cartridge comes alive in a long gun, and the guns are even more compact and handy. And ammo costs less and is easier to carry. You could even shoot .38's which will save your hearing with indoors shots and still deliver respectable thump, and you can load more of them too, and buy more for the same money.

I agree, defense lever guns need a ghost ring rear sight.

ScottJ said...

Don't overlook the 12 gauge either.

I was checking mine out yesterday since I've put a 24 inch vent rib barrel on in place of the 20 inch rifle sight barrel while I work a trade with a different 870.

This is 2 rounds 00 buck and 3 1 ounce slugs from 10 yards:

One of the buckshot was aimed at the base of the head to check pattern with a different choke (aimed center mass they would have been just fine).

I badly pulled one slug off to the left and think their accuracy was affected by the modifed rather than improved cylinder choke.

An off the rack 870 will keep rifled slugs in a minute of torso group out to 100 yards.

You also have the option of switching to a fully rifled barrel and shooting sabot slugs. 50 caliber, solid copper and capable of palm-sized groups at 100 yards.

If you are recoil averse consider getting a semi-auto shotgun.

The big downside is that shotgun shells are bulky and heavy.

Dakota said...

I like the lever actions, I have owned several over the years. The 30-30 is good and will take game good. If I am in an urban setting I would prefer 44 mag caliber. Better penetration, bigger bullet, that would be my first choice. You can still find the old pump deer rifles around sometimes in various calibers and they were good rifles. One of the newest things that I like is the pump guns that take AR mags.

parabarbarian said...

I have a Marlin 1894 in 357 I keep as a home defense rifle. With a 1 X 20 scope I can reliably make head shots on a zombie sized target out to 100 yards with commercial 158 gr loads. The only real concern I have is that commercial ammo is designed to work at handgun velocities and every round I've tested chronographs at least 600 fps faster from the Marlin than from my revolvers.

straightarrow said...

I'm with Dr. D, as long as it's a Russian.

I really like mine, but it is not the one I would take unless I took two. But the one I have that I would take is now pretty expensive. It was $450 when I bought it.

The Trainer said...

The rifle you choose to use for any setting (urban, rural, etc) better be the rifle you'd use in any setting.

Where you are now may not be where you are when you actually use your chosen rifle, so consider that.

Any tool, used by a journeyman or master craftsman will bring about the desired results.

So, in our case, SKS, AK clone, Marlin, Winchester, or other lever gun, AR, Garand, or M1A, the bottom line is this:

You better be good with what you brung, because you won't have any other dance partner....maybe for the rest of your life.

Just an opinion.

Warthog said...

Well, what about a 30.06 bolt?

I could also come to like the M1 Carbine. Plenty of punch for an urban fight.

Loren said...

Ishapore Enfield. They're in 7.62 NATO, less than $300 for the most part, about $200 if you look, bolt action with a 12 round magazine. There's some debate with the PSI vs CUP on the pressure, but it's not really an issue unless you're loading hot. The big deal I'd make is the sight needs something, the V notch doesn't work for everybody, and that I'm pretty sure it's got an Enfield chamber--i.e. it's got some space around the shoulder, so a field guage will close on it. I've yet to measure my brass and verify it, but the few rounds I've shot don't show any signs of trouble.

ParaPacem said...

Trainer: Amen.

Warthog - I may be stuck in a time warp but still think the 30-06 is one of the most versatile and lethal calibers going. If you find a particular load that you really 'click' with and get the feel of it, you will be hitting at 300 to 400 + yards with deadly accuracy and also be well able to penetrate barriers that deflect lesser rounds.
Remember the article that pointed out the fact that older Afghanis who used the old Enfield 303 bolts were far more deadly against all comers, than the AKs favored by the younger guys who used the spray-and-pray method?
I do like AKs, but I still have a sentimental attachment to the old ideal of one shot - one kill.

FenceBurner said...

For urban close range work, why not a nice shotgun combo? One with the home defense barrel and either a "bird hunting" or a slug barrel.

Mossberg makes a fine unit. Works well at close range, all kinds of normal and more "interesting" rounds available for it...

My second choice would be a lever action/revolver combo both chambered for 357 or 44mag. Might be just a bit over the budget for new, but person to person via gun show or should be easy enough.

Happy D said...

I must second ScottJ the rifle that might serve you best is not a rifle but a 12 gauge shotgun.
I would suggest the Mossberg 590A1 with the ghost ring sights. It even mounts the M9 bayonet for when the suicide ducks go kamikaze.
It is low cost and used by the army.
Stick with a conventional stock due to the safety being on the top thus thumb operated.
My choice would be a Ithaca 37/87. The 87 model has the greater magazine capacity.
This is a strong design with a action that is slick. However it will fire every time you close the action if the trigger is pulled, making the potential for disaster ever present.
I own both and suggest the Mossberg given your situation.
ScottJ said all I could about the ammunition good and bad.

PolyKahr said...


Wow, that was fast. I had forgotten about the Marlin in .357. As I said, I already have a Model 19 (in of course .357) and stock that ammo, I can obtain the dies to reload it easily enough, and I can shoot it at my local indoor range, where only pistol ammo is permitted. Pistol ammo is relatively cheaper too. Of course, I would want to get some practice at an outdoor range at 100 yards or so, but it does sound on first blush like an ideal solution. I will start looking into that idea. I saw a good few Marlins at the gun show in .44 mag and 30-30.

So thanks Mike, and thanks to your readers who were kind enough to help.


Anonymous said...

Well, these two fail in the "ugly black rifle" / assault weapon appearance dapartment, but they meet requirements in everything else:
Cheap, and shoot commonly available inexpensive calibers:
=SKS (need I say more?)
=High Power carbine in 9mm, .40 or .45. The High Power weapons (pistol or carbine) are truely FUGLY. But they're built like a brick, heavy as one & about as indestructable.

B Woodman
SSG (Ret) US Army

Anonymous said...

Well the price is above what he wanted but he could try the Berretta Storm Carbine in .45. He already has a Kimber in that caliber so he is not stressing his ammo supply. Plenty of good mags for this weapon as well. Its a black rifle but its light and shoots well and really looks more like a pistol than an assault rifle.


Anonymous said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but will 30-30 and the like in lever actions penetrate body armor? It's my understanding most body armor will stop handgun calibers pretty easy but don't work so well with high velocity, center-fire rifle ammo.

Tell the wife to get over it and, if you want cheap but effective, buy an SKS or AK.

7.62x39 is readily available and cheap if you don't mind shooting Wolf and the like. I wouldn't put it in my "quality" firearms but a cheap SKS or AK, who cares.

Capable of reasonably accurate fire out to 150yds for most folks.


Concerned American said...

Concerned American said...
Garand still can't beat:

Rack Grade: $445

Field grade (recommended): $495

Service grade (highly recommended): $595

Ammo: on 8-rd en blocs & bandoleers: $75/192 rounds

Rifle, ammo, and sights effective against human-sized targets from muzzle to > 500 yards...

August 10, 2009 9:55 AM

Concerned American said...

One other point: The likely opponents -- of whatever ilk -- WILL be wearing body armor> To be effective, a Threeper's gear must shoot through body armor (and the ballistic plate, if possible) and the Threeper's skills must be such that they can direct fire (at least at close range) onto non-hardened target areas (e.g., faces, thighs, shoulders, and ears).

This is not a drill.

Anonymous said...

Well, it doesn't need to go THROUGH the armor if it displaces it enough. Unless they are wearing trauma plates, 12 ga. slug or .30-30 will pulp whatever is behind the armor enough to be fatal on torso hits. Essentially any round from .250 Savage on up should do likewise.

Which brings up another interesting lever: Savage 99C in .250/.284/.308/.358. Fast, ambidextrous, clip-fed, amenable to scope or receiver sights.

Armed Geek

HPL said...

Under 300.00, the Enfield, in .303 or .308. Heck, they can still be found for 100.00 in some places. The fastest military bolt action, with a ten round detachable box mag (or 12 for the .308). Hard to beat. Will do the job out to 500 yards. All those dead Russians can't be wrong.

If you have over 300.00, then save up two hundred more and go for the Garand, no question. Accurate, powerful, semi-auto, and with relatively cheap surplus ammo still available, already in clips. What Concerned American said.

The SKS is a third option, but its ballistics leave it limited. And for that kind of money, why not just save up for the Garand and have a REAL honest to God RIFLE?

For around 650.00 you can get a CETME, and mags for that are super cheap, as low as 2.00 each if you buy in bulk. That puts you into modern .308, 20 rnd semi-auto, battle rifle territory. But then that means a "scary" military looking rifle. The Garand will shoot better, with a far better trigger, but if you just gotta have a 20 round box mag for cheap, this is it.

The one place where the lever action shines is in the current twilight we are in between "normal" times and all hell breaks loose. When you want to be low profile, a lever gun is good to go. It makes a good trunk/behind the truck seat rifle.

But then the Enfield is good for that role too. who pays attention to some old bolt action? But with a bit of practice it is fast, fast, fast.

As the Trainer alluded to, you really can't pick an "urban" rifle and expect to then have your "rural" rifle handy for when distance opens up.

Think of this: in urban terrain, you may need to make a shot down the length of a long street or boulevard, across a freeway or river, or across a large parking lot, park, intersection, or other large open area. That could easily be well over 300 yards and even out to 500 or more. You may go from fighting inside a house to suddenly having to lay down some fire at distant targets and then back inside a house, as you shoot, move, and yell (and bug out!). Ask the guys currently serving in Afghanistan or Iraq about the utility of Designated Marksmen who can reach out there.

I'll take the heavier calibers that can reach out with accuracy and can penetrate most cover. .303, .308. 30-06.

Rather than an urban and a rural rifle, I'd rather pick em for different general purposes, such as a general purpose car/truck rifle that is not as "scary" looking and not so expensive it will really hurt to have it stolen if left in the vehicle, and then a general battle rifle for guarding the homestead and for fielding with if all concerns about political correctness are gone. But even then, that old Enfield has a purpose as a back up/loaner.

Just my two cents.


Anonymous said...

Spanish FR-8 Mauser in 7.62mm NATO.

Anonymous said...

Chose a Marlin 1895 in .45-70 for a camp gun, bears and such, you know. Now I'm thinking it might be a decent urban tool, if only it wasn't in the Guide configuration, with a 4 round mag. Might have to get an extended mag for it....

Stephen said...

I vote for the Marlin 30-30.
I'd use this any day over an sks.

Nick said...

In the interest of stopping the spread of misinformation,I submit the following in response to, "12 ga. slug or .30-30 will pulp whatever is behind the armor enough to be fatal on torso hits."

It is an established fact (you can watch the video) that a person can stand on one foot and take a .308 to the chest at point blank range, smiling the whole time - while wearing body armor (WITHOUT a trauma plate). It is true that one might incur a bruise in such an instance, but they will certainly NOT turn to pulp.

Loren said...

Tell me Nick, would you be willing to be a Guinea Pig? I'd rather not be shot WITH a trauma plate, personally.

Anonymous said...

It seems from the letter that the fellow's wife was more concerned with the appearance of an evil weapon that the actual operating mechanism. I'd suggest he might be able to convince her that a used Remington 74-- series in 30-06 is "just a hunting rifle."

Once the dame sniffs her approval and loses interest he can stoke it with 10 rd magazines.

10+1 rounds of 30-06 is decent urban medicine, particularly with the cover that the goblins/zombies might use.

Michael Collins (outraged): "Riddled"? Riddled? Why are you goin' 'round riddlin' people? Ten or twenty bullets when the one will do?

Apostle: To make sure he died.

Michael Collins: Lads, try and remember they don't grow on trees. - What don't they grow on?

Two Apostles (together): Trees.

Michael Collins: Right. Get out. (Apostles turn to leave).

Michael Collins: Lads, you did good today, just go easy on the riddlin'.