Can you imagine anything more difficult than having to defend yourself or your family while surrounded by potential invaders?
This problem is one worth considering during a SHTF or end-of-the-world event if you live in an urban environment.
While, yes, pistols are an obvious choice within a city limit, they’re not adequate against an invading armed force or anarchy when push comes to shove.
Defensive tactics rely heavily on observing, identifying, and defending against an attacking force from a longer distance.
So, today, our focus is going to remain on long arms.
We’re going to take a look at urban environments and the challenges they face, talk about some things to consider, then tell you what rifle parts you’ll need to accommodate.
Table of Contents
Some Things to Consider
Before we start throwing random gun gear your way, let’s examine the things you’ll need to keep in mind before hitting that buy button…
Are you surrounded by tall buildings, or are you in a residential or mixed-use zone?
If leaving, what will the new location look like?
Density and population have a great effect on what to carry and when to carry it.
No one person will answer this the same way.
But it’s safe to say that an urban area is more likely to be overrun by both hipsters and invading armies than the fields of Iowa.
Oh yes, caliber is important. No matter the size of your projectile, shooting blanks isn’t an option.
Historically, most defensive and even combat scenarios in an urban and suburban landscape are found within 200-yards.
Location is clearly a factor here, as are the potential threats you may be worried about.
In the US, it’s safe to assume that 5.56×45 is one of the most common calibers chosen for this purpose.
While I don’t disagree with others’ reasoning for using 5.56/223, it’s not for me. Other caliber choices that may be easier to find in the land of COVID.
Why not go all out on the price while we’re here? .300 Blackout, ballistically, is great, and the range it offers is perfect for 200-yards.
A 30-caliber projectile offers so much energy, even if it is moving slowly.
In addition, it’s able to shush.
Subsonic loads are where this caliber shines. Lastly, it comes in the AR platform. So, if you need a caliber for hunting or defending against zombies, it’s a go-to.
Ballistically, it’s near-identical to the .300 BLK with slightly more punch.
It’s also significantly cheaper.
Steel cased and bi-metal are going to be some of the only options, but who cares?
At least you can utilize it in an SKS!
AKA the obvious choice. In my opinion, the .308 is the “do it all” cartridge.
A good .308 rifle can handle moving from an urban environment to the middle of a rural hunting ground.
It’s super powerful, comparatively, and also has a significantly extended range.
Firearm Parts and Optics
Optics could be a whole series in and of itself.
Most optics will fall under red dots, holographic, prism, or LPVO.
Depending on the use or environment, the optic varies.
There’s WAY too much to get into here. That said, I like employing them based upon the intended use, which I will outline later on with specific builds.
Barrel Length and Material
Generally speaking, the longer the barrel, the better accuracy you’ll get.
In most states, 16-inches is the minimum.
If you feel like getting frisky with grey areas, “other” firearms, SBRs, and AOWs might also be within reach.
However, in places like LA, Detroit, NYC, or other populated areas in between, you might be stuck with 16-inches.
Another option, in many areas, is 14.5-inches with a pin and welded muzzle device making 16-inches overall.
Check your local laws and yell at your local ATF agent…or not…don’t do that.
Material is also worth considering.
For me, I prefer to use Nitride barrels due to their accuracy.
Depending on your purpose, barrel material needs to be considered.
Gas System/Action Type
There are lots of arguments here, but it’s safe to assume that a semi-auto firearm is recommended.
You’re then left with direct impingement, piston, and blowback systems. All of which are acceptable.
I prefer piston systems due to their reliability and cleanliness, but they have the drawback of being front heavy and heating up a handguard faster than other gas systems.
My second favorite is roller-delayed blowback (think CETME) due to the reliability in harsh environments.
Bolt actions and lever actions are basically universal.
They’re quite dependable for this role in an urban environment for several reasons.
Both are incredibly reliable, and bolt actions are so easy to maintain. Most bolt actions will be in larger calibers and can accommodate urban and suburban environments.
Other accessories greatly impact the overall usability of any firearm.
This includes slings, QD attachments, handguards, grips, stocks, and a plethora of pointless money-making ideas. Check out our list of the Best AR-15 Upgrades.
The Marines still use the M16A2 with some pretty success; PJs may disagree.
No matter what you get as an accessory, train with it. You’ll find if it’s good or not, based on how everything wears in.
Urban Rifle Setups: CQB, Mid-Range, & Long Range
The best firearm for defense is the one you have readily available.
It’d be great if the one you have available immediately has already been put together and set up with defense in mind.
A dual-purpose is even better! This dual-purpose can also drive the caliber choice for something useful for hunting as well as defending your home.
Now that we covered some options, it’s all about putting them together for your specific needs. I’ll offer some suggestions on different setups, but these are in no way for one gun to be outfitted for every unique situation.
This all depends completely on what your goal is for the rifle.
Is it something you want to use only in close quarters? Perhaps you want to make it more of a midrange rifle?
Undoubtedly, the options are unlimited, but here are some suggestions.
CQB Rifle Builds
A CQB rifle is wholly a defensive firearm meant for confined spaces or frequently getting into and out of vehicles.
Caliber doesn’t matter here unless there’s a concern about over-penetration. When it comes to optics, magnification is a secondary thought and unnecessary.
- PSA AR Lower
- Acme Machine 10.5-inch upper in 5.56 NATO
- Magpul MIAD
- Deadfoot Arms Tailhook Brace
- Hexmag Keymod rail covers
- Crimson Trace CTS-1400.
If you want small to become smaller, nothing is better than a bit of arctic air when naked; or Deadfoot Arms.
Unlike other folding stocks, a user is able to continue firing even with the stock/brace collapsed. It may be essential to go through the ATF to register the firearm as an AOW in the current configuration.
With the CTS-1400 field of vision is unrestricted.
If using 5.56/223, a simple swap to the Crimson Trace CTS-1100 turns this AOW into an effective midrange platform with 3x magnification.
- PSAK GF4 16-inch in 7.62×39
- Midwest Industries AK-47 AKG2 Side Rail Mount
- Midwest Industries forend grip
- East German night sights
- Magpul Zhukov Stock
- VG6 Epsilon Brake
- Franklin Armory binary trigger
- DI Optical red dot
Yes, it’s 16-inches, but an AK also allows the users the ability to add a folding stock. Shorter AK pistol options are available and will effectively function the same.
The beauty of the 7.62×39 caliber is that all the powder is burned in about 10-inches of barrel or less.
This will definitely fit into a midrange category if needed, but what sets it apart is the ability to be fired from a folded position. Transporting this rifle is exceptionally easy.
Instead of 7.62×39, the 5.45×39 is a great caliber but might be better suited for mid-range due to the tumbling a 5.45 can achieve at distance when striking a target.
Build #3 (Trouble State Friendly!)
I’m a big fan of .45 Colt, as shown here, and think this platform is capable of handling CQB.
With the addition of the Crimson Trace CW-102, the only missing component is semi-automatic use.
With Henry’s new addition of King’s Gate lever actions, reloading is very simple, even if time-consuming.
Mid-Range Rifle Builds
A mid-range rifle can easily handle tight spaces similar to CQB.
When not in a confining environment, it can reach out to a decent range.
Choosing a caliber that can mix distances of variable engagement is essential.
I would dare say that Pistol Caliber Carbines are arguably inefficient for this purpose, as is .22 LR. Pretty much any other caliber choice would be acceptable.
- AERO M4E1 Lower
- Midwest Industries 16-inch upper in .223 Wylde
- LFT hand stop
- Midwest Industries Folding Iron Sights
- Hexmag M-LOK rail covers
- KE Arms SLT-2 Trigger
- Crimson Trace CW-202
- AK surplus sling
- EOTech HHS II with 3x magnifier
If 14.5-inches isn’t a possibility, a 16-inch with magnify-able optic is a highly versatile option.
Believe it or not, this whole rifle weighs in at 8.8-pounds with all optics and accessories.
If weight wasn’t an issue, I’d probably recommend an LPVO like an ACME Machine 1-8×28 as it covers all the needs of an urban, suburban, rural environment.
- Brownells BRN-180 10.5-inches in .223 Wylde
- FAB Defense Flip-Up Iron Sights
- Magpul MOE Grip
- SBA3 Stabilizing Brace
- Holosun HS403C with HM3X Magnifier
It’s technically considered an “other” firearm and not legal in all areas even though it fits the role defined.
The piston system on the BRN-180 is adjustable for a wide range of uses.
While I love the piston system on the BRN-180, the side charging handle makes it difficult to adapt a side folding magnifier without being struck by the handle when being fired.
Build #3 (Trouble State Friendly!)
Pretty simply, it’s the Winchester 94 in 30-30.
The 30-30 cartridge has been around as long as smokeless powder. It really packs a punch and can hit out to 200-yards with enough practice.
Having a fast reload – I’m guessing you can move your arm up and down pretty quick – makes follow-up shots possible with little training.
It’s an old gun platform, and these guns also come with old eyes. While not optimal, an optic can be affixed to the Winchester 94.
If you hate the look, go for a non-existent Marlin – come on, Ruger!
Long-Range Rifle Builds
A long-range rifle is just that, a long-range rifle. I use the term “long-range” liberally as most firearm enthusiasts consider 800-yards long-range.
Let’s just say, anything that can reach out to 500-yards in a city is considered long-range.
The size alone would be a huge determent to CQB but could easily fill a mid-range role.
- AERO M5E1 18-inches in .308 (or 20-inches 6.5 Creedmoor)
- ACME Machine .308 upper
- 6-24×50 scope
- LUTH AR stock.
Nothing says “SCREW YOU” more than a .308.
While not a lightweight rifle, any .308 is capable of taking medium to large game.
I’m of the opinion that a .308 rifle can carry a person from a volatile urban area to a safer rural area and offer the ability to hunt along the way.
See our full review of the Aero M5E1 Rifle here!
- Savage 10FCM 20-inches in .308
- Aim Sports 3-12x32LER scope
An FCM rifle is a scout rifle, so this is a unique bolt gun.
It’s not the only scout-style firearm, and the FCM has long been discontinued, but current options are available.
What makes scout rifles unique is the ability to utilize both magnified and iron sights without needing to adjust the platform or mounting or limiting immediate peripheral vision.
This rifle sets the optic high enough that the irons are visible below.
Essentially, this setup allows for two or three different optic zeros depending on range
Build #3 (Trouble State Friendly, Almost!)
The Springfield M1A 18-inch Scout Squad really is a set position rifle and not something to carry on the run. It’s a highly debated rifle and, outside of Maryland, legal nearly anywhere.
If the goal is to defend your home in the event of complete civil unrest or invasion and still be used for hunting, the M1A offers it all.
The downfall of this rifle has historically been weight and accuracy.
Yes, it is a heavy rifle, and used in a static position is incredibly accurate.
.308 packs enough punch to handle nearly anything encountered short of Grizzly Bear or someone hopped up on PCP.
Worth mentioning, our office had some mixed feelings about the M1A in the field, so read more about it in our full review.
While nothing to write home about more than I already have, the SKS is one of the all-time great rifle setups for ALL environments.
Nothing more can be said about the SKS than what has already been said. It’s a versatile platform that adapts easily to wherever you need to go.
My ultimate preference? A JMAC Custom Rifle. Because why not.
There are a lot of variables to consider when setting up an urban firearm. While I’ve shared personal preferences, ultimately, a user will need to do what’s best for them, and their environment as well as follow all local laws.
While the scenarios that would employ these rifles may never happen, it’s fun to think about, plan, and train for any potential eventuality.
Using an urban firearm during range drills will expand skills and understanding in accuracy, handling, optics, mounting systems, and all basic functions of a firearm.
Any choice is a good one if it works for you!
What is your end-of-the-world setup? Share your builds and favorite models in the comments below! Also, check out our Tips for Urban Survival for some pointers on how to stay alive in the city. And don’t forget about Ultimate Resource on Survival & Prepping for literally everything you need to survive.