The coronavirus panic started us down this path in March. The fear of this new and unknown virus was hyped to such extremes that people feared more of a “zombie apocalypse” scenario in its aftermath than the virus itself. And the great 2020 gun-and-ammo-buying event was underway. The sales of firearms and ammo have been unlike anything the industry has ever seen. When the summer rioting was added to the mix, demand began to outstrip supply for the most commonly used defensive guns and ammo. So what are your home-defense options when these go missing?

ARs & AKs for Self-Defense

Prior to these events, we were awash in AR-15s and AKs of all varieties and brands. This was due in larger part to the Trump administration being pro-Second Amendment. People felt assured their rights were being preserved after the panic-buying caused by previous administrations.

The current gun-buying panic dwarfs all others before it. If you are trying to find an AR-15 or AK-47 of any type right now, you may be out of luck … at least until manufacturers can catch up again. We also lost two major AR manufacturers (DPMS and Bushmaster) around the first of the year, adding to the shortage. Additionally, 5.56 and 7.6x39mm ammunition is in short supply and more expensive. Because of these market factors, several people have been asking me about alternative long guns for home and personal defense.

In order to make some recommendations, I began checking the inventory of Vance Outdoors in Columbus, Ohio. Vance Outdoors is our largest firearms retailer with three locations. It normally has thousands of guns in inventory.

In looking through 40 pages of online inventory, I found eight 5.56mm AR-15 M4-type carbines and two 7.62×39 AK-47s available for purchase. That may seem like a lot at first glance, but only three of the rifles listed were available in all three Vance locations. Some were only available in one. I only saw one brand of 5.56mm ammo and three brands of 7.62×39 available. The vast majority of brands were on backorder.

AR/AK Alternatives

12- or 20-Gauge Pump or Semi-Auto Shotguns

While there wasn’t a Remington, Benelli or Mossberg shotgun available, I found some very affordable 12- and 20-gauge Turkish-made Citadel pump and semi-automatic tactical shotguns. I have a good friend who purchased a Citadel pump and is very happy with it. As an added bonus, the ammunition is more available than 5.56 or 7.62×39 ammunition. While a shotgun loaded with shot is generally effective to 25 yards at best, its range can be extended to 75 or 100 yards through the use of rifled slugs.

Lever-Action Rifles

Lately, I have recommended the purchase of a lever-action rifle as a self-defense stop-gap. Your best caliber choices are those chambered for .22 LR (better than no long gun), .357 Magnum/.38 Special and .44 Magnum/.44 Special. These calibers offer the highest magazine capacity and ammunition availability. Unavailable was .45 Colt ammunition. The newer tactical lever guns are unavailable as well. Henry, Marlin and Rossi are the best choices right now.

Bolt-Action Rifles

They may be slow compared to semi-autos, pumps and lever guns, but bolt-action rifles took us through the Spanish American War, the Mexican Punitive Expedition, WWI and the first part of WWII. I found that short, lightweight .450 Bushmaster and .350 Legend bolt guns had the highest availability in terms of rifle models and ammunition selection. While both are hunting calibers, they offer a great deal of barrier-busting power.

Pistol-Caliber Carbines

If you can find the ammo, a 9mm carbine is a good 100-yard weapon. Reproduction .30-caliber M1 carbines from Inland Manufacturing or Auto Ordnance are superb choices that are effective to 150-plus yards. And .30 carbine ammo is still readily available. A Ruger Mini-14 is likewise a superb choice if you can find one.

The Future

Arms production will eventually catch up with demand. If it’s safe for you to wait, then it might be worth it to get exactly what you want and not spend the extra money. If you can’t wait, then perhaps the suggestions I made here can carry you through. Who knows? Maybe you will like the “stop-gap” gun better that the one you wanted to purchase originally. Keep stocking up on supplies even after our current emergency has passed and prepare for more in the future. Be ready.

About Scott W. Wagner

Scott W. Wagner has been a law enforcement officer since 1980, working undercover in liquor and narcotics investigations and as a member, sniper and assistant team leader of a SWAT team. He currently works as a patrol sergeant. He is a police firearms instructor, certified to train revolver, semi-automatic pistol, shotgun, semi- and fully automatic patrol rifle, and submachine gun. Scott also works as a criminal justice professor and police academy commander.

Home-Defense Guns Series

Committing to home defense with a firearm is an important first step in being prepared for the worst. With some great tips from Scott Wagner on how to choose a home-defense gun (Article 1), you’re ready to look more specifically at some of the options. Up next, Duane Daiker dives deeper into the more popular options for home protection: the large handgun, carbine and shotgun. Bob Campbell discusses the benefits of using a shotgun in Article 3, while George Harris weighs shotguns against handguns in Article 4. If you weren’t able to get a carbine due to the increased interest in guns, Scott has some other options for you in Article 5. Finally, Scott has tips on how how to stage and store your firearms safely.

Find more articles in our Home-Defense Guns Series below:

Article 1 | Article 2 | Article 3Article 4 | Article 5 | Article 6