When it comes to choosing “tactically” purposed firearms, I’ve found that it’s easy to drop loads of cash on all the bells and whistles, whether we actually need them or not.
With that being said, there will always be one factor that rules the day for firearms which ultimately take up residence in my gun safe: If the gun doesn’t shoot 99.99 percent of the time I pull that trigger — provided I’ve maintained the weapon and fed it properly manufactured/loaded ammunition — then I’d rather not depend on it to keep me alive when the chips are down and blood loss is a possible outcome for the scenario in question.
Here are a few other criteria that I used to compile the list of the following weapons …
Quite frankly, it wouldn’t be difficult to come up with a list of firearms that never fail. However, they’ve got to be somewhat easy to find and purchase, and also be tactically sound. So, here’s what I’ve got:
- There should be available models for under $800.
- Compatible aftermarket furnishings are a plus.
- They should be available in relatively common calibers.
- Tactically speaking, they should be able to win a gunfight (depending on the nature of the engagement, of course. I wouldn’t ask a bolt action rifle to beat an AR in CQB, but I sure would pick the bolt gun if I was engaging a target beyond 700 yards. And sadly, this would also rule out revolvers, given their lower round capacity and reload speeds)
- They should have a track record that’s either combat proven or law enforcement tested, or they have obtained above-average positive civilian reviews
- Last but not least, they should be legal in most states — or easily purchased in states with reasonable gun laws – so NFA Class III’s are going to have to take a back seat on this one
Now that we’ve gotten our “tacti-criteria” out of the way, let’s get started …
No. 4: Remington 870
If you’ve ever seen a Remington 870 in action, there’s no question that these firearms are extremely sturdy beasties. Not only have they seen action on the battlefield, but they’ve also ridden along with quite a few law enforcement officers in cruisers over the years. The 870’s design has quite simply been around for decades, and is known for being robust. If I were to pick a “gold standard” for shotguns, the 870 would be my first choice — aside from, perhaps, the Mossberg 500.
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In addition to the Remington 870’s obvious reliability factor (because honestly, how unreliable could a decades-old pump action design actually be?), this shotgun’s ergonomics makes a short learning curve for folks training to master 870 manipulation and reloading from the side saddle. Throw Magpul’s aftermarket furniture options on an 870, and you’ve got one comfy, modular shotgun that will do the job … every time.
No. 3: AR-15 (Contrary to Popular Belief)
Indeed, I am well aware that I’m likely walking into a possible controversy on this one — but I feel as though I’ve seen enough evidence to suggest that the AR-15 (civilianized M-16) is, in fact, an extremely reliable rifle. Not only would the military have abandoned the rifle years ago if it were not, but manufacturing has done a great deal of advancing since its failures in Vietnam. Let’s just say that the AR-15’s forward-assist isn’t used nearly as much these days.
First, this rifle is gas powered semi-automatic, meaning that the weapon should be cleaned and oiled regularly, regardless of apparent carbon resilience. At the same time, it’s incredibly easy to find anecdotes on how the AR had been fed thousands of rounds — only to experience far less than a 1 percent failure rate (usually ammunition-related and not the rifle’s fault). Take this Gun Digest story for example:
So my stash of three tubs would be good for 1,500 rounds, which went downrange in two or three days. How many malfunctions did I have in all that shooting? Perhaps two or three in 14 trips “Up North.” And those were busted cases, from reloading the empties too many times.
This, of course, is a mere anecdote — but let’s face it: that’s not typical of most semi-auto weapons, much less anything under eight pounds and combat-accurate out to 650 yards. And yes, I’d most certainly take an AR over an AK any day of the week — unless it came down to bayonets. Then I’d want a Mosin Nagant.
No. 2: Weatherby Vanguard — 308 Win/7.62 NATO
It’s a rifle, which has pleasantly surprised more than a few marksmen, given its reliability factor, stellar accuracy (with an aftermarket stock that’s properly fit at least) … and because the price seems to be right in that “feasible zone” for those of us in search of a worthy .308 Win/7.62 NATO-chambered bolt gun. If you’re looking for a sub-MOA-capable rifle for target engagements past 650 yards, then the Weatherby Vanguard is a great option.
Perhaps the only drawback with this particular rifle is the fact that, while it might have great ergonomics for some of us, the stock isn’t properly free-floated (a common gripe with the Vanguard) — which will slap at least 1MOA of accuracy variance on every shot. If you’re looking for a tack driver, then you’ll want to get an aftermarket stock on there; however, if you’re only concerned with combat accuracy, then you might be able to get away with the Vanguard’s manufacturer stock from the factory.
At the end of the day, what isn’t under debate is the fact that the rifle’s operation is smooth, beefy, and won’t give you any function problems. Granted, it’s tough to mess up a bolt-action weapon, but Weatherby seems to have surpassed expectations in this regard.
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Interestingly enough, even well-known tactical gun/gear reviewer “Nutnfancy” gave the Vanguard a preference (overall) instead of the Gunsite Scout in his review of the .308 Ruger carbine. That wasn’t exactly something I would have expected at least, but after seeing the review, I can understand why he was fond of the rifle.
No. 1 Glock (19)
Perhaps I’m just biased, but I’m going to come right out and say this…
When it comes to firearm reliability, I can think of only one brand that truly seems to have an iconically renowned reputation for its inability to fail: Glock. This is perhaps why it’s rumored that the Glock 19 and the 17 are neck and neck for being the most commonly owned handguns in the world.
Both the 19 and the 17 are Glock’s 9mm models; however, the reason why I picked the 19 is because of its added utility for civilian use as a compact concealed carry weapon (as the 17 is the full-size model, but practically the same gun). In addition, the 19 can accept G17 magazines and Glock’s 33-round mags as well.
But then, I come back to the primary issue as to why the legendary 19 made the top pick in this list. Let’s just say that this particular firearm could basically be placed in a category of its own in regards to its reliability/durability factor. For instance, one competitive shooter’s experience was all-too-typical of Glock’s reputation…
I purchased my Glock 19 Gen4 in mid December, 2013; just about one year ago. In this past year since purchase, I’ve put more than 30,000 rounds through it in training and competition. In those 30K+ rounds, for every round I fed into the pistol, I pulled the trigger it went “bang.” Every round fired every time.
So basically, the blog’s author, Andy Rutledge, fed his G19 Gen4 a whopping 30,000 rounds over the course of a year’s worth in competitive shooting without a single issue — possibly even correcting for ammunition factory loading defects. The only occurrences where he ended up having malfunctions was due to admitted “operator error” — which, for how many rounds he’d put through the weapon, were considerably few and far between. Why?
Well, that’s the other reason why I’m fond of this particular weapon. Glocks are extremely simple to use (while also maintaining an abnormally high safety standard). This is why it’s most common to carry a Glock with one round in the chamber, as the gun WILL NOT shoot unless the trigger is depressed along with its safety mechanism.
When it comes to the G19, it just doesn’t get much more common, reliable, simple and safe. And while it might not be as perty or classy-looking, as a custom 1911 in 45ACP … I’d rather win the fight with a reliable ugly gun, than lose with a stove-piping gorgeous one.