Backup AR weighs less than holstered .45, three seven-round mags, eight 10-round mags, and 100 rounds of ammunition. Advantage is using primary AR’s magazines and ammo for far more firepower than a handgun backup. For the weight of the handgun alone, you could easily add another three to four loaded 30-round AR magazines.
AR disassembled easily fits into medium-frame backpack. Tape retains bolt assembly.

Regardless of maker, the AR-15 is the most popular firearm in the country. The AR is now America’s rifle as much as the long rifle of our Founding Fathers. Considering the crazy way things are going, private citizens may need the AR in the Founding Fathers role again for survival.

The diminutive 5.56x45mm round has proven effective in combat around the world for over 40 years. The 5.56mm works pretty well unless you cut the barrel so short it behaves like a handgun. The lightweight ammunition allows almost anyone to carry 400+ rounds with little trouble.

The AR is easy to tear down, clean and maintain. Another advantage is it is fairly lightweight, unless you add a bunch of cheese graters and hang six pounds of gear from it like our military and some SWAT units do. They, however, have logistical support.

Finally, 5.56mm and .223 ammunition can be found or scrounged throughout the U.S. The move to larger caliber AR receivers (uppers), while fun and interesting in

Fully assembled AR backup carried in medium-frame backpack. It works if good looks are not your goal.

a normal world, is a mistake in a national emergency.


Assuming you already have an AR, have you ever thought of another AR as a backup gun rather than a handgun? Prices of most major caliber semiauto handguns range from $250 to $3,200. In my opinion, any semiauto pistol north of $650 ought to be radar-guided. High handgun prices make the price of many standard ARs a bargain.

A handgun has extremely limited use in any survival scenario. The old saying that you use a handgun to get to a rifle is true, but why try? Let’s eliminate the middleman.

The best policy is to lie low, blend in, and survive, because even simple wounds in Crazy Town may prove fatal without professional help—something most patriots, survivalists, preppers and others fail to consider. The best plan is to avoid a fight if possible.


Daypack with water, food, and magazines, plus extra AR carried in shotgun carrier. A 20-round (red for full tracer) magazine can be in the backup gun for immediate use.

Let’s compare the AR to the hugely popular .45 ACP 1911. I could use a 9mm or .40, but I prefer an adult caliber in a semiautomatic combat handgun. And while the .40 is nifty, you will not find much ammunition for it if things go south; 9mm and .45 will be found almost everywhere—for a while anyway.

Even the beloved .45 ACP is a minor caliber compared to the 5.56 round, which has range, accuracy, penetration, velocity and muzzle energy far beyond the .45.

To preclude nasty letters to the editor, I admit that if I am a few yards away from a bad guy at high noon and my AR quits running, a handgun could be employed immediately and may prove an advantage in that scenario. But my plan is to have my fanny already behind cover or headed there so I can easily employ a backup rifle if number one goes south.

A full-size 1911 Government Model weighs in at two pounds, seven ounces empty, but you can find fancy lightweights at around one pound, nine ounces if you’re willing to have a shorter barrel (less velocity), reduced capacity and pay a ton of money. Low-cost seven-round .45 ACP magazines weigh about 2.5 ounces each, and ten-round extended magazines three ounces. Milspec 5.56mm metal 30-round magazines weigh four ounces each. Then there is the holster at four to eight ounces.

Extra AR in an excellent affordable purpose-made weapons scabbard by FOX Tactical allows for accessory pouches and can be extended in length. AR can be carried with 30-round magazine locked into place. Yellow painted buckles guide the eye when in a hurry, even in the dark.

The .45 ACP 230-grain HP or ball round is a proven combat round for flat out feed and fire combat reliability and penetration. New high-tech rounds are more impressive for close-in self-defense, but apocalyptic or national emergency situations are not self-defense as we think of it.

Don’t forget the ammo stocking cost and availability time frame of specialized ammunition over ball, because any stored handgun with less than 500 rounds available for emergencies is a waste of a gun.

One hundred 230-grain rounds weigh in at a hefty five pounds, and 100 115-grain 9mm rounds come in at two pounds, 12 ounces. Compare these weights to 100 5.56mm rounds at two pounds, 10 ounces and you can see the logic of this one-caliber concept when it comes to effectiveness.

Seriously, if you carry fewer than 100 rounds with you for your backup handgun in a civil strife situation, you are underarmed. Packing a couple pounds of backup handgun, holster and just 30 to 50 rounds is foolish considering the comparative weight. Our military does this, but then again they have access to serious mutual support and backup, as does most law enforcement—for a while anyway.


Let’s assume you have a lighter .45, ten ten-round extended magazines, 100 rounds of ammunition and a holster: that package will come in at nine pounds total. And just for argument’s sake, let’s arbitrarily shave a full pound off the handgun and ammunition, leaving a feathery eight-pound package. Compare that to a no-frills AR with 16- inch barrel and iron sights coming in at about six and a half pounds.

And guess what? With the backup AR, you already have magazines and ammunition from your primary AR. Just get the backup in action and you can stay in the fight with a weapon superior to any handgun.

Now let’s add back in the pistol poundage we removed. The difference would allow you to carry three additional fully loaded 30-round AR magazines with weight to spare.

AR separated into two major parts for easy packing. Duct tape and yellow reference marks on receiver and cross bolts aid in quick assembly.


If your primary AR is totally trashed and you have no spare parts, you can scrounge parts from the out-of-action gun to keep your backup (now primary) AR working or, once back at your shelter, you can switch parts from the backup into your fancy primary gun.

One hundred rounds of .45 ACP ammo, eight 10-round and three seven-round magazines weigh more than five 30-round magazines and 180 rounds of the much more powerful 5.56mm ammo.

The logic of this plan is to have a basic low-cost backup AR to keep weight and costs down. When moving in your area of operation, you can sling, hang or stuff your backup in a pack or carry case.

You can split it into two pieces. Just use a bit of tape to secure the bolt and charging handle in place, making it easy to tear off and reassemble in a few seconds. I tried this numerous times with several people, and it took 10 to 15 seconds to reassemble. For this to work, you must get to cover so you can fiddle around. Standing or moving down a street like an Old West gunfighter will get you killed regardless of what you’re carrying.


Overall in an apocalypse or urban war preparation scenario like many fear is coming, when you compare dollar for dollar the cost of a decent semiauto handgun, holster, different caliber ammunition, magazines and weight against the price and backup firepower of a second fully compatible AR-15, the argument for the backup AR is pretty good.

Older CQB Solutions chest ammo carrier with author-added accessory pouches holds nine magazines. Also advised for any owner of ARs is the multi-purpose tool—not to be carried but kept back at the base.

I know some folks will come up with scenarios and even some decent reasons this backup concept may not work ideally—but nothing is ideal. For citizen survival in a world gone crazy, you’ll need real-world solutions, since your backup is probably not going to be a SWAT team, Apache or Bradley.

I hope this gets you thinking a bit outside the box. A basic low-cost backup AR offers many real-world advantages over a backup handgun in survival scenarios. It’s something to consider.

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