New Jersey friendly SHTF rifle

Recently I started thinking about a good SHTF rifle that would be NJ friendly. There were a number of issues to consider:

– NJ laws
– NJ opinions and feelings on “assault” rifles
– rifle price. I wanted to stay in the $500 range (as of 2011)
– rifle reliability
– rifle design especially ergonomics and features
– rifle portability
– rifle parts price and availability especially magazines
– good metal sights
– ability to customize with aftermarker parts, but keeping this completely optional
– rilfe caliber
— availability including special application rounds
— price
— total round weight
— bullet weight
— velocity
— penetration through obsticles
— stopping power
— trajectory
— felt recoil
— reputation based on military applications

Out of these concerns, I started with price and round avilability. This limited me to AR platforms, Saiga (AK platform derivative), SKS, Mosin Nagant, Ruger Mini 14, and Kel-Tec SU-16 variations.

I quickly dismissed AR platform. While there are many aftermarket parts for it and it is somewhat accepted in NJ, the platform is simply not reliable enough when looking at what is available in my price range. “Operator grade” AR rifles are great based on what I hear, but they are too expensive. ARs in the $500 are hard to find and do not have a good reputation.

Saiga is great. However, there are a couple of things that made me decide against it:
— it typically comes with only one magazine and extras are expensive
— while it is NJ legal, is not NJ friendly due to resemblance to the AK platform
— 7.62×39 is a good round, but I started leaning toward 5.56. Saiga comes in 5.56 and there is even an aftermarket part to have Saiga accept AR magazines. However, if I modify Saiga I would need to comply with Federal law and replace more parts, which will become prohibitevely expensive for me. While an attractive option, it is out of my price range.

Mosin Nagant is good. However, one needs to customize it too much to make it attractive to modern rifle platforms. This with combination of bolt action, magazine capacity, round options, etc. made it simply a bad choice within the given budget. However, if my budget was under $100, this would be the one to get.

SKS variations are very good. However, NJ law limits me to the type I can get (non detachable magazine and more). SKS also requires some customization to cut down the overall weight. It is also somewhat not NJ friendly due to some SKS variations being on the banned firearms list. This makes it for an OK choice, but not the best choice.

Ruger Mini 14 Ranch is a good rifle. However, it has a reputation of being compatavely not very precise in the MOA department. Extra magazines are expensive. On top of it, it is also somewhat not NJ friendly due to the presence of some Mini 14 variations on the banned firearms list.

This brings me to the Kel-Tec SU-16 variations. While its long term durability is questioned by some, I have not heard of any actual evidence to that regard. Alpha model has plastic sights, that I just do not want to have. Charlie model is not NJ friendly due to the threaded barrel and ability to fire with a folded stock and it lacks magazine storage in its stock. Charlie Alpha is very good, but has the threaded barrel. Delta’s design does not work for my purposes. This leaves me with the Bravo model. Besides the attractive phonetic, it is as much NJ friendly as a semi-automatic rifle can be and has all of the SU-16 platform features that I find very desirable in a SHTF rile:
– rifle price. One can be found for around $500
– rifle reliability is good based on the anecdotal evidence found on the internet (if it is on the Internet, one HAS to trust it 🙂
– rifle design, especially ergonomics and features. I saw many comments on how ergonomic it is. Ability to accept AR magazines, dissasembly without any tools, and magazine storage in the stock are all big plusses for me.
– rifle portability. SU-16 platform is extremely light and can be folded in half for transport. Overall length is under 36in.
– rifle parts price and availability especially magazines. Everything is available from Kel-Tec site at very reasonable prices. Additionally AR magazines can be used.
– good metal sights. I really like sites in the CA model, but since it is out, the aluminum sights on the B model are acceptable.
– ability to customize with aftermarker parts, but keeping this completely optional. Some interesting and not too expensive options are available directly from Kel-Tec.
– rilfe caliber. While there is now much debate about about 5.56 Nato round, I think that it is the best overall round based on my criteria.


Update 06/2011
After all I got an SKS. I bet on an auction, thinking there is no way it’ll go for what I bet, but it did. It’s Chinese made carbine in a nice, practically new condition. I still think that SU-16 platform would be a better choice if I had more money. However, SKS cost me less than a third of what I would have to pay for SU-16.


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