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Loaner Guns and Loyalty: Or, How to NOT Get Shot in the Back with Your Own Gun

April 1, 2019

I came across a conversation on a friend’s Facebook page the other day, concerning “loaner guns.” To whit, these are guns set aside specifically to be loaned out to a friend in need. This is a conversation I’ve seen and heard broached in a variety of places within the Prepper Sphere, over the years, as well as in the general shooting community.

Generally speaking, in the “prepper” and “militia” circles, “loaner guns” tend to take the form of a case full of Mosin-Nagants, or SKS, that were purchased back in the day, when you get two of them for a hundred bucks, and still have money left over for lunch.

At the same time, in some conversations I’ve seen (not the one that instigated this article, necessarily…), the idea of a loaner gun tends towards, “Me and the boys are gonna roll into a dicey neighborhood, and Johnny doesn’t have a gun with him, so I’m gonna slip him a piece, just in case.” In that case, the loaner gun tends to be something along the lines of a Hi-Point, or some old rusted out .38 wheel gun that was bought at a gun show somewhere, with cash, some time, that has probably never been fired by the current owner, and if it has, it was ten years ago, when he bought it, and tossed it in the safe, “just in case.”

To my mind, while neither of these are “wrong,” they are both examples of extremely “sub-optimal” approaches to the issue.

Sure, the loaner gun might be something you need to hand out to someone with less foresight, in the event of a grid-down catastrophe, to help pull security for the house, neighborhood, or community. Sure, the loaner gun might be because one of your brothers or cousins or high school buddies doesn’t have one, and you are going to do “hood rat shit wit’ t’e homies,” but…

So, we have a number of guns in the safe. Without citing specific numbers, we have enough guns to outfit everyone in my household with a rifle and a pistol, and still have plenty left over. None of my guns are Mosin-Nagants, and none of my guns are SKS. I DO have one little .32 wheel gun, manufactured in like 1906, that I suppose I COULD loan out, in a pinch, but I probably wouldn’t, even under duress, because I’ve only shot it a handful of times, myself (readers of The Guerrilla Gunfighter, Vol1: Clandestine Carry Pistol, have seen this gun…).

I look at the potential need to loan out guns as arising from a couple of potential scenarios:

1) Shit has come completely unglued, and folks are flocking to my farm for refuge (that’s part of the plan, make no mistake…), some of whom don’t have guns.

2) A friend who doesn’t own a gun, suddenly discovers a serious need for one for self-protection, and for whatever reason, cannot go out and get one, today, right this minute…even though they might need it tonight. This could range from a friend who got into a beef with a member of a criminal gang, and is expecting him and his friends to come calling that night, to a female friend who just split up with a significant other that is prone to violence. Maybe, it’s a friend who had to use their gun, and now needs to borrow one, because his/hers has been confiscated for the time being.

In the first example, the typical, “traditional” prepper answer of course, has been, the case of cheap import rifles. Here’s the thing though…if they are helping defend my family….do I really want them equipped with sub-optimal weapons? If it’s someone I trust enough to hand a gun to, it’s someone I trust to know how to use that gun, so I’d rather hand them something closer to optimal. If I don’t trust them enough to hand them a modern fighting rifle, I don’t want to hand them a gun, period.

Our solution has long been determined that, if someone shows up, and can show me they know how to use a weapon, effectively, in the anti-personnel role, I’ll hand them an AR or an AK. If they’re not comfortable with either of those, I’ll hand them a slug gun or a lever-action rifle. If they WANT a bolt-gun, well, I’ve got one or two of those as well, but…

I know a lot of people who have never touched an AR15 or an AK47, but can operate a Marlin .30-30 or a pump shotgun, loaded with slugs, like nobody’s business. For the record, I’m not one of them. I can make head shots, consistently, out to 100 yards, with my 870, loaded with slugs, and I can make solid hits out to 200 with my Marlin. I can run the action on either of them reasonably well, but my reloads on both suck.

I can do the single-shot emergency reload just fine, but shoving more into the magazine, to top it off, is not something I practice nearly as much as I probably should. Then again, I’ve got a safe full of AR variants and AK clones, so…

What I’m not going to do is hand out a bunch of obsolete bolt-action rifles that kick like an angry mule, to non-gun people, and say, “Hey! Good luck!” They’re more likely to shoot me or one of my kids, by accident or neglect, than they are to use it effectively against bad people. It doesn’t hurt either though, that I’ve got a dozen-plus people that shoot and train regularly with me, and who all own effective, modern fighting rifles.

In the second case, whatever the reason is that my friend needs to borrow a gun, I’m not giving them a piece of shit. If I do, I’m not a very good friend, am I? If they NEED a gun, there is a pretty good chance they need a gun that actually works, reliably. So, they’re getting one of my Glocks, or an AR or an AK, or some other long gun.

“What if they lose it, or just steal it?”

To begin with, if I’m loaning someone a gun, it’s because they, and I, expect them to actually need it. If they need it, I don’t expect to get it back. If they used it, and it was confiscated as evidence, I’m not getting it back. If they used it, and it didn’t get confiscated as evidence, it better be at the bottom of the damned lake.

I have a Glock 19 that I loaned out to one of our people. He had a Glock 22, but needed something more convenient to carry every day. He’s had it two years plus now. Now, I could take the approach that I am out $500. Far better however, is to acknowledge that he has the ability to carry his gun every day, in a pretty non-permissive environment, and his wife has a gun at the house. That’s worth far more than $500 to me.

I have another friend who wanted to start training with us. He would come out every weekend, and I’d loan him a rifle. Because he wasn’t able to do his dry-fire homework however, he wasn’t progressing as fast as the rest. So, I loaned him the rifle, to take home with him, as well as to shoot on Saturdays. He showed up regularly for a few months, and then stopped showing up, because life got in the way. I could have called him and demanded he bring the rifle back. I could have gone to his house and demanded the rifle back. I didn’t do either one. If he decides he wants to start training again, he’s got a rifle. If he doesn’t, he’s got a rifle and some training with it. If he decides to sell it, well, I guess then I learn what kind of “friend” he is, don’t I?

At the end of the day, to my mind, “loaner guns” are about loyalty. They’re a question of quality, not quantity. I may not have a lot of guns I can hand out. I certainly don’t have a case of 50 Mosin-Nagants that I can hand out to random folks that show up. What I do have is enough guns, of quality, that I can hand them out to people I know, train them to use them effectively, and know they’re not going to shoot me in the back.

I would much rather have a handful of people I know and trust implicitly, with decent guns, than a pile of people with sub-optimal guns, that I don’t know and trust, helping protect my kith-and-kin.

But, what if they don’t know how to shoot!?

I get that question a lot. “Well, that’s all good and stuff, but do all of your people know how to use a gun?” No. We’ve got people that have never touched a firearm. We’ve got people who are—literally—afraid of the sight of a firearm. We’ve got people who have hunted, but have never done any training, at all, in using the gun in the anti-personnel role.

That’s okay. Guess what? I can train them to use the gun. It’s sort of what I do. It doesn’t even take a particularly long time to bring them up to a level of functional skill. You know what I can’t do? I can’t magically make them trustworthy. I can’t instantly wave a wand, and know “I can trust this person, even unto death.” That takes time and effort. So, I have loaner guns, but those loaner guns are limited to people who I have the shared experiences with to have developed that level of trust. That’s far more valuable than a crate of SKS, buried in a cache somewhere.


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  1. T. Mark Graham permalink

    Same with this weird concept of “truck gun”. Meaning something crappy one “can afford to have stolen”. If I need a gun far from home and support, the last thing I want is a POS. I want something at least as good as what I have at home.

  2. Exactly. My “truck gun” is the same rifle I use for everything else. It comes in the house with me when I get home, and goes in the truck when I’m leaving the house, secured in place with a bicycle cable lock when I get out of the truck to go in a store or office.

    It’s the same rifle that goes on the ATV when I go tooling around the farm, and it’s the same rifle that I grab when I hear a “bump in the night” (that invariably turns out to be raccoons in the feed shed…)

  3. Mike M. permalink

    Fully agree! I know people I would not loan a broom to, much less a firearm. The people who would get a firearm from me I will trust with my life, period. And they will get ammo if warranted (IE., they are on my 6) and they need it to function. A very few, I’ll be their ‘step and fetch it’ while they shoot, and cover by fire while they move (I’m in my 70’s and don’t move as well as I should anymore).

  4. Damn good points made here, Sir! Funny that–I was rolling over this scenario in my mind recently–who in my AO could I “loan.” give, or entrust with one of my spare weapons? To me, the “past is prologue,” when I consider this idea. I’ve “loaned” tools, like chainsaws, axes, or hand tools. to neighbors, family members, and friends. Some have come back shiny, clean, and well-oiled, while others beat to hell, and sad to say, some never came back to me at all. Memory serves me well!

  5. James permalink

    Any friend of mine have known and trusted for years usually has a firearm(if not more then one).That said,one friend a single women with a son did not have one and money was tight,she grew up with and was comfortable with shotguns so just outright gave her the money to buy a shotgun and a good pile of shells for it and took her out shooting to make sure she could use it and worked for her,it did.I would in these “normal”times do that again for a friend in tight times,things go off the rails completely and a friend needs something if I have it will loan it to em on a permanent basis,friends flying in without a firearm for a visit ect.

  6. anonymous permalink

    I guess along with the firearm, having some spare ammunition pouches – slings – cleaning kits / oilers would also be wise. Doesn’t have to be high $$$ tactical – military surplus is still widely available, though shrinking.

    If I had to arm a person who was completely clueless on how a gun functions, the break open single shot shotgun would be a good option. Butt simple to operate and teach how it works. And if it gets stolen or lost, it isn’t a huge loss to the owner. Devastating terminal results at short range.

  7. Vagus permalink

    I think the real value of the surplus SKS or HiPoint is that it transforms someone or group from simply being a soft target, even in a mad-max scenario. Not ideal, but hopefully sufficient.

    • MoreSigmasThanYou permalink

      Vietnam was a long time ago. I wasn’t there, but I did hear the stories from adults when I was growing up. That era’s army was not the most competent that the U.S. ever fielded for a number of reasons. According to people who were there at the time, they saw plenty of dead American soldiers long before they ever encountered the enemy.

      Apparently when you give guns to people who aren’t ready to handle them, those people walk around with the guns pointed at their friends, finger on the trigger, and when they trip over a tree root, they empty an entire magazine into the back of the man walking in front of them.

      Give guns to untrained people and they are in more danger than if they were unarmed. I’m not handing a loaded gun to someone for a mentally and psychologically demanding task if I’ve never seen them use a gun for an easier task.

      Someone has to build trust with me before I put them in a situation where they could shoot me in the back. That means they have to demonstrate a consistent pattern of safe gun handling, starting with handling unloaded guns, then shooting on the square range, then something that requires moving and shooting, like USPSA. Then *after I think I can trust you* we can do a driven game hunt, or a live fire shoot move and communicate drill.

      If you’re thinking about handing someone a gun for use in a “mad-max” scenario, why don’t you go play air-soft with them this weekend? See how many times they shoot someone on their own team. If they can’t think clearly when they’re worried about getting hit with the little plastic pellet, they’re not going to rise to the occasion when they’re worried about getting hit with a lead bullet.

      I know a guy who I will never hand a loaded gun to, and that’s just based on his safety practices while felling a tree. If I say stand here and pull this rope, and then, while I’m cutting, you go and walk toward where three is going to fall because that gives you better leverage, I will never need you armed and on my side in a gun fight. I also know people who are lifelong gun owners and brag about all their experience with guns, but who I don’t really want to shoot with due to their cavalier attitudes/practices, and the number of negligent discharges they’ve had.

      For me, there’s not just add water/armament, situation for creating an instant post-apocalyptic army. People have tried that approach, and my opinion is that it’s generally led to counterproductive situations and epic fails:

  8. Mona permalink

    I agree about Mosin-Nagants, but the SKS wasn’t a bad choice when they were dirt cheap. The ones I shot were reliable, soft shooting, and reasonably accurate.

    I wouldn’t buy one at current prices. I can get a used shotgun in very good condition for less, and the shotgun is a lot more versatile. Hell, a basic AR is about the same price as a SKS now. Maybe less.

  9. unreconstructedgordo permalink

    We are on the same page here, maybe even the same sentence ! I recently sold my Finnish Moisins, don’t underestimate them in a protracted conflict, except you better have a few cases of ammo stashed 🙂 . I see the next cicvil war on the lose horizon. Pray it comes under the current administration ! Don’t want to be fighting a hostile military !

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