Ballistic Frugality

David and Goliath, Nomad versus SCAR
; .

For a real deal bugout survival defensive situation, are you better off with the
$4,500 black rifle or the no-frills single-barrel shotgun that only set you back a C-note?

You’re hard at work, beta testing whoopee cushions and fake dog turds at the Fartco Novelty Company. Though it was the glamor of the thing that first drew you, after 17 years, even this seems like a grind. The new battery-powered flatulator is performing well, but it’s been a long day. You’re looking forward to a quiet evening with the family. Then you feel a scant rumble through the floor.

You direct your attention outside. Smoke rises on the horizon, and you see crowds of terrified people fleeing some unseen menace. An electric buzz runs through the office as fear spreads over your coworkers like a contagion. But not you. You’ve prepared your entire life for
this moment.

In a flash, you are downstairs and atop your moped. In the heady excitement of the moment, you intentionally eschew your helmet. Given this has all the makings of a proper apocalypse, you’ll take your chances with the traffic wardens.

Traffic is snarled, but you are immune. You bounce the curb and cut through sundry yards and parks, puttering past terrified victims who lacked your foresight. Nineteen minutes later, you pull up at home.

Your family has drilled for this, and they are waiting for you. The government-surplus Hummer is packed and ready to go with food, water and fuel enough for at least three weeks on the road. Your wife even had time to throw together a few tuna fish sandwiches. The kids are strapped into the back, and your bride rides shotgun. You slip into your body armor and throw open the door to the gun safe. There in the front row resides a tricked-out FN SCAR 16S, alongside a Nomad single-barrel break-open 12-gauge shotgun. The Hummer is already cubed out, and you’ve only got room for one. Which gun do you grab? The kids are getting impatient, and the plaintive cries from the street are growing closer.


The ATI Nomad 12-gauge is arguably the simplest firearm on the planet.
There is little on the gun to break.

The ATI Nomad 12-gauge is the tire iron of the firearm world. If you are smart enough to run a screwdriver, you can shoot this gun.

Practical Tactical

Who are we kidding? Of course you take both. Strap junior to the roof if need be, but now that doomsday has finally arrived, you’re not going to split hairs over ordnance. However, what if you really could only take one? For a real deal bugout survival defensive situation, are you better off with the $4,500 black rifle or the no-frills single-barrel shotgun that only set you back a C-note? I would assert the answer, as painful as it is for guys like us to hear, is the shotgun might be the better choice.

The tricked-out SCAR 16S with a Holosight, magnifier, tactical light and sound suppressor legitimately costs more than four grand all up. For this simply breathtaking investment, you get unflinching reliability, decent stealth, proper combat accuracy and a prodigious magazine capacity. The SCAR chassis serves with American Special Operations Forces deployed downrange as I sit typing these words. It is one epically cool rifle. It will reliably make you stand out in a crowd. Now hold that thought.

By contrast, the ATI Nomad is stripped-down and austere. The 18″ barrel folds back onto the buttstock. The resulting package is so easy to store it could conceivably ride in a book bag. Even amidst the current ammo drought, you can still find 12-gauge rounds. Buckshot and slugs will drop most anything that walks, gallops or slithers. Cheap birdshot will keep the cooking pot stoked with tree rats or bunnies and wing shoot subsistence birds. This weapon is the heir apparent to your granddad’s favorite farm gun. This means it doesn’t scare people or mark you as special. Under certain circumstances, this attribute could itself be quite valuable.


The tricked-out FN SCAR 16S is a tactical beast. It also reliably draws
a crowd and costs as much as your kid’s orthodontia. However, all that
tactical bling makes you conspicuous.

The rigid charging handle on the FN SCAR 16S is reversible
and reciprocates with the bolt.

The buttstock on the FN SCAR 16S is more complicated than the
U.S. Tax Code, but it is undeniably effective.

At 8 meters, the FN SCAR 16S shoots five rounds through the same hole.

Technical Details — the SCAR 16S

SCAR stands for Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle, and it is indeed the apex predator among the world’s modern military weapons. A thoroughly state-of-the-art design, the SCAR orbits around an aluminum receiver and includes ample polymer furniture. The GI issue SCAR-Heavy fires 7.62x51mm. The SCAR-Light is 5.56x45mm. The SCAR 16S is the semi-auto civilian version of the military SCAR-L.

I happened upon my SCAR at a law enforcement auction for seized guns, so I got it at a good price. However, a cheap Rolls-Royce is still expensive. You don’t get into a SCAR cheap unless a relative dies and leaves you one.

The SCAR runs a short stroke piston-driven action inspired by that of the Armalite AR180. This design keeps heat and crud up front and away from the gun’s entrails. It is inimitably reliable as a result. The gun is designed to disassemble easily and maintained in an austere environment.

There is plenty of rail space for optics and accessories. The buttstock is more complicated than the human female but remains eminently practical. The stock is easily adjustable for both length of pull and comb. It also folds with the push of a button. The SCAR comes with a nice set of folding iron sights that stay out of the way when not in use.

The charging handle on the SCAR reciprocates with the action and is readily reversible without tools. This means you can take a boot to it in the unlikely event the action ever gets sticky. However, it also means the handle zips back and forth when firing. With a bulky optic installed, it is easy to rap your fingers while charging the weapon.

The SCAR 16S accepts standard STANAG M4 magazines and drums. The end result is versatile, effective and cool. In the world of Modern Sporting Rifles, literally nothing is finer.


The ATI Nomad is made in Turkey and is the very image of simplicity.

The primary strength of the ATI Nomad 12-gauge is its ammo versatility.
Different loads can be configured for different applications.

The Nomad breaks open just like your granddad’s old single-barrel
squirrel gun and collapses back onto itself for easy portage or storage.

The ATI Nomad 12-Gauge

By contrast, the ATI Nomad is as simple as kindergarten art class. If you can tie your own shoes without assistance, you can run the Nomad. It’s just stupid-proof.

Pull back on the trigger guard to break open the action, drop in a shell, close the action and cock the hammer manually. Now point the gun at something you dislike and squeeze. Repeat as necessary.

The Nomad doesn’t have a safety. The manual hammer is all the safety you need. Don’t cock the gun until you’re ready to shoot and you’ll be fine.

To fold the gun for storage, you just open the action and then wrap the muzzle back to the toe of the buttstock. The steel is nicely blued, and the furniture is polymer and nigh indestructible. The sights consist of a simple brass bead and a groove in the top of the receiver. It’s not complicated because it doesn’t need to be complicated. The Nomad comes with a set of steel sling swivels on the bottom. The chamber is cut to accept 3″ shells.

American Tactical offers the Nomad in three different gauges and various barrel lengths. The gun is also available as part of a turnkey survival rig with its own backpack.

The real strength of the Nomad is in its ammunition versatility. Birdshot is available most anywhere at a good price. Buckshot and slugs, at appropriate ranges, offers unquestionable downrange authority. There are even less-than-lethal options should the need arise.


To paraphrase Dirty Harry Callahan, at a typical 8-meter engagement
range the ATI Nomad 12-gauge, even loaded with cheap 7 ½ birdshot,
would take a man’s head clean off.

Improvised Firepower

What follows is related for historical interest only. DO NOT DO THIS YOURSELVES! Forgive my shouting, but most of our readership is guys. As any woman will attest, sometimes prattling on for hours on the subject, we’re all just a little bit stupid.

My grandfather was born in 1901 and came of age during the Great Depression on a rural Mississippi farm. Like many to most Americans of that era, they didn’t have anything. They eked out an existence between their crops and subsistence hunting, but had to make do without a lot of resources.

My grandfather’s family sold enough produce to afford a little birdshot for their old single-barrel 12-gauge shotgun. Buckshot and slugs were available, but they were more expensive. As a result, my grandfather improvised.

For close range engagements against whitetail deer, my grandfather made his own slugs. He would take paper-hulled 12-gauge rounds and ring them amidships with his Barlow knife such that he separated the top of the shell right about at the wad. He then wrapped a single layer of masking tape around the shell to hold everything in place and put a drop of glue on the nose. He told me at close ranges, these improvised slugs were extraordinarily effective at keeping their table graced with venison.


The manual hammer is the Nomad’s only safety.

Pulling back on the trigger guard breaks open the action.

Practical Tactical

The SCAR 16S will ventilate a man-sized target out to half a kilometer or so and look cool doing it. Magazine changes set the standard for everything else, and the gun is one of the most reliable autoloading weapons I have ever fired. With the suppressor and optics in place, it is a room-clearing machine. However, whenever brandished in public it does invariably draw a crowd.

By contrast, the Nomad tucks into a proper daypack without anyone being the wiser. It packs plenty of downrange thump against predators whether they walk on two legs or four. It is also a much better tool for dropping birds on the wing or harvesting a rabbit than that fancy black rifle.
Forgive my seeming a pansy, but the Nomad kicks like Chuck Norris doing the cancan. The gun is extremely lightweight, and physics can be a cruel mistress. However, it works every single time.

More importantly than all this, however, is the Nomad lets you move around in crowds without creating a scene. Scary black rifles are fun on the range, but amidst a street liberally populated with flaming dumpsters and rampaging anarchists, it is the Nomad that helps you retain your anonymity. Anybody who has ever been in one for real appreciates the best fight is the one you never have to have.


So sure, if you have the space, grab both. The SCAR 16S reaches out way beyond where the humble 12-bore stutters and dies while being markedly more intimidating. However, there’s a lot of stupid stuff you can drop a hundred bucks on these days. In fact, I have dumped that sum taking my family out for dinner and movie back when the kids would bring along a friend or three. In the ATI Nomad, you will find a robust single-barrel shotgun your kids’ kids won’t wear out that will eat a wide variety of ammo. The argument could be made it is indeed the better defensive gun. 

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