The author’s Century 20 gauge gets more use around his farm than any of his many other options.
What is the ideal survival firearm? Torrents of ink have been spilled over that one simple question. The quality publication you are currently reading stands in mute testimony to the many-splendored options available to the properly prepared American.


The scenarios are easy enough to conjure: Politicians with agendas foment civil unrest that morphs into something larger and more contagious than anticipated. The teetering house of cards that is our economy finally wheezes, falls over and dies. And Mother Nature gone nuts seldom fails to impress.

The common thread to all these scenarios is that if you plan to get your family to safety, you will need a reliable and effective firearm. No matter how thorough your preparations might be, all that cool stuff goes to some feckless thug with a deactivated moral compass if you lack the means to secure it.

The options literally run the gamut. You will want a proper handgun (but that is a topic worthy of its own treatise). When it comes to long guns, however, the best answer might not be the most obvious.

There are currently between 20 and 30 million modern sporting rifles in America, most of which can generally trace their parentage back to either Eugene Morrison Stoner or Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov. AR and AK rifles are compact, powerful, reliable and available. To the uninitiated, at least, they also look scary as heck.

Running the latest, greatest, black iron (and earning envious glances from your peers) is, indeed, great fun at the range. However, such theatrics might not be desirable should you find yourself congealed in traffic, trying to escape some catastrophe or surrounded by other survivors driven to desperation by hunger or fear.

For the same reasons that conspicuous badges of rank might not be desirable in a combat zone, emerging from your vehicle sporting some high-tech autocannon might also result in undue attention.

For unsavory times such as these, it might behoove us to think more simply: Might not some variation of your grandfather’s utility shotgun offer unique capabilities around zombies grown peckish?

The JW-2000 is a basic, no-frills, 1880s-era 20-gauge coach gun upgraded with a few modern safety features. The gun is as capable now as it was over a century ago.





I’m a socially evolved “Information Age” sort of guy, and I am man enough to admit that running a couple boxes of high-brass fodder through my trusty 12 bore is adequate to peg the funmeter.

Make that buckshot or slugs, and my lanky frame starts to feel the burn before the ammo can get lit.

The 20 gauge, however, is pleasant by comparison.

The 20-gauge shotgun sports a bore diameter of around ½ inch and offers much of the versatility and power of the 12 gauge at a fraction of the recoil. Birdshot will keep the pot filled with fowl, rabbit and squirrel.

Buckshot will drop the errant whitetail with sufficiently poor judgment to wander too close. Rifled slugs are the ballistic equivalent of hitting your target with two high-performance .357 Magnum rounds at the same time. Such stuff is more than adequate to deal with your typical bipedal predator.

A survivor with a grenade launcher draws attention. Attracting attention in a survival situation is almost always bad. A comparable survivor with a simple shotgun remains prickly but looks otherwise nondescript.

Additionally, for the rugged American individualist on a budget, a quality side-by-side shotgun can leave more for diapers and baby formula than might be the case if you had to stress the finances to land the latest scary, black wondergun.



The JW-2000 sports familiar classic lines but is thoroughly modern when it comes to safety concerns.


You have to admire the Chinese. In the course of my lifetime, they have transformed their nation from a backward, relatively undeveloped player on the world stage to the acknowledged masters of making stuff well and in tremendous quantity.

I imagine China’s whole population busy turning out everything from Keurig machines to automobile radiators to Happy Meal toys. And another thing the Chinese typically do well is …  make guns.

I have in my collection an original Chicom folding-stock AK I purchased new at a gun show in 1984 for $325. This stamped receiver underfolder sports exquisite workmanship, a gorgeous blued finish, three matching magazines, a sling and a bayonet serialized to the gun. I still even have the box.

The importation of such pseudo-military stuff as this fell prey to an executive order under Bush “the First,” but the Chinese still send us a lot of firearms our government deems “sporting” (whatever that means). These guns are typically rugged, aesthetically pleasing and inexpensive.

Century Arms built its business around providing American shooters with a wide variety of firearms not available anywhere else. Where once Century’s forte was the resurrection of demilled firearms upon new virgin receivers, nowadays, it imports a great many unique guns, as well as account for the vast majority of all domestic American AK production. Century’s line of side-by-side shotguns embodies its corporate ethos.



Century calls its side-by-side 20-gauge coach gun the JW-2000. It is made at the Zhongzhou Machine Works in mainland China. These double-barreled guns would have represented the state-of-the-art in shotgun technology in 1885.

Sporting familiar classic lines, as well as a few thoroughly modern nods toward safety, the Century JW-2000 represents a great value.

Fit and finish on the JW-2000 are not up to what you might find on a collectible English sporting gun. On the other hand, unlike that refined piece of iron, the JW-2000 doesn’t cost as much as your car!

For starters, the hammers are exposed but rebounding. This means the gun is not technically hot until the hammers are manually cocked. Because the gun uses separate firing pins and an intrinsic safety system, this also means the hammers cannot contact the firing pins unless the triggers are pulled.

This keeps the gun from going off if dropped or if the thumbs slip off the hammers during cocking. There is also a sliding thumb safety that locks the mechanism in place, regardless of its configuration. With the hammers back and the safety on, the gun can be put into action in an instant.

The action locks closed when the hammers are retracted, and a common extractor makes removal of empties a breeze. There is a pair of serviceable sling swivels—critical commodities for any legitimate utility weapon—and the dark hardwood furniture is both ample and attractive.

The steel components are all nicely blued. If you want to dial it up or down, the same gun is available in both .410 and 12-gauge versions.

In action, I carry a brace of spare rounds between the fingers of my left hand, just like the professional big-game hunters did for their double rifles back when Africa was a bottomless well of wildlife and creatures such as the rhino were still plentiful.

I have found that when I am engaging threats such as venomous serpents, I can have the empties out and fresh shells in place in less time than it take to describe. In fact, quite recently, I used my able Century 20 gauge to send a particularly vile moccasin perched atop a log not 20 meters from my back porch straight to snake heaven. At a slant range of about 10 meters, a single barrel cleanly decapitated the beast.


Suffice it to say that my Second Amendment rights are fairly well exercised.  I like guns, and my collection accurately reflects the depth of my addiction.

However, amidst the black rifles, suppressed handguns, collectible iron, precision rifles and the like, nothing gets more real-world practical use than my inexpensive Century side-by-side 20 gauge.  The JW-2000 points well and shoots straight while taking it easy on my high-mileage shoulder joints.

I use that simple, stubby shotgun to rid my Mississippi farm of venomous serpents, keep sundry vermin and pests in check, and maintain my indefatigable sense of self-confidence while strolling about on parts of the farm far from the hacienda.

Whether the threat is a belligerent cottonmouth, a feral dog or just some errant two-legged ne’er-do-well with spectacularly poor judgment, my trusty Century 20 gauge deals capably with all comers. When properly stoked, there really isn’t much this particular thunderstick can’t do.  These same attributes translate nicely to the “darker” places, as well.

Make a dispassionate assessment of your circumstances, finances and potential threats. There will, no doubt, be times when a long-range bolt gun that can deliver precision fires out to a parsec or a micro carbine sporting a 100-round drum, along with a rail-mounted Jacuzzi tub, might be the ideal tool for the task.

However, if your trek out of the hot zone might involve the possibility of subsistence foraging or traversing urban spaces populated by throngs of less-than-durable, displaced leftists with sensitive constitutions, some variation on your granddad’s old scattergun might be the better choice. I literally rely on mine all the time.

The author’s Century 20 gauge gets more use around his farm than any of his many other options.


Winchester was producing ordnance when George Armstrong Custer was debating whether or not to make the Army a career.  In the intervening century and a half, Winchester has become one of the biggest names in American munitions.

Producing the ammunition used by both civilian shooters, as well as U.S. Military personnel engaged in the ongoing kinetic festivities overseas, Winchester produces many millions of rounds every day in the robust plant located in my small Mississippi town.

Among hundreds of disparate calibers and loads, Winchester’s PDX1 Defender line of ammo is purpose-designed to stop the threat.

Available in rifle, pistol and shotgun chamberings, all PDX1 Defender loads are optimized for defensive applications. Their 20-gauge variant pushes a ¾-ounce pre-segmented, pure lead slug at velocities of more than 1,500 fps.

This high-tech projectile splits into three separate high-velocity fragments upon contact with a soft medium for maximum tissue disruption along three separate wound channels.  The results are intuitively devastating.

Stacked fiber wads ensure smooth acceleration and modulated recoil. Low-flash powders and top-quality components provide the reliability required for instant execution, even if the rounds are stored for long periods. Such dependability brings peace of mind in that if this ammo must be used for real, the operator knows it will perform unquestionably.

Winchester’s PDX1 Defender ammunition is what allows the humble 19th-century side-by-side 20 gauge to serve as a competitive defensive tool this deep into the Information Age.

The combination of classic power and modern science brings unprecedented effectiveness to this time-proven platform.

Easy on the operator, yet profoundly effective downrange, PDX1 feeds my Century 20 gauge when I am out where the wild things roam.

With a little practice, reloads on the JW-2000 take less time to perform than to describe. A brace of spare rounds can ride between the fingers of the support hand.
Century Arms



Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the April 2017 print issue of American Survival Guide

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