This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I'll earn a small fee at no extra cost to you.*
After the basic survival necessities of shelter, water, fire, and food have been satisfied, acquiring a firearm should be one of your highest priorities after the SHTF. In the event of a post-apocalyptic scenario, however, you may not be able to find one. For this reason, a good firearm is one of the most important things to acquire ahead of time.
Firearms can add an incredible amount of power to your inventory. With them you have the ability to hunt, to defend yourself, and the leverage you might need in social scenarios to tip the balance of power in your favor. In this article we’ll cover the 9 best firearms to have after the SHTF: 3 rifles, 3 handguns, and 3 shotguns.
There are many dissenting opinions out there about which firearm is the most important, but taking into account weapon maintenance, ammo weight and availability, and overall weapon functionality, the rifle is probably the most useful. It can be used readily in any hunting or defensive scenario you may come across. These three rugged options will serve you well almost anywhere.
1. Ruger 10/22 Takedown – One of the best, most versatile firearms you can have in a survival scenario is the Ruger 10/22 Takedown. This long rifle is excellent for hunting small game. Its .22 ammunition is readily available and extremely lightweight, making it the obvious choice when you want to carry hundreds of rounds of ammunition at a time. Generally speaking, the ammunition is also fairly cheap, making it easy to stockpile ahead of time. The Ruger 10/22 Takedown is semiautomatic with a 10-round magazine, meaning it’s ideal for situations where you need to fire more quickly than you could with a bolt-action rifle.
2. ArmaLite AR-15 – The classic, ever-popular AR-15 makes this list due to its durability, ease of use, and availability. The AR-15 is common enough that you could easily find parts for it, and its design makes it one of the easiest to clean and take apart. There are dozens of AR-15 variants out there, and most of these are good options as well. Make sure you have your AR-15 chambered in 5.56, which allows it to shoot both 5.56 rounds and .223 rounds. This gives you added versatility if you need to forage for ammunition at some point.
3. Mosin-Nagant – Your third rifle option should be something of a larger caliber–think in terms of being able to take down the biggest game in your area. The Russian-made Mosin-Nagant fires a 7.62×54 round, packing a punch that most big game won’t be likely to shrug off. Another benefit to the Mosin-Nagant is that millions of them were made in the earlier years of the 20th century, making them easy to find and their ammunition fairly common. This firearm can even fill the role of sniper rifle should the need arise.
Handguns give you the element of surprise and convenient protection. While you can hunt with handguns, you probably wouldn’t choose to unless it was your only option. With that in mind, here are some of the best pistol options you should try.
4. Glock 17 – Perhaps the most useful handgun to have in preparation for the SHTF is the Glock 17. With a magazine capacity of 17 rounds, you also carry almost twice the amount of ammunition as some other handguns, which is useful since its 9mm round doesn’t have the highest stopping power out there. This weapon is the most widely used handgun by law enforcement all around the world. Not only does this mean the weapon is extremely reliable, it also means it is readily available should you ever need replacement parts or extra ammunition.
5. Colt M1911 – The 1911 is an all-around winner when it comes to pistols. With a slim profile that still has all the stopping power of a .45 round, this handgun is a good choice because of its durability and availability. A tried and true weapon since World War I, this handgun will serve you well as your personal sidearm in any survival situation.
6. Smith and Wesson 586 – No good handgun list would be complete without a tried and true revolver. The Smith and Wesson 586 is one of the most reliable revolvers available. Extremely easy to load and to clean, the Smith and Wesson 586 is the perfect survivalist pistol. Its only disadvantage is its ammunition capacity (6 or 7 rounds). However, the revolver more than makes up for this by being versatile. The Smith and Wesson 586 can fire both .357 and .38 special rounds, making finding ammunition for the weapon easier.
Last but certainly not least, the shotgun is an important part of the survival arsenal. Most game can be hunted with one, and nothing says “don’t mess with me” like a shotgun. The only reason this list didn’t rank its value above that of the rifle’s is for the weight of its ammunition and its limited range. Still, for versatility you can’t beat a good scattergun. Here are three great options when the SHTF.
7. Mossberg 500 12 Gauge – Easy to use and easy to maintain, the Mossberg 500 easily makes the top of the list for survival shotguns. While it is made in 12 gauge, 20 gauge, and .410 bore variants, the 12 gauge is the most popular and allows the most customization. Its pump action allows you to deliver firepower quickly and effectively–sometimes defending yourself takes more than one shot.
8. H&R Single Shot 12 Gauge – While many people dislike single shot shotguns for their slowness both in hunting and self-defense, the H&R single shot 12 gauge is perfect because it is a platform of possibilities. You can use a wide variety of chamber adapters, which allows you to effectively scavenge and use almost any kind of ammunition that comes your way. Whether you find shotgun shells, bird shot, slugs, or a multitude of rifle ammunition, the H&R single shot 12 gauge with chamber adapters can have you covered.
9. Chiappa X-Caliber – The Chiappa X-Caliber is the ultimate survival option, sporting the ability to shoot both 12 gauge shotgun shells and .22 rounds with its double trigger, over-under style. It includes eight adapters that allow it to shoot eight separate pistol calibers. This truly is the one-tool option of the firearms world, if such a thing exists.