Estimated reading time: 14 minutes
With all the different makes and models of guns, it can seem impossible to decide which ones you need in your disaster arsenal, especially if you’re new to guns or prepping.
But in reality, selecting the right guns doesn’t have to be difficult. Not all guns (or calibers) are created equal, and the result is that there are several factors to keep in mind that will help you narrow down your selection.
In this article, I’m going to share my list of six survival guns every prepper should have after the SHTF, but first I’m going to explain how I came up with the list.
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What Do You Need Guns For?
In a survival scenario, you will need guns for a variety of different reasons, such as…
- Hunting (small and big game)
- Home defense
- Property defense
- Target shooting/plinking
- Pest control/general homestead use
Each of the above applications is pretty self-explanatory. They all demand different calibers or types of firearms, as there is no one gun that fits all uses (just as there is no tool that can fix everything).
Calibers You Need
Now let’s talk about the best ammo calibers to have by handgun, rifle, and shotgun:
Semi-Automatic Pistol Calibers
There are three primary pistol calibers out there: 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP. Yes, there are plenty of others such as .45 GAP or 10MM or .357 SIG or .380 ACP, but the first three are by far the most popular. Well, .380 ACP is actually fairly popular too (especially for concealed carry), but it’s also on the low-end of the stopping power range and isn’t the best caliber choice for a general purpose sidearm.
Remember that a major consideration for any SHTF firearm is ammunition availability. While the shelves are going to be stripped clean and ammo of all calibers will become a precious commodity after a major disaster, your chances of finding more ammunition (such as through bartering with somebody) will be significantly higher if you’re looking for the most common calibers.
Hence, 9mm, .40S&W, and .45 ACP should be the only three semi-automatic pistol calibers that you should consider.
But we can still further narrow our selection from here: Go with 9mm and 9mm alone. In all honesty, .40 S&W is sunsetting and may not be as popular down the road. The FBI and numerous police departments are swapping from .40 to 9mm, mainly because .40 S&W is a higher pressure round and inflicts greater wear on pistols than 9mm does.
.45 is a solid round and is about as American as you can get for a pistol round. In fact, it’s arguably the most American pistol caliber in existence. But it’s also far more expensive than 9mm, and pistols chambered for .45 almost always hold fewer rounds due to the fact that it is larger in terms of diameter.
Sure, it has more stopping power on paper, but there are still a plethora of 9mm self-defense roads that are incredibly effective.
9mm is simply the most versatile pistol round in existence, and it’s also the cheapest and most popular. Double stacked pistols chambered for 9mm carry a lot of rounds and recoil is very moderate. It’s simply the best pistol round there is, and by the looks of things, it’s going to stay that way for a long time.
You can say revolvers are antiquated all you want, but they have a distinct appeal in their simplicity and inherent reliability.
If you are seriously considering a revolver for your SHTF arsenal or for home defense purposes, there is only one caliber that should really be considered: .357 Magnum.
The reasons for this are as endless as the number of revolvers available. For one thing, .357 Magnum has a solid reputation for excellent stopping power and as a one-shot man stopper. It is a little expensive, but it’s also widely available. Plus, revolvers chambered for the .357 Magnum round can fire and shoot .38 Specials as well, which makes them highly versatile.
The fact that a .357 can chamber and fire the lighter .38 Special load makes it an attractive offering for smaller statured shooters as well.
A handgun is a defensive weapon and nothing more, and it’s a last resort weapon at that. All pistol calibers are notoriously underpowered. In fact, out of all people shot with a pistol, around 80% will survive.
In contrast, only around 20% of people shot with a rifle survive. The lesson here is obvious: rifles are more effective. They have more stopping power and they have a much greater range and velocity as well.
By all accounts, a rifle needs to be your primary arm in an SHTF scenario. It’s the weapon that you must rely upon for defending your homestead, house, property, and family against multiple attackers. Your pistol is simply a sidearm on your hip for last resort use or for ease of concealment.
The old saying goes that a pistol is the weapon you use to fight your way to your rifle. You never want to knowingly go into a gunfight with just a pistol. You need a rifle, too.
So with all that said, let’s talk calibers. There is an abundance of rifle calibers out there, and many of them you are no doubt familiar with, even if you are a beginner to this subject.
But for disaster preparedness purposes, there are two that stand out among all the rest: 5.56x45mm NATO and .308 Winchester.
These two calibers are like the 9mm of rifle rounds: they are both widely common and available, prices are not obnoxious, and they are incredibly effective.
The 5.56 is lighter, and it’s what is used for AR-15s. It can be used for hunting game such as deer or wild hogs, but larger game such as elk or moose will undoubtedly require the larger .308.
Think of it this way: the 5.56 is the caliber you will use to defend your family, while the .308 is the caliber you will use to put food on the table. .308 can also be used for anti-personnel use at long distances as well.
12 gauge or 20 gauge. Either of those options will work. The 12 gauge is slightly more common but it also has considerably more recoil. The 20 gauge is much more manageable to control (so long as the weight in the shotgun itself is not reduced), and this may make it more appealing to a multitude of people who don’t desire a gun that’s hard to manage and not that fun to shoot.
Both the 12 gauge and 20 gauge are enormously effective for defense. Shoot an intruder with a buckshot round from either of them at close range (such as in a home defense situation), and they’ll be sorry, to say the least.
Don’t feel like a wimp for opting for the 20 gauge over the 12. A 20 gauge is more than powerful enough to bring down a home intruder with just one shot, and the fact that it is much easier to shoot may actually make it a better option.
A shotgun is arguably the most important firearm you can own. Some would say that a pistol is more important because you can conceal them, but a shotgun is just so versatile it’s not even funny.
Buckshot rounds are used for home defense at close ranges. Birdshot loads are great for bird hunting and small game hunting, also within reasonable close ranges. And slugs can be used to bring down larger game such as deer at moderate distances.
There is no other type of gun in the world that can do each of these things for you. For these reasons, a shotgun may be the firearm you use the most in an SHTF situation.
Finally, how could we not mention .22 LR at all? This is the bestselling round on the planet. Every gun collection needs to have at least one .22 rifle in it, regardless of whether you’re a prepper or not.
.22 LR has a seemingly unlimited number of advantages, and the following list of benefits is really only scratching the surface:
- Low noise.
- Low recoil.
- Excellent for plinking.
- Can be bought and stored in bulk for low prices and limited storage space.
- Great for general homestead use.
- Great for small game hunting.
- Can be used defensively if needed (though far better options are certainly available).
It really goes without saying that a .22 rifle is an absolute necessity for your gun collection.
Survival Guns You Need
Now we can begin to talk about the specific makes and models of guns you need based on those calibers:
Semi-Automatic Pistols: Glock 19 (or a Reliable 9mm Pistol of Some Kind)
There are a plethora of reliable 9mm semi-automatic pistols out there for you to buy, so we can’t talk about each of them in detail. We can, however, outline some of the best models for you to consider.
As a golden rule, you will want your 9mm pistol to have a minimum of 12 rounds in the magazine. This is simply to reduce the amount of reloading you have to do should you have to defend yourself against multiple attackers. The exception here is if you live in a state that is limited to ten round magazines at the most.
Furthermore, you need a pistol that is completely reliable and has an acceptable trigger. Also, make sure your chosen pistol is ergonomic and fits well in your hands. You want something you’ll enjoy shooting and holding.
Something you will likely need to replace on your pistol are the sights as few production pistols ship with night sights and instead ship with your standard polymer three dot sights, which aren’t very durable.
Examples of pistols that meet all of the above criteria (except for the ergonomics part, because that’s a personal preference) include the following, in alphabetical order:
- Beretta APX
- Beretta M9/92FS
- Beretta PX4
- Canik TP9SA/SF
- Glock 17/19
- Heckler & Koch P30
- Heckler & Koch USP/USPC
- SIG Sauer P226/9
- SIG Sauer P320
- Smith & Wesson M&P9
- Smith & Wesson SD9
- Springfield XD9
- Taurus PT111 Millennium G2
- Taurus PT92
- Walther P99
- Walther PPQ
Out of those choices, many survivalists would claim that the Glock 19 is the best choice for more than one reason: it’s compact and easy to conceal, simple in operation, holds 15 rounds, is very reliable, and has lots of spare parts and accessories. It will also accept larger 17 or 33 round magazines for added firepower too.
But again, it comes down to what you like. Don’t get a Glock 19 just because someone told you to. Get a Glock 19 because you like it. And if you don’t, get one of those other options instead.
Revolvers: Ruger GP100
A .357 Magnum revolver with a four-inch barrel and stainless steel finish is quite a versatile, reliable, and easy-to-use handgun. Literally, anyone can pick it up and shoot it whereas a semi-automatic will require practice to learn the controls.
As with semi-autos, there are plenty of revolvers being produced today that fulfill the above criteria, but the GP100 from Ruger stands out among the rest of its biggest competitors for one reason: extreme durability.
The GP100 is built like a tank and was specifically designed by Ruger to fire an unlimited number of full-powered .357 Magnum loads without pause. In contrast to this, many competing revolvers such as those from Taurus or Smith & Wesson may need to cool down after a few cylinders. Otherwise, the cylinder timing could get messed up.
For an end-of-the-world revolver that can do literally anything and everything you ask of it, the GP100 should definitely be your top choice. 3-inch and 6-inch models are available as well, and Ruger has recently begun producing them with 7 shot cylinders rather than the standard 6.
Rifles: Ruger AR-556 and Ruger American Rifle
Not to be heavily biased in favor of Ruger here, but the AR-556 is one of the highest quality budget AR-15s available on the market. Routinely available in the $500 to $600 range, it’s a basic AR-15 that can have all of the normal AR accessories added onto it.
NOTE: Another excellent budget AR-15 would be the Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport II. Both are excellent.
You can spend more money on a nicer AR-15 if you want to. One example is the Colt LE6920, which is widely considered to be the industry standard for AR-15s. It’s routinely priced at above $900, and for just an ordinary citizen, you won’t notice much of a difference between it and the Ruger AR-556 or S&W M&P15.
And for a .308 rifle, the Ruger American rifle gives you a lot of gun for the money. Routinely available for around $400, it often ships with a Redfield scope and is also available in practically any other rifle caliber that you can possibly think of.
Another similarly priced and well-valued rifle is the Mossberg Patriot, which is available at the same price and ships with a Vortex scope in some deals.
If you do desire a higher quality rifle, meaning you would be willing to spend the money on something with a smoother bolt action and nicer finish, then the Remington 700, Ruger 77 Hawkeye, and Winchester M70 are all viable options. Just be aware that for each of those rifles with a good scope, you’ll be spending over a grand.
Finally, there are semi-automatic options for a .308 as well. Examples include the AR-10 and Springfield M1A. While you will definitely be spending over a thousand dollars for either of those two (especially for the M1A), having a semi-automatic in .308 could be highly desirable, especially for engaging enemies at longer distances.
Shotguns: Mossberg 500/590
For shotguns, the Mossberg 500 and 590 series take the cake. They are both widely popular with a limitless number of accessories, and the controls are more user-friendly than the competing Remington 870. The Mossberg utilizes an ambidextrous tang safety whereas the 870 is not ambidextrous for instance.
Another argument in favor of the Mossberg is the fact that it is the only pump action shotgun to pass the military’s torture test back in the 1980s. Mossberg 590A1 shotguns are still used by the military today.
If you truly want a do-it-all shotgun, the most versatile shotgun that you can possibly own, then go with a Mossberg 500 with a 5+1 capacity and buy two barrels for it: an 18.5 inch and a 28-inch barrel. The barrels on a Mossberg 500 are incredibly easy to swap out and can be done in less than thirty seconds once you get the process down.
A long barrel will be more suitable for hunting and clay pigeon shooting, while the short barrel is obviously the best option for home defense.
And why a pump action shotgun and not a semi-auto? Because semi-auto shotguns are more finicky and you have to pay a premium price for one that will run reliably, in most cases. A pump action Mossberg 500 or Remington 870, meanwhile, can be bought at a fraction of the price and will feed literally everything you give them.
.22 Rifle: Ruger 10/22
Yes, it’s another Ruger, but the 10/22 is one of the most customizable firearms on the planet and easily the most popular .22 rifle. It’s popular for a reason: it’s reliable and it’s dependable, not to mention accurate.
Standard magazine capacity is ten rounds, but 25 round and higher magazines are also available too. That’s a lot of firepower even if it’s only a .22.
Decent alternatives to the 10/22 include the Marlin Model 60 and the Smith & Wesson M&P15-22. The latter option is a good choice if you also own an AR-15, so your training will be virtually identical between the two weapons. And while the Marlin 60 is definitely a great rifle, it’s also tube fed, meaning you have to load the rounds individually and cannot do tactical reloads like you can with the 10/22 or M&P15-22.
So to summarize, your disaster preparedness arsenal consists of the following six survival guns based on the above suggestions:
1. Glock 19 9mm
With each of those guns, every single one of your needs for a firearm in a prepping situation is fulfilled, which is pretty cool.
But remember, you don’t have to follow the above list verbatim. Who says you can’t have a Walther PPQ instead of a Glock 19? Or a S&W 686 instead of a GP100? Or a Winchester Model 70 instead of a Ruger American? Or a Remington 870 instead of a Mossberg 500?
The point is to have the above categories and calibers of guns instead of those specific makes and models. Chances are good that if you’re reading this, you already have some guns in your closet or gun safe right now that fall into the above categories. And if so, then, by all means, there isn’t any real need to replace them.
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