When the brown stuff hits the fan which gun would you grab if your survival depends on it? Making the right choice seems natural for some and many will argue that a .22 rifle or the AR-15 is the best survival gun out there. Unfortunately, things are never easy when one needs to pick the best survival gun available on the market. The choices you have are affected by multiple considerations.
Many survivalists recommend sticking with the survival gun you’re most familiar with. However, during survival scenarios, your weapon of choice may fail you. You may shoot well with your everyday carry, but things may change drastically if you have to kill a deer that is 100 yards away or more.
No matter how much you will argue about picking a single gun for your entire prepping plan, the truth is that no firearm is suited for all survival situations. Your AR-15 can be configured in an infinite number of ways. The parts are readily available and it offers more firepower. It has a higher capacity than other guns, but you can’t conceal it correctly if you think about it.
Before you make a choice and decide that a particular firearm is worthy of being the best survival gun for you, it’s better to look at the pros of cons of each type of firearms.
Pros: Highly concealable depending on the caliber and aren’t picky when it comes to ammo choices. The casings are not discarded and can be used for reloading, especially when ammo will be in short supply. There are hunting calibers available and the long barreled models can take down a target at longer distances
Cons: Generally slower to reload compared to other guns and this can become problematic during a crisis. Lower ammo capacity compared to other weapons.
Pros: Highly concealable and faster to reload than revolvers. A high number of customizations available and you can use high-capacity magazines.
Cons: Ammo choices can become problematic and long-range shooting is not the strong point of semi-auto pistols.
Rifles and carbines
Pros: Ideal for long-range shooting and provides more power even with moderate cartridges. Aiming and shooting are much more accurate with these types of guns. This is a much-needed luxury for long-term survival.
Cons: Unable to conceal it properly. Unable to carry it comfortably without attracting unwanted attention. Ammo is bulky and heavy to carry on you.
Pros: The perfect gun for close range, also known as the home invader’s nightmare. It has a devastating effect on the target although you can’t shoot accurately with it if you’re a novice. You can also use it for shooting small game and large game using the proper slugs.
Cons: Limited range compared to rifles and the ammo is bulky and heavy.
Now that you know the big picture about the pros and cons of each type of gun, we can move to the next factor. The survival scenario which settles the debate for the best survival gun, the one in which you will be forced to use your firearm.
Recommended article: 5 guns every prepper and survivalist should own
Best survival gun for various SHTF scenarios:
When forced to hunker down and defend your home and what’s yours, a shotgun would be the best survival gun for you. Another option would be a short, handy rifle that is easy to use and provides high capacity. Suggestions: Mossberg 500 Tactical Tri-Rail Forend, The Benelli M2 Tactical Winchester SXP Defender, Ruger Mini Thirty.
If you are forced to travel to get out of dodge, you will need a concealable handgun and a short rifle or shotgun that fits in your backpack without attracting unwanted attention. Suggestions: Smith & Wesson M&P .40, Springfield armory EMP, Bushmaster enhanced patrolman.
Surviving in the wild
If you plan on taking down big game, I suggest choosing a bolt-action rifle designed for long range. For small game, a .22 rifle and even a handgun will suffice. Suggestions: Steyr Scout Rifle, Leupold AR MOD 1 1.5-4X Firedot-G.
While the best choice for a long-term survival would be the AR-15, you should focus more on stockpiling parts, reload supplies and bullet molds for your gun. It doesn’t matter the type of rifle you chose as long as you are prepared to make it last for a long time and not use it as a club. Suggestions: MK47 Mutant, Ruger SR-762, Sig Sauer M400 SRP, Winchester Model 70, Remington 597.
If you need to defend camp and if the survival of other people depends on you, firepower is what you should go for. You need firearms that have an intimidating effect like assault rifles, the ones that provide high ammo and magazine compatibility. Suggestion: AKM 247-C, C39V2 SBR, PTR-32K PDW.
Related reading: How to form a survival group
One for the long range
Being forced to use a single gun is not ideal, but if it comes to that, you are better off sticking with a shotgun or medium bore carbine. These guns can be used by anyone with a little practice. Their versatility can handle all potential emergency situations. Suggestions: Ruger 10/22, Henry Arms AR-7, AR-30, M40A3, Winchester Model 70.
One for the short range
The type of firearm you chose for a short range shooting scenario depends significantly on your environment. If the concrete jungle is your action area, you are better off using a 9mm or .40 semi-auto pistol. In the countryside, where things are less intense you could rely on a .44 Magnum revolver. Suggestions: Beretta 92FS, Walther PPQ, Glock 17 Gen 4, Glock 22, Smith & Wesson M&P, Walther PPQ, Ruger GP100, Smith & Wesson Model 500.
Choosing the best survival gun for you prepping plan may seem complicated at first sight. However, the real challenge begins with you practicing and using the firearms you’ve chosen. There is no perfect weapon for a survival situation and undoubtedly, your choice may be different than the ones suggested in this article. Choosing the best survival gun is one of the longest, never dying debates among preppers and survivalists, but they all agree on one thing: never rely on one gun or one caliber.
Other Preparedness and Self-sufficiency Resources:
SPEC OPS Shooting (A Green Beret’s guide to combat and shooting and active shooter defense)
The LOST WAYS 2 (The vital self-sufficiency lessons our great grand-fathers left us)
Bullet Proof Home (Learn how to Safeguard your Home)
Drought USA (Secure unlimited fresh, clean water)
Survival MD (Knowledge to survive any crisis)
Blackout USA (EMP survival and preparedness guide)
8 thoughts on “Choosing the best survival gun for your prepping plans”
Good article, Dan, and I concur with your thinking for the most part. (Do any two shooters ever agree 100% when it comes to weapon types and calibers? LOL)
I have a few different firearms I use for sport shooting and hunting, as well as EDC.
But if it ever comes to a point where one has to bug out, I think a good all around SHTF combo to consider is a .357mag lever action rifle and a .357mag revolver.
Now they have their drawbacks, (reloading speed and interchangeability of parts to name two) and I concede that right off the bat; but they do offer a commonality of both weapons being able to use the same cartridge, as well as being able to use a secondary cartridge with the .38 special, so that finding ammo to resupply is a bit easier. This means you do not have to carry different types of ammo for your long gun and self-defense gun. The commonality of ammo also means you have more ammo available for both guns while reducing the weight in your pack.
(Just a note:The .44 Mag and .44 special also offer the same commonality in both a carbine and pistol, but I think most people have a harder time shooting a .44mag accurately then the .357mag.)
If someone in your group has smaller hands or a weaker grip, using a .38 special round vice the .357mag round also makes the .357mag weapon a better choice in my opinion. Also, for someone who is not well trained with firearms (though we should all strive to make our family so) – the revolver offers the surety of knowing that all they have to do is to pull the trigger and IF, for some reason, the round does not go off, pull the trigger again. No immediate action drill is required. While this level of training is not optimal, it is a truth that many spouses are not as on board with us as they could be when it comes to weapons training.
Now the .357mag Carbine and .357mag revolver do not reload as fast as magazine fed weapons, but one of the tricks of long term survival is not to get into drawn out gun battles where you have to drop magazines and reload quickly. Returning fire to make them duck down as you retreat is a good proven strategy.
For hunting, the .357mag lever action carbine gives you plenty of knock down power to take up to a deer sized animal. The extra barrel length of the carbine will give the .357mag a bit more velocity than when it is fired out of the pistol as well as much greater accuracy at longer ranges. I’ve gotten kills at about 100 yards, which is about as far as one can see in most wooded terrain anyway.
If you’re worried about 2-legged predators, outside of a complete WROL scenario, shooting someone at 100 yards would take a lot of explaining to the local authorities anyway. Up close, a .357mag is plenty sufficient to stop a bad guy.
Also, using a .357mag or any caliber “wheel gun” for that matter, can also give you the ability to select your ammo for your situation. As an example, a friend I know used to carry a wheel gun when riding his horse in the field and would load 2 rounds of “dum dum” bullets for knock down, two rounds of “snake shot” (in the event him and his horse encountered that type of problem), and two rounds of “penetrator” ammo in the event he needed to “shoot through” something (his words not mine). In each case, he would simply “dial up” the rounds he wanted to use prior to firing and shoot. Of course he was doing that during “normal’ times when one has the luxury to simply ride through the woods not worrying about bad guys.
Like I said, I have several weapons in several calibers including .45, .40, 9mm, .380, .556, .300winmag and more. But the two weapons I have set aside if I ever had to bug out on foot are my .357mag pistol on my hip, the .357mag carbine on the side of my pack with 400 rounds of .357mag and 100 rounds of .38spl in my pack. BTW – I also carry a back up gun in the same caliber as well.
I know that is not of lot of ammo when leaving home behind, but if I have to bug out, I plan on bugging out to survive, not to get into firefights.
I hope this might give someone some “food for thought” with their bugout plans.
Major Dad – USMC Veteran.
I would like to find a 10 rd. clip for BAR as in posted picture.
There are a lot of experienced shooters who would argue vehemently against a shotgun as the ‘best’ weapon for home defense. First, standard shotguns (think bird hunting) have long barrels. Second, the capacity of most shotguns is limited to five rounds or less. Third, if you have a pump action, it is virtually impossible to chamber another round with only one hand. Fourth, reloading a shotgun is cumbersome and time consuming. Of course, you could ask your assailant to take a break while you reload. Good luck with that.
By the way, you forgot to mention the venerable M-1 style .30 caliber carbine. It’s magazine capacity, choice of bullet types, light weight, light recoil and overall simplicity gives it multiple roles in a survival situation.
Based on your article, anyone who plans to still be standing at the end of a survival situation needs eight or nine (or more?) firearms/calibers.
I would say you need to own 5 firearms and be capable of transporting them with you for as long as possible.
1 semi auto pistol (high capacity easy to carry/conceal)
1 shotgun 18″ barrel, assortment of ammo for different requirements
1 High capacity carbine capable of utilizing 30 round magazines. I’m an AK guy. but obviously an AR platform is equally suited.
1 accurate small caliber rifle, 22 is the obvious choice
1 bolt action Hard hitting long range rifle Mosin nagant, 300 winmag, 308 etc.
To me that covers most bases and with a little creativity and compromise can be acquired within a reasonable budget.
Obviously you can’t go running out the door with 5 firearms and related ammo but if you are truly prepared you shouldn’t have to.
Great info thanks,
Would like some comments on the Glock 17 and kel-tec sub2k in 9mm . . . seems like a no brainer??
One weapon that no one ever mentions is available in a couple of makes and calibers. One is the Rossi Ranch Hand and the other is the Henry Mares Leg. They come in multiple pistol calibers. I have the Ranch Hand chambered in .45 Colt. It is good for short range and for longer range. Most of the calibers will take down deer and other small to medium sized game and, when necessary, two legged game. I’m not sure about the ammo capacity of the Henry, but the Rossi holds 6+1 and reloads ‘fairly’ quickly with practice. Both weapons fit easily into most full-sized backpacks, although both are a bit heavy when added to the rest of your gear. There are oversized holsters for both and I’ve even seen special back holsters for both models. My choice is actually three weapons: my Henry 30-30, Rossi Ranch Hand, and my Taurus Millennium G2 in 9mm.
While I appreciate the authors work, I have to say that naming weapon makes and models is akin to starting an argument over religion. It will definitely start a discussion!
Like anything else, it is evident everyone has their own idea of the best gun for long term survival! I have four guns for my wife and I to carry to my bug out location. We each have a Stainless revolver a 22 mag for her and a 357 for me. A rifled 21 inch barrel brushed chrome 12 gauge 6 in the tube composite stock pump shotgun. A Nikon scoped 22 mag bolt action rifle composite stock. I have re bulleted a 1000 rounds of cheap 22 mag ammo with 55 g boat tail bullets and Hornady power that I get 2,150 FT PER SEC at the muzzle with this heavier bullet. At less than 150 yards it will bring down a deer. Also the shotgun will do double duty for deer or small game with cupped shot shells. The revolvers are for camp defence. I can carry much more 22 mag ammo than shotgun shells and 357 mag rounds so the 22 mag will be for the long haul. My pack has 1000 55 g and 4000 40 g ammo. 500 rounds 357 mag rounds My wifes pack has 500 rounds 12 gauge shells and 1000 22 mag ammo. Food, first aid , a change of cloths, lighters, flints and a sleeping bag is in each pack. The rest if buried at our bug out location.