What Guns Do You Need When SHTF?

When it comes to weaponry and prepping, there’s a wide variety of opinions when it comes to which firearms you should stock in your arsenal.  Some believe that less is more, and others believe that you should be able to equip a small army in the event of a survival situation.  I tend to believe that you should build your collection however you want, but in terms of prepping, my advice is to have as many weapons as you’re comfortable with, but try to limit the number of calibers you stock, as it will be much easier to find ammunition should the SHTF.  What follows are my picks for the best survival weapons.

If You Can Only Have One

If you’re only going to have one firearm in your collection, make it a 12 gauge pump action shotgun.  Pumps are less likely to malfunction than an automatic model, and the 12 gauge platform allows for almost limitless customizations, accessories and ammo options.  This weapon makes for an excellent home defense platform, not to mention a diverse hunting gun, capable of taking down small birds, large deer and everything in between. The gun in the image above is the Mossberg 500, and it's our recommended gun for a bug-in scenario.


First off, here’s the unwritten rule of pistols in terms of survival situations.  Pistols should only be used to fight your way to your long guns in the event you don’t have it with you.  They’re compact and easily worn on a hip, but as a stand-alone self-defense weapon, I still don’t think they compare to a rifle or shotgun.

As far as semi-automatics go, stick with anything in .45 ACP and 9mm.  These two calibers represent some of the most prevalent and believe me when the SHTF ammo is gonna be tough to find.  The 45s will pack plenty of punch to stop assailants, and the 9s offer enough magazine capacity to get the same job done, albeit with a few more trigger squeezes.

I’d also recommend throwing in something in .22 Long Rifle, like a Ruger Mark III.  This little pistol makes an excellent small game hunting handgun, and I also like to wear it under the shoulder as a “mailbox gun.”  It’ll take some precision marksmanship to permanently stop an assailant, but it should be enough to buy you some time until you can get to your long gun.

My last pistol recommendation is a good combat revolver.  I would go with something in .357 magnum, because it packs a hell of a punch but it can also fire .38 specials if the user can’t take the kick of the bigger .357.  Plus, revolvers are far more reliable than automatics, so for someone that isn’t as comfortable clearing malfunctions, it’s an excellent choice.

Assault Rifles

Think of the assault rifle as the team captain of your survival arsenal.  It should be the staple of your kit.  Assault rifles are usually high capacity, high rate of fire weapons that can be customized to the user’s specifications.  Start with an AR-15 in .223, as it will represent one of the most common ammunitions you’ll be able to find, and if the situation is such that you can get your hands on abandoned military equipment, most accessories you’ll find will fit an AR-15.

Next, I’d look at picking up an M-1 style weapon in .308.  In a scout platform, the M-1A Scout is a great patrol rifle, and the higher caliber packs much more of a punch than an AR15, allowing you to “reach out and touch” much further, should the situation require such.  When mounted with optics, an M-14 is a fantastic hunting weapon, capable of taking down the largest game.

If you have smaller shooters in the group, you may consider something like a Ruger Mini-14 in .223.  It fires the same shells as an AR15, but it’s a little more compact and much easier to use.  It would make a great guard gun if you find yourself in a situation that requires sentries.

My last assault rifle recommendation is bound to raise some eyebrows, but I think an AK-47 has a solid place in an arsenal when prepping for SHTF as well.  The AK is chambered in .308, so it packs more of a punch than an AR15, and it’s the most popular platform in the world in terms of military rifles.  The other great thing about AK-47s is that they’re reliable as hell.  Drop it, kick it, bury it in the swamp for a week and when you dig it up and chamber a round it’ll be ready to rock and roll.

Hunting Rifles

Most of the weapons we’ve discussed so far can be used to take down big and small game alike, but the recommendations that follow were built first and foremost as hunting options.

Check out the Remington 700 in .308.  This gun is not only a fantastic big game hunting rifle but it also just happens to be the base for most US armed forces snipers today.  With the proper optics, you can make some seriously long distance shots with this weapon system.  Plus, in .308 you don’t have to carry extra ammo--it’ll fire the same round as your M-14 and AK-47.

If you’re looking for a smaller caliber hunting rifle for a SHTF scenario, I’d recommend the Ruger 10/22.  It’s been a favorite among small game hunters for 50 years.  I’d also consider a survival rifle in .22 caliber as well.  The Henry AR-7 can be broken down to a very compact package and stuffed in a bug out bag for emergency situations.

The last hunting weapon on the list is lever action carbine of some sort.  I know it’s old school, but if it was good enough for John Wayne it’ll be good enough for your survival situation.  The Henry Big Boy lever action in .357 makes for a great hunting weapon, capable of taking down large game at shorter distances, not to mention one hell of a deterrent to someone trying to take your property by force.

We’ve just scratched the surface in terms of weapons, and those are just personal preferences, but if you take two things from this article to heart, let it be these:  First off, try to stock as few calibers as you can.  It’ll make replenishing your ammo far easier.  Second, and most important, you have to practice.  Get to the range regularly and get comfortable with the weapons in your collection.  When SHTF, your life could very well depend on the gun you choose.