Prepper Guns: Your weapon of choice when the SHTF

Prepper Guns

Your weapon of choice could mean the difference between life and death when the shit hits the fan. Having the ability to protect yourself and put food on the table whether it’s the next hurricane Katrina, terrorist strike, or zombie apocalypse, is one of the most important considerations for any survivalist.

Whether you’re new to survival or are a seasoned prepping expert, you may not know what to look for in a survival gun. The best firearms for survival have the capability to serve multiple purposes, so try to keep that in mind going forward.

When looking at the best survival guns for when SHTF, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. First, your guns need to be low maintenance with the ability to run dirty if necessary. If I have to clean my gun after each use, it’s not worthy for my survival stash.

Second, how popular is the ammunition? Owning guns in popular cartridges is an important aspect to consider. If you can’t find ammo for it, it’ll be useless for you. It’s really only necessary to have so many survival guns, because you’ll only fit so many in you bug out bag. If none of them are in the calibers we’re about to discuss, chances are good that you may find yourself up that paddless creek.

Finally, what is the purpose of the gun? Each survival firearm you have should serve you in some way. Is it good for hunting? Home protection? Patrolling? All three? You need to have a solid understanding of this, going forward.

We’ve broken this short list of the best survival guns down into main caliber categories, with a few sub-categories where actual guns are listed. I do feel like I need to say that you don’t need to run out and buy all of these, but one or two of them should suffice. Then again, buying all of them sounds like a good idea, too.

Also, this is a list of suggestions. You may substitute as you feel necessary. Here are some of the best survival guns on the market:


The .22 Long Rifle is one of, if not the most, abundant cartridges in these United States. Why? Because everyone and their uncle owns one. And, chances are already good that you own at least one firearm chambered in this fun to shoot caliber, too.

Make no mistake about it, the .22 is nothing to sneeze at and is more capable than you might realize.

A good friend of mine put a deer down with a well-placed shot from a Ruger 10/22 rifle. While not ideal to hunt big game or in self-defense, the guns chambered in .22 will suffice if it is what you have. Furthermore, they are excellent for taking small game, and the ammo is insanely easy to stockpile, even at inflated prices like we’ve been seeing in past years.

I have also listed a gun chambered in .22 Magnum, as well, hopefully for obvious reasons. While .22 WMR is harder to find because it isn’t as popular, it has its own unique benefits, which is why I chose to include it, here.

Ruger 10/22 —

This is currently one of the most abundant .22 rifles out there, and with good reason. It’s accurate, easy to shoot, inexpensive, and even comes in a model that breaks down into a backpack. This rifle is a great pick for teaching younger shooters how to plink around, learn the mechanics of shooting, and build confidence.

Henry Lever Action —

It doesn’t get any more basic than a lever action firearm. And, one chambered in .22LR is perfect for many applications. Once again, this is a good firearm for teaching a newer shooter the basic mechanics, and building confidence. In fact, my 9-year-old girl has one in our gun safe that she’s currently learning on right now.

Ruger SP101 —

A lot of people automatically allow their minds to drift to the rifle platform when thinking of the .22LR cartridge. There is so much more to it than that, though. One platform that comes to my mind, is a .22 revolver. These, once again, are great for teaching mechanics to newer shooters in your prepping community, and are also fine for taking smaller game at shorter distances. These revolvers have an 8-round capacity, so that leaves a lot to be desired when compared with the next gun on the list …

Kel Tec PMR 30 —

I suspect some of you to be rolling your eyes right now, thinking, how does this guy include a Kel Tec with the likes of Henry and Ruger? It’s simple, really. When was the last time you held a factory 30-round handgun? Another thing you have to remember, is that sometimes you need a shorter gun that’s easily maneuvered through the house, by someone who is recoil sensitive. The .22 Magnum chambered PMR 30 is great for people newer to shooting who still want protection, or those who are unable to handle the recoil of a bigger cartridge. Oh, and they’ve got 30 rounds to put holes into bad guys with, and target re-acquisition is easy as hell with this one.


Firing a Handgun

Moving on to 9mm, if for no other reason than the abundance of the cartridge. Think about it–some police units use it, the military use it, and the FBI just switched to it. 9mm is also one of the most carried cartridges available today. Therefore, if you don’t have at least one gun in 9mm, you need to. It’s also cheap enough to stock up on, so you’ve got some for when it counts.

Glock, Springfield, and Sig … Oh my!

If you weren’t sure by the cheesy throwback to the Wizard Of Oz in the subheading above, all it’s saying is that it doesn’t really matter what kind of 9mm pistol you have, as long as you have one. Oh, it should also be reliable and not need to be insanely clean all the time.

As a side note, I don’t own a gun unless it runs dirty. After all, I may not always have access to gun cleaning gear, but will always need my guns to work flawlessly in case I need to use them.

Beretta CX4 Storm —

One thing that many people don’t think of the 9mm as is a hunting cartridge. Well, that’s likely because it isn’t actually a hunting caliber. But, a 9mm carbine can be used in a pinch if you’re starving. Oh, they’re also great tactical weapons, and the longer barrel does a good job of pushing an already fast-moving projectile even faster. Good for home-defense and patrols–and okay for hunting up to medium sized game with a well-placed shot, even though there will be associated meat damage.


The 5.56 NATO cartridge has come under a lot of scrutiny over the last few years. After the latest wars, many have said it’s insufficient to stop a charging man. As someone who was an active duty Marine for 4 years, I’m still forming my opinion. One thing I can say, however, is that ammunition will be abundant, and is relatively cheap. Plus, the rifles are easily cared for, accurate, and don’t beat the hell out of your shoulder.

AR-15 —

I feel like this should be a no-brainer at this point. If you don’t have at least one AR-15 style firearm you’re behind the curve. The main idea, is that these are popular firearms so if yours breaks, you can find parts to fix it, or locate a different one altogether. Plus, ammunition is widely available for it, because police and military use 5.56 NATO rifle cartridges, and so do most gun owners. As a bonus, an AR-15 can be used for patrols, self-defense, home-defense, and hunting. This is one of the most versatile weapons you can ever own. As a bonus, they can be highly customized to your heart’s content.


When SHTF, one of the most abundant rifle cartridges will be 7.62X39, simply because of how cheap it currently is, and the AK’s recent spike in popularity. As a bonus, it’s a hard-hitting rifle cartridge that you can hunt with, do patrols, home-defense, etc.


The AK, or Automatic Kalashnikov, or Avtomat Kalashnikova, are abundant, suitable for hunting out to 50-75 yards, and are easy to fix in the rare occurrence one breaks. As an added bonus, they field-strip easily and can be dropped in the mud with the ability to still fire because of how they’re built.


This is a personal pick for me, because I like roller lock, delayed blowback firearms. The one I’ve got is actually a braced pistol, and it is accurate out to 150 yards. As a bonus, I’ve never had a malfunction with it in almost two years of abuse. As a downside, finding parts for something like this would not be easy to do, so keep that in mind.

12 Gauge:

Shotgun Shells

A 12 gauge is great for just about anything you can think of. I own several: one for home defense, one for hunting, and a few for giggles … hehe. Anyway, the 12 gauge is a versatile weapon because they can shoot many different kinds of ammunition from bird and target shot, up to buck and slug. As a bonus, you can literally pick up a used Mossy 500 for about 300 bucks. Not too shabby.

Mossberg 500 or Remington 870–

Both of these are great choices, but I wouldn’t discount a pump or semi-auto 12 gauge from any known manufacturer.


I wanted to include a bonus, simply because of its versatility to shoot more than one type of cartridge, that is semi-popular among revolver enthusiasts. The .357 magnum revolver can shoot both .38 SPC and .357 Magnum. Both cartridges are fairly popular, and many gun owners own some ammo for one of them. They can be used for hunting and defense, but the ammo and guns can be expensive.

S&W 686–

These revolvers come in different sizes and barrel lengths, and one or two of them even come with a 7-round capacity. And hey, the ability to send more rounds downrange is always a good thing, in my opinion. These can be expensive, though, so keep that in mind.

Henry Big Boy–

I’ve got one of these, in brass, and it’s a blast to shoot. It’s a lever action rifle capable of shooting .38 or .357, and can be used for hunting and just about anything else you feel like. The one I’ve got is accurate at 100 yards, though the shiny receiver isn’t likely the best for survival situations where you need to stay hidden. To combat this, they do offer steel ones, as well.


The best gun is always the one you have. Even if you don’t own a single gun from this list, but you’ve got something, you’re already ahead of those who don’t. Preparing is more than just stockpiling food. You also need to be able to protect it, and have the ability to bring more food home, as well. If you didn’t know where to start, this list of the best survival guns should hopefully help you on your journey to be more prepared.

Author Josh Gillem
About Josh Gillem
Josh is a lifelong practitioner and student of the gun. He grew up shooting/hunting with his dad, and was given his first gun, a 12 gauge shotgun, when just a small boy. After high school, he joined the Marines where his love for firearms blossomed as he qualified with an M16A2, an M9, and a 240G. Josh has been writing about firearms and tactics for several years, is a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, and believes that each individual person has the right to self-defense by any means necessary.
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  1. I agree with the AR/M16 platform, most parts are interchangeable, and you can salvage what you need from dead soldiers in a SHTF scenario.. or take the 3 round/ FA M16/M4 and keep the ar for spare parts for SHTF.

    however for long range AND CQC, I like the Tavor, fires 5.56, has barrel options for 9, and is a bullpup, so everything is drawn in, and the kick is also almost non-existant.

    • there’s no .22lr conversion unit for the travor, as there is for the AR-15.probably no luminous sights, and the triggerpulls of bullpups always suck and cant really be fixed, cause you have such a long operating rod to the trigger, requiring a stiff trigger return spring to drive that rod. The Travor is ridiculously expensive, too.

  2. This should be a no-brainer, but if this info is new to you, please seriously consider its data! And if you think guns are only for military, you will be one of first to perish in a SHTF scenario. Lethal force is both personal & individual.
    That requires the constitution to take the life of another human being, which requires all of the following: knowledge, skill, ability & the ramifications of results after pulling the trigger, IE: Can you live with the fact that you may be taking the life of another that was just trying to feed their family & was acting in a manner of desperation that would not be experienced in an everyday situation. IE: Was that chicken REALLY WORTH taking the life of another human being (if you have dozens)? Maybe? Maybe not? A little charity, goes a long way.
    But the “individuals'” right to keep & bear arms, shall NOT be INFRINGED! “They can take my gun from my cold, dead hands!” – Charleton Heston – 1998 or ’99 NRA Annual meeting, Denver, CO.

    • no trespassing and no sharing means just that, a little charity can go a logn way yes, but it can also very easily come back to bite you in the ass, he tells buddies ” hey that guy gave me his chicken!, he’s an easy target” and suddenly half the population is coming for chickens.

      you may not have to kill him, so make a choice of 1st response ammo to such occassions in which case 22 would be severe wounding shots with less likely chance to be lethal, broad head arrows would work as well.

      only play diplomacy when it benefits your party or both parties, never the other party.

      • you’re an idiot. any deep penetrating wound is fatal without modern med care. Especially with broad head arrows, unless you are dumb enough to blunt their edges. Sorry, they could and should have prepped when they had the chance to do so. You DO have to kill him and you need to do so QUIETLY. You want a shorty AR-15 in 223, with a silencer and .22lr conversion unit.

  3. Great article Josh. I’ve had some sort of rifle in my hands since I was four years old. Living on a grain farm rodents were prolific. My father said, “Take this here bb rifle and go fourth and kill thy rat.” It was not long until my brother and I progressed to the .22 and the 410. If you threw an apple in the air it was a contest who could hit it first with a .22 rifle; either my brother or would win, but one of us always did hit it while midair. Start your children young!
    PS: Don’t shoot in the air with a rifle theses days. Back then it was wide open space and did not pose a danger.

    • it’s still not a danger with a .22. you wont hit it at more than 45 degrees from vertical, and at such angles, the bullet wont travel more than 1/4 mile and it wont have any more harm potential than a BB when it falls. Just be where you can SEE what’s what at 1/4 mile in that general direction and there’s nothing to worry about. It’s much much easier to learn this today, with visible in flight airsoft pellets.

  4. I have a Mossberg MVP bolt action 308 16.5 barrel with 10rds mag. It also takes an AR 10 or M14 mags.Just weigh over
    7 lbs.This is my perimeter rifle. My Marlin 336 lever action is
    my 100 meter deterrent. My Colt Gold Cup-45 and Remington 870 and Anatolian Great Pyrennese & West Germany German Shepherd are my escorts around the compound in the Texas Hill Country.

    • yeah, and nothing at all will prevent somebody from slipping up within 300m during the night and sniping you the next day. there wont be any patroling, or you’ll get shot. There wont be anything during daylight hours other than hiding. There can’t be any fires during daylight, no noise, no fire at night unless it’s down in a discrete, Dakota fire pit.

  5. I recently promised to give each of my adult kids one of my 9mms and told them that they could each have a gun of their choice when the following conditions were satisfied:
    1. They each had to take a gun safety course (a 3-day course given by a local firearms instructor which I agreed to pay for);
    2. They each had to make at least 10 trips to the range to shoot the gun of their choice; and
    3. They each had to keep their gun in a gun safe (which I would pay for) so that their gun could not inadvertently fall into the hands of a child or other person that shouldn’t be messing with it.

    If they don’t like my terms they can always buy their own gun but a free Sig or Beretta is pretty tempting. I’ll wait and see what happens.

  6. He left out the 308. The scar 17 is the best all around rifle in my opinion being I also served in the military as a mp and special reaction team. The 308 will penetrate dam near anything great for hunting one shot one kill and is a very common round also.

  7. My choice is Remington 870 shotgun. It has awesome stopping power, you can use it for both hunting and home defense. And you can easily make your own ammo at home.

    • lets see you make primers, wads and powder. That’s a ridiculous claim. The 12 ga shells are 10 to the lb, you can’t put an efficient silencer for it and it’s not worth a hoot beyond 30m on cover using men. It can’t pierce soft armor, nobody practices nearly enough with $1 per shot slugs to be any good with them (from eiher shoulder, around cover). You can’t conceal it in your pack, even with taken down .You can’t use it waf from prone, or with just one arm. There’s no night sights for it, it doesn’t even have a flashhider. At night, the flash from it will ruin your night-adapted vision for several minutes. There’s zero need to hit birds in the air. Ive taken 100’s of birds with a .22lr rifle and scores with the .22lr pistol, too. you can trap small game and net fish. Walking around in daylight, post shtf, will get you shot. especially if you make noise and especially if that noise is easily identified as being from anyone so stupd as to be a shotgun-wielder All they have to do is use cover, fire from 50m and you’ll be helpless.

  8. Excellent discussion board Gentlemen. As a former U. S. Marine Corps officer- Viet Nam and the again Commissioned as a Lieutenant Commander later on I have been in many theatres I e . Fed Dept of Justice- detached to the B. O. P. Graduated top of my class at F L E T C USCG, worked in high risk interdiction units, with the U. S Navy and as we all know many T D Y ‘s. and detached too many times to count. These weapons which were depicted in the discussions are all fine but, it is also dependent upon the skill set of the user and their ability to field strip the weapon easily. I agree a Dirty weapon is at times the only option if one is moving fast or in a skirmish or fire fight. Also remember Anti biotics+ field dressings and Trauma bandages and most importantly Alcohol ( the rubbing kind Isoprophyl ) as well as Food is essential . A survival pocket boolklet, A fire striker with. A magnesium is essential . Always have Plenty of ammo and above all” keep your Wits about you” as panic and stress spikes causing faulty thinking erratic behaviors. We know that hydration is paramount! No water. GAME OVER.!:( !! I agree with the Very limited sharing. Too much then you are a target. Be selective, keep friends family in tight circles. Move as a unit. Stay away from political discussions which are Divisive. Keep your eyes on the ball the super ordinate goal is to survive.! Lastly Shelter and the other well known Basic things you know already. Protect your families, your property and this great Republic. Semper Fi. Commander. Dr.” Bob” Matthews. Former. U. S. M. C spec. Op’s etc

  9. I agree on the AR-15 platform,and any quality 9mm,but they are not for me,I’m not to the liking of either(5.56/223 or 9mm cartridge)That’s Just me.I personally don’t believe one should by a firearm based on the availability of the cartridge,obviously both very popular,especially the AR-when it comes to parts,That’s already limiting yourself on availability.For me(I agree 100% on the PTR in my case a 91model(18-inch)barrel.And an M1A1(Scout)to me 308/7.62×51 are REAL CALIBERS.And I prefer the 45 ACP.A 1911(COLT)is there any other.A Glock(30)and a Ruger Redhawk-Actually chambered in 45 Colt,But will accept 45acp with moon clips.And 12-gauge shotgun’s,obviously more than 1 in each category for me and my wife.

    • i’d like to see you CARRY all that, even without the 30+ lbs of food, water, armor, night vision, sleep/shelter gear, etc, and enough ammo to make them all worth having. Where will you get the crystal ball that tells you when you wont need the range of the rifle, the silencer and subsonic ammo, the concealment in the backpack, While ideal in ONE situation, those other choice s are terrible for the other situations that you’ll face if shtf. making noise will get you killed. Being out and about in daylight will get you killed. You wont need spare parts. There will be so many people dead, in short order, that you’ll be able to pick up lots of entire guns and you wont survive needing to fire 200 rds of centerfire ammo the first year of shtf, or 50 rds per year afterward. the animals will all be gone in a couple of months. In 6 months, 90% of the population will be dead, in a year 99 %, in 2 years, 99.5$, cause there’s not enough non-hybrid seed to feed more and the gasoline will all become varnish by then. With no fertilizer, no insecticides, no herbicides, and constant threat of being shot by marauders, nobody’s going to be producing more crops then they need to get by for themselves. A single action revolver is a joke and so is the very heavy ammo for .45 and 308


    • yes, there is, and it’s almost all negative. Why the hell would you want to limit yourself to 150m of effective range by using a pistol caliber carbine? why would you want to give up the .22lr conversion unit of the AR-15a. Unless you settle for the relatively week 9mm, you give up GI ammo use. If you go with the 9mm, you give up the ability to pierce soft armor

  11. you can’t carry the kitchen sink. You’ll have to be carrying at LEAST 30 lbs of other vital gear, to include night vision, concealed armor, food, water, etc. So the guns and ammo has to be held to 15 lbs, or you’ll just get hurt trying to lug it around. There will be no safe base to leave anything. If you leave it, expect to find it gone when you return, cause it will be! You can’t be out and about in daylight. If you do that, you’ll get shot. Ditto if you make noise.

  12. you’ll have to have caches and one or more spiderhole-tunnels. The vietcong lived that way for 30 years. We were dropping 500 lb bombs on them for 5 of those years, so they have to have 20 ft of dirt over their heads. you only need a foot of dirt and only need to be down there during daylight hours for a year. That’s nothing by comparison. With night vision, a silenced auto rifle, etc, having brains enough to stay hidden during daylight hours will make you at LEAST 10x more likely to make it than anyone who’s above ground during daylight hours. Especially if they have a structure, make noise, send up smoke, leave tracks in the snow, move around much.

  13. I think it’s silly to have guns for this or that, besides survival/defense. I can shoot matches, plink, train novices and hunt with my fighting guns. But you can’t fight (waf) with guns intended for matches, hunting, plinking, etc. The time and money should be spent on the guns that have the potential of saving your butt. If you’re going to be deficient in some category, let it be in the matches and the hunting, not in the fighting department! I only own 4 guns. A shorty AR, a micro 9mm, a silenced M21 Beretta .22lr pocket gun, and a 9mm belt gun that handles the practice fouling and wear, keeping it off of the actual carry gun. If I can’t handle a given problem with one of those 4, it doesn’t need to be handled (with a gun)

  14. my wife owns 2 guns, a silenced shorty Papoose Marlin 22lr auto rifle and a .32 Keltec, for when she’s jogging.and it’s too hot to carry the belt 9mm. She’s so petite that even the shorty AR is a bit much for her to carry all day.

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