Choosing your arsenal to support your SHTF planning is not easy. First, what's the best mix of calibers to meet various needs? What weapons are both high quality and simple to repair and maintain over time? What's the minimum number of weapons you need to be fully prepared? How many is too many? (Of course that's a silly question. You can never have too many guns.) What about accessories?
Your List Of Survival Guns
We here at Survivalist HQ are enormous fans of James Wesley, Rawles. His first book, How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It, is truly the best place to start your own long term survival preparedness preparations. It also adds a lot of value for seasoned preppers. We loosely follow Rawles' recommendations for a Survival Gun Battery, however we put a little more emphasis on the multi-purpose AR 15 style rifles.
First, figure out your needs. Start assigning calibers and deciding between rifles or pistols in each category.
Likely and Possible Needs
- Personal Protection
- Home Defense
- Small Game Hunting/ Pest Control
- Larger Game Hunting
- Marksmanship Practice
Best Readily Available Calibers
- 9mm or .45
- 12 Gauge
- .22 LR
- .308 or .30-06
- 5.56/.223 Remington
At a Minimum, Own These Guns
Personal Protection: A 9mm or .45 ACP Semi-Auto Pistol
9mm vs .45 is a bigger discussion outside the scope of this article, but essentially your choice here is whether or not to choose the smaller, lighter, and somewhat less expensive 9mm or the heavier, more powerful .45. If you live or plan to bug out to a rural environment where bears, feral dogs, or large cats are common you may want to choose the .45. If you're an apartment or suburban dweller planning to stay put then 9mm is likely adequate. A pistol chambered in .40 caliber or revolvers chambered in .357 Magnum or .38 Special are also okay, however most people choose to stick with 9mm or .45, making the ammunition easier to find and a more effective bartering currency. Popular, high quality choices in this category would be a .45 ACP 1911 variant or something in the Springfield XD family.
Small Game Hunting/ Pest Control: A Rifle Chambered in .22 LR
Small game is the likeliest source of meat we would rely upon in a short term survival situation. The Ruger 10/22 is a fantastic choice, and they now offer a takedown version. A scope is optional, but can help you humanely dispatch small game or pests at range.
.22 LR Semi-Auto Pistol
Except during weird ammunition shortages, .22 LR is inexpensive and fun to shoot. An accurate .22 pistol with a decent barrel length is a great way to keep up your marksmanship and can also serve to shoot small game or deter pests. The Ruger Mark II or III series and Browning Buckmark are both excellent weapons. Survivalist HQ member Jim own both.
While the Ruger feels great in your hand and has fantastic balance, the Buck Mark is much less finicky with what ammunition it prefers, and will pretty much eat anything you feed it. The Buck Mark is also infinitely easier to clean, and lends itself well to use with a pistol scope.
A Scoped Long Range Rifle
If you expect to do any big game hunting then you absolutely need a big game rifle. If there's even the remotest possibility that you'll bug out to a rural area it's strongly recommended you have one. Stick with the most common .308 Winchester or .30-06 calibers so that ammunition will be easy to find. The Winchester Model 70 or Remington Model 700 are both excellent rifles. They are simple to clean with readily available accessories and spare parts.
A Bird Hunting & Home Defense Shotgun
Whether to use a side-by-side, over/under, or pump action shotgun is another large debate among serious enthusiasts. For the sake of selecting a dual-purpose shotgun, the pump action offers some significant benefits. Specifically, popular pump action shotguns hold six rounds and make better home defense weapons. There are two main home defense shotguns on the market, the Mossberg 500 and the Remington 870. The nice thing about these is that interchangeable barrels are also widely available for convert them for bird and upland game hunting. We favor the Remington due to its larger variety of available accessories and better performance for hunting. An elegant and smart solution would be to purchase both the 18" home defense barrel and the 28" hunting barrel.
A Battle Rifle
One advantage to the AR style 5.56 or .223 Remington rifle is that, while it excels at its intended purpose (taking people out of a fight) it also does most other things well. Pro Tip: Of course the optimal scenario would be to have each type of rifle at hand at the time you need it, but if forced to travel by foot with only one gun, the AR-15 has some distinct advantages. In a pinch, you can use it for home defense, travel defense, and small to medium sized game hunting.
Buy a battle rifle chambered in 5.56, because you can shoot .223 safely through a 5.56, but you can't shoot 5.56 through a rifle chambered only for .223.
Putting It All Together
If starting from scratch, we recommend that you start with the personal protection category. Decide whether you prefer a 9mm or .45, preferably by visiting a local gun range and renting models that you'd consider purchasing. For most men (being larger) your concealed carry weapon can be the same gun as your main personal protection pistol.
Then, select an AR-15 to cover you in the categories of home defense, travel defense, and small.medium sized game hunting. Several great options are reviewed here on our site.
Next, beef up your inventory with both the .22 LR rifle and the .22 LR pistol. Stock up on ammunition when you can find it cheaply and use this to practice often.
After that, decide if you need a pump action shotgun that you can outfit with both a riot barrel and a hunting barrel. The AR-15 can act as your home defense rifle, but won't help you bag waterfowl or other birds very easily.
Lastly, figure out if you'll want a dedicated hunting rifle. Properly outfitted, the AR-15 can serve in this category, although not as well as a purpose built deer rifle. If you choose not to purchase a hunting rifle, it's strongly recommended that you procure some heavier AR-15 ammunition and perhaps a hunting barrel.
The Survival Arsenal: Next Steps
Reading, decision making, and online research are essential and valuable; we truly have resources at our fingertips that our grandparents coud never have dreamed of. But "analysis paralysis" must be avoided at all costs. Whether you decide to stick with only one pistol and one rifle or to outfit your arsenal for every possible contingency we urge you to start today. That AR-15 won't do you much good sitting in the store.