Buy Guns Based on Needs Not Wants

Prepper survivalists tend to be gun people.  That in and of itself is fine, because one of the major best_survival_shtf_gun_rifleconcerns during any big time SHTF is defense against outside threats.  Self-defense and protection are huge components to maintaining safety of person, family, property, and survival supply stocks.  But how many guns does that take?  Use deliberate planning to keep from going overboard.

Survival Budget Priorities

Very often survival budgets are hard to come by.  Spending on essential life sustaining supplies should come first.  Every prepper needs to seriously sit down to figure out what little bit of discretionary income can be spent on prepping needs.  Often the needs list is far longer than the cash deposits can handle.  That is why they call it budgeting.  It cannot all be done at once, at least for the majority of average preppers anyway.

Preppers should regularly compare the prepping gear and supply lists with what funds are available each month.  Try to make smart decisions first until essentials are covered.  Once you have a good stock of food, water, medical, and other important life stuff, then you can turn to some other issues.

Related: 10 Bug Out Bag Essentials

The tough part is that self-defense is not just “another issue.”  What if a SHTF were to hit tomorrow and you’re not ready.  What if virtually overnight, roving bands of nary-do-wells were up and down the streets looking for easy prey?  You have to be ready for such from the get go, often even if your needs list is far from being fulfilled.  You simply have to be prepared to protect yourself and family.  But what is the minimum to get that done?

Self-Defense Essentials

This is probably not the time or place for a complete dissertation on a self-defense prepping arsenal.  best_shtf_rifle_gunWhen you have a little bit of slow time you can research all the information you can handle on prepping guns, ammo plus related gear and supplies.  The deal here initially is to stick with the very basics to provide ample coverage for a comprehensive armed security plan for a Bug In or Out scenario.  You can always add depth and redundancy later.

Likely you have read much about recommended four weapon sets to provide decent coverage for self-defense of person and property especially during a SHTF in addition to some survival meat gathering as well.  It would be easy enough to pare this down to just three, because during a dire SHTF event, you are not likely going to be outside potting for small game with a rimfire rifle, so skip that one tool for now.   If you are at a rural Bug Out location, then the .22 rimfire can be easily added back.

So the bare bones prepper survival weapons choices should be boiled down to three essential guns.  This should include at least one each of a good defensive handgun of choice, a shotgun, and a defensive rifle.  The choices here are limitless, but make these decisions wisely to provide firearms you and your team are comfortable and confident in using for self-defense.

Forget the Chrome

Survival firearms certainly don’t need to be flashy for purely tactical reasons.  For purposes here though survival_rifle_best_optionswe are talking about those “want” guns.  For basic and essential prepper defense weapons generally stay away from collector type guns, specialty firearms, limited editions, or complicated models.  You want to go basic right out of the gate.

Sure that 1885 single shot Winchester in 38-55 is a handsome rifle and great for nostalgic hunting, but it is not a good choice for defensive work.  Same for that Browning Citori over and under.  It’s a fantastic bird gun for quail, grouse, or pheasant, but it is not the best choice to fend off zombies kicking at the front door.  Again, save your money for now and let that nickel Colt Single Action Army in 44-40 go.  You get the point.

Heck knows there are plenty of “I really want that gun” choices out there.  Just walk through a big gun show one weekend.  However, preppers need to remain focused on taking care of business before pleasure.  If the gun gods smile later, maybe that Colt will come along.

A Decent Three Gun Set

If you are looking for some suggestions or parameters to fill a 3-gun check off list, we can do that.  For a handgun, if you want a revolver, pick a good quality 6-shot, .357 Magnum that can also shoot .38 Specials.  If you opt for a semi-auto, then go with a universal 9mm, or if you can handle more, a .45 ACP or 10mm.  Just choose a quality brand, proven model for reliability.

For a shotgun, look first at a 12-gauge pump action.  Ideally it would either be a factory configured combat/tactical model with extended magazine, or a gun that can be built up that way with accessories.  My own choice is the legendary Remington 870.  I have nothing against a semi-auto shotgun so long as it is a proven model like a Remington 11-87.  Stay clear of exotic shotguns.  If you happen to be recoil sensitive, go to the 20-gauge, but realize the reduced power and range by doing so.

Related: AR:7 Survival Rifle Review

For a defensive rifle, the primary choice is an AR-15 platform in a proven model and brand, not the lowest growing fruit on the tree.  Outfit it with a high quality CQC optic or an electronic holographic or red dot for relatively close range work.  The .223/5.56 is universal, and the AR platform allows for endless accessorizing by choice.

I would not frown at somebody picking an AK-47 in 7.62×39.  It’s proven, its reliability well known and ammo is widely available as well.  It is more difficult to scope, but is effective with its open sights.  For my own reasons, the Chinese SKS is not a choice.  Some who want or can handle more power, then move up to an AR-10 or similar format in .308/7.62.  Personally, I would hold off on the .308 as a Tier 2 firearm to obtain later.

So, there you have the short story.  When building a prepper survival cache of weapons, stick with the simple, basic stuff that works every time you use it.  Learn these firearms well, practice often, and know how to maintain them.  Stock up on ammo.  If or when the time comes, you will be prepared and that is why you decided to become a prepper.

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17 comments… add one
  • Patrick September 18, 2017, 11:16 am

    Another good option to go with a revolver would be a lever gun in the same caliber. You know what they say, 2 is 1.

    • vocalpatriot January 13, 2018, 10:45 pm

      2 is 1? sounds like common core math..or history…lol

  • TPSnodgrass September 18, 2017, 5:18 pm

    I decided to acquire an “attractive price point” small 9mm pistol. Biggest piece of trash ever. I’ll stick with my ride and true quality firearms, you do get what you pay for.
    Those firearms may have their place, but never again in my safe.

    • headhunter June 12, 2019, 3:04 pm

      I don’t know what you purchased. Perhaps ,it isn’t as bad as you think. Semi-autos rely on the barrel, the slide, or the bolt moving. A Ruger semi-auto .22 has enough inertia (mass) so even if it is not held securely it works. On the other hand I have a small Walther pistol that if not held securely it will not function. The dang thing was not cheap. It is well made and really quite accurate. It will not work if I don’t clamp down on it. Me, i, must supply the inertia so that the spring inside the slide can work. Good luck. d

  • Roger September 18, 2017, 7:08 pm

    Very good article, though some of my personal preferences are different than yours. 12 ga. pump: (plus inserts) nailed it, .357 pistol: nailed it! I would reach for a .308 or larger bolt-action rifle before an AR mainly because the shotgun and pistol have the short range covered and the greater the distance that I can engage a target the better! Spray and pray is also known as wasting ammo! Concerning the .22LR pistol, if you add a silencer, than I would consider it essential for certain ‘wet work’! One of the main concerns is that your chosen weapons are common calibers! GLAHP!

  • Kat September 19, 2017, 4:22 am

    I have food stores, medical measures in place for at least 2 years but being a canuck I don’t have access to arms like those in the USA… I have a aluminum bat and 2 crossbows…. I have the ultimate hide a way but if migration happens my way (although unlikely being north of any central center) I will be forced to get out whatever security I have…. how do I get more? As in bullet holding without having a license to be able to have arms? Sometimes being a Canadian sucks!

  • Flintlock September 19, 2017, 10:03 pm

    Do NOT denigrate the universal .22 or ‘boy’s’ rifle!
    It is to be considered like ‘furniture’ for any household rather than “firearm” per se.
    When SHTF:
    Are Lights a problem at night with hostiles lurking? It turns them off-permanently.
    ‘Something or someone’ lurking in the bushes with hostile intent? Bang–save costly ammunition.
    It’s backup for your ‘big three’–even children can use them very effectively.
    CHEAP–especially when acquired at ‘garage sales’–hint, hint.
    NOBODY (ESPECIALLY after SHTF) wants to be hit by one. ANY solid hit with the standard .22 will be lethal without prompt MODERN medical care (which most likely will NOT be available)–so the mere threat post-SHTF will be substantial.

    For those unfamiliar with firearms it is the cheapest possible practice/training weapon there is–range time is NEVER wasted. You simply cannot shoot too much.
    In my book, a good .22 rifle (or five, or six) and an armload of ammo should be one’s VERY FIRST SHTF gun purchase.
    Get one, use it–then figure out what else you will need. (AFTER the .22!!!!)

    • alfred uhrich October 7, 2017, 9:37 pm

      Just another comment ( or 2 ) about the lowly .22. My dad shot our cattle dog at a 1/4 mi with .22, just to scare it ( it died 3 days later ). I worked for a period of time in a packing house stockyards and one of the jobs that i had to do was put down crippled and sick animals. two of my tools were a .22 single shot handgun and rifle. We /I tried to get as close as possible to the animal and to aim and shoot for the X over their eyes, Sometimes we would be as far as 10 feet away, but usually, as matter of inches from the critter. And one last thing, a retired S Service agent once told me that more people in the country die from .22 gunshot wounds, usually 2 to 5 days later.

  • Ray September 20, 2017, 7:01 am

    The WORST survival weapon on planet earth is the AR15. It is fragile. Has very limited effective range. A VERY limited life span without near constant parts replacement, and is failure prone at best. That single shot rifle is a FAR better choice as it is easy to feed. Easy to clean. Easy to reload for and will still be killing for your great grandchild. That .45 long colt SAA is in every way better than a Glock “plastic fantastic” fad gun. It will kill damn near anything in North America. Offers superb reliability. Is easy to maintain in the field with few spare parts. As long as you have a bullet mold, cases and primers , you can use almost any powder to reload. The current mindset that somehow you need to an “arsenal” is just silly. It violates every rule of survival. (1) If you can’t carry it when you ”
    bug out”. It is no longer yours. (2) If it breaks and you can’t fix it with the parts and tools you carry it is worthless. (3) If you can’t kill anything you want too with it then you have an AR15. (4) If you can’t keep it clean and lubed with boiling water, soap, 10W30 and axle grease you have the wrong firearm. KISS is the first and best rule for long a long term survival gun, And you only get to keep what you can carry away. The “20 guns” in your safe belong to somebody else ,the day you have to “bug out” and leave them. Or when you are forced to abandon them when the gas runs out and you filled the trunk of your SUV with shit you can’t carry.

    • Shootit September 20, 2017, 9:51 am


      Having decades of experience with firearms my first survival weapon would be a shotgun. It will take anything from squirrels to bears by what you feed it. Rem 870 or Mossberg 500 would work just fine in 12 or 20 ga. The 11-87 has only failed me once in 20 years when it became extremely dirty and clogged with foreign matter from hunting birds in tall weeds. Next I would pick up a .22 rifle. Can’t do much better than a Ruger 10-22. More accessories than an AR, but I would keep it simple and purchase lots of extra magazines. Having many handguns off the ‘want’ list I keep wondering out of the house with the Ruger SP101 in .357. If you still have room on you shoulder I would grab a light weight mountain rifle in .308 spending as much on a 2×7 scope as you did on the rifle. If you can’t hit it on 7x you probably shouldn’t be shooting at it.

    • Mike November 4, 2019, 11:03 pm

      Don’t know where you get your ideas, but they are not good ones.

  • JCMS September 20, 2017, 6:28 pm

    agreed with all the above one has to be a semiauto w/ high cap mags 10 rounds +++ even if it’s a 22LR pistol or rifle

  • Rammy October 6, 2017, 2:21 pm


    You put valuable information about guns based on our needs and priority. People should carry a stun gun, tactical knife, flashlight, pepper spray and keychain alarms, is a good idea for personal defense.

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  • Molaki Samuel October 24, 2017, 1:54 pm

    Yep, have a variety of firearms on hand so you can handle most situations.
    .22 LR Rifle
    .22 WMR Rifle
    .22 LR handgun
    .22 WMR handgun
    9mm Carbine
    .357 Lever Action Rifle
    .357 Magnum revolver
    45 Colt pump rifle
    Be a good boy scout.

  • SaturdayPrepper November 13, 2017, 8:05 pm

    This whole post is about the ideal defensive weapon… that 12 gauge should have the ability to change the barrel to a hunting barrel. That .22 should be able to be used defensively and for hunting. That defensive rifle needs to be able to take game in your area… what I’m getting at is have multiple use unless you can afford multiple weapons

  • vocalpatriot January 13, 2018, 10:41 pm

    yeah, “for my own reasons..” is not a sufficient rational to heed a suggestion.
    I fact a good Yugoslav sks would be a welcome addition to my collection for very functional reasons. But not personal reasons. lol

  • steve February 6, 2018, 11:44 pm

    I read somewhere that a 20 gauge is just as powerful as a 12 gauge pellet for pellet – there are just less pellets. The weight to powder ratio they said was the same. The difference is less weight and less projectiles. I’m not an expert but the author’s reasoning seemed logical. I definetly don’t explain it as well as he did.


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