SHTFblog’s Top Ten BEST Handguns for TEOTWAWKI

Let me preface this list by stating there is no ONE perfect handgun. Different handguns cover different applications. In other words, you need all ten ;-). I used the following criteria to determine my choices (in no particular order): common caliber, concealability, knock-down power, coolness, and . . . . . . yeah, whatever.

People new to this blog may also find my previous post on the Top Ten BEST Guns for Survival of equal interest.

Number 10 – Smith and Wesson 500
Mother of God! LOL – yeah, I know. This is the world’s most powerful production revolver. I listed this as #10 for the same reason I listed the .50 BMG in my previous post – it’s totally NUTS! I wouldn’t buy one, but . . .

It’s biggest disadvantage is that it’s an uncommon, expensive caliber, and kicking one round off will rock your wrists. Actually, S&W’s design on the handgun creates a lower recoil than one would expect from such a colossal round, but still . . . . your buddies will look at you and say, “Dude . . . . why? You compensating for something?”

The upside is you can respond with, “Did you ask, ‘Why?’ Hold my beer and you’ll see why . . . . Ka-BLOOOOM!” And the target vaporizes.

Number 9 – Taurus “Judge”
Lol! This is listed partially for entertainment value as well. What? The list can’t be fun? “Here comes the Judge!” Man-o-man, this pocket cannon will chamber a .410 shotgun shell or a .45 ACP. Talk about diversity! It’s perfect for backcountry action when you gotta put the smack down on an aggressive, fierce critter. Don’t plan on using the .410 far beyond 15′ though. It borders on useless then. It’s good for armed car jackers, though. Loading a 5-round cylinder with .410 shells seems rather strange, but hey! Who am I to judge?

Get it? Who am I to judge? Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck.

. . . . . . . . actually, this gun sucks. Strike it from the list!

Number 8 – Kel-Tec P-32
Jumping into the opposite end of the handgun spectrum, you could toss this little puppy into your shirt pocket and no one would notice. This thing relies on a double-action trigger and internal hammer for its safety features. Sketchy? Perhaps. The lack of a manual safety means its sale is banned in some states. It’s a handgun that’s easy to maintain, but the knock-down power is lacking. Think of it more as a slap rather than a bitch-slap. Still, I wouldn’t want to take one in the dome.

Number 7 – Snub Nose .38
Ayuh, here she is. How many 70’s movies has this thing been in? It packs a nice cartridge for its size. It’s a classic conceal and carry piece. Some models hold six rounds, others hold five. Pack a speed loader and you’re good to go. It lacks the glamour and finesse of other choices, but it doesn’t have to look pretty to be effective. Betty, though . . . she’s pretty AND effective.


Number 6 – S&W .44 Magnum
.38 got ya down? Oh man – “Go ahead, Punk. Make my day.” That’s right, Clint carried this behemoth for a reason – pure knock-down powah! Listen to the “click click” as the hammer goes back and you’ll hear the soft sound of intimidation. At $3 bucks a cylinder for practice ammo – she ain’t cheap to shoot, but she sure is fun. I’d suggest going with a 6″ or longer barrel on this gun in order to make full use of the .44’s ballistics. Nothing says “truck gun” like the .44. Gotta blast through that car door to blow the leg off an infected zombie? Yup, the .44 magnum will do it.

Number 5 – Browning Buckmark
This baby is suh-weeeet! It’s accurate, cheap to shoot, AND it’s the perfect piece to use for handgun practice – particularly if you own an M1911 .45 ACP. Why? The magazine and safety features are similarly aligned. The frame is also similar in design. Thus, you can plink away all day on the cheap – with the Buckmark – then move to the mighty 1911 for more expensive (but more powerful) handgun action.

There are other upsides to the Buckmark – particularly in the .22lr cartridge. This cartridge is exceptionally common, inexpensive to stockpile, and it’s interchangeable with that Ruger 10/22 rifle you bought for survival purposes – right?

Number 4 – Ruger “Security Six” .357 Magnum
Oh baby! This puppy is the standard in home defense handguns. “Wheel guns” (revolvers) have an advantage over semi’s, because they have fewer moving parts. Of course, there are less rounds, too; but with a .357 – how many rounds do you need? The .357 is a common caliber – AND (a big reason why I ranked this bad boy so high) – the .357 wheel gun will also fire a .38 special. This round costs less to fire (practice) and it adds versatility. It’s post Doomsday and your neighbor has spare .38 rounds, but no .357 rounds. For the Security Six – no problem. Trade for those .38’s and load the snub, too.

Number 3 – Compact 9mm
Ayuh, it’s about the most common handgun caliber you’ll find. Choose your maker and model. Whether it’s Glock, S&W or Springfield Armory, they’re all more or less comparable. I prefer the compact frame to the sub-compact or the full size. It’s a healthy balance. It doesn’t feel too small in your hands, but it’s small enough to conceal. Most models have various magazines you can purchase to hold more cartridges. WTSHTF, your 9mm rounds will be a hot commodity for trading purposes.

Number 2 – Heckler & Koch MK23 Mod 0
. . . woah. I mentioned this crazy monster here (I Am Legend post). The MK23 was adopted by the Special Operations Command (SOCOM). It’s a match grade handgun, chambered with a .45 ACP, and built to take a beating. Word on SHTF street is that it’ll fire tens of thousands of rounds before it requires a barrel change – now THAT’S offensive! It’s a double-action piece that holds a 12 round magazine. It’ll readily accept a laser and suppressor . . . you know, if you could own one. Want to buy the civilian version (Mark 23)? Head over to Bud’s, it’s ONLY *insert sarcasm* $2,170! (Hey, I never listed price as a criteria.) In the foreground:


Now . . . . here we go!
The NUMBER ONE BEST Handgun for TEOTWAWKI is . . .
*drum roll*

Number 1 – M1911 .45 ACP
Beauty! This is the hallmark .45 ACP handgun. It’s a common handgun using a common round. Parts and bullets should be available with a little searching post-TEOTWAWKI. It was the standard issue sidearm for the U.S. military before they switched to the M9 (dumb thinking). It is . . . . . . . all American beauty . . . .


That’s it, folks! Same gig as last time, you can vote for YOUR favorite TEOTWAWKI handgun in the right sidebar. Come right onto-ah! Git-r-done!

– Ranger Man

29 comments… add one
  • Michael Hawkins February 8, 2008, 6:46 am

    I voted for the kel tec.
    The authorities have tries to confiscate guns during an emergency in the past, so assuming that you’ve got real guns (long guns) to protect your home, I’d want something easely concealable for venturing outside.

    don’t forget about the Ruger LCP .380 either!

  • Alphie Omega February 8, 2008, 7:39 am

    well forgot one.. let me explain. beretta 92 with the 96 upper as an alternate. This allows me to shoot 9mm and 40sw from the same frame use the same holters,mag pouches, and all parts except the barrel are interchangeable.heck the mags for each can even be interchanged in a shtf situation. mags still cheap for both with extened mags for the 92 from CDNN INVESTMENTs for a great price. This gun has never malfuntioned even with 5 different loads in the same mag, shoots a wide variety of bullet sizes/weights and bullet configurations . samller grip for females and is a n extremely accurrate pistol. Just my 2 cents. Check the website listed for more prep info and keep up th e great work. Your blog may be the low end but heck we all arent rich like those on survival blog! The wind generator will go up soon already have solar up and a micro fm station that runs off grid 12 volt with solar charging with a laptop and can run on grid too. GDW AO

  • Bob February 8, 2008, 9:32 am

    Well, he did at least mention the beretta 92 aka m9. I like it too, but I guess it could go under the generic 9mm section, so I voted for it.

  • Rushman February 8, 2008, 10:34 am

    I know it’s not on the list but it is close. Glock 23 in .40 S&W but a close second is the 1911.

  • ryan February 8, 2008, 11:27 am

    I think that is pretty on the money except the real odd balls (.500SW and HK). I probably would have included a full sized 9mm and maybe a .40. Anywho great post. I am looking forward to the comment wars that follow.

    Didn’t the compact 9mm rank higher then the 1911 on the last gun ranking post? How does that work?

  • worrbaron February 8, 2008, 11:27 am

    1911 with 8 round mags

  • Ranger Man February 8, 2008, 11:33 am

    Ryan, the previous list included rifles and shotguns. I made this list assuming it was only handguns being secured for TEOTWAWKI. A 1911 is superior to a 9mm if you can only have one handgun for SHTF. If you can have a rifle AND a handgun, I’d favor the 9mm over the 1911. If it’s only one, the 1911 closes the gap between the 9 and the rifle – somewhat.

  • John February 8, 2008, 12:43 pm

    Good list. The first two were fun. In that category, I would add the 30-30 revolver and the 223 kel tech pistol.

    My number 1 pick is the 357 revolver, because that is a gun I can rely on. My glock 23 in .40 is a close second. Then my Ruger single six (.22).

  • Rebel February 8, 2008, 3:06 pm

    great post. Nice to see the 357 features highly. Like John I thought a 223 pistol would make it somewhere. I mean, what other gun allows you to look like Judge Dredd?

    Perhaps its the subject of another thread, but surely a 357 revolver with a 357 level gun is the ultimate low-key combination. If any of the neighbours see you, just point to the large hat and rinestone shirt carefully placed in your back
    seat and walk like John Wayne, saying you’re a cowboy shooting enthuaist.

  • The Urban Survivalist February 8, 2008, 6:04 pm

    I’d have to put the 9mm over the .45. With fmj you get better penetration than .45. With high quality hollow points you get just as much “stopping power”. You also get higher capacity magazines.

    If you’re going to get a snubby you might as well get a .357. Unless you’re buying an old .38 made by a questionable manufacturer you’re going to pay the same amount of money for either one. I realize that you mentioned a full size .357 but there are some huge differences between full sized and snubbys so I think that they warrant seperate places on the list.

    PS: The Judge shoots .45lc not .45acp

  • Dragon February 9, 2008, 1:13 am

    I vote for the 1911.
    those parts are gonna be around forever.
    post WW2 I had some relatives working in the steel mills.
    They came home every night with parts rescued from the scrap that was being melted down.
    Hell I cant go to a flea market here abouts with out find accessories for them. A top trade item PAW will be anything for a 1911.
    on another note those 410 shot shells can be buck loaded for some extra spread. Think 4-5 shots with every trigger pull.would be my choice but in a pinch it’ll do the trick.

  • ryan February 9, 2008, 3:29 am

    Ok, that makes sense. I would generally agree with the logic.

  • Harmony Hermit February 9, 2008, 9:32 am

    Get rid of that metrosexual Kimber and get a Springfield or Colt. Get two. And 1911’s little brother the BHP. And a S&W or Colt 357 wheelgun. Then a .22 wheelgun. That’s all you need.

    H & K MK 23…the first crew served handgun!

  • Anonymous February 12, 2008, 2:54 am

    I was split, really split, between the .357 and the 1911. No Jams & Ammo Flexibility wins it for me, but I still think that the 1911 is the bar none, hands down, most reliable (post TEOTWAWKI) semi-auto available.
    If I thought I was going to get in a shoot-out on a regular basis, I may pick the 1911 over the .357 but damn it would be close. A .357 with a tailored trigger is a beautiful thing…

  • Rubicon February 17, 2008, 11:15 pm

    How can anyone mention the 10 best handguns without including the ubiquious “Colt Python”. If I had to bet my life on one handgun, this would bit it bar none. Mine will be with me till the end. A truly comforting companion (along with my ever faithful doberman) on the ever-changing journey of life in these times.

  • Don February 18, 2008, 4:42 am

    One on the list that I will bring up just because…is my Glock 10mm, although not a common caliber it is a hand cannon, and uses 40 cal bullets for reloaders. In addition for 100 bucks I can buy a 40 cal barrel, or a 357 sig barrel, so 3 guns in one! Same with the Glock 40 cal…can be easily converted to 9mm. Much less expensive than buying more than one pistol.

  • 3rd man February 18, 2008, 10:21 am

    Glock pistol in 40 S&W or 45 ACP with night sights and tactical light. Forget the 1911. Needs to much work to fire anything other than ball. I carried Colt 1911 for years loved it, but the Glock is far better weapon out of the box. As for the Kimber love it, but you could buy a Glock 22 and 5000 rounds of ammo for the price of the Kimber. Stay away from K-tec its junk, will start jamming with just a little dirt. The SW500 well the picture says it all, do not need that muzzle flash at night. Most pics here are poor tactical chooses, but if thats all you have make sure you know how to use it in a tactical shooting situation.

  • bignaughty1 March 28, 2008, 2:42 am

    well i can understand most of your picks but there are a couple that i think you over looked. for one the dependable , rough, ugly Ruger P series in the .45 , and 9 mm cals. I have several .45s and 9s but it is always the Ruger in a pinch that i grab for, they are K.I.S.S ( keep it super simple) for cleaning they ALWAYS fire in the worst conditions cold/heat/dirt/water/Also the .32 caliber since it can be used with an adapter in a .308 rifle , and yes i do own a thunder 5 in the 4-10 or .45 long colt actual 2 of them my wife carry’s one at all times and the second makes a very good back up weapons using a mix of the to calibers. The power house and i mean power would be the .45 long colt cheaper then the 44 mag is a caliber that works in multible weapons ( my winchester 94) and my true favorite for pure power house is really an odd ball but it would be my .41 mag but because of the odd ball caliber would not make a very good TEOTWAWKI pistol.

  • cynergy25 November 24, 2008, 12:05 am

    Go for the Kimber pro carry II the best 1911 that fits me to a T springfield and others bulking for my hands. I love my Kimber Crimson Pro Carry II I had an anaconda 8 incher and could’nt stop shaking cause its so heavy. I am a woman and the Kimber is what I have next to me at night, and all day long.

  • alexander November 25, 2008, 10:59 am

    how about a howda? or a lemat revolver? they are black powder. but,would be worth thier weight in gold.

  • jack June 20, 2011, 10:20 pm

    yes, i love my 1911, but i have to make a pitch for the ruger blackhawk for reliability, dead on hitting, and, with the second cylinder, runs .38, .357, and 9mm!

  • Andy February 18, 2015, 8:16 pm

    There is probably cause to have a smattering of different handguns for different purposes , as most situations won’t be like a Mad Max movie if you live outside major cities , folks in most cities will fight each other for food and comforts and to even escape to the rural areas , but by this time will be so weak and run down that they will be easy prey for the folks that have already escaped he cities , let alone from the folks that live rurally , who will put these trespassers down at the sight of any aggressive moves by the city folks . As for the handguns to have on hand would be to me , a nice .22 lr , .22 lr .22 magnum conversion revolver , a .357 magnum revolver due to it being the number one man stopper still , even though some misguided “gun gurus” say the .40 S&W caliber is better I beg to differ , it hasn’t shown it yet , a 9mm handgun due to high capacity if needed also bullet design technology has made it equal to the .40 and .45 , a lot of folks would say .44 magnum but in my area there are not many bears around and I can hunt deer with a .357 with the 180 grain bullet , the .38 Special snubby is good as a hide out gun , also you can supplement other family members with .22 s ,.38 s , that you can pick up for good prices when you can find them , and practice with what you choose as much as you can afford for ammo and as much as you can , be sure you put back enough ammo to last awhile , and get into reloading you calibers . Be prepared and ready . Keep your powder dry.

  • Bob May 12, 2015, 10:31 pm

    For the SHTF I have my Ruger Vaquero in 44 Mag to go with my Ruger 44 carbine. I also have a Ruger single 6 to go with my 10/22 and Marlin 22 mag. If just a pistol then 45 ACP. I have a buddy w/ Homeland Security and they are changing to 45 ACP because they don’t believe 9 mm has enough stopping power.

  • Greg May 25, 2018, 12:09 pm

    Leave the .380 at the gun shop. It’s a little better than a brick at ten yards. At five I’d rather have the brick. I’ve test shot them extensively. Owned both the Ruger lcp is and a Glock 42. Sorry .380 people. The caliber is lacking if your are carrying for protection and serious defense then start with a 9mm and work up not down. I agree with the author that if that’s all you have then by all means. I’ve observed some seriously inferior results at the range with the .380.

  • Anonymous June 2, 2018, 10:10 pm

    i learned to shoot with a colt python its got to be the best revolver made put about 10,000 rounds on it still going strong colt 1911 gold cup i shot competion bulleye the 1911 is my choice and python is seconed

  • Greg Clark June 7, 2018, 11:15 pm

    You must be smoking crack. You had ten shots to put five real pistols. You know … five of ten and you failed on that. It was comical though.

  • Andy July 27, 2018, 1:16 am

    Gp100.357caliberbuilt like a tank takes any .357 load out there even some hotter than magnum loads, home made of course but Rugers are built to higher tolerances, I have even heard that the gp100 was made to use .44 magnum rounds, but they scaled back the caliber in the gun, can any of you Ruger guys tell us the “skinny” on this.

  • Anonymous December 18, 2018, 7:00 pm

    greg if you knew something about firearms instead of mouthing off trying to make a joke you opinion might be useful but the way it stands you are a no count


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