TRW’s Top SHTF Guns You Might Not Have Considered

In complete deference and with a tip o’ the hat to Ranger Man’s “Top 10 BEST guns for Survival”, I wanted to make an every-man’s “Top Guns” list that didn’t incorporate the dreaded “black guns” or anything with a need for detachable mags to keep running effectively. The KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) theory dictates that the simpler a gun can be, the more effective at a given job it should be, especially given a longer timeline. This isn’t to say that a New England Firearms break-open .410 will be a better gun to have in a firefight than a tricked-out AR-15….but it is saying that once the magazine supply and batteries for optics run dry for the AR, that old fashioned break-open gun that has about 6 moving parts and still works looks mighty desirable. So while I’ll contend that a scoped M1A or rugged AK will be very useful if TSHTF, I will also contend that the guns in this list will make themselves more useful before TSHTF, and arguably just as useful afterwards. Best of all, these guns (most, anyway) don’t use detachable magazines…if they do, the magazine can be reloaded while still locked in the gun. Can’t say that of an AR, AK, or M1, can ya? Onto the list!




The Marlin 39A is one of those wonderful machines that have been optimized, streamlined, and gracefully sculpted into a rifle that is no bigger than it has to be, yet perfectly sized for what it needs to do. My father got my brother and I a matched pair of 1950’s-vintage 39As after we outgrew our youth .22s, and used them to teach us the basics of precision shooting and use of an aperture (peep) sight. Within not much time at all, we were hitting empty .410 shotgun shells at 25 yards offhand shot for shot, further away if we were sitting or prone. They are wonderfully accurate (many a squirrel and crow fell to its “crack!”), reliable and smooth as the sun rising, and with the magazine loaded up with its full payload of nineteen .22 Long rifles, twenty-one .22 longs, or twenty-six (!) .22 shorts, it can hold its own in the firepower department. As an added bonus, turn a thumbscrew in the side of the receiver, and the gun breaks down into two sections that can be easily stowed away or cleaned. I have a very special place in my heart for these little beauties…and you’ll notice, if you try to find one, a lot of other people do, too…they seem to be a tad tough to find.



The illustrious K-22 is a gun, in my opinion, that deserves the factory-given moniker, “Masterpiece”. Based on the “K” or medium, frame size, it is not a big gun, but it, too, is perfectly sized for its niche. These guns took home countless trophies in the heyday of indoor gallery shooting, before the .22 autopistols took over, and they are still carried by many, many sportswomen and sportsmen out in the field (including me!), in case the opportunity for a clean shot on small game comes their way. My personal 6″ barreled K-22 is a shooting wonder, being able to put all six shots of Winchester T-22 ammo in one tiny ragged hole at 15 yards if I do my part. Newer models can sport shorter barrels with full underlugs and 10-shot cylinders, but they still have the same thoroughbred pedigree. I’ll never part with mine…hell, I still use it all the time!




These rugged workhorse revolvers came about in 1980, in a (successful!) attempt to address complaints from police officers and sportsmen that their K-frame .357 Magnums were “shooting loose” after a steady diet of stiff magnum loads. S&W introduced a brand-new frame size, the ‘L” frame, which was much more solidly built than the “K” frame guns that had been finding their way into policemen’s holsters for ages, due to its light weight and power. These guns can take a severe beating, folks, and that’s why they made this list. Yes, the bigger “N” frame .357 Magnums could be considered tougher, but as one who has packed a Model 27 in the field regularly, I can say with certainty that the big “N” frame revolver’s bulk can be fatiguing. That’s where this gun comes into play. They were also introduced in blued steel as the Model 586 and 581, with adjustable and fixed sights, respectively…however, for a true SHTF gun, the stainless steel 686 and its fixed-sight brethren, the 681, have it where it counts most. You can get these in 2 1/2, 3″, 4″, 5″, 6″, and 8 3/8″ barrels. The compatibility of .38 Special and .357 Magnum loads is always nice, too. Couple a 4″ barreled 681/686 with a nice carbine in .357 Magnum, and you’re stylin’. Speaking of….


WINCHESTER 1892/1894 and MARLIN 336/1894

Winchester 94 “Trapper”


Marlin 1894 Carbine

 I’ve written about these guns before in the blog, and for good reason. The original “assault rifle” (pardon the term)…lever-action rifles have been keeping soldiers, hunters, scouts, and everyday folk safe since the Henry Rifle plowed through Confederate troops in the U.S. Civil War. these guns are tough, tough workhorses. Peruse pretty much any rack at a gun shop, and you’ll see lever-action rifles of varying vintage, from late 1800’s vintage all the way to brand new, still work, and work well. Folks, if a rifle is STILL working after over a century of hard use and coming back for more, you know we’d do well to consider it for our plans. Pretty much every common caliber these guns came in (.30-30, .32 Special, .35 Remington, .44 Magnum, .357 Magnum) is still available in quantity today, and it will do everything you need it to do, with utter reliability and lightning-quick handling qualities. They are still 100% valid and useful today, 120 years after their respective introductions. Get you one!



This is the one gun on the list I have not owned, nor shot extensively. But MAN, do I want one. YES, I know it has a detachable magazine. But it can be loaded without removing it from the gun (so you don’t lose it!), or the gun can be used as a slick single-shot if needed. But the two main reasons it made this list are the: the caliber lineup, and the handling. The CZ527 comes in several commonly-appreciated calibers (the .22 Hornet chambering tugs at my heart-strings), but what I’m looking at for SHTF duty are the .223/5.56mm and 7.62x39mm. These two military calibers are starting to become very readily available again, and everyone is stocking up on them. If you gotta hope to find an ammo cache as you wander a wasteland, might as well hedge your bets and have your gun be in the most common calibers, right? The 7.62x39mm is also about as powerful as a .30-30, making it powerful enough to reliably hunt deer-sized critters. Oh, and did I mention that these babies come up to the shoulder like an 8th grader runs to an iPad? My birthday is in July.


MOSIN-NAGANT M91/30 or M44


The Mosin-Nagant rifles were Russian main battle rifles from 1891, when they were designed, all the way up through use in the 1950s. Like the country’s stereotype, these rifles are real bears…tough as nails and brutally powerful. The 7.62x54R caliber is ballistically equivalent to our .30-06, and at the gun shop I used to work at, we always called them “Russian brick splitters”. Bring an M44 (pictured above) to the range, and once you open up with that baby, everyone will stop shooting and look down at you to see what’s causing all the racket. The Russians made things that were simple and WORKED, especially in the frozen wastelands of Northern Russia and Siberia…and these guns were no exception. Due to their rising popularity, accessories are being developed to make them a bit easier to use and more ergonomic, as well as adaptable to using optics. Ammunition is dirt cheap too, and can be found in huge quantities. The 91/30 model is a bit longer than the M44, which is the short carbine model, with a side-folding bayonet attached. Word to the wise, though…I’ve shot tons of these guns (with utter glee) and ain’t none of them shot to the same point of impact when the bayonet is deployed. You can still get these guns (sometimes with ammo) for around $150 in decent shape. Get one, bury it, and forget about it until you need it…and it’ll still work then, too.





Yep, they’re ugly as sin. But they may be one of the most useful beauties you’ve ever seen. You see, the Savage 24 was a “combination gun”, meaning it had two barrels. The lower one was a shotgun (12 ga, 16 ga, 20 ga, or .410) and the upper was a rifle caliber…ranging from the .22 LR all the way to .30-06. The usefulness should be pretty apparent…you can be out foraging for game, and shoot a moose then a flying partridge within two seconds of each other. An excellent choice for the person who can only afford one gun, yet wants to come close to doing it all. The 12 ga/.223 variation seems like a good bet to me.



The H&R 158 “Topper” and NEF “Handi Rifle” (same gun, different eras and licensed gunmakers) are the quintessential non-semi-auto SHTF gun. Simple. Tough. Versatile. Inexpensive. Accurate. EVERYWHERE. You can’t walk into a gun shop without seeing a one or two of these. The beauty behind these gun is in versatility. Pull off the forend with your hand, open the action, and the barrel lifts out of the receiver. Grab a different caliber/gauge, pop it in, close it, snap on the forend. Bam, in seconds you’ve just changed your capabilities. Available in a truly dizzying array of calibers over the years (I’ve seen them in weird calibers like .22 Jet, .225 Winchester, and .38-55…as well as all the standard “normal” calibers), you can stock up on barrels like you stock up on ammo. They’re as tough as Chuck Norris, containing only a few parts, all of which are sturdily made. You can get them for around $100-150 if you don’t mind a couple dings…and you won’t regret it. Youth sizes are offered too, and they make excellent training guns. Why don’t you have one?



I had lots of others on the list, but it’s getting long enough (Yes, Ray, I know there’s no black powder guns on here…that’s a future post!). All of these guns will serve you well now, and after any Worst-Case scenarios. I bet you probably never considered (or maybe even heard of) many of them…put down the laptop, log off from, and try out some other guns that will save your bacon when your BCG breaks. You’ll be glad you did.


How about you guys? What would you have put on the list? Have a great Wednesday!


Stay safe!


31 comments… add one
  • R.C. February 5, 2014, 7:17 am

    Glenfield 30A (I own one), great guns, all. GP100 .357 is another great wheel gun, in fact Ruger just released a competition version.

    I was looking at the Henry .22lr and for $270 that’s a good .22, but I recently acquired a Marlin XT22 (tube fed) that is considerably less expensive, and offers the versatility of a manual fed .22 (longs, shorts, long rifles).

    My next long gun I am looking at is the H&R/NEF singles in .357 no less. I think that would make an excellent all around firearm for my family.

    Great article!

    • Jumbo February 5, 2014, 12:37 pm

      R.C., The cheapest and best way to get a .357 NEF is to buy a used 12 or 20 gauge NEF for $90-100 and have it rebarrelled. NEF will rebarrel the gun for about $101 plus handling, and give you a handling discount on the second barrel, so you could get both .357 and .44 mag or .410/45LC barrels for $202 plus handling.

      If you want extra rifle barrels, you have to start with a NEF Handi-Rifle, but pistol calibers can be mounted on the shotgun action.

      Look for the .357 and .44 barrels under “Rifles” and the 410/45LC barrel under “Shotguns”.

      • R.C. February 5, 2014, 9:38 pm


        Thanks for the heads up, I do appreciate the insight. I had no idea the barrels were so interchangeable. I did know of a company that makes 12GA inserts of various calibers that are suited to these break open actions. Had no idea that it would be cheaper to find a replacement barrel :) I thank you for that bit of help!

  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. February 5, 2014, 7:48 am

    Good call – I don’t see a dog in the bunch. I think one I’d add is the T/C Contender, a LOT of different barreled rounds available and it takes down pretty compactly if you have to stash it.

    I also noticed – no hideouts ? Everybody needs at LEAST one hideout, something small enough to carry concealed in public without anybody noticing. .38 Special snub nose revolver / .380ACP ‘mouse gun’ design, there are new 9mms that now make the grade.

    Great list – thanks.

  • Chuck Findlay February 5, 2014, 7:52 am

    I have a Savage 24 (22 lr over a 20 ga) it’s so old it has no ser number on it. I also have a lever action Marlin 39-A Golden and the 1894 357 Mag. The 357 Marlin and the Savage are my favorite rifles.

    The 357 Mag in a rifle pushes a bullet 600 feet per second faster then in a handgun. it makes for a great combination (357 mag rifle and handgun) to have as you can use one ammo in both.

    The only problem with the 357

  • Roseman February 5, 2014, 8:15 am

    I am a big fan of lever guns as they always work with little maintenance. I like my Savage 99c in .308. Ammo is very common and it has enough power to satisfy any requirements.
    I have a few spare magazines but they are rare and expensive.

  • Firestar February 5, 2014, 8:49 am

    Pump shotguns are very dependable and have an excellent reputation with civilian and military users. Remington and Mossberg are inexpensive and come in all gauges. Also for a no frills shotgun there is the Savage single barrel. It comes in every gauge. All of these shotguns will fire bird shot, slugs and triple aught buck. The Russians have recently come out with a exact copy of a Remington 870 with an 18 1/2 barrel and rifle sights for around $ 200.00.

    • Road Warrior February 5, 2014, 12:14 pm

      Firestar, you are 100% right! However, everyone gravitates toward the SHTF holy grail guns – AR, AK, Remongton 870/Mossberg 500, Ruger 10/22… I was trying to list other options that people may have overlooked, but still work great.

  • Jarhead Survivor February 5, 2014, 10:31 am

    I owned a Mosin-Nagant and it was a beast. Sold it to a friend and he still has it.

    • R.C. February 5, 2014, 9:42 pm

      Jarhead, you need to get back up on that Mosin saddle. They came out with a sweet stock (Pro-mag Archangel) for the Nagant that makes it a 1000M tack driver. $200 upgrade for your $150 rifle, and all the bliss that comes with cheap russian ammo :)

      I might be biased though.

  • Michael February 5, 2014, 1:24 pm

    Great list.

    I’d put a Ruger Single-Six on it. Single-Six’s will shoot anything from .22 short to .22 Mag, their accurate, reliable, and built like a brick.

    • Michael February 5, 2014, 1:26 pm

      Oops’s they’re.

      • j.r. guerra in s. tx. February 7, 2014, 8:40 am

        Well said Michael, the Super Single-Sixs and Blackhawks are bulletproof designs. Slow to load, but they work very reliably.

  • Leon February 5, 2014, 1:38 pm

    Blackpowder: I’ve hunted with a .50 caliber Lyman Great Plains rifle for years, and so has my brother. It remains my favorite deer rifle, but I am a traditionalist when it comes to hunting whitetail deer in eastern deciduous forests.

    • Road Warrior February 6, 2014, 5:58 pm

      Leon, Absolutely! Got a post in the works on BP goods. Thanks for the heads up!

  • highdesertlivin February 5, 2014, 10:57 pm

    I would add, any number of older bolt guns w/ backup irons . I picked up a husqvuarna for 200 .00 in 30 06, its become one of my favourite rifles. How about the M6 (got one) scout, and the ruger security 6. Also w/ all the caliber adapters out there a single shot shot gun can do a lot.

  • Pineslayer February 6, 2014, 1:09 am

    I have a couple of those on the list. .357 is such a great caliber. My Marlin in .357 is maybe, dare I say it, perfect. Match it up with a SW with a trigger job…I have to go the vault.

  • Michael February 6, 2014, 1:09 am

    They take magazines, but the Remington pump rifles (7600?) might be worth a look as well. They might be a good choice where laws area bit restrictive on semi-autos.

  • Chuck Findlay February 6, 2014, 1:30 am

    I agree with j.r. guerra in s. tx. you can’t always carry your rifle or even a larger handgun. I love my L-frame 357 and my 45 auto. but for a hot day it’s kinda hard to carry either one around. I have several 22 & 25 autos that easily drop into a pants pocket and can’t be seen by others.

    You will never likely know when you will need a gun at a moments notice, id I did know I would have a shotgun and friends with shotguns with me. But reality dictates the need to have a smaller gun on hand most times. the pocket pistol fits the bill.

  • WILD MAN February 6, 2014, 7:20 am

    The Springfield 03A3 30-06, I have one my father gave me 30 years ago and while I have many other rifles in my collection with fancy scopes and all the bells and whistles, it is my go to gun when I go dear hunting no scope just the military peep sights it came with, and it will drive nails at 200 yrds, it’s not the most expensive or prettest gun I have but by far the most dependable, and the 30-06 round is the most versital round out there, loaded with a heavy bullet and slow burning powder it will tear through the brush and knock down what ever is on the other side, or a light bullet and fast burning powder it will shoot flat and stright for 300 yrds.

  • Steve (from the Cape) February 6, 2014, 7:27 am

    Always wanted one of those Savages in 22 / 410. They use to be advertised in the back of Boys Life Magazine in the 60’s. Times have changed eh?

    • Road Warrior February 6, 2014, 5:59 pm

      Check out the new Savage 42…it’s a re-designed 24 and it comes in .22/.410. It’s a little different looking, but a still a good setup.

  • Eric February 6, 2014, 8:39 am

    Not a dog in your list there and I would add in the Mossberg MVP which shoots 5.56/223 as a bolt action and takes AR mags.

    • Road Warrior February 6, 2014, 6:03 pm

      Actually, both the Mossberg MVP and Ruger Gunsite Scout were on my list…but I didn’t include them due to the fact they take AR and M1A mags….tried to keep things to fixed mag guns, to an extent…

  • Big Steve February 6, 2014, 9:48 am

    Great list and I know you said that BP is for another article and I want to weigh in on that. Both Pietta and Uberti make a great repop of the famous 1858 Remington Revolver in blue and stainless steel. These .44 and .36 caliber black powder, cap-n-ball revolvers were best known and more liked that their 1860 Colt Army counterparts for two reasons. They were stronger with the inclusion of the top strap on the frame, and the cylinder could be replaced in less than 10 seconds. Load up a couple of extra cylinders and you have 18 shots available to you with two ten second cylinder changes. Talk about black powder firepower! Also, there are two companies that sell aftermarket cylinders to shoot cartridges in .45 Long Colt, .44 special, and .38 special. They also make a conversion kit to shoot .22 ammo! Taylor brothers and Kirst Konvertors make these conversions. And since these revolvers are considered relics, you can buy them over the counter or by mail order without a background check or filling out a form 4473. Strong, stylish and a host of versitility. Perfect for your bug out bag or as a backup.

  • Chuck Findlay February 6, 2014, 10:12 pm

    Nothing against battle rifles that use 30 cal bullets, (O3A3, Garand and the like, but living in the East (Ohio) other then a plinking toy I don’t know that it’s too useful to be able to shoot something at 500-yards. My 357 Mag rifle loaded with 10 180 gr hard cast lead bullets will kill a black bear easily.

    And the idea that we are going to be shooting people at long ranges is not based in any kind of reality. If you shoot someone hundreds of yards it’s going to be murder and the government will rightly see it as such.
    And as far as the survivalist dream of the government not being there, it’s pure dreaming. The US government spends lots of money and implements plans for it’s own survival. I know Rawles likes to talk about it on his blog and in his books, but it’s nothing but fiction to think the government will suddenly not be there.

    Read FerFal’s book as to what happens when things go bad. The best gun to have is a hi-cap handgun. Or better yet, several handguns.

  • Chuck Findlay February 7, 2014, 5:53 pm

    Hey Wild Man if you reload the ammo for your 3006 you can make reduced loads for small game by using 32 cal handgun bullets for it. I load Hornady & Speer 85 gr bullets meant for my 32 Mag handguns in 3006 cases for my friends Remington rifle.

    30 cal rifle bullets for american 30 cal rounds are .308 diameter. 32 handgun bullets are .312 to .314 diameter. they work well for small game with a much reduced powder charge.

    I would keep them around 1,400 feet per second or so. Much faster and they sometimes come apart before they hit the target.

    We did a lot of testing on paper and you would see a clean hole for the good bullet and a fragmented hole for the bullets pushed beyond their limit.

    • WILD MAN February 10, 2014, 6:22 am

      Hey Chuck thanks for the tip I’ve never heard of doing that before, I’m going to give it a try, sounds like a good round for varmints that are too big for a .22lr but too small for a 30-06.

  • FloridaN8tive February 7, 2014, 8:55 pm

    Great article! My pick if I could only have one rifle in a SHTF sit, would be the Ruger Gunsite Scout or a Springfield M1A, just my 2 cents for what it’s worth.

  • Chuck Findlay February 11, 2014, 2:22 am

    Wild Man you can also get cartridge adapters that allow you to shoot smaller rounds in rifles. If you are interested in these post here and I will search out the magazine I have that list who makes them.

  • Pat August 31, 2018, 5:26 pm

    I bought a Rossi 92…why? Cause there are not any new marlin .357s. Anyway I guess I got lucky cause it works. I changed out the front sight for a fiber optic so my old eyes can see it. I reload star line brass, cci magnum primers, 18 grains of Winchester 296 and a Hornady 140 grain xtp Hp and I get 1 inch groups at 50 yards. Not bad for a blind old bat. It’s teamed up with a ruger GP100 and a .357 S&W snubby. I have two ruger Blackhawks in .44 special and am looking for a rifle to pair with them.


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