I have seen countless videos that discuss this subject, and you have too. Lots of articles will break down a list of "absolute must-have SHTF guns" into a list which usually contains three or five firearms. I will discuss a few of these for your edification, going by a list of the standard four types instead and we'll get to that in a moment. Previously, I have spoken multiple times about the necessity of planning, and also on making sure you are keeping a realistic perspective. The firearms subject is no different. The fact is this (to my mind): you won't be staging any extended gun battles with "the bad guys" or "zombies". A lot of preppers seem to discuss the need for security as though surviving waves and waves of attackers (armed or otherwise) is a real eventuality. I do accept that anything is certainly possible, but probable to any degree? In this case, no. To that end, they talk about stockpiling tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition and the need for an arsenal of firearms. As for having to fight off these waves of bad guys, the sad fact is, if you find yourself in that situation, then you probably shouldn't have stayed in that location in the first place. I know that is not a popular position to take, but there it is. I always love how videos and survival shows will then show some tired footage of some riot somewhere else in the world, as though "OH NO! This will be happening right in your neighborhood unless you have a ton of guns and ammo!" This goes back to what I have said before: most people aren't inherently killers. This includes most preppers.
All that said, I DO support the view that you should have a firearm of some sort, because it is possible at some point that you'll have to deal with an intruder who has decided to try to break into your home* or to fend off an aggressor you may encounter while on the way to your backup location. But again, try to be realistic in your planning. Therefore, let's run through that list of the four firearm types, one or more of which may prove most useful to you in your planning:
1. Pistol: This gun has its own subsection of argument. Which caliber is the best? Which gun is best? Pistol or revolver? All I can do is give you my own viewpoints on those three main questions.
- Caliber: My basic answer usually tends to be "Whatever you're good with, and can afford to set some boxes aside." People argue caliber constantly on various gun boards, but here's the fact of the matter: pretty much every caliber will be deadly if you hit an aggressor in the right place. For example, people who deride 9mm as "not enough" for a self-defense round oddly never take up on offers to be shot with it, to see how "not enough" it is. And so, this should tell you that frankly, as long as you pick something with decent stopping power, you're going to be fine. If all you can afford is .22lr, then that's all you can afford. It's not the best, but as long as you shoot someone in the face with it, you're going to be fine. The odds that you'll be beset by a helmeted aggressor are low, unless of course, you find yourself in a Road Warrior remake. Now, me personally? I have pistols in both 9mm and .45 caliber. I enjoy shooting both calibers, and either one would be fine. Are you a .38/.357 guy? Alright, good times. I have owned multiple .357 pistols and revolvers in the past and enjoyed shooting them. So, pick a good caliber, or if you have the money to do so, buy multiple firearms in a few different calibers and go to town.
- Pistol or Revolver: Fifty years ago, the easy answer would have been "Get a revolver so you'll know it will always work!". Back then, there were very few reliable semi-automatic pistols that would feed any ammo, and that could be depended on to work whether dirty or in between cleanings. Revolvers were the way to go, because a revolver will almost always work, as long as it is a quality firearm from a reputable manufacturer such as Colt or Ruger. These days however, there are plenty of pistols such as offerings from Glock, Springfield, SIG, and Smith & Wesson that will fit the bill. Available in any caliber, and able to hold triple (or more) the number of rounds even the best revolver does, accurate and reliable; a pistol these days would be my personal recommendation. Easier and quicker to reload, a bottom-feeder just makes more sense. You can stash a pistol and several loaded magazines in a bag, and be ready to go for just about any survival situation, if need be. A revolver, you'll be doing a lot more reloading, unless you train specifically with a revolver. Five or six rounds is up pretty quickly if you aren't paying attention. Pick a platform and get good with it.
- Brand: This entire paragraph is going to be my opinion only. Just want to be clear. In fact, the following will apply to every firearm discussed in this post. What brand should you pick? I would recommend that you go with a brand that has a good history, and a large following. What this tells you is that that company is making a quality product. I can't tell you what you should spend. Only you can ascertain that. I would recommend this. Firearms are definitely one of those "you get what you pay for." items. Would I buy a Hi-Point instead of a Glock because doing so would save me $300? Not at all. I personally think that you get what you pay for. The cheap brands have their defenders**, but even they admit that those cheap firearms don't stack up against actual quality firearms. And let's be candid, you can buy an excellent quality handgun for around $500. And you'll have this firearm for the rest of your life, and it will provide many thousands of rounds of service, you'll be able to pass it on to your children. A small price to pay for such a faithful item. So, if you're going to buy a firearm, take that extra month, and save up that extra money and buy a quality firearm the first time. That's my best advice.
3. Rifle: Similar to the pistol/revolver discussion, rifles come in an endless number of different calibers, and each has its defenders. On the Survival/Gun enthusiast forums, Internet pundits commonly talk about using hunting rifles as sniping rifles for long-range defense. Well, that's great, but keep in mind that actual long-range shooting isn't at all like Call of Duty where you simply center the scope target reticle at the bad guy's head and pull the right Xbox controller trigger button for a BOOM! HEADSHOT!!! Yeah, no. As a suburban prepper, a rifle does not make much tactical sense for me, and the rifles I do own don't see much use at the ranges I go to. However, if necessary, I have shot with them enough that I'll be able to hit what I'm aiming at. I would recommend that you do some serious research if you are interested in purchasing, and becoming proficient with, a rifle. Aim your research at what your needs are, and what others are using to address those needs. Also, don't forget optics! Not too many people making long-range shots without an optic of some type these days.
4. AR15/AK47: What, you didn't think I was going to close a discussion on firearms without mentioning the standard available-to-civilians assault rifle, did you? This is an age-old argument, and only you, the reader will be able to decide for yourself which of the two better serve your needs. Both the AR and the AK are amazing combat multipliers*** which give the one holding either one, the ability to fend off a large number of attackers, or to quickly send a large number of rounds downrange onto a target. There are two other major advantages of these two platforms over a standard hunting rifle. The first is the large number of rounds both rifles can hold, courtesy of the second: removable magazines in various denominations (5, 10, 20, 30). So, essentially, you can have one guy with an AR or AK with a stack of magazines successfully able to engage a much larger aggressor force (provided that guy is either well concealed or shooting from a protected position). I really can't tell you whether one is better than the other. I personally own an AR-15, and love it. It's accurate, light, and if I was leaving my home, I'd almost certainly take it with me. I have a carbine length rifle which will allow me to actually hide its length in the BOB I am using. Not bad! That said, there is something attractive about the AK47 platform. A larger round, with a storied history of high reliability. It's not uncommon to see videos where an AK has been buried in mud, gets dug up, and runs through a 30 rounder with no problems. Most ARs won't do that. They are a bit more fine-tuned than the workhorse AK. I love 'em both, and am just waiting for the right AK to fall into my lap.
Firearms, a simple term, but a HUGE subject of discussion. When choosing what firearm(s) is/are right for you, keep your needs in mind. Are you Bugging In? Then perhaps more long-arms such as a good shotgun, or an AR/AK might be what you need. Either of these will allow you more up close stopping power than a handgun, with the added benefit of long-range target engagement. Are you Bugging Out? Then perhaps a handgun (pistol/revolver) will be better for you. They are more easily concealable, and many pistols these days have large capacity magazines that will allow a person to command a large number of rounds in a fight, and quickly be able to reload, and get back into action. If you are away from your home, it's hard to say how the local authorities will be acting, but the common sense part of me feels like you'll be making yourself a target if you're just hiking down the roadside carrying an AR or shotgun and someone in authority drives by. As for how much ammunition you need, I think the simple answer is "however much you can afford, and are comfortable with purchasing to store away". I keep a certain amount of ammunition stored away, for every firearm I own. But do I have fifty thousand rounds in my home? No. To me, that's overkill. To you, that might not be. Your mileage may vary.
We'll speak again soon. Stay safe out there.
- Unnamed Prepper
"Remember the first rule of gunfighting ... have a gun."
- Col. Jeff Cooper
*Although the break-in will almost certainly be to steal any items of value, not necessarily your preparations/supplies. But of course, I could be wrong.
**It's the Internet, everything has its defenders!
***A common term which is used to describe something that will make the bearer stronger or more powerful in a conflict/self-defense situation than they would be on their own.