The Ultimate Guide to Prepper Guns for SHTF

Best Prepper Guns

There's a ton of great prepper websites on the internet that cover all kinds of gear and survival information. While topics like water filtration and solar panels aren't in the scope of this website (, we've got you covered when it comes to guns and ammo!

In this guide, we'll be covering what you need to think about when planning your weapon choices, as well as our picks for the best prepper guns for SHTF.

This article runs a bit long because we tried to be as thorough as possible, but those of you in a rush can jump to any section of this guide using the links below:

Before diving into the best SHTF guns, it's first important to explain the rationale behind our picks.

Why Preppers Should Own Guns

You can't plan for something before first clearly identifying what you are planning for.

Most preppers own guns so that they can defend themselves/others and hunt for food. We'll be focusing on these goals when choosing our gear in this guide.

.223, 9mm, .22 LR

Choosing the right calibers is, in my mind, the most important factor in determining the guns and ammo to stockpile for prepping purposes. When choosing calibers, you'll want to consider:

  • The Use Cases
  • The Cost of Ammunition
  • The Commonness of Ammunition and the Firearms That Shoot It
  • The Size and Weight of Ammunition and Guns

With these factors in mind, I believe the best calibers for prepping are .223 Remington/5.56 NATO, 9mm, and .22 Long Rifle (LR). For you AK guys, 7.62x39mm could potentially replace .223, but it doesn't fit our weight and commonness criteria (explained more below). Other calibers like 300 Blackout add an additional downside of cost.

Beyond these calibers, you should strongly consider a hunting caliber or two, based specifically around what game is available in your area.

It's also never a bad idea to add a shotgun or two to the mix!

The Use Cases of Ammunition

.22 LR is useful for hunting small game. While certainly not optimal, it could also be used to defend yourself if absolutely necessary. The real benefits to .22 LR, though, are its cheap cost, small size, and light weight.

9mm is our go-to choice for sidearm self-defense and concealed carry. It's cheaper, more common, and more readily available than any other self-defense handgun caliber.

.223/5.56 is our go-to choice for a self-defense rifle caliber. While this is in part due to the relatively affordable cost of ammunition, it's largely due to the benefits the AR-15 offers preppers.

Though not optimal for humanely hunting most game, it could generally get the job done if absolutely necessary. Moreover, thanks to the popularity of the AR-15, many ammunition manufacturers have also created cartridges specifically for deer hunting. With all of that said, in a true SHTF life-or-death scenario, I'm going to be able to kill something to eat with any type of ammunition of this caliber, if necessary.

Hunting Cartridges - This one can be left up to you, based on the region where you live. The infographic below is handy for choosing your caliber.

Hunting Calibers Bass Pro Shops

Cost of Ammunition

As I'll say throughout this guide, ammunition is just as important or arguably even more important than the firearms you'll own. You, of course, can't use a firearm without something to feed it.

Since you can never have too much ammunition and will want to have as much as possible, cost is a very important factor.

.22 LR is the cheapest ammunition you can find. You can regularly find deals of 5,000 rounds or more available for under $200.

9mm is the cheapest handgun caliber that should be used for self-defense.

.223 is the cheapest self-defense rifle caliber, with the exception of 7.62x39. 7.62x39 also benefits in terms of cost because the AK-47 actually works better with steel case ammo, which is generally cheaper than brass case ammo.

The table below shows ammo prices by caliber from our favorite place to buy ammo online - LuckyGunner. The prices shown are the cheapest bulk prices for each cartridge at the time of writing this. All prices for handgun calibers are for brass case ammo.

Caliber Cost Per Round Common Weapon Types

.22 Long Rifle (.22 LR)


.380 ACP




.40 S&W


.45 ACP


.38 Special


.357 Magnum


.44 Magnum


.223 Remington

Steel - $0.195 / Brass - $0.285Rifle/Carbine

5.56X45mm NATO

Brass - $0.31Rifle/Carbine


Steel - $0.189Rifle/Carbine

300 Blackout

Brass - $0.56Rifle/Carbine

.243 Winchester

Brass - $0.75Rifle

30-30 Winchester

Brass - $0.75Rifle
.300 SavageBrass - $1.75Rifle

25-06 Remington

Brass - $1.10Rifle

.270 Winchester

Brass - $0.775Rifle

.308 Winchester

Steel - $0.32 / Brass $0.46Rifle

.30-06 Springfield

Steel - $0.56 / Brass - $0.675Rifle

7mm Remington Magnum

Brass - $1.15Rifle

.300 Winchester Magnum


.338 Winchester Magnum


.375 H&H Magnum


.444 Marlin




The Commonness of Ammunition and the Firearms That Shoot It

Aside from cheaper prices, popular calibers offer additional benefits to preppers.

First of all, the guns that are chambered in these calibers are also more popular and generally more affordable than firearms chambered in more unique calibers.

Another benefit is, if you plan to meet up with any like-minded folks in the event of a SHTF scenario, there's a greater chance of you having an overlap in guns and ammo.

The Size and Weight of Ammunition and Guns

It's not just a coincidence that our calibers of choice and the most popular calibers in the world are all smaller cartridges than most of their competition.

There's been talk of the U.S. Military switching from the 5.56 cartridge, but that would create an issue of magazine capacity and weight for soldiers.

In addition to felt recoil and shooting speed, the FBI stated magazine capacity as a major reason why they went back to the 9mm cartridge from .40 S&W: larger cartridges mean less magazine capacity, heavier loadouts, and greater difficulty storing ammunition.

Furthermore, the guns that are chambered in .22 LR, 9mm, and .223/5.56 are generally far lighter than their competitors. Focusing on the most defensive minded of these, 9mm is commonly used in polymer-framed pistols and lightweight carbines, while .223/5.56 is the most common chamber of the AR-15 platform, which was created specifically to be a lightweight rifle.

In addition to standardizing the chamberings of your firearms, it's also a good idea to stick to the same guns and weapon platforms. There's a good reason the U.S. Military doesn't just buy random weapons.

M16 Stored in Gun Rack

These are M16s, but you get the idea.

For civilians, the best example of this is the AR-15.

Having built and bought numerous AR-15s, I've unintentionally piled up enough parts to replace anything that breaks on any of my rifles... or build multiple new ones from spare parts.

Even if you don't have as many guns as a guy who runs a gun website, the advantages of the AR-15's modular platform can start benefiting you at just two AR-15s.

Both of them both have a broken part? So long as it's not the same part, you can make one complete rifle again.

You also benefit from the fact all of your AR-15s, as well as any of your friends' or family's, can use the same magazines.

While not as awesome as the AR-15, you can also benefit from sticking to the same pistols or at least the same pistol manufacturer. For example, a magazine that came with your Glock 17 will also fit in your Glock 19. This only works for the shorter-framed pistol, but is true across all generations, so long as they are both double stack.

You should also consider the SIG Sauer P320, which has a modular trigger chassis, which allows you to swap it into another frame and/or slide/barrel combo in less than a minute. If you have the "X-Change" kits, you can even swap between calibers.

SIG Sauer P320 Modularity

Having explained the reasoning behind our choices, let's actually get into the best SHTF guns for prepping.

I swear I'm almost to the point of actually showing you some gun recommendations, but really quickly, let's cover what to look for in an AR-15.

For those of you looking to build your own AR-15(s), we've already made guides on all the best parts... but here's a quick rundown of what I look for in all the parts of an AR-15 and what I used when picking the best AR-15s for SHTF:

  • Barrel - Mil-spec or 4150 steel will last you longer than cheaper 4140 steel barrels. 416 stainless steel is more accurate, but the sacrifice in barrel life is likely not a good trade-off for prepping purposes. You also want it to be chrome-lined (CMV (Chrome Moly Vanadium)) or nitride-treated for increased round count.
    • Barrels made by the process of cold hammer forging also tend to last longer, though I haven't found any great studies proving this. I generally don't recommend them, because most people won't shoot enough to benefit from this added longevity. But with SHTF scenarios in mind, it's certainly something to consider. From a purely financial perspective, I believe you're likely better off just purchasing a backup barrel, though hopefully the original doesn't lose accuracy when you need it most.
    • For the most confidence, you want the manufacturer to magnetic particle inspect (MPI) each barrel they produce, to be sure there are no cracks or defects in the barrel.
    • Barrel length will affect performance and maneuverability. If you live in a more open environment, you may want to consider a longer barrel for better performance at longer distances. However, the maneuverability of a shorter barrel is, in my mind best, for self-defense.
    • Be sure your barrel is chambered in 5.56 or .223 Wylde, rather than just .223 Remington. With a 5.56 or .223 barrel, you can shoot both .223 and 5.56, but with a .223 Remington barrel, you cannot safely shoot 5.56. Don't worry, our AR-15 picks all fit this criterion.

Velocity vs Barrel Length for AR-15 Rifles

  • HandguardM-Lok mounting system because it's lighter than a quad rail and performs better than KeyMod. While I could understand some preppers making the argument for a handguard with a fixed front sight base, I strongly prefer the performance benefits of a free-float handguard... Just buy some back-up sights in the rare event your red dot dies or breaks.
  • Bolt Carrier Group (BCG)Along with your barrel, this is the most important part of your rifle. I like a true Mil-Spec BCG with a Carpenter 158 Bolt, like those made by Bravo Company or Daniel Defense. If it's good enough for the U.S. military, it's good enough for me. This is not a place to go cheap with inferior metals.
  • Upper Receiver7075(T6) aluminum is stronger than 6061(T6), so go with that. Forged receivers are the strongest, followed by billet receivers. Be sure to avoid weaker cast receivers, and make sure your feedramps match up properly (see the picture below).


  • Charging HandleThis isn't even close to the most important factor, but I like the Radian Raptor or BCMGUNFIGHTER charging handles.
  • Lower ReceiverBasically the same thing as the upper. It might be a good idea to get a receiver with a tension screw to help make your upper and lower fit together better, especially if you may be swapping on a different upper.
  • Trigger - This largely comes down to personal preference and needs. The most important thing in my mind is that it comes from a reputable company with a strong history of reliability.
  • Stocks (or Pistol Braces) and Other Lower PartsLike charging handles, this isn't my biggest concern, though the products listed below all have quality parts. I'd strongly recommend buying a spare lower parts kit so you can easily fix anything that goes down in your lower.

Finally, here are our picks for the best SHTF AR-15, starting with our top choice, then a budget option:

Bravo Company (BCM)Bravo Company (BCM) Customers

When it comes to quality AR-15s, my mind immediately goes to Bravo Company. Their parts are found in nearly all of our best individual parts lists and they also put together fantastic complete rifles.

Though they're more expensive than the other rifles on our list, they're actually very well priced for what you're getting when compared to other manufacturers.

BCM RECCE 14" MCMR (M-LOK) Carbine Rifle

BCM's RECEE checks all the boxes of what we're looking for in a SHTF rifle.

BCM MCMR RECCE Carbine Rifle With 14 inch Pinned Barrel

$1,559.99 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

Starting with the barrel, it has a cold hammer forged 14" GOVT profile barrel, with a Manganese Phosphate finish (Nitride). All BCM barrels are individually High Pressure Tested (HPT) and Magnetic Particle Inspected (MPI).

The BCM MOD 1 Comp is pinned and welded for an overall length of 16", meeting the minimum barrel length requirements under federal law. In other words, this is the shortest barrel you can get without going through the trouble of dealing with the ATF for a short-barrel rifle (SBR) or going the AR-15 pistol route.

This rifle has a mid-length gas system, which is my preference for a barrel of this length.

The MCMR (M-LOK) free-float handguard is a personal favorite of mine that came with the complete upper I bought for what's now my favorite AR-15, the AR pistol shown below.

My BCM Upper, Custom Lower AR-15 Pistol Build

Unless testing a new product or going for an ultra-lightweight build, I always use BCM's bolt carrier groups in my AR-15s.

The lower parts and charging handle are all exceptionally high quality and ones we recommend for those piecing together rifles themselves.

The only thing I'd change if this was my rifle would be the trigger, though BCM's mil-spec trigger is great for what it is and is likely better than anything you'll find at or below this price range. If you do find that you want to upgrade, triggers are a super easy swap.

The trigger I went with in the picture above is the two-stage Geisselle Super Dynamic Combat Trigger ($240). At a more affordable price, I also really like the single-stage EDT Designated Marksman Trigger by Hiperfire ($94.05) (see review of it here).

BCM RECCE 16" MCMR (M-LOK) Carbine Rifle

If you want to change the muzzle device without having to deal with removing a pinned and welded comp or if you just want a longer barrel, here's the same rifle with a 16" barrel.

It's also slightly cheaper!

BCM REECE 16 Inch Barrel M-LOK

$1,299.00 at Rainier Arms

Prices accurate at time of publishing

BCM 11.5" MCMR (M-LOK) Upper Receiver

Just in case you found yourself inspired by the picture of my AR pistol above, here's the upper receiver I purchased. It has an 11.5" barrel and a carbine length gas system.

Just be sure to know the federal/state/local laws surrounding firearms with barrels shorter than 16". For those new to the AR pistol world, we touch on the legalities of them in our best pistol braces guide.

The other option is to go the ATF route and properly SBR it, but be warned, that process takes the better part of a year and a $200 tax stamp.

BCM 11.5 inch Upper Receiver

$588.95 at Rainier Arms

Prices accurate at time of publishing

Palmetto State Armory (PSA)Palmetto State Armory (PSA) Logo

Originally I was going to include some options in between BCM and Palmetto State Armory, but then I realized it doesn't make sense for the needs of preppers.

For those who can afford it, I fully recommend going with the more or less flawless quality, reputation, and reliability of BCM... But for those who can't, PSA is simply your next-best bet.

PSA firearms are still extremely high quality and the company is incredibly well respected in the firearms community. While there are some middle-priced manufacturers that make certain parts I really like—for example, Aero Precision handguards and receivers—I believe most of these manufacturers cut more corners in quality when manufacturing complete rifles than does PSA.

Because quality and reliability are more important to a prepper than looks or feel, I've jumped straight to PSA.

PSA 16" Lightweight M-Lok Classic Rifle

This PSA AR-15 has a 16" 4150V Chrome Moly Vanadium Steel barrel and a mid-length gas system. To my knowledge, the only way PSA may cut costs here is that I'm not aware if they individually test each barrel.

The free-float handguard only has rails on the front and rear ends of the top, making it lighter, more comfortable to grip, and better looking in my eyes. Otherwise, it has M-LOK mounting slots.

PSA 16 inch Lightweight M-Lok Classic Rifle

$469.99 at PSA

Prices accurate at time of publishing

The bolt carrier group is Mil-Spec, but in my experience, PSA's have been less finely machined than those of BCM. Still, this is in my mind a better alternative to most mid- to low-budget manufacturers who sacrifice steel quality in their BCGs.

Both the receivers and buffer tube are made from 7075 (T6) Aluminum, which we'd demand from a SHTF rifle.

My only other complaints are due more to personal preference than function. It has a Mil-Spec trigger, as do the BCM rifles above, which I'm not a fan of. This isn't really a fault of PSA, just something I'd personally upgrade.

My more reasonable complaint is regarding PSA's furniture. I definitely am not a fan of the stock or pistol grip. Those are both cheap fixes though: check out our best pistol grips and best AR-15 stocks if you're interested in upgrading.

PSA 16" M4 Style Premium Rifle

For those of you who insist on a fixed front sight block, PSA has got you covered with their "M4gergy".

Aside from the obvious lack of a free-float handguard, this AR-15 actually has one major difference that's a huge improvement over the above rifle. It has one of FN's famous barrels made of hammer forged chrome molly vanadium, often known as "Machine Gun Steel". It's 16" and is paired with a carbine-length gas system.

Though not my personal preference, this is one hell of a deal for those that like the M4 style.

PSA 16 inch M4 Premium Rifle

$649.99 at PSA

Prices accurate at time of publishing

This is a lengthy guide, so I won't spend too much time on AR-15 magazines.

Like ammo, magazines seem strangely to be an afterthought for some preppers, but you can never have enough of them. In a true SHTF scenario, one magazine isn't going to be enough.

It's also important to remember that, whether they're high quality or not, magazines are also one of the leading factors of malfunctions and are more likely to break than your rifle.

We have an entire guide for the best AR-15 magazines, but here's a quick look at the top picks:

Lancer L5AWM Magazines

Lancer Systems L5AWM Translucent Magazine

$18.99 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

Magpul PMAG GEN M3 Windowed Magazines

Magpul PMAG GEN M3 Window Mag

$17.05 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

Note that Brownells generally offers savings when you buy magazines in bulk, like 10 packs.

Check out the best 5.56 ammo and the best .223 ammo.

You probably noticed something missing from the rifles above - Optics and Sights.

Don't worry, we've got you covered on that too!

Again we're making our recommendations based on how we plan to use our AR-15s, which would be for self-defense and for hunting in a pinch.

Red Dots and Holographic Sights

Self-defense firefights are generally going to occur well within 100 yards, the typical max distance I'd choose to use a red dot. Thus, I'd personally choose a good 1X red dot over a magnified option.

While I love holographic sights, they're not the best for SHTF, as their battery life is terrible compared to red dots. Battery life, along with reliability and durability, are the most crucial factors we're considering when choosing a red dot.

Learn the difference between Red Dot vs Holographic Sights.


When it comes to red dots, no manufacturer is more highly regarded than Aimpoint. Their products offer superior battery life to almost all competitors and have a rock-solid reputation for reliability and durability. They're also incredibly well regarded among military and police.

The downside is they may cost as much or more than the rifle you put them on. With that in mind, our first choice is the Aimpoint PRO (Patrol Rifle Optic), the cheapest Aimpoint offering.

Aimpoint Patrol Rifle Optic (Aimpoint PRO)

The Aimpoint PRO has 30,000 hours of continuous battery life at the 7th setting of 10. The dot size is 2 MOA, meaning it will cover about 2 inches at 100 yards.

It feels like it would be almost impossible to break this red dot and it's passed flawlessly in all of the testing I've seen.

Aimpoint PRO Red Dot

$441.00 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

It can be used between -45°F to +160°F and is submersible to a depth of 150 feet.

Aside from price, there's one obvious small downside to this optic - it's size. As you can see in the picture below, it's a very tight fit if you want to have 3x magnifier behind it.

AR Pistol With Aimpoint PRO and Vortex 3X Magnifier


Aimpoint Micro T-2

For those with the budget, Aimpoint offers the Micro T-2, which has 50,000 hours of battery life and comes in a smaller package.

Aimpoint Micro T-2

$801.00 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing


While I'd strongly recommend at least one top-tier red dot, not everyone can afford that. Holosun is a great alternative for those on a budget.

Holosun 403B

The 403B red dot from Holosun offers 50,000 hours of battery life. While it doesn't have the reputation of Aimpoint, I've always found Holosun products to be reliable and durable.

Holosun 403B Red Dot

$169.99 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

This red dot does offer the same size (2 MOA) dot as the Aimpoint option and comes with both a low mount and a 1/3 co-witness option.

Holosun 403C

Now for what Holosun is known for, solar powered optics.

Though the 403C has a battery capable of up to 50,000 hours of battery life, it also has solar panels that allow it to run without a battery in many lighting conditions.

Holosun 403C Red Dot Sight

$199.99 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

For more red dots, check out all of our choices for the best red dot sight at a variety of price ranges.

3X Flip Mount Magnifier

Though a red dot is suitable for most situations, you may want to reach out to longer distances if, for example using your AR-15 to hunt. A flip-up 3X magnifier allows you to essentially add 3x magnification to whatever red dot you're running.

Vortex 3X Magnifier With Flip Mount

My preferred option for a 3X magnifier is actually a pretty budget friendly option from Vortex.

Vortex 3X Magnifier With Flip Mount

$199.00 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

I'm generally a huge fan of Vortex, both due to the quality of their products and their no questions asked lifetime warranty.

Alternatives to the Red Dot Plus Magnifier Set Up

Though a red dot plus a 3X magnifier is my preferred setup, maybe you're not sold on it. Below are a few alternative AR-15 optics setups I can get behind.

Trijicon ACOG

The ACOG is an ultra-lightweight and battle proven 4X magnified optic. There's no battery life to worry about and the reticle has tritium illumination for nighttime use.

If you're going to go the ACOG route, I'd strongly recommend one with Primary Arm's ACSS reticle.

ACSS Reticle Distance
ACSS Reticle Wind
ACSS Reticle Leads
ACOG With ACSS Recticle


Prices accurate at time of publishing

Due to the poor eye relief of the ACOG and just the fact that fixed 4X magnification is not optimal for all situations, I'd strongly consider also running a small red dot on top of it or offset mounted on your rail.

Adjustable Magnification Optics

Now for the "do it all" option, adjustable magnification optics.

Vortex HD Gen II 1-6X

Despite being slightly more expensive than a BCM rifle, the Vortex HD 1-6X scope is actually a relatively affordable option in the world of adjustable magnification optics.

There are a lot of jokes about how the glass clarity makes it seem like you're seeing in "HD" for the first time, but it really does feel like that. The clarity of this scope is, from edge to edge, unlike many competitors.

The field of view is also fantastic, at 115.2 feet at 100 yards, and it has some of the best illumination of all optics in its class. The downside is that it doesn't have the battery life you'd have in a red dot, likely around just 500 hours.


Vortex HD Gen II 1-6x

$1399.99 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

Backup/Iron Sights

We won't spend a ton of time on backup sights, but suffice it to say you want them in case your optic goes down.

I generally just go with a cheap pair of Magpul MBUS flip-up sights.

Magpul MBUS Sights

$79.99 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

There are two main types of sidearms we'll be focusing on for preppers - a concealable handgun and a more "tactical" handgun.

Concealed Carry Handgun - Whether in your normal daily life or once a SHTF scenario takes place, you want to have a concealable weapon for self-defense. I'd always recommend opting for concealed carry as opposed to open carry whenever possible legally.

Displaying that you have a firearm puts a huge target on your back. For example, if someone was looking to rob a store you were in and they saw that you were carrying a firearm, you've just become their first target and you've traded the element of surprise.

Naturally, the size of the handgun you choose is a primary focus for concealed carry.

Tactical Sidearm - If things were to really get so bad that you're openly carrying a firearm, like an AR-15, or you're on your own property, then there's no point in trying to conceal your sidearm. In these cases, we prioritize magazine capacity and function over concealability.

To briefly tough on capacity, we don't recommend revolvers due to their limited capacity, as we've covered in more detail in our revolver vs semi-auto pistol guide. Magazine capacity is truly crucial in my mind, even when looking for a good concealed carry pistol.

The Best SHTF Pistols

As discussed in the beginning of this guide, we're going to be sticking to 9mm pistols. While there are many great pistol manufacturers, we're also going to be focusing on the two we think are best for preppers. If you want to check out more of our favorite 9mm handguns, here's our list of the best 9mm pistols and the best 9mm single stack pistols.


I'm actually not a huge fan of Glock pistols personally, largely due to their odd grip angle and boxy aesthetic. With that said, they arguably manufacture the best pistols for SHTF.

Glock Size Comparison

Glocks are world-renowned for their reliability and are used by the vast majority of police forces worldwide. This has made them insanely popular in the civilian market as well.

As previously noted, using popular firearms makes it more likely that you'll have the same firearms as buddies. Though I wouldn't rely on this too heavily, it also increases the chance you could come across parts in a full-on "Walking Dead" type scenario... though I don't think any of us are really concerned about zombies.

Lastly, the popularity of Glocks has made prices for magazines and accessories a lot cheaper than other firearms.

Glock Double Stack Pistol

While there's a lot of hype over Glock's slimline (single stack) pistols, it's important to remember that only their double stack pistols can use magazines interchangeably with each other.

So to start, we're looking at the Glock 17 (Full Size), Glock 19 (Compact), Glock 45 (Compact Slide/Full-Size Frame), and the Glock 26 (Subcompact).

You can compare their sizes, weights, and standard capacities in the table below. The standard capacity also means that a given pistol can't use a smaller magazine than what's listed here. For example, you can't use a standard 6-round magazine in a Glock 17.

Model Caliber Length/(Barrel Length) Height Width Standard Capicity Weight (Empty)

Glock Gen 5 G17 Glock G17 (Standard)

9mm7.95 in / (4.49 in)5.47 in1.34 in17 Rounds25.08 oz
Glock Gen 5 G17

Glock G19 (Compact)

9mm7.28 in / (4.02 in)5.04 in1.34 in15 Rounds23.99 oz

Glock G45 (Compact Slide/Full Frame)

9mm7.44 in / (4.02 in)5.47 in1.34 in1724.98 oz
Glock Gen 5 G26

Glock G26 (Subcompact)

9mm6.42 in / (3.43 in)4.17 in1.30 in10 Rounds21.69 oz

Though I personally prefer a single stack pistol for concealed carry, there are a ton of people that carry the Glock 26, G45, or the G19 daily. Some lunatics (or just larger people) even carry the Glock 17.

The Glock 17 and Glock 19, carried by police and military forces around the world, are also great as sidearms.

Glock Single Stack Pistol

If you also find double stack pistols uncomfortable for concealed carry, take a look at the slimmer single stack offerings from Glock.

Model Caliber Length/(Barrel Length) Height Width Standard Capicity Weight (Empty)
Glock G43

Glock 43

9mm6.26 in / (3.41 in)4.25 in.87 in6 Rounds17.99 oz
Glock 43X

Glock 43X

9mm6.50 in / (3.41 in)5.04 in1.1 in10 Rounds18.70 oz

Glock 48Glock 48

9mm7.28 in / (4.17 in)5.04 in1.10 in10 Rounds20.74 oz
Glock Magazines

The popularity of Glock pistols means that there are affordable magazines from multiple manufacturers. We've already talked about the importance of having lots of magazines, so here are our favorites:

Glock OEM Mags

There's nothing wrong with magazines straight from Glock themselves. In fact, they're awesome!

Glock 19 Magazine

From $21.99 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

Magpul PMAGs

Magpul doesn't just make great AR-15 magazines, they also make Glock mags. Their magazines also tend to be a lot cheaper than those from Glock.

Magpul PMAG for Glock

From $12.30 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

You can see all of the best Glock magazines here.

SIG Sauer

SIG Sauer is the other manufacturers on our list of the best SHTF pistols. Specifically, the SIG Sauer P320/M17.

SIG Sauer P320/M17

Good Trigger Discipline (SIG Sauer P320)

In 2017, SIG Sauer won the Army contract for their new modular handgun system, replacing the M9 (Beretta). Though the P320 launch got off to a rocky start (drop safety issues), that's all been taken care of.

SIG Sauer P320 Modularity

The modular system allows you to swap the "trigger chassis" (shown in the top-left above) with a variety of different frames and slide options. Not only does this allow you to change the size and color of your pistol, but it even lets you change the caliber.

SIG Sauer offers "X-Change" kits, which include everything but the trigger chassis, that you can purchase online. Because they're not "firearms" under federal law, you also don't have to deal with the hassle of having them shipped to an FFL (in most states).

Currently, SIG Sauer offers pistols and kits in 9mm, 40 S&W, .45 ACP, and .357 SIG, though they may continue adding even more calibers as time goes on.

Honestly, this seems like a prepper's dream sidearm to me. It's only going to get better as prices continue to come down due to the popularity and demand for the P320. I was a fairly early adopter of this pistol and prices have already dropped significantly since then. I also expect to see increasing aftermarket support, since so many people are buying the same pistol as the U.S. military.

SIG Sauer P320 Nitron

SIG Sauer P320 Full Size

SIG has already made several variants of the P320, but the P320 Nitron is their original offering. The sizes are: Full Size (shown above), Compact, and Subcompact. You can compare the size, weight, and capacity of each in the table below:

Model Caliber Length/(Barrel Length) Height Width Standard Capicity Weight (Empty)
SIG Sauer P320 Full Size (Small Image)

P320 Nitron Full-Size

9mm8 in / (4.7 in)5.5 in1.3 in17 Rounds29.5 oz
SIG Sauer P320 Compact

P320 Nitron Compact

9mm7.2 in / (3.9 in)5.3 in1.3 in15 Rounds25.8 oz
SIG Sauer P320 Subcompact

P320 Nitron Subcompact

9mm6.7 in / (3.6 in)4.7 in1.3 in12 Rounds24.9 oz

Out of the box, I'm a way bigger fan of this gun than a Glock. The P320 comes standard with night sights and front slide serrations, while also having a slightly better trigger. It looks better and is just generally way more comfortable/natural to shoot.


You can also get the M17, which is basically the same thing with a thumb safety. To my knowledge, it's only available in Full Size though.

SIG Sauer M17

$649.99 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing


The P320 RX has a slide mounted ROMEO1 red dot sight, along with elevated night sights to allow for co-witnessing. I own this, see earlier picture, and am a fan of not just the gun, but also the red dot.SIG Sauer P320 RX Full Size

$829.99 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

P320 Magazines

Admittedly, this is the one thing that really sucks about the P320. Magazines are currently stupidly expensive and I'm not confident in any aftermarket magazines yet. This leaves us recommending SIG Sauer manufactured magazines:

P320 Magazine

$48.99 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

As mentioned above, I do expect there will soon be more aftermarket support and magazine prices will come down. Check out the best SIG P320 upgrades for an updated list of our favorite aftermarket parts and accessories.

Now for the .22s! Since .22 LR ammo is so incredibly cheap, we recommend having at least one .22 pistol and one .22 rifle. We'll be covering the best options for preppers in both categories.

The Best SHTF .22 Rifles for Preppers

Below are our picks of a few of the best .22 rifles for preppers. These can be used for hunting small game or for defending yourself in a pinch.

Henry AR-7 Survival Rifle

When I started writing this guide, one gun immediately popped into my head - the Henry Survival Rifle.

Henry Survival Rifle

$237.99 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

If you haven't seen this rifle before, you may be a bit surprised I was so excited to include it. The reason for this is the fact that the entire gun can be broken down and stored in the stock for easy transportation.

The picture below illustrates how everything, including the firing control group, barrel, and 3 magazines (one loaded in the firing control group) can be stored within the stock.

Henry Survival Rifle Stowed

Each magazine holds 8 rounds and the total weight is just 3.5 lbs.

Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 Sport MOE SL

Now for something a bit more tactical, the M&P 15-22.

Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 Sport MOE SL


$439.99 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

This AR-style rifle offers everything you love about the AR-15, including ample rail space and an M-LOK handguard, but fires rounds in the much less expensive .22 caliber.

The particular model shown is decked out with Magpul parts, including their MOE SL stock and MBUS flip-up sights.

Unlike many other .22 rifles, magazine capacity is definitely not an issue with the M&P 15-22. Their patented magazines hold 25 rounds.

Despite being heavier than the survival rifle, it's a lot lighter than most AR-15s at 4.8 lbs. This is largely due to the utilization of polymer receivers. We'd never recommend polymer receivers for an AR-15, but since this is chambered in .22 LR, it's not an issue.

If you're all out of ammo, aside from .22 LR, there's likely no better weapon you could use to defend yourself.

Check out the Best .22 Rifles for more 22 LR rifles including the Ruger 10/22.

The Best .22 SHTF Pistols for Preppers

I don't see a ton of utility from a .22 pistol for the purposes of preppers. However, a .22 could make for a good backup sidearm/concealed carry pistol if you're short on ammo. With that in mind, I've primarily focused on a few compact .22 pistols.

Ruger SR22

If you read our best .22 pistols guide, you'll see the name Ruger a lot. Many of Ruger's .22 offerings are best kept for target shooting, but the SR22 could certainly function as a concealed carry pistol in a pinch.

Ruger SR22

$383.99 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

The SR22 is small and lightweight, making it ideal for our purposes:

  • Length - 6.4 inches
  • Barrel Length - 3.5 inches
  • Height - 4.9 inches
  • Width - 0.97 inches
  • Weight - 17.5 oz
  • Capacity - 10 Rounds
Walther P22

An alternative to the SR22 is the Walther P22.

Walther P22

$299.99 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

I love Walther's pistols and I generally think they're one of the most underappreciated handgun manufacturers.

The P22 is smaller both in length and height than the SR22, though it is slightly wider.

  • Length - 6.3 inches
  • Barrel Length - 3.42 inches
  • Height - 4.5 inches
  • Width - 1.1 inches
  • Weight - 17 oz
  • Capacity - 10 Rounds

The P22 is also around $100 cheaper than Ruger's SR22.

That wraps up the guns I feel are essential, but I'll be adding some "nice to have" guns shortly. With the 4 types of firearms we've covered, you should be able to complete just about any task that's necessary.

Before I get to more guns, however, I first want to quickly rant about ammo.

I find myself shocked, saddened, and humored when people tell me how many guns they have ready for the worst case scenario, who then get sheepish when I ask them how much ammo they have.

The truth is, you really should have a ton of ammo if you want to truly be prepared for some of the worst scenarios imaginable. Not only do you need it for hunting and potentially even protecting yourself, but you should also have enough to continue to be able to practice after S has HTF.

Buying Bulk Ammo

There's no getting around it, ammo is expensive... but I'll try to help.

If you find yourself buying single boxes at the range or Walmart, you're probably not going about it in the smartest possible way.

You can save substantially by purchasing bulk quantities of ammo online. I've touched on this in our best places to buy ammo online article, but I think it bears repeating for any preppers reading this.

My go-to 9mm pistol range ammo choice is Blazer Brass. Blazer Brass at my local range costs $14.03 for a box of 50 rounds after tax or 28.06 cents per round.

Lucky Gunner Blazer Brass

Alternatively, I could buy 1050 rounds online right now from my favorite online ammo store Lucky Gunner and receive it in a few days. After tax and shipping, it'll cost me $232.02 or 22.10 cents per round. (I could also apparently get back $21 if I went through with the mail in rebate).

Note: You can check out our full Lucky Gunner review here.

Lucky Gunner Purchase

If I bought the same amount of ammunition at the range, it would end up costing me an extra $48.58 for 1050 rounds. In other words, buying it online saves me $48.58.

You still may not be convinced, but this can literally save you thousands of dollars when talking about stocking up on ammo, especially when you get to ammo that's more expensive than 9mm (the second-cheapest ammo there is).

We also haven't even taken into account the random deals you can find online for ammo. I regularly find great deals on Lucky Gunner,, and Palmetto State Armory (not only do they make great AR-15s, but they actually got started as an online ammo retailer) for ammo.

For example, I recently bought a big-ass bag of Federal brass 5.56 ammo that came with 10 30-round AR-15 PMAGs for just $349.99.

Here's a pic of the ammo:1000 Rounds of Brass Ammo

I'll quit my rant, but the point is: Buy ammo and be smart about it.

You'll likely also want to check out our guides - "How Long Does Ammo Last and How to Store it for Max Shelf-Life" and "The Best Gun Safes"

Reloading Ammo

Reloading ammo is a DIY way to make your own ammo and reuse your cases. This topic requires an article of it's own, but we'd recommend checking out this guide if you're interested.

We've covered the essentials, but maybe you already have a boatload of AR-15s and Glocks. Well here are some more great guns for preppers.

I'm playing a dangerous game trying to list the best hunting rifles while simultaneously trying to avoid making this article even more absurdly long.

Whenever discussing long-range rifles, it's inevitable that you find yourself in a caliber war, battling over the merits of your favorite cartridge. This section could go on forever, but I'm going to avoid that and just drop some advice for total beginners with a focus on affordable options.

Our caliber of choice is going to be .308 Winchester. If you think back to our caliber discussion at the start of this article, .308 ammo is relatively cheap (particularly for range/practice ammo) and can take down just about any game in North America. Just remember, you'll have to pay up for quality hunting ammo, as it's illegal in many areas (and inhumane) to hunt with regular FMJ ammo.

Hunting Calibers Bass Pro Shops

Savage Axis II XP

The Axis II XP bolt-action rifle is perfect for those on a budget, priced in the mid $400s. It even comes with a Bushnell 3-9X40mm scope. All that's left is to zero it in and go shooting.

It has 22-inch barrel that is plenty accurate and the trigger's pull weight is adjustable. It's, of course, not the most accurate rifle you could get, but it should do the job within 300 yards, and you really can't beat its price.

Savage Axis II XP

$429.99 at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of publishing

AR-10 Rifles

Bolt-action rifles are commonly preferred for hunting over semi-auto rifles because they're thought to be more accurate, they're often lighter weight, and that's just what people have historically done.

In recent history, however, the AR platform has been growing in popularity among hunters.

In a true SHTF scenario, when I just need to kill something for food, I'd personally opt for a semi-automatic rifle like the AR-10 chambered in .380. In my mind, you're not giving up anything too significant in terms of first-shot accuracy, plus you gain the advantage of being able to take quick follow up shots if necessary. This obviously has benefits outside of hunting, as a semi-automatic rifle is also more appropriate for self-defense, so you get two uses out of an AR-10.

Here are some great AR-10s for hunting or whatever else you need them to do:

Palmetto State Armory 18" Lightweight AR-10 in .308

The AR-10 world is filled with some REALLY expensive rifles, but PSA once again has you covered with some budget options.

Palmetto State Armory Lightweight AR-10 308 Win M-LOK

$749.99 at PSA

Prices accurate at time of publishing

The above rifle has a 416R Stainless Steel barrel for improved accuracy that can easily shoot 1.5-2 MOA groups or 1 MOA groups with the right load. The barrel is free-floated in PSA's lightweight M-LOK handguard.

The bolt is made from nitride-treated 9310 steel, which is actually stronger than 158 steel, and the carrier is made from 8260 steel.

The major downside I see to this rifle and AR-10s as a whole is the weight. This AR-10 weighs 8.2 lbs before adding an optic or anything else you throw on it.

Upgrading the trigger is also a must, but even with that purchase, you can still easily stay below $1,000.

You can check out the rest of PSA's AR-10s here.

Rise Armament 1121XR 20" Precision Rifle in .308

I told you AR-10's can get expensive, so much so that this is actually a mid-tier option.

Rise Armament is known for making high-quality, yet affordable triggers, but they've put these same principles into building this fantastic complete rifle.

Rise Armament 1121XR 20 inch Precision Rifle in 308

$2,379.00 at Rainier Arms

Prices accurate at time of publishing

We've already established that we're going to have lots of 9mm ammo and quite possibly a lot of Glock magazines. So why not also get some carbines chambered in 9mm that take Glock mags?

They're a great option for self-defense and practice shooting that eats up cheaper ammunition than an AR-15.

Palmetto State Armory GEN4 AR-9 Pistol

I'm sure I must sound like a broken record at this point, but PSA really does always have you covered with some great budget guns.

This AR-9 Pistol from PSA accepts Glock double stack-style magazines, meaning you can get extra use out of it if you go the Glock 17 or 19 route.


$549.99 at PSA

Prices accurate at time of publishing

This blowback-design AR9 pistol has an 8" barrel and pistol brace, but PSA has a lot of AR9 rifles and pistols to choose from, and they're all a lot cheaper than your typical 9mm carbines.

Not only are AR-style 9mm carbines cheaper than something like an MPX or a Scorpion EVO, but they also use most of the same parts as an AR-15.

Check out our list of the best pistol caliber carbines and the best AR-9 options.

Though this might not be the most popular opinion, I don't think shotguns are the best guns for preppers. Generally, a rifle can do a better job than a shotgun in my opinion.

Sorry Joe!

Joe Biden Just Go Buy a Shotgun Meme

With that said, the one exception is for hunting birds.

If you feel that you need a shotgun to round out your SHTF arsenal, I'd recommend going with a 12 gauge. Longer barrels (22"+) are optimal for most hunting purposes, though shorter barrels (18"-20") are better for "tactical shotguns".

When faced with the decision of pump action vs semi-auto, I see no reason to not opt for a semi-auto shotgun, especially if you think its use may double as a defensive weapon.

Check out this article to learn about the different 12 gauge ammo types.

Less-Lethal / Non-Lethal Weapons

If guns aren't your thing (or you can't own guns where you live), you may want to consider less-lethal or non-lethal weapons. As always, be sure to check your local laws to be sure owning them are legal.

Mace and bear spray are quite possibly the best non-lethal alternatives to firearms. Bear spray in particular can usually be used at a far enough distance that you don't have to be very close to an attacker (whether its a human or animal).

While it's no where near being my first choice for self-defense, a lightweight bat or baton is better than nothing when it comes to protecting yourself.

Stun guns and knives can be useful, though they usually require you to be very close to an attacker.

We've covered a lot in this guide, including not only what guns to get, but how to approach firearms optimally as a prepper. Hopefully you found this useful!

To recap, I think it's best to stick to a handful of calibers (.22 LR, 9mm, .223/5.56, and .308) and limit the number of different weapon platforms you choose. Also, don't forget to stock up on ammo, as that's arguably more important than guns themselves outside of your first few guns.

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