Which Survival Guns to Own? Read our detailed analysis and recommendations

During the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, Reginald Denny was forcibly pulled out of his truck and savagely beaten nearly to death.

The thugs then danced around his motionless body and victoriously flashed gang signs to the press helicopter circling overhead.

Vandals and looters pillaged and destroyed one business establishment after another.

The exceptions, however, were buildings where the armed owners were present.

CNN carried vivid, live images of importance of survival riflesKorean business owners armed with assault rifles, defending their property as vandals and looters went by their businesses and destroyed the ones on either side of them.

Without exception, the looters left the protected buildings alone. Those Koreans understood clearly that there was no police, no law, and no help on the way.

They knew that they were on their own and they stood their ground.

This is a potent example of how firearms sometimes make a very effective deterrent, and can even save your life without firing a shot.

The right shtf guns

You should always buy good quality firearms and buy specific firearms for specific tasks.

Firearms are nothing more than tools; you wouldn’t try to drive a nail with a screwdriver, so don’t try to defend your family with a .22 pistol.

One gun will not do it all.

Buy the right firearm for the right job.

Get some training from a qualified instructor, and practice at a shooting range until you are proficient with each of your survival guns.

Keep your survival rifles locked up when not in use and make sure that they are always out of reach of children. The best way to do this is to buy key-operated trigger locking devices for each firearm and store the keys in a separate location.

Which guns are best for home defense?

Ask 20 different firearm owners, and you will get some drastically different answers, as well as a sometimes very passionate defense of their choices.

For the purpose of our discussion, survival firearms have three purposes:

  1. The defense of your family
  2. The procurement of food
  3. And the pure enjoyment of target shooting.

What options do you have?

It is vital that you buy a gun that you enjoy shooting. If you don’t, it will lie unused in its case, and your proficiency with it will suffer. Learning to shoot well takes time, patience, and practice.

Here are different options to choose from:

#1 Survival handguns

best survival 22 handguns At least one .22 caliber pistol is a must. Ruger makes some of the best survival .22 pistols for the money. Most skilled marksmen began with a .22 caliber pistol.

A good medium-caliber pistol for self-defense is essential.

For a simple, easy to use, reliable, affordable survival weapon, it is hard to beat a Glock 9mm Smith & Wesson revolver semi-automatic handgun or a Smith & Weston .38 Special revolver.

Some experienced shooters cast aspersions on revolvers in favor of the more advanced semi-automatic pistols like the Colt or the Glock.

But we still maintain that a good revolver has its place in a gun collection, especially for the beginner.

A Smith & Wesson Model 66 .357 Magnum revolver is affordable, accurate, and dependable.

Since a .357 revolver also fires .38 Special ammunition, the Model 66 is the revolver we recommend for the beginner who is already proficient with a .22.

Compared to the .357 Magnum, .38 Special ammo is less expensive, has less recoil, and is more enjoyable to shoot for the novice.

More experienced shooters may prefer the .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol.

The Colt 1911A1 model .45 Automatic is a magnificent, dependable firearm and may be an experienced shooter’s first choice, but it has significant recoil and is expensive, both to purchase and to shoot.

All things considered, the Glock Model 17 and the Glock Model 19, both of which are 9mm, deserve some consideration.

Caliber choice for your defense handgun is very important. You must choose a caliber that is big enough to do the job, yet small enough for you to be comfortable with.

There is an old saying to the effect that you “would rather hit with a .22 than miss with a .45.” If you cannot shoot your firearm accurately, it will do you no good.

A 9mm handgun is less expensive, is lighter, recoil is less, and magazine capacity is higher in comparison with a .45 ACP.

Of course, in a gunfight, having a 9mm can get you killed.

The minimal stopping power of a 9mm means that your wounded assailant will probably live long enough to kill you before he dies.

The fact that he will die later of his wounds will be of little comfort to you.

best gun for home defenseThe .40 S&W caliber has better ballistics and better knock-down power than the 9mm, but less recoil and higher magazine capacity than the .45 auto.

It is the best of both worlds.

Keep in mind that in a crisis where ammunition is at a premium, .40 S&W ammo may be hard to find since it is not a predominantly popular caliber yet. In that case, you will want to stock extra .40 S&W ammo.

Best survival shotguns

single shot shotguns for survival

A 12-gauge shotgun is good for hunting and sometimes suitable for close range defense. It can be used for hunting large game, hunting small game (using shells with smaller shot size), shooting moving targets, and confronting multiple assailants within 20 yards.

The shotgun owes its versatility in part to the wide selection of shot shells that are available.

“Shot” refers to the pellets contained in each round. A #6 shot shell, for example, contains smaller pellets but more of them when compared to 00 buckshot.

Shells containing smaller shot size are better for shooting small game. Even smaller birdshot is better for upland bird hunting.

One round of 12 gauge 00 buckshot contains nine .33 caliber projectiles and is intended for large game and self-defense. 00 buckshot is also often selected for close combat gunfights.

A shotgun slug is one large lead projectile which basically turns your shotgun into a short-range rifle with a huge one-ounce bullet.

Pump action models made by Winchester and Mossberg are dependable, quality shotguns, but the Remington Model 870 is in a class of its own.

While some may disagree, the Remington 870 is generally accepted as the best survival shotgun for the money.

The Mossberg Model 500 is also a good choice. It is important to note that shotguns do not incorporate a firing pin safety. This means you should never leave a round in the chamber of a shotgun when in storage or on stand-by for emergency purposes.

Other recommended survival firearms

#1 The Springfield Armory M1A

Springfield Armory M1A is a .308The Springfield Armory M1A is a .308 (7.62mm) caliber semi-automatic rifle with supreme accuracy, range, and dependability.

The M1A is basically a semi-automatic, civilian version Springfield M1A rifle .308 (7.62mm)of the M14 combat rifle.

A direct descendant of the M1 Garand used in World War II, the M14 inherited many of the positive aspects which made the Garand so popular.

Unfortunately, the M14 did show some shortcomings in the jungles of Southeast Asia; it was too big and too heavy for jungle warfare, and was nearly impossible to control in full auto.

Still, many United States Marines were grieved to give up their M14′s when the newer M16 were issued in Viet Nam. The M14 was reliable, fast-loading, simple to operate, and nail-driving accurate at one thousand plus yards.

In the civilian market, the Springfield M1A has been a huge success. The jungle shortcomings are not a problem for the American shooters of today.

Bulk is not an issue when shooting targets, and control during full-auto fire is not an issue since the M1A is semi-automatic only. The .308 caliber is also very popular among target shooters and hunters.

If you are fortunate enough to get a National Match version of the M1A, you will enjoy numerous advanced features.

The National Match barrel is a 22″ stainless steel, air-gauged barrel with a 1:11 right-hand twist. The trigger is two-stage with a 4 1/2 lb. pull. The action is glass-bedded and the stock is a beautiful high-grade walnut.

The National Match sights have one-half m.o.a. windage and elevation adjustments.

In any variation, the Springfield M1A is a magnificent firearm and, as such, commands a premium price. It is worth every penny. If you can only have one large caliber rifle in your collection, get a Springfield M1A rifle.

#2 Colt AR-15

Colt AR-15 Survival ShotgunThe Colt AR-15 is a .223 (5.56mm) caliber rifle and is a good and reliable weapon, but is also expensive to purchase.

The price can vary greatly because there are many models available, but the older SP1 models (rifles whose serial numbers begin with ‘SP1’) are the most desirable because they are constructed with better workmanship and materials and are convertible to fully automatic fire.

The newer models have a steel block Colt AR-15 .223 machined into the lower receiver to prevent this conversion and are more cheaply made, but are more affordable.

All in all, the Colt AR-15 is a wonderful survival firearm: simple to use, very accurate, dependable, and a pure joy to shoot. If you are willing to pay the price, at around $800, you will love it.

Some AR-15 parts and all the magazines are interchangeable with the military M16, so extra parts and magazines are very common and inexpensive at gun shows and gun shops.

Ruger Mini 14As an alternative, the Ruger Mini-14 is less expensive, but less accurate.

It is more rugged than the AR-15 and functions better under sandy or muddy conditions.

Mini-14 parts, when you can find them, are expensive. The Chinese SKS 7.62×39 is a cheaper option.

In wilderness survival guns, you get what you pay for. We would much rather face an opponent with a Chinese SKS than one with a Springfield M1A.

Full auto survival guns

Semi-automatic so-called ‘assault rifles,’ generally speaking, are easy to operate, fun to shoot, reasonably accurate, and usually dependable.

We would advise against a fully automatic weapon for all but the most experienced shooters.

Even though they are a lot of fun to shoot, fully automatic guns are unbelievably expensive to purchase and they consume a horrendous amount of ammunition.

The ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) permit and paperwork to legally own what is known as a Class III firearm is a major paperwork hassle, costs $200, and can take up to a year before your application goes through.

You must have the approved ATF application in hand before you can legally possess a full auto firearm.

And don’t even think about buying a machine gun that does not have the proper stamps from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms division of the Department of the Treasury, United States Government.

It is not worth the risk.

The same goes for illegally altering semi-automatic rifles to shoot full-auto. That offense carries the same mandatory minimum of fifteen years in a federal penitentiary, even for a first-time offender.

Building your survival ammo stockpile

choosing the best survival ammoHow much ammo should you I stockpile for each gun?

That is another source of endless debate among gun enthusiasts, and it depends on the firearm ammunition and what type of disaster that you are planning for.

The .22 long rifle caliber is one of the most important calibers in your home defense because it is probably the most versatile. This caliber does very well in pistols and rifles alike, has countless uses, and is comparatively quiet.

Since .22 LR ammunition is also very inexpensive and has a long shelf life, it wouldn’t hurt to occasionally buy a brick (500 rounds) to stick back.

It also makes a great inexpensive gift. Ask your family to buy you a brick of .22 shells for Christmas and Father’s Day.

3,000 rounds of .22 ammunition is a bare minimum of what you should consider adequate because the .22 has so many uses. And since it stores well, it wouldn’t hurt to store more than that.

In larger caliber pistols such as the 9mm or .45 Automatic, you should have a bare minimum of 500 rounds stored per gun in your collection. That is not per caliber, but per firearm.

You should also have a good selection of specialized ammo in each caliber for self-defense. Some very good choices are the Cor-Bon jacketed hollow points and the Remington Golden Sabers.

winchester fail safe ammoA personal favorite is the Winchester Fail Safe jacketed hollow-point bullet, formerly known as the Black Talon.

This bullet has a lead core with a steel insert, and the copper-alloy nose has a notched hollow point cavity.

As the bullet penetrates the target, the nose expands with jagged “petals” that peel back. This slows the rate of the projectile, transfers energy from the bullet to the target, and inflicts an impressive amount of internal damage.

When it comes to the defense of your family, it should be your goal to inflict the maximum amount of internal damage possible on the intruder with the minimum number of shots fired.

Remember, you may get only one shot, and it had better count.

That is why ammunition such as the Winchester Fail Safe is necessary and desirable.

There are a wide variety of other bullet types on the market to choose from. Remember, the fate of your children may rest on the stopping power of the bullet you choose, so choose well.

You will need to experiment with several different types and see which ones your chosen firearm performs the most accurately with, and which ballistic loads you prefer to shoot.

For large caliber bolt-action rifles, 300 hundred rounds of ammo per bolt-action rifle should be sufficient, unless you had the wisdom and foresight to purchase a semi-automatic rifle of the same caliber.

A fine pair of choices in this situation would be a Springfield M1A and a Remington bolt-action Model 700VS, both chambered in .308 caliber.

If you have both a .308 semi-automatic and a .308 bolt gun, we would suggest storing a minimum of 1,000 rounds of .308 ammo.

The .223 caliber poses a special problem in the question of how much ammo to store. That is because you may have more than one gun to feed, and some of those guns may be semi-automatic.

Semi-automatic .223 rifles seem to have a voracious appetite for ammunition. This is probably because the operating action is easy, they are fun to shoot, they have very little recoil, and the ammo is relatively inexpensive. That all adds up to a caliber that will always seem to be in short supply on your shelf.

This brings up another attractive aspect of a .223 bolt-action rifle: it uses the same caliber ammo as the common Colt AR-15 and M16.

Older AR-15’s can also be purchased in 9mm or 7.62 calibers, but these are getting rare.

You should have a minimum of 500 rounds for your .223 bolt-action rifle, and no less than 2000 rounds of .223 ammo for each semi-automatic rifle.

Once you begin shooting your AR-15 and see how fast the ammo goes, you will see why these amounts are necessary.

Shotgun ammunitions

Shotgun ammunitions pose a problem of a different nature. They do not have a long shelf life because of the non-sealing nature of the shotgun shell which holds the powder and shot in place.

The ammos are subject to fouling over time from moisture in the air, so very special care must be taken to store shotgun shells in a dry, air-tight container such as an ammo can.

Be sure to include a desiccant and store the ammo away from outside walls and concrete floors, which may contribute to condensation.

If stored properly, a minimum of 250 rounds is recommended. Buy 00 buckshot for defense and hunting large game, and #6 squirrel and rabbit shot for small game.

All ammo should be rotated and replaced like food, but more especially shotgun shells, because they are so vulnerable to humidity and dampness in general.

Because of this vulnerability, it would be a better idea to store the individual shotgun ammunition components (powder, primers, shot, etc.) separately in airtight containers and load the shells as needed.

Storing ammunition is like storing food; keep it in a cool, dry place at a constant temperature.

  • Don’t store it in the attic because of the heat.
  • Don’t expose it to solvents or oils of any kind and don’t handle it unnecessarily because of the oils and salt produced by your skin.

Ammunition for a lot of the calibers we have discussed can be purchased in bulk, which will save you a fortune.

Ask around at gun shows or at gun shops for information about companies that will load quality ammo in bulk and ship it to you.

Try to keep the number of different calibers to a minimum. Having several guns that use the same ammo is not a luxury, it is a must. Maintenance is easier, buying ammunition is easier, and reloading ammo is much simpler. Avoid exotic calibers and stick to the basics.

By far the cheapest way to stock ammunition is to purchase the various components (bullets, powder, primers, hulls, etc.) and reload it yourself. Not only does it make shooting a lot cheaper, but ammo reloading is a fun, interesting, and rewarding hobby.

Learn how to do it correctly and only reload at times when you have no distractions so that you can focus on what you are doing. Get a couple of reloading manuals and learn how to do it right. Ammunition reloading is like home canning- if you take short cuts, you will regret it in a most profound fashion.

Clips and magazines

Another question that frequently comes up is in regard to gun magazines, sometimes incorrectly referred to as ‘clips.’

A ‘clip’ is a strip of metal that holds ammo in a linear manner in preparation for loading into a magazine.

A magazine, on the other hand, is the part of a firearm which houses the ammunition before it is chambered, and may or may not be detachable.

You should have a minimum of six magazines per semi-automatic pistol, and 10 magazines per semi-automatic rifle.

Magazines are sometimes misplaced or lost in the field, so it is always best to have numerous spares.

20-round rifle magazines are the most reliable, but the 30-round mags are acceptable. Anything higher decreases reliability of the magazine spring-feeding mechanism.

Don’t leave your magazines stored full of ammo because it weakens the springs, which will affect reliability in feeding the ammo.

When loading, leave the magazine two rounds less than full. That helps decrease magazine jam-ups and increases reliability.

Daniel Boone

Do not have the illusion that you will hunt animals such as deer and turkey to feed your family in an extended crisis, living off the land like Daniel Boone.

These animals will disappear from the landscape overnight in a food shortage. If you think opening day of deer hunting season last year was crowded, wait until everyone’s kitchen cabinets are bare.

Remember, you will not be the only guy out there with best survival rifle and an empty belly.