The Prepper’s Firearms Checklist of Handguns, Shotguns, and Rifles

MDCreekmoreRifles and Shotguns37 Comments

Women prepper shooting ar-15

Women prepper shooting ar-15

Since TN Concealed Carry is as the name implies a concealed carry website/blog I won’t be publishing many prepper type articles here, however, since the subject of prepping for a disaster like an EMP, economic collapse, viral pandemic or other similar event is recommended we will be publishing several articles (approximately five total) on prepping and how-to-do-it correctly.

Specific Thoughts and Considerations For Bug Out Bag Firearms

For bugging out most people will suggest a .22 caliber rifle, such as the Ruger 10/22 and this is a great choice. A .22 caliber rifle can take small game as well as larger game such as deer with proper shot placement.

Another advantage of having a .22 Long rifle is the relatively low noises when fired especially when using CB caps and the ability to be effectively silenced with a homemade sound suppressor aka “silencer”. Just remembered that such a device is illegal without proper government approval and will land you behind bars if caught and is suggested here for a worst-case scenario only or after you have gone through all of the legal hoops.

The downside of the .22 Long rifle round is the limited range, penetration and stopping power all of which limit the rounds effectiveness when used for self-defense. I suggest a backup handgun chambered for a cartridge suitable for self-defense. I would not go below a 9mm or 38 special and then us good expanding ammo.

Even with a 9mm and 38 special, you should seriously consider using only the +P rounds such as the 115 or 124-grain JHP +P in the 9 mm or 158-grain lead semi-wadcutter hollow point .38 Special +P for defensive purposes.

Your location would also determine weapons choice. For example, those bugging-out in grizzly country should consider something more powerful than the 9mm or 38 special.

My first choice for protection against such large game would be a center-fire rifle chambered for 308 or larger. My second choice would be a magnum revolver with a 5.5″ to 7.5″ barrel chambered for .44 Magnum or larger.

It is wise to avoid any armed confrontation if possible. Trust me you are not a coward if you avoid the possibility of being shot or having to shoot someone else. You are not expendable – neither are the lives of your family or those in your bug out group. Those with the macho kill ‘em all attitudes will not last very long after the poop hit’s the fan.

With that being said, a semi-auto military style rifle should be considered especially if you are trying to get from an urban area to the country, where facing organized gangs or other threats attempting to block your exit could be a possibility.

An AR-15 with collapsible buttstock or folding stocked AK-47 (for compactness and concealability) could help get you out of a dangerous situation if pressed into one while taking up little space and not adding significant weight to your overall survival gear.

Now let’s talk a little more about weapons for self-defense and foraging.

In the next part of this article, I’ll be talking about choosing the right firearms for personal self-defense, home defense and foraging from a homesteading/retreat viewpoint. I’ll try to keep this as short and to the point as possible while still covering everything that you really need to know, to make an informed decision when buying and learning how to use those tools to feed yourself and your family.

Best Survival Shotguns for Preppers

shotguns preppers

No foraging arsenal would be complete without at least one shotgun. By simply changing shot loads or moving up to slugs the shotgun can be used to take every game and predatory animal in North America out to 100 yards. And let’s not forget that a pump-action or semi-auto shotgun loaded with buckshot or slugs makes an excellent self-defense tool, especially if the shooter knows how to use it to its maximum effectiveness.

The shotgun that you choose for foraging purposes need not be expensive; the simple single-shot break-action shotgun is an excellent tool when foraging for food, and best of all they can be bought new for under $200 in most areas, are light-weight and extremely rugged and reliable.

Add a carry sling and a way to carry some extra ammo (I like the Voodoo Tactical Shotgun Shell Ammo Pouch – click here to check current price and availability at and you’re ready to go foraging for small game, foul or even larger game if the opportunity should present itself.

Ammo selection will, of course, depend on what you’re hunting for; I like to keep several different types in my sling loops, where I can quickly get to it and change out one round for another if needed. Say for example; that I’m hunting rabbit, and happen to spot a deer in the distance, it’s a simple matter to quietly and quickly, switch from a chambered shot-shell (I like #6 shot for small game) to a rifled slug and effectively and humanely take the deer.

For self-defense purposes, I suggest a pump-action or semi-auto (I prefer the pump-action but there are also some good semi-autos available) shotgun in 12 gauge, however, for smaller shooters a 20 gauge will suffice. There are so many great brands and models available that it would take several chapters to go into any detail on each, so I won’t waste your time doing that here.

Two of my favorite pump-action shotgun manufacturers are Remington and Mossberg, with my personal home-defense shotgun being a Mossberg model 590 with ghost ring sights and speed-fed stock. In my opinion, the Mossberg 590 is the best “out of the box” pump-action defensive shotgun available today.

Best Survival .22 Rifles for Preppers

.22 rifles preppers

No prepper’s “survival arsenal” would be complete without at least one high-quality .22lr caliber rifle. Because there are literally, hundreds of quality brands and models available, I won’t take up your time by trying to go over the details of each one here, but I will instead mention several of my personal favorites.

My first choice for a semi-auto .22lr would be the Ruger 10/22 takedown model; this is essentially the same rifle as the super trusted and reliable standard 10/22 but with the ability to be taken apart for transport and storage.

My first choice for a bolt-action .22lr is the Ruger American .22lr with 18-inch barrel. It’s well made with fewer parts to break than a semi-auto, and I’ve found it to be more accurate out-of-the-box than any standard our-of-the-box semi-auto .22lr that I’ve tested it against.

Another one of my favorite .22lr rifles is the Smith and Wesson MP 15/22, mine has been ultra-reliable after thousands of rounds, and is a perfect training tool for new shooters or for cheap live-fire practice for AR-15 owners. However, it’s not my first choice when small game hunting, the .22lr that most often accompanies me on small game hunts is the Ruger American .22lr mentioned above.

My first choice when adding an optical sight (scope) to a .22lr is the Nikon ProStaff Rimfire 4 x 32 Black Matte Riflescope (click here to check availability and current prices at I’ve tried other cheaper (and a few more expensive) alternatives when scoping .22lr rifles and found the Nikon ProStaff to be the best option.

Best Centerfire Rifles for Preppers


Yes, I know that the water bottle is blue – it was a new addition to my bug out bag and it’s not blue anymore.

Here again, I’ll not waste your time by trying to cover 101 different manufacturers and models of centerfire rifles but will instead elaborate on my two of my personal favorites.

For hunting larger game in my area (Tennessee) I don’t need anything more powerful than a .308 win, however, if you live in grizzly and moose country then you may want to move up to something like a .338 magnum or similar to be sure of a clean and humane kill.

My first choice for a .308 semi-auto is the Smith and Wesson M&P 10. The M&P 10 is built on an AR type platform with a standard 20 round magazine. I’ve found it to be a well-made, accurate and reliable rifle. It can be used for both hunting large game and as a main battle rifle, however, the current, 2015 price tag of over $1,600 will no doubt be a roadblock for many (I had to save for almost a year to afford it).

My first choice for a bolt-action .308 is the Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle, but with a standard rear mounted optic sight instead of the forward mounted “scout” configuration.

All of my .308’s are topped with the Nikon ProStaff 3-9 x 40 Black Matte Riflescope (BDC) optics (click here to check current price and availability on and have backup standard iron sights and a sling. If you’re serious about using a rifle for the defense of your property and for hunting then please get a copy of “The Art of the Rifle” by the late Jeff Cooper, it’s a great book that is full of tips and advice that will help to increase your on-target accuracy.

Best Handguns for Preppers

handguns preppers

This is one of those subjects that I hate to even get into here and that I purposely, avoid discussing in public because it never ends well because nearly everyone has their favorite and are unwilling to consider anything else. I too have my own personal favorites, but I’m not like some and will consider other alternatives if something was proven to be better, or just as good but at a better price.

So, like we’ve already done above, instead of going into a hundred different manufacturers and models, I’ll only, tell you my favorites that have proven to work for me after years of shooting, hunting, plinking, and competition.

Well, start with the .22lr – of which my favorite is the Browning Buckmark. This is the top .22lr handgun made today, period. I’ve carried mine all over the forests of Appalachia and can shoot it accurately enough to make head-shots on cotton-tail rabbits at 35 yards.

I have no idea how many rounds that I’ve put through mine but it has to be ten-thousand or more and I’ve never had a failure that was not ammo related.

Another excellent .22lr handgun is the Beretta 21A Bobcat. The Bobcat isn’t ideal for small game hunting or self-defense, but it’s weight and compact size will allow you to have it on you always, and any handgun that you have with you is better than the one you left at home or back at camp because it was too large, heavy and inconvenient to carry.

I carry mine when I’m on the river fishing, camping, hunting ginseng or just working around the homestead, it’s weight and size make it easy to go armed at all times. The Israeli Mossad has proven the effectiveness of the .22lr as an offensive/defensive tool with its use of the Beretta 70 in .22lr. The Beretta 70 is also carried by Israeli Sky Marshals.

The keys to success with the .22 LR for self-defense and concealed carry is training, skill, and knowing its limitations and yours…

By far my favorite centerfire handguns are made by Glock, however, they’re not the only quality choice on the market, there are many different handgun manufacturers that products worth considering. The most important consideration is to purchase the handgun that fits your hand best. If the handgun fits your hand correctly, you’ll naturally shoot it more accurately.

Out of the Glock line up my favorite model is the Glock model 19 (click here to read our full review and guide to the Glock 19). The Glock 19 is a medium-sized 9mm handgun that is the perfect size for open carry, in a belt holster, yet small enough to be carried comfortably concealed under summer clothes. Another plus is that the Glock 19 has a 15-round magazine capacity, which is comparable with other, larger and heavier 9mm handguns such as the Berretta 92.

When it comes to ammo choices and “stopping power” there are just as many opinions as there are for handgun choices, but my personal carry load in a 9mm round is the Corbon 115-grain +p. Ballistics for this round is close to those produced by the 357 magnums and it is a proven stopper according to both ballistic research and actual real-life use.

Best Air Rifles for Preppers

air rifles for preppers

Air rifles are often overlooked by survival planners and this is unfortunate because they have a lot to offer, with the most notable being the ability to quietly take small game out to approximately 35 yards.

However, to get this kind of performance from an air rifle you’re going to have to look past the $45 models like those often seen at Walmart, these don’t produce the energy or velocity that is needed to cleanly take small game. You’ll probably have to spend over $150 at current prices before getting one that will do take small game effectively.

My personal choice and the one that I’ve taken the most small-game with is the Benjamin Titan GP Nitro Piston .22 caliber air rifle. I’ve found the .22 caliber air rifles to provide much better on target effectiveness i.e. dropping small-game in their tracks, than those in .177.

The Benjamin Titan GP .22 caliber air rifle features a 19 inch fully rifled barrel and a muzzle brake, both with a nice looking deep blue steel finish. I also have a Ruger .177 caliber air rifle and comparatively the finish on both the metal and stock is much nicer on the Titan GP.

As with most air rifles of this type, the Titan GP has no iron sights but the rifle is grooved for mounting an optical sight. The addition of a good set of metal sights would significantly add to the overall functionality and dependability of the rifle.

But as a rule, I prefer all my rifles to have the choice of iron sights, as well as scope-mounting with, see-through mounts. Scopes can break, become fogged, lose zero etc., and the ability to quickly change from one sighting option to the other without losing the target aids greatly to the utility of any rifle.

The Titan GP features an ambidextrous thumb-hole stock with dual raised cheekpieces, and while well designed, I found the reach from the grip to the trigger to be a bit long. But, this would not be a problem for shooters with larger hands or longer fingers. Even with the longer reach to the trigger from the grip, I have no problem pulling the trigger or shooting the rifle.

The rifle also has a 2-stage adjustable trigger for fine tuning to the needs of each shooter; however, I found the factory setting to be very good for my needs so I left the settings as is. But, an adjustment is an option and a welcome addition that I’m sure many will find very useful.

One of the main selling points of the Benjamin Titan is the Nitro Piston system and a velocity of up to 950 FPS. The Nitro Piston offers several advantages over rifles with a metal mainspring system, such as smoother cocking, no spring fatigue, reduced vibration, functions well in cold weather and the Nitro Piston system is also much quieter.

In fact, the Titan is noticeably quieter than my other air rifles and is much quieter than my Ruger air rifle which is the loudest of the lot.

Bows, Arrows and Blow Guns for Preppers

crossbow for preppers

I’ve used blowguns for small game since I was in my early teens, and I can assure you that they’re not toys, far from it. In practiced hands (and lungs) the blowgun can be used very effectively, to take small game and are much more accurate and deadly than the slingshot.

There are currently three sizes of mass-marketed blowguns in the U.S. one in .40 caliber, .50 caliber, and .625 caliber diameters. Each has different advantages over the other, but I prefer the .40 caliber versions because I’ve found that I can shoot them further with more accurately and haven’t noted any difference in effectiveness when taking small game.

Fortunately, blowguns are priced so cheaply that you can buy several (or make your own) to see what works best for you. If you’re interested in finding out a wealth of information on blowguns, and how to make your own Michael Janich has an excellent book available to help you with that it’s called “Blowguns: The Breath of Death” and covers everything blowgun related.

Another favorite weapon for foraging is the bow and arrow. In skilled hands the bow and arrow can be used to take both large and small game and like with the blowgun you can make your own. However, it’s likely that nothing that you can make in the home workshop will compare to the power and velocity of commercially manufactured compound and crossbows.

Bows are like handguns in that you should try out several before deciding what works best for you. Personally, I prefer a more traditional recurve bow with a 45-pound draw weight over a compound, but that’s a personal choice and only one that you can make after gaining experience. Crossbows are also excellent and might be the best choice especially for those not wanting to take the time needed to master traditional archery.

37 Comments on “The Prepper’s Firearms Checklist of Handguns, Shotguns, and Rifles”

  1. MD I also prefer the recurve styles (Mongolian horse/turkish calvary) is my go too styles, love recurves!

  2. Well this got me to thinking about what I would use if I had to choose . For the .22 S&W .22-.32 Kit gun , with Ruger 10/22 . Shot Gun 870 12 GA. Bolt Gun Remington 700 in .308 Battle rifle M1A1 Standard And last but not least RWS #43 in .177 . These are the ones that I have used and abused over the years and they are still working great.

    1. William. The .22/32 is an amazing little .22 lr handgun. Real similar to the MP at the time. The 32 stood for year produced I believe. Man o man, would love to find one of those!

  3. you missed the really great survival rifle/shotgun combination the old Savage 24 22lr/20ga or the 223/12ga or 30-30/12ga

  4. I notice one item left out was Black Power like the:
    Pietta Model 1858 New Army .44 Caliber Black Powder Revolver
    Uberti 1858 Remington Black Powder Revolving Carbine 44

    Both would be good is a very long SHTF when shell can no longer be reloaded. You can always make Black Power if you know how.
    22/410 is a nice survival rifle/shotgun

  5. I have a cheap Armscor M20P with a 22 inches thick barrel, never gets hot ($125.00) in my small weapons inventorie. Takes a while to learn how to keep it as some screws need blue loctite or they will get loose. Zeroed at 75 is a nail driver, same with my son Marlin 60. Our pistols, Taurus PT92 and PT111, very accurate and reliable for the last 4 years. My only expensive toy for my pocket Sign 556R 7.62 x 39. See no need for expensive guns. More $$$ for food.

  6. Pingback: SayUncle » Guns for preppers

  7. DW and I like AR-15’s due to our military service time (42 years combined). DW prefers a Beretta 92 and I really like my Glock 19X for personal defense. I have .308’s in a Remington ADL and an M1A SOCOM. I like the AR10 platform for muscle memory, but would grab the M1A 1st (amazingly light recoil impulse and rugged construction). 22 LR pistol is a Browning Buckmark with a Ruger SR22 for the smaller needs. DW prefers a semi-auto shotgun (Remington 1100 20 gauge), I have an 870 (12 gauge) with hunting and defense barrels (defensive loads for the 20 are very limited – both availability and high price).

    Because I live where bear could be around, I have a modified Marlin Guide Gun in 45-70 with Buffalo Bore 500 gr FMJ’s.

    I have S&W revolvers for back country carry, in both .357 Magnum (180 gr HSM) and .44 Magnum (Barnes Vor-Tx 225 gr HP).

    EDC goes with Ruger’s, either LCP 380’s or LC9 (depending upon the weather/clothing).

    Then there are the ones I like just because I like guns. Got plenty of left overs and calibers.

  8. MD:

    The blue bottle actually makes sense (knowing what it is). I have LifeStraw bottles that we carry. If you need “tactical” people can always get a carrier that covers the whole bottle or camo bow tape.

  9. You can get an PSA AR10 .308 blemished for sale under $600.00. That is with a S/S barrel 18 or 20″. Magpul furniture. With an extra smooth factory trigger. Complete top free float rail no sights.

  10. Practice, practice and practice some more, and if you can’t reload your own ammo learn to do so now! Do not buy another gun until you can “roll your own” with confidence and competency! Buy components, powder, primers, bullets and brass if you need it! I have reloaded thousands of rounds over the decades and don’t forget to teach your children too. Winter is the season for reloading. It’s not cheap to get started but for the cost of a new rifle or handgun you can get a good press, dies, accessories and reloading books to load all your calibers except the .22Lr.

    Years ago my dad gave me a few boxes of old 22 LR ammo from Montgomery Wards, from when he got me a 22 rifle in the early 1960’s. It was over 30 years old and they all worked. So you can never have to much 22LR.! Never!

  11. 357 rifle and revolver combo: very good stopping power (357 out of rifle barrel = lower end 30-30 stoping power) same ammo both weapons and if you practice the rifle will not run out of ammo… for holding ammo a belt and any type pouch/bag.. old m-16 pouches easily holds 150 rounds ….

    1. Van,

      Rifle and handgun in the same caliber does offer some advantages and well as a few disadvantages…

      1. Van:

        I am a big fan of the rifle/pistol combo. I really like my .357 set, but I also have a .44 mag set.
        The primary .357 load is the 158 gr JHP, but my revolver(s) shoots the 180 gr RNFPGC loads well, so I use those too.
        I do use different loads (same brass) in my 44’s. 305 gr RNFPGC for the rifle, 200 gr JHP for the pistol (1100 fps) because I am old and I like my wrists to work.

        1. JP in MT,

          I have the Ruger 9mm PC carbine that uses Glock magazines… makes a good truck combo.

          1. I do too. Mine came with a SR9 mag too. I need to try that out as my DW may be going from the Beretta to a SR9c.

          2. JP in MT,

            SR9 mag mine too but I have Glocks so I switched them out to use the Glock mags.

          3. My G19X/PC carbine in my “going to town” set. My M92 and 686+ is my GH set.

          4. I bought a Ruger PC Carbine in 9mm since I liked how it stores easily & figured my wife would be comfortable with it. I found out I have been taking it in the Polaris UTV when I cruise around or go out to fix a water line or fence. I will be buying one with the new hand guard so we both are happy.

          5. Redwoods,

            I love mine. They are a really great companion if you also have Glock or Ruger handguns in the same caliber.

  12. I will disagree a little, IMO, an AK47 makes a better “1 rifle for SHTF” because it, unlike the 5.56 or 223, WILL take down a deer at 100 yards no problem. it ALSO will punch through objects better than the 5.56. It is not, of course as good as a .308 for hunting but it is MUCH lighter than an AR10. And generally speaking are you going to do 200 to 300 yard shots hunting in a SHTF situation? i’m thinking that will give anyone in the area that hears the shot plenty of time to find you while your hiking to where you last saw your game. A 22LR in any form, pistol or rifle is perfect for small game and keeping things quiet. And there are very quiet rounds now that are no louder than an average pellet gun, I’ve used them. And you can carry a LOT of 22LR on your person if needed. Just MHO

    1. nope,

      The .223 is legal for deer hunting here in TN and I’ve never had any trouble taking a deer down with it. Anyway, just in case you missed it or didn’t know the Smith and Wesson M&P 10 that recommend and have a pic of is a .308 so… and no an AK look-alike isn’t better than an AR 10, the AR 10 has more range, more penetration, more accurate and better ammo availability, however, I do like the AK clones and recommend those or an AR-15 in the bug out section.

  13. The picture is of an idiot shooting into the bushes. The first safety rule is muzzle safety and “knowing” what is beyond your target. I wish you self proclaimed experts would be smarter?.

    1. gandhi,

      Hey, dumbass… that photo is a stock photo and how the hell do you know what’s behind the trees, since you or I wasn’t there? I’d think that the people who are there doing the shooting would know more about it than you or I. Stop trying to find something to bitch about in an attempt to make yourself look like you know what you’re talking about.

  14. Optical sights (telescopic, etc) are of limited value for extended use away from any military-type support structure (attention all M4 users!). Drop your weapon (accidents happen all the time) on any hard surface and kiss your sighting ability good-bye. Especially if the scope is the first thing to hit the ground. At this juncture in your life you might as well be holding a sightless Brown Bess musket.

    AR platforms (AR 15 & AR 10) require daily maintenance (especially the cleaning of carbon build-up on the rear of the bolt-head). The earlier Garand system (specifically the M14/M1A) can be a lot more user friendly, and is easier cleaned of jams. Many prefer the HK-91 series for similar reasons.

    As to bolt-action rifles, which just may become your sole survival weapon, it is essential that they have Mauser type claw extractors (proverbially said to be so dependable so as to be able to pull a sinner clear out of hell). The Ruger 77 series uses these, as does the classic Pre-64 Winchester Model 70. Anything with the Remington “ring” extractor could be your death warrant.

    Handguns. When all else fails, the classic M1911A1 in .45 ACP will stop anything on either two or four legs. It’s been battle-tested for 108 years, and always comes out on top.

    The crucial factor is that no matter what firearm (or type, or model, or caliber) you intend to use to keep yourself alive, it is important that you continually practice with it (including safe handling and aiming procedures) until it becomes a part of you.

  15. Like you said, everyone has their own choices. I prefer the Colt 1911 in .45 caliber
    (I have two) I also have a Ruger mini-14 in .223. They work for me thanks.

  16. Okay you can cuss me later , but all you experts have forgotten one useful caliber.
    That would be the Remington .41 magnum. this round has a flatter trajectory ,less felt recoil and about the same stopping power as the .44 magnum. It can kill deer , hogs and two legged creature’s effectively.
    Now wait before you say but it’s heavy , it’s expensive to shoot you can’t find ammo and you would be wrong. If you go to the big box stores it is expensive but the Internet is a wonderful thing and this ammo is plentiful and the same or less in cost as the .44 mag.
    Oh but it’s to big to carry n your hip and you would be wrong again, An uncle mike’s shoulder holster works great I use this rig in the AZ outback and can still swing my metal detector and dig just fine. Now you have this cal. in Ruger, S&W, and Taurus made handguns.
    Try it you might like it!

    1. Tim S,

      Nothing wrong with the caliber… the main downside is ammo availability and cost… Stock up on all the ammo that you feel you will ever need for a long-term TEOTWAWKI situation because foraging and bartering opportunities for that caliber will be slim… How many rounds do you have now? Something to think about…

  17. I enjoyed the article, and I think you demonstrate the main issue for preppers is that we often choose to compromise and look for the more versatile choices. And the reality is that we all need a few firearms or maybe variety within our group.
    The late Mel Tappan believed a single shot .410 shotgun was all one needed for survival and possibly a rifle for larger game. He advocated the versatility of the shotgun and it’s ability to provide food despite it’s gauge and simplicity. Plus it’s inexpensive and thus affordable. In that vein, for some people he was right.
    The problem for us today is that if the SHTF, we might have to defend ourselves from hostile people who many will carry semiautomatic, magazine fed rifles like the AR-15, AK-47, Ruger 10/22, Mini-14, and even older guns like the SKS or FN-49. And everybody has their preferences so while one might be good with a pump shotgun, another might be better with a bolt-action rifle. And then those two choices might be too heavy for a person of smaller stature that needs a lighter firearm. There is no one size fits all, but there are lots of good choices.

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