10 Best Survival Guns To Own When Civilization Collapses

10 Best Survival Guns To Own When Civilization Collapses
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Best Survival Guns - 44 Magnum Barrel Pointing Back At You

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Top Ten Best Survival Guns (Handguns)

So what are the best survival guns to own? Before we can even attempt to answer that question we need first to understand what the answer to that question is not:

It’s not a random laundry list of various makes and models.

Because not all survival situations are the same. For instance:

In my accompanying firearm article, Top Ten Survival Rifles, I defined five different roles a good survival rifle must fill. But to be brutally honest, there is only one role for a survival handgun: self-defense.

Yes, I’m aware that you can hang a big-ass scope on top of a .44 Magnum and hunt deer, but, frankly, hunting game is no reason to carry a hand cannon like this in a survival situation.

That’s not to say there aren’t a few useful roles for a Dirty Harry gun when you’re trying to survive. But, hunting and long range sniping are just not one of them. Instead, the handgun excels at short range self-defense.

It’s useful for ranges under 60 feet and ideal under 10 feet. And the type of survival gun what you want in tight and confined spaces.

Here’s a simple analogy:

It would be silly for an F-350 pickup to attempt to race a Mustang. So why would you try to employ a handgun as a sniper rifle? It’s always best to match the equipment with the goal. And with handguns, the goal is close range self-defense.

So the real question we need to answer is this: what are you defending yourself against? And this question can be further broken down into two broad categories:

  1. Animals – wild predators with the ability to kill you
  2. Humans – the most dangerous game of them all

With these two categories cleared up, the answer takes us not to the best choice of survival gun, but instead, we turn to the ideal choice of cartridge for the task at hand.

Here are the most common handgun rounds we will consider today:

  • .22 LR
  • .380 Auto
  • 9 MM Luger
  • .357 Sig
  • 38 Special
  • .357 Magnum
  • .40 S&W
  • .44 Magnum
  • .45 ACP
  • .500 S&W

Let’s face it, some of these cartridge sizes are impractical for survival, and we can dismiss them immediately.

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Line Of Different Survival Gun Calibers

So Let’s Play The Elimination Game

.380 Auto? Really? Why the compromise? If your goal is to carry the maximum number of rounds possible, then go for .22LR. The .22LR is much more common and widely available compared to the .380 auto.

If you’re going to carry a 9mm, why a 9mm short? The round costs more; is less powerful, and not nearly as available as the 9mm Luger.

The 38 Special, while an old cartridge and still attractive, holds no advantage over the much more readily available 9 MM Luger. In fact, the 38 Special is a rimmed cartridge designed for revolvers, so you are also limited in capacity over most 9 MM semi-auto pistols.

If you ramp this baby all the way up to Plus P hollow-point, then why not just go with the .357 Magnum? You can always shoot 38 Special in a .357 revolver if you happen to find any.

The .357 Sig is a great cartridge fired by high-quality Sig Sauer and other pistols, but again, it is not nearly as prevalent at 9MM.

Sure, the old faithful Luger round may not technically be any better, but its use is far more widespread.

How can I say something bad about the .357 Magnum? It’s a devastatingly powerful round. However, it is not nearly as common as .45 ACP and not nearly as powerful as the .44 Magnum.

A post-apocalyptic world will begin running short of .357 Magnum very quickly. It always amazes me to see Rick on the Walking Dead always has a full cylinder of .357 Magnum hollow points.

For the same reason, a 38 Special is a poor substitute for the .357 Magnum.

Also, the .357 Magnum is a poor substitute for the .44 Magnum. If you have to go large, then go with the .44 Magnum or .45 ACP. We’ll learn why in a little bit.

The .40 S&W is an excellent police round with more stopping power than the 9 mm, but, then again, why round up just a bit. Why not round up a lot – the .45 ACP is more common and simply devastating.

The .500 S&W is a big, bad ass round fired from one heavy, giant hunk of a revolver. It is the most powerful handgun round in the world – designed to take down just about any animal you may run up against.

It was designed specifically for hunting. It’s also a round that will be hard to find in an emergency or survival situation.

So in my opinion, there is nothing you can kill with a .500 S&W you can’t kill with a .44 Magnum.

Yes – it may take two shots – but still not worth dragging this huge revolver with only a five round capacity in a survival situation.

So with all that said – I’m going to narrow our original list down to the following survival calibers:

These rounds represent the full gamut of firepower we’ll need to survive, however, each one has its own niche. So let’s explore where these rounds are most appropriate and, more importantly, where they are not.

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Defense Scenarios

Very few people intend to end up in a survival situation. With an unexpected breakdown, a few poor decisions, and dumb luck you can end up in a survival anywhere, in any climate, and any topography. In fact, it’s most likely to occur in the place for which you haven’t prepared.

That’s just Murphy’s Law.

In these various climates, you may encounter any number of terrifying, deadly predators. Let’s look at a few:

snakeSnakes

Let’s face it; snakes are a one trick pony. They bite.

They won’t hunt you down, they don’t attack in packs, and they won’t even attack unless provoked, but it’s not out of the question to accidentally provoke one.

In most survival situations it’s wise to give them wid-berth, but, on the other hand, they can also be a valuable survival food source.

Now, you can kill them with any of the rounds mentioned above, but why would you waste .44 Magnums when a couple .22 LRs will suffice?

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angry wolf barring teethWolves/Coyotes/Wild Dogs

If you find yourself under attack by a wolf or coyote, keep in mind that one animal is not stalking you—a pack is.

A wolf is a pack animal and his brother and sister Lobos will be waiting in the wings to ambush you. This is where a high capacity handgun is ideal. So a good, double stacked, 9mm is perfect for this application.

No doubt the .44 Magnum will make a wolf explode, but you only have six of those opportunities in that big gleaming revolver. If you miss, you better pray for a small pack.

The .45 ACP will do the trick as well, but again, it’s a big round, and at best you may be looking at ten rounds. So I prefer 9MM Luger in this circumstance for the combination of both capacity and power .

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huge grizzly bear surveying the landscapeGrizzly Bears/Sharks/Big Cats

You may be wondering why I haven’t eliminated the .44 Magnum? These beasts are why. The grizzly bear is the bad-ass MF of the animal world.

When you are facing something nine feet tall, 850 pounds, with long teeth and six-inch claws – you need stopping power.

The .22LR represents a mosquito bite to this fellow—unless you hit him right in the eye. I’m not even sure a .22 LR would crack a grizzly skull.

The 9 mm will annoy this giant and maybe even kill him – after he bleeds out over the next few hours – long after you’ve bled out.

So this is the one instance where the .357 Magnum almost makes the grade.

I’ve been told no one should go into the Alaskan wilderness with less than a .357 Magnum. But, again, why not be sure and go with the .44 Magnum instead?

If you are in an area with large predators, bears, large cats, etc. plan on equipping yourself with a gun that can kill any of them with just one or two shots.

What if you’re in the open ocean being attacked by a shark? Believe me; you’ll be happy with the .44 Magnum here, too.

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Gas Mask On A Man With A RifleFellow Man

Finally, this brings us to the most dangerous game of them all: Man.

This species can reason, plot, plan and adapt. He can be a solo attacker or work in large packs. He’s often unpredictable, illogical, and irrational. Or just as easily he can be cool, calm, collected with a predatory instinct.

Humans are a challenge to plan for. The toughest ones will arm themselves with similar or superior firepower – and they shoot back. In some cases they may even wear body armor, making them an even harder target.

Here’s the really bad news. In a post-apocalyptic world, after only a few months, the only humans you will be facing in combat will be the ones who are truly adept at self-survival. The talented well-armed fighters will remain.

The days of the rank amateur will be over.

However, there is some good news here. Any of the rounds mentioned above can kill a human, and no one wants to be shot by any of them.

The .22LR

Even the lowly .22 LR will crack a human skull.

Sub-sonic .22 LRs, by the way, deliver the same punch with all the sound of a survival air rifle – a good option if you don’t want to draw attention to yourself.

Still, let’s be realistic. You probably don’t want to be in a gunfight holding a .22 LR pistol even if it does have a few advantages. These guns tend to be accurate because your aim is not affected by recoil. Why? Because there is no recoil.

Also, many .22 LR semi-autos and even revolvers can hold more than six rounds – but you will need every one of those rounds. Unless you hit your opponent with a head shot, or possibly a heart shot, he is not going down right away.

With the .22 LR, there is no guarantee of penetration. If the guy turns and the round hits at an angle, the energy of the .22 LR may dissipate before doing any real damage.

The same applies to shooting through bulky clothing and winter coats. The one really nice thing about the .22 LR is that you can carry a lifetime supply of ammo on your person (assuming you’re storing ammo).

So if you are planning on bugging out, 500 .22 LR can be stashed in your bug out bag without destroying your back. 500 rounds of any other ammo and your bug out bag will weigh too much to carry.

On the other hand, if you are in a gunfight with a guy with anything larger, that lifetime will be over in minutes – in which case the other thousand rounds in your bug out bag really didn’t help, now did they?

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The 9mm Semi-Auto

How About A 9mm Semi-Automatic? Now we’re talking.

The Luger is not the last word in stopping power, but it’s still a lethal round. There is a reason military forces all over the world have employed this round for almost a century.

The beauty of the 9 mm is two-fold. Many makes of semi-automatic pistols offer double-stacked magazine holding up to 17 rounds. More is always better.

Plus, next to the .22LR, the 9mm Luger is most common pistol cartridge in the world.

In a post-apocalyptic world, hopefully far into the future, I can imagine that the last round fired from any weapon anywhere may very well be a 9 mm Luger (Parabellum).

The .44 Magnum

The .44 Magnum is no doubt a lethal round. If it can take down a grizzly, it can destroy a man. Let’s face it – if it can blow holes in engine blocks, it can blow bigger, messier holes in human beings. No doubt about it.

Most firearms that employ these rounds are revolvers – carrying at most six shots. Revolvers are inherently more accurate than semi-auto pistols, but the recoil of this round is monstrous.

This round will do the job in a pinch against a single assailant, maybe even a pair of bad guys. However, in a more crowded gunfight, you will want more capacity. And since you are carrying one in the case of a grizzly encounter, you’d be advised to carry a few speed-loaders and become proficient in their use.

The .45 ACP

That leaves the somewhat mythic .45 ACP. The catch phrase associated with this round is,

“.45 ACP. Because it’s just silly to shoot twice.”

Against a human being, the .45 ACP is damned deadly. An assailant hit by a .45 ACP is usually immediately involuntarily incapacitated. [this excellent study “Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness” refutes this previously made statement].

This round blows big holes in people and is generally delivered from firearms with at least eight round magazines. Since this round is fired from a semi-automatic pistol, most of the recoil is absorbed in working the action.

These guns tend to shoot smoothly with little recoil for so large a bullet, typically 230 grain. The only advantage the 9mm holds over the .45 ACP is capacity – which usually starts the whole argument of stopping power versus capacity – although at least one manufacturer offers a 13 round capacity for .45 ACP.

So now that we know which cartridges we should consider for each circumstance, we finally get to the point of this article, the top ten best survival guns to own and shoot.

The Ten Best Survival Guns (pistols)

These firearms are not listed in any particular order, and the order doesn’t indicate relative value or quality. Watch the video reviews below of these survival guns to get a more detailed understanding of what each has to offer.

1 – Glock 17 – 9mm  (17 rds)

2 – Glock 41 – .45 ACP (13 rds)

3 – Springfield Armory XD9 – 9mm (16 rds)

4 – Springfield Armory XD-M – .45 ACP (10 rds)

5 – Beretta Model 92FS – 9mm (15rds)

6 – Sig Sauer P320 – .45 ACP (10 rds)

7 – Sig Sauer P226 – 9mm (15 rds)

8 – Smith and Wesson Model 629 – .44 Magnum (6 rds)

9 – Ruger Single Ten – .22LR (10 rds)

10 – Ruger Super Blackhawk – .44 Magnum (6rds)

That’s ten. And here’s a runner-up:

11 – Smith and Wesson Model 686 – .357 Magnum (6 rds) – (if you absolutely must have to have a .357 Magnum)

One caveat I do want to stress as you read this. I made this list practical for the average survivalist – which means there are no custom $3500 Les Baer 1911s on my list.

There are some great 1911s out there, like Colt, Kimber, Rock Island Armory and Ruger to name a few. HoweverI wanted a list of weapons the majority of people can afford while having the same utility as the more expensive alternatives.

Although the 1911s are a tried and true design with excellent ergonomics, reliability, recoil management, with precision sights and accuracy, they are also typically restricted to ten or fewer round magazines.

They also tend to be made of old school, heavy metal – pretty beefy to be carrying around in a survival situation when there are quality-made, light-weight composite-rich alternatives.

So to wrap this up:

The real choice in the best survival gun is not which one, but which two.

Carrying one survival gun for capacity and one survival gun for sheer power makes for a winning combination.

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“Just In Case” Jack

Comments

  1. James says

    Interesting article, and you make some good points. I don’t exactly disagree with you, but would like to make the case for the .357 magnum.

    My whole case (and I’ll give you it’s not a great one) is this. Because the .357 can also fire .38, and because there are several VERY good rifles chambered in .357 my theory is four guns. A good .22 rifle, a good .22 pistol, a good .357 rifle, and a good .357 pistol

    This means you only really need to stock two ammos, one that is, small, light and cheap, and and one that is larger, and still fairly cheap (compared to many rifle rounds).

    Add the fact that you can reload .357 and .38 fairly easily, and I personally think you have a good survival kit.

    No, you won’t “win” against some Rambo wanna be LMOE (Last Man On Earth) but IMHO, this gives you what you need to svurvive with a minimum of complexity and gear to haul around.

  2. William says

    There’s .45 ACPs that hold more than 13 rounds. My FN FNX-45 .holds 15 rounds and is quite accurate. It came with three 15 round magazines. It’s a bit big, but not all that much bigger than a full sized 1911.

    So the FN FNX-45 has .45 ACP stopping power with 9 mm capacity. I’d say it’s the best all-around choice where stopping power and capacity are needed. Load it with +P ammo, and it’ll take down pretty much anything a .44 Magnum will, especially considering the 15 round capacity. Even without +P ammo, I doubt you’ll need very many rounds in a very large majority of situations.

    I wouldn’t discount the .357 Magnum. Like James said above, it’s a viable rifle and revolver round, and still flexible as you can also shoot .38 Special through it. I have an S&W Model 60 .357 snub nose as a hiking partner. Yes, a longer barrel would be better for stopping power, but I chose the Model 60 because it’s a good compromise between easy carrying and stopping power, with revolver reliability and stainless steel durability as a plus.

    I agree with the .22 as a good choice. The most commonly encountered animal food sources are small to medium game, for which a .22 does just fine. My Ruger Single Six with it’s 9.5″ barrel would do fine. And if I carry the extra cylinder, I can shoot .22 Magnums. And I have ammo compatibility with my Marlin Papoose and my trusty old H&R Model 865 bolt action rifle.

    • JW says

      I agree I’ll leave my Wilson behind take my FNX and my Thompson with all the 200gr RN I can carry. Ballistics are better on the 200gr and a huge weight savings on a few hundred rounds.

  3. Meat Head says

    I personally LOVE my interchangeable hi-cap mags for my 45ACP
    Plastic Guns??
    Cast Metal?
    machined block stock?
    I own HiPoints… One camo Carbine with “Borrowed” red dot. And the 45 pistol which actually feels good and shoots wonderful.
    No Jams Yet..

  4. says

    If I had to pick just 3, it would be the Gock 17, Glock 30( 45acp) and the Ruger 22 mag LCR. Glocks work great even if dirty. Those mentioned in this article not so much. The Ruger is a revolver and reliable. Remember in a survival situation you are not going to have a clean environment to clean your weapons so get some that will work if not cleaned after every use. You also don’t want to pack around a lot of weight if on the move. Ammo in numbers is heavy so carry more 22 mag and 9 mm and less of the 44 acp.

  5. says

    Don’t under estimate the Jericho made from Israel. These 9mm hand guns are used as personal protection here in the United States, but they are the required hand gun of the Israeli Army. One thing I love about the Jericho is the safety features and how easily it is to disassemble for cleaning. The Jericho model has the rails on the inside of the weapon instead of the outside. Take the F&N for example. The F&N is a powerful hefty 9mm hand gun but is a pain to take apart.

    I know that if I had to bag and bail, I would grab my Jericho over my F&N because I know that the Jericho won’t have the same issues as my F&N.

    • William says

      For that matter, what about the S&W Governor?

      Not only does it also shoot .45 LC and .410, but also .45 ACP with the supplied moon clips that can be used like speed loaders.

      And it holds 6 instead of 5 like the Judge.

      The cost is more, and although Taurus makes a good gun (I’ve owned 4 Taurus) I prefer S&W.

      And in this case, for that extra cost, you get the advantage of the extra round of capacity, a third type of ammo it can shoot (and a more common ammo than .45 LC), and the advantage off moon clips for that third type of ammo that can be used as speed loaders.

      In addition, one thing that helped make my decision to buy the Governor over the Judge is that a coworker has owned both, and he says the Governor shoots way better.

  6. RAM says

    Very informative article, as a beginner in handguns it makes me easy to cope- up the differences among each handguns. I’m planning to purchase G-17 for home protection.

    Thanks

  7. Dennis says

    Greetings I have a Glock 20 in 10mm its on par with a 41 magnum and holds 15 rounds and for reloaders it will handle big mean critters. I know that ammo would be a problem in a survival situation long term.

    Good ideas on weapon selection.

  8. Merle Johnston says

    A good article and good advice for someone who’s thinking about starting or adding to their personal survival arsenal. Like a lot of old timers though I wouldn’t advise getting rid of an old a tried friend just to replace it with something new and shiny.
    As an example. I have a circa 1960 S&W 6 inch Highway Patrolman that I wouldn’t trade for the best .44 magnum on the market. I know the 44 is more powerful than the 357 but that guns been with me so long it’s almost an extension of my hand and ammo in 357 and 38 is at least if not more plentiful as the 44.

  9. Reg says

    Here’s a thought,..I recently purchased a semi auto .40 cal pistol AND a hi-point 40. carbine,….same ammo, and in a survival scenario huge flexibility.

    I enjoyed the combo so much I then purchased a Taurus Judge in 45 LC and a Rossi Carbine to match,..both shot the potent 45 long colt, AND a 410 shot gun round.

    If I had to take flight in a hurry I’d have survival pretty much covered. That hi point carbine was a total surprise at the gun range! Dependable, accurate, rugged, and what you save in purchase dollars you could spend on bulk ammo!

  10. John says

    Good article and discussion. I like to remember that the best firearm ever made is the one you feel comfortable with and can hit your targets. After living in Alaska for a while I never went out without a shotgun loaded with slugs. A .44 is good but the few stories that circulate about kills against Grizzlies are so interlaced with luck that I would not want to have to depend on it. Then again I know of at least on lady in her 60’s now that has be dropping a black bear a year since 1982 with a 32-20. She tried a 30-30 but it was not as comfortable for her. Love the remarks. I am a bit partial to the GP-100 and a Rossi 92 myself.

  11. Greg Adkins says

    The problem with your article,is you make the assumption everyone lives in a state where hi capacity is the norm.What if you live in a state where 10-rounds is the max.Do you still put the GLOCK at the top of the list or any 9mm handgun?

    • Just In Case Jack says

      Hey Greg,

      People should take their own personal situations and limitations into account in deciding the “best” survival gun for them. Any article that attempts to address the “best” of anything for everyone will fall short. It will never be able to be 100% “best” for everyone. I wrote it based upon what I felt addressed the majority of our readers and from a survival perspective.
      Hope that helps put things into perspective for you.

  12. Jesse says

    The expression is “One Trip Pony”, not “one trick pony” and it refers to a horse so broken down it can only make a one way trip. An expression often misused. Fun article though.

    • Just In Case Jack says

      Hey Jesse,

      You peaked my curiosity on this so I did a quick search. Seems like there’s a lot of controversy around this specific expression .

  13. Robert Whitaker says

    The best gun in the world is the one with you when it is needed. Without ammo a gun is nothing more than a paperweight. Only one gun? A 22 rifle, hands down. Two guns? Throw in a 22 pistol of some sort. Remember this is survival. Hopefully mostly hunting small game. Untold deer are killed with the lowly 22 with carefully placed head shots while illegally spotlighting at night.
    A bear or big cat? Better go for the eyes, as mentioned and have a good knife as back up. One gun can”t be expected to do it all. But ask yourself, how many guns and ammo can you carry along with all the other survival gear, food, etc. Chances are you will find yourself on foot with nothing more than what you can carry. I certainly would not consider myself unarmed with a 22. In some situations under gunned, yes. But never unarmed. I would be proud as hell to have my 22 instead of a sharp stick in any situation. My 2 cents.

    • William says

      I tend to agree with you. I would have my Marlin Papoose takedown rifle, as it can fit in my backpack.

      Although bit long for a revolver, my Ruger Single Six .22 LR/.22 Magnum, with it’s 9.5″ barrel, has done good for small game using .22 LR. Use the .22 Magnum cylinder, and it would surprise most people how potent it is. So I would have it too.

    • Steve says

      If I had 3 guns for a survival situation, they would be:
      1. 12 gauge shotgun (Personal choice is a Remington 870 or Mossberg 500).
      2. 9mm/.45 ACP semi-auto (Personal choice is a Glock 17 or Glock 21).
      3. .22 long rifle (Personal choice is Ruger 10/22 breakdown)

      Runners up:
      Marlin .357 carbine paired with a .357 magnum revolver, and the Ruger 10/22 breakdown in the pack with a couple hundred rounds). Why? Humans, big game predators, and hunting.

      I would say that a .308 bolt action or a .30 06 bolt action would be a nice main arm, in addition to a side arm and the .22 breakdown.

      • Steve says

        If I had to fulfill my wishlist, my Glock 17 and .22 long rifle would be suppressed. The shotgun with buckshot is for the big predators and making a loud boom at that point is the least of my worries.

  14. Bob says

    Assuming I must run to the woods, my arsenal is:

    Handgun – Springfield xdm 3.8 compact in 45 acp with 10 round mag and 2 13 round backup mags with red dot laser guard by Crimson Trace. Ammo – 230 grain +p. General purpose self defense ccw gun.

    To get something to eat – Ruger 10-22 take down with 1 – 9 zoom scope.

    To not get eaten – Marlin guide gun in 45-70 shooting buffalo bore 500 gr solids or 450 grain hollow points. Equipped with ghost ring large rear aperture sight.

    I figure, based on my age and physical condition, that plus survival gear is all I could expect to backpack very far. Enough ammo for each gun to hopefully fulfill its purpose for a long time. Also plan on stealth and evasion to keep from burning through my ammo too quickly.

  15. Bill says

    I like this review. You did a great job, listing the issues and taking the time to review and address the issues you list. I prefer the 357mag Rifle/ pistol (dual use etc) for home/hunting For large game/trouble; I prefer the 7.62 over the 5.56 *(both a power/value issue for me, black rifles are fine with Just in time deliveries. Depend on type of situation, end of things or a short term disaster. Bolt/Auto long rifle common M-1 (M-14 civilian version) If I was North of 37th parallel, I’d prefer the 30-06. If outside this continent the 375H&H family (sub 300 wildcat< 375, 400, If in lower west, ie open spaces The 300/338 win mag family Nice review… Basic kit, pistol, Shotgun 12 g, Scoped Long rifle… And definitely the 22 pistol/rifle platform… for trapping I would not NOT plan on carring this load. (Some would be acquired later) or preplanning…

  16. Bob G says

    No disrespect, but this isn’t a good list.

    You envision a scenario in which you ony have to worry about yourself, and your whole list of scenarios is predicated on convenience; in case of snakes carry this, in case of wolves carry that, in case you’re hungry carry the other, in case of humans carry the last. Rick Grimes always has ammo because he lives in the fantasy world that many preppers live in. Here in real life the most likely trouble you’ll ever run into is getting robbed at the pump, so your moose gun is out. Maybe an intruder will get into your home, and a scattergun is arguably better than any sidearm listed. Zombies? Right. Race riots? Not too far-fetched, but should that be an issue you’re looking at holding out long enough for it to run its course. Survived a plane crash and in danger of animal attack? Where the hell did you get ANY gun, much less the appropriate one for either wolf or bear or snake attack?

    Real prepping for end of society is simply to select a small number of reliable guns; a couple of handguns and a couple of long ones, plus enough ammo to keep business going. You guys think you need several thousand rounds of everything because even isolated survivors need range days? Too many end-of-days heroes argue about selecting calibers based on likely availability after it ends. Where will it be available? The End-Of-Days store? You’re more likely to find 12-gauge ammo than stumble across a cache of 9mm. I have about 1k rounds of .40 ammo, with maybe 300 of those defensive HP. I won’t go through that many rounds. No one will. I have another 1k of 9-mike for a different gun, and close to that same number in .38 and .357. I don’t have .22 because I don’t have a .22 firearm. Where I live there’s not a lot of wildlife, but if I need to kill game to feed the peeps then I’d use a scattergun or a .357 carbine. This would be fine for pretty much the only useful game likely to be available: dogs. Frankly, if it all ends I don’t see myself leaving my family behind while I try to find enough gas to get me out to where the wild game is. Instead of buying an arsenal of different calibers to employ for specific uses like wild animal attack, get a few defensive weapons that you can count on to keep something off of you, or that you can use to reach out a ways to slap the grin off of something, After that, spend your money stocking up on water, food, buttwipes, etc.

    The worst thing for preppers is paranoia and a need to surround themselves with a million rounds of anything. There are loons that say one should buy a bunch of cheap guns, put them in lidded buckets with ammo, and then bury them along your escape route. That’s how some preppers think, when the truth is they have a higher likelyhood of arrest for tax evasion rather than any end-of-world engagement.

    Not trying to hate, but it’s ridiculous to make a list of top ten survival guns. These are all cool guns, but they’re your personal preferences without – again, no disrespect – any logic. The only caliber you didn’t list is .380, but you did choose to list pricey guns. Instead of a specific S&W revolver, I could respect your list for having ANY good revolver (I have a Ruger.) Your list is pretty much a list of guns you think are cool.

    Here’s my list: a good handgun with enough ammo, then a good scattergun with enough ammo, followed by a good rifle or carbine with, you guessed it, enough ammo. After this aquisition, that’s when you consider another handgun, another shotgun, another rifle, each with their own ammo. I know one guy (not well) who is all about prepping by getting guns, but the only food his family has is what’s in the kitchen cabinets. Their only water is probably only a case of bottles. But he’s got three or four guns of different calibers for every member of his family (interestingly, no shotguns.)

    • Just In Case Jack says

      Hey Bob,
      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

      I would just say that any list of best guns (or best anything for that matter) is going to be largely based upon opinions and preferences. Best for what, best for whom, best why? I did my best to lay out my arguments with survival and preparedness aspects in mind.

      So it seems we both agree to disagree.

      However, I do think we agree on one thing. Firearms are highly useful tools for defending oneself against threats. I’d rather have a gun than a baseball bat if attacked, regardless of the specific size or type of gun.

  17. Sam Hunter says

    I like to keep things simple.
    I carry a Glock 20 Gen4 in 10mm Auto. With a Advantage Arms conversion slide in .22LR.
    In the 10mm I can also shoot .40S&W.
    This gives me 3 different ammo types to choose from and I have all I need for hunting and defense.
    Equipped with a tactical light and a gun suppressor for the 22 it makes a complete package.

  18. Thomas Joseph says

    The article was about handguns, but if I had to pick one GUN, it would be a shotgun. With slugs and different size shot, there is nothing more versatile. I would take a high capacity 9mm pistol as a companion. Number 3 might be a 22 rifle or powerful revolver, probably 357. Fortunately we live in a prosperous society, and anyone who wants to work hard doesn’t usually have to make a choice this difficult. There are high quality and fairly cheap guns available. When in doubt, buy another one 😉

  19. Wayne says

    I would have a tough choice to make between my kimber 1911 pro carry or my sig scorpion 9mm. I like both of them. For sure I would take my buckmark 22 pistol. For rifle I love my mini 30 but the cheap plentiful Russian 7.62 x 39 ammo produces alot of hang fires which makes this gun unreliable. Probably end up taking my ar. This makes 3 different rounds to pack.

    I live in California where the 10 round rule is in effect. So I would have to pack additional mags. Come this january things going to get a lot tougher here.

  20. Bob says

    I liked the article, gives alot to think about. I have been a Ruger fan for alot of years, I notice you didn’t have any Ruger pistols listed, I was wondering if you didn’t think that say the SR serious would be reliable in such extreme situations?

    • Just In Case Jack says

      I’ve got nothing bad to say about the Ruger SR series of pistols. They didn’t make the list primarily because I was tasked with coming up with the 10 “best”. But as I’ve mentioned in other comments, “best” is a very subjective term. I have more knowledge and experience with the other guns in this list so they bumped out the Ruger SR’s.

  21. says

    I agree with most postings. I have a .44 magnum, a .45 acp, .357 magnum
    and a 9mm’s. Many local and state police have returned to the 9mm
    due to the recently hi-powered +P loads and the overall capacity.
    If you’re in the woods where Bears thrive, a .44 mag is Number one.
    Interesting how I was never a big fan of 9mm ammo but with today’s
    availability of very powerful 9mm loads, the 9 is my everyday carry and
    it’s a Sig P229. When a rare trip to the woods is called for. The .44 mag is
    my number one with close a fast reach for my 9, even though 2 carry
    pistols are banned in most, if not all states. Lastly, the 9 is cost effective.

  22. Charles Ziel says

    Of course you are discussing handguns only because obviously the first thing you learn in LE training, at least when I got my start back in the 70s, was never bring a hand gun to a gun fight,

    The .357 Magnum has some other advantages. I have some flare rounds for my last remaining wheel gun plus , and I need to get some, bird shot rounds. Back in the day that was the preferred Rattlesnake round. You can summon help with flare rounds or use the bird shot to put food on the table in the form of small game. As mentioned if you bug out with two handguns the 9mm for self defense from humans and the .357 for multi purpose.

  23. Pikerup says

    9mm is everywhere. Common as can be. Get a P99 or preferably a PPQ. There’s lots of great pistols out there, but once you shoot one of these you will toss your Glock. They make anyone a good shot. Regardless of caliber or weapon, a good shot trumps all. Then an AR chambered in, you guessed it, 9mm.

  24. says

    “Against a human being, the .45 ACP is damned deadly. An assailant hit by a .45 ACP is usually immediately involuntarily incapacitated.’

    The preceding statement is completely UNTRUE.
    Nothing one can hold in his/her two hands is guaranteed to incapacitate a human with only one shot. Not even a shotgun slug. There are many recorded incidents, mostly from LE on how bad guys took multiple shots of .45acp or even shotgun but continued to fight. The only way a guaranteed stop is achieved is with a central nervous system shot, (brain shot or spinal chord shot).

  25. Kevin says

    A lot of good choices for guns in this article. But for bear protection, I’d prefer buck shots or slugs, however bear spray would probably be a better choice than firearms.. As backup to bear spray, I would use 10mm, probably glock 20 wiith 15 rounds. I would load it with hard cast rounds, like 220 grain Buffalo Bore ammo. It would be a good choice for wolves and other critters as well.

    In an over all survival situation, my primary weapon would be an AK-47 and a Glock 20 for handgun. AK is extremely reliable and plenty deadly with 30 rounds mag. I would argue that you should be more concerned with threat from armed people(criminal gangs) than wolves. An AR-10(.308) would be a good option too, but probably harder to maintain than AK.

    If assault rifles are not available, I would then recommend a 30-30 lever action. It would be a great rifle for over all haunting and protection.

  26. David says

    Thanks for a useful article and thread.

    I live in a place in Europe where handguns are not very common but where small game is. We’re a family of five in an urban area and my survival scenario isn’t really one where I throw a sack on the back and just start walking into the wild on my own, fighting off grizzly bears and heavily armed competitor survivalists.

    My scenario is about holding out at home for a couple of months first, economizing on our stock of food, water, firewood etc, (yes I have six weeks of food etc stocked already) and scaring away intruders that are more likely to be armed with a bat or in worst case a shotgun. And hunting small game like birds rabbit etc. If things get really ugly, either “go rural” at the family’s old farm up country. That’s why I stock some gas also, to get us there. Alternatively take our sailing boat out of the country (if neighbouring countries are any safer, that is, and how would one know?).

    So it seems under this scenario I would be pretty OK with a .22 handgun like the Ruger mark 2, a gun I know well how to handle? And about a thousand rounds, some hollow point for defense. Ideally, a 22 rifle also. Yes?

  27. Greg says

    I wonder if the list would change, if (unfortunately)like me you live in California, where 10 rounds is the maximum.I wonder where the 9mm would stand.

  28. matthew says

    Just thought id let you know… After living in Montana.. If you come across a mother griz you’d better be packing a 500. Or high power magnum RIFLE as a 357 mag and even 44 mags will deflect off of the top of a griz skull.. And you didn’t cover it anywhere i saw but a pissed off bull moose is almost just as bad if not worse in its own rights..

  29. aposrduihgnj[adeorfiughnbj says

    Why in the world would you make a big deal about 22 LR ammo availability, capacity and what not. And then put the low capacity and slowest loading possible 22 LR pistol on your top 10 list… um what? And why does this list cover no rifles and only pistols.

  30. Dave says

    Great article! But I prefer to have 5.56/.223 for either my mini14s or AR, 9m’s preferably hollow point, and .22″s. I choose them because I can use them both ways, hunting and protection. Not to mention, carrying this guns and ammo isn’t bad on a long hike

  31. Mark Dreyer says

    Pardon me mixing in, but I have a question… The thing is, two points strike me immediately, & they are closely related – inevitably. The WTSHTF scenario covers North America, where of course it hasn’t happened yet: Well & good, but have you had a look into the places where it has happened?

    Here in Southern Africa, we have had a string of Post-Colonial events, each closely following the same course, with much the same outcome. Let me urge you to light up a candle with the survivors; those who have actually been through it. My input.

    WRT calibre, the opening article is, how shall we put it, penetrating. I also will list preferable ammunition. Bear with me.

    For personal defence in confined spaces & carry (don’t bother with concealment), I also recommend 9mm PBM. It is adequate against the sort of threat presented in confined spaces, such as FROM inside a car, & for the tougher target the size of the round allows for volleys, stacking in a high capacity magazine. Furthermore, as compared to other calibres, comparatively cheap & generally available (being besides all else in the inventory of the National Executive). One more thing: In the Last Act (this has happened repeatedly down here) ammunition, & 9mm PBM ammo particularly, becomes a currency, more reliable than any kind of cash. By all means stock up. these last two points I have made apply to all ammunition. Get a Glock 17, or even Old Reliable, the Browning Hi-Power.

    For actual Home & Hearth protection indoors & outdoors, go for a 12bore pump action shotgun. Therewith you can counter a broader range of threat from most predators or enemy from within striking range out to the limit it presents a viable threat, & indoors, you have less to fear from fatal ricochet (our houses are built of brick) to the danger of penetrating cover & furniture, to unknown parties out of view. You can also select a range of fine shot, coarse shot & slugs, for enemy indoors, outdoors, & their engine-blocks, or flying game & small ground game, medium game & dangerous game. I would suggest the Remington 870, or the Mossberg 500. Otherwise, the ancient Browning ‘Trench Broom’ Model 1896 – with the Springfield bayonet – at a push?

    I have other input, but it should wait.

  32. Mark Dreyer says

    While I’m back here, let me finish. .22LR is not to be scorned. The first fierce heat of the interregnum will settle down to a long, long stretch of sullen anarchy, It will: Consumption of the resources of belligerence will slow the most rapacious down, & that will include you & yours. In that time you will not want to advertise your presence, or waste a shot. Then the necessary pursuit of meat & security is best achieved by stealth & stalk. Your quarry will be small game or lone enemy taken quietly, & you will wait for a killing shot at close range. Your firearm’s report should be as quiet as possible, & that without reducing the effect of the round. Your .22LR round will be as quiet as a firearm gets. In anticipation of that time, lay in stock of ammunition at ten times that of your other weapons. The small size of the round allows for storage of far more in a smaller space, & the same for carry. Best if you stockpile your ammo in two or more different (safe) places in easy reach of the need. You can carry a goodly arsenal in your pocket, unobtrusively, & it is best to be discrete with it, hide it if you can. So also for your weapon. & you want it to be light enough to carry in quiet flight in a back-pack or satchel (this is important). I urge resource to something like an AR-7 Survival Rifle by Henry Arms, which can be slapped down to to a compass & weight easier to hide, less suggestive of a long-arm.. The difficulty here is that (in my experience) the AR-7 wants High Velocity ammunition. The old Winchester 1906 De Luxe (we can dream, can’t we) can slap down, even if not stuffed up its own butt, & it is more tolerant of a variety of ammunition. You should be prepared for the same.

    None of these, to be frank, will stand up to a fire-fight. Your enemy will not be a lone gunman, but a group, with rapid-fire assault weapons & enough ammunition. Strangely, a lone marksman (with training) EQUALLY ARMED is well capable of driving off or disengaging from a group without central support. Try to keep it that way. In the event of TSHTF, & only then. moral & practical issues converge & will justify taking an assault rifle in The Field of Battle, by salvage or capture. Moreover, in that event, the opportunity WILL COME. Be ready for it. You are supposed to be armed & prepared to do so. What you want is the personal weapon of the grunt in the National Executive. It will be available from all sides in the conflict, a common weapon with commonly available ammunition. This will apply as long as you & yours are under threat, generally from the same kind of weapon. During the Second Anglo-Boer war the Burghers went over to British Rifles & British ammunition, & as Gnl De Wet pointed out, Commissiriat was no longer a problem. Take more if you can, weapons, parts & ammunition. In the case of the Continental USA, it seems to me this will be in cal.5,56, & the CAR-15 inter alia, with no frills. Do not make yourself dependent on special features you cannot replace.

    Until then perhaps you could invest in a self-loading rifle of the same calibre, 5,56, as the Service Weapon; perhaps a Ruger Mini-14, but if a CAR-15 is on the market, you’re good to go, at least for familiarity & practice. Just try to see that what you have – ammunition, magazines, parts – can be integrated with what you expect to have to commandeer.

    What I discuss now doesn’t apply to TSHTF,or TEOTWAWKI. Your own Constitution (an enviable charter) prescribes that as ‘an organised militia being necessary to good government, no man shall be denied the right to bear arms.” Is that not correct? A second point to make is that the status quo is by no means without danger to you & yours at the hands of criminals. You need a personal weapon NOW, You can use it today, to meet your obligations as a Citizen & as a member of a family & a community (Ordered Society). You need to have it, to hold it at home, to carry it abroad, to shoot with it, to train with it & to hunt with it, given the opportunity. You should insist on it, Not the least, you may have to protect someone from a deadly threat with it. The police cannot be everywhere. Jeff Cooper described such a weapon thoroughly & well, as a Scout Rifle. Google it. His terminology elegantly by-passes the older prescription for a service rifle heavy & long enough to double as a pike or a cudgel in the battle-line. In the old days a service arm designed to shoot & nothing else was called a carbine, The best of the last of these, before the advent of the self-loading battle rifle – ah, the Garand – were bolt action, simple, light, strong, & accurate out to a practical distance, capable killers & stoppers (these two are not the same thing). The best of these in my opinion was the Mauser K-95 Plezier in cal.7x57mm. You could fight a good war with it today. The British learned all about them at Magersfontein, Spioenkop, Ulundi & elsewhere. But Jeff & Steyr got together & engineered the Steyr Scout. I have never tried it, I have & would recommend the Israeli Mauser K98k in 7,62NATO, with a red dot sight.

  33. CanoeMan says

    Hey folks thats pretty interesting stuff in this thread. I personally have been on a lot of multi-week wilderness trips through Canada and Alaska without firearms and I think the focus on defense against animals is pretty off-base. Any animal species that are left in North America are still here because they fear us; the only exception being polar bears. On the other hand, I live in New Orleans and have no trouble believing that human beings are your worst nightmare when they are scared or ungoverned. So I would roll with the .22 rifle (I pack a Henry) for feeding yourself, and the 9mm Glock to surprise the enemy camp and take hostages, or fight inside buildings. Ammo would be a form of currency, so you want to have what is the most common. If I was in a community with a defensive alliance I would like to have my Remington .270 or any deer rifle with a good quality scope manning the barricades. Again a common caliber, like .270 or 30-06. Shotguns could be useful for inexperienced shooters and children to help protect the homestead.
    The lifestyle and tactics of the warlike Indian tribes are probably the most instructive tutorial on SHTF survival. Their societies grew up in response to just such an apocalyptic event,–the diseases brought by Columbus destroyed 90% of the pre-existing civilizations, which were mostly urban. Learn to track and hunt game. Build good fires. Save your seeds. The soft skills are way more important than people recognize,–cooking, cleaning, purifying water, tending wounds, doctoring infections, sewing, gardening. Remember acorns are very nutritious and store forever if kept dry. You wont live long on canned stuff.
    Hope it don’t happen for a while.

  34. DOUGLAS says

    Great article. I would say a 40 sw is VERY important. Maybe more so than a .45 or the 9mm. MANY LEO have a Flock that shoots 40 caliber, so finding a police officer dead, you can take his ammo. Same with AR15, LEO or military, ammo will be pleantiful. I also use AK47, this is for when the guys come across the pond and bring their weapons, ammo should also be readily available. Anyways, that’s my opinion.

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