What’s the best gun for a SHTF situation?


The question is pretty commonly heard at gun shops, barbecues and shooting ranges. Every shooter knows it, and every shooter thinks about it. What gun would you choose if you could only have one gun? It seems simple, but experts and enthusiasts alike know how difficult it can be.

The question gets a little trickier when we add a caveat: What if it’s during the apocalypse? Now you have to consider ammunition; if you run out of ammo, will you be able to scrounge some up? What about hunting and self-defense?

Answering this question can be difficult, but that’s why we’ve assembled an assortment of industry experts to offer their opinions. On top of learning more about each of these gurus, these answers can also help you formulate your own.


Fuck it, I’m not going to be stuck with just one gun. I’ll take an AR-15 and a 1911.

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44 Responses to What’s the best gun for a SHTF situation?

  1. Tsquared says:

    I have a 6.8 SPC AR and a Glock G37 45GAP as my go-to for SHTF situation. I have ample ammunition for both and enough reloading supplies for a few years. The Six8 is an all around rifle cartridge for hunting and defense – it beats the hell out of 5.56/.223. A 9mm is OK but it is not a 45. The 45GAP operates in the 45ACP+P range and uses the same components of 45ACP except for the case.

    There are other options that I have, my bolt action 30-06 and my 1911 9mm – old school but very effective. Or just one weapon my AR9 pistol, it is good out to 200 yards and will accelerate my 1230fps JHP from my 1911 to 1550 fps and it shoots .71″ MOA.

  2. ZombieDawg says:

    Riverrider beat me to it.
    I was thinking an H&K MP5SD but settled for the 22 suppressed pistol.

    • Michael Mitchell says:

      The fact that it keyholes bullets and greatly reduces velocity because of the integrated suppressor set up has holes drilled all the way down the barrel shouldn’t cause that many problems for you. It looked sexy going through the windows of the Iranian embassy in London but there’s a reason that HK moved on to the UMP (without a integrated suppressor) and why everyone who used the HK now uses the AR platform.

  3. Andrew says:

    The best gun? It’s situational. Probably the one I can afford and that works over that overpriced race gun.

    Geeze, stupid question, ya think?

  4. Wayne Wilson says:

    I’m with you,but I would rather have an AR10.

  5. Winston Smith says:

    Ken’s really gone native.
    AR and 1911 = 2 but I’m with you on the AR. (would add a 22 kit for it)

  6. California southpaw says:

    Pretty dick stroking article if you ask me.

  7. Roger.45 says:

    M1 Garand and 1911.

  8. riverrider says:

    ruger 22 pistol suppressed.

  9. Judy says:

    The one in your hot little hand! Of course, it helps if you know how to use it and have the ammo to use it.

  10. Exile1981 says:

    I like my savage in 308 for deer, my savage in 223 for predators and my JR carbine in 45acp for around the farm because it has compatible clips and ammo to the glock.

  11. Andy says:

    Those 2 are my choices as well Ken. Commonality of the AR and absolute ruggedness of a 1911.

  12. drjim says:

    Back in Long Beach I would have said my 870 and 1911. Out here it’d still be the 1911, but I’d grab my Garand or AR for a long gun.

  13. mrgarabaldi says:

    I would go with an AR pattern rifle with a .22 adapter and a .40 caliber since they are very common.

  14. Skip says:

    870 will do all of the above.

  15. warhorse says:

    absolutely any gun? if I could find one I’d get one of those Medusa revolvers..25 calibers (9mm,.380, .38, .357, 9mm Mak, etc) and then an M1A.

  16. Brad_in_IL says:

    I’m starting to REALLY like my new Ruger PC carbine in 9mm. Shares mags & ammo with three different pistols because of interchangeable magazine wells, but since I have a crap-ton of SR9 compatible mags, the SR9 or the compact would be my sidearm of choice.

    For a piece with some legs and absolute ruggedness, Mosin Nagant M44 carbine. Did I mention I have almost a thousand rounds of surplus ammo on hand? It may be old, it may be corrosively primed, but, put a round in the chamber, close the bolt & pull the trigger – it goes BOOM every time. Without Fail. It can kill anything human-sized much farther out than I can see, plus it has the added benefit of a built in bayonet !!! If the bullet doesn’t kill it, or if the HUGE muzzle blast doesn’t set it on fire, I can skewer it like a hunk ‘o meat for a Sunday cook-out !!! And if none of those work, the target will be deaf from the roaring concussion that is the muzzle blast !!! Ivan got this one right.

  17. Sarthurk says:

    Savage 24C Camp gun in 20 ga. X .22
    Can carry a shitload of a variety ammo, and breaks down to fit in backpack.

  18. Paraclete says:

    The AR and/or 1911 is the best answer IMHO…
    But if “One” was all you could take, it should be
    a round that would have a wide range of applications.
    Hence the AR seems like it would fall into that
    category best.
    One could hunt most anything with it and still defend
    yourself and others…to a point.
    If one only had a .308, that would have a very narrow
    If one only had a .22 the same would apply, only in reverse.

  19. ft says:

    Kudos to Robin Sharpless for putting the Marlin 1894C on the list.
    If I could only grab one gun and go it would be my 1894C.
    If I could only have one gun it would be my 1894C.

  20. majmike says:

    I’ll go with anything that shoots .45ACP, HK91 (7.62×51), AR15 (5.56), and Mossberg 12ga Riot Gun. Other than that, firearms that shoot .22LR and 9mm Parabellum. Embrace diversity.

  21. JB says:

    Remember…this is SHTF. Understand what that means. It could very well mean you walking over and picking up rifle, pistol, shotgun XYZ IS NOT POSSIBLE. Why? Because the S has HTF!

    Only logical answer has already been made by another poster above: whichever gun you can get your hands on!

    We always try to be prepared. But unless you’re sitting right next to them when the loudness happens, you’re covered in fecal matter and the MZBs are closing to 1 meter range, you’ll grab whatever you can get your hands on.

    Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face. Forget who said that originally but it wasn’t me. It is true though.

    • Wirecutter says:

      Well, seeing as I have a 1911 on my hip and an AR in the corner within reach right now, my choice is still the same.

      • Stretch says:

        Like you I’ve a .45 1911 on my hip.
        For a rifle? Since my plan is to shelter in place I’ll go with the M1A as I’ve practiced at all the ranges I’ve measured (and memorized) around the neighborhood and town.
        If we have to move I’ll go over to the AR as it and ammo are lighter.

    • A Texan says:

      Mike Tyson said it.

  22. Gryphon says:

    Springfield M-1A and M-1911A1 and Gear in the Closet.

    If >ONLY< One Gun, it had better be an AR, as 5.56 will be the most 'Scroungable' Ammo.

    p.s. Know where your local piggie parks his Car at night; he's too lazy to carry that Gestapo-Issued M-4 and Ammo into the House…

  23. Daveisgreat says:

    One gun? A good shotgun. Reliable=double barrel 12 ga. Partial to browning superposed myself. Got mine when i was 13. Dont need much else.

  24. Westcoastdeplorable says:

    Winchester Riot Pump 12 gauge. When you absolutely, positively need to kill every muther-fucker in the room!

  25. =TW= says:

    One gun won’t be enough.
    You will need an effective and reliable sidearm at all times. And you will need something with more firepower- a carbine or a shotgun, and plenty of ammo.
    If you live in the city it may be impossible to evacuate- figure on being stuck for the duration.
    Don’t count on cell phones, supermarkets or gas stations. Don’t count on the Gov’t either.
    You can expect frightened and dangerous foragers roaming about. Even if you’re well armed, wandering around alone will get you killed for your gear.
    You will need a plan, and an armed support crew.
    So get your shit together. The sooner, the better.

    • =TW= says:

      The value of this mental exercise is mainly to motivate consideration of realities one might face if things go bad. Equipment and planning will vary depending on one’s location. Natural disasters such as fires, floods and tornadoes are uncommon around here. More likely are disturbances due to civil unrest*, and interruptions in utilities and services.To defend my property lines of sight are under 50 yds, a longer shot is unlikely.

      So. Which *two* guns?
      Well I’d hate to be limited to only two. But if forced, I’d go with my trusty Kimber .45 and the X 39 AR 15. A second upper assy, mags and spare parts might come in handy.
      An AK, SKS or Mini 30 would also work.
      I wouldn’t count on “scrounging” ammo. But AK ammo is nearly as abundant as .556 and more common than other AR 15 calibers. Better to stock up now.
      For the long gun one might consider a carbine in the same caliber as the sidearm. A semiauto PCC or a handy little levergun would simplify logistics and might be just the ticket. Optics? If you insist, but be sure to have irons too. Get as sling for that rifle.
      A short-barreled shotgun would be very effective for perimeter defense, especially if you decide to shelter in place. It needn’t be elaborate or expensive. Pump guns are reliable and accept a wide variety of ammo. Take out the magazine plug for increased capacity.


      Be like Jimmy!

  26. Scurvy says:

    HK91 and a hush puppy.

  27. singlestack says:

    I work 150 miles from home so the question of what gun to have if things go tits up while I’m at work is one I’ve given a lot of thought to.
    I always have my 1911 with 4 mags with me. I also carry a .38 snubbie with 2 reloads.
    I also keep my “socially configured” Mossy 835 with 50 rounds of milsurp 00buck and 25 rounds of #6 in the truck along with a BOB in case I have to abandon the truck and walk home.

    “Your pistol is for fighting your way back to the shotgun you never should have put down” – Clint Smith

  28. BillDave. says:

    .22 ammo will be the currency of the the future.

  29. Edward Teach says:

    Honest to God one gun only? Then that would be a lever action in something like 44 Mag/45 Colt. I have a Marlin 1894 that would fit the bill. It’s handy enough, thought not as handy as a pistol. Maybe it can’t reach as far as a rifle but it can reach out far enough. Plenty of stopping power too.

  30. Jimmy the Saint says:

    Got an old Ruger revolver with interchangable cylinders for .357/.38 and 9mm. Finding ammo in the apocalypse would be somewhat easyish.

  31. J. Simmons says:

    AR15, AR10, several CZ handguns (myself, my wife,our son, and my mother in law.) and 3,class three toys a short barreled 870, a SBR MP5, and a Suppresor for the Ruger 22/45 MKIV or the Ruger american rimfire, depending on the situation.

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