A good handgun is one of the most important firearms that a prepper can own. Its importance is due to the fact that it is the gun that you are most likely to have with you when you need one. Because of this, it is essential that you invest in a good one.
The first part of this article will go over what criteria a prepper should consider when selecting a handgun. In the second half, I’ll list my recommendations for the best pistols and revolvers for preppers and survival.
What Makes a Handgun a Good Choice for a Prepper?
While there are many excellent handguns available not all of them are well-suited for use in a survival scenario. A prepper should choose a weapon that is reliable out of the box but can be serviced when needed.
Here are some criteria that you should look for when selecting a pistol or a revolver:
The most important characteristic that a prepper should look for in a handgun is reliability. If the gun doesn’t go bang when you need it to it is absolutely worthless.
A handgun’s reliability is largely dependent on its design, the materials used in its construction, and the manufacturer’s assembly processes. Choosing a gun from a quality manufacturer will make it more likely that those areas are taken care of.
Proven Service Record
Any handgun that a prepper chooses should also have a proven track record. This comes from how long it has been in service and in what capacity it was used.
Firearms that have been released in the past couple of years may be good, but they haven’t been in use long enough to determine long-term durability. Because of this, I would recommend avoiding newly-released guns. Many times these will have kinks that need to be worked out over their first few years of service.
A prepper’s handgun choice should also have a history of use in a military or police capacity. Any gun that has been in use multiple police or military organizations over a long period of time is likely pretty good. In addition, any issues that the guns have will be well-documented.
Any pistol or revolver that a prepper chooses should also be relatively easy to order accessories and replacement parts for. This is determined by three things:
- The handgun’s popularity
- How long it has been available
- The manufacturer’s policies regarding parts
Being able to find (and install) replacement parts for your firearms is essential. It could mean the difference between having a gun you can use the rest of your life or it becoming an expensive paperweight.
What About Caliber?
One thing that I am not going to do in this article is to try to explain what I think is the best handgun caliber. The main reason for this is that I don’t think that there is one. That is why most of the guns on this list are available in multiple calibers.
I will say, however, that I am a big believer in the “big three” calibers of 9mm, 40 S&W, and 45 ACP. All three are capable rounds that will give good results if you use the right ammunition and do your part. They also tend to be easier to find and purchase in bulk.
Other rounds, such as .357 Sig, are extremely effective but may be difficult to find in a shortage or long-term emergency. If you can afford multiple pistols (and plenty of ammo for them) then a gun like this is fine. However, I would not recommend someone’s only handgun being in a unique caliber.
Related: Types of Guns Preppers Need
Glock 19/Glock 23
I’m not what you would call a Glock fanboy. However, anybody who knows anything about handguns has to acknowledge that they are some of the best on the market.
Glock handguns are highly regarded in the gun community for their reliability and simplicity. Many well-respected instructors swear by them.
One of the best things about Glocks is that they are available in several calibers and come in many different sizes. This means that pretty much anyone should be able to find one that meets their needs.
If you could only have one handgun and chose a Glock, I would recommend getting a Glock 19. It is small enough for concealed carry but not so small that it is difficult to shoot accurately. The Glock 19 also shoots 9mm ammunition, which is cheap and plentiful (most of the time).
The Glock 23 is very similar in size to the Glock 19 but is chambered in .40 Smith and Wesson. It is a good choice for people who want a handgun that shoots something larger than 9mm.
Maintaining Glock handguns is very easy, which is a big plus for preppers. They can be field-stripped without any tools, which makes regular cleanings much more simple, especially in the field.
It is also pretty easy to find spare parts for Glocks. This includes factory original parts for repairs as well as aftermarket parts to increase performance.
Installing and replacing parts should be relatively straightforward because of the firearms’ simple design. This gives them an advantage over more mechanically complex firearms.
I don’t think there is another gun available that is as easy to maintain long-term than a Glock.
Smith and Wesson M&P
Smith and Wesson is an American firearms manufacturer that has been around since 1856. They are well-known for producing high-quality revolvers, but also produce good semi-automatics as well.
The M&P series of firearms has been around since 2005 and includes handguns and AR-15 rifles. The handguns are available in multiple calibers and sizes to suit different needs.
If I had to choose one, it would be the M&P 9 with a 4-inch barrel. Like the Glock 19, it is well-suited for concealed carry but large enough to shoot accurately with relative ease. The M&P SHIELD is a little smaller but still gives you something to hold onto.
Cleaning M&P pistols is pretty straightforward since you don’t need tools to field strip one. You should also be able to find spare parts for repairs and long-term maintenance.
CZ-75’s are excellent choices for preppers as well. While they aren’t as well-known as some of the other guns on this list they shouldn’t be overlooked. I have carried the CZ 75 P-01 for almost 9 years and absolutely love it.
CZ 75 pistols are produced by Česká zbrojovka Uhersky Brod, or CZ for short. CZ is a Czech manufacturer that has been producing firearms since 1936.
CZ-75’s are available in several variants, from full-size to subcompact. My gun, the P-01 is a compact that has an alloy frame. This makes it small and light enough for concealed carry.
The best things about CZ-75’s are their ergonomics and accuracy. If you have medium to large size hands, the gun will fit you perfectly. They are also very reliable. I can count on one hand the number of malfunctions I have had that were the gun’s fault. The rest were caused by bad magazines or ammo.
Related: CZ 75 P-01 Review
One downside to some CZ-75’s is that you need a punch to remove the slide stop when doing a field strip. My P-01 is like this but some larger CZ’s can be field stripped without tools.
It is also very easy to find spare parts for CZ-75 pistols. I have ordered parts from CZ-USA’s website as well as Cajun Gun Works. Certain models are more difficult to work on than others, so replacing certain parts will require some mechanical aptitude.
Sig Sauer P226
The Sig Sauer P226 is another excellent choice for preppers looking for a reliable defensive firearm. Sig is well-known for producing high-quality handguns, rifles, submachine guns, and various firearm accessories.
The P226 is a hammer-fired double-action pistol with an alloy frame. It is highly regarded for its accuracy and reliability. It was used by Navy SEALS from the 1980s until around 2015 when it was replaced by the Glock 19.
Like many other pistols on this list, the P226 can be field-stripped without the use of tools. Parts should also be relatively easy to find, however, the gun’s design is complex.
If you watch tv or movies, I can guarantee that you have seen a Beretta 92. It was designed in 1975 and became the U.S. military’s handgun of choice in 1995, replacing the M1911A1. The Beretta 92 was then designated as the M9.
The Beretta 92 has also enjoyed a long history of use many numerous police agencies. Because of its success it has been copied extensively by other manufacturers.
The Beretta 92’s accuracy and reliability make it a good choice for preppers looking for a survival pistol. It is larger and heavier than many other pistols on this list, which reduces its effectiveness for concealed carry. However, there is a smaller compact version available.
The Beretta 92 does not require tools for field stripping. You should also be able to find replacement parts for it, although it is fairly complex internally.
Ruger Mark II
The Ruger Mark II is one of the most popular .22 pistols available today. I have a personal bias towards this gun since it is what I learned to shoot with. In fact, if it wasn’t for my grandfather’s Mark II, I may have never gotten into shooting at all.
A Ruger Mark II serves a different purpose for a prepper than the other handguns on this list. As a .22 caliber firearm, it isn’t the best choice for defense. However, it does have its advantages.
First, the Mark II is a great tool to train new shooters. It shoots .22 long rifle ammunition which is cheap to buy and easy to store.
In addition, its caliber makes it quieter than other handguns, which could be very valuable under certain circumstances. If you are able to get a suppressor for it, the gun will be only a little louder than a CO2 operated pellet gun.
You may need some sort of tool to help you disassemble a Ruger Mark II. This is because the housing latch can be difficult to move.
I am not usually a fan of subcompact handguns or those chambered in .380 ACP. However, they do serve a purpose for preppers, especially when concealability is paramount.
Glock 19’s, CZ P01’s, and similar size guns are excellent but are too large to conceal in certain circumstances. Some types of clothing can make on-body carry extremely difficult. You may also find yourself needing to carry a gun in a situation where it would be really bad if someone detected your firearm.
In times like those, a subcompact .380 is ideal, and my top choice would be the Glock 42. The reason is simple. The Glock 42 is probably the best pocket pistol available today.
The main reason for this is its reliability. Glock managed to make a reliable subcompact where other manufacturers have struggled. The Glock 42 also has a slightly larger grip than other subcompacts, making it easier to shoot even if you have larger hands. It holds 6 rounds, which is the same as many other pistols of this type.
Pretty much the same as with other Glock pistols. You don’t need tools to field strip it and spare parts should be relatively easy to find.
Smith and Wesson 686
Modern semi-automatic handguns are more reliable than ever. However, revolvers can still have a place in a prepper’s gun cabinet. One reason for this is that they can handle more powerful calibers, such as 357 Magnum.
The main reason why a prepper may want a magnum-caliber revolver is to deal with wild animals. 9mm, 40 S&W, and 45 ACP are all capable defensive rounds. However, people who could run across larger animals, such as bears, may prefer to have something with a little more power.
The Smith and Wesson 686 is chambered in 357 Magnum and is an excellent choice for a prepper looking for a revolver. It can also shoot .38 Special ammunition, which gives it a little more versatility, especially during an ammo shortage.
Another good thing about the 686 is that it is produced by a well-established revolver manufacturer. Smith and Wesson has been successfully producing wheel guns since the 1850s.
Revolvers require very little maintenance and don’t usually need to be taken apart. Routine cleanings should consist of cleaning the bore and the cylinders.
Smith and Wesson 629
For preppers looking for an extremely powerful handgun, I would recommend the Smith and Wesson Model 629. It is chambered for 44 Magnum which is the largest caliber that is practical for defensive use.
Most shooters would have a hard time making accurate follow-up shots with anything larger than a 44 Magnum. In fact, if we are being honest, most shooters would probably have a hard time making them with a 44.
Powerful handguns such as this are best used by experienced shooters. They are powerful enough that they may cause injury if the shooter isn’t using a proper grip and other shooting fundamentals. Also, since they perform such a specialized function, they probably aren’t the best choice if it is going to be your only handgun.
Like other Smith and Wesson revolvers, the Model 629 is a well-made revolver produced by a reputable company.
Same as the Model 686. Routine cleaning is straightforward.