One of my favorite prepper topics is firearms. Firearms can help you put food on the table, protect your family, and are a fun hobby. Many people have made lists of the best prepper guns, but I want to do something a little different.
Instead of giving a list of specific “must-have” guns, I’ll explain the different types of firearms you may need and why. Following each category, I’ll list firearms that could serve that role. Having at least one firearm from each category should give you a pretty well-rounded tool chest.
Here are the best prepper guns:
- .22 Rifle (Ruger 10/22)*
- Concealable Pistol (Glock 19)*
- 12-Gauge Shotgun (Mossberg 500)*
- Bolt Action Rifle (Remington 700)*
- Semi-Automatic Rifle (AR-15/AR-10)*
- Big Bore Revolver (Smith and Wesson 627)
- Pellet Gun (Gamo Varmint Air Rifle)
Below I will explain what types of roles each type of gun will fill. I’ll also provide some more recommendations for individual firearms from each category.
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A .22 rifle is one of the best prepper guns. The first reason why is it is an excellent choice for harvesting small game. Using a large caliber on a small animal will ruin a lot of meat. This is an important consideration, because, during an emergency, you will want to make use of as much meat as you can. A .22 rifle will provide the perfect amount of power to harvest animals such as rabbits and squirrels.
Another reason why a .22 rifle is one of the best prepper guns is that it is an excellent training rifle. Shooting a firearm can be intimidating for people who have never done it before. A .22 rifle has very little recoil, isn’t as loud as other firearms, and most are pretty accurate. All of these factors give them excellent shootability, meaning new shooters have a good chance of being successful when using them. The best way to hook a new shooter is to make their first attempt enjoyable and successful.
Another great thing about a .22 rifle is that the ammo is cheap and doesn’t take up much space. This makes it economical and practical to store large amounts. If you have been a prepper long, you know that space is a precious commodity. Also, as of writing this article, ammo is widely available.
As mentioned above, .22 rifles are much quieter than other firearms. Because of this, using it wouldn’t attract as much attention as something larger. If you add a suppressor to a .22 rifle, it is barely louder than a pellet gun.
Recommended .22 Rifles
Semi-Automatic: Ruger 10/22, Henry AR-7 Survival Rifle*, Marlin Model 60, Smith and Wesson MP15-22
Lever Action: Marlin Model 39A, Henry Lever Action
Bolt Action: CZ-452/455, Savage Mark II
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A concealable pistol is one of the best guns for a prepper to own. While they may not be as powerful as a rifle or shotgun, a handgun can go almost anywhere. This is important because, in an emergency situation, you will want to draw as little attention to yourself as possible. Openly carrying a rifle or shotgun will probably get you unwanted attention from law enforcement or predatory thugs.
Related: Best Handguns for Preppers
When purchasing a pistol, consider several different options. Consider how easy it will be to conceal. Balance this with the knowledge that small pistols are not easy to shoot accurately, especially at long distances. They will also likely have a smaller capacity. In addition, keep in mind that full-size pistols will likely be too large to conceal.
I prefer “compact” handguns. They are a perfect compromise between full-size handguns and subcompacts. Try to get a pistol in a commonly-available caliber, such as 9mm, 40 S&W, or 45 ACP. Each caliber has its advantages and disadvantages, so pick the one that will work best for you.
Any handgun that you choose needs to be completely reliable. It will likely be your first or only line of defense in an emergency situation. For this reason, invest a little extra money and do some research. Although there are numerous defensive concealable handguns on the market, the ones listed below are some of the best.
Recommended Concealable Pistols
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12 Gauge Shotgun
A 12 gauge shotgun is one of the best prepper guns because of its versatility. One thing that makes it so valuable is that it is an absolutely devastating close-range weapon. If using buckshot, few weapons are capable of producing as much damage as a 12 gauge.
A 12 gauge shotgun is also a valuable hunting gun that can harvest numerous kinds of game animals. Most people use shotguns for bird hunting, however shooting birds is just one task they are well-suited for. If using slugs or buckshot, a shotgun can bring down larger animals such as deer and feral hogs.
Why 12 Gauge is a Great Caliber for Preppers
Although shotguns come in several different calibers, I recommend getting a 12 gauge. 12 gauge ammo packs a lot of punch. This is desirable whether you are hunting or defending yourself. Although it does have considerable recoil, it is still manageable for most shooters when using proper shooting fundamentals.
12 gauge ammo is also widely available. You can find it at any sporting goods store, Wal-Mart, and even some hardware stores and gas stations. I remember that during the last ammo shortage, it was one of the few types of ammo I could still find fairly easily. Even after the 9mm and .223 were long gone, I could find at least some sort of 12 gauge ammo.
Since 12 gauge is such a popular caliber, it is available in a ton of different varieties. The main types of shotgun shells are birdshot, buckshot, and slugs. Each one of these types has its own variations, allowing the user to choose the perfect ammo for their application. Some companies even produce specialty defensive shells for 12 gauge. Shells such as these usually feature a mix of buckshot and other projectiles such as disks.
What Type of Shotgun is Best?
Shotguns come in several different varieties, but I prefer either a pump shotgun or one that is semi-automatic. Single-shot shotguns are far too slow when it comes to follow-up shots. Pump shotguns are considered to be one of the most reliable types of firearms. However, a good semi-automatic shotgun should work well as long as it is high quality and well-maintained.
Barrel length is another important consideration when choosing a shotgun. Defensive shotguns will have a shorter barrel, usually around 18 inches long. Shotguns designed for hunting will have a longer barrel, most of which are around 26-28 inches in length. The best length for you will depend on what you plan on using the shotgun for.
Recommended 12 Gauge Shotguns
Pump Action: Mossberg 500, Benelli Nova, Remington 870
Semi-Automatic: Benelli M4, Browning A5, Mossberg 930
Bolt Action Rifle
A bolt action rifle is one of the best prepper guns for taking precision shots from a distance. Having the capability to do this opens a lot of possibilities, whether you are hunting or defending yourself.
When choosing a bolt action rifle, be sure to get one that uses a large caliber, such as 30-06, 7mm Remington Magnum, or .308 Winchester. Each of these should be able to take down anything in North America. Shooting a large caliber will give you the power needed to easily harvest large animals. This same power could save your life if you needed to quickly stop a threat that was coming toward you.
If you have a bolt action rifle, be sure to get the most out of it by installing a high-quality scope. Adding a good scope will increase your range and help you positively identify your target. Good brands include Leopold, Nikon, and Vortex. Scopes from these companies offer a good balance between cost and quality.
If you are isolated and have good vantage points, a bolt action rifle could be a powerful defensive tool. Although you may be tempted to buy a souped-up sniper rifle, common hunting rifles will fit this role perfectly. In fact, the U.S. Army’s M24 Sniper Rifle System is based off a Remington 700.
Recommended Bolt Action Rifles
Remington 700, Ruger American, CZ 557,
Semi-automatic rifles, such as the AR-15 and AK-47 are some of the best guns for preppers. They are versatile tools that can be used for hunting as well as defense.
They usually fire a mid-size cartridge that balances power with low recoil, such as 7.62×39 or .556 Nato. Others, such as the AR-10 fire a larger caliber such as the .308 Winchester.
Many times, rifles such as these will have a large selection of accessories that you can choose from to customize it to your needs. In the case of the AR-15, you can change your rifle from a close-range defensive tool to a long-range hunting gun simply by switching between upper receivers.
Recommended Semi-Automatic Rifles
AR-15, AR-10, AK-47, SKS, Ruger Mini 14
If you live in bear country, a big-bore revolver would be a valuable addition to your prepper gun collection. Although they have quite a bit of recoil, there is no substitute for the amount of power they provide.
The most common big-bore revolver calibers are 357 Magnum and 44 Magnum. I wouldn’t recommend anything larger than these for most shooters. Achieving accurate follow-up shots with larger calibers would be a challenge, especially if you are under pressure from a large, angry animal.
Best Revolver Caliber for Preppers
Between those two calibers, 357 Magnum would be my recommendation for preppers. The main reason for this is that 357 Magnum revolvers can also shoot .38 Special ammunition. This is both practical and convenient.
Shooting any magnum cartridge gets expensive very quickly. Being able to shoot less expensive .38 Special ammo will help you stay well-practiced. Practicing with a less powerful round will also reduce your fatigue at the range and also reduce the chance of you developing a flinch.
During an ammo shortage, being able to shoot both .38 Special and 357 Magnum ammo would double your chances of being able to find ammunition. This versatility is very valuable for a prepper.
If you want a powerful handgun but aren’t a revolver fan, a 10mm Glock would probably fit your needs. It is commonly used as a sidearm by hunters and police in Alaska, where encountering large wildlife is a definite possibility.
Recommended Big Bore Revolvers
Smith and Wesson 627, Ruger Redhawk, Smith and Wesson Model 69
Even though it isn’t an actual firearm, a pellet gun is an important part of a prepper’s arsenal. A quality pellet gun is powerful, accurate, and extremely quiet. Pellet guns are perfect training tools for both inexperienced and experienced shooters. They provide very cost-effective practice for both types of shooters and can help an inexperienced shooter build confidence.
When times get tough, a pellet gun can be a valuable tool for pest control and harvesting small game. If you live in a populated area, a pellet gun will allow you to kill squirrels and other small animals without drawing attention to yourself.
Recommended Pellet Guns:
Gamo Varmint Air Rifle, Ruger Air Hawk