In the last couple years, the prepping, doomsday preppers, and bug-out-bags have entered the common American vernacular. Shows like Doomsday Preppers, The Colony, Walking Dead, and Falling Skies have all catapulted the ‘end of the world’ to the forefront of pop culture. Zombies make for great entertainment, and we can’t help but scream at the TV and debate how each of us would be the best survivor in the post-apocalyptic world.
Guns are by no means the solution to end all solutions in an apocalyptic world. But they are a good place to start, and a lot of people have been getting into firearms lately, especially in light of political attempts to ban and restrict them.
Short and Sweet
This list is not super long, and that’s intentional. I can give you a list of 30 guns I think are ‘totally bad ass’ but it wouldn’t help.
- Most people can’t afford dozens of firearms
- Most people don’t have the space to store dozens of firearms.
- Even if you do have the money and space, how many guns can you physically carry with you on foot at one time?
If you’re new to firearms, looking to build your arsenal, and you’re in North America, this is a short, sweet, and practical list of firearms to start your collection with.
Forget the spinning rims. Here is the criteria I used when deciding what made the cut.
You want a firearm that is going to be:
- Easy to find replacement parts for
- Easy to find ammunition and magazines for
Right off the bat, this list eliminates a lot of the firearms and rounds on the market. Sorry, no Uzis, Desert Eagles, flamethrowers, or grenade launchers.
Firearm Type: Pistol
Also commonly known as 9mm Parabellum, this round is the screwdriver in your tool belt. The 9mm is not the biggest round on the block, but it will tear through most heavy clothing and drop bodies just fine, though it might take a well-aimed follow up shot or two depending on the target and distance. If stopping power has you worried, that’s what God invented hollow points for.
What full metal jacket 9mm’s lack in stopping power, they make up for in carrying capacity. 9mm’s are considerably smaller than their 40, 45, and revolver counterparts, making it easier to carry large quantities of them, whether in your ruck, or in your magazine. California regulations aside, most 9mm handguns hold anywhere from 13-18 rounds with non-extended magazines.
If you know a gun owner, you know gun owner who owns a 9mm. Yes, in public, the 9mm is the butt of all jokes, but in all seriousness it’s a must have. It’s readily available, easy for women and children to handle, accurate, easily reloadable, and lethal.
Notable 9mm Luger Firearms:
- Sig Sauer P-Series (P226, P2022)
- Glock 19, Glock 17
- Springfield Hi-Power
- Beretta 92FS / Military Beretta M9
- Springfield XD-9
Firearm Type: Pistol
Quit your belly aching already. All the .45 loons reading this probably had a coronary that 9mm was listed first. The .45 hasn’t been around for over a hundred years for nothing. It’s a tried and tested round that has seen combat on several continents. It is the measuring tape of your tool belt, and for many 1911 enthusiasts, the round by which all other rounds are measured.
The 9mm’s older and much bigger brother, the .45, will ruin anyone’s day. Layers of clothing won’t deter this determined round, and it’ll even fight through plywood, 2x4s, and small appliances to reach its intended target.
Not quite as common as the 9mm, the .45 is still commonplace in American households and never in short supply at the local gun store. In hollow point form one shot is all you need to make your point.
But be warned. Most .45 handguns have a naturally limited magazine capacity of 7-8 rounds, making them not much better than a revolver. You have half the lead, so make every shot count, and don’t bet on suppressive fire.
Notable .45 ACP Firearms
- 1911 .45 ACP
- Glock 21
- Springfield XD-45
By The Way
You’ll notice I did not mention .40 SW, and numerous other rounds, like .357 Sig. .40 caliber is an in between round that brides the gap between 9mm and .45 ACP. Smaller than a .45 letting you carry more rounds, but packing more punch than a 9mm, the .40 has a cult following. The problem is that outside of law enforcement, .40 SW is not very common. Of the 50 or so gun owners I know, just two own a .40 SW, and lo and behold, they both work for the Border Patrol. In my experience, its on-shelf availability is unpredictable, it costs as much as .45, and hardly anyone owns one making magazine changeability impossible. They might be great during times of peace, but in times of OH S**T, you’re better off with a 9mm or .45 ACP.
Firearm Type: Shotgun
I don’t quote Joe Biden often (or ever), but he had a point. Just get a shotgun. I don’t mean to be sexist here, but women and kids probably shouldn’t be firing a 12 gauge without many hours of instruction. To the uninitiated, shotguns, and 12 gauges especially, have a lot of kick.
The shotgun is the electric drill of your firearms tool belt. Shotguns are very multifaceted and come in handy in a wide range of situations.
Shotguns have 3 main types of ammunition: bird shot, buck shot, and slugs. Bird shot is great for hunting, you guessed it, birds. Buck shot is great for hunting bucks. Are you catching on yet? And slugs are great for killing anything, including Orcas. Shot guns are great for hunting, close quarter combat, and shooting through walls, locks and hinges.
12 gauge is EVERYWHERE, it’s always in stock, it’s always dirt cheap, and everyone has one. If the crap hits the fan and you can’t find any at the gun store, you’ll be able to find it on the street very easily. Not to mention, shotguns themselves are incredibly inexpensive. A very good shotgun can be bought, new, for $350-$500 at Big 5, when not on sale.
Notable 12 Gauge Firearms:
- Mossberg 500, 930 and 935
- Benelli, various
- Remington 1100, 11-87
- Remington 870
- Winchester Super X Pump
By The Way
Again, you may have noticed I did not mention 20 gauge, and other shotgun varieties. 20 gauges area hoot and half to go trap shooting with. But availability is also the Achilles heel of the non-12 gauge varieties.
.223 / 5.56
Firearm Type: Rifle, and occasionally pistol
15 years ago, owning an AR15 made you something of a celebrity amongst your gun owning friends. These days, everyone has one, or ever three, and for good reason: they work.
True, a good AR15 might run you $800 – $1,500, but their essence is in their modularity. No two AR15’s are the same, and you can customize them to fit your specific needs. The backbone of the AR15 is the ammunition it uses.
.223 Remington, also known as the 5.56 NATO, is a great round. It’s been used by the US military since the 1960’s in every military campaign we’ve been in since. It’s accurate, long range, has adequate stopping power, is astonishingly inexpensive, and it quite possibly grows on trees.
AR15s are everywhere too, meaning there are tons of replacement parts available. The AR15/.223 is a very low recoil firearm and very light weight, making it an ideal choice for women and children.
Good enough to hunt with, and cheap enough to train with, AR15’s are great for just about everything. .223 is great for hunting anything from rabbits to medium sized deer, and people. Tougher targets can be taken down by steel core armor piercing rounds, for about the same cost. For their cost, availability, accuracy, and modularity, there is no gun/caliber combination on the market that will give you a better bang for your buck than an AR15.
Notable .223 Firearms
- AR15 based platform
- Ruger Mini-14
- Remington 700
By The Way
AR type rifles come in many calibers, including 9mm, .40SW,.45ACP, .22LR, .308, and dozens of specialty rounds, making it the single most modular weapons platform ever designed.
Firearm Type: Pistol, Revolver, Rifle
Last, not least, but definitely the smallest, is the ever popular .22 LR (Long rifle).
Not only should every gun owner have a .22, this should probably be the first firearm you own. .22 rifles and ammunition are very inexpensive. Ammo can easily be bought in bulk. As of January 2015, a ‘brick’ of 550 rounds is about $20 at Big 5, and it’s called a brick because it can fit in your hand.
.22’s are great for firearm introduction, training, recreational shooting, and hunting small game such as rabbits, squirrels, foxes, and birds. They are very light weight, have virtually no recoil, and therefore make great firearms for women and children. The first firearm I ever shot was my dad’s Ruger 10-22, around the age of 5.
The .22 has so many strong points it’s probably easier and shorter to name its drawbacks. In fact, there are really only three drawbacks to the .22LR; lack of stopping power for large targets, jamming, and not reloadable. If you don’t reload, and if you are smart enough to not take on a gang of marauders with nothing but a .22, that really only leaves jamming.
So, to summarize, .22LRs are inexpensive, great for training, can be used for hunting varmints, incredibly accurate out to 100 yards, quiet, low recoil, easy to shoot, incredibly fun, very readily available, and can be used for many rifles, pistols, and revolvers making it very versatile, and so small that you can carry hundreds of them without much effort or fatigue. Just make sure to clean them often, and have a side arm handy should they jam on you.
Notable .22LR Firearms
- Ruger 10-22 (Rifle)
- Marlin Model 60 (Rifle)
- Ruger Single Six (Revolver)
- Ruger Mark Series (Pistol)
- “AR-22”, an AR-15 based rifle that shoots .22LR, or an actual AR-15 with a .22 conversion kit. This allows you to have 2-in-1.
Note, this is not a list of “best guns ever”. This was a list of practical firearms that people in North America should start their collections with, which is very different. In the event society collapses and Americans are left to fend for themselves, 9mm, .45ACP, 12 gauge, .223 and .22LR are going to be the most readily available forms of ammunition out there. If you have a firearm chambered in one of these that you have trained with, these are your best bets. Yes, there are other guns and other rounds, but in an emergency you want a gun you are familiar with, and know how to operate, so being trained in something that is universal is key.
Afterthoughts and Honorable Mentions
Firearm Type: Rifle
If there is ever a war fought on American soil, 5.56 is the round you’ll find the most of on the American battlefield, because of it’s widespread use by the U.S. military. And in the event such a war happens, our enemies will likely be using 7.62×39, as this is the ammo of choice for Russia, China, North Korea, and most of the United States geo-political foes. The 7.62 is not the best round. It’s as likely to key holes it is to spiral, and it isn’t the most accurate round out there, but it packs a punch and tears through wood, concrete, and flesh.
Notable 7.62×39 Firearms
- Saiga AKS
- Ruger Mini-30
.308 Winchester and .30-06 Springfield (tie)
Firearm Type: Rifle
When you graduate from shooting .223s, you can upgrade to a 30 caliber variety. While the .308 and .30-06 (pronounced thirty-ought-six) are very different rounds, they share a lot of overlap in terms of their usefulness. Both are large rounds, have been battle tested, incredibly accurate well past 500 yards, and will take down any game on the North American continent. Some of the best rifles ever designed are chambered in .308 and .30-06, such as the Springfield M1A/M14 and the M1 Garand, respectively.
Notable .308 Firearms
- Springfield M1A and M14
- AR10 Variants
- Savage Axis 308
Notable .30-06 Firearms
- M1 Garand
- Remington 700, 760, 7000
- Savage Axis 30-06