Weapons for a SHTF
If you go looking for the best online you’ll see a lot of suggestions, many of which don’t make any sense. These other lists include firearms that aren’t common, calibers that aren’t readily available and simply aren’t well thought out.
Our list of weapons for SHTF only has firearms that are easy to maintain, and in common calibers that will be readily available in the event of a catastrophic event.
Keep in mind that no one gun is going to fill every role. If you follow the commonly recommended 1 pistol, 1 shotgun, 1 handgun idea then you’ll have most of your bases covered in the event of a long-term disaster.
Rifles are a great option for use after a collapse. Their main drawback comes from their size which can make them heavy and difficult to conceal.
AR-15 Rifle or Pistol
The AR-15 is at the top of our list of weapons and for good reason.
It is one of the best all-around weapons you can buy and is widely used by the military, police and civilians alike. It can take game for food, is useful up close and indoors and is also able to reach out to respectable ranges.
There is also a wide range of ammo available for it and it’s pretty inexpensive to shoot and train with.
The overall availability of parts and ammo combined with the “jack of all trades” capabilities work together to make it our top SHTF weapon.
If you’re going for a barrel length of less than the standard 14.5 – 16 inches you may want to be careful. A shorter barrel will make it a little more maneuverable indoors but it also begins to limit your range and bullet velocity.
AK-47 Rifle or Pistol
If you’re not going to go with the AR-15 platform, then you should seriously consider an AK-47. It isn’t used by the military or police but it’s hugely popular among civilians.
AK-47 fans will probably argue that it should be at the top of the list because of its durability and reputation for not failing. Many also prefer the increased power of the 7.62 round over the AR-15.
While there is some validity to those arguments, they’re mostly overstated and the fact that the AR-15 is just much more common will always put it higher on our list.
Shorter barrel AKs are also available but you begin to run into the same problems that shorter barreled AR-15s have, you lose bullet velocity and accuracy. It’s actually more noticeable in an AK-47 in my experience.
The Ruger 10/22 is a semi-automatic .22 rifle that comes in a variety of configurations. You can get wooden stocks, synthetic stocks, takedown versions, a huge array of optics and more. In the end, it’s a rifle in widespread use throughout the U.S. and many young shooters first learn to shoot a rifle with a Ruger 10/22.
The reason we chose this rifle is that it’s popular, the ammo is plentiful, and it’s easy to shoot quickly and accurately.
As a defensive weapon, it leaves a lot to be desired, but for hunting small game it’s great. The lightweight of the .22 round allows you to carry hundreds of rounds on you with almost no added weight and the rifle itself is light and can slide into many different types of bags. If you have a takedown version you can fit it just about anywhere.
The Remington 700 is one of the most popular bolt-action rifles out there. It comes in a wide range of popular calibers but we recommend the .308. It’s a popular round that you’ll be able to find much easier than a lot of the other calibers the 700 comes in.
As a SHTF weapon, it will give you the ability to take long range accurate shots for both community defense and hunting purposes.
It’s popularity also means that you’ll be able to find replacement parts and accessories with relative ease.
If you don’t like the .308 round then the .270 or 30-06 models are other good options as the ammo is also common.
Shotguns have a lot of advantages that make them well suited to being a SHTF weapon. The ammo comes in a wide variety of choices and is really common.
When choosing a shotgun, we would go for a 12 gauge since it has the most power and widest selection of ammo. Smaller shotguns are a good option for smaller people and those that are really recoil adverse.
The benefit of the shotgun is that it is a great hunting weapon, you can hunt everything from birds to large game. As a defensive weapon, it’s simply devastating at close range.
Overall, a shotgun is one of the most versatile weapons but they suffer from a low round count, limited range compared to other rifles and heavy ammo.
The Mossberg 500 or 590 is a great choice for a shotgun for SHTF. It’s in use in various forms in the military and with police departments as well as civilians.
Its popularity has led to the creation of all kinds of accessories and aftermarket add-ons.
We prefer the Mossberg 500 over the Remington 870 because its safety is easily actuated with your thumb by both left and right-handed shooters.
The Remington 870 is another popular shotgun with a ton of accessories. It’s not better or worse than the Mossberg 500 and seems like it may even have more accessories available for it.
The only reason we suggest the Mossberg over the Remington is that we like the position of the safety better.
Handguns have one distinct advantage when compared to other post-collapse weapons, they can be concealed easily. Paired them with a good rifle and you’ll be set for almost any situation.
The 9mm Glock 19 and Glock 17 pistols are solid all around pistols. The Glock 19 is a compact pistol while the Glock 17 is a full size.
Glock pistols are used by many police forces, some military units and all over the country by civilians. Like most of the other weapons on this list, finding parts is easy and accessories are plentiful.
We recommend the Glock 19 as the ideal SHTF pistol because it’s easy to conceal for most body types and is in one of the most common calibers out there. It also doesn’t sacrifice any accuracy or capacity by being a compact pistol.
The Glock 23 and Glock 22 are .40 pistols that make a good choice for anyone looking for a pistol with more power than a 9mm but still use the proven Glock design.
The .40 round is a little larger than the 9mm so these pistols each hold 2 rounds less than the same size 9mm Glock. It’s also a little snappy for some people and not quite as common as the 9mm.
Many police departments have switched to the .40 lately so ammo is still plentiful and the Glock 23 is just as concealable as the Glock 19. If you want more power and prefer to stick with the Glock platform, both of these are great.
M&P 9C/M&P 9
The M&P line of pistols is Smith and Wesson’s answer to the Glock. Many people don’t like the way that a Glock feels in their hands and don’t like the way that it points when they aim it. The M&P line answered those problems and still offers great reliability.
The M&P series doesn’t have as many aftermarket accessories as the Glocks but it still has quite a few. It’s also used by many police departments so parts will still be easy to find.
There is a much bigger difference in size between the 9C and 9 than the compact and full-size Glocks. This makes the 9C more concealable than the Glock 19 but it has 3 fewer rounds.
M&P 40C/M&P 40
The .40C and .40 have the same advantages and disadvantages as the Glock 23 and 22. They pack a little more punch than a 9mm but they hold less ammo and the recoil is a little more snappy than some people like.
Smith and Wesson 686
The Smith and Wesson 686 is a great revolver. It suffers from the same limitations as other revolvers, it has a low round count and reloads are slower than an automatic pistol. The reload time can be improved with a lot of practice and speed loaders or speed strips but it’s always going to be slower than an automatic.
We added the 686 for two reasons. One, it can fire either .357 or 38 Special ammo, both of which are really popular so finding ammo will not be a problem. Two, some people simply prefer a revolver and this is one that we can recommend without hesitation.
You’ll probably notice that we left off 1911 style pistols, pistols that fire the .45, and most revolvers. The 1911 is common but it’s normally low capacity and finicky functioning doesn’t allow us to put it on the list.
The .45 round is really common and having a SHTF weapon in .45 makes sense to take advantage of that fact. The low round count that’s common with .45s makes us keep them off the list as well. If you’re looking for a .45 for SHTF the Glock and M&P models are both great!
We left one revolver on the list to take advantage of the most common revolver rounds but overall we don’t feel they’re great as a SHTF weapon. We wouldn’t complain if all we had was a revolver and we certainly wouldn’t feel undergunned, but given the choice, we’re going to choose a modern combat pistol.