Survive the Apocalypse: 11 Must-Have SHTF Weapons

If you look for the best SHTF weapons 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 poorly thought out.

These are the best weapons for SHTF:

  • AR-15 Rifle or Pistol
  • AK-47 Rifle or Pistol
  • Ruger 10/22
  • Remington 700
  • Mossberg 500/590
  • Remington 870
  • Glock 19/17
  • Glock 23/22
  • M&P 9C/M&P 9
  • M&P 40C/M&P 40
  • Smith and Wesson 686

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 one pistol, one shotgun, one handgun idea, you’ll have most of your bases covered in a long-term disaster.


Rifles are a great option for use after a collapse. Their main drawback comes from their size, making 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 a good reason.

It is one of the best all-around weapons you can buy and is widely used by the military, police, and civilians. It can take the game for food, is useful up close and indoors, and can reach respectable ranges.

There is also a wide range of ammo available, and it’s inexpensive to shoot and train with.

The overall availability of parts and ammo combined with the “jack of all trades” capabilities make it one of our top SHTF weapons.

You may want to be careful if you’re going for a barrel length less than the standard 14.5 – 16 inches. 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 with the AR-15 platform, you should seriously consider an AK-47. The military or police don’t use it, 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 more noticeable in an AK-47, in my experience.

Ruger 10/22

The Ruger 10/22 is a semi-automatic .22 rifle that comes in various 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. Many young shooters first learn to shoot a rifle with a Ruger 10/22.

We chose this rifle because 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.

Remington 700

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 an SHTF weapon, it will allow you to take accurate long-range shots for community defense and hunting purposes.

Its 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, 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 an SHTF weapon. The ammo comes in a wide variety of choices and is common.

When choosing a shotgun, we would go for a 12 gauge since it has the most power and widest ammo selection. Smaller shotguns are a good option for smaller people and those that are recoil-adverse.

The benefit of the shotgun is that it is a great hunting weapon; you can hunt everything from birds to big games. As a defensive weapon, it’s simply devastating at close range.

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.

Mossberg 500/590

The Mossberg 500 or 590 is a great choice for a shotgun for SHTF. It’s used in various forms in the military and with police departments and civilians.

Its popularity has led to 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.

Remington 870

The Remington 870 is another popular shotgun with a ton of accessories. It’s not better or worse than the Mossberg 500, and it seems like it may even have more accessories available.

The only reason we suggest the Mossberg over the Remington is that we like the safety position better.


Handguns have one distinct advantage compared to other post-collapse weapons; they can be concealed easily. Pair them with a good rifle, and you’ll be set for almost any situation.

Glock 19/17

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 full-size.

Glock pistols are used by many police forces, some military units, and all over the country by civilians. Like most 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. It also doesn’t sacrifice any accuracy or capacity by being a compact pistol.

Glock 23/22

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 fewer rounds 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. Both of these are great if you want more power and prefer to stick with the Glock platform.

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 how a Glock feels in their hands and don’t like how 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 nine than the compact and full-size Glocks. This makes the 9C more concealable than the Glock 19, but it has three 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 will always 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 popular, so finding ammo will not be a problem. Two, some people prefer a revolver, which we can recommend without hesitation.


You’ll probably notice that we left off 1911-style pistols, pistols that fire the .45, and most revolvers. 1911 is common, but its normally low capacity and finicky functioning don’t allow us to put it on the list.

The .45 round is common, and having an 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. 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 an SHTF weapon. We wouldn’t complain if all we had were a revolver, and we certainly wouldn’t feel under-gunned, but given a choice, we’re going to choose a modern combat pistol.

If you have to choose just one weapon, we recommend the AR-15.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *