The Top 5 Prepper Firearms

October 14, 2015

In our daily lives, we often take for granted the level of protection and security we enjoy that is provided by our local police. But what would happen if there was a break down in these services due to a local disaster causing a disruption preventing the police from providing the security we rely on upon? Living in an urban environment, as long as people have the basic necessities of food and water, things are relatively peaceful. But when those things are no longer available and the police are stretched thin responding to emergencies during a time of crisis, you have all the ingredients for a big problem. People will do whatever it takes to survive and if it involves targeting you, your home and your family, are you ready? During times like this you may not be able to get (within a reasonable time frame) help when calling 911. Will you be ready to defend your family and home? Do you have the proper tools and training to handle an intruder bent on inflicting harm?

I’m going to break this article down into 3 parts:

1. The criteria I used for deciding these 5 firearms in my top 5 list. I encourage you to read to this section and not skip ahead to my top 5 firearms because it will help you understand a great deal more why I choose the options I did and will help you when you’re deciding on what firearms you want to get.
2. My personal top 5 prepper firearm selections.
3. A brief discussion regarding the role of firearms in prepping as well as comments regarding training.

Here’re the criteria I used when deciding which top 5 firearms made it into my list:

1. Reliability
Does this firearm have a proven track record? You’ll notice on my list that many of the firearms are used around the world by both military and law enforcement and have a long history in service and a proven track record.

2. Availability
Is this a common firearm? This is important for getting parts. In a prolonged grid down scenario, if you need parts and you have a firearm that is rare, getting parts or ammo will be difficult. Finding aftermarket accessories and parts is even easier. Is the ammo common that it uses? This makes finding the ammunition much easier to acquire if it’s a common round. Often when a firearm is common and plentiful, it helps drive down the price which is our next point.

3. Affordability
Is this firearm reasonably priced? This is a bit relative…firearms, in general, are not cheap, but many of these firearms we’re discussing are a little lower in the price range compared to many options which can be much more expensive. For some of the firearms, we’ll discuss, I’ll mention some more affordable alternatives for you to consider.

4. Capability
Do you have training or experience with this firearm? Instead of buying a $2300 rifle, instead, buy a $800 firearm and get $1500 worth of training. Training is critical should you be in a stressful situation. It’s easy to go to the range and just plink around, but if you’re life or death situation and you have a malfunction, would you know how to work through the issue.

My top 5 prepper firearms:

I’m going to start with number 5 and work down to my top pick. While working through each of these, I’ll try to give you a little background, why I personally chose them and on a few of these firearms, we’ll discuss some more affordable alternatives. Again, try to stick with the guidelines we mentioned earlier when researching a firearm. Cheaper is not always a good idea and it can cost you more in the long run. You’re better off saving up for an entry level quality firearm versus buying a cheaper firearm alternative.

And please remember, this is my list. There’s plenty of amazing firearms that may be better than the firearms I list below. But after doing a lot of research, these are the firearms I ended up going with. Also depending on your environment, for example, if you live in the country versus an Urban environment, the ordering of your list might change.

#5 – .22 caliber firearm

.22 caliber firearms are a popular choice among preppers due to their relative affordability, low cost of ammunition and ability to take down small game as well as carrying capacity. A 1,000 rds can easily be packed. The .22 caliber firearm that often comes up is the Ruger 10/22. An entry level Ruger 10/22 will set you back about $250. There’s over 5 million of these in circulation and been in production since 1964. This rifle is ideal for young or inexperienced shooters and great for plinking around. It’s built with a very simple construction meaning that the average person can easily replace any part in the gun with nothing more than a screwdriver, a hex key and simple punches.

If it’s the only option you have, it can be used as a self-defense rifle. With a well-placed shot, it could get the job done. While people may complain that the .22 isn’t high powered enough to be a true self-defense weapon, taking a shot to the dome at 50 yards my change your mind.

What are some affordable alternatives?  A pellet gun.  You could hunt small game all day with this option. Here’s a link to a video I did about this specific pellet gun.

#4 – Long rifle


Need to reach out long distances or take down big game? A larger caliber bolt-action or semi-automatic .308 gives you long-range capabilities and knock down power. These rounds enable a trained marksman to reach out to distances as far as 1000+ yards. While a 1000 yard shot would not be easy to do, it’s possible with the correct training. You also have the advantage of accuracy with this setup.

For this option, I went with the Remington 700 chambered in a .308. The Remington 700 is a popular precision firearm used among the police department and is the foundation for military snipers and defensive marksman rifles. With a higher recoil, these tools are designed more for reaching out than close quarter engagements. This weapon will obviously need an optic. Currently, I’ve got my eye on the Vortex HST 6×24 which comes in at about $650.

Cheap alternatives.  For those looking for a solid long range rifle on the cheap, there’s no better option than the Soviet Mosin Nagant which was battlefield tested during WWII and still used in conflicts around the world to this day. I owned one for several years and they’re just fun. They’re by no means a perfect firearm, but they can get the job done for around $100 to $150.

#3 – Shotgun


These firearms are often used in close quarters, but can print 3-inch groups at 100m with slugs and are often touted as a great home defense firearm and are devastatingly powerful. They’re a bit more forgiving than a standard rifle in relation to hitting a target and with the right ammunition plus you can avoid over penetration when shooting in your home. In addition, these can also be used for hunting. The top 2 strengths of the shotty: power and versatility, with birdshot, buckshot and slugs there are great hunting and defense loads. For example, modern self-defense shot could be compared to sending multiple 9mm bullets at once with 1,600 fps. behind them. That’s some good stuff.

I went with the Remington 870 12 gauge. Again, this is a model that has a long history dating back to the 1950’s with over 10,000,000 in production since that time. In addition, these rifles have proven their effectiveness and reliability and are used by the military and police around the world.  They are extremely effective in stopping hostile targets and you can feed them a variety of types of 12 gauge ammunition. The 12 gauge round is very common and easy to purchase which makes it especially popular in the prepping community. Most have heard of the 12 gauge shotgun, but the 20 gauge shotgun can be very effective in stopping a would-be assailant as well and is great for someone with a smaller and lighter frame.

Popular alternatives:

  • Mossberg 590-A1 Shotgun

Cheap alternatives:

If you’re not able to afford training from a professional (which I highly, highly recommend), there are other options. One of my favorite training I review periodically is Magpul Dynamic’s Art Of Tactical Carbine. It’s a great step-by-step tutorial outlining the mechanics of the standard AR-15 (discussed more below) and safety.

#2 – Handgun

revolver and semiautomatic

These come in 2 primary flavors: revolvers and semi-automatic and both have their own pros and cons. I personally decided to go with a semi-automatic because it gives me more capacity and due to magazine feeding faster reloads, you can get back on target quickly after unloading your magazine. In addition, there’s less felt recoil combined with generally larger grips and NO heavy double action trigger pull which for a self-defense firearm are all pluses to getting multiple rounds on target quickly.

One of the biggest advantages a handgun offers is that is can be carried on your person at all times, it’s easy to conceal and easy to maneuver in tight spaces which are great if you live in an urban environment. Before purchasing a handgun, be sure to try out several different models to make sure they fit correctly in your hand. Many firearm ranges will allow you to rent a handgun and finding the one that fits correctly for you is important.

I personally went with the Glock 19. With its drop-dead simplicity and ability to go “bang” when you pull the trigger make it a popular go-to for law enforcement and some militaries. It requires little training to become proficient with this pistol and has the advantage of being very popular making it easy to get parts and accessories. Due to its popularity and being so common, gun shops typically have to compete with one another thus driving the prices down on them.

This particular pistol (Glock 19) uses the 9mm round which is a very common round. You’ll hear a lot of arguments online about which ammunition is the best: 9mm, .40 or .45 caliber rounds. While this article will not get into the differences between these rounds, the 9mm round is manageable to shoot and very effective. I’ve put a lot of rounds through this particular platform and have learned how to deal with malfunctions along with learning how to reload it quickly. Do I think it’s the best option for everyone? No. The grip is a bit bigger than I like making changing a magazine quickly a bit difficult as my thumb can not reach the mag release without a little manipulation, but I’ve found work arounds. If grip and mag capacity do not work for hands or state, go with the G19’s little sibling, the G43 with extended base pad 8+1. Plus I live in California and our options for pistols are being reduced each year, so I’m fortunate at this time to at least have this option.  A Glock with usually set you back about $500 but there are lower cost options on the market.

#1 – Carbine


An AR-15 / M4 chambered in either the .223 or Nato 5.56 is one of America’s most common and powerful semi-automatic rifles. They serve a variety of purposes for preppers (self-defense and hunting) and are extremely accurate up to about 300 meters, which is farther than you could ID a target… unless it was shooting at you. And you can also reach out to 500 meters with little training and 3x magnification. These firearms are easy to learn how to operate and have very minimum recoil making it easy to stay on target firing multiple rounds allowing faster follow-up shots with user fatigue being reduced. The M-16 is the military version of these rifles that have been issued to U.S. soldiers since Vietnam and have evolved over the years to a very refined and accurate platform.

The advantage to a carbine an AR15 is that you can put a lot of rounds down range very quickly and reloading can be done quickly with the right training. Quite the force multiplier. Like the Glock 19 mentioned above, the AR-15 is a common firearm in the U.S. and as a result, it’s easy to get parts, accessories, and ammunition. In a situation where gun parts may become limited or scarce, it is very likely you’ll be able to find gun parts for the AR-15 platform which is a big bonus.

Right along having parts availability due to its commonality, the shooter will be equally as skilled and comfortable with the estimated 10 million + ARs in the country. Also, finding good training on this platform is easy with thousands of experienced veterans returning home and opening firearm training companies.  The prices on these can range as low as the mid-$500’s up to several thousands of dollars. A solid entry level AR15 is the Smith and Wesson MP 15 sport which will set you back about $750:


  • AK47
  • These are an extremely option with preppers and are renowned for their reliability even when neglected.

Cheap options

  • In my search for some cheap alternatives, the Hi-Point 4095 Carbine, Semi-Automatic, .40 Smith came up a lot.

3.) Additional Thoughts

Firearms should not take top priority in your preps.  I see this a lot in the prepper community. There’s almost an obsession with firearms and prioritizing them over things like food and water. You can begin to spend unbelievable amounts of money on firearms and ammunition.  Very easy to get tunnel vision when it comes to firearms and you can spend an infinite amount of money on these. When I got into prepping, I thought I had to load up on firearms and ammunition immediately. If there’s an event in my area, I won’t be able to eat ammunition when supplies run out.

There are many other things when it comes to firearms you need to prioritize. Start with getting 1 or 2 firearms and then focus on things like food, water, and medical gear and once you have the priorities in place, swing back and build your armory.

Get Training!

I have done training and it made all the difference. I’ve done training with Rain6 …one of the best things I’ve done. If you’re in the Salt Lake area, check him out. Tell ‘em City Prepping sent you!

If you’re not able to afford training from a professional (which I highly, highly recommend), there are other options. One of my favorite training I review periodically is Magpul Dynamic’s Art Of Tactical Carbine. It’s a great step-by-step tutorial outlining the mechanics of the standard AR-15 (discussed more below) and safety.

Know the law

Each state has its own laws defining when or if a firearm can be used. You might start by simply Googling your state’s name followed by “firearm laws”. For example “California firearms laws”.

Understand when using a firearm is justified. Some states have different interpretations of what “standing your ground” may mean and when deadly force is allowed.

Also, prepare for the aftermath of using deadly force: you’ll either be sued by the person who may survive, by their family if they die or experience possible retaliation by their friends or fellow gang-members. While you may escape a legal action by the state when defending yourself, you’re still very liable in civil court where the family may sue you. Sad that when defending yourself against an attack you’re still liable, but welcome the U.S. where anyone can sue for just about any reason. But as they say, “it’s better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6”. I can live with that.

Secure your firearm

Not enough is said about this in the gun/prepper community in my opinion. When you have a gun in your home, you need to find a way to secure it. At a minimum, you should have a gun lock (and sometimes police departments will even give you one for free). Ideally, you will want to secure your firearms in some type of safe. Something as simple as a quick access pistol safe or a biometric gun safe for your rifle still allows quick and easy access to your firearm while keeping it secure.

Avoid conflict if possible

In most situations where firearms are used, not everyone gets to walk away unscathed. Even though I’m very proficient with my firearms and have had a decent amount of training, I’m not looking for trouble and would do all I could to avoid a conflict requiring me to use my firearm. If someone breaks into my house in the middle of the night wanting to steal my T.V., but all means they can have it. I’m not going to try and clear my house and try and hunt these guys down. If they want the T.V., it’s not worth taking someone’s life or risking my own in the process of confronting them. My first priority will be to secure my family and then call in 911…let the professionals deal with this problem. I’m not looking to show how brave I am by standing up to or confronting someone trying that is trying to injure me or my family. If the opportunity is available: run! No seriously, get out of the situation when it is possible.

But if backed into a corner, attacked or a gun is drawn on me, then yes I have a right to defend myself and my family and I won’t hesitate for a moment. But if there is any opportunity to avoid a potential conflict, I will.

Also, know what’s going on around you at all times…don’t be caught unaware. Our society today is so engrossed in their phones and devices that they rarely look up. Be aware of your surroundings when in public. I’m not recommending you become paranoid, but know what’s happening around you so you’re not caught unaware.


While firearms can be a controversial subject depending on where you live, in a disaster or some other event that affects your community, you may be forced to protect yourself. Being trained in the basics of firearms and having your own may be the difference between life and death for your family.

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1 year ago

Just a couple of thoughts: 1.) don’t be wed to a particular brand of handgun. the glock is a fine and dependable handgun and has a wide range of after-market options, BUT, it is not the best choice for everyone. many leo and civilians are going to the sig p320, walther ppq and pdp, and other options. go to a range that rents guns and try different ones. the one you shoot the best and feels the best is the one to get; 2.) i have a 10/22, but if i had to go into a survival situation, i would… Read more »

James Irwin
James Irwin
1 year ago

This article is fantastic. All aspects are covered for a beginner . Good review for experienced and the presentation on problems with guns, state laws and dangerous events.
Urban self defense is best with special Ammo that will not penetrate your neighbors house. Strengthen your front door and other entry points to your home.

2 years ago

Good article. This topic is like beating a dead horse. Everyone has there own opinion. bottom line is the best firearm is one that you are very familiar and proficient with.

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