The following is the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the publication.
When selecting handguns for bug out purposes, there is no single firearm that will serve perfectly in all situations. Depending on what you need the firearm to do will determine whether or not it is appropriate. This consideration includes, but extends beyond self-defense.
For instance, you will likely want at least one firearm to use for hunting purposes. Of course, the game you are liable to encounter will weigh heavily in terms of which will serve better than the others. Conversely, self-defense purposes may employ hunting firearms, but there are better types of firearms towards that end–depending on your environment.
Regardless, we present you a list of the 7 best firearms for your bug out arsenal, each suited for a different purpose and offering distinct advantages over the other depending on the situation. For more bug out tips, head over to this comprehensive guide.
Best Survival Firearms:
When it comes to pistols, there are two ways of thinking about it. The first is to consider that a pistol is an excellent firearm to use for hunting small game. While small caliber rifles are more accurate, they are also heavier and they do not necessarily provide the stopping power desired for other applications. Moreover, someone trained with a pistol will generally be quicker to draw and sight their target than someone using a rifle–even a small caliber one.
This brings us to the second aspect of a pistol: the stopping power. Pistols can be effective for small game hunting, but they are also an excellent weapon for self-defense. Due to their size, they are pretty much the only game in town for a sidearm. As such, you want to make sure your pistol can stop a man as much as it can be used to hunt small game.
In this regard, the 9mm serves ideally for both. For one, the 9mm can hunt smaller game, but it can also be used to hunt larger animals if you are sufficiently skilled. Of course, the 9mm is known for anti-personnel uses which cover the second qualification. Still, one of the best benefits of the 9mm is its prevalence.
Recommendation: Glock 17
- .45 ACP
The .45 ACP is not nearly as versatile as the 9mm in terms of application. Quite simply, this caliber round is not ideal for certain small game hunting–especially fowl. This is because the heavier .45 ACP does not travel with the same velocity as a 9mm, thus quicker animals will require even more precise shots than would otherwise be necessary for a 9mm. Granted, the differences can be judged in points of seconds or degrees, but in a survival setting that can mean the difference.
However, the .45 ACP does have the distinct advantage over the 9mm overall stopping power. Essentially, your placement is less of a concern when firing a .45 ACP. This means that while you need to be a better shooter at longer distances, you do not need to be quite as concerned when you are at a closer range.
The primary advantage of this comes when using a pistol against hostile personnel. The 9mm is more than capable of putting a looter down, but the .45 ACP will drop them even if your placement is a bit off. As an added advantage, the .45 ACP can be used against larger game and even against predators if need be.
Recommendation: Taurus 24/7
- 12 Gauge
The 12 Gauge is the iconic shotgun and accounts for over fifty percent of all shotguns owned in the US. This holds a number of advantages over other types of shotguns that have nothing to do with their effectiveness in the field but offer unique benefits in a survival situation.
Arguably one of the biggest benefits of a 12 Gauge shotgun relates to availability. Remember, if society collapses, only a few individuals will be able to make rounds. In this regard, you will likely need to rely on stockpiles and scavenging. The 12 Gauge round is in greater supply than other rounds. Moreover, the prevalence of 12 Gauge shotguns ensures a steady supply of replacement parts for years to come.
Of course, the effectiveness of a 12 Gauge cannot be dismissed either. Depending on the shot, a 12 Gauge can be used to hunt every type of game and serve effectively in specific anti-personnel situations. For instance, in close quarters combat, a 12 Gauge will provide a robust amount of stopping power with an ideal spread. This means you do not have to worry about your placement as much so long as you are not using slugs.
Recommendation: Benelli Super Black Eagle
- 20 Gauge
Quite simply, the 20 Gauge shotgun is not nearly as effective as the 12 Gauge in terms of either hunting or self-defense for a well-trained individual. That being said, the 20 Gauge does present a specific advantage over the 12 Gauge which can still provide a legitimately meaningful value to your party.
Specifically, the 20 Gauge is not nearly as heavy as a 12 Gauge and does not produce as jarring of recoil. While this may not necessarily be a major factor when you consider your personal survival, it can definitely become more pressing when you factor in the survival of your other party members.
For instance, children, the elderly, and untrained women are unlikely to feel comfortable using a 12 Gauge shotgun. Of course, those groups can be trained to use a 12 Gauge–and women and the elderly in particular may not suffer any drop off in effectiveness–but a 20 Gauge is an excellent substitute should a 12 Gauge prove to be a bit too unwieldy.
In terms of effectiveness, the 20 Gauge can arguably be used in nearly every situation that a 12 gauge can, though it will be less effective at hunting waterfowl or larger game. That said, the 20 Gauge is more than effective at serving as a deterrent for predators, hunting other types of game, and close quarters combat.
Recommendation: Barrett Sovereign Rutherford
When it comes to larger caliber rifles, there is no true winner in the hearts and minds of hunters and soldiers alike. Still, there are definite advantages to large caliber rifles, and the two most popular in the US are the .308 and the 30-06. However, in ideal conditions, the .308 is often seen as the superior round as is noted for its much greater use in shooting competitions when compared to the 30-06.
While the differences may be somewhat minute, the .308 is a more accurate round. Of course, in mid-range settings, this may not necessarily get a chance to shine to the point of preference. However, the primary use of a large caliber rifle round is not truly mid-range purposes–though that is definitely a legitimate use. Still, the point of a large caliber rifle round is to remain accurate over long distances.
The reason for this is to provide you distance when hunting large game–especially if that game is noted for being skittish. Rather than having to sneak up closer to the large game, the .308 allows you to remain a fair distance away while still being accurate enough to effectively place your shot to take the target down.
That said, the primary draw of the 30-06 is the fact that it can be used more or less interchangeably with the 7.62mm NATO round. While that may not be one of the most popular rounds in the US, it is still plenty popular making a rifle that fires it more versatile–though rifles chambered for .308 can accomplish this as well, firearms chambered for 7.62 may not necessarily accommodate a .308.
Recommendation: Sig Sauer SSG 3000
- .22 Long Rifle
The .22 LR is an all-around solid firearm. For one, it can excel in a variety of hunting situations. Granted, you will have to expect that the lower caliber round will not necessarily carry the same stopping power as any of the other rounds on our list, but the .22 LR definitely shines in a few other areas.
For one, accuracy is arguably more important than stopping power. All things being equal, the better shooter will be able to outclass an opponent with superior firepower in a one-on-one situation. Of course, if the opposition has the numbers advantage, the combat calculus has to change to account for this.
That said, the .22 LR is a caliber that allows for both self-defense and hunting purposes. Hunting will likely be the primary situation where the .22 LR is most appropriate, but that digression on accuracy plays a vital role in the selection of this firearm.
For one, aside from the fact that the .22 LR is generally more accurate than most other rounds on this list, it also puts out some of the most manageable recoil. Combined, these two factors make the .22 LR a nightmare to deal with in the hands of a qualified shooter. Considering the fact that .22 LR are some of the most common types of rounds manufactured, and you have a firearm that can last as long as you can.
Recommendation: Ruger 10/22 Rifle
- Assault Rifle
Despite the bad press this firearm may receive from time to time, this is arguably the best all-around firearm to have when bugging out. Depending on the caliber you choose, an assault rifle can be more than capable hunting small and large game and excels in self-defense. In fact, it is not a terrible idea to simply use an assault rifle and a pistol sidearm–eschewing the shotgun and rifle altogether.
However, when choosing between assault rifles, a number of factors come into play. For one, are you going to go with a firearm that uses 7.62mm or 5.56mm rounds? The decision between the two will depend heavily on you as a shooter. For instance, the 7.62 uses a larger bullet and can be packed with more powder. This provides it more stopping power–especially in close quarters to mid-range situations.
Still, the 5.56mm is quickly becoming a favorite for a number of reasons. While it may not necessarily provide the same stopping power, it is a more accurate round that also puts out less recoil. This means you can fire it in quicker succession more accurately as well. For this reason, as well as differences in weight and the use of the .223, the 5.56mm is likely a better survival round.
Recommendation: Sig Sauer M400
Ultimately, the best survival firearm is the one that you can use most effectively. For each class and caliber of firearm, there are too many differences that will weigh more heavily on the preferences of the shooter than some objective standard. That being said, there are different types of firearms which are more useful due to reasons beyond their actual action.
In this regard, it is a better idea to look at the type of ammunition a firearm uses since that will be what often determines the firearm’s use. Granted, different makers will offer better or worse products, but within each ideal caliber, we provide you one of the best firearms to use in a survival situation.
Conrad Novak is a proud father of two children. His journey as a prepper began when Hurricane Katrina hit and he lost his job due to the 2008 economic crisis. That made him realize that everything can change for the worst in a very short time. This experience was the detonator for him to pursue learning and becoming better prepared to face the kind of unexpected disasters that may occur at any point in our lives. You can read more of his content at SurvivorsFortress.com