Do you own a master-of-all-trades weapon, a rifle with which you can take large and small game? How about one that can defend your family and home from an attacker or multiple attackers? Something accurate enough for long-range shooting, but something handy enough for close-range fighting? A weapon you can carry with you without anyone knowing? If there is a weapon out there that can do all this, I want it, and I want it bad. Unfortunately, there isn’t a weapon I know of that has mastered all of these traits. A lot of weapons can be jacks-of-all-trades and can fit several of these requirements; however, they master even fewer of them, and even then probably not fill all of them.
You can what-if me all day with things like “my folding stock means I can fit it under my trench coat or in my duffle bag.” Well any guy in a trench coat is suspicious, and any gun in a duffel bag isn’t exactly on hand. So since we don’t have one gun to rule them all, we get the joy of justifying owning multiple guns to our significant other. If you can’t look at your spouse and say, “Honey, it’s for the zombies,” then why get married in the first place?
I’m going to give a rundown of the weapon types I think everyone should own for when things get tough or just to have in a respectable gun collection. Few of us need an excuse to own another weapon though. I’m simply listing broad types since the actual weapons will always be up to debate. The one thing these all need to have in common is a common and easy-to-find stockpile ammo. I love the 22-250 round. It’s expensive but common enough, so I don’t stockpile it. Now, the .308 is incredibly common, and surplus rounds are relatively affordable.
Number 1: Combat Rifle
This could be the most important firearm you could ever own. This rifle can be used for defense and hunting. With proper shot placement, even smaller rounds like the 5.56 are good for hunting medium game. This rifle should be magazine fed, semi-automatic, accurate out to a minimum of 300 meters, and chambered in a center-fire rifle cartridge.
The magazine should also be detachable to insure not only quick and easy reloads, but also because owning multiple magazines means one can break and you’ll have extras. The magazine should have a capacity of no less than twenty rounds, unless of course you live in a state that you need to vote the politicians out of. The weapon should feature dependable iron sights, and though not required, a quality optic should be able to be mounted. Rifles like the Browning BAR (not the machine gun) are a great hunting rifle, but a substandard battle rifle.
Your combat rifle will be your go-to gun when both four- and two-legged predators come calling. This rifle must be trusted and dependable. If you were only going to own one gun, this should be the one you own.
Examples: AR-15, AK47, M1A
Number 2: Shotgun
A shotgun is an excellent hunting weapon that has been used by police and military for combat for over a hundred years. The application of a shotgun is limited due to its range, but up close you are unlikely to find a more devastating weapon. The different types of shot you can fire from this weapon really make it versatile though. Small game like squirrels and bird can be taken with birdshot, and the weapon can be instantly loaded with buckshot without any modification to take down medium game.
What kind of shotgun should you own? Here is the point I feel pretty flexible on. I prefer a pump-action like the Mossberg 500 or Remington 870, as these weapons have proven to be tough and reliable. I really don’t see a problem with double barrels though, besides their limited self-defense aptitude. There are some great combat shotguns, like the Saiga and Benelli models, but their hunting applications are limited. Remingtons and Mossbergs both can very easily swap barrels and parts to be fine-tuned for hunting or defense.
Now what gauge? The 12 guage is great and my preferred caliber, but if you can’t handle it, then I suggest the 20 gauge. Anyone can handle a 20 gauge, and it’s powerful enough for most things. The best thing is to just have a good, dependable shotgun.
Examples: Mossberg 500, Remington 870, Stevens/Savage 511
Number 3: Handgun
A handgun is a niche weapon, but the niche is very important to fill. The handgun may be a backup weapon when wielding the rifle, but it’s also the ace in your pocket. A concealed handgun gives you an advantage when carrying a rifle openly isn’t a choice. A handgun is also a great choice when you’re doing day-to-day tasks where a rifle would just get in the way. A handgun is one of those weapons that is there to help you survive and fight your way to a rifle or out of a situation.
So what kind of handgun should you choose? The weapon should fire a center-fire cartridge, and I believe the minimum should be 9mm. The 9mm is a good fighting caliber, easy to handle for the majority of people including women and young adults. Now the debate between automatic and revolver is going to appear. This will be personal preference, and nothing I say will ever finish this battle.
I prefer the .45 ACP for my automatics and the .357 magnum for my revolvers. Both rounds have a history of being good man-stoppers. My personal preference and favorite gun is the 1911. Glocks, Smith and Wesson M&Ps, and Sigs are great modern choices as well.
The weapon should not be a little pocket pistol. The LC9 is a great gun for concealed carry during normal situations, but you may find yourself under gunned after the lights go out.
Examples: 1911, S&W M&P, Glocks
Number 4: Long-Range Rifle
This rifle ranks kind of low for the simple reason that your combat rifle can probably take care of this. The combat rifle may not be the master of long-range shooting, but it could fill the role in a pinch. Your long-range rifle should be capable of placing precision shots at a minimum of 600 meters; farther shooting will depend on your skill level. I feel 600 meters is easy for most people with a precision rifle and an optic.
The rifle should be chambered in a center-fire cartridge that is capable of taking down medium-to-large game. I prefer the 308 and 30-06; due to my location, I don’t need anything bigger like a 300 Winchester magnum. Choosing your caliber will be based off your needs for game and how far you can skillfully shoot.
I believe a bolt-action rifle fed from a detachable or internal magazine is optimum for this role. The rifle should have a scope mounted and be zeroed. A bipod is helpful and downright just nice to have when shooting from the prone.
Examples: Winchester Model 70, Remington 700, AR-30
Number 5: The Rimfire
A good rimfire rifle is incredibly handy. The small size of the rounds means hundreds can be carried without significant weight. The rounds are great for taking small game. They are also incredibly inexpensive and should be stocked up on prior to SHTF. In a defensive situation, it can be a last resort.
I’d recommend a .22 long rifle over a .17 HMR or .22 magnum mainly because of availability and price. The weapon can be bolt, lever, or semi-automatic— it’s all the shooter’s choice. The same goes with magazine, single shot, or tube fed. A cheap scope on one of these is a force multiplier and perfect for short-range precision shot (ike a rabbit’s head).
Examples: Ruger 10/22, Marlin 60, Henry Lever Gun
These are the big five—that’s what I call them anyway. I believe owning these five weapons gives you options for a large variety of situations. There is also one more rifle that can prove it itself handy, but it no dramatic fashion.
Bonus Gun: Surplus Style
A surplus weapon is a handy weapon to have for a few reasons. For one, the ammo is probably readily available and inexpensive. Two, the weapon itself is probably cheap and in low demand. The surplus weapon can be handy as a backup rifle should you get low on ammo stores. The weapon can also be used to arm a trusted but ill-equipped neighbor or family member. Surplus weapons are also amazingly durable, as most were built during a time when fighting was in trenches and hand-to-hand combat was commonplace.
This applies to both rifles and handguns; I haven’t seen any surplus shotguns in my life, but hey, if they show up, go for it. Most of these weapons are out of date when it comes to firepower and feature either a bolt action, a fixed magazine, or low-capacity magazines. A surplus weapon maybe handy, but it’s a maybe in most situations.
Examples: Mosin Nagant, SKS, Makarov
These are the weapons I keep for when things get tough. Having a variety of weapons helps when it comes to the expenditure of ammo, and multiple guns can fill multiple niches. Plus, who doesn’t like more guns?