What three firearms would you have for prepping?

If you could only have three firearms and cared about preparedness, what would you have? Don’t want to start a “the one true caliber” debate (let’s not open that can of worms just yet!), so this is more about platforms/types that work together well if things really get bad in the world.


  • Comments (26)

    • 6
      1. Full-sized pistol in 9 mm
      2. AR-15 in .223 Wylde
      3. Any decent longer-range rifle in a common caliber like .308

      The specifics can depend on your circumstances. But they generally fill these roles:

      1. Something small and concealable on your person (effective < 25 yards)
      2. Something you can defend yourself with in relatively-close settings (like civil unrest in a city) and can ride in a backpack (25-125 yds)
      3. Something you can get distance with for long-range self defense or hunting (> 100 yds)

      Not a big fan of shotguns in a core three-gun prep. They just don’t serve much of a role, IMHO, unless you know you’ll be hunting fowl. But if you were to add a fourth, then it would be a shotgun just for covering more of your bases after SHTF.

      An example variation:

      1. Compact CCW pistol in 9 mm
      2. An agile PCC/PDW in 9 mm or 300 blk, such as a Sig MPX-K or Q Honey Badger
      3. AR-15
    • 4

      1). Shotgun

      2). 9mm

      3). AR

    • 4

      I am going to keep this simple and not get crazy with the accessories unless asked. My picks…

      1. Glock 17, 9 mm pistol. Accurate, easy to support and maintain. You can squirrel away a ton of spare parts and you can buy 9mm in bulk.

      2. Ar-15 with a 16 inch barrel. 1/8 twist with a 1-8 powered scope. You can do everything with this rifle, including hunt large game 200 yards and in. The optics and accuracy of that platform will allow accurate shots into the cranium of any large game in North America, plus there is nothing better for home defense.  You can buy 5.56 in bulk.

      3. .22 rifle. Perfect for hunting small game, training, and you can buy a ton of .22 in bulk.

      Or….skip the third option and buy another upper receiver for your Ar-15. A precision 18-inch barreled upper  receiver with a legitimate 6-18 powered optic and a few cases of match grade ammunition. This would allow you to own everything in your prepper space out to 700 yards and double as a legit hunting rifle for medium sized game.

      Or…just buy spare parts for your Ar-15 and Glock 17. Magazines, barrels, bolts, bolt carrier grips, small parts etc.

    • 5

      Since we live in a more urban setting and do not have the experience to assume we can suddenly become wilderness hunters, we think more about violent scenarios than food ones. We also can’t legally conceal carry, which I know wouldn’t matter if SHTF but that means I avoid it now.

      So I’ve picked

      • Glock 19 pistol
      • 22 LR takedown that can go in a small bag
      • 12 gauge Mossberg shotgun
      • 3

        Has anyone been able to locate low-recoil 00 12 gauge ammunition?

      • 2

        Not in person, but have you tried the meta search engines like https://ammoseek.com/ammo/12-gauge ?

      • 2

        That’s a great site. But it seems low recoil 00 12 gauge is not available.

    • 2

      Just adding 2¢ worth of thoughts. I remember hearing after Katrina that Nat’l G. was confiscating firearms using the excuse of emergency powers. Just make sure you have something that can (legally) be concealed just in case your situation brings you into contact with them.

    • 2
      1. A single-shot shotgun with adapters for different rounds.
      2. AR-15
      3. Glock 19

      If I could add a fourth, it’d be a .22 rifle like a Ruger 10/22.

    • 4

      1. Any Pump Shotgun (Mossberg 500, Remington 870 etc)

      2. A Reliable rifle in 30.06 or 308

      3. 22.LR Revolver

      Shotguns can do just about anything you need them to out to 100 yards due to the versatility of different cartridges. You can carry rifled slugs, buckshot, 8 shot, 4 shot and T shot at the same time and be able to take down any game you encounter and deal with most defensive situations. Shotguns also have the advantage of being more user friendly than other firearms. It is easier to hit a rabbit with a shotgun than a .22. A scoped bolt action rifle gives you range and power if you need it, and if you practice regularly 8 inch groups at 500 yards should be no problem. Pistols have limited utility, but the 22lr is an easy round to find and carry, and can be used for food acquisition and limited defense. In most scenarios, firearms will be primarily for getting meat and defensive situations, and the above will do fine. Even urban areas tend to be full of pigeons, rabbits and squirrels, so its important not to discount the utility of hunting weapons. I`m not a huge fan of AR variants, as the 5.56 x 45 mm is not that useful in the woods, and any situation in which you are alone and need to engage in an extended fire fight necessitating multiple 30 round clips is probably going to end badly for you.

    • 3

      1. AR-15

      2. 9 mm pistol

      3. 12 ga shotgun

      I agree with M Tajbakhsh that the “Shotguns can do just about anything you need them to out to 100 yards due to the versatility of different cartridges.” I live in the PNW, the only shot that I could make more that 100 yards would be down a straight road.

    • 4

      We are simple people with limited resources for Prepping.  I offer my thoughts as they fit our needs and don’t profess to know all the answers for others.  Even after 22-years in the military a lot of firearms has never been our objective, but. . . .

      1 & 2.  Sig M17 with shoulder holster with two mag pockets and a Kel-Tec P11 with Sticky Holster for concealed carry.  We plan on defensive operations only.  Pistols are our primary weapon.  9mm ammo is inexpensive and as such,  we own a LOT of it.  Also a pistol is not obvious to the casual observer or ‘opportunist.’  If someone sees us without a weapon hanging off our shoulder, before we see them, we might appear to be an easy ‘objective.’  But a little surprise awaits anyone who would consider us so carelessly.

      3.  Marlin .22 rifle.  Quiet, small and useful for hunting small game and waterfowl.  There may come a time when we DON’T want to notify everyone in the area we found game.  Shoot as quietly as possible, fetch and return home.  The rifle is lightweight, concealable and promoted by experts as, “. . .boringly dependable. . . .”

      We don’t plan to buy another long rifle or an AR unless an AR16 becomes available.  No long range shooting in our surroundings unless we see a deer on the road.  We’re designed around a defensive posture in our brick home and surrounding woods with limited visibility.  Easier to shoot around corners while keeping most of our body behind walls.  Only one hand exposed. . . .  I expect we’ll pick up an AR for free if someone foolishly believes we’re an easy opportunity or enters our home without due diligence.

      NOTE:  After so many years, I find that I’m tired of cleaning a lot of multi-calibre firearms routinely – even though we didn’t fire them.  We concentrated our arms to 9mms and .22 cal.  The Marlin was purchased new for small game, never fired and vacuum sealed (using our FoodSaver) with its manual, cleaning kit and desiccant for the future.  The Marlin Factory thought that was pretty clever.  We vac seal the ammo too, but just enough air is removed to ensure the ammo is sealed watertight.  Too much vacuum sealing may remove oxygen from the shell casing over time and cause misfires, in our experience.  We did the same with other Sigs.

    • 3

      I think it’s about your situation and hazards. I like these three, because I can hunt with two and conceal the third.

      1 – Pump action shotgun for the stupid bear that decides to break into the house early in the morning. Also, turkey, goose. Unlike John, I also like it for home defense because the sound of chambering a round gets people’s attention and the gross motor skill of rack and aim in the general direction is something that can be done under extreme stress.

      2 – I like my moose rifle (Winchester + Leupold glass), my husband prefers his M1 – both are 30.06.

      3 – Full-sized semi-automatic pistol, 9mm. It’s my every day CCW. I don’t like compacts.

      • 2

        Regarding #3: How does one conceal a full-sized semi-auto pistol if one is not a very large person? (I did not ask how *you* conceal, as it is not my business, but more of a general question.) I am assuming not trying to conceal in a skimpy outfit but just “typical street clothes.”

      • 2

        Depends: are you a woman or man.  If a man, it can ride high and close, with an untucked shirt over it, is one way.  Maybe a full size weapon is not for you, or, maybe a midsize.

        If a woman, I understand that the are bra holsters.  either sex might consider a belly band.

      • 2

        I can only answer with what works for me. I found that a lot of regular holsters did not provide protection to my body from the top of the weapon (or for the weapon from my body sweat/oils). A standard IWB holster on jeans left me with terrible gouge marks even through a tank top.

        I wear a belly band and carry a smidge higher than my pants waistband but at my appendix – this works with my personal curves. If I am wearing work clothes (pencil skirt, cardigan) then I carry very high and center so my breasts provide cover. My third and least favorite option is putting it in my purse or bag. I have a dedicated pocket when I have to do that. I off-body carry when I am out fishing, which seems silly but my fishing clothes are super lightweight and I have a crossbody bag (a Maxpedition versapack) that I found at a thrift shop and it is the very best fishing bag.

    • 4
      1. 9mm Handgun
      2. 20ga Shotgun
      3. .223 Rifle
    • 5

      Glock 35

      M1A SOCOM 16 (wood)

      10/22 Takedown

    • 3

      For me, it’s the following, in order:

      1. High-capacity striker-fired semi-auto pistol in 9mm and an RDS or holographic sight
      2. AR-15 in 5.56, with a low-power magnified optic of some kind
      3. 12 gauge pump action shotgun (Remington 970 or Mossberg 590), with peep sights

      If I could add a fourth, it would definitely be some flavor of .22LR. The reason I don’t include it in a top 3 list is that I estimate my odds of a defensive gun use are way higher than my odds of having to live on squirrel or rabbit. So I’d prioritize defensive guns that I can hunt with.

      I also specify the optic in the list above, because that’s hugely important.

      • 2

        Ah! You answered my nagging question about why people are including .22 rifles! To me being able to shoot rabbit or squirrels is a waste of ammo when you can snare or trap. I live in an area that is just covered in snowshoe hare (who are most active at night) and turkey. I don’t want to shoot them when I can snare them much easier and quietly.

        I want a rifle for moose and bear, so that means I either have 2 (ugh) or I trap small game and shoot larger game. It’s a different skill set – for sure – for a different region and likely circumstances. 

    • 2

      Need to consider reliability, availability of parts and ammo, and use. Also depends on what you mean by “preparedness”.  If it means prepping for anything and everything, not sure there are just 3.  To decide which firearms, it would be helpful to know how many likely in your group. More people would expand your options somewhat.

      To me the starter is a reliable .22 rifle.  I have several 10/22s.  If just one .22 rifle it would probably be a Marlin lever action or Remington pump.  Can shoot short, long or long rifle, and not near as finnicky as a semi auto.

      An AR in 5.56 is a close to medium range weapon. Readily available parts and ammo.  Also shoots .223 rem but not other way.

      3rd choice to me is sort of a very personal choice.  I’d probably go with a reliable 9mm handgun. Sig, Ruger, Walther, Glock, are just a few. Go to local gun store and see what is comfortable to you.  Try to rent a similar model at a range and see how it shoots for you. Make selection accordingly.  I am told that there is a saying that a handgun is used to fight your way to your rifle.  Also takes more practice to become proficient.

      Just my $0.02 worth

      • 3

        You’re definitely right about the “anything and everything” conditions that kinda make it hard to dictate what’s appropriate. 👍

    • 3

      1.   A 22 rifle that shoots 22 and 410 and is the breakdown survival kind.  

      2.   45 acp for protecion.

      3.   On this one I am torned between having a compound bow or cross bow versus a 30.06

       Very rarly will you get a shot in the woods more that 50 yards without hitting a tree. Pluse what do you do when you run out of ammo. Arrows can be retrieved. Ar 15 which I have one to me is for a fire fight. In a survival mode for that to arise would be to rare to invest and the ammo you would need for it. Even if you reload eventually you will run out of powder, lead, and other item needed.  30.06 is a caliber that is in every store. But it is a hunting caliber and Im not planning on becoming a sniper. 

      22 rile ammo is the cheapest to get and amass.  It will bring down a deer, and small game. Just have to able to hit your target. 

      45 acp, will put you down, period.  Any bullet can put you down if its in the right place. I find the 45 acp a stopper. If I am using a gun in my hands its not play time and my life is in danger. I would not be out to just injury someone but to stop them from killing me. 

      Shot guns are great for short distances, but not for survival  long term. If shoot an amimal with will there be anything left over to eat. Deer, Pigs, and rabbits. One thing that is not mention here at all is snares. I have a hundred snares capitable of caputuring deer, pigs and rabbits. Great survival tool to have. The last forever. Easy to put together. 

      • 2

        never used a snare before but i like the idea a lot. is there one you’d recommend or do you make your own?

      • 2

        I have looked into those two options. I concluded that buying a kit limits you to amount of snare you can make. For 100 $ you can make 100 5ft snares. The snare shop is the web site I purchased. Therefore 100 snares equals a dollar a piece. Let’s face it having 5 or ten snares will not give enough of chance to get a caputure. The kit I bought was aimed at small game but will even hold a deer or hog. The kit package of I bought cam with one snare set up for you to copy. Heads up on one thing I had to buy a piece of steel to use to pound with 2 lb hammer steel nuts. If you pound on cement it will crack. There are many components to a snare but they are all included in the package and I put all the snares in a 5 gallon bucket for storage. 

      • 2

        Three guns!!!

        I guess for my place and skill set I would go with my Winchester 94 trapper in 357mag, a Ruger 357 mag revolver and a Ruger 10-22. If I could add another it would be my Mossberg 500 with a slug barrel and a regular barrel with adjustable chokes.

        Where I live about the biggest animals to hunt are white tail deer and hogs and in the heavy forest here you will get most shots at ranges that a 357 rifle can handle.

        I like the old school idea of having a rifle and handgun in the same caliber. With a few supplies, I can reload my ammo and not have to carry as much. A Lee loader, a bullet mold and sizer, a coupe thousand primers, and a couple of pounds of Unique powder can keep me in ammo for a long time. I can cast bullets from wheel weights.

        The 12 ga shotgun is so handy and a great stopper for defense but the ammo weighs too much if I am on the move.It is for sure a bad trade-off shooting small game with a 12 gauge. I can kill more birds with a pellet rifle or 22 that you will ever get with a shotgun. You have heard the expression about sitting ducks? There is a reason it more or less means helpless and vulnerable.

        I am not going to hunt if things get messed up. Hunting is a sport with too many rules. I will harvest game using techniques that are very illegal now but will make the harvest of game more of a sure thing than sport hunting can ever be. That is why I passed on the high powered rifle. If I am on the move it would be a waste to kill a deer. When I start to harvest deer I will already have a smokehouse built and ready.

        The choice of guns is very much dependent on where you live and what your skill set is. I have no bears or mountain lions to worry about. We also have no real winter here. There is no day in a year when the temperature stays below freezing and no day when it couldn’t get hot. I have gone swimming in the first week of the new year before and it was nice. Anything that i can’t eat or cure in a day will probably start to rot. that means that I will be killing a lot more small animals than deer. We don’t even have very big deer here. I will snare them more than shoot them anyway and then dispatch them with a spear.

        I have no use for an AR or AK. i will instead be sneaky and if I ever need one…well there will be a lot of people wandering around with them and acting like just having it makes them safe. I will do everything in my power to avoid shoot outs. Any wound other than a superficial flesh wound will probably get infected and kill you. No, No No I’m not going to be GI Joe. 

        Guns are tools and first you need to think hard and decide what you want to do and then pick the tools that allow you to do that. If you plan on spending a lot of time attacking people or being attacked by people them maybe assault weapons have a place. The thing to remember is that the old saying (If you live by the sword, you will die by the sword!” is not just a silly old saying. If a gun makes you feel safe and bad to the bone it will get you killed. There are always a lot more rabbits in the world than there are wolves.