I’m a minimalist. I don’t purchase a lot of “stuff.” I’ve greatly reduced my personal gun collection over the years. You don’t need 20 guns as a prepper, but what if you could have any 20? What would you choose? Off the top of my head, this is my list.
1) AR-15 in 5.56 mm. Accurate. Fun to shoot. (2). In the day, if money was tight, the Mini 14 was an alternative. Even those are expensive today.
2) AR-15 in 6.8 SPC. Just Cuz. Don’t own one and probably never will, but
it has better stopping power than the 5.56×45.
3) 1911 45 ACP. My standard defensive pistol. (2) The Glock 19 in 9mm would be a solid alternative.
4) 9mm Browning Hi-Power. Should have something to shoot 9×19. Glock 19 would be a more modern choice.
5) 357 Magnum Revolver. My favorite is my S&W 66 with 4″ barrel. Ruger GP-100 is better. A great all around caliber for wilderness use.
6) Marlin 39A 22 LR. A Ruger 10/22 is an alternative. A Marlin 22 LR bolt action is another. Great for practice and small game. For like the last 40 years, 22 LR ammo was cheap and commonly available. I wrote that in the book. Right after writing it, 22 LR ammo prices went through the roof and availability dried up for a time! Relatively speaking 22 LR ammo should remain inexpensive compared to centerfire ammo.
7) Ruger MK 11 22 LR pistol. I said Mark 11, not Mark 111. The standard pistol is great. Wish they made it with adjustable sights. The bull barrel version and longer barreled versions are great too. The Mark 111 added a slew of new safety features I don’t like. I have the Mark 1s and Mark 11 and do think the Mark 11 is an improvement. It locks the slide back after the last shot, something the older Mark 1s didn’t do.
8) 22 LR S&W kit gun with 4″ barrel. Tiny gun. Great for field carry. A Ruger Single Six would be an alternative.
I watch gun reviews on youtube and one thing I hear a lot is “I love this gun.” I’m a glass-half empty kind of guy. There’s something I dislike about nearly every gun I own or have owned.
I like my 66 but hate the rounded curvy backstrap on it. Don’t like the grip saftey on the 1911. Hate the sights on the S&W model 60. The Hi-Power has a crummy trigger compared to the 1911. The one gun I think is perfect is the S&W kit gun.
9) 870 Remington 12 gauge shotgun with short barrel for defense. 7 or 8 shot magazine extension. I have a 20″ barrel with rifled sights on mine. My eyes don’t like regular iron sights anymore. Given a choice I’d rather have a big front bead on it. Have another barrel for wing shooting.
10) Remington 11-87 12 gauge shotgun. Really like autoloading shotguns. If you can only have one, go with the more reliable pump. If you hunt upland birds, you could go to the 20 gauge.
11) Bolt action big game rifle built on Mauser action or pre-1964 action. I’d go with 308 Winchester because it’s so common today. 30-06 would be great too and a slightly better choice for a hunting rifle. For big bears and moose, you can load slightly heavier bullets. The 7×57 Mauser would be great. It’s just not popular. Why not? I haven’t a clue.
12) TC Contender Carbine with barrels in 22 LR and 30-30. The one thing this gun has going for it is its ability to break down into small packable parts. If you shoot well, a single shot is all you need.
13) HK 91. This is the semiautomatic version of the famous G3 assault rifle. I added a heavy caliber “battle rifle” to this list so I wouldn’t be called a whimp by other preppers. The M1A is an alternative. If money is limited I’d pass on the 7.62 x 51mm guns. They’re just so expensive. If you’re in combat and need to shoot through something, the 7.62 NATO is great.
My thought on the 7.62 NATO is this: If you think the odds of being in a violent WROL world for a long period of time is high, this is the most effective fighting caliber. If you think the worst you’ll ever face is a disorganized group of looters for a few days, the 5.56 will be all you need. If you think the worst you’ll ever face is a home invasion by a handful of criminals, all you’ll need is a pump or autoloading shotgun.
14) FWB 124 spring piston air rifle or any other well made spring piston air rifle in .177 caliber. When younger I had a 10 meter basement range where I shot air rifles nearly every day. If you’re a city dweller with a big basement, look into air guns for practice.
15) Beeman P3 .177 caliber air pistol. I don’t like plastic pistols in general. This gun has a crummy slippery grip. Buy some gaffer’s tape to wrap around the grip. For hunting the spring piston P1 would be better. For practice, the P3 is perfect. If you have the scratch, a FWB 65 would be even better. Like with many guns the F-65 was just too good and still dropped from production. You need to purchase used. The P3 is so inexpensive I feel almost embarrassed adding it to the list, but it’s so accurate and fun to shoot.
If you want to get good at anything, regular practice is the key. If you don’t live in the country and find range time too expensive, air guns could be the answer.
16) A concealed carry gun. Many preppers carry Glock 19s. Many of us prefer a smaller and lighter weapon. I don’t really have an optimal choice here. I like the S&W 5 shot 38 revolvers with 2″ or 3″ barrels. It does take practice to shoot a small double action revolver well. The sights on these guns suck really bad.
In the nit-picky half glass empty way I look at it, small revolvers just aren’t as flat and compact as autoloaders. I know you’re not supposed to be concerned about sights on a small pistol but one thing I’ve always hated about small revolvers is the lack of distance between the front and rear sights. Small autoloaders give you a greater sighting distance.
An alternative would be the 9mm Kahr pistols.
17) 44 Magnum S&W model 29 with a 4″ or 6″ barrel. If you hunt with it go with the longer barrel. If you mainly carry it as a sidearm go with the 4″ barrel. Ruger revolvers are a great alternative.
I don’t really need a 44 magnum and might sell my last one someday. If you live in Bear country, Alaska, and want a defensive weapon to carry on your hip, it’s hard to beat a 4″ 44 magnum.
I know guys who would never sell their 44 magnum. It’s their go-to revolver. I posted a complete article about this caliber and will only restate one thing here: For practice, you can use lighter recoiling 44 Special ammo. For self defense, full power ammo in this caliber is overkill. Mid velocity ammo pushing a 240 grain bullet at 1,000 fps is more than adequate.
18) I’m down to my last choice. Above I added duplicates of my defensive rifle and pistol. I don’t currently own a second defensive rifle, but it’s a good policy to have one if you can afford it. Two is one. One is none. That sort of arithmetic. That’s why my number 18 is really 20.
We do have many backups to our defensive pistol. We can press the Hi-Power or 357 or even 44 into service as a backup if we can’t repair our 1911s.
What should I add to the last gun? If you live in a country with really big game the choice is clear: A really powerful rifle. A 375 H&H magnum or 416 Rigby. In Alaska perhaps a 338 Winchester Magnum. Bolt actions.
Given the biggest animal threat in my area would be an overgrown squirrel, I feel safe skipping the big booming rifles. I worry repeated firing of these calibers could turn my brain into scrambled eggs.
For my last choice I’ll go with a lever action 30-30. The Marlin 336. The 94 Winchester would be great too. For deer sized game a 30-30 is all you need and I like lever action rifles.
What would be your top 20 ultimate prepper gun list? Share your answers below or on your blog.
Charlie Palmer -author The Prepper Next Door