Top 5 Popular Types of Guns Not Suitable For SHTF

by Nicholas

Selecting your firearms is one of the most important things you can make as a prepper, because these are the guns that you will use to keep your, your family, and your property safe in the event of a disaster or a home invasion.

The purpose of this article is to outline five specific types of popular guns or guns that are commonly cited as being ‘good choices’ for a survival situation and then discuss why these guns will actually be poor ones for your survival armory.

That’s not to say that these gun types are bad by any means.  Most of them have their place and are fun toys for the shooting range. They just aren’t the best options to have with you in a self-defensive or survival situation.

Here are the top five most popular types of guns not suitable for SHTF:

Single Shot Shotguns and Rifles

Single shot breech loading shotguns and rifles are often cited as being good SHTF rifles.  Yes, they only hold one round obviously, but proponents will argue that because they are so simple they will never fail you.

You simply press a button or lever and the barrel drops down.  Load your round, snap the barrel back into place, and cock the hammer to fire.  There are so few moving parts in a single shot shotgun (especially in comparison to modern shotguns and rifles), that you can most likely count on them still running flawlessly a hundred years down the road.  Plus, single shot firearms such as these tend to be dead cheap as well.  So why are they such a poor choice for SHTF weapons?

Let’s answer this question by citing an example of what could happen in an SHTF situation. Let’s say the power grid has collapsed and will stay down for a very long time.  You’ve wisely stocked up on enough food and water to last you a year, but word has gotten out and now you have a group of five or ten armed (and desperate) marauders descending into your home, looking to kill you and your family members and steal your stockpile.

Answer honestly: in this kind of a situation, is a single shot shotgun or rifle really the weapon you would want, knowing full well that many of your opponents could be armed with semi-automatics? This should end the discussion right there.

Beretta Cx4 storm

By Rama – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.0 fr,

Pistol Caliber Carbines

Pistol caliber carbines are also often commonly cited as good choices for SHTF weapons.  The logic goes that you only need to stock up on one kind of ammunition because your pistol and carbine will both fire it.  Sometimes, both a carbine and pistol will even accept the same magazines: the Beretta CX4 Storm Carbine, for example, will accept either Beretta Px4 or 92FS magazines depending on the model.

Here’s a piece of advice: if you have a shoulder fired weapon, it should fire rifle ammunition, plain and simple. The reason for this is because pistol ammunition is significantly underpowered in comparison to rifle rounds, and while velocity will be a little higher when it’s fired out of a longer barrel, it’s still underpowered.

This proves to be a liability in a defensive situation. A rifle round such as 5.56x45mm or .308 will be much more likely to do this than 9mm or even .45.

Furthermore, a pistol round is not a suitable choice for big game hunting such as deer or elk. This is another situation where it would be more desirable to have a larger caliber.

All in all, while it does undeniably sound appealing to have a handgun and a long gun that fire the same round, you would still be better off having a long gun that fires a rifle round.  Rather than invest your money in a pistol caliber carbine, invest it in something such as an AR-15, AK-47, or M1A instead.

mini revolver in holster

Pocket Pistols

The pocket pistol market is booming right now, because many people strongly want something that all they have to do is place it in their pockets. This could also initially make a pocket pistol such as a Ruger LCP or Kel-Tec P-32 an appealing choice for an SHTF sidearm, because it will be so easy to hide on your person when you absolutely don’t want anybody to know that you have a gun on you.

The reality, however, is that you should never consider a pocket pistol as an SHTF sidearm.  They are extremely close range weapons due to their small size and caliber. Most pocket pistols are chambered for .22 LR, .25 ACP, .32 ACP, or .380 ACP. None of these rounds is considered by experts to be an effective man stopper.

The overall small size of a pocket pistol not only means that you can’t get a full firing grip on the weapon, the short barrels also translates to the velocity out of these guns being very low on top of the fact that they are underpowered. In addition, pocket pistols tend to have high recoil for their caliber because of their lightweight, which doesn’t permit fast follow up shots against multiple opponents.

In short, if you need a gun that you can just throw into your pocket before heading to the restaurant or the gas station, a pocket pistol will do. But if you need something you can count on to defend yourself and your family in an SHTF situation, leave it in the safe.

Single Action Revolvers

Not only are single action revolvers such as the Colt Peacemaker or Ruger Vaquero incredibly beautiful, they are also a blast to shoot. They point naturally and the accuracy is superb.

That being said, a single action revolver of any kind is an absolutely terrible choice for an SHTF sidearm. There are three reasons why…

The first reason is that single action revolvers tend to lack the strength and durability of double action revolvers or semi-automatic pistols. Spare parts for these guns are not cheap and will likely be very hard to find in an SHTF situation.

The second reason is that reloading times on a single action revolver are slow; you have to open the latch on the side and then remove each spent shell casing and load in a new one individually.  This could be detrimental in a self-defense situation where you need to get back into the fight now.

Finally, you have to manually cock back the hammer each time you pull the trigger (hence it being single action) to fire.  If you need to send a lot of lead downrange against multiple opponents who are trying to kill you, this will naturally put you at a disadvantage that could prove fatal.

russian sks military surplus

Military Surplus Rifles

This one may surprise you, especially because surplus rifles such as the Mosin-Nagant are commonly cited as being excellent SHTF rifles due to their durable build quality, cheap price, and generally affordable ammunition.  Other rifles besides the Mosin-Nagant that fill this criteria include Mauser rifles, Lee-Enfields, Springfield 1903s and Arisaka rifles.

So if you’re on a budget, a military surplus rifle will understandably sound like an enticing option.  Nonetheless, you should still strongly consider other options.  The short answer is that these rifles were built for another time (early 1900s) and are therefore outdated by today’s standards.  Not only are these bolt-action rifles, but they also have very long barrels that can make them difficult to maneuver in home defense or close quarters situations.

Furthermore, the ammunition for them may be cheap now, but will unlikely last long in the event of an ammunition shortage or disaster situation. Surplus rounds such as 7.62x54r, 8mm Mauser, or .303 British will not be nearly as commonplace as rounds such as the 5.56x45mm NATO or .308 Winchester.

If you want a surplus rifle as a collector or for hunting on a budget, it’s not a bad choice. But for a serious SHTF defensive weapon, there are far better options out there.


When putting together your personal survival armory, we highly recommend that you skip over any firearms that fall into the above categories for the reasons we have explained.  Your chances of survival and your ability to defend your family and property will go up if you opt for different options instead.

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29 thoughts on “Top 5 Popular Types of Guns Not Suitable For SHTF”

  1. Wow! You kicked so many “experts”( aka arm chair survivalist) in the teeth, that they are going to gum you to death. You are 100% right !!

  2. full of crap, actually, David Caldwell. Where I wouldn’t bring my .22lr into combat, it has a place and i’d want it in a shtf scenario. same with pistol caliber carbines (make mine 9mm) and surplus rifle (mine, 8mm mauser).
    Each tool has it’s function and each has a weakness… 5.56 for example, not good for hunting..still would use it post shtf.

  3. Opinion is what makes a horse race. My humble opinions offered:

    1) Single shot firearms aren’t useless, just not suitable for some functions. What they excel at is lightweight / easy to operate and teach a person who knows zilch about firearms / inexpensive / break down to smaller pieces for easier to conceal spaces.

    2) Pistol carbines are very easy to shoot, boost the handgun ballistics for better self defense use and can be more easily ‘silenced’ for stealth use.

    3) Pocket pistols have a great use – appearing to be unarmed when you actually are. Yes – small round leaves small hole, but its still a hole that no one wants to be wearing, especially after SHTF.

    4) Single Action revolvers are opposite of pocket pistol use. Can be chambered in very powerful (for a handgun) loads, very handy to carry if dealing with large livestock / predators. Maybe not as useful in a gun fight, but a Glock 9mm against a bear vs. a .44 Magnum – I’ll take the wheel gun.

    5) Military surplus – built to last in the battlefield, pick and choose your poison. An old bolt gun that has RELIABLE ammunition source and a few key parts that are already known to break are a good primary – backup firearm. Very heavy though.

    No offense intended for others who feel different about my opinions.

    • oh yeah, bears are such a threat. Even the 454 Casull is not as powerful as a 20 ga slug. who considers the 20 ga to be a bear stopper, hmm? even tho you can get the needed brain hits twice as fast with the auto shotgun, at twice as far away and the shotgun has other uses, while the 454 does not. There is zero reason to not have the best combo, cause it’s also very useful in normal times. The 22 unit in the AR is a fine plinker, great for teaching new shooters, great for your training, is a fine small game gun. The AR can win matches, take deer, hogs, even antelope. guys take the latter with bow and arrow, so why can’t you get half as close with the rifle, hmm? The 223 AR is a fine choice for varmints and home defense. Use 60 gr softpoints in it. So it’s a $1500 assembly, so what? anyone can get a half time student loan, 3k from their local jr college and pass simple classes with 10 hours per week. You can sell your plasma for 3k per year. Presto, paid for gun setup, the best.

  4. This is just another you need a 9mm and AR,or you will die. And it is all B.S. use what you have and after you learn what it takes to be ready,in your life,you can then buy,sale,or trade for what you my need.The man with one gun, that would be me with pistol round from a rifle will be just fine,and so will many others.Working with what you have helps keep your eyes open because you know your limitations.

    • That’s pretty much my thoughts on the matter. However, I think the author is speaking to folks who haven’t bought any guns before. For a rural working class guy who went all out for his mosin nagant back in 03 and that’s all he can afford, or the old salt who is a master of his topper shotgun and revolver, it doesn’t make sense to trade up what works. but the suburban prepper who needs to worry about antifa and knows nothing about guns, would do well to stay away from anything that isn’t modern, modular, and in a common as dirt caliber.
      So many of your gun choices are going to boil down to economics and geography that you really can’t make one argument for or against a certain gun for all customers. The only two rules that are immutable are 1. Get one and 2. Make sure it’s reliable. After that, real world factors will take over

  5. Lever action rifles in pistol calibers are great. .357 mag, .41 mag, 44 mag, or 45 colt. Lots of great wheel guns to complement the rifle that won the west.

  6. not sure what you’re including under single shots … but

    no bolt action sniper rifle? …. there’s definitely a place for a high power-long range-accurate than hell rifle in everyone’s stash …. and this can bring the discussion of a sporterized military rifle into the fray ….

  7. In a shtf event, ANY gun will be worth it’s weight in gold. While we would all like to have the best guns available, it ain’t gonna happen. You’re gonna run what ya brung! And why di military rifles and show a pic of the SKS, probably the best low cost gun around, period! Ammo is and will always be around, because truck loads have been brought in. As far as the 5 you listed to stay away from, bull! Use what you have and upgrade as you can! I hope you haven’t steered lots of people away from prepping by hammering guns they may have!

  8. Basically the author is suggesting a deer would shrug off a shot from a 357 or 44 mag lever. They must have used ARs to win the west when there was no grid. Buddy, please put down the crack pipe.

  9. This entire article was ridiculous from start to finish, at least it was humerous and provided a good chuckle.

  10. For reference to the usefullness of single shot fire arms please read the book “Fry the Brain”. The 8mm mauser is legend in a sniper roll. Your second shot gets you killed so what the heck do you need a semi auto for. P.S it is not my fault if you get put on a list for ordering an insurgency how to manual, i mean history book off amazon.

  11. Each weapon system has a place in a post collapse world. I won’t go into details except to say that my pistol caliber long gun rides with me daily in my get home bag, my Israeli Mauser re-calibered in .308 makes a nice medium distance sniper rifle and keeps my freezer full of venison and my single shot revolver keeps the varmits out of my garden. So while I’ll rely on my Glock and AR as primary defensive weapons, I’ll also keep my other guns as well since they do serve a purpose.

  12. OK so I agree that some of these choices are not the BEST choices for SHTF ( though you are assuming full mad max ) but you have some silly things you put in that the uninformed will consider facts. You say no military surplus then show an SKS and recommend an AK47 ????? You state that single action revolvers are weak and break easy? I have put thousands of rounds through my Rugar Blackhawk many of them being 320 grain Bear loads and it still will be up and running when your glocks are in the trash. is it the gun I want in a shoot out? Of course not, but is it what I carry out in the woods instead of any of my 9’S or .45 acp. HELL yes. As far as single shot weapons they are great for hunting and as far as self defense with them tell ya what. I’ll take my single shot 22 and you take no gun and lets see who comes out on top. As others have stated different tool for different purposes. I don’t want a claw hammer to break rocks and I don’t want a sledge hammer to pound nails.

  13. Having something is way better than having nothing. By comments in the post I would guess everyone that read it would start considering a .338 Lapua, or maybe a 50 BMG. (There is some reach out and touch someone power.)

    But, single shot weapons limit how fast you spend ammo when learning to shoot, and force you to be patient when hunting for the risk of losing game by rushing a shot.

    I would use what is available to the best of my ability. Knowing what you can do, and how to apply what resources you have to whatever situation presents itself is all anyone can do. Having a full auto machine-gun will dump lots of resources at a target of the moment. In the mean time, the targets you didn’t notice will bide their time and take you out while you are focused elsewhere and/or ran out of ammo.

    The best skills to have are those that put what you have available to the best use. Only have a single shot weapon? Don’t confront a group. Only have birdshot in you shotgun? Don’t shoot anyone farther than 10 yards away, and know that they are going to be pissed off even then.

    If you plan for the worst, then consider lethality of your preferred weapons 1st. Then act accordingly. If you only plan to kill the occasional squirrel, raccoon or rabbit, you may be limiting your options – and maybe your lifespan.

    Any weapon is way better than a sharpened stick, or a rock. Pick what you want, know how to use it, practice using it, and do the same with everything you plan to have – and with everyone you plan to have with you.

    Best of luck to all.

  14. over the years I have collected mt idea of SHTF firearms and plenty of ammo. Here’s why:
    1. Rifles – I have a 5.56 AR and AK 7.62×39 and a .308 I want to be able to use friendly or enemy ammo when I can find or seize it.
    2. Pistols – (mm Nato and .40 cal (for the same reason – military or police ammo). I have lots of others but those are the SHTF selections.
    3. shotguns 12 ga pump and 12 ga semi. (for the same reason – military or police ammo).

    lots of .22s are essential for small game hunting etc.

  15. I see so many people say you must have the biggest baddest gun you can afford. I call B.S. on all of them.
    If I could have only one gun for the SHTF. Please, please let it be the Ruger 10-22 with a lot of 25 round mag’s and a lot of ammo. the 10-22 is rugged, high rate of fire. will put a hole in soft body Armour. will put a hole in 1/2 plywood at 440 yrds. you can kill small game, wolf’s, bear, deer, moose, any thing that’s walks the north American continent. NO B.S.
    You can’t do it at 800 yrd’s but most people could not hit a 4’x8′ sheet of plywood with a 308 cal at 800 yrd’s
    I can hit a 8″ paper plate at 100 yrd’s with a 10-22 all day long. and so could most people.

  16. It’s interesting that you didn’t list the SKS on your list of banned military surplus rifles. Obviously, it isn’t bolt action, but the 7.62X39 round is an effective stopper out to at least 300 yards and is far more accurate than any AK.

    Speaking of bolt action, one of my SHTF rifles is a 30-06. Would I want to use it in a close encounter? Of course not; but it has more range and knock down power than a .308. I would rather eliminate a threat at 800 yards than at 50.

    Taken altogether, your article is basically a piece of garbage.

  17. I think a good pocket pistol could still hold its value post collapse. Not appearing armed is sometimes an advantage. I could easily do without most of the other firearms you listed. I wouldn’t get rid of any I already have but you’re correct that if you’re going to buy something specifically for a shtf type situation then you are better off getting a better all round firearm.

  18. The situation was… you are attacked by a larger force armed with semi auto weapons… The write said the following would not be a good choice under that threat. Of course any weapon is better than none, but… if attacked by a larger force a semi would be the choice to go to.

  19. For SHTF:

    1) 9mm semi auto with 16+1 round capability and a lot of mags for in-house defense

    2) AR-15 in 5.56/.223 caliber with several 30-round mags for outside use

    3) 12 or 20 gauge pump action shotgun

    4) pocket pistol (revolver or small .380 or 9mm with 10+1 capacity like the SCCY)

    5) Ruger 10/22 or Marlin tube fed .22 rifle

    6) .308 or other similar caliber bolt action rifle with detachable mag and long range scope.

    7) Lever action .357 rifle. Cheap ammo, no recoil, etc

  20. Boatload of crap written by an AR fanboy.
    I was raised abroad in third world countries where old-school and surplus firearms were the staple of the oppressed. And most of them were still in good working order and very effective against gangs and marauders.

  21. Since we have never had a massive grid failure in the US,lasting for a year or more.No one can say for sure what is the best firearm or arms to have,that’s the reason there is no such thing as an expert,if (in my opinion) you choose to use a handgun for home defense,in normal situations,(Glock-19)for example common sense dictates a pistol caliber rifle would be ideal in defense around yor home perimeter,even if non compatable magazines are the case,my case CZ-Scorpion.A rifle caliber firearm(AR/AK)is fine but is better at what it’s made to do(distance)Yes if only one choice rifle is better,because it can do both while the pistol caliber is not great for distance,unless you have a Lever Action in’s a matter of choice,yes single shots are not going to be ideal.My wife will use the CZ,and me our Mossberg 590-SP(7+1)Our AR’S(God forbid)are for bug out.

  22. there is no effing reason to not have the best gun with you. AR’s cost $500 as I write this, in 2019. The CMMG .22lr conversion unit is just $160. The parts to make a “solvent trap” silencer for the AR run about $200. A drop in trigger job and luminous iron sights cost about $150 each.Dont bother with other crap and you’ll have plenty of money for the real deal. The .22 unit really does provide for valid training and it’s saving you 20c per shot. You need to fire 5000 rds and pay for a good shooting coach, so the ammo savings provided by the .22 unit pays for the gun the first year that you own it. The second year, it pays for instruction from a top coach. Get a half time college loan from your local jr college, for 3k and you can sell your plasma for 3k a year to pay off the loan. Presto, you can have the best. Get some 60 gr softpoint ammo for the 223, and 60 gr Aquila subsonic .22 ammo, have a 10.6″ 1 in 9″ twist barrel.

  23. if shtf, you’ll have to carry at LEAST 30 lbs of water, food, night vision, concealed armor, etc, so the guns and ammo have to be held under 15 lbs. If you dont, you’ll just get hurt trying to lug around more weight. There will be no safe place to leave anything and you’ll likely need big % of the BOB every day of shtf. So you can’t carry more than one longarm. While the silenced AR shorty and .22 unit are not perfect for everything, they do everything adequately, much better than any other gun. The shotgun has no reach, very little pentration, the shells are much too heavy and bulky, the bolt action has no rapidfire or luminous sights, all noisy guns are handicaps, you have to be able to fire 9mm, 22lr and 223 or you’ll soon have no ammo. You can’t get people or animals to wait while you go GET the ‘right gun for the job’. Birds all land, animals all stop running. If you dont make noise, they wont go far and you’ll have other chances at them. Post shtf, if you make noise, you’ll have dozens of people coming to kill you and take your stuff. You’ll have to remain underground during daytime. Traps, nets, fish poison, bird lime, snares, trotlines, those are the efficient ways to gather flesh food. Hunting sucks, even with the silencer, jacklghting, baiting, etc. Hunting is just too rarely effective to be worth the calories spent on it.

  24. pair the AR, with 60 gr softpoints and 60 gr Aquila subsonic ammo (1 in 9″ rifling twist) with a micro 9mm in a front pants pocket. Once the longarms come out, the pistol wont amount to a hoot. So don’t bother with more than one spare mag of ammo. Put 100 gr CorBon jhp’s in your 9mm. It’ll be out of the way of your pack harness, out of sight, out of the elements, out of the way of your rifle (slung or in hand) and easily accssible.

  25. Jeez, finally someone with some sense! While I’m not opposed to having any of these weapons, I have never believed that they were the best for shtf. While I do have or have had, guns from each category you list, I understand their place in my arsenal to wit:
    1. I love break action firearms of any kind. They are dead nuts simple, rugged, and if they get lost or destroyed I won’t cry too hard. But in shtf they become the gun you use because it’s all you have. In addition to multiple attackers, these guns fail muster because when they do break, parts are difficult if not impossible to source, and expensive when they’re found. I had to replace the hammer interrupter on my topper and I had to get a used parts bag on Ebay for $40. Not a cheap fix.
    2. I have a keltec sub2000 in 9mm that is a joy to shoot. I keep it in my trunk because, as I heard one guy say, “it’s a good gun for when you don’t think you’ll need a gun.” In that role it excels. If ever I need to bail in a shtf scenario and make my way home, this little carbine will provide defense against roving gangs, as well as put some meat in the pot if needed. Is it perfect? Nope! But it doesn’t take up much weight or space and it’s there when you need it.
    3. A ruger LCP is a fine pistol in a low crime area, in the heat of summer, when the alternative is a 1911 left on the bureau at home. But when shtf you need a larger pistol on your belt in a bigger caliber.
    4. Single actions belong in the old west. It’s the 21st century, these guns are antiques or overpriced reproductions. For the price of a nib colt peacemaker you can buy 4 glock 19s. Just stop already!
    5. I’ve been saying it for years, milsurp guns are great if the milsurp market is strong. Face it, cheap war vets don’t exist anymore and the ammo is mostly corrosive or stupid expensive. A good savage 308 will get you where a mosin nagant would, and it’ll do it lighter, cleaner, safer, and optics ready. I absolutely love my milsurp guns, but in the end they are best suited to combat 80 years ago or casual collecting and shooting in times of peace. Much like the single shot shotgun, these are weapons that you only use in shtf if you have no other choice. Happily we live in America, where we ha very plenty of choices.

  26. I believe both PCC’s and pocket pistols have a valuable place.

    Now that we have arm braces we can have PCC style “pistols” with short barrels. An Ar9 with a 4.5 to 10.5″ barrel paired with a Glock and able to take suppressors, flashlights, and IR lasers etc will be a valuable tool as it’s more likely to stow in a backpack for vehicle than a full 16″ rifle like an AR-15, Ak47, and M1A

    Noise discipline will be important. Where there is gunshots there is ammo. Where there is ammo there is likely food. The most ruthless and dangerous of marauders will have long range gear and will head towards gunfire, scout the place like scout snipers, and eliminate residents for their resources.

    Not having the resources and team to prevent such acts they best way to avoid that is using suppressed weaponry for home defense and self defense.

    Additionally SHTF happens to varying degrees. If you have to still go to work but things are more wild west with local sheriffs and without grid power or internet, there will STILL be some semblance of law and order. Or if SHTF is a gradual slide rather than single Black Swan event that creates a catastrophic snap.

    You NEED to be able to function in a society, even a failing one or one that has devolved into local militia and gang driven feudalism. Pocket pistols should be on you 100% of the time as backup no matter what. They are one of the MOST important SHTF guns just as they are in regular times.

    I personally believe it will be important to be able to shift between “unarmed civilian” and “scary tactical dude” on a dime. To this aim my strongest interest and belief in value for SHTF is on PDW’s and rifle caliber pistols. You can still shoot 5.56, 7.62×39, or 300blk out to 300 yards or so out of a 10″ barrel and most SHTF gunfights will be happening inside of 100 if not inside of 30. More still will happen at bad breath distances after talking has gone South. You may run into the remains of local law enforcement. You may encounter road blocks and checkpoints from “the authorities” whoever they happen to be. In this case nonthreatening postures are best and without visible weaponry. On the other hand, criminals such as looters, marauders, gangs, and organized crime will be deterred by shows of force.

    That said a good AR-15 and a Glock 19 or 17 is a hard combo to beat for CONUS shtf.


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