What is the best gun for the apocalypse? This is a question with answers as different as the scenarios envisioned by various authors and experts over the years. The best gun to have will depend on the situation and the modus operandi of the individual(s) involved, but the weapon’s primary use will be assumed to be for defense.
Before we begin, let me clarify what I believe qualifies as an apocalyptic event. I see it as a long-term (think years or decades) situation of deteriorating conditions defined by shortages of, or a complete lack of food, commercial goods, or anything that is supply chain dependent. A world that is reminiscent of the Book of Eli, Mad Max, One Second After, The Walking Dead and Revolution TV shows, or the Left Behind series.
I am going to break this down into three sections. During the event (as chaos reigns), Shortly after the event (as organization, supply chains, and law & order break down and people are desperate), and long-term (years after, when resources are scarce, and the population has dwindled). Ideally, you would already have a complete arsenal in place before the festivities begin.
Table of Contents
During the Event / Getting Home / Bugging Out (1-3 Days After)
For the first few days after the event, things may be frantic. The extent of the situation may not be known, and uncertainty and panic will be driving many people. Those who have not prepared will be mobbing the stores trying to get what supplies they can, while other opportunistic individuals are helping themselves to goods for free. This time of panic is not the time to be out and about if possible.
If you are away from home when the balloon goes up, your primary mission should be in trying to get home. A concealed handgun like a Glock 19 or 48 will serve well. A second option would be a folding carbine like a Kel-Tec Sub-2K that can be kept in a pack. The big thing here is not attracting attention to yourself. Being on the move with a full-size long-gun or openly carried sidearm may make you a target for those looking to add to their stash or draw the ire of what law enforcement may remain, especially if there is martial law.
However, if you are a business owner or find yourself with something of value in a crowded place (like having a working vehicle after an EMP) then a magazine-fed semi-auto rifle will be your best friend. An AR, AK, FAL, or other military-style weapons would be the way to go here. Invest in quality web gear and good magazines like Magpul and get familiar with using your setup. A secondary option to the rifle is a pump shotgun like the Mossberg 590S. Offering nine rounds (14 if using 1.75 inch shells) of devastating firepower with a hundred yards of reach, the 590 is a good option if a semi-auto rifle is not legally feasible in your location.
After the Event / At Home or Bug-Out Location (4 Days – 3+ Months After)
In my opinion, this time is the most dangerous. The initial chaos and looting have calmed somewhat, but supply chains are down and people are getting hungry and desperate. If others know that you have a stockpile, you could be a target. This chaotic interval is the time for the heavy firepower. Paired with an effective group of people working together for common defense (like a neighborhood patrol) and you should be set up for success. Working from a fixed position with multiple people will allow you to layer your defensive strategy with short- and long-range weapons.
Still carry your concealed pistol, but otherwise, nearly anything else goes. Preferably your group use a similar battle rifle, handgun, and shotgun for interchangeability of ammo, magazines, and parts, but what you have and know is better than what you do not. I would want an AR-15 with backup sights and a low-power scope for this since my neighborhood is fairly dense. If I lived out on the prairie, then a .30 caliber rifle like an AR-10 or PTR-91, something with a longer reach, would be my go-to. A bolt-action rifle may suffice here but not unless you had multiple individuals manning the observation point with you.
Long-Term (3 months to Years afterward)
If you have survived this long then your previous preparation has paid off. Your primary weapons may have gotten a workout by this point, and hopefully, you are not running low on ammunition. Three other weapons I would recommend here are a muzzleloading rifle, an air rifle, and a set of shotgun adapters chambered for the calibers you have on hand.
Why include antiquated tech like a muzzleloader? For several reasons. If you have somewhere that you can hunt, a muzzleloader can fire hundreds of shots from a pound of black powder. A flintlock muzzleloader does not require any other input like a percussion cap to fire. As long as you have powder and lead, you can shoot. Incidentally, black powder can be made at home if needed, and a lot of scap lead can be stashed in a coffee can for casting bullets.
The humble air rifle is another on my list of best gun for the apocalypse. Air rifles are inexpensive, powerful, and quiet. Some models like the Gamo Whisper come with a built-in sound suppressor. If you want a way to defend your survival garden from pests and add some small game to the pot, an air rifle will do the job and not draw the attention of everyone within a couple of miles.
As an aside from this, you can purchase muzzleloading weapons (percussion revolvers included) and air rifles in many states with no paperwork or registration (check local laws) since they are not considered firearms under federal law. This low profile may allow you to have some means of defense or sustenance that is not on record with the authorities.
A third consideration for the long-term is a set of caliber adapters for a break-open shotgun. If you already have one of these weapons, an adapter allowing the use of your primary handgun cartridge may extend its usefulness. The idea is that if you have expended all of your shotgun ammunition, then the gun can be loaded with some other shell via the adapters, and the weapon can be kept in the fight. Also, if you have to go scavenging, then a couple of adapters would also allow you to utilize loose ammunition acquired while on the move.
There you have it, my list of contenders for the best gun for the apocalypse. A concealed handgun, military-style semi-auto rifle, pump shotgun, muzzleloader, and air rifle. If I could only have one, it would be the Glock 19 for me. The ideal situation would be to have one or more of each, but that is not always feasible. Get what you can and stock as many rounds as you can because once the apocalypse hits, there will not be anymore.
Until next time.