The 7 Ultimate Firearms for Survival & Their Costs

Spring is finally revving up, and with it, thoughts of how best to use the following months for prepping and tightening up survival plans in case SHTF. And no survival plan is complete without a suitable survival defense kit that includes sensible firearm choices.

On March 22nd and 23rd, I attended the Hampton Regional Gun and Knife Show. This is a quarterly gun show that draws only the best gun and knife traders in Virginia and surrounding states.  The complex used for the shows takes up about 2 football fields end to end. It has excellent interstate and road access, tons of free parking, and plenty of outlying food and lodging accommodations.

Let me begin my review by saying that advances in polymer and titanium alloy technologies are leading to some exciting changes in the firearms market.

On the other hand, it is not practical for the average consumer to spend thousands of dollars on relatively untested weapons when other good weapons and ammo are available.  Nor does it make much sense to buy newer, more expensive, untested models of older style weapons just because they have a few minor changes to relatively cosmetic features.

Therefore, as I made my way through over 876 tables at the gun show, I found myself thinking that the following 7 weapons are still the best, and should be in every survival defense kit.


1. Alpha / Echo

  • Gun Type: AR-15
  • Manufacturer: Del-Ton
  • Description/Features:
  • Caliber: 5.56mm
  • Barrel: 20“
  • Wt. 8Lbs.
  • Capacity: 30 rounds per magazine.
  • Stock: A-2 or M4- 6 position
  • Sights: A2 style
  • Ammo Type: – 5.56 mm
  • Projected Availability: Good.  This round is common for military and most police department SWAT Teams.
  • Maintenance Type: Regular rifle cleaning.
  • Required Accessories: Rear fold down sight and or a rifle scope.
  • Configuration Options: A2 or M4-6 position stock
  • Suitable for Youths? Yes low recoil, easy to point, aim, and shoot.
  • Suitable for Elderly? Yes light weight, low recoil, easy to point, aim, and shoot.
  • Suitable Handicapped or Disabled? Depends on condition and how it will change over time.

My Opinion: This is a well-built AR-15 that will give you years of good service, is built to GI specs, and any AR-15 part kit may be used to repair. Not recommended for large game hunting, but can be used for small game, and is also excellent for house defense.

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2. SGL-21

  • Gun Type: AK-47
  • Manufacturer: Arsenal
  • Description/Features:
  • Caliber: 7.62×39
  • Barrel: 16.3“
  • Capacity: 10/20/30 round magazines, plus drums available
  • Wt: 7 Lbs.
  • Stock: Polymer
  • Ammo Type: 7.62×39 mm
  • Projected Availability: Good.  Plentiful surplus and new manufactured ammo available.
  • Maintenance Type: Regular rifle cleaning.
  • Required Accessories: None.
  • Configuration Options: Folding stock or straight stock.
  • Suitable for Youths? Suitable for 12 years old and up.
  • Suitable for Elderly? Yes, low recoil, easy pointing, well balanced.
  • Suitable Handicapped or Disabled? Depends on condition and how it will change over time.

My Opinion: This AK-47 is very rugged, well-built, and very dependable. It will give you years of service and low maintenance. May be used for small deer sized animals, but too large for small game. Excellent for house defense.

3. Stoeger 3000

  • Gun Type: Auto loader shotgun   / Manufacturer: Stoeger
  • Description/Features:
  • Ga.: 12 (2 3/4“ and 3“ chamber)
  • Barrel: 24“ to 28“
  • Wt.: 7.5 lbs.
  • Ammo Type: 12 Ga. shotgun shell
  • Stocks: Synthetic
  • Sights: Red bar front.
  • Capacity: 5 shot
  • Projected Availability: Good.  Popular hunting, defense, and law enforcement round.
  • Maintenance Type: Regular shotgun cleaning.
  • Required Accessories: None.
  • Configuration Options: Folding or regular straight stocks.
  • Suitable for Youths? Over the age of 16 years old.
  • Suitable for Elderly? Good recoil control and pointing characteristics.
  • Suitable Handicapped or Disabled? Depends on condition and how it will change over time.

My Opinion: This is an easy to use and a dependable shotgun that will give you years good of service.  Good for all small game and hunting deer sized animals. This is excellent for house defense.

4. Remington 870 

  • Gun Type: Pump shotgun
  • Manufacturer: Remington
  • Description/Features:
  • Ga.: 12 (2 3/4“, 3” chamber)
  • Barrel 18.5“ to 30“
  • Wt. 8 Lbs.
  • Stocks: Wood or synthetic
  • Sights: Fixed or adjustable
  • Capacity: 3 to 6 shot
  • Ammo Type: 12 Ga. shotgun shell
  • Projected Availability Good.  Common hunting, protection, and used by law enforcement.
  • Maintenance Type: Regular shotgun cleaning.
  • Required Accessories: None
  • Configuration Options: Folding stocks, straight wood or synthetic stocks.
  • Suitable for Youths? Over the age of 16 years old.
  • Suitable for Elderly? Questionable.  Has moderate to heavy recoil.
  • Suitable Handicapped or Disabled?  Depends on condition and how it will change over time.

My Opinion: This is an easy to use and a dependable shotgun that will give you years of good service.  Good for hunting deer sized animals and small game.  Excellent for house defense.

5. Ruger American Rifle 

  • Gun Type: Bolt action rifle
  • Manufacturer: Ruger
  • Description/Features:
  • Caliber: 308 Win.
  • Barrel: 22“
  • Wt.: 7 lbs.
  • Stock: Black composite
  • Capacity: 4 rounds
  • Ammo: 308 Win.
  • Projected Availability: Good.  Widely used sporting, military, and police round.
  • Maintenance Type: Regular bolt action rifle cleaning.
  • Required Accessories:  Needs a good 3 x9 x 50mm multi-power power scope. A Nikon Pro-staff will cost about $219.95. Ruger supplies scope rings with the rifle.
  • Configuration Options: Standard straight rifle black composite stock.
  • Suitable for Youths? Over the age of 15 years old.
  • Suitable for Elderly?  Yes/questionable.  Easy pointing and sighting.  Light to moderate recoil.  Loud noise!
  • Suitable Handicapped or Disabled?  Depends on condition and how it will change over time.

My Opinion: This is a well-built bolt action rifle that will give you years of dependable service with minimal repairs.  Excellent for small and large game except bears.  Excellent for house defense.

6. Ruger 10-22

  • Gun Type: 22 Cal. semi-auto
  • Manufacturer: Ruger
  • Description/Features:
  • Caliber: 22lr.
  • Action: Semi-auto
  • Barrel: 18.5“
  • Wt.:5lbs.
  • Stock: Black synthetic
  • Capacity: 10 rounds
  • Sights: adjustable
  • Ammo Type: 22lr.
  • Projected Availability: Fair with some shortages, but getting better.
  • Maintenance Type: Regular semi-auto rifle cleaning.
  • Required Accessories: None
  • Configuration Options: Straight or folding stocks.
  • Suitable for Youths? Age 12 with adult supervision.
  • Suitable for Elderly?  Yes.  Low recoil, easy pointing and shooting.
  • Suitable Handicapped or Disabled?  Depends on condition and how it will change over time.

My Opinion: The 10-22 rifle is a time tested and true rifle. It will give you years of service without repairs. My Ruger 10 – 22 (that Ruger 10 – 22 from the picture above) has given me over 30 years of service and is still there when I need it. Ideal for small game hunting and household defense.

7. Glock 19 

  • Gun Type: 9mm semi-auto pistol
  • Manufacturer: Glock
  • Description/Features:
  • Caliber: 9mm
  • Barrel: 4“
  • Wt.: 20 Oz.
  • Grips: Polymer
  • Sights: Fixed
  • Features: Safe action in Gen.4 (new).
  • Capacity: 15 rounds per mag.
  • Ammo Type: 9mm
  • Projected Availability: Good used by military and police.
  • Maintenance Type: Standard semi-auto pistol cleaning.
  • Required Accessories: None
  • Configuration Options: Just standard configuration.
  • Suitable for Youths? Age 16 or older.
  • Suitable for Elderly?  Yes/questionable.  Mild/moderate recoil, loud, easy to point.
  • Suitable Handicapped or Disabled?  Depends on condition and how it will change over time.

My Opinion: The Glock 19 is a very dependable handgun with a long history of working when you need it and never letting the user down.  Excellent for defense in tight confined areas.  Also might be used for small game hunting in an emergency and at close range.

And now a few words about the costs and maintenance for those 7 perfect firearms for you survival defense kit:big-GUN-TABLE

A personal defense weapon should be something you feel comfortable carrying at all times. Learn from the experts the secret of self-defense. Click the banner below to grab your guide!

This article has been written by Fred Tyrell for Survivopedia.

Photo sources: 123RF (1), Liberty Firearms and Surplus (for Alpha/Echo, SGL-21 and Glock 19), Fred Tyrell (Stoeger 3000, Remington 870, Ruger American Rifle, Ruger 10 – 22).

Written by

Fred Tyrrell is an Eagle Scout and retired police officer that loves to hunt, fish, hike, and camp with good friends and family. He is also a champion marksman (rifle, pistol, shotgun) and has direct experience with all of the major gun brands and their clones. Fred refers to himself as a "Southern gentleman" - the last of a dying way. He believes a man's word is his bond, and looks forward to teaching others what he has learned over the years. You can send Fred a message at editor [at]

Latest comments
    • Nobody ever mentions High point carbines these are rugged cheap dependable rifles I own 1 along with AK and are plus various other firearms my high point is my truck gun it never fails

  • Some of these are good, but not ‘perfect’.

    .223 is not really the best choice for defense – .308, 30-06 and even the 7.62×39 are better. Having a .223 is wise due to the commonality of the ammo, but if money is tight and you are able to handle the recoil of a better defense round, a cheaper .223 may be a better choice.

    Auto shotguns are a bit less reliable than pumps and cost more. If money is tight, I’d do without this one, possibly having another 870 instead.

    As with the .223, 9mm is only common, not really effective. Having a 9mm is good and the Glock is a good choice, but for serious defense you want a good .45ACP.

    Don’t forget the hunting barrel for the 870, and an extended magazine tube kit.

    • I prefer a 762×39 to the .223 for it’s added knock down power plus a slightly lower ammo cost

    • Well, I have 3=Mossburgs 4 = 870’s and 2 = Benelli Shot guns, all tactical the Benelli’s are a M1 and a M2 each holds 8 rounds…Never ever a malfunction on the M2, the M1 with a very light load would not rack the round all the time but shooting the prober ammo Never I mean never missed a beat, that is a probably 2,000 plus rounds, I have seen several Mossburgs and 870’s malfunction in tactical classes but never a Benelli. That is the same argument a Revolver is better than a simi auto,,,,Any gun can malfunction period.

  • Why an auto 22 vs. bolt action? What about a Taurus Judge 45/410?

    Thanks for any input.

    • Their is nothing wrong with a good bolt action .22 if that is what you prefer. The author listed HIS favorites and he likes the 10/22 which happens to be an auto. The Judge is designed to be carried a lot, and thus may not be sturdy enough or quick enough reload to be shot a lot. It could be very useful as a ‘secondary’ weapon after your ‘7 perfect gun’ arsenal was acquired.

  • I disagree with most of the list, myself. They are mostly high priced, with costly ammo. The 870 perhaps, but Id go with a Mossberg 500 myself. Id pick a cheaper AK variant and customize it myself. Id skip the 10 22 and Ruger rifle. I do not want a plastic pistol either.

  • #1:WASR-10 (AK, best all-around rifle) #2:AR-15 piston (less matinence) ,
    #3: 12g semi-auto (faster than pump),
    #4: Savage. 30.06,or.308 bolt action(long range)
    #5: 1911 .45 ACP (mid/short range)
    #6: Governor .45ACP/.410/45Colt (CQ)
    #7 Ruger 10/22 ( if you’ve already stocked up on lots of ammo- too late to start now)
    Nothing’s perfect, but this MY perfect list. For MY needs. What I would find the most useful.

  • All in all a great review.
    Never get everyone to agree on the perfect list!

    My thoughts:
    1. Ruger 10/22 Takedown OR AR-7. Depends on climate, projected use, carry method, etc.
    2. Ruger LCR .357, use .38 + P ammo, including low-grain loads
    3. Remington 870 12g, hunting barrel
    4. Mossberg 12 g pump with pistol grip stock
    5. Taurus Judge .410/45 LC
    6. .45 auto handgun of choice, I prefer Glock
    7. AR 10, various manufacturers, I prefer S&W, get a good scope, longer barrel.
    8. Pistol caliber semi-auto rifle in .45, such as Ruger Camp Carbine
    9. A good AK like WASR
    10. A nice all weather bolt action hunting rifle, in popular caliber for game in your area.

    I know there isn’t a .223/5.56 on the list and I will make many readers mad. However this really fun caliber isn’t the best choice for this type of list. So apologies in advance!

    • Good selection T’Shooter, but the list is 7 guns, not 10…which 3 can you remove and still be happy?(remembering ‘cost’ is a factor).

    • There is nothing ‘wrong’ with deliberately excluding a .223 from your list. It is not a ‘primary’ caliber for any purpose (although it does work quite well hunting Javelina). It’s big attraction is commonality of ammo (since it is the military caliber) and relatively low recoil (for smaller/disabled shooters). As such, I would include something inexpensive which shoots it. A Kel-tec, for instance, or as one of the barrels on a multiple caliber weapon.

      Similarly, I’d have something inexpensive to shoot 9mm, another round which is not the best for anything except finding more ammo for it.

      • High point 9mm carbine cheap price rugged and dependable

  • Good article, Fred. Every experienced shooter will have his (her) own 7 favorites. No criticism intended but here are my observations:
    1. I don’t see the need for TWO shotguns and since cost is a major consideration for most of us, I’d say go with a Mossberg 500; a well built, reliable shotgun at almost half the cost of a Stoeger.
    2. Considering cost again I’d go with a good (Romainian WASR, et al) AK-47 at HALF the cost of the SGL-21.
    3. I have no quarrel with your other selections — all are very good choices; although, the AR-15 (Alpha/Echo) and an AK-47 may seem to be “almost” a duplication. (I own and love both). Russian made AK-47 ammo (currently) is considerably less expensive than 5.56mm rounds.
    4. I am a Glock fan (consider this: Why do many police depts. prefer Glocks? Mainly because they are famously reliable and of a simple design). New Glocks are expensive but here’s a tip — look for used Glock police dept. trade-ins. I’ve bought several; they are well broken in, obviously, and function flawlessly. If a person must have the very latest model, go ahead and buy a Gen 4; however, save yourself a couple hundred and settle for a Gen. 3.
    5. Selection of a handgun caliber will start many endless arguments but my personal favorite is the .40 S&W. It has more “poop” than the 9mm; in fact for most loads it is as good as (even slightly better) than the venerable .45 ACP. In one of his books, Mike Hammer, PI author Mickey Spillane said of the .45, “It will blow a hole in a bad guy big enough that you can stick your head in and look around without getting your ears bloody” I know I’m dating myself by quoting Mr. Spillane (I’m 75) but when I was in Jr. High School, I used to read his racy (for the time) novels by flashlight under my blankets. Great literature!

    • The Mossberg 500 is a decent shotgun, but if 2 shotguns is “too much” in your opinion, why replace the Stoeger and keep the Remington? I’d rather have 2 870s or 2 500s than an 870 and a Mossberg. If your suggestion is to replace BOTH shotguns with a single Mossberg, that is an option. Or even both shotguns with a pair of Mossbergs. I prefer the 870, myself; I suggest that a potential buyer investigate the controls, “feel”, cost and available accessories for both brands before making a final decision.

      If you really want to save money on an ‘AK-47’, check out the SKS. They are (or at least used to be) way cheaper than any decent AK, and I like the controls better than the AK. On the down side, they are bigger, heavier and don’t accept magazines, all of which can be modified to some degree.

      The .223 and 7.62×39 are not ‘duplicates’ although they are both in the same class of weapon. The 7.62 is a better round, and as mentioned, cheaper. The reason for the .223 is ammo availability, and easier use for those who are injured or otherwise cannot handle a ‘real’ defensive caliber.

      The .40 is a good round, and if I had my druthers, I’d much rather have it than the 9mm, and would consider it a close second to the .45. But it would not be as economically feasible to stock up on .40 as it would either 9mm or .45, since military surplus is not an option. And it is questionable whether resupply of the .40 is as likely as either the 9mm or .45. So even though .40 is much better than 9mm and more versatile than .45, I don’t partake. If you do, I suggest you get into reloading in a big way; stocking up on powder, primers and bullets may help overcome both the initial supply cost and resupply issues somewhat.

      Mickey Spillane to the contrary, the .45 is not “too big”. Time and time again it has been proven that the bigger the projectile, the more effective it is at stopping someone from doing what they are doing before they can do more of it. A small, fast, expanding, bullet can do the job – if it opens. The more likely a design is to open, the less likely it is to reliably have acceptable penetration or resist fragmentation. The .45 does not need to expand to be effective.

      Actually, I would consider a .40 revolver as a secondary weapon. They have one which uses ‘moon clips’ and these are quick to reload while making the brass easy to collect for reloading. I’ve had good results in competition using a .45 revolver with full moon clips.

      • Good article with a lot of good information. I would limit the shotgun to a single good pump, for reliability and cost. My primary survival rifle would have to be an M14 in .308, due to available ammo, and good all around performance. Follow on with a well made 1911 in 45 ACP, it is just too proven, and also very effective. This also allows me to use a Thompson with 30 round clips, with the common ammo, for self defense. Add an AR7 survival rifle in 22LR with the afore mentioned 12 Ga pump, and you have a potent combo. If I could add one more, it would be a large bolt with a good scope (300 Win Mag with a 24 power scope) for long range work, although a 30-06 would work in a pinch. Since the original allowed seven, I would add a S&W 357 Magnum with a 6″ barrel in case I hurt a hand or arm, because it also allows me to use common 38 Spl ammo.

  • Nice article I used to keep large inventories as I tried different guns to find what I wanted to do. After years of trying different guns, my present inventory is a t-bolt type rifle in 22 , it is Russia made tri-eithalon rife that cost around 3 bills new but will make one ragged hole if I can hold it that steady, fun to shoot and great for teaching unexperanced shooter. Second is a rem 600 in 308, great round,rifle is very shot and easy to handle, good for how ever far I want to practice shooting it at. Third is a 22 hornet, great round and an easy round to reload or teach reloading, I can pull any 22 caliber bullet from and ar type round and reload it to almost as fast. That will creat some conversation I’m sure. Fourth a 22 caliber air rifle, cheap fun to shoot and for close in game a wonderful tool. Fifth 12 gauge 870, they run around $299.00 at academy and last a 45 cal pistol in what ever your favorite brand is. My thoughts are more on what would fit my needs if the world went to heck in a hand basket.

    The only add I would do since I still have to make 7 would be a Bretta A300 because it doesn’t kick and would be great for defense if the barrel is shortened. Pure close up type use.

    I didn’t list an AR or AK type firearm because I believe there will be a bunch out there if the SHTF, that people will drop. The folks who don’t know better will burn through their ammo stock pile doing spray and pray. These folks won’t live long and no traveling person will carry a bunch of guns with no ammo for them for long

  • Why would they have to be over 12 for a .22 ? I started on one at age 10