Is there a perfect “do-it-all” firearm?
It’s a question that has been asked for decades, and will continue to be asked. What is the MOST ideal all-around firearm for any scenario? The reality is that there really cannot be one - a 26” 300 Win Mag is never going to be suitable in a close-range environment, and a Glock 19 is never going to be suitable for a 350 yard large game kill. Thankfully, we are not forced to own just one firearm.
For an ideal “do-it-all” firearm, you’re going to have to accept some inevitable compromises:
Is it lightweight?
Is it compact?
Will it kill?
Is it accurate?
Is it reliable?
Is it easy to operate?
Is ammo common?
Is it affordable?
It’s always a good idea to have at least one go-to firearm you could be prepared to grab if you’re ever in a worst-of-the-worst case scenario and needing to bug out quickly. We’re talking about a major disaster, apocalypse, etc, where you are only able to grab a single firearm (maybe two) and you’ll never see any of the others again.
Best SHTF Weapons
Here at Predator Armor, we see great value in versatility - so we’ve included some of our favorite selections of the best survival/bug-out/SHTF/versatile weapons on the market:
Ruger 10/22 Takedown
The 10/22 takedown is an incredibly strong contender for the ultimate survival firearm - and not just because it’s my personal go-to for this list’s sake. The deadliness of this weapon is often criminally underestimated.
Any .22lr will make an outstanding survival weapon for numerous reasons, but especially a Takedown - it is small, compact and accurate. It’ll easily kill small and even medium-sized game. It is affordable. Ammunition is cheap and practical (in the sense that it’s much easier to carry 1,000 rounds of .22 on your person than 1,000 rounds of 5.56). Pair a suppressor with subsonic ammunition and It is damn near silent.
Having grown up spending much of my youth hunting, backpacking, and avidly practicing survival techniques, I would be hard-pressed to enter a real-world survival or SHTF scenario without my trusty 10/22 Takedown. Their inexpensive and easy-to-use nature makes it much easier for me to outfit my family and friends with them should the need arise. I’ll take 8 friends with 10/22’s over 1 friend with an AR-15 all day.
It almost feels wrong to place “AR-15” in its own generic category, since there are so many possible variations and modifications for different uses. One AR can have a 7.5” barrel, and another can have a 24” barrel; both with entirely different uses. Perhaps that versatility is the reason the AR-15 is such a viable contender in this list. Parts are cheap and readily available, 5.56 is one of the most easy-to-find rifle rounds in the United States, and it can take down a vast array of animals (or people, if need be).
It doesn't have crazy amounts of takedown at longer ranges for big game, of course - especially with those shorter barrels. But if I was living and surviving in a densely-populated urban area and was needing a firearm for defense, more so than hunting, I would likely stick with a 12.5” AR-15 (give or take a few inches) for weight, reliability, bullet capacity, and overall ease of carry. At the end of the day, this one largely depends on how you perceive your surroundings in the apocalypse, but there aren’t too many situations where an AR will not shine.
Of all my fond memories deer hunting as a youth, none quite measure up to those spent with my Model 1894 brush gun. I am a sucker for a good lever-action rifle, and you will be too once you spend some time with one. Seeing them become more popular and even modernized (as can be seen above with the Marlin 336 Dark series) has sure made me happy.
Lever actions, as often under-appreciated as they tend to be today, are phenomenal do-it-all weapons. Their design is intrinsically reliable and allows for superior maneuverability in a wide variety of environments. That level of under-appreciation, however, is one of the weapon’s strongest contending factors as a survival weapon.
Why, you may ask?
In today’s world, negative stigmas have all but suffocated the modern sporting rifle. Being seen in public with an AR-15 is inevitably going to trigger people - that’s just how it is. However, being seen with a “less-scary” gun (it was hard to type that without cringing) will ideally cause less of a reaction and allow for a lower-profile.
In a chaos-filled SHTF scenario where people seeking to cause harm are looking for targets, Traditional Tom with his lever action and jeans will blend in and look much less conspicuous, as opposed to Tactical Ted with his Daniel Defense AR, PVS-14’s, and full Multicam loadout. Both setups have their own time and place, of course.
Always use what works - that’s the key.
While many people appreciate the AR-15’s advantages, some would like the same platform with a bit more power - and you can’t blame them. The 5.56 round is fantastic, but it is not without fault. I see a lot of big-game hunters in particular go this route when being asked about ideal survival weapons, because a lightweight AR-10 chambered in .308 or even 6.5 Creedmoor certainly has a lot to love. Hell, I see more and more of them chambered in the likes of .243 and 7mm these days.
Now, “lightweight” may be a relative term here. For a remotely affordable price, you’re not going to be touching AR-15 weight - not even close. If I can get my AR-10 under 9 pounds without an optic, I’m happy. That much weight still adds up fast, especially when you’re on the move for an extended period of time.
If I was going to be stationary, wanted firepower capable of taking down medium to large-sized game, and had the need to get rounds down range quickly, I would definitely look to the AR-10 as a fierce competitor. The modularity of the AR-inspired platform is a huge plus - though, keep in mind, not all AR-10’s are built the same and are not as cross-compatible as AR-15’s. If you go down this road, make sure to do your homework.
Hatchet or Axe
Okay, okay, this isn’t a firearm - but we needed to add it for several reasons. Say what you will about the conveniences of modern firearms, but in the right hands, a simple hatchet can be the single most useful tool for any sort of survival situation.
Not only can it be used to assist with building shelter and personal defense, but it can be utilized in more than a few ways to successfully hunt and kill game.
This one was close to not making the list - for the same reason we did not include any bows. Both are outstanding survival tools, but an important aspect of this list is versatility - that means minimal training required for use. Bows may be an excellent weapon especially when stealth is important, though they will require training and additional maintenance to remain consistently effective.
The hatchet, while still requiring some fair training to perfect as a weapon, is still considered versatile enough by us to be a part of this list. Plus, it was the number one pick of one of our SOF boys - so we weren’t allowed to leave it off.
Large Caliber Bolt Action Rifle
Another understandably popular choice, many seasoned shooters will opt for a simple bolt-action rifle with a lightweight duplex scope. Some younger bucks may ironically perceive this as a naive survival choice, until they actually look to the people in today’s world who live off the grid and hunt to survive - 99 out of 100 times, they’ll have an old wood-stock 300 Win Mag on their back and not much else.
Now… if we’re strictly limiting ourselves to ONE firearm, this one becomes a bit tricky for self-defense and other close-quarters issues. But if you’re the type of person choosing this weapon, danger will probably not be getting within 500 yards of you anyway.
Still… you may want to cheat and add a handgun to your arsenal. Nobody’s defense is impervious and you’ll want to be prepared for anything. Additionally, you’ll want to do a little extra homework with this route. Memorizing ballistic charts, understanding optics and reticles, and appreciating the distinct difference between large-caliber rounds can take a lifetime of study.
Ah yes, the beloved PCC. These weapons are not necessarily pistols, but they aren’t rifles either, they’re… well... somewhere between.
These little fireballs tend to be a hot topic for argument and debate in the gun community. It seems people either believe PCC’s are the most useless toy in the world, or the most practical weapon class in existence. Obviously the answer is somewhere in-between, but let’s explore it a little.
Pistol-caliber carbines are enjoyed by many people for good reason - they are compact, generally more accurate than small handguns, and shoot well. You get the compact convenience of handguns (and the affordable ammo) with the stability of rifles. Pretty sweet deal.
A big reason pistol-caliber carbines are received with so much skepticism, however, is because their widespread popularity in the civilian market is relatively new. The recent spike in PCC interest has prompted numerous gun manufacturers to create their own entries in this field - and unfortunately, it has become riddled with inconsistency.
On one side of the spectrum, you have various MP5 clones - modeled after the real deal, reliable as hell and a blast to shoot. These also tend to be very expensive firearms to own.
On the other side of the spectrum, you have… well, we probably shouldn’t name names right now. But you have inexpensive, unreliable, wildly inconsistent carbines that lack many features of the higher-end options. The worst part is that there isn’t a whole lot of middle ground, meaning it’s difficult to find “budget” PCC’s of extraordinary build quality. They’re definitely out there - The CZ Scorpion Evo, the Grand Power Stribog, and several AR9’s are close to fitting the bill - but if you’re going this route, make sure to do your research.
You cannot have a list like this without appreciating the versatility of handguns. Another broad range of firearms, intentionally left that way due to every individual’s personal preference - if you’re great with a revolver, go for it. If you’re more comfortable with a Glock 19, you do you.
One downside that’s worth mentioning out the gate with handguns is that in order to be consistently proficient with them (at least in the variety of settings you’d need them for in a survival setting), you need to consistently train with them. I say this because I know I could give my untrained buddy a 10/22, tell them to point and shoot at a target 50 yards away and there’s a decent chance they’ll be able to make the shot. I can’t say the same if I handed that same buddy a handgun and cut the distance in half.
Assuming you are proficient with handguns, however, they also make one of the strongest contenders for a do-it-all firearm. Excellent for self-defense, and perfectly viable for taking down game, handguns are also easier to manage ammo for when compared with most rifles. Unfortunately, their limited effective range and accuracy inhibit them from being the “ideal” weapon for longer-range scenarios.
At the end of the day, the odds of having to bug out with a single firearm and not being allowed to take a handgun aren’t realistic - I imagine just about every single individual’s bug-out kit includes a handgun, so we’ll let that slide for the sake of this list.
You’ve seen a few of our takes on ideal weapons for SHTF scenarios, as well as some of their pros and cons. There are many other perfectly viable options for these types of scenarios (AK’s, shotguns, etc). The most efficient advice we can give you for this matter is to get outside and observe - we’ve said it before, and we’ll continue to say it. Identify the areas you would likely frequent during a bug out-type scenario, and prepare your gear and arsenal appropriately. You can go online and ask the experts all you want, but you know yourself better than anyone - you know the areas you’ll be in, you know what weapons you’re proficient with.
Take the time to understand and appreciate your chosen weapons. Research them, and always look for ways to improve them. Practice and train with them and see how they feel in the field - make adjustments accordingly.
Take those few easy steps, and you’ll do great.