Gun Debate: 3 Must-Have Apocalypse Guns

Gun Debate: 3 Must-Have Apocalypse Guns

Colt LE6920MP apocalypse guns

There comes a time in every gun writer’s career when he must consider the end of the world as we know it and the apocalypse guns required to survive.

It’s not a bad exercise for anyone to undertake, given the security and safety of modern life is deceptive and fragile. There are the obvious culprits that could turn the lights out — war, plague, natural disaster. But the mundane — lack of power or hyperinflation for instance — could equally prove to be the cracks that break the façade of our comfort and security.

God forbid these end days are ever visited on us and those we love. But it’s better to tackle the scenario head on and be prepared, than to whistle past the graveyard. With that in mind, here are three must-have apocalypse guns to see you through these dark times.

While self-defense was a consideration in putting together the list, it was not the sole criteria. The apocalypse would be the ultimate survival situation, and that’s what these firearms are meant to do — help you survive. In turn, the guns chosen were also: versatile, reliable, fed with common ammunition and wide-spread enough to scrounge replacement parts, if need be.

Let us know if these apocalypse guns will see us through until we boot-strap society from the rubble or if we're goners in the comments below.

Remington 870 or Mossberg 500

 Remington Model 870 MCS definitely at the top of the list of apocalypse guns
Remington Model 870 MCS

While there are diehard fans of both pump-action shotguns, each is rugged and versatile enough to handle the apocalypse. On top of that, given their sheer ubiquity, it's plausible replacement parts could be scrounged up with minimal effort. Heck nearly every gun store and Walmart carry the dang things, and between the two more than 20 million have been produced.

Both are available with 3-inch chambers; in turn they can digest the majority of 12-gauge shells produced. With the right load, they are ideal for collecting almost any game in North America, but they would also be superlative weapons for most post-apocalyptic defense applications. Given the size of the pattern is larger than any single bullet, the margin of error is cut down in placing an effective shot. And considering most defensive encounters are at close range, a shotgun is a practical choice. On top of that, with a simple manual of arms, those who are perhaps not gun savvy can quickly learn to proficiently wield both the Remington 870 and Mossberg 500.

Mossberg Tactical 500 a must-have out of the apocalypse guns
Mossberg Tactical 500

The admitted drawback to the pump-actions is their capacity. Off the shelf and unmodified, the top capacity 870 model holds seven shells, the 500 eight. But once again, this is survival, not small-unit tactical maneuvers. If competently handled, both smootbores should provide the firepower required for all but the direst circumstances.

A telescoping stock would be a wise upgrade, as would ghost ring sights (if not stock on the model you chose), just in case you do attempt a more distant shot at range.

AR-15 (M&P15 Sport II or Colt LE6920)

Smith & WessonM&P15 Sport II, the apocalypse guns high-capacity choice
Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport II

The AR-15 wins out in this category because it provides its individual users ample firepower in a relatively simple platform and the potential of versatility. The ubiquitous black rifle could be the difference-maker if you found yourself outmanned in the ashes of society. In a world of unknowns, a couple of fully loaded 30-round magazines would provide serious peace of mind.

The dominant chambering for the rifle — 5.56 NATO/.223 Remington — should make scavenging for ammo simpler than other rifles, given its military use. That is, if it isn’t all shot up in the first week of civilization's downfall in assaults on and in defense of grocery stores. But the AR-15 does hold an ace up its sleeve in this respect. It is not beyond consideration the components for a caliber conversion could be squirreled away or scraped up, thus giving users multiple rifles in one platform.

Colt LE6920, tried and true apocalypse guns option.
Colt LE6920

The AR-15 does have an Achilles’ heel, however. The rifle can be maintenance intensive, particularly ensuring the small-caliber rounds chamber properly, the direct gas impingement operating system remains functional and all components are properly lubricated. This takes time and supplies — both of which can be in short supply when cannibals are on your trail.

It’s a jungle when it comes to the AR-15 market, with a dizzying blur of makes and models. But it can be simplified by going with rifles that have been fairly well time-tested, such as the Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport II or Colt LE6920 series. Whatever brand is chosen, it’s advisable they have a dust cover, forward assist and iron sites.

Glock 41

Glock 41, the sidearm choice out the apocalypse guns.
Glock 41

Glock built its name on reliability, so it makes it a shoo-in for a survivalist’s sidearm. But out of its extensive family, which to choose? Once again, versatility is one of the names of the game here, which would make the Glock 41 the most logical choice.

The hefty .45 ACP round is not only a top choice to save your skin if Lord Humungus and his mutant warriors attack, it’s also a viable hunting round. If there are hogs in your neck of the woods, you’ll be dinning on post-apocalyptic pork chops during the end days with the 41 on your hip. The gun also has the capacity to keep it relevant in a defensive situation. You’ve got big problems if a couple of its standard 13-round magazines can't extricate you out of a bad situation.

As a full-sized pistol, a striker-fired on top of that, the Glock 41 is configured such that new shooters can become quickly acclimated to it. The weightier gun helps manage the recoil, while the snappy trigger break aids in its accuracy. The handgun’s longer sight radius doesn’t hurt in keeping it on target either.

apocalypse guns

There are few chinks in the pistol’s armor, but there are a couple issues worth mentioning. While not rocket science, semi-automatics do require know-how to operate proficiently, particularly addressing common malfunctions. And there is something to be said about the virtues of hammer guns, whether it is the second-strike capabilities of a semi-auto or the simplicity of a revolver.

The gun would be a solid performer out of the box. The one upgrade worth considering might be a set of tritium night sights, just in case the bad guys come in the dark.


Next Step: Get your FREE Printable Target Pack

Enhance your shooting precision with our 62 MOA Targets, perfect for rifles and handguns. Crafted in collaboration with Storm Tactical for accuracy and versatility.

Subscribe to the Gun Digest email newsletter and get your downloadable target pack sent straight to your inbox. Stay updated with the latest firearms info in the industry.

Previous article How To: Converting the AR-15 to Piston-Driven Operation
Next article Handgun Review: Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory
Elwood Shelton is the Digital Editor for Gun Digest. He lives in Colorado and has provided coverage on a vast spectrum of topics for GD for more than a decade. Before that, he was an award-winning sports and outdoors reporter for a number of newspapers across the Rocky Mountains. His experience has consisted of covering the spread of chronic wasting disease into the Western Slope of Colorado to the state’s ranching for wildlife programs. His passion for shooting began at a young age, fostered on pheasant hunts with his father. Since then, he has become an accomplished handloader, long-range shooter and avid hunter—particularly mule deer and any low-down, dirty varmint that comes into his crosshairs. He is a regular contributor to Gun Digest Magazine and has contributed to various books on guns and shooting, most recently Lever-Actions: A Tribute to the All-American Rifle.


  1. While I somewhat agree based on the reasoning of the writer, my issue is that carrying 3 different calibers and larger calibers will be heavy and not allow for carrying as much. I have a 9mm carbine (uses glock mags), that can be used along with 3 different (15 , 9, and 7 rounds respectively) 9 mm pistols. The recoil of any of those weapons is manageable by the wife. She has problems handling anything bigger (40/357sig/10mm/45acp). I also agree with others that have included a ruger 22lr into the mix. I think for this, the takedown model will allow the easiest transport. For long distance and larger game, I have a scoped 308, but again, the weight of the ammunition is a concern.I have several other options, but in a bug out situation, for me these choices make the most sense. YMMV…

  2. There are some details missing. Are we talking about an economic collapse, in which case civil society will probably recover after a couple of years, or a true end of civilization event? If the former, whatever firearms you have (assuming local authorities don’t go on a confiscation spree) will be sufficient, and your survival plans will depend on your environment. I’ll assume the latter, in which case firearms should be reserved strictly for last resort defense. Dietary needs will be better met with snares, nets and a simple self bow. Firearms are loud. In such a situation I do not want to announce my presence to every living thing within twenty miles. I would only use them for hunting if I could be reasonably certain of not drawing attention. While ammunition and spare parts might be scrounged at first, those supplies will vanish quickly without any new production. It is relatively simple to make arrows and wooden bows. It might be a good idea to keep a flintlock around, for similar reasons.

    Being left handed, my personal choice in firearms will be my BPS Hi Cap, and a good large caliber revolver. Revolvers are simple and reliable. Perhaps contradicting myself, I’d also keep a good .22 rifle for small game, but also because it is easy to carry or store a lot of .22 long rifle ammo.. I would also add a bolt action rifle with a 1-4x scope and good iron sights (there will be no warranty repairs on optics), probably a Ruger Scout rifle or Montana Rifle Company’s Mountain Snow Rifle in .308 Winchester (I keep hoping one or the other will offer .338 Federal, but it hasn’t happened yet). Any threat beyond shotgun range is best avoided, but that might not always be possible. Ammo being precious and reliability an absolute requirement, I’ll go with the bolt gun over an auto loader.

  3. I have all of the above mentioned arms. 12 ga. pump, 1911 45, striker fired 45, G19, 9mm carbine that uses Glock magazines, in addition I have 357 mag revolvers and a 357 mag Ruger bolt action rifle. That said, my choice for ultimate survival is a Ruger 10/22 with both 10 rnd and 25 rnd mags + a Sig 1911 22. With my BlackHawk bug out bag, I can carry a minimum of 500 rnds quite easily., something that is not practical with the other calibers.

  4. I would add that me and my wife make a team and to arm her for survival might require a little different thinking.
    I always thought I would carry my AR, For her, a 9mm carbine like the Calico could be the way to go. The 50 and 100 round rotary magazines give me the piece of mind to know that my wife won’t be running out of ammo quickly when those zombies are swarming!
    No need to change mags too often and mag changes are pretty easy. If I gave her a shotgun, the recoil would knock her over as it has done before! The Calico feels more like a 22 with very light recoil.
    As for a handgun, a Glock 19 is also a good choice for the wife. Plenty of the same bullets, light recoil in
    a reliable and light weight smaller pistol for her to carry all the time without the kick of a bigger Glock.
    I would have one of my old slab sides for myself plus my Glock 17L
    I’m also debating if there would be a purpose for my short barreled and mighty handy Winchester 94 lever action in
    44 mag. A great rifle for hunting in dense forest where I might chose to hang. It has some nice self defense qualities too.

  5. In general I agree with this article, but being so specific on the guns is a bit misleading, in the U.S. what about a rifle chambered in .30-30, what about single shot shotguns? I feel this list is ideal for someone in a metro area and serviceable in a rural area but a heavier caliber rifle would be more useful. Also there are tons of AR-15 variants you do not need a Colt and parts are interchangeable. While I do not disagree that a Glock is extremely reliable there are a number of other guns very prevalent in the U.S. just as reliable (Springfield, Sig, Ruger, S&W), in fact revolvers are even more reliable with less up keep, but an edge does go to Glocks in .40 S&W and 9mm on ammunition. Finally where is the .22LR gun, plentiful ammo, can take out a human if needed and very weight conscious option for smaller folks.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.