3 Rules: Choosing Centerfire Survival Handguns

3 Rules: Choosing Centerfire Survival Handguns

Survival handguns in societal disorder situations have the same basic requirements that rifles and shotguns do. The survival gun characteristics of reliability, ruggedness, portability, simplicity, effectiveness, and sustainability are just as critical.

Survival Handguns Rule #1: Portability

Now, portability may seem to be an “oh, duh” type of requirement for a survival handgun, since they are designed to be portable, but it really isn’t.

For example, if you don’t expect your travels to carry you through wilderness areas where grizzly bears roam, than a handgun chambered in .500 Smith & Wesson or even “just” a .44 Magnum simply isn’t required and, in fact, can be detrimental.

Portability for a handgun also doesn’t mean you have to have a primary handgun as small as the Ruger LCP.

What you need is a standard size, standard make, law enforcement or military duty sidearm, in its most basic configuration, meaning lights, optics, or custom competition modifications of any kind are not only not needed, but detrimental to the mission.

Survival Handguns Rule #2: High Capacity

The survival handgun you choose should be a high-capacity firearm of a commonly available caliber. With the present ammunition shortage, go with what you know you can obtain now and later.

That may seem like another “duh” point, but a firearm becomes less reliable the harder it is to find ammunition.

Survival Handguns Rule #3: The Six Centerfire Calibers

There are six basic centerfire calibers to consider for survival handguns, and I will list them in order of my preference.

  • 9mm
  • .40 Smith & Wesson
  • .45 ACP
  • .357 Magnum
  • .38 Special (I know, these last two are for revolvers)
  • 5.7x28mm (just to stir things up a bit)

While I love the .357 SIG and .38 Super and would take them over the .40 in a gunfight (the .357 SIG was our duty caliber at the sheriff’s office), they are not easily obtainable

Again, these are my personal favorites, but they are also top choices for survival handguns.

What Survival Handguns Do You Use?

What kinds of survival handguns do you use? Leave a comment below.


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  1. For myself personally I use a Smith & Wesson MP 9 mm (Police Model with no safeties) full size with Tritium sights and as backup or Summer Gun I use a Ruger LCR in 9 mm. Perfect survival combination and IF I can carry only one the MP. Both use the amply available 9 mm ammunition (top of your list) and both are very reliable!

  2. Scott;;; by your profile you started training people when you were 6 years old and were a cop at 12 years old. Kind of hard to believe ;;; you need to proof read your profile and correct it !!!!!

  3. I’m a bit of a non-conformist because my three are wheelguns, in no particular order of preference—S&W Model 10 .38Special 4 inch heavy bbl., 3screw Ruger Blackhawk .357/9mm Convertible and an “Original” model Ruger Vaquero .45 Colt. I guess the S&W with its fixed sights and since it seems to put any load I put through it at or very near point of aim would be my first choice in a “survival” situation. Also these are three that I can shoot well.

  4. I guess my three personal favorites that I use are the HK45c; SigSauer P226 TACOPS; Beretta 92FS type M9A1.
    I love all three and practice often!


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