Is There a “Best Survival Gun” For Home Defense?


When preparing for emergencies and survival situations, many of us will rely on firearms purchased for other purposes, such as hunting, target or informal recreational shooting, or defense of home or self during “normal” times. If you're thinking about the security resources you'd like to have on hand in not-so-unlikely survival situations, keep in mind the following important strategies, from Scott Wagner in his new book, Gun Digest Book of Survival Guns:

The Savage 110 Tactical .308 Carbine is a five-shot bolt gun that would do for long-range defense, though it is limited in capacity and speed. Factory equipped with an Army Digital Camo stock, the Carbine is shown with a Vortex scope and bipod. The tactical carbine is lighter than many sniper rifles currently available.
The Savage 110 Tactical .308 Carbine is a five-shot bolt gun that would do for long-range defense, though it is limited in capacity and speed. Factory equipped with an Army Digital Camo stock, the Carbine is shown with a Vortex scope and bipod. The tactical carbine is lighter than many sniper rifles currently available.


Layering your defense is a basic principle as old as armed combat itself. It simply means that, ideally, we have different weapons that are particularly effective for different distances. This is likely of greatest importance as you set up your plan for long-term sheltering-in-place. If you are going the emergency evacuation route instead, it will mean that you have fewer specialized weapons that you will need to make work in a wider variety of circumstances, unless you have an exceptional transportation system. Ideally, the weapons selected should cover these basic ranges/conditions:

Long-Range — While our modern military snipers are getting kills out to 2,000 yards or so, this is performance reserved for a few highly trained and exceptional individuals with very specialized rifles, mostly bolt guns. For the average shooter or law enforcement officer, “long range” is anything beyond 100 yards, especially when one considers we’re talking about being on the “two-way range,” where targets shoot back.

In these situations, a semi-auto rifle equipped with a lighted reticle variable scope of no more than 15-power works extremely well, although certain battle rifles with precision iron sights are also effective. Full-power battle cartridges on the order of .308 or .30-06 are excellent performers for this challenge.

Mid-Range — Anything from 100 yards down to about 25 yards. Several weapon types come to mind, but basically a high-cap semi-automatic rifle of intermediate caliber reigns supreme.

CQB — Close Quarter Battle, or 25 yards down to eye-gouging distance. High-cap semi-auto rifles, shotguns, pistols, pistol-caliber carbines, and edged weapons are at the forefront here. The intermediate semi-auto rifle, especially with a bayonet affixed, is an excellent choice, as well.

For Wagner's reviews of the hardware that’s the core to home defense and personal protection during emergencies – rifles, shotguns and handguns that make the best options for your survival – order your copy of Gun Digest Book of Survival Guns today.

44-Targetposters-pack-GD-reduced-300NEXT STEP: Download Your Free Storm Tactical Printable Target Pack

62 Printable MOA Targets with DOT Drills - Rifle Range in YARDS This impressive target pack from our friends at Storm Tactical contains 62 printable targets for rifle and handgun range use. Target grids and bullseye sizes are in MOA. Ideal for long-range shooting!

Subscribe to the Gun Digest email newsletter and we'll send your print-at-home target pack right away. Just enter your email address below.


  1. I still think the pump shotgun is the best all around home defense and survival weapon. The variaty of ammunition let you hadle everything from small game for food to a serious shootout at 100 – 150 + yards. I have safes full of pistols and rifles but my shotgun is out,handy and loaded.

  2. People that have been military trained, at least under the old Trainfire system, should be able to hit a man sized target at 500 yards. I shoot every week through the year and mostly shoot benchrest with hig power rifles, up to .340 Weatherby.

    I do not believe that the average person can shoot a Bullpup and reliably hit a person at 100 yards. unless thy practice with one.

    The “rule of law” in this country is all fine and good but look at how quickly it broke down in Louisiana after the hurricane.

  3. If you get a good “so called” assault weapons (and in over 50 years, no weapons have ever got up and assaulted myself or anyone I know)with a folding stock, AR 15, Mini 14 or Mini 30 work very well. With the stock out of the way, and a good pistol grip and 30 round clip, they make for an easy handling home defense system. My wife or grown kids can easily handle this type of weapon with enough firepower and knockdown power to engage one to multiple intruders. Each of us also wear a pistol most of the time…just in case. Another good home defense weapon, for those who can handle the recoil, is a Remington 870 Express shotgun. With the shortest legal barrel, extended magazine, and folding stock with pistol grip, this shotgun can be used in close quarters situations with an 8 round capacity, that can handle anything from double 00 buckshot to bean bag rounds.
    Always best to have ‘options’ at the ready…and hope to never need them.

  4. Ms. Peterson seems to forget that in “not-so-unlikely survival situations” like natural disasters, riots, etc. the rule of law will return. It’s likely to never leave in the first place. Popping off shots at people beyond typical handgun effective range is going to be VERY difficult to legally justify. End of the world fantasies and gun marketing notwithstanding, the “best survival gun” for the vast majority of home defenders is either a fighting shotgun or major caliber handgun. The former is at its best in SBS configuration.

    As for Mr. Wagner’s recommendation of an intermediate caliber semi-auto rifle with bayonet affixed, I can’t think of many weapons more likely to get hung-up on just about everything as a defender moves through their home. There’s a reason why SWAT teams and special ops units favor SBR-configured weapons for house clearing. Not only that, but imagine defending that fixed bayonet in front of a jury of your peers? “Peers” who most likely will be chosen by the prosecution for their lack of firearms knowledge.

  5. I own several 110’s, all long bolts. Excellent reliable bolters. This is not a home defense weapon for many obvious reasons. Home defense and survival weapons are clearly two distinct purpose weapons. Handgun is best for defense, easy to clear and maneuver in hallways etc. short barrel shotgun with bird shot would be second best IMO. If you are licensed for an HK P5 Or something similar i would prefer that over any handgun. If your thinking AR, HK and others have a line of very short overall AR carbines. Problem is that for civilians, barrel must be at least 16 inches, Unless you get special license from BATF. so your back to a handgun….IMO.

    • Bullpup rifles also work very well. They’re much easier to shoot accurately than a handgun and don’t have the recoil of a shotgun, which many people can’t handle. I especially like the FNH PS90 for home defense (even better if it’s an SBR). It’s extremely easy to shoot accurately, has very little recoil, holds 50rds, is shorter and easier to maneuver than even a handgun, can be easily fired one-handed and WITH THE RIGHT AMMUNITION is extremely effective!

      The PS90 is not the only choice in bullpups either. There are also the FNH FS-2000, Steyr AUG, IWI Tavor and the Kel-tec RFB. Bushmaster discontinued their M17 a few years ago, but they’re still available on the used market too. Any one of those are capable of handling any threat from three feet to three hundred yards without any difficulty at all. The RFB is even a .308! And Kel-tec’s KSG is a 15-shot, bullpup 12ga shotgun!!! If you can handle the recoil it would be difficult to find a better home defense weapon than that, or any one of the rifles listed above.

      The advantages of the bullpup are that they are short, the weight is balanced so that most of it is back at your shoulder making them very easy to support for long periods of time (like when holding an intruder & waiting for the police) and they are easy to support and, if necessary, to shoot one handed.

      As for being able to justify shooting at someone who is 100 yards away…I can think of a few plausible situations, but they’re not very likely!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

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