The gun question: does a prepper need a gun? And if they do, what kind should they buy? I’ve been asked this more times than I care to count. The responses to this question are as varied as the people answering it. Camp AR15 versus camp AK47, team semi-auto against team revolver. In my opinion, it isn’t as simple as what kind of gun you should choose. The bigger question that everyone seems to forget in this whole debate is, can you safely use a weapon at all?

There is no shame in admitting that you don’t know your way around guns. I, along with many other gun owners, would rather you admit that to yourself upfront rather than buying a firearm without knowing how it works or how to use it safely. If you’re one of those folks, I would suggest that you team up with someone who does know how to handle a firearm, and learn from them. Armed security will be a major element of survival in a prepper situation and crucial to protecting your family and your possessions, despite what authorities might suggest.

All we have to do is look at the recent events over the last few years and read the articles we have already published to see this is not a game. Now, there maybe some reading this who have never owned a firearm but want to enter the world of gun ownership. This entire post is for you, my friends. The whole issue is pretty complex for an experienced prepper and gun owner, let alone someone who is new to it. That’s where we come in—to help you navigate the maze of “Which one, and why?”

Consider buying used

Since you are at the beginning of this journey, I would first say owning a firearm is a massive responsibility. Putting thought and research into it is prudent. Research starts with actually talking to gun owners, but remember, we are all biased. We just are. Expect to hear stories of our favorite guns and which ones are, in our opinion, “terrible.” Then, I suggest going into a locally owned mom-and-pop gun store to look at used firearms.

Buying used firearms isn’t like buying used underwear; they can be a terrific purchase for a fraction of their original cost. Remember, the salesmen work for you—never be ashamed to ask questions about a gun or how a particular firearm operates. It’s their job. To give you a starting place when you first set foot in the store, I’d first suggest looking for guns that embody simplicity. Simple works. If you’re confident in the reliability of your firearm and comfortable with how it functions, then you are at an advantage.

Next, I’d suggest you resist the urge to buy anything designated “tactical.” I know this flies in the face of all things popular, but tactical is a buzzword applied to any firearm that is black and has some kind of rail system on it. That doesn’t automatically make it the best choice for survival or defensive purposes.

I broke my suggested firearms into two easy categories for your consideration. You will notice I omitted rifles. This is because I am writing this article with the beginning prepper in mind—one who may not have firearms experience. The popular military-style semi-automatic rifle and the quintessential hunting rifle are most definitely useful tools, but for someone taking their first serious look at firearm ownership, they can be a bit intimidating. Remember, we walk before we run, and where firearms are concerned, it is best to start by taking baby steps.

#1) Pump shotguns:

Easy first choice here. Nothing says “Don’t touch my stuff” like a good old-fashioned American-made shotgun. I’d suggest a pump over a semi-auto for their superior reliability. The two most popular manufacturers of shotguns, Remington and Mossberg, happen to also be the two most trusted names in pump shotguns. The Remington 870 and the Mossberg 500 are the two most popular pump shotguns on earth, with a combined 20million units sold since 1961. That’s a stunning number to comprehend.

photo courtesy of
photo courtesy of

There are dozens of varieties  of each model, but let’s keep things simple. When it comes to calibers, the two most popular are 12 gauge and 20 gauge. When shopping for your shotgun, barrel length isn’t important—you can change the barrel on a shotgun with no tools, and barrels are readily available at any gun store and on several online retailers, and can be acquired without a permit or license.

Ammunition for your shotgun is totally a personal choice in regards to what size “shot” to get. Below is a handy chart for reference.

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photo courtesy of

#2) Handguns:

Handguns get a bad reputation as “evil” even though they’re just brainless hardware incapable of being inherently evil. What the popular media and most gun magazines don’t do a good enough job of telling people is that a pistol is primarily a defensive weapon—a last-chance weapon. Something used to “break contact” and get away from a potentially lethal situation. Being one of the last tools available to save your life or the life of a loved one makes the choice of pistol very important indeed.

There are two major “camps” in the pistol community: the semi-automatic group and the revolver group. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a huge fan of semi-automatic handguns, but I carry one often and have years of experience with them, so I am comfortable with them. What I’ll say next will cause some people to shake their heads: If you’re new to handguns, I highly recommend a revolver.

Revolvers are easier to use. I write this to the person who is looking for SHTF prepping, not to someone who is looking to conceal carry a pistol or possibly shoot as a semi-serious hobby. Unfortunately, many gun-shop owners often push new gun owners toward semi-automatics when the buyer isn’t ready for one. To the novice gun owner, semi-automatics can be highly intimidating: levers, switches, magazines, pulling the slide, it can totally overwhelm some people. I’ve seen trained shooters in competitions screw up a reload and drop a fresh magazine, and they all had more training and time behind the gun than I have, for sure.

This is the second part where I go against traditional gun wisdom; I recommend a full-sized revolver instead of a short-barreled compact revolver. The reasoning is simple: A larger-framed gun will be much easier for the novice shooter to comfortably hold and operate. The shooter will feel less recoil, and therefore build confidence and improve their shooting skills. A revolver with a medium or large frame, a 4″ barrel, and chambered in .38 S&W or .357 Magnum, was the preferred weapon of most police departments for years, and has enough power to get the job done for our application.

Remember, we aren’t talking about a running gun battle or the Siege of Stalingrad, we are talking about a worst-case scenario for a novice gun owner and prepper. Smith & Wesson and Ruger both make fine revolvers that fit into this criteria, but regardless of what you choose, I would suggest purchasing one chambered to .357, because it has the ability to shoot .38 S&W special out of it as well. A .357 Magnum and .38 S&W Special use the same-diameter bullet, so it’s safe. Make sure the ammunition says “38 S&W Special” .

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photo courtesy of

There are other things that you will need if you are serious about adding a firearm to your life and to your emergency response/prepping plans. Training should be the first thing you consider. Even before purchasing ammunition for your new weapon, training comes first. The first step in training is reading.

All new firearms come with an owner’s manual in the box. Be sure to read the “operations and safety” sections over and over until you can almost recite them from memory. Don’t worry if you purchased a used firearm and it doesn’t have the owner’s manual; as far as I know, every manufacturer will provide you a copy if you contact them. It’s in their best interest to do so.

Next, check with your local gun shops to learn the names of reputable firearms instructors. Many instructors offer courses for first-time gun owners, and some offer courses specifically tailored to certain types of weapons or groups, such as a women’s-only firearms course.

I know I may sound like a broken record at times, but your personal protection should be your highest priority. Doing it safely and correctly is your responsibility. The goal for this installment is to help the first-time gun buyer and prepper to outfit themselves with tools that are easy to use and effective. We aren’t expecting you to load up like you are laying siege to a city or running around the outback playing Mad Max. A sturdy shotgun with a sling and a safe, operational pistol with holster and belt are perfectly suited to defensive applications.

We here at The Loadout Room have many years of combined firearms training and experience. I say that not to brag but to relay that we have a vast range of resources and varied skill sets from which to draw on when answering any questions that you may have. It doesn’t matter if you post the question on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments below, we are here to help.

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