Preppers can have many reasons to own and many uses for firearms. Hunting would likely be one of the top reasons to own. Security could be a valid reason, for sure. A means to dispatch livestock might be another reason. And just for fun would still be a very valid reason.
There are certainly plenty of firearm options. Firearms have been made for hundreds of years with countless variations. Well cared-for firearms can last for several generations. Personally I have shot guns that were fully functional even though they were hundred and fifty years old. Many guns have been passed down through family members for generations.
With thousands of gun choices, what should a prepper buy? I would start by saying that any quality firearm could be a good choice. And I can guarantee that no matter what guns I would happen to suggest they would be hotly contested by others. And their choices could be correct. We nearly all could be right. Most choices are neither good nor bad; they are just different options.
Let’s look at money first. As a general rule, a quality firearm is at least somewhat expensive. Obviously this is subjective depending on your resources. A $300 gun could be out of reach for some but almost too cheap to consider for others. And how many do you need anyway? And if more than one gun, then where should I start?
If you are reading this to look for genuine advice on your firearm choices, I will give you my opinion. Keep in mind that it will be just my opinion and likely there will be other choices and certainly other opinions about what to buy that might be as good as my choices and some might think their choices are better. Keep in mind the choices I will list are from a practical prepper point of view and I tried to pick those guns that give good value.
There are maybe two main mindsets when it comes to prepper firearms. There are the practical use guns that are primarily for hunting and secondary for self-protection; those are what I will recommend in this article. There is the other mindset that your first choice guns should be offensive/defensive weapons. While those with this mindset likely have valid reasons for this choice, that will not be the focus of this article. In a couple of instances, the two types of firearms can be used for both.
Start With a .22 Rifle
For the first gun, I would recommend a .22 LR rimfire rifle. Most any would likely be adequate but I would recommend a Ruger Model 10/22. This is a medium priced semi-automatic .22 rifle. You could likely buy a new one for about $250 or wait for a sale and get it for some less. Or buy a used one for maybe $150 on up. Remember I said quality guns last a long time and so many times you can safely buy a used gun and still get a lifetime of use from it.
The .22 rimfire rifle is small, light in weight, and one of the least powerful guns. It has an incredible number of uses for a prepper. The ammunition is the lowest-priced of any caliber so you can get plenty of practice for little cash outlay. The ammo is also the lightest in weight and least bulky. Those are both important points if bugging out is your plan. It has very little recoil and can be shot by basically anyone. They are also quieter than other guns. An excellent choice for any beginner to learn about shooting.
In a post-apocalyptic world, a .22 rimfire rifle can be used to take all manner of wild game and is adequate to dispatch most livestock for butchering. Practice and once you can shoot it accurately, you could then bag squirrels and rabbits for the cooking pot and coyotes, fox, skunks, bobcats, raccoons, possums, and other small predators, to protect your chickens and other livestock.
In a post-apocalyptic world, you could also use that same gun to shoot grouse, doves, quail, ducks, geese, and maybe even deer with close head shots. With ammunition costing maybe 3 cents per round, you could store thousands of rounds of ammo for post-apocalyptic use. No other caliber comes close doing all to that at the same price point.
With the light gun weight and light weight ammo, it would be a good choice in almost any bug-out situation. If the need arose for self-defense, it would be far from the best choice but much better than a knife. Many people have been killed with a .22 LR. I picked this particular gun for your first choice because of its versatility, durability, somewhat low cost, lowest cost ammunition, and as a good training gun. Plus, even if you owned many guns, this one would still likely see the most use. And they are a lot of fun. You could stop here with your gun purchases and still very likely do just fine.
Or after you have fun with that first one, you would likely want more as any extra funding became available. The next two or three guns that I would recommend could be purchased in any order.
Your First Handgun
A handgun has one practical purpose for a prepper and that is emergency self defense. I say emergency defense because if your attacker is 100 yards away just take him out with your rifle. But a handgun is small and easily carried all the time on your person. On your homestead, I would recommend constant handgun carry now and in an uncertain future. A handgun is for short range use of typically less than twenty five yards. Typical handgun ammunition has several times the power of the .22 rifle.
My choice for a budget prepper would be a medium size 9mm pistol. There would be many good choices here that are all very similar in size, weight, and cost. To pick a reasonable choice, I would say a Ruger Security Nine at a price of about $300 would be a good choice. It uses a 15 round magazine and it comes with two which is likely adequate. 9mm ammunition is the least expensive centerfire handgun round. It costs around 20 cents per round, for common full metal jacket practice ammunition. With any handgun, practice is very important.
It would be a personal decision to get a handgun or a centerfire rifle for your second firearm. The handgun has very limited practical use but the fact that you would always be armed if you had a handgun is certainly a big plus. A handgun is likely never to be used except for practice for most people. But needing a handgun and not having one would sure put someone in a tough spot. Hence I’d recommend it as your second purchase.
A Big Game Rifle
The third purchase is a centerfire longer range rifle to use primarily for food procurement and maybe also for personal defense. Your .22 rifle is a good choice for hunting many small critters at usually less than fifty yards though a hundred-yard shot is possible in many cases if you are as accurate as the rifle.
A centerfire rifle for hunting could be used up to a practical range of maybe 500 yards though I would expect most hunting shots to be half of that and often far less. The choice of this rifle would depend on your physical location in the USA. In eastern states, your shots would likely be close, like under 100 yards and often only fifty yards.
In western states, you would likely have more opportunities to shoot game if you and the rifle are capable of those 300 yard on up to maybe 500-yard shots at standing big game.
Your gun/caliber choice might also differ depending on whether this is for post-apocalyptic use or present-day use. I say that because there are different laws in different states about which calibers that are legal for the taking of big game. (For example, the .223 Remington is not legal for deer hunting in many states.)
An AR or AK?
If you are in an eastern state, you might choose an AR-15 or an AK-47 for your big game rifle. These would be adequate for closer shots (maybe up to 150 yards) at deer-size game. The advantage of either of these is that they have very good capability for use as a defensive firearm. At a price point of about $500 to $700. Ammunition for either of these two rifles is between 20 cents to 40 cents per round for ball ammunition, but up to 90 cents per round for soft nose hunting ammunition.
If you are in a western state, I would make a different choice. I would maybe recommend a bolt-action rifle with a scope in .308 caliber. This caliber would be adequate for deer, elk, antelope, big horn sheep, and bear. You would have several caliber choices that would work here but the .308 is quite popular, readily available, and has a proven record. Also, because it is popular, you can often buy the ammunition on sale and most places would carry that caliber. The rifle itself could be a lower-priced Savage Axis, Ruger American, or Remington 783 because each company makes similar rifles at modest prices Often a scope is included with a rifle, with a retail price around $350.
While a good choice for hunting these bolt-action rifles could have somewhat limited value for self-defense due to low magazine capacity and slow rate of fire. You could choose an AR-10 rifle in .308 caliber to be good both for hunting and self-defense but the price would be three times or likely more compared to the budget bolt-action. Or get the bolt-action and later get an AR-15 for self-defense for about $500 if you decide you need a self-defense rifle. The bolt action would also be a fine choice for hunting in the eastern states.
So at this point, you have a .22 rifle, a 9mm handgun, a bolt-action .308 rifle, and/or maybe an AR-15 rifle. I would say if you have those then you could consider yourself set up well for hunting, for moderate self-defense, and even set up to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. Any extra money at this point could be used to add to your ammunition stocks and for training.
Now at this point, countless people will be asking: “What about a shotgun?”
Certainly, if you have money left over after buying the three aforementioned guns with plenty of ammunition for each and you want a shotgun, then buy one. But you have already spent at least a thousand dollars with some ammo. To me you have your bases covered pretty well from a practical standpoint with those guns.
A shotgun to use for hunting game birds like grouse, quail, ducks, etc. is fun and can certainly add meat to your diet at a reasonable cost. Or some people (maybe many people) choose a shotgun for close defensive purposes. I don’t happen to be one of those people.
Just Three May Suffice
But I think just three guns (a centerfire pistol of your choice, a .22 rifle of your choice, and centerfire rifle of large enough caliber to take all big game found in your area) will serve by far most of your needs at the most reasonable cash outlay.
The guns mentioned will be practical guns to hunt with and to handle self-defense in a pinch at a minimum cost. All are in very popular calibers that should be available most anywhere now at reasonable prices. All should last more than your lifetime with normal use, and reasonable maintenance. And all would be adequate for both now and for the often discussed post-apocalyptic world.