No one will ever compile a top ten list that everyone will agree with. The subjective criteria used here is based on price, range required, caliber required, history of use and reliablity, and commonness of ammunition, not necessarily in that order. This is not to suggest that a person needs every gun listed. A large caliber rifle, .22 rifle or pistol, 9mm or .45, and pump shotgun are the basics. There will be lots of other opinions, but here is my list that I came up with after 50 years of shooting… not necessarily ranked in order.
1. A good AK47 is practically indestructible. Taking much of its design from the best points of the late WWII German MP44, the AK47 usually functions flawlessly under the worst of conditions.
Throw it in the mud, fill the receiver with muck, or just leave it in a muddy river for weeks like the Viet Cong hid them, and all you need to do is wash it out, lubricate it, load it, and you are ready to go. In worst conditions, you could probably even urinate on it to clean out the muck.
It is not the most accurate rifle available due to the loose manufacturing tolerances used. You can count on 3 inches at 100 yards. But, these loose tolerances allow the rifle to function and feed, and for the parts to move in almost all weather and geographical conditions. Its hard to freeze up an AK47. The 7.62X39 intermediate round is smaller than .308 or 30.06, and is comparable to a 30-30. 10, 20, 30, 40, 75 round magazines are plentiful. 75 round drums can be had for about $255.00, but they are bulky to carry and use with a semiautomatic AK47. They were designed for full auto use. Ammunition is still plentiful, but the day of about a dollar and a quarter a box are long gone.
2 The Colt 1911 .45 ACP for sheer knock down power. This round and gun were developed by John Browning around the turn of the last century to knock down Philippine rebels who were high on drugs and fought with their limbs tied off to numb pain and slow bleeding if they were shot.
They could be hit by a 30-40 Krag rifle round or contemporary handgun, and not even notice it. When they were hit almost anywhere on the body by a heavy, slow moving .45 bullet, they were knocked down.
3 Any quality 9mm high capacity pistol. There is always disagreement about which is better, a .45ACP or a 9mm. This round was adopted by the US military to replace the Colt 1911 .45 ACP. Some are turned off by a 7 or 8 round capacity of a Colt 1911. There are high capacity .45 ACP pistols available, such as the Glock 30, which will hold up to 13 rounds. Many would not ever forsake their high capacity 9mm. In the end, because good aiming and hitting the target are the keys, whether its 9mm or .45ACP, why not have both?
4 Browning Buck Mark .22. Some people might just think its just a ,22, but Browning’s 126 year reputation imppresses. It doesn’t get much better than that. Browning has been one of the most reliable .22 names. They don’t cut any corners to cut costs. The Buck Mark even has a 16-click adjustable sight. For filling the cooking pot with squirrels or rabbits, this .22 pistol can’t be beat.
5 Ruger 10/22 .22 rifle. This little rifle, with its rotary magazine, is probably the most popular .22 rifle in the world. It can take higher capacity magazines than the Ruger supplied magazine. Aftermarket stocks and accessories available will turn the factory rifle into almost any imaginable visual configuration.
6. Mosin Nagant 91/30 or M44 carbine. Both of these guns will be in the neighborhood of $150.00 at your local sporting goods store. This is a must buy today at this price. They are both chambered for the 7.62.54R cartridge, which is ballistically comparable with the 30.06.
Originally designed for use by eastern European peasant’s use, the simple and powerful 7.62X54R round took down countless enemies of Eastern European countries since its inception. The only caveat wilt the 7.62X54R cartridge is that all surplus ammunition is corrosive due to the primer used. A good soap and water washing is necessary after every use. Windex does the trick
Effective in combat? Russian Lyudmila Pavlichenko spent the first year of World War Two in constant combat as a front line sniper. In the battles of Odessa and Sebastopol she took 309 German soldiers with her rifle.
Vasily Zaytsev took out 225 Germans soldiers and officers with this peasant’s rifle at the Battle of Stalingrad, and between October 1942 and January 1943, he had made 242 verified Nazi kills. But the real number may be much higher, perhaps as many as 500. He also killed 11 German snipers, beating them at their own game with his scoped Mosin Nagant. Need we say more about this rifle?
7. The Remington 870 12 gauge Pump Shotgun. Its available in 12, 16, 20, 28,and .410 bores. It comes in Wingmaster, Express, Marine (stainless steel), Police, and Tactical variations. The 870 is the best selling shotgun ever. It comes with a 5 shot capacity, and can be increased with a tube to 8 shots. There is no other sound in the world that will strike fear into a home invader like the “rack- rack” sound of a 12 gauge shotgun shell being chambered into an 870.
8. M1 Garand.. The M1 Garand, officially the United States Rifle, Caliber .30, M1, was the first semi-automatic rifle to be generally issued to an infantry anywhere in the world. Although, the Marines were issued a limited number of 30.06 Johnson semiautomatic rifles in the South Pacific in the late 30’s. General George S,. Patton called it "The Greatest Battle Implement Ever Devised."
It replaced the 1903 Springfield as the standard issue service rifle in 1936, and was later replaced by the selective-fire M14 in 1957, and the the public could get an M1A..The Garand can be purchased for less than $1,000.00 from the Civilian Marksmanship Program. They have surplus 30.06 ammo too.
The M1A is the civilian version of the M14, and is a very accurate and hard hitting rifle. The earliest ones were built from surplus parts until solid parts could be manufactured. M1A receivers are made from precision investment cast AISI 8620 alloy steel.
9. Ruger Ranch Rifles and Mini 30 rifles have been the arifle of choice for many. Ranch rifles are available in .223 Remington, and now 6.8mm Rem. SPC, and MiniThirty rifles in 7.62X39 are good choices for small and medium sized game.
10. The AR15 was designed by Eugene Stoner as a replacement for the M14. The military’s thought was that the heavy M14 and long range .308 round had outlived their combat usefulness because modern combat is at close range. Also, the M14 was impossible to control when on full automatic fire.
The AR15 rifle was developed to be compact and lightweight and for use with easier to carry .223 rifle rounds. This rifle has avid proponents for its compactness, range, rate of fire and accuracy, However, its detractors say that the small .223 round only punches ice pick holes in an enemy and does not tumble as designed to increase the size of the wound cavity. It is not a deer rifle by any means either.
An advantage to the AR15 is that it is the lower that is regulated by the BATF as a firearm. There are countless uppers that can be used to customize the rifle without ATF worry, that is, as long as the barrel is legal length. There are also new 6.8 round AR15’s which brings the AR15 into a whole new era, Don’t forget the 9mm AR15’s either.
During the 80’s Colt sold an AR15 in 7.62X39 in a two year period. It was supplied with factory 5 round magazines because of feed problems with larger capacity magazines. Many owners have tried to use “Frankenmags,” which combine the upper portion of a regular .223 magazine with a curved lower portion to accommodate the tapering and size of the 7.62X39. The cure for this finally arrived with the use of CProducts 7.62X39 magazines, which work like a charm.
Controversy aside, the AR15 is a valuable rifle for a shooter.
Bonus gun…The flintlock rifle. If TSHTF totally happens, you can always find flint, make black powder, and cast bullets, and find patches for these. It sure beats a baseball bat or a spear in a primitive age.