I’m going to be completely honest, I don’t know how this article is going to end. When I was initially asked to write an article about “Which ONE gun for SHTF,” I had an immediate answer jump into my mind. After pondering the issue a bit more and talking with a few friends and colleagues, my answer isn’t quite as clear.
What is SHTF?
I think we need to define “SHTF” (Shit Hits The Fan) a bit before we talk about guns. I’d personally like to keep the discussion in the probable, and then we’ll move into the possible. I recognize that around the world, the concept of SHTF scenarios are relative.
There are people living their entire lives in conditions that we, as Americans, would define as SHTF. Hell, there are people living IN the United States that might meet the criteria of our worst nightmare. We’ll talk about some of those circumstances shortly.
I think we can all agree that we’d like to maintain a sense of normalcy in our lives, and our preparedness should strive to facilitate that sense. If and when our circumstances start to deteriorate, we need tools and training to ensure we can work through whatever life is throwing at us. If the circumstances become overwhelming, well, the shit has probably hit the fan, again, relatively speaking.
Stay with me, I’ll be talking about guns in a moment.
The Definition of SHTF
For most of us, the probable events that may disrupt our sense of normalcy could include weather (tornado, wildfire, flood, ice storm, etc.), economic collapse, and personal violence (home invasion, social unrest, etc.). The possible SHTF events might be an EMP, societal collapse, or civil/global war. Note that these are relative to mid-2023 and could change. Ask me in a year or so what I’m thinking.
In the end, let’s go with the Mind4Survival definition of SHTF:
“An event of a situation that overwhelms services and resources, resulting in a collapse of civil order and society.”
The Gun I Always Have on Me
So if we’re trying to maintain some sense of normalcy during some of these probable or possible events, having a gun as part of your survival gear could be a game changer. While I can’t imagine a world where I only have ONE gun for SHTF, the fairly obvious answer to me is….
The gun I always have on me.
For me, that’s a Glock 19 semi-automatic pistol. There are several advantages of a Glock 19, in no particular order:
Glock 19 Advantages
In my experience and opinion, the Glock 19 has several advantages over the typical semi-auto rifle and shotgun, which makes it an excellent piece of survival gear.
It’s a mid-sized pistol, which means it’s small enough for concealed carry and big enough to shoot accurately. While a large part of concealing a gun is the belt, holster, and body type, the Glock 19 is easily capable of being concealed.
It also has a frame large enough for a double-stack magazine, which translates to a good grip by most adults. The double-stack Glock mags allow 15 rounds plus one round in the chamber. That’s a very good capacity for a handgun.
Accuracy Over Distance
It also has a long enough sight radius to shoot accurately at distance. With that said, it’s definitely not your long-range rifle for deer hunting. But, with enough range time (for a pistol), it’s capable of reaching out and touching someone.
Note: For a small (no pun intended) percentage of the population with smaller hands, like some women and children, a Glock 43x with its smallish pistol grip is another viable option, but it comes with some sub-optimum attributes.
Glock pistols, in general, have set the bar for reliability. While there are some reported issues with other calibers, the 9mm has been a proven platform for 40-ish years.
The fact that it’s a 9mm is a huge advantage. You can find 9mm nearly anywhere, both practice and carry ammo. It’s also relatively inexpensive compared to some other popular calibers.
There is a seemingly never-ending supply of accessories. Things like lights, sights, and holsters are easy to find. I know many gun enthusiasts will tell you that you need a new trigger, a red dot optic, new springs, a magwell, a pistol caliber carbine conversion, and…and…and….again, the list is never-ending.
I support people modifying their guns to their needs, but I caution against making modifications that might affect reliability. A good holster, an upgrade from iron sights, and a light are a good start, but a holster is the only requirement.
Glocks are generally more affordable compared to many pistols. Of course, you can find less expensive pocket pistol options, but at the sacrifice of many of the attributes above, especially reliability and shootability. While many pistols are more expensive, sometimes WAY more expensive, they are often without a measurable improvement, especially to the average shooter. In the end, Glocks are a great value for what you get.
As I discussed this topic with friends and associates, a few other choices came up, and I think it’s worthwhile to discuss them here. I’m going to split them broadly into 2 groups; rifles and shotguns. Both these platforms can be used for self-defense, offensive operations, and hunting.
Rifles like the AR-15, AR-10, and AK semi-auto rifle variants are prolific throughout the United States. They provide a long-range shooting capability and more lethality than a pistol. These have nearly unlimited configurations, and ammo is common everywhere.
A shotgun, especially a pump shotgun, is generally inexpensive, very reliable, and has the ability to shoot a variety of loads (buckshot, slugs, birdshot, Dragon’s Breath, etc.) that are also very commonly available throughout the U.S. Shotguns can prove to be an excellent multi-purpose tool for both self-defense and hunting small game.
The Down Side of Long Guns
While the argument can be made for nearly any long gun, they suffer from one huge detriment. They can’t be consistently concealed as well as a pistol can. I understand there are some very good off-body and vehicle options for concealing these types of firearms, as well as some really cool ways to hide them in your home. However, having a rifle or shotgun (or sub-gun) on you at all times just isn’t possible. To me, and others, this is the most critical aspect of owning a firearm.
Real-Life SHTF Firearms Experience
A great resource to learn about a real SHTF scenario is the writing of Fernando “FerFal” Aguirre. He became popular by chronicling his experiences of the economic collapse of Argentina. I’m paraphrasing here, but he essentially says that while there were lots of guns, pistols ruled the day. They were especially good for the personal defense of the good people who were just trying to go about their lives, avoiding and deterring criminals and defending their families, especially while outside of their homes.
The Bottom Line on the Best SHTF Guns
If we circle back to maintaining a sense of normalcy and what is probable versus possible, a handgun is what factors into realistic circumstances for most normal people. There seems to be this romanticized narrative of plate carriers, battle belts, and bounding through the woods with a 40lb bugout bag, fighting marauders, and ambushing zombies. I’m not saying something like that isn’t possible (well, not the zombie part), but I don’t think it’s probable, especially for the average person.
I think most of us want tools to solve the problems we are likely to experience in an SHTF scenario. To me, defending myself from a violent attack, being able to not draw attention to myself, and having a high degree of mobility are at a premium. Therefore, having a reliable, shootable, affordable, and concealable gun like the Glock 19 makes the most sense if I can only have one gun. The biggest benefit is I can always have it on me.
Would I want a long gun if some of the less probable circumstances arise? Of course!
To quote the movie We Were Soldiers, Lt. Col. Hal Moore: “I think you oughta get yourself an M-16.” Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley: “Sir, if the time comes I need one, there’ll be plenty lying on the ground.”.
I’d love to hear feedback from the readers in the comments below. I’m positive there will be different opinions. It’s a great conversation to have. If there’s one takeaway from these kinds of conversations, it’s that we shouldn’t ever be in a position to only have one gun. Buy ALL the guns and ammo you can, and train as much as possible.
In the end, let’s hope we’re all wrong and we never need a gun, but I’m going to always have one on me, just in case. Now, fire away and tell me what you think in the comments below!