Building a Survival Battery For Begining Preppers

This is our ninth article in our series for beginning preppers. If you want to start with the first, begin here.

If you are a gun owner and have lots of guns, the odds are you have at least the beginnings of a survival battery. But which of those guns are actually useful to you in an emergency/survival situation? If you enjoy International Pistol Competition your expensive single shot Hammerli Free Pistol is going to make a very inefficient tent stake, but that is about all.

If you are a totally new prepper with only one gun or no guns, how do you know where to invest your limited funds and acquire those firearms you actually need? Gun magazines, the internet, gun stores, your friends, they all have opinions and often conflicting opinions. Guns are expensive and the market is a lot like cars. Buy a brand new “Bullet Launcher Model A”, walk out the gun store, walk around the block and then take it back in and see what they will give you for it. Because the paperwork was done and it was transferred, it is now “used” and what you get back is going to be a lot less that what you gave. So you don’t want to invest money in a firearm and then find out it is not what you need.

Firearms are like many things in life. Everyone has their own opinion based on their background and personal perceptions.

I am going to do this article from the standpoint of the beginning prepper who needs to put together a basic survival battery and (like most people) has budgetary constraints. I will give examples of different models of firearms that will fit those needs thorough various budget limitations.

Before we do that though, I want to cover a couple of areas that I, as a professional firearms instructor, see lacking in way too many sincere folks. If you are going to own firearms, you need to understand that it is a serious legal and moral responsibility. First, learn the local laws pertaining to firearms. All the prepping in the world does you no good when the SHTF and you are sharing a jail cell with Bubba. Second, unless you are already highly qualified, you need to make the time and financial commitment to get serious training in classes like these from a good instructor in your local area.Owning a gun and being able to effectively use it are not the same thing. For an in-depth article on how to select a qualified firearms instructor, look here.

So, lets categorize what you actually need by what the firearm is going to be used for.

I think need can be divided into two categories: Personal Defense (self-explanatory) and what I call Survival Maintenance (hunting, training, rodent control, ect.). Many firearms will fill the bill in both categories. Remember, redundancy.

Personal Defense

Pistol, Shotgun, and Rifle

Legitimate professionals often disagree on the order you should acquire you defensive weapons in. It is all a matter of perspective. In other words, if you only had access to or time to buy just one firearm, what would it be? I listed my opinion in the order above. Pistol, shotgun, rifle. Why?

What are your defensive needs? You need to be able to defend yourself and family at close range first. Unless you are a functioning member of a well-trained para military group, forget about taking on large groups of armed bandits.Even if you had a semi automatic assault rife, doing the Lone Ranger thing against a group of highly armed people is NOT a good idea. Initially you need a firearm that is light, easy to carry, powerful enough for personal defence at close range, and that you can carry on and with you 24/7! Imagine being attacked in the middle of doing #2 with your AK or shotgun strapped to your back or leaning against a tree. Remember, you are not just arming for TEOTWAWKI. If you are taking the world as serious as you should be, you need to be armed now for the potential robber, rapist and home invader.


So I suggest that your first defensive weapon should be a quality handgun. Revolver or Semi automatic? I discuss some issues here. I discuss selecting a personal defensive handgun here.

Glock 19

Glock 19

My personal recommendation is a Glock 17 or 19 in 9mm Parabellum. I am sold on Glocks. Used by militaries world wide and by the U.S. State Department. My first experience with the Glock was the 1988 Soldier of Fortune Convention in Vegas. I was sitting on the front row for the firepower demonstration when the Glock rep asked me to come forward. He handed me a Glock 17 and told me I had one minute to do anything I wanted with it. I slammed it on the ground, threw it up in the air as high as I could, jumped up and down on it.

At the end of the minute I handed it back to him and while I sweated in the hot Nevada sun, he blew through the barrel, inserted a magazine and launched 17 rounds downrange without a malfunction. Impressive. Glock 19 is State Department issue and I carried one for two years in Afghanistan. No malfunctions. I have been carrying one here in Arizona for the last 5 years. No malfunctions.

The Glock is simplicity itself with no bells and whistles for the novice to learn. And Glock magazines are some of the best made in the world. There are a lot of quality handguns on the market and if you have another model that you are comfortable with and it is reliable, by all means stick with it. But if you are just starting out, you cannot go wrong with a Glock.

So why 9mm and not .40 or .45acp? I discus selecting defensive handgun ammunition here, but I want to reinforce a couple of concepts. Yes, .45 acp is a tried and proven defensive round and I still have my custom combat M-1911a1 as a backup gun. But with modern defensive ammunition, the 9mm Parabellum has come into its own as a defensive caliber. Against multiple attackers, 15 rounds out of a Glock 19 is a better deal that 7 out of a .45.

The.40 is also a good man stopper. But not effectively more so than 9mm using good loads. The .40 is not military issue with anyone (that I know of) therefore there is not full metal jacket round nose loads for inexpensive practice. 9mm ammunition is lighter in weight that either of the other calibers. You should have at least three magazines for your handgun and more if you can afford it.You also need a decent magazine pouch to carry your two spares in. Test all of your magazines to insure reliability and dispose of any that malfunction repeatedly.

Shop around for used examples in good condition. You can sometimes find good deals on police trade ins when they up grade.

There are some additional considerations. Whatever handgun you select, get trained and then train with it. Frequently. Tactical training. It is available. After you get some first class hands on training there are some excellent books that will help you to get more proficient on your own.  Check out our books menu. Dryfire! Learn the proper way to dry fire and how to do it safely. Dryfire is your real training. Live fire is just the test to see if your training is effective. Give up the Starbucks coffee at work and spend the money on ammo and training. If you live in a state that allows concealed carry, get the license AND CARRY! Everywhere you are allowed to. If you are being robbed, raped, murdered, ect. and your handgun is sitting in your bedside table drawer them shame on you! You need to get so used to having your handgun with you that you literally feel undressed in those places that you simply can’t carry in.

Holsters! I am truly amazed at the number of students who show up for training with an expensive handgun and a cheap holster that isn’t worth a plug nickel. Get a quality leather or Kydex holster for your everyday carry. You may need to get an additional holster(s) for field or bug out carry. Honestly, if you are not prepared to spend the time and a little money becoming proficient with your handgun, then you are just fooling yourself that you are prepared to defend you and your family with it.Think your way through this and do your research!


My decision to place the shotgun as your second weapon to acquire is actually a bit conditional. Once again, I am going from the premiss of you are building your battery from scratch and you are in the weaponcraft learning curve. Actually it is going to depend on your specific circumstances. You need to understand the actual purpose of the defensive shotgun: It is designed to effectively engage multiple attackers with a tremendous amount of firepower in a short period of time at close range.. It excels at close range encounters in low light visibility. It is NOT a rifle and does a poor imitation of one!

Please note that I am referring to a modern pump or semi automatic shotgun, not Granpa’s single shot or double barreled hunting shotgun.

The shotgun has a number of advantages, especially over a handgun. It is considerably more powerful as a defensive weapon. It is a lot more intimidating to a potential predator. It has a lot of versatility in ammunition. ( forget the police specialty rounds. You really don’t need them. There are a lot better ways for a prepper to break a door lock than specialty door buster rounds). You can load rifled slugs, sabot slugs, and various sizes of shot for individual purposes. It is also one of those versatile weapons that can be used as a Survival Maintenance weapon.

The shotgun also has some limitations. Range being the primary one. Regardless of what you read in “Bullet Launcher Annual” your practical effective range with slugs is going to be no more than 100 yards, and with buckshot no more than 50. Notice I said Practical effective range. Remember, the shotgun is NOT a rifle and too many people try to make it one. And that’s assuming you are willing to spend the time and ammo funds to practice. The other disadvantage to the shotgun is the size and weight of the ammo.

Remington 11-87 Police Model Shotgun

Remington 11-87 Police Model Shotgun

My recommendation for a shotgun is a quality pump or semi automatic in 12guage. If you can afford it, go with a semi automatic. In trained hands,with an extended magazine, at close range, the 12 gauge semi automatic shotgun is literally a killing machine. However, if you prefer or can only afford a pump gun, there are many quality ones available. Mossberg makes a good line of defensive pump shotguns and are reasonably priced. Reminton’s 1100 series of semi automatic shotguns are time-tested and proven. Their older discontinued 11-87 SP Police is an excellent example and used models are available. Their Tac 4 is an excellent choice for a defensive shotgun and an evolution of the SP. Saiga out of Russia also makes an excellent line of semi automatic shotguns, but they have now been banned from import. For those who use the AK platform as a fighting rifle the Saiga is a good choice as it operates the same as an AK.

Make sure you put a sling on your shotgun. It doesn’t have to be one of the current “Wonder Tactical Slings” but a good quality sling is very helpful.

Another accessory you may want to consider is the sidesaddle ammo carrier. I have one on my Remington 11-87 SP and have mixed results with it. It does give you a few spare rounds handy and with practice you can reload pretty fast. But it does change the center of balance making the weapon want to lean to the left.

An extended magazine is almost a must, especially with a semi automatic. You can either order factory installed or there are a number of after market models available and are easy to install.

As far as ammunition goes, you have a lot of choices, but remember, you can only carry so much. In buckshot, 00 and number 4 Buck are the way to go for personal defense. In slugs, rifled slugs or sabot slugs are available. There is also a wide variety of shot sizes for hunting.

You need to take the time to pattern your shotgun with various types and makes of ammunition. This is simply starting out at close range, and then moving out at increasing distances to see at what range your effective pattern decreases to marginal.


You now want to start thinking about a defensive rifle. But before you run out and start wearing the numbers off your credit cards, let’s think this through. Once again, you acquire items based on need. So what do you need a rifle for? What does a defensive rifle do?

A defensive rifle is a very powerful firearm capable (assuming you are), and depending on caliber, of placing rounds on man-sized targets out to 400-600 meters. It allows you to project defensive power out to ranges that you might want to keep predators ( 2 and 4 legged) at. This could be very useful in a number of situations. So what kind of rifle do you need? That is going to depend on a number of factors. Budget, weight of rifle and ammo (including detachable magazines), and your willingness to learn how to shoot it effectively.

Many people rush out and buy a semi automatic military style rifle and tons of accessories. When you add up the whole cost, that can be an expensive proposition. Do you need that kind of firepower? Maybe. It would be useful in standing down mobs of hungry neighbors who suddenly elected you to be the new welfare source or replacement for their food stamps. Or highly armed roving gangs. But what if you cannot afford one of those right now?

A good surplus military bolt-action or semi automatic rifle will get you started. They are rugged, battle tested, and if in good shape, extremely reliable. The problem is that these old militaries are becoming collectors items with prices to reflect that fact. The supply is drying up. Run of the mill Mausers, Springfields and Enfields at gun shows are going for ridiculous prices. People are buying these up to add to their military collections at exorbitant prices. Except for one. The Russian Mosin-Nagant is still available at a reasonable price.

M-1938 Mosin-Nagant Carbine

M-1938 Mosin-Nagant Carbine

It makes a good starter rifle and gives you something to train on and learn, especially if your rifle shooting experience is limited. They can be found for under $200.00.

Another really good starter is the semi automatic SKS of various manufactures.

Russian SKS in 7.62x39mm  with bayonet unfolded

Russian SKS in 7.62x39mm with bayonet unfolded

It is extremely rugged and reliable and has a 10 round magazine you can load with stripper clips. Various models can be found for between $250 and $400.

SLR-95 AK variation in 7.62x39mm

SLR-95 AK variation in 7.62x39mm

Moving up the scale are various models of the AK and M-4 style rifle. Various magazines of 20, 30 and more rounds are available and spare parts are easy to come by. A tremendous amount of tactical gear and accessories are made for them.

I recommend that you stop here. There are a LOT of other very good military style rifles that are available and a lot more expensive. They are fine rifles but will not do anything more from a practical point of view than the rifles already mentioned. O.K., if you already have a Styer AUG (Beautiful work of machinery, pain in the backside to clean) then by all means go ahead and use it. But if you are just starting out, the four rifles mentioned above will do anything you need very well.

O.K. now how about caliber? This is a subject that has kept men in bars and barber shops longer than their wives wanted for years . I am not going to get involved in the “Caliber Wars” debate, and I am not angling for the “Bullet Launcher Annual” writer of the year award. I am going to make this as simple as possible for the beginning prepper. Of the four types of rifles I think are reasonable choices for the beginning prepper you are looking at four different calibers.

7.62x54mm Russian Rimmed in the Mosin-Nagant.

7.62x39mm Russian in the SKS and AK 47 series.

5.45x39mm Russian in the AK-74 series

5.56mm NATO in the M-4 series.

So which if these is the “best” caliber for the prepper? Honestly?

It doesn’t matter.

The 7.62×54 for the Mosin is an older (1908 ) cartridge that is still used worldwide in medium machine guns of Russian design. It is heavier than the other rounds but you are shooting it out of a bolt-action rifle. It has cheap surplus military ammunition available as well as commercially made hunting loads.

The other three cartridges are intermediate size rounds designed for semi and full auto weapons. All three are efficient defensive calibers and all three have available sporting loads for hunting. But wait you say. What about the 7.62mm NATO (.308 Winchester)?

It is an excellent caliber, and if you can afford the rifle it goes in, go ahead.

But wait again you say. Don’t I want ammo compatibility with the U.S. military or police? Those Russian rounds are not used by them!

Why is that really a logical concern? Do you think in a SHTF situation the U.S. Military is going to donate ammo to you? Or the Police? Or perhaps you think it will be more likely to be on the shelves of your local Wallmart?

Think this through. Are you really envisioning sustained combat? Where you are going to need to be continuously resupplied with ammo? You want to avoid that type of scenario!

Remember, you are talking survival here!

I recommend that you keep at least 500 rounds for your primary handgun, and 1000 rounds for your main rifle in reserve. More when you can afford it.. At least three magazines for your handgun and 5 or 6 for your magazine fed rifle. More as you can afford it. As for shotgun ammo it will depend on how much space and weight allowance you have . 100 slugs and 250 buckshot will get you started. Once again, these things depend on your individual situation. The above are my opinions. Other professionals have different views.Think it through! Then make your own rational decisions based on knowledge and logical planning and your personal needs and circumstances!

Survival Maintenance

Once you have a basic 3 gun battery, and you have the funds to build up your weapon selection, let’s consider some more possibly useful firearms. Hunting game for food can be a consideration. But lets think this through. First of all, do you have any real experience hunting wild game? I hear a lot of people claim they will live off the fat of the land in a SHTF or TEOTWAWKI situation. But the sad fact is that the only thing they ever hunted was a bargain at the local Goodwill store.Unless you have, or are willing to get, serious experience in hunting, you are NOT going to survive off of Bambi and Family. If you are already an experienced hunter, you will probably have a favorite hunting rifle that would be a great addition to your survival battery.

But there are a lot of small game possibilities in every part of the continental United States that can supplement your food supply. Everything from rabbits to rattlesnakes.Having a .22 cal rifle or a .410 ga. shotgun would be a useful addition. Especially if it is a combination over/under weapon of the two like this Springfield Armory M-6 Scout.

M-6 Scout Survival Rifle .22LR over .410 shotgun

M-6 Scout Survival Rifle .22LR over .410 shotgun

A nice choice that is in current production is the Savage Mod. 42 over/under. It is chambered for either .22LR over .410 or .22 WMR over .410. If you can afford one, I recommend an over/under in these calibers because it gives you the capability of have two types of firearms in one. Of the two calibers, I recommend .22LR The .22WMR is a good cartridge, but for potting small game, .22LR will do anything you need, the ammo is cheaper, and usually more available.

The .410 shotgun round is really a nifty, and in my opinion, underrated little cartridge. You can get a variety of shot loads, and even a slug load. Up close and personal, the .410 slug makes a really good defensive option.

A .22 caliber handgun is great for marksmanship training. If there is a conversion kit for your primary handgun, so much the better. It gives you the capability to train cheaper, and the ability to switch calibers in a weight saving way than having 2 handguns.

O.K. Guys and Gals. The above was intended to get the new prepper started building their survival battery. There is SO much more to learn than this, but it gives you a place to start and mostly to start thinking! And that is my intent.

But the decisions you make are yours and yours alone. Never take anyone’s word on any subject as the Gospel Truth, including mine!


11 thoughts on “Building a Survival Battery For Begining Preppers

  1. S&W M&P 9 2.0 Compact 4 and S&W M&P 9 2.0 Compact 3.6 or S&W M&P 9C w/ sleeves to accept newer compact mags OR Glock 19 GEN III or IV and a Glock 23 w/ conversion barrel for 9mm
    Ruger 10/22 (or perhaps a 10/22 Take-down)
    Ruger SP101 .22LR revolver OR Ruger Mark II (III or IV or 22/45 flavor)
    Mossberg 500 w/ combo barrels
    SA M1A and/or a bolt-action 7.62/.308


  2. found me an old yugo m48. that’s my baby.
    taurus 9mm is the poor mans glock…works great…no jams..
    saving for a decent 12 ga. prob a mossy..maybe an 88 if it gets to taking too long..
    my girl insists on a glock 26…oy..
    nice gun big price tag compared to my choice..
    cant argue with her taste though…she likes me…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yugos are good rifles, if they have been maintained properly. So are most Mod-98 Mausers. I have a few Mausers in my collection. I consider my German 98K a functional survival rifle. Nothing wrong with Taurus either. Your weapons will do there part if you train to do yours. Glad you enjoyed the article.


  3. Hi Jim,
    Nice posting, liked your choices for rifles and other weapons to have on hand when things go south in a major way, and unfortunately for all of us they will in the not to distant future. Anyway have you considered recommending a larger caliber rifle for your readers. What I mean is that while you do have a nice selection of recommended weapons to choose from, how effective would any one of them be against large predators? Lets say for instance a black bear or grizzly. While a well placed shot with one of the largest calibers that you have recommended might bring down a predator like this chances are that you will likely encounter a surprised bear and not have the time to make a well placed shot. If you live in survival mode (keeping quiet while in stealth mode) in most of the west or north west mountainous states the afore mentioned surprised bear especially a grizzly is likely to charge you from the nearby bushes. You will likely not get off a well placed shot and you will want that shot where ever it hits to do alot of damage and slow that bear down long enough to get off one or more better placed shots. May I make a suggestion that a minimum caliber rifle to carry for just such an emergency be a 45-70. This caliber will knock an elk sideways and will definately put serious hurt on a charging black bear or grizzly and slow down their charge. What are your thoughts on this Jim.



    • I think that would be location dependent. I grew up in Colorado and bears would be an issue there. I now live in Arizona and a heavy caliber rifle would not necessissarily be needed. The 45-70 is an excellent caliber and would be good for large game. I think though, that the 30-06 would be more versatile cartridge for large game and long range defensive use.


  4. As for the selection of a hand gun I suggest it be one each member of the family can use, easy to manipulate and reload a quality revolver and speed loaders is a good option . 357 two guns in one. Shot Gun Remington 870 12 ga pump, durable and dependable My personal side arm is the .45. My choice for a carbine is the trusty M1 Carbine and my longer range friend is the M1 Garand. Old school I guess.
    22’s and .410’s not having one or two of each would be silly.


    • I agree with your choices with the exception on the carbine. The cartridge has failed too many times. I do agree with you on the M-1 Garand. I have a mint one that will keep you dancing at 600 yards with iron sights. Thanks for posting!

      Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks! I appreciate the compliments. My goal is to have a blog that folks get real use out of, as well as being entertaining. I also want folks to post and share their ideas and viewpoints. Very little is written in stone and we can all share ideas.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Beginning Prepper Series | Azweaponcraftprepper

  6. Pingback: Building a Survival Battery for Beginners | Azweaponcraftprepper

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