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By May 11, 2012 Read More →

Survival Firearms on a Budget

Few would argue the importance of firearms in an overall prepping plan.  Firearms can provide you with food as well as protecting you and your family.  The reality is, in a total societal collapse situation, firearms can make the difference between success and failure.

Unfortunately, if you are just getting started with prepping, you’ll quickly realize guns are expensive.  There can be a substantial outlay of cash to putting together a decent arsenal.  The good news is, it is very doable to gather together a basic set of firearms that will serve your needs and cost less than $600.00 total.

There are essentially four different categories of firearms you should consider for the survival armory.

The .22 rifle is often the first firearm purchased and that’s as it should be.  The Ruger 10/22 is one of the best available in this category and if you shop around you should be able to find one under $200.00.  The .22 rifle will keep your cook pot filled with small game and could be used for home defense in a pinch.  Ammo is also readily available on the cheap, with boxes of 50 usually selling for under a couple bucks.  Being that inexpensive, you can stock up a considerable amount of ammo, as well as having plenty on hand for target shooting.

There are few sounds more pucker-inducing than that of a shell being racked into a shotgun, right?  For this reason alone, they are ideal for home defense.  There are a wide range of loads available too, from bird shot to deer slugs.  Stick with the 12 gauge shotguns if at all possible.  They are the most common and thus the ammo is more easily found.  Keep your eyes open and you can probably find a decent used 12 gauge for a couple hundred bucks or so.  The Remington 870 is probably the premier model for preppers, but they are kind of pricey.

The third firearm on the list is your long-range / big game rifle.  The Mosin Nagant 7.62 is often recommended for preppers due to the inexpensive cost.  I regularly see them on sale for under a hundred bucks at sporting goods stores.  They are reliable, dependable, and the ammo isn’t overly expensive.  They are accurate to well over 1,000 yards. Spend some time getting acquainted with it once you’ve purchased it and it will serve you well.

All three of the above can be had for around $600 total, with some budget left over for ammo.

The final category is usually the budget buster — the handgun.  While very important for home defense, I feel it is wise to get the other three categories taken care of first.  Doing it that way you’ll get more bang for your buck, no pun intended!

Handguns are not cheap.  Even used, you can easily spend several hundred dollars on something decent.  Stick with the common calibers if possible, such as 9mm, .40, .45, or .357.  Revolvers are usually the better choice for novice shooters as there is less that can go wrong with them.  They don’t jam and have fewer moving parts.  The trade off is you’ll be able to carry fewer rounds in the weapon.  Where a semi-auto might have a 9+ round capacity, the revolver will only carry 6.

Be sure to also invest in the cleaning supplies needed for each firearm and if you’re unsure how to do so, have someone teach you how to strip and clean each weapon.  Proper maintenance is critical to reliable use of a firearm.

Also, if you plan to carry a firearm in your daily life, be sure to obtain any necessary permits to do so legally.  It makes very little sense to risk having your firearm confiscated during a simple traffic stop.  Murphy’s Law dictates that if that were to happen, that will be the day you finally have NEED of that weapon.

Jim Cobb writes as The Frugal Prepper in every issue of Survivalist Magazine.  His primary website is and he also blogs daily for  His new book, Prepper’s Home Defense, is available for pre-order and will be out in October, 2012, from Ulysses Press.

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14 Comments on "Survival Firearms on a Budget"

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  1. mamahen says:

    Thank you so much for this article! Makes a lot of sense. Something I want to share is that I went to my local gun dealer a couple weeks ago looking for a hand gun. He told me that before I choose anything, go to the local fire range and shoot as many types of guns that I could to find which one I would be totally comfortable with and that I personally could handle with ease. Then come back to him for a purchase. I was so happy he didn’t try to force a sell on me knowing I had next to no knowledge about what I needed. After reading your article, the .22 riffle is what I will be trying out first.

  2. Jim Cobb says:

    Thanks for reading and I’m glad you liked the article Mamahen. Yes, handguns perhaps more than any other firearm are truly a personal choice. I highly recommend testing several different ones before making a final selection.

  3. Steve F. says:

    This coulda been my list 40 plus years ago.
    To it I would add ammo, lots and lots of ammo.
    And an embarrassing amount of reloading supplies, the new currency.

  4. Precariat says:

    A cheap (>$70) scout scope on that mosin will do wonders as well. As my grandmother told of back in the depression: Grandpa went out with one bullet to get dinner. That ain’t happening with my old eyes and iron sights, but with that nc star 2-7×32, I like my odds.

    A practically indestructible used Ruger 9mm can be had for $200-300. Not a tiny little concealed gun, but something that’ll work when you need it and I just like the feel of a full sized handgun.

  5. Bruce Robert says:

    I agree with your assessment of the .22 & shotgun. For most who do not shoot very much, I would recommend the 20ga shotgun. Ammo is readily available from most stores that carry firearms (birdshot, buckshot, &slugs). It has low recoil & can be as effective as a 12 ga. (just less pellets). A new Rem 870 pump shotgun can be purchased for $350-$400 (used for a little less). And easier for the ladies. For a rifle, I would recommended calibers like .223, .243, .270, or 30-06. There are hundreds of rifle selections available. Rifles can be purchased for a few hundred dollars. The 7.62×54 ammo for the Mosin Nagant is usually only available in specialty stores. Try this before you buy, go to a store like Walmart. Look in the sporting goods section and look at what kind of ammo is on the shelves. They usually only stock the most popular ammo. That should give you an idea of what will be available if the shtf. 

  6. What do you think of the marlin 60 for a .22? I have heard very goos things and they are about &150.

  7. Agreed. I always recommend folks start out with .22 – its the cheapest easies way to go and in the long run, it may be the most useful.

  8. Minstrel says:

    The M-N is not the newest rifle around, but it is very reliable and functional. I have owned several and like the longer barreled versions better. The recoil is much less and the fireball is much smaller than out of a M38 or M44. The weight is more, but the wooden stock can be swapped out with a synthetic stock if desired. The accuracy is fairly good for standard military rounds, but should improve with careful hand loading. For the cost, a person can buy a rifle, reloadable rounds, and reloading equipment for the cost of more expensive rifle. M-Ns don’t win beauty contests, but they are very solid work horses. For those so inclined, Mausers fill the same basic requirements and equally as stout. As noted above, both rifles can be fitted with a scope.

  9. George Hockhousen says:

    I agree with your assessment of the .22 LR, and your choice of a Ruger 10-22. —
    I wholeheartedly agree that a 12ga pump shotgun should also be in every prepper’s inventory. While the Remington 870 is an excellent choice, the Mossberg 500 can be had for at least $100 cheaper. I also like the position of the safety better on the Mossberg. Both are great choices, but for the prepper on a budget the Mossberg makes more sense. — I also agree with your pick of a Mosin Nagant as probably the most affordable high power rifle on the market. Surplus ammo can be had in a 440 round sealed spam can for around $100, sometimes cheaper. What I would have to disagree with is the statement, “They are accurate to well over 1,000 yards.” While they are very capable of shooting over 1000 yards, with their heavy military triggers, open sights, and non-free floating barrels, it would be such a rarity to find one that would be “accurate” at that range. Rugged, inexpensive, easy to maintain, would all be traits of the Mosin Nagant. They are acceptably accurate for most battlefield encounters, but most are not considered accurate guns. — Finally, your choice of handgun calibers is excellent, but the statement, “Revolvers are usually the better choice for novice shooters as there is less that can go wrong with them. They don’t jam and have fewer moving parts,” is worth debating. Revolvers actually have more moving parts, and definitely can jam if they get sand or dirt in them. If there is a possibility of ending up in a wrestling match in loose dirt or sand, you would be better served with a pistol. It is also very easy for an advisary to defeat a revolver simply by grabbing the cylinder. No amount of finger pressure on the trigger will overcome someone with a firm grip on the cylinder. (This assumes you are trying to fire it double action.) Give it a try with an unloaded revolver if you are not convinced.–I would still agree that they are a better choice for a novice shooter, but it is because they are simpler to operate. If they are loaded, and you pull the trigger, they go bang. With a semi-auto pistol you have to consider whether there is a round in the chamber, and if it is on fire, for those equipped with an external safety. I tell my novice firearm customers, it is like getting used to a new car. When you buy or rent a new car, it takes a little while to get used to where the controls are. It is even harder if the first or second time you are driving it is at night. The more you use them the more it becomes automatic to find the wiper switch, and other controls. This is called muscle memory. If you are going to shoot at least once a month, preferably more, you will quickly acclimate yourself to your new pistol, and you will revert to muscle memory should you have to use it. If on the other hand, you plan to maybe take the gun to the range once to make sure it fires, and then leave it in the nightstand drawer, when something goes bump in the night, and you wake up groggy at zero dark thirty, that’s not the time you want a gun that you have to try to remember how to put it on fire, or if there is a round in the chamber. –I appreciate your post. My comments are definitely not intended to bash you! Just offer some food for thought.

  10. Don Russell says:

    you don’t need the shotgun. It accomplishes almost nothing that you need to do, anyway. You better have a LOT more rifle than any bolt action, if shtf, much less a clunk like the Mosin! Sheesh. Get a used Kahr CM9, $400, and if you can’t afford an AR-15 and a Ciener .22lr unit, then you can’t afford to be skilled enough for any centerfire rifle to be of any help to you. So you’d better stick with a used .22lr takedown autorifle, like the Marlin Papoose, and being very sneaky.. The AR7 is a piece of junk. Get a silencer mounted on your .22 rifle. Search at Amazon for a book entitled “how to make a silencer for a .22″ Stick to either thick cover or darkness,if shtf, and a silenced .22 autorifle will have plenty of range/effectiveness, if you understand tactics and use 60 gr Aquila subsonic ammo.

    shtf has not occurred yet, but thousands of people ARE attacked, every day in the US. So you NEED a constant carry pistol, and that means a kydex front pants pocket holster, and a gun that’s small enough and light enough to ride there without hassle.

  11. Don Russell says:

    YOu cannot CARRY more than one longarm and a backpack, and if shtf,you dare NOT be without your backpack,ever! You cannot intimidate or shoot with a gun that you aint GOT, either. Around the house, you won’t HAVE the shotgun. If you are too lazy to ccw the pocket 9mm everywhere, how will you lug around the shotgun, hmm? yOu can’t mow the lawn, take out the garbage or the pets,get the mail or answer the door with shotgun in hand. YOu CAN, however, have your hand in your pocket on your pistol, while you do all those things. Almost always,if you point thepistol at the attacker, and back up/get space between you,that’s all that’s needed. A ccw pistol is many times more likely to suffice than you are to have any longarm when you need a gun.

  12. Don Russell says:

    A DECENT used shotgun is $300 and the Mosin is $100. For another $200, you can build a good AR-15 carbine in 223, and have MANY times more useful a gun! With good softpoints in it, like the 60 gr Nosler Partitions,the 223 is a great manstopper and just as good on deer as a 30-30 ever was. It’s also suitable for varmints and the .22lr unit is great for small game, especially with subsonic loads and a silencer.

    The Ciener.22lr unit,with 10 rd and 30 rd mags, costs no more than a 1022 Ruger autorifle. The 223 carbine, with sound suppressor, is every bit as “tame” to shoot as the .22lr unit in that 223,without the silencer. So you CAN build 223 skill with 10c per shot .22lr rds,vs 40c per shot 223’s. it takes the careful, focused, aware firing of 10,000 rds to be adequately skilled with a rifle, and 3000 rds per year to RETAIN that skill (either shoulder-use being a combat requirement).

    the .22 unit is just 3/4 lb, the caliber swap takes 20 seconds. The Ar takes down into 2 halves in 5 seconds, reassembles and fires in 10 seconds. conceal it in a gym bag or backpack.

    At night,with the “can”mounted, the 223 has no flash and sounds like a .22 without a suppressor. with subsonic ammo in the .22 unit, the canned AR sounds like a BB gun and will brain men, deer, or big dogs to 50 yds. It will kill same to 100 yds with chest hits, but they might live for days, dying of infection later! The 223 SP hit to the chest blows pieces of their lungs out on the GROUND,guys.

    There will never be an EFFECTIVE flashhider or silencer for the 12 ga.Fire it after dark,and the flash will ruin your night adapted vision for several minutes. If you miss, or have more than one enemy,you will be lucky to survive it with nothing but a shotgun. The suppressed .22lr unit is a far,far better foraging tool, with the 200 yd capable 223 for deer, or 1/4 mile sniping potential (scoped).

  13. Don Russell says:

    Revolvers make BIG, noticable bulges in pants pocket rigs. I ground off the silly sharp corners on the ends of the slide on my CM9 Kahr, and now the kydex plastic rig looks just like a wallet in my pocket. With the hand on the gun, in the pocket,

    You can have a gun pointed at me, and I can sidestep as I draw it,and shoot you before you can react, realize what is happening, shift your point of aim to where I am, and fire. I don’t have to react, I am starting first,so that saves me .20 second. I am drawing AS I step,so the entire deal takes only .50 second. This is at “hand it over” distance. At 10 ft of range between us, I need .65 second,to step,draw,go to a 2 handed,eye level point firing position, and hit you in the chest. Unless you are a top combat-match shooter, you wont hit me in that short time span, at 10 ft, with me moving. That is if you wait to see me move.