Let’s start by saying there is no perfect bug out gun that suits everyone’s needs!
The ones discussed in this article have both positive and negative points.
Firearms are quite specialized, and plenty of people come to the conclusion that they need both a handgun and a rifle. Each one is superior in different areas and in an ideal situation there is no question that you would have both.
This is part of the reason it is so hard to choose. I encourage you to try out some weapons before you buy if you have any way to do so.
Before we get into it let’s look at our top picks:
Our Top Picks
Best Rifle For Your Bug Out Bag
Out of all the great guns listed here, if I had to pick the best for most people and situations I would choose the Kel-Tec Sub 2000.
It is lightweight and takes 9mm ammunition. You can use most 9mm magazines interchangeably so you can reduce the need to carry several styles if you want to have a rifle and a handgun.
The Kel-Tec Sub 2000 offers the range and comfort of a rifle but packs down small and offers a high capacity magazine so you have plenty of firepower if the situation calls for it.
Top Handgun For Your Bug Out Bag
If you are bugging out and want a quick self defense weapon that doesn’t weight a lot then the Glock is ideal for most users.
The easy to find ammo is a major bonus. if you want to have a rifle you can use the same ones with the Kel-Tec Sub 2000. Glocks are also inexpensive to buy and easy to find at a range so you can go try one out before you buy.
Hands On Research
A lot of ranges will rent guns for range time and that can be a good way to get a feel for what you like.
I won’t say this is a cheap experience but when you are looking to buy something as serious as a firearm you should do some research.
Hickok45 on Youtube is an interesting fellow that does a lot of in-depth gun reviews. My dad got me watching his channel and he really knows his stuff.
There is a lot to think about when choosing a gun for your bug out bag. Before a major purchase, you should ask yourself the following questions so you can make sure to get the gun that will best serve your own situation.
Primary Concern: Hunting or Self Defense?
A lot of people plan on being able to hunt some game during a survival situation. The truth is that there are so many people thinking the same thing that there is a good chance that game will become scarce pretty fast.
Part of this depends on what you are willing to eat and also how big of a wildlife population you have in your area.
Handguns do not have the range and accuracy of a similar rifle so they are a poor choice for most any hunting.
Rifles on the other hand are longer, larger, bulkier, and don’t offer the ease of concealment that a handgun offers.
While some of you may be in urban environments where you are dealing more with predators of the two-legged variety, there are some that need to consider protection from the wildlife around them.
During hard times animals can be stressed too and you may find that you are invading their environment to survive. Nature doesn’t always accept humans back into the system as easy as we would like.
I once worked for the Forest Service in Alaska and one of my biggest concerns when out at a remote location with just float plane or boat access was Grizzly Bears. They offered us no firearm protection at all.
Cougars in Washington State where i spent my childhood are known to stalk children in good times.
What do you think is going to happen if everything gets disrupted?
What if you are bugging out and camping remotely?
Some ammo costs far more than others or it can be harder to find or, worse yet, expensive and hard to find.
.22 caliber used to be so cheap to shoot. I remember back in college my husband and I could make an evening out of a 500-count box of .22 that cost about $12. Now that same box can be $50, and you have to actually be able to find it in the first place.
Ammo hoarding is part of the problem. Manufacturers cannot keep up with demand that high!
.380 caliber and 9 mm are fairly easy to find, so for a handgun, that can be the best option.
Overall Weight Of Gun & Ammo
The weight of the gun and ammo is definitely a major concern. This is where you need to realize your own limitations as well.
If your bug out bag already weighs 30 lbs or more then you may be limited in the amount of ammo you can actually carry with you.
Bigger guns are often overkill and have expensive and heavy ammo to deal with. I am going to give you the weight of each gun I suggest. The bigger the caliber the more the ammo is going to weigh.
What Are You Comfortable With?
If you have a lot of experience shooting a particular caliber, then you might not want to mess with success.
There is something to be said about having multiple guns of the same caliber in a survival situation.
It is also useful to have a common caliber so you can find ammo, or if you have extra, you can use it to get other things you might need.
The more compact the fewer rounds the clip is going to hold.
Those with larger hands can feel a bit off holding some of the smaller guns.
The Ruger LCP is a perfect example of an excellent small concealed carry gun, but it is small enough that you can almost lose it at times, and I have to say that as a woman with larger hands, I cannot get my last few fingers on the grip solidly. It would do the job just fine, but it takes some getting used to.
Bug Out Gun Reviews
Now we know what we need to take into consideration before buying a gun for our bug out bag, let’s dive right in and have a look at some of the firearms you should be considering.
Glock G17 9mm
Weight: 1.5lbs | Barrel Length: 4.49″ | Shell Capacity: 17+1
This is a gun that is going to have easy to find ammo. During a major situation, there is a decent chance that you could find or trade for some if needed.
This is a more budget-friendly Glock. They have a lot of different 9mm models, with some of the more expensive models costing over $2K.
The G17 is the most widely used pistol for law enforcement, not just in the United States but worldwide. It is nice that you get two 17-round clips when you buy a new Glock.
Combine this with the Ruger PC9, and you got a rifle and pistol combination that you can do a lot with.
If you are a couple bugging out together, one person could carry the rifle and the other the handgun to distribute weight, but you could share ammo and clips.
Best For: The Glock is reliable, has a high-capacity magazine, is lightweight, and easy to conceal for those that are bugging out in populated areas.
Weight: 0.6lbs | Barrel Length: 2.75″ | Shell Capacity: 6+1
The Ruger LCP was a major hit among those that wanted a small concealed-carry gun when it first come out. I was one of the first wave of buyers out there and paid $350 for it with a box of ammo.
Now you can get this handy little gun for an amazing $199. For concealability you will be hard-pressed to find this high of quality and ammo capacity at the price point it is now offered.
The only safety is the trigger pull itself. Plenty of people do carry this gun with a round chambered and the gun in a holster. The trigger pull is significant enough that you are not just going to touch it and have it discharge.
Best For: Those that want a small-sized and easily concealed personal defense gun or those that are already carrying a rifle and want something they can get to quickly for defense.
Rock Island Armory – M1911-A1 Pro Match
Weight: 2.47lbs | Barrel Length: 5″ | Shell Capacity: 8+1
This single-action semi-automatic offers a full size and is a remarkably good-feeling gun in your hand.
It is solid, and its reputation and reliability are amazing.
The ammo cost is reasonable, and the weight is light enough that you can pack quite a few rounds of this without being too hard on yourself if it comes down to it during hand-to-hand combat in a survival situation; it is heavy enough to use as a bludgeon.
.45 ACP is a common round, although not as common as the 9mm. The front fiber optic sight and rear LPA sight make accuracy a bit easier to achieve.
Best For: The 1911 is an excellent bug out gun for those that want a full-sized solid semi-automatic with easy-to-find ammo.
Kel-Tec PMR-30 .22 Semi-Automatic
Weight: 13.6oz | Barrel Length: 4.3″ | Shell Capacity: 30+1
For bugging out, you will enjoy the fact that this gun is made to be durable yet lightweight.
The slide and barrel are 4140 steel, but the actual frame is 7075 aluminum. Grips, slide cover, trigger, mag release, and safety levers are made of glass-reinforced nylon called (Zytel).
You can get this gun in a few different colors, but black is the easiest to find and the most popular.
The double-stacked magazine allows for a lot of firepower for your dollar. If you are truly in a combat situation during an emergency, it is going to make you feel a bit better knowing that you are not going to have to change a magazine out after 8 rounds.
The fiber optic sights make it easy to aim, even when just learning. When it comes time to clean this gun, you can disassemble it by removing a single pin.
Best For: Self-defense in urban and rural environments. The large ammo capacity and lightweight design make this an ideal gun to throw in any bag, even if you are new to firearms.
Smith & Wesson 686 3-5-7 Magnum
Weight: 2.34lbs | Barrel Length: 5″ | Shell Capacity: 7
I couldn’t write a bug out gun article without including a .357 revolver.
It is hard to beat the reliability and ease of use that you get with a quality revolver.
The one disadvantage is that you have those 7 shots, and then it is going to take you a while to reload.
This revolver will also accept .38 special cartridges, so you have a bit more versatility than with some other revolvers. For example, a .38 Special will not accept .357 rounds.
There is nothing wrong with the .38 Special, but it is kind of nice to have more ammo choices.
Smith & Wesson guns hold their value well, too, so they are not a bad investment.
Best For: The .357 is a standard when it comes to reliable self-defense.
Preppers that are not familiar with handguns will appreciate how easy the .357 is to use and how it can be easily thrown into a bug out bag or worn in a holster.
This is a great choice for rural or urban self-defense.
Ruger 10-22 Take Down w/ 18“ barrel
Weight: 4.6lbs | Barrel Length: 16″ | Shell Capacity: 10+1
This is an option for those that want a gun to hunt small game with, the convenience and commonness of the .22 caliber round, and want to be able to conceal their weapon and carry it easily.
A .22 bullet will take down more game than you might expect. Unless you are in a country where there is a lot of larger game then there is little reason to carry any bigger.
For those that already have a Ruger 10/22 or that are planning on buying a used one, you can order a kit to convert yours into a breakdown model.
This definitely offers an option for us fans of this great little gun to upgrade and make it easier to carry into the woods. The disadvantage, of course, is that it takes a minute to put it together, so it is not the best self-defense weapon in its broken-down state.
I can definitely see having this rifle for hunting and a .22 pistol or a 9mm for self-defense and easy access.
You can also think about it like this. A gun to get you out of the city and another to help out with hunting and defending your territory or base camp.
A small, inexpensive scope can add a lot to your accuracy if properly sighted in. 4x power scopes are enough to help. You don’t have to put on a scope that costs as much as the gun itself.
Best For: The 10/22 Takedown is a great choice for small and medium game hunting and defending your location. Since it breaks down to a small size it is easy to carry and conceal.
Kel-Tec Sub 2000 9mm
Weight: 4.25lbs | Barrel Length: 16.25″ | Shell Capacity: 17+1
This is a compact and affordable rifle that has a strong following.
While it can be hard to find, it is worth it to seek this one out because of the quality, weight, and convenience of a rifle that will accept many competitors’ 9 mm magazines, so you are not stuck buying one brand of magazine and spending a lot of money.
To top it all off, the Sub 2000 can be folded up with ease so that you have a gun that fits into a 17” x 7” space. I love how lightweight this gun is.
For those that really want to travel light during a survival situation, this is the gun for them. Fluorescent front sights are adjustable based on your elevation and windage.
Best For: Preppers that want a small, lightweight, and easy-to-conceal 9mm style rifle for self defense or hunting. This size means you can fit it in a pack, and the weight is phenomenal for a rifle!
DDI LLC – AK-47 Underfold Stock
Weight: 7lbs | Barrel Length: 16.25″ | Shell Capacity: 30+1
I have a soft spot for the AK-47. When I was a little girl, my dad had one, and I remember learning how to load the magazines and a big drum magazine. His was a Chinese AK which is pretty rare to find now.
The DDI is made by Kalashnikov USA, making it an extremely high-quality AK to have. The US Hammer Forged Trinity of the trunnion, bolt carrier, and bolt combined with the stainless steel gas piston and their signature flash suppressor makes this an AK that is going to hold up and offer rapid, no-jam firepower when you need it.
Century Arms makes an AK-47 that is not too difficult to get at a reasonable price as well, but you will have to buy your own folding stock and put that on.
7.62 x39mm ammo is easy to buy by the case, or you can buy a box at a time at just about any gun store.
It is hard to go wrong with the reliability of an AK. They are one of the toughest guns out there in this price range. The fact that they can take a lot of abuse and still keep firing makes them great if you have even a suspicion that things could get dire.
Some AKs are rarer than others, so if you see a big price difference, you are probably looking at an N-PAP or O-PAP, not an American-made Century Arms.
Best For: The AK-47 is extremely reliable. A folding stock AK is excellent for defending a location. It is easy to use and made to carry over long distances.
S&W M&P 15 SPORT II .223/5.56 16″
Weight: 7lbs | Barrel Length: 16.25″ | Shell Capacity: 30+1
The AR-15 is the most popular rifle in the United States. The ammo is easy to find, and it is the gun that is standard military issue.
Personally, I prefer the AK-47, but they are both worthy of consideration for a major defense weapon.
At under 7 lbs unloaded, this is a lightweight full-service rifle. If you have extra ammo on hand during good times, if you ever want to trade some, it is going to be in demand.
Best For: The AR-15 has a lot of stopping power and easy-to-find ammo, so if you plan on bugging out for a long time, it is more likely that you can find ammo for this gun.
It can be used for hunting some game if care is taken.
Ruger PC Carbine 9MM
Weight: 6lbs10oz | Barrel Length: 16″ | Shell Capacity: 17
This is an interesting gun that is a good choice for those that already have a 9mm pistol. If you add the Ruger PC 9 Carbine to your arsenal, then you can enjoy only having to carry one type of ammo.
Customers like this gun will also take Glock magazines, so no odd magazine size is hard to find.
If you see one of these in stock and want it, then you best buy it right away because they can be hard to find.
The synthetic stock offers a reduced weight. Ruger includes 3 spacers that can be added to the buttstock to adjust the rifle to fit different sizes of shooters so those that are shorter or taller than average don’t have to sacrifice shooting comfort.
The rubber pad does an excellent job absorbing shock. If you team this rifle up with a 9 mm handgun, then you can have good options for different situations and only have to have one type of ammunition.
If you have a Glock, you can share your magazines which means a lot when you consider just how much it can cost and the extra weight of carrying several types of magazines. This can help make up for the fact that you are carrying 2 guns instead of 1.
Best For: Those that are familiar with 9 mm and want a rifle for self-defense and hunting.
Marlin 30-30 w/20“ Barrel and Scope
Weight: 6.75 lbs | Barrel Length: 20″ | Shell Capacity: 6+1
I really love the comfort of shooting a lever-action rifle. The Marlin 30-30 is a highly affordable rifle that is one of the most popular for those that regularly hunt deer.
The ammo is easy to find and affordable. Customers report that, for some reason, this rifle is less expensive to buy with the scope attached than without. You can always remove it and replace it with your favorite.
This would be a good bug out gun for those that plan on being in the backcountry for a while and want something for hunting game. It is an easy-to-use rifle, and in my experience, lever actions are very reliable and functional rifles to own.
Best For: Those that plan on being in the backcountry for a while and want something for hunting game.
Remington .870 12 gauge Shotgun
Weight: 6.75 lbs | Barrel Length: 20″ | Shell Capacity: 6+1
There is something to be said about a shotgun during a survival situation. First off, you get a lot of firepower for your money. A 12 gauge is big enough to take on some large predators, and it is guaranteed to scare most any person.
The downside to a shotgun is that the ammo is very heavy. There are various types of shells for different purposes, but that starts getting complicated and possibly not realistic when you are trying to bug out.
Recommended Reading: Homemade Shotgun Shells
A shotgun is very easy to use, however, so it has that going for it.
The Remington is great for a lot of reasons, but the 18“ barrel size is a good place to start. The Mag Extension Tube gives you 7 shots. The front bead sights and a finish that blends into the surroundings make this a good defensive shotgun that is lightweight and reasonably priced.
Please note that this shotgun is not tapped or drilled for a scope mount.
Best For: Defense and some small hunting if the right shells are used. It is not easily concealed and makes a strong statement to any foe.
Alternatives If A Gun Is Out Of Stock
A lot of the calibers discussed in this post are very common, so you can always go with another manufacturer and get a very similar gun.
You may be able to shave some off the cost as well but beware of very new brands that no one has had time to test very much.
Gun Laws – USA
You should always check your local gun laws. In the USA, you have to be 18 to buy a rifle and 21 for a handgun, plus pass a background check.
You can legally buy a rifle from an individual without formal paperwork, but for handguns, you must do a background check and have the gun transferred over using a Federal Firearms License holder to manage the transaction.
Some cities and states have their own set of rules.
Bottom line – check up on the rules and make sure your gun is legal in the state you live in.
Also, any past criminal charges can affect the right to have a gun, and if you get caught with one, it can mean a prison sentence.
Gun Laws Outside USA and Some Alternative Weapons
Locations outside the US have some pretty strict gun laws or an outright ban on almost everything, so your choices of weaponry might be quite limited.
Alternative weapons include things like tactical pens, taser flashlights and other electrical shock weapons, and air rifles.
Recommended Reading: 7 Terrifying DIY Weapons
Other Bug Out Worthy Guns
There were way more guns I wanted to write about than I could find space for here.
If I left out a good one, then please share the model and why you like it with your fellow Primal Survivalists in the comments below. No gun is perfect, so make sure to point out any quirks that you have experienced as well.
Leave a comment
You are sometimes referring to a magazine as a clip. It’s a common occurrence. No biggie but not technically correct. Also a Hi-Point 9MM carbine costs about half of what the Kel-Tec goes for at Brownell’s. A lot of people can’t afford roughly $400 but maybe could afford roughly $200. I have one and love it. It’s reliable and accurate and probably deserves a recommendation.
Thanks for the recommendation Charles. Will check that one out.
If I were to recommend three guns for home defense / light hunting, it would have to be:
1) Glock 19 – proven reliability, 9mm ammo (common and relatively cheap), easily concealable
2) Remington 870 in 12 gauge – good for home defense and light hunting, 12 gauge (common and relatively cheap)
3) Ruger 10/22 – proven reliability, .22 ammo ( common and relatively cheap), good for light hunting
The total cost of all three of these firearms should cost you around $1000, but could be less if you shop around for previously owned.
For larger game, a scoped rifle in .308 caliber would be a generally good hunting rifle for deer, hogs, or other large game. Both Remington and Ruger make quality rifles.
While there could be arguments for other firearms, I feel that these four rifles would provide you with an all around reliable mix for hunting and home/personal defense. Also, be responsible and add a locker or safe to store them in.
Some solid choices there Joe. Thanks for sharing your recommendations.
Although not a big thing the Kel-tec PMR 30 is 22 WMR. Making the round a little harder to find. And what about the Kel tec SU16C for consideration for rifle, It would be my first choice over an AK or AR, JMHO
The Kel Tec SU16C is definitely one to consider. Alas there are a lot of good bug out guns that I simply didn’t have the space to include. It is always tough to narrow it down. Thanks for reading and contributing!
I have had a Marlin .30 .30 lever gun for years and love it. I have made this a scout rifle of sorts, with a long eye relief scope. It has taken many deer and is super reliable! Although I haven’t had a chance to shoot either of them I recently purchased a PMR30 and a Ruger PC9 Takedown. It has taken months to find them and I’m super pumped to own each of them. Academy came through. Both of these have great up sides including large magazine capacity if desired. Hope they are as reliable as my Marlin has been. Great job on this article, I agree with all your choices, save the Remington. I think the Mossberg is the way to go, more economical and versatile and just as reliable, in my opinion.
Hey Kent – great write up, should be helpful to many when making their choices. Let us know how you get on with the new guns.
Carrying gear, food, a weapon and ammunition can add up quickly!!! Personally I prefer a small compact weapon that’s easily concealed on person or in a B.O.B. Therefore, I have chosen the Glock-43. Although it’s only a single stack, with a 6 round capacity. 26.36oz. fully loaded! A mere 6.26 in. in length, with a width of only 1.02 in. Saving space and weight! A box of 50 147g+P JHP weighs 26.2oz.
While your article shows some good choices for guns to purchase, I have some issues with what you included and what you didn’t. First, you make weight concerns for carrying the firearms and ammo the number 1 issue. The plastic guns and 9mm round are NOT always the best choice. Little hands mean little, weaker wrists. The 9mm round generates a great deal of recoil especially in “plastic” guns. Any gun is worthless of you cannot shoot it because of the pain it inflicts. Go with more metal, equals more weight and less recoil. Many .357’s and 38’s revolvers are easier on the wrist making them easier to shoot. Also, a full size .45 ACP generates less pressure, thus less recoil, and may be a better choice.
Second, the improper use of “Clip” where you mean “Magazine” leaves questions on your actual “expertise” on the subject. I may be too picky, but….
Third, are you expecting that anyone obtaining a firearm will automatically practice with it, let alone learn how to operate it safely and correctly? More discussion on training should have appeared.
Last, the “Best” gun to use is what you have on hand. Yes, buying those listed will help keep the weight down, but if you already shoot a .44 mag. or 10mm, then use what you have and shoot.
I’m sorry if I’m too critical, but this article sounds more like an advertisement than information.
For you ammo scavengers, I recommend either Ruger’s Blackhawk Convertible or Taurus’ new 692, both in 357/9mm
I am in the market for a defense gun, Is a Smith and Wesson considered a good recommendation? I have been looking for one.
Hi Bea – you can read our thoughts on the Smith & Wesson 686 3-5-7 Magnum above in the article. Also read the comments as there are some good suggestions from readers. A shotgun is also a good choice for self\home defense – https://www.primalsurvivor.net/best-shotgun-home-defense/
Hey there! Just pointing out the fact that the Ruger 10/22 pic was not at all right. 🙁 It looks more like a Mossberg 500 youth model to me…
Hey Trail-rat – thanks for catching that editing error, have put the correct image in now.
I saw a .357 revolver but no .357 carbine. Marlin has reintroduced the 1894C in .357 and would be a great defensive/hunting carbine out to 75-100 yards.
Due to weight/bulk of ammo a shotgun would be last on my list but if I were to take one it would be a single shot or double barrel 12g with a compliment of Short Lane chamber adapters. This would greatly broaden ammo selection like 410/20/.22lr/.22wmr/.38spc/.380/9mm/.40/.45acp/.45lc and more
What about the Henry 22 long rifle us survival gun semiautomatic it breaks down and goes into the stock I have one it is a good rifle easy to pack
Sounds like a good option William. Thanks for the heads up.
Clip magazine both the same to me 18 years in the service served in combat you can call it a clip I admire a woman that knows weapons
very good and informative article and just so you know most people do not care if you call it clip or magazine so no problem. the kel-tec sub 2k and a handgun that uses the same mag is very smart, i personally have the g19 and g22 with the sub 2k in each caliber 9mm and 40cal. so the compatibility just makes common sense. i believe the bolt 308 is a very good choice for defense and hunting so the ruger 308 gunsite is my choice as 300 yards is not a problem plus should a larger dangerous critter be about the 308 with the 180 grain sp is very potent. 22 cal. is a matter of choice so the magnum research is my choice but your choices are common sense and make sense to me. no one will have everything needed in weapons and be able to carry all the ammo so we do the best we can to adapt. good article.
Browning hi power. Full size 9mm battle proven reliability. Been around since the 1920’s parts and mags are easy to find and replace. For me maintenance is a big thing, not too many people can take a Glock all the way apart and repair as needed.
Add an M4 carbine with a M261 adapter and your three caliber ready to bug out.
Hi all….good article, lots of decent choices. I was in law enforcement so my main self defense weapon is a Glock 22 in 40 cal. For my wife I got a Glock 44 in .22LR which pairs up well with my Henry .22LR survival rifle. I may also suggest the Henry .357/38 spl. lever action carbine….especially if one has a .357 revolver….sharing ammo between weapons is financially sound and prudent. A .308 or similar bolt-action rifle will do for distance defense and large animals. A 12 or 20 gauge shotgun works well for close in and both have various bird loads as well a slug rounds for large game. If you’re forced to be on the move you’ll want distribute the weapons and ammo load around. The fewer in your party the few weapons and ammo you can hull around….the .22LR rifle/carbine plus a stout pistol 9mm. 40 cal or .45 SW and a shotgun if you can fit it in your travel kit. When on the go you have weight to consider.
Truth is most people will be overprepared with supplies and underprepared in skill. If you think you are bugging out with 60lb bag and 3 long rifles then you already planned to fail. Most will be lucky to get out with 1 long rifle if not jist a handgun. EMP attack foreign invaders, floods, mass exodus, mobs, checkpoints, that vehicle isnt going far and most people dont have the physical conditioning to ruck a 60lb bag. You’re not going hiking you are escaping and evading. Speed and stealth will keep you alive. Think you are going to fire off more than a few rounds? Think again. You will give away your position and will be terminated.
I’ve yet to read any blog that goes beyong SHTF/Prepper fantasy
Midland makes a Backpack model single shot shotgun.
This model folds completely in half when the action is broke open.
18” barrel fits real well in a back pack.
Mine accompanies me on outdoor undertakings.