One of the top questions that gun stores get these days is which gun is the best for SHTF. And it is a good question.
For many preppers, they don’t desire to be avid gun collectors. While many preppers love guns, many other preppers are only trying to get a collection of goods that would serve their survival purposes well following a dire collapse in society, or the aftermath of a catastrophic weather event. I believe that every prepper should have both the best SHTF gun and one of our recommended best fixed blade survival knives.
If you are a prepper who is just getting into guns for the purposes of prepping, this is a great article for you. If you are a prepper who is a gun expert, this won’t be all that helpful for you. There are more advanced reads out there that will serve your purposes much better. And this will not be a comparison of a variety of the best SHTF guns, rather, it will be my opinion on which one SHTF gun would be best to start with. Like everything, guns are subjective and personal preferences. As a note, check out my best AR-15 optics guide as when you are finished with this. The M&P Sport 2 is the best budget AR-15 that money can buy. At the end of the day, this article is an M&P Sport 2 review.
Spoiler alert: The AR-15 is the most practical SHTF gun there is. Below, I will take the time to explain why I feel this way. In terms of budget options, the M&P Sport 2 is a great option. Many folks want to buy a SHTF gun but don’t want to break the bank, this is your firearm. With an AR-15, you aren’t stuck with what you buy. By default, the M&P Sport 2 is ready to go out of the box. The iron sights are accurate, it fires beautifully, and it is lightweight.
Here’s mine. This is with some upgrades (not necessary if you are just purchasing this budget AR-15 for prepping purposes). This has a Vortex Strikefire 2 tactical optic, a Magpul handguard, stock, and pistol grip. Those are budget AR-15 accessories that you can upgrade with after purchase, but again, you do not have to.
You can check out my Vortex Strikefire 2 review if you are interested. Again, you don’t have to add any optics if you are buying the M&P Sport 2 simply to have on hand as a SHTF gun.
Here’s a look at my M&P Sport 2 right out of the box.
This is truly a beautiful weapon made by Smith and Wesson, who is as quality a firearm manufacturer as there is.
If you are new to guns, I can’t stress enough how important it is to get trained, to consider your state or local laws and to learn all the best practices for gun safety (particularly if you have kids, or kids visit the home where you will store your gun). Investing in a good gun safe is just common sense practice. That said, I always recommend that if your gun safe is electronic, make sure it has a key lock open option as well. An EMP attack could serve as problematic to any and all electronics and the last thing you need to have happen is that your safe won’t allow you to get your SHTF gun when you most need it. Understanding and being trained to use your gun is not only best practice, it can also save you if you ever end up in a bad situation. If you just buy a SHTF gun and store it away, if the time comes to use it, you won’t be competent. Not only is that dangerous, but it also means you will be less effective defending you, your family, and your possessions.
SHTF Gun – Why Would You Need One?
A SHTF gun differs from a gun that you might purchase for home defense, hunting or just to use for a hobby. A SHTF gun is a gun that you’d use to defend yourself and for survival purposes, if a catastrophic weather event occurred, the power grid collapsed or the world economy crashed. And these are all potential issues for all of us. If the power grid were attacked by a foreign government, it would disable all government ran services including the police. You would be completely exposed to the elements. If a major hurricane or tornado destroyed your community, you might be without the safety and security of social structures. We’ve seen time and time again that criminals anticipate catastrophic weather events. They see them as an opportunity to cash in. They realize that police services will be potentially disabled, which will allow them a brief opportunity to rob and harm. We’ve seen this in Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Harvey and now, Hurricane Irma. While you might understand how to survive a tornado, what comes after could be your downfall. Additionally, a North Korean EMP attack has grown to become more of a concern. An EMP attack could disable the power grid for years. No power grid means the collapse of society.
Take a moment and consider what happens following an EMP attack or massive hurricane. There is no power. Water sources are undrinkable. Food shortages happen. Those who didn’t prepare, which is most, begin to infiltrate areas where they can rob for survival. The locks on your doors may do you little good when the world becomes a savage place. Imagine sitting in your home with no ability to call police services and having no legitimate firearm at your side. Many tornado shelters come with the ability to install gun rack accessories in them, really think about that for a moment. Imagine coming out of that tornado shelter to looting and criminal behavior unarmed.
This is why every prepper needs to consider the best SHTF gun available.
SHTF Gun – What Considerations Should Be Made
When it comes to choosing a good SHTF gun, you should consider the following:
Cost of gun
I am not going to pretend that price doesn’t matter because it most certainly does. I’ve read a lot of prepper websites that shame preppers who seek out economical SHTF guns. But that’s lame on their part. If you are someone that plans to shoot your SHTF gun all the time, then by all means, you should consider a higher priced experience. But if the biggest use of this gun is just in case SHTF peppered with some training and hobbyist shooting, don’t blow your wad. You can purchase a good SHTF gun for less than $700. It should be noted that the factory iron sights do darn well, but there are also lots of AR-15 Budget optics available to give you even more precision. You can also find some good barrel add-ons using best AR-15 Muzzle Breaks, Flash Hider, Compensators list.
Cost of Ammo
Many people buy guns and then don’t buy ammo. One reason they don’t buy that much ammo is that of ammo cost. You should consider your gun’s caliber for this very reason. Make sure you read my article, .223 vs 5.56 ammo, and learn more about which ammo is right for your gun. The M&P Sport 2 takes both .223 and 5.56 because it is a 5.56 Mil-Spec chamber, but most other AR-15 rifles only take .223. Do your reading! I have a full bullet caliber and ammo guide for more extensive ammunition research.
Availability of Ammo
If ammo shortages are happening, your gun is useless. Without available ammo, you can forget about your SHTF gun having any use at all.
Weight of gun
If the gun is super heavy, how will you carry it if you have to bug out? Weight matters in a bug out bag, it also matters in a gun that strap to yourself.
If the power grid is attacked, you might need to hunt for your food at some point. Try hunting a deer with a small 9mm Glock 43 that fits in your pocket and is only accurate at 20 yards. You might only be able to carry one gun, so you will need to make sure it is super versatile.
M&P Sport 2 Review | My Best SHTF Gun Recommendation
As I stated earlier, this is not a top list style article. And I make no commissions on any sales, you’d have to go to the store in your region to make a purchase anyway. This is simply the gun I believe fits all of the above points.
I believe the AR 15 is the best SHTF gun you can own. And I believe the best budget AR-15 for the money is the M&P Sport 2. I know there are preppers who believe the AK 47 is, among other guns, a worthy option. And I encourage you to read those articles as well. But in the end, I am team AR 15 for a great many reasons.
They fire economical .229 ammo that is readily available. They are light. And, the AR 15 is simply the most accurate short and long range gun you can own. Even a novice can hit the center of a target with it. Additionally, you can improve your AR 15 with red dot optics, scopes and more. So it isn’t as if you are a slave to what you initially buy.
M&P Sport 2 Review | The Brass Tacks
As mentioned earlier, I recommend the Smith & Wesson M&P 15 Sport 2. This is an AR -15 rifle. You can purchase this gun for less than $700 (now you can find them for as low as $499). This makes it affordable for most every prepper. It comes with iron sights and is extremely accurate up to 100 yards using those sights. You could choose to get a scope, but for a SHTF gun, I’d highly recommend a low-level scope because any magnification can cause you to lose short-range targets.
Here’s a better image than mine on the left.
Let’s go over some quick facts to start.
This gun fires .223 ammo and 5.56 ammo. Be careful, guns built for 5.56 allow .223 rounds to be fired through them, but if you buy an AR-15 that is built for .223, you do not want to fire 5.56 through it. You can damage the barrel, the lower components, and may even yourself. The M&P Sport 2 is 5.56, so you can run both versions of ammo through it.
.223 type of ammo is readily available online and in sporting good stores and is as cheap as any ammo out there. This means that you can stockpile ammo. The magazine capacity is 30 rounds (plus 1). This means you can have one in the chamber plus 30 rounds in the magazine. You will need to purchase more magazines, those would be economical as well averaging around $15. This AR 15 comes with iron sights (many AR 15’s force you to spend an extra $30 on them). The gun is made by a big gun manufacturer, Smith and Wesson, allowing them to be economical. They buy parts in volume so they can lower they overall cost of the gun. This AR 15 is extremely accurate (you can watch videos below) and very light weight. You can kill a deer at 200 yards with this gun, no problem.
Yes, you can do a bit better if you spend more money. If you are a prepper that has the means to spend more, go ahead. But if we are talking strictly the best economical SHTF gun, the M&P Sport 2 is unrivaled.
This is the original version, but I like to post this video because it puts on display how darn accurate the M&P Sport is even with just iron sights.
What are the downsides?
The AR 15 is a long gun and much more difficult to conceal. There is no doubt that survivalists will at times want to conceal their firearm. Please check out my concealed carry guide for more information regarding that matter. It is recommended to have a handgun for your bug out bag for this very reason. But I do think the AR 15 is the first firearm a prepper should own. It is super versatile, economical in ammo and initial costs and it simply gets the job done.
Ready my CZ PC-10 C review to learn more about the handgun I think is top conceal carry handgun.
You can take down a deer with an AR-15 in general, but that’s more a testament to accuracy than it is to the ammo’s capability. If you are in a survival situation, you can kill a deer with an AR-15. However, for general hunting, I recommend you go with a .308. Again, this article is about prepping.
For the most part, everything that comes on the M&P Sport 2 is perfect, in my opinion. However, there is one part I’d recommend replacing: The handguard. I will circle it below and explain.
If you open that shell up, it is just plastic. If you fire multiple rounds through it, the lack of metal means the plastic will heat up. If I blow through even one magazine with that guard on, it gets super hot. You can find some awesome Magpul Handguards that are economical as well. They cost as little as $29. Here’s an AR15 handguard guide if you are interested.
Aside from that, this is the best SHTF gun money can buy. If the zombie apocalypse arrives, this AR 15 would serve you very well. Now that you are finished here, head over to my best AR-15 optics guide and start looking into your M&P Sport 2 Optics.
Author: Jim Satney
PrepForThat’s Editor and lead writer for political, survival, and weather categories.
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