Best SHTF Gun: The Ultimate Survival Tool Revealed!

A Glock 19

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 word Anarchy on a brick wall.

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

A Glock 19 ejecting a spent shell casing

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.

Mid-Sized Pistol

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.

Double-Stack Magazine

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.

9mm Advantage

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.

9mm bullets


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.

Non-Glock Options

AR 15 Semi-Automatic Rifle

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.

Pump Action Shotgun

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.”.

Got Feedback?

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!

Additional Resources:

Brian Duff

Brian Duff

Brian Duff is a former firefighter-paramedic, Army Ranger, diplomatic protection specialist, and international security director. Brian’s preparedness experiences range from his time as a paramedic in Southern California and his service with the 75th Ranger Regiment to spending over a decade overseas, eventually managing the U.S. Embassy security forces in Baghdad, Iraq. Upon returning to the U.S., he directed a $1.25 billion government security program. As a lifelong preparedness advocate, PTSD survivor, author, and founder and host of the Mind4Survival website and podcast, Brian draws on his lifetime of near misses, close calls, and lucky mistakes to advance his crusade for empowering people to become more safe, confident, and self-reliant.

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  1. Bob on September 17, 2023 at 7:34 pm

    Glock HahhHa. No.

  2. Konrad Arflane on September 17, 2023 at 7:39 pm

    Sorry, Glocks have the pointability of a brick and no external safety. I will not own a striker fire pistol without also having an external safety…too many issues with negligent discharges in use, holstering and drawing. Keeping the discussion to 9mm for the reasons cited, I’ll take a Hi Power Detective model over a glock any day. 15+1 with KRD mags, eminent pointability (it becomes an extension of your hand)…just be sure to have a smith remove the mag safety, if you can’t do it yourself, as it interferes with a smooth trigger pull. Carried cocked and locked it’s every bit (if not more so) as safe and concealable as a glock, and just as reliable.

    That said, my current EDC is a Ruger Max 9, 10+1 with a flush fit mag, extended 12 round mag in abeyance…if 23 rounds can’t handle a current situation, then we are definitely into SHTF scenarios. In that case the Ruger 57 comes out…20+1 in a drop leg holster, because no one’s gonna give a sh*t about concealment any longer, but either the Max 9 or the HP will still be my backups. While the Max 9 is striker fired, there is a model with a manual safety…the 57 has an internal hammer, but also available in a manual safety equipped version.

    My 2 cents…YMMV

  3. First Sergeant on September 18, 2023 at 10:12 am

    Revolvers… bad. What absolute nonsense.

  4. Brad Fowlet on September 18, 2023 at 9:29 pm

    Springfield Armory—-Period

    Current carry pistol is the SA Hellcat Pro
    Small, concealable, 15 round mag with one in the chamber. Excellent!!

  5. JollyPirate on September 19, 2023 at 2:51 pm

    What is the best SHTF gun?
    The one that fits you ergonomically in a caliber you can shoot effectively.
    What is the obsession of carrying concealed during SHTF? Selco of the Balkans civil war, hand guns were around but long guns ruled the day. You dont bring a knife to a gun fight, you dont bring a handgun to a civil war. And normalize open carry. SHTF! If there is no functioning government outside of a remote bunker, gather with your neighbors, form your own set of rules one of them being legalizing open carry for those mentally and physically competent. Who is going to object? SHTF! If everyone in the neighborhood is open carrying not only a handgun but a long gun just might be a whole lot more secure than not. Think of it this way, perception is reality right? Your neighborhood, everyone concealed carry looks like a gun-free zone. The next neighborhood over, everyone is open carrying. Who would present a softer target for a few truck loads of bad guys, all with ARs?

  6. Paul Copsey on September 19, 2023 at 3:07 pm

    Thinking a smaller handgun in 9mm would be best for my daughter, I bought her a Ruger LCP. She hated it. Our CCW instructor let her try his Glock 9mm. She loved it. Point: If a somewhat proficient shooter is so quickly won over by the weight, recoil, comfort and ease of shooting of any pistol, good !
    If you rise from the semi-proficient shooter status. Better! Get a bigger/badder pistol. If you don’t, Best! Stay there and improve your skills on what you like.
    It’s all fun and games till someone blows their big toe off.
    Enjoyed reading the varied opinions…All good.
    Thanks Bri.

  7. 1stMarineJarHead on September 19, 2023 at 5:58 pm

    In the end, let’s go with the Mind4Survival definition of SHTF:
    “An event of a situation that overwhelms services and resources,”

    We get to that point, a pistol is not going to be my primary weapon.

    ” . . . resulting in a collapse of civil order and society.”

    What I will be carrying, openly, will be a long gun of my choice, that I am well familiar with, chambered in a round that can do most of what I need it to do. I need that round to be able to put meat on the table. I can use my own handloads for small game, varmints, medium sized and even large game. I need a round that can be used for self-defense and anti-material to a degree with what bullets I have on hand. No AP rounds here.
    A pistol will be my secondary carry, on a holster that fits with most situations. Might be a leg rig. Might be a OWB on my hip or at the 5-o-clock position. Might be a SOB.
    What is the best pistol? The one that fits your hand/s the best. The one you shoot well. The one you enjoy shooting. You will more likely shoot that one well than a pistol you dont like at all. If that is a revolver and you can shoot it well, that is better than something you dont like and do not shoot well with.

    Who do I look for . . . not the guy with the tricked out AR15 that takes 5 or 6 shots to hit the target unless he is shooting off a concrete bench, rifle locked in a lead sled. Then he is a great shot.
    The guy I look for is the one who can pick up any rifle, familiarize himself with the trigger and action. Then shot from field positions with a 90% first round hit rate.
    That is the guy I want next to me when SHTF.
    That is the guy we should all be striving to be.

  8. Sherlok on September 19, 2023 at 8:17 pm

    Shooting Colt 1911s for 60 years. Thousands of rounds in Bullseye competition. Glocks are bricks.

  9. Fred on September 24, 2023 at 8:50 pm

    I’ve been shooting handguns for over 50 years, starting with the 1911, which I still own. I have owned and shot almost every well known pistol over the years, but the Glock will always be my go to gun when times are bad. The 19X is my favorite but the 19 is a close second.

  10. Joel on September 26, 2023 at 9:33 am

    Love my Glocks, as well as other platforms I have. Another advantage is Glock is that double-stack 9mm varieties are the most common for law enforcement across the country. While there are some SIG or Springfield agencies, the majority are still Glock. In a true worst case SHTF situation, that may equate to magazines and ammo available for scrounging. I also appreciate that magazines, even OEM, are generally less expense than other manufacturers, affording the ability to stock up with less out-of-pocket outlay. If we were in that situation, each of my family members would have a Glock pistol and several would have long guns, a combination of shotguns and AR-15 rifles.

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