What Are the Best Guns for Your Bug out Bag?

I and other authors have discussed BOBs and their use, packing and such thoroughly here on The Survivalist Blog and elsewhere. One thing that does not get too much critical analysis is what kind of firearm you should keep in your BOB.

Don’t misunderstand: there is plenty of discussion about the guns themselves as they relate to the BOB, like the fact you should have a dedicated firearm or supplementary firearm as part of your BOB loadout. Rifle, shotgun or pistol? What caliber? How much ammo, etc. All good and worthy considerations for a BOB gun.

More rarely do I see conversations get into more nitty gritty detail about the why of it all, and what we need that BOB to do for us. Things don’t happen in a vacuum, and it is very easy for gun guys (your author here included) to get lost in the weeds on the gun’s merits versus the gun as it fits the mission of the BOB. Remember, the mission drives equipment selection.

In this article, I’ll be reexamining the selection of a gun for your BOB, and hopefully give you a few additional points of consideration that might help you make a decision based on practicality, not wants.

The Basics of Guns and BOBs

This article will not be a detailed dissertation on BOBs, except as their use and equipage relates to our topic today. If you need to spin up on the ins and outs of selecting, packing and using a BOB, you will find plenty of info here and elsewhere.

For most preppers, selecting a gun for their BOB is hardly given much thought. That’s forgivable, because the most obvious solutions seem to make the most sense, and indeed they do much of the time! The usual choice for a BOB is either a person’s daily carry pistol (and hence often just some extra magazines or ammo in the BOB with the assumption being the person is never without their handgun), or a long gun of some type, usually a rifle but often a shotgun.

Both methods make sense: if you carry a handgun absolutely everywhere, it stands that some spare ammo is usually carried on or about the body with it. Usually a single spare mag, or speedloader or handful of loose cartridges if a revolver is carried. Taking that a step further any person grabbing a BOB preparing to escape would want even more ammo on tap with their other supplies.

Quite a few preppers decide rightly that desperate times call for bigger guns than a little bang-bang, and choose to kit out their BOB with a long gun. The long gun will either be attached or inside the BOB or kept next to it ready to grab and skedaddle. The long gun will have ammunition stored inside the BOB, on the outside of the BOB in pouches or inside a chest rig or other load-bearing equipment with the BOB.

Another decision that is hard to argue with, as long guns are tools for decisively solving serious social problems efficiently, whereas handguns are weapons of convenience we rely on because they are easy to carry and conceal. The only rub with a long gun is that they are large, heavy and have correspondingly heavy ammo. Both will gobble up space in your BOB that might be better spent on other life-support equipment.

Ounces make pounds and all that. BOB’s that are fully kitted up can easily tip 50 lbs. So you must consider how much space and weight you can spare for an additional (if any) gun and ammo before dumping 10 loaded magazines in there.

guns and mags

Gun Considerations

Selecting a gun for a BOB is not always done purely on the basis of self-defense. Some folks consider the fact that bugging out at all means they may not be coming back for a long time, if at all, and choose to arm themselves with a firearm that will also lend itself well to putting food on the table.

Others see two-legged animals as the single biggest threat and justification for going forth armed at all, and so optimize their choices based on that. No animal on earth is as dangerous as another human being.

To be fair, you can certainly use any given gun for both tasks; it is usually the accoutrement and additional equipment on the gun (sights, scopes, lights) that help classify it as a “hunting” or “tactical” gun. It is entirely possible to have one gun that will do both well so long as you have the ability.

No matter which flavor you choose, the core characteristics you are searching for remain the same. The once characteristic any gun must possess to be considered is it must be mechanically reliable and of robust, durable design. There is an awful lot we can argue over, all day and all night, so long as that one element is achieved.

A major SHTF event is no time to doubt that your firearm will perform as expected in all times and in all conditions. Make sure your chosen gun works without question, no exceptions!

Keeping a Gun in the Car as Part of a Bug-Out Plan

I have noticed an increasing trend among civilians these days who profess a desire to keep a long gun in their car, or already do. The reasons for this vary, of course, and I have heard everything from being “ready” for the next mass spree killer to simply having the gun prepacked in the family battle van to speed up bugging out should the time come.

It is this later answer that concerns us, as it does make a certain amount of sense. If you are evacuating in a certain vehicle, anything that is already in the vehicle does not have to be loaded in the vehicle when the time to get out Dodge is nigh. Seconds spent grabbing and loading do count during a crisis, believe that.

Cars and many trucks also have the advantage of being able to keep a long gun and other goodies out of sight in a trunk or under a rear bench seat instead of attached visibly to a pack or carried to the vehicle in your hands or over a shoulder.

This again makes sense, but you must consider the risks prior to committing to keeping a gun in your car full time. I’ll say this as clearly as possible: cars are not secure storage containers for firearms! Cars get broken into all the time. Consider anything in the passenger compartment to be lost if this occurs, barring you have installed an aftermarket safe or strongbox. The trunk is somewhat better when it comes to smash and grab robberies but this does not help you if the car is stolen.

Do you really want to risk your guns falling into the hands of criminals for any purpose? Think long and hard before you decide to forgo keeping the gun on your person and under your control by leaving it in a vehicle at all times.

Firearms for Bugging Out

The following recommendations for firearms suitable for bugging out are my own, and I have provided my case for all of them below. Understand everyone has their own opinion for this, and my choices are not the end-all, be-all of guns for disaster readiness. I hope my explanations of why for each of them give you much food for thought on your own choices.

I enjoy arguing the merits and comparative advantages of all kinds of guns and related equipment as much as anyone and I firmly believe that while there may not be a tip top true “best” in any category, since we have so many good choices, there will always be plenty of choices that are clearly superior to many of their competitors. Use the same critical analysis to inform your own selection but remember ultimately that what matters most is that you know what you are doing with your gun, and the gun itself is reliable, loaded and close at hand when you need it.

Consider the following options for your dedicated Bug-Out Bag gun…

Full-size or Compact Handgun

Includes quality holster, magazine carriers and spare magazines. It may seem counter intuitive to include only a handgun in your BOB vs. a long gun, and especially if you already carry a handgun daily, but it makes a lot of sense from the perspective of bugging out.

One, many folks don’t carry a true fighting handgun as their EDC piece. They carry something smaller, less robust, or even something that uses a suboptimal caliber for convenience and ease of carry. When the balloon goes up you may want to maintain a low profile, including staying concealed, versus having long gun where everyone can see it. That being said you will also want a gun you can kick some ass with, and a proper service handgun is just the ticket.

The best guns in this category have excellent service records and reputations for reliability and shooter friendliness. Many of them will be able to mount a WML in an appropriate holster, increasing their capability. Their reliability, capacity, and ruggedness make them a major asset in hostile conditions. The ability to hide them again while keeping them close at hand is a major perk only a handgun offers.

Their ammo and magazines are lighter and take up less space than rifle cartridges or shotshells, allowing you to pack in more of both for the same weight and space envelope.

Consider a Glock, Smith & Wesson M&P, Beretta M9/92, CZ P-07 or P-10, H&K P30 or VP9, or quality 1911.

.22 Handgun with Optic and Suppressor

I can hear you now: “Charles, wait just a damn minute! You just got done riffing on people who carry a small caliber handgun, and now you are recommending one! What gives?!” Right you are, reader, you caught me.” But hear me out anyway. When I am recommending a .22 pistol as part of a BOB, it is as a system designed to do many things well.

Compared to your average tiny mousegun kept in a pocket or ankle for concealed carry, there is nothing small or svelte about a fullsize .22 handgun. Consider a Ruger 22/45 or Mark IV, or a Browning Buckmark. They are light, yes, and that is part of the recommendation, but they are not small. So what else do they bring to the table? Simple: a modern .22 LR handgun shoots like a house on fire and can be kitted out with accessories that make it a viable problem-solving tool across many domains.

For instance, a Ruger 22/45 with an MRDS and suppressor is a frightfully quiet, lightweight, accurate and reliable tool for hunting, or self defense without attracting too much attention. The .22 is not a particularly effective cartridge but it is certainly lethal and dangerous with the right load. You will not be conquering the wasteland with it but it will turn an attacker room temperature if you do your part.

The other major perk of this system is how light and compact the ammo is. You can carry 500 rounds in the space of 150 rounds of 9mm or .40S&W. The magazines themselves are super light and thin, so you can carry plenty of them.

Oh, and I hear a few of you out there going nuts over the purported reliability, rather lack thereof, of rimfire ammo. You cannot be blamed for thinking that, for the longest time it was true, and still is if you buy cheap as can be big box ammo. If you buy quality .22 and load it into a quality pistol, you will probably be surprised at how reliable the system can be.

So grab some subsonics, high-velocity and some general purpose rounds in between and you’ll be all set for surviving when you bug-out.

Consider a Ruger 22/45 or Mark IV, Smith & Wesson SW22, or Browning Buckmark.

Ruger Mini 14 Ranch Rifle

Rifle or Shotgun

When you really need to get work done with a gun, you leave the handguns put away. Rifles and shotguns both have more than enough power to decisively neutralize human attackers if you do your part, and also exhibit far greater range and hit potential than handguns. Another bonus is their typically greater performance against all kinds of intermediate barriers, perhaps most importantly vehicle glass and bodywork.

Whatever long gun you choose, make sure you think carefully about how much ammo to include, as it gets heavy fast. A few loaded AR or AK magazines take up lots of space and add significant weight. That ammo may not last as long as you think. Shotguns are great for mulching highwaymen and rioters up close, or crunching into cars with slugs, but their ammo is so bulky and heavy your will necessarily be limited on rounds you have available.

If you are not using a magazine fed design, ammo management will be an issue, as loose rounds will need to be contained in pouches, holders and other accoutrement for ready feeding into the gun. Keeping ammo in their factory boxes, while protective, is a poor use of space in your BOB.

That being said, when the chips are down and it is time to fight, you’ll be glad you are toting a long gun instead of a handgun alone. No other tool you can carry can put down a bad guy quite like they can.

Consider a quality AR or AK, or a lever action rifle.


Bugging Out often means bringing a gun as well. You are wise to do so, as desperate people and criminals alike may wait on your path to safety when society gets turned upside down. All the varied types of guns have advantages and disadvantages. It is up to you to choose which ones will serve you best, and then work to minimize its weaknesses.

16 thoughts on “What Are the Best Guns for Your Bug out Bag?”

  1. I grew up in Honduras Central America in a frontier town. Because it was illegal t own guns of high caliber everyone owner .22 rifles or shot guns for hunting. I remember the local Indians coming to my home and barrow the 22 rifle from my father and two (2) rounds of ammo, because they were going hunting for dear. They usually returned the gun the following day or two and my father would get a leg in return. Most of the time he also got one of the rounds back. In 1969 i was inducted in the Honduran Army in the now famous “Soccer War’. Since we had no ammunition and rifles to go around, I purchased a Ruger, 22 Long rifle and spend the rest of the war carrying one. I never run out of ammo.

  2. 1st off, i have never owned a gun, but i have shot many different types, shotguns, handguns, AR-15 etc.
    BUT not often.
    2nd i have been reading about guns/types/pros/cons for a couple years now, and done some stuff to expand my options considerably.
    That said, i don’t have the money to buy an AR-15, and if i save and get one, how long will i be able to keep it?
    not new gun laws, but because of its viability.
    So I have come up with 2 options, that honestly im very surprised i don’t see them on lists like this, and i would love any feedback/opinions on my choices as im gonna purchase soon.
    1st and AR-7, used by pilots US air force in case they got shot down, you can disassemble it without tools, all parts fit inside the waterproof stock, so you can throw in in a backpack, its a 22lr/semi, great for food, etc etc.,
    2nd the ruger CLP II, a .380 “pocket pistol” for concealed carrying.
    im 5’6 150lbs, so not huge, i definitely don’t want to attract any attention, but want to stay safe, and living.
    both those would be used to compliment my current options, like bear spray, cattle prods, plastic knives (no metal detectors) knife belt buckle, which will compliment my newly learned skills like lock picking skills, making things from trash (stuff easy to scavenge anyway) like a aquaponics system to grow my own food- when i woke up, i was originally panicked, felt i was very very late to reality, without money for bug out locations, vehicles, stockpiles, etc. i decided the only way for me was to find alternative ways to do everything.
    now after a couple years, i have to say i think it was a blessing in disguise, when the SHTF, it makes me more of a “wild card” for predicting what/where i will up to, I think anyway.
    i really think more sites should focus on options for the lower income crowd, as we know that is a demographic growing daily and fast, but a SHTF scenario in the USA, is only just the begining, it will also happen worldwide, and most cant afford basic things as it is now.

    • joe blow:

      FYI, the current AR-7 (and it’s recent past derivavtives) are not the same as the Air Force one. Those are VERY rare and in 22 Hornet vs. 22 LR as I recall.

      Make sure you run several hundred rounds of various brands of ammo through it. I found that mine was very particular on which ammo it likes (Winchester Power Points seem to be the favorite with my 22’s), as some of the bargan/bulk ammo does not consistantly feed. The same with magazines; I couldn’t see why, but some spares worked and some didn’t.

      I have an LCP C (red metal trigger) and it actually has a semplance of sights on it. The early ones didn’t. I have been impressed with it’s reliability and the way it “throws” the brass quite a disance from you, so I feel that will help with “failure to extract” loads.

      I word of warning, do not get one with the laser built in. If you want a laser spend the extra money on a CTC (Crimson Trace) one that goes under the frame and over the trigger guard. The built in, and several of the aftermarket, one push side to side. You can accidentally turn it on in a pocket or purse and not knnow it. Then when you need it, the battery is dead.

      • THanks for your reply, i just saw it, thanks to a notification from rudys message (below). things have sure gone sideways since i posted that though! and actually i am approx 3 weeks out from my gun purchase, i actually have some money to spend, but i think the big factor for me will be options, in addition my thinking has shifted somewhat, 1st i really liked the LCP but everyone gives it crap from being a .380, so i decided to go to a 9mm, i was thinking a glock 43+a micro roni to go with it, but recently also really like the kimber micro 9 (allthough i saw a test where it malfunctioned after a guy poured handfulls of dirt in it-in a simulation of dropping it, wrestling with it in dirt in high stress situation) but they also make a evo sp, the same style, just more $, but the same tester called it ultra reliable after 1k +rounds w/o a malfunction. also the micro roni company was founder by a former israeli special forces guy, and as israel seems to have a hand or 2 in every evil thing going on in the world today, im not too keen on sending them 1 cent.
        also i possibly have another limiting factor, im not sure it would be wise to get a new-anything if that would just give my name and address up for a confiscation, inmy state AZ, you can buy from people without paperwork-im not sure if thats legal everywhere. alot of the stuff ive seen though is highly overpriced from individuals (im guessing for that exact reason) so in addition i was thinking maybe a 80% AK, I have shit the AR, and have no doubt its better than the AK, but the reliability of the AK is a big plus for me. also the AR7s i was thinking of is still an option, but i was thinking of one from henry they are 250, and do all the things i mentioned, the hornets-i have no idea what those are, so no idea if they are the same.
        and finally on sights for the handgun, no lasers for me, the kimber micro9 has fibre optic night sights that every review ive seen the people rave about them-som something along those lines.
        oh and finally 2, there is a glock 43 mod, so the handle folds down on itself-with the clip in the gun, making it square, so it doesnt print like a gun, and the micro roni does the same, and with the glock installed giving you a small rectangle item that can be quickly unfolded if need be-i really like that-but then again i have no idea how practical that might be-or not.
        anyway thanks for your reply, i really look forward to any options you might have on any of the above thoughts as i have few people to run this stuff by! hopefully quicker than i respoded to you!

        • joe blow:

          Personally, I’d stay away from “gimmicks” on my guns. More stuff to go wrong. One of the things I really like about Glocks is the small parts count, about 30 on a 17/19. Less stuff to go wrong. Also, I don’t like electronics on my gun where it won’t function if the battery dies. I use Tritium Fiber-Optic sights as my primary. I have a light on my EDC (a TLR-6) and holsters are readily available for guns with it on.

          One thing people have a tendency to overlook is there is more to an EDC gun than the gun. You need a quality holster, you need spare magazines, you my want a light, etc. They “save” money on a gun, then spend it plus on getting the rest of what they need.

  3. you forgot to mention home reloads for ammo, i just took a raccoon last week with homemade powder and lead from airgun pellets, wax on the pellets would make them slugs. shotgun ammo may be bulky but its very easy to make powder and primer and reload them. rifle ammo is a lot more demanding

  4. On the subject of firearms and BOB’s I live a different lifestyle than many. Our only reason to Bug Out would be for a temporary event like a noxious gas cloud from a wrecked truck upwind from this location, and in the 34 years we’ve been living here, that has not yet occurred.
    We do pack a BOB / Vehicle kit that we carry, with the contents varied slightly for the season.
    I strong>always carry one or more handguns (.380 auto / .38 Special / 9mm / .22 RF) with extra loaded magazines; but, for long trips out of the county I’ll also pack a long gun with extra ammunition. That is most likely to be a Remington 870 .410 bore pump shotgun, or either the Savage .22/.410 or .22 WMR /20 gauge over under combinations, each of which easily break down for easy packing. The 870 can also be broken down; but, is a lot more work.
    My thoughts are that in a pinch, any gun with which you have proficiency, is better than no gun.

    • I have a 10/22 with a folding stock. Not as compact as anew ruger take down ,but I own my 10/22 so I use it. My Marlin 70 is also the same reason. I am saving up for a45 auto.

  5. I think a sub compact 9mm would work well for unban settings. If rural travel was the order and game was possible the .22 would get the nod. A whole lot has to go wrong before it’s “ok” to walk around with a long gun. A rifle in view will get a lot of negative attention.

    • Mechanic,

      A whole lot has to go wrong before it’s “ok” to walk around with a long gun. A rifle in view will get a lot of negative attention.

      That depends on where you live. Around here, we see people with rifles out and about all of the time. In a city setting I suspect that would be a lot different.

  6. Well…

    I still like my .357 revolver and trapper rifle. Enough gun to get me out or trouble, not enough for me to get “Rambo” syndrome. Common ammo, easier availablility, even in tough times.

    I have a SR22 and a suppressor, both fit in a combo hoster, if I desire to take it. Small game accuracy at 50′.

  7. How lethal is a .22? My Dad once shot at a dog at a 1/4 mile to scare it. He scared it all right, the dor moved at the wrong time and it died 3 days later. I worked in the stockyards section of a packing house for awhile and we used a single shot rifle and pistol to put sick and crippled animals. Sometimes the distance would be a matter of inches and then again with mean or crippled beef criter, it would be a matter of about 15 feet or so. though the years I worked with different people that bragged about spot lighting deer, they used all the way from a .22 lr to a .22 magnum to a 5mm magnum, they said that it worked every time. The lowly .22 lr will work if you know what you are doing, but then again you might just be damn lucky. Just use some common sense ( although it seems that common sense is in really short supply lately )

    • a,
      As you indicate, it would be a matter of where you hit the target.
      Statistically, people hit with .22 often survive the initial wounds; but, succumb to shock and infection later. I have several doctor friends who tell me about a .22 striking the skull, and then travailing under the skin, down the skull, across the shoulder, and down into some other place like the arm or the back. Since .22 RF & .22 WMR are externally lubricated, that waxy lubrication along with all of the fuzz and other dirt & debris sticking to it, makes a long internal wound path, that is actually a long bloody infection path, that is hard and painful for the E.R. docs to clean out. Blood loss and sepsis are often the reason for the demise of the victim.
      Assuming the idea of defense is to stop the threat and need not be automatically lethal, which fits all of the self defense laws I know, a volley of .22 fired at soft target areas like the face, groin, or knee, may be all that is required. This would mean my Ruger Mark II or MNP22 might be a good choice; but, my Ruger “Single Six” , probably not, except for a very last desperate resort.
      Another thing to consider would be the difference between my MNP22, a Browning Buckmark, and the Ruger Mark series in how quickly you can god a magazine swap. The Mark series has that cumbersome release on the bottom of the grip, that I find much harder to operate in a hurry than any of my other semi auto handguns.

  8. consider TWO lw, compact pistols, such as a 15 oz, 6″ long Kahr CM9 9mm. 370 ft lbs per shot, if loaded with CorBon’s 100 gr jhps, 1350+ fps from 3″ barrels. Then add a 3.5″ long suppressor to the 6.5″ long S&W 2214. Accurate, reliable, SLOW/awkard thumb safety, but this is not your re-active gun.



    or a silenced shorty AR with a Ciener .22lr conversion unit


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