Guns For The Apocalypse: Which One(s) Would You Grab?

These days, many people seem to be discussing the “apocalypse” and which weapons would be best to have for the occasion.

What is the apocalypse? Well, if it’s the one spoken about in the Bible, I’m not sure an earthly weapon will suffice. Rather, the word apocalypse seems to be applied to a number of drastic circumstances these days. Some possibilities include droughts, famines, the grid going down, large-scale terrorist attacks, Red Dawn-type scenarios, rioting and social unrest, plagues, and…you get the picture. Look over the past few years, and you’ll have a plethora of dark disasters to choose from. We’re currently having no shortage of drama on our planet.

Many are making preparations for future negative events, including stockpiling weapons. But which ones will you grab for the apocalypse?

I’ll dive right in with a few ideas that I have in mind. Indeed, many other choices are available than what I will name here (I’m just hitting the basics). We’d love to hear some of the different options that readers have, so feel free to sound off in the comments section and let us know about your picks and why you chose them!

The conditions under which we use the weapons might vary greatly. For this list, it is assumed that hostile, aggressive humanoids may very well be the targets. We might have to stop vehicles, as well.

The Candidates for the Apocalypse

While I love exotic weaponry, I don’t own much in that category myself. For me, having common weapons means that parts, as well as magazines and bullets for them, are widely available. Mainstream weapons and ammo mean that there are many sources, and they’re easy and cheap to acquire—at least, they are right now.


America’s Rifle! This one has been around since the 1960s, and it’s going stronger than ever. Yes, people have come up with other designs, but they haven’t knocked the AR-15 out of its popularity slot. The “AR” is simply dug in like a tick on a hound dog and is here to stay. Why?

All the bugs have been worked out. Sure, the original M16 had a few teething pains, but those have been put to rest decades ago. These days, the AR is generally very reliable and dependable.

AR-15 with Leupold scope.
With optics, the AR platform can become very accurate. This Stag Arms carbine with Leupold 1.5-4x scope can shoot one MOA easily. [Photo: Jeremy Charles]
Accessories. There is no end of aftermarket parts and doo-dads that can be bolted, clamped, and velcroed to the AR. Scopes, handguards, rail systems, red dot sights, flash suppressors, muzzle brakes, sound suppressors, pistol grips, stocks, bolt releases, magazine releases…if it’s made in the gun industry, it can be put on an AR-15.

Sights. Aside from possessing outstanding sights, the AR platform typically accepts optics readily, especially those with Picatinny rails. This really facilitates taking advantage of the platform’s accuracy.

Ergonomics. As far as ergonomics are concerned, the AR-15 just doesn’t get any better than the AR-15. The controls are set up so perfectly that it seems they cannot be improved upon. The location of the safety/selector switch is utter perfection. The bolt release and magazine release are also placed in excellent positions.

Accuracy. The AR-15 platform exhibits great accuracy for a military-pattern semi-auto rifle. Factory rifles often shoot close to one MOA without modification.

Caliber. The .223/5.56mm cartridge shoots appreciably flat. At close range, this round creates wicked wounds in the flesh despite being a small projectile.

AR-15 pistol in a car.
AR pistols can be extremely compact, which is a huge advantage when working around vehicles or other confined spaces. The fact that ammo and magazines are plentiful is another significant advantage. [Photo: Rebecca Davis]
In its most popular carbine form these days, the AR-15 is very handy and maneuverable in close quarters. It offers accurate firepower at close range, but it can also reach out to several hundred yards, covering quite a few bases. Magazines and ammunition are currently very available and among the least expensive of any of the semi-auto rifles. This makes it perhaps the best choice for the apocalypse but not the only choice.


Born of a real apocalypse behind the Iron Curtain, the AK-47 has been embraced in America with open arms for a number of reasons.

Accuracy. Okay, well, accuracy isn’t the AK’s strong suit. It’s not an MOA rifle, but it wasn’t designed to be. It was designed to be “good enough”, and it meets that requirement. At realistic ranges, the AK gets the job done. Groups of 4-6 inches at 100 yards are pretty run-of-the-mill. Realistically, this is probably all the accuracy we need.

AK-63D underfolder.
The AK platform has a lot going for it. Among the attributes are durability, reliability, popularity (lots of mags and parts), and it fires a .30 caliber round with decent stopping power. It’s also fairly compact. [Photo: Sue Davis]
Reliability/Durability. This is where the AK really shines and has become legendary. Yes, it’s possible to stop an AK, but it is damn difficult. They can endure months or years of neglect and shrug it off, asking for more. Kalashnikov made the AK with the full knowledge that poorly trained conscripts would be using them. And conscripts aren’t known for their professionalism in cleaning weapons. So, the weapon had to be bomb-proof. If a terrorist living in a cave in Afghanistan can maintain one, you sure can, too.

Ammo/Magazine Availability. Millions upon millions of AKs have been produced, along with tens of millions (maybe more?) of magazines. AK magazines are durable, just like the platform, and tend to last for a long time. For decades, the AK magazines were of the 30-round, steel variety. The Russians developed Bakelite magazines, which were lighter than the steel ones.

AK underfolder with Bulgarian magazines.
The AK underfolder is very compact when the stock is folded. It’s seen here with Bulgarian magazines (they resemble the old Bakelite mags in appearance), which have steel locking lugs for durability. The 7.62x39mm round hits with some authority. Photo: Jim Davis.

These days, there are polymer magazines. Magpul makes a few versions, and they are amazing. I really like their 20-round magazines, as they are shorter and allow more maneuverability. There are also 30-round Bulgarian magazines with steel lugs that are stellar.

The 7.62x39mm round is very available and among the least expensive rifle calibers of today. It fires a 123-grain projectile around 2,350 feet per second and has generally been compared to the American .30-30 round (not an exact match, but it’s in the ballpark). It’s a little over twice as heavy as the M195 5.56mm round, so it hits with some authority. It also penetrates well, so it’s useful against vehicles and barriers.

If you’ll be operating in crude conditions for extended periods without support, the AK is a superb choice. It can operate for a long time with the barest minimum of maintenance.

The downside of the AK is that it takes some effort to mount optics on it if that’s the direction you want to go. Additionally, the iron sights aren’t the best, but within realistic combat distances, they should work just fine.


The M1A is the biggest, heaviest rifle mentioned here. Of course, if you don’t want the full-sized beast for the apocalypse, you could always opt for the Scout Squad Rifle (18-inch barrel) or the SOCOM version (16-inch barrel).

My personal favorite is the Scout Squad version, as it splits the difference while remaining very maneuverable as opposed to the standard M1A. It’s also slightly lighter than the standard model.

M1A Scout Squad rifle from Springfield Armory.
Springfield Armory’s M1A Scout Squad Rifle is the ultimate in maneuverability, durability, reliability, and power, in the author’s opinion. The .308 round has lots of power and the muzzle brake all but eliminates muzzle rise. [Photo: Jim Davis]
The M1A possesses some of the best sights of any rifle in the world, and its accuracy is quite good. Mounting optics on the standard M1A requires some effort. However, the Scout Squad version has a forward Picatinny rail above the barrel, so mounting scout scopes or red dot sights is very easy.

Magazines for the platform are made of steel and are extremely robust. Normally, I stick with the factory mags, as they’re the most reliable and durable. Sometimes, surplus military magazines can be found. 20-round capacity is the most common for the M1A.

The M1A’s .308 round is the absolute king among those compared here today. Its 147-grain round, traveling around 2,750 feet per second, tends to make things happen with whatever it hits. It’s great for ripping holes in vehicles and can decisively take down hostile animals and humans. Heavier rounds are also readily available should you want to hit targets even harder.

The platform is extremely reliable and durable, having been in military service since the 1960s. It was the shortest-lived US general issue battle rifle, but it has soldiered on in one form or another for decades. It’s shown a resurgence in the Middle East, where the 7.62x51mm round reaches out with authority.

One would think that a heavy caliber like the .308 would exhibit a lot of recoil, but such is not the case in Springfield Armory’s M1A Scout Squad rifle; the muzzle brake is amazingly effective at stopping muzzle rise. Having 20 rounds of .308 on tap in a magazine is reassuring to me.

The downside of the M1A is the weight.

Decisions, Decisions: What Do You Pick for the Apocalypse?

It will be up to the users to decide which weapons system best fits their needs. Many will find the availability of magazines and ammunition for the AR-15 supremely attractive. There’s a lot to be said for commonality, especially in an apocalyptic scenario. The AR’s flat-shooting trajectory is also a plus.

The brutal reliability of the AK will appeal to many. And there are a ton of magazines and ammo available for it. I’d say it’s just about as popular and plentiful as the AR, at least where I live. The fact that the 7.62x39mm hits with zeal is not lost on those who use it.

Finally, for the ultimate stopping power and range, the M1A’s .308 round has no peers. Of course, the reliability factor is high, making this a superb choice.

Or, maybe you’re one of those folks with all three in their inventory. Having the best of both worlds (or all three worlds, in this case) is the way to go! Personally, I’d feel okay being armed with any one of these three. What would be your pick for the apocalypse?

Jim Davis served in the PA Dept. of Corrections for 16 ½ years as a corrections officer in the State Correctional Institute at Graterford and later at SCI Phoenix. He served on the Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT), several of those years as a sniper, and also the Fire Emergency Response Team (FERT). For 25 years, he was a professional instructor, teaching topics including Defensive Tactics, Riot Control and Tactical Operations, Immediate Responder, and cognitive programs as an adjunct instructor at the DOC Training Academy. He was then promoted to the title of corrections counselor, where he ran a caseload and facilitated cognitive therapy classes to inmates. His total service time was close to 29 years. He was involved in many violent encounters on duty, including incidents of fatalities. He is a dedicated Christian and attributes any skills that he has to the glory of God.

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