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The Single Most Important Gun to Own and Why

If you could only own one gun, which one would you choose?  A handgun?  A shotgun?  A defensive rifle?  A hunting rifle? Obviously, it only makes sense to want to purchase the most important gun to own first. You never know when a grid down disaster will happen, so disaster may very well strike before you finish building your arsenal.

In this article, I’ll reveal what the most important type of gun is, the reasons behind that, and the qualities you need to look for in a model of that type.


If you ask gun owners or survivalists what they feel the most important all-around gun to own is, the most common answer you will likely get is a pump action shotgun in 12 gauge or 20 gauge.

There’s no denying that a pump shotgun generally is a very versatile and practical weapon, and belongs in any gun collection. When loaded with birdshot, it’s an excellent weapon for clay shooting or bird/small game hunting. Swap out those out with buckshot, and you have one of the most devastating home defense weapons you could ask for.  If you opt to use slugs, you can use it for hunting bigger game such as deer and wild boar.

There’s just one thing that a shotgun can’t do, and that is be concealed adequately on your person.  Okay, you can hide a shotgun on if you’re wearing a big heavy trench coat, but that’s also going to be very suspicious doing that and attract unnecessary attention to yourself (not only from other civilians, but likely from law enforcement officers as well).

The point is that you can’t conceal a shotgun on you while you’re going about your daily life.  Sure you can keep it in your car, but in the event of a robbery at a restaurant or grocery store are you really going to be able to run out to the parking lot to retrieve it?  Most likely not.

This is why the shotgun is not the single most important gun to own. Instead, the most important gun to own is a pistol, and specifically a semi-automatic that can be easily concealed on your person.


First of all, there are many limitations to a pistol that detractors to this argument will bring up.  Pistol rounds can be substantially underpowered compared to rifle rounds and have less velocity coming out of the shorter barrel. But, you can hunt all kinds of game with any caliber of handgun. There are all kinds of hunting you can do with handguns. Jerry Miculek shot a 1000 yard shot accurately with a 9mm S&W revolver, I don’t care who you are, if you are a human and if you get hit with that bullet, you can die.

Maybe everyone can’t make this shot, put this shows it’s possible. Limitations are in the shooter, not the gun. World record shot here:

Bob Munden shot a balloon at 600 yards with a .38 snub nose.

The fact that you can easily conceal a handgun on your person outweighs any negatives, both in your everyday life and in an SHTF disaster scenario.

In your everyday life, the time where you need to use your gun will happen when you least expect it or want it.  It will take you completely by surprise and you will need to act within seconds.  If you do indeed need to use your weapon for self-defense, it’s always going to be easier to reach for the gun under your shirt than it is to run out to your car to grab a long gun (by then, it could be too late).

In other words, you can take your pistol with you wherever you go, which is an advantage over a shotgun or a rifle. At home, you can keep your pistol strapped to your side at all times. There have been many stories of how people will keep a defensive shotgun or rifle in a closet or gun safe, but are then attacked by burglars at the front door and are unable to access that shotgun or rifle.

In contrast to this, with a pistol all you have to do is drop your hand down to your hip, draw the weapon, and fire. So in a way, a pistol is a more convenient home defense weapon than a twelve gauge shotgun is.

In any kind of a disaster, whether it is a terrorist attack, economic collapse, power grid down, or a natural disaster, the pistol will be the most important firearm to have in an SHTF scenario.

Again, you can easily conceal a pistol on your person under your shirt or jacket so that you are reasonably armed without anyone noticing. If dangers arise and you are attacked by raiders or marauders, you can then quickly draw your pistol to defend yourself and your family instead of having to run to where you keep your long gun.


Now that we have established why a pistol is the most important firearm you can own, you might be wondering what the best ones are.  The most versatile is a compact 9mm double stacked pistol.  Let’s talk about why that is.

First of all, you should opt for a semi-automatic over a revolver. Semi-autos hold far more bullets in the magazine and reload faster. In a defensive situation where you have multiple attackers coming at you, having 15 or so rounds in your magazine will be better than having 5 or 6 in a cylinder. It takes far less time to slam in a new magazine and rack the slide than it does to swing out the cylinder, eject the spent shells, load in new shells either individually or with a speed loader, and close the cylinder again. The pistol is simply a more advanced design than the revolver and better suited for the 21st Century.

Secondly, your semi-automatic should ideally be chambered for 9mm over other popular calibers such as .40 S&W or .45 ACP. There are a couple of reasons for this.  9mm is far cheaper and more plentiful than either of those two options, so you’ll save quite a bit of money in stockpiling ammo. This also makes the 9mm a more appealing option for those on a budget.

The 9mm also offers less recoil than .40 or .45 ACP, and since it’s smaller in size and diameter, you can pack more bullets in each magazine. While the 9mm FMJ is not the ideal pistol round for self-defense, with the jacketed hollow point self-defense loads it offers plenty of stopping power.

You should also aim to make your 9mm pistol, a compact double stacked model similar size to the Glock 19.  This way, your pistol will be small enough to conceal on your person and yet offer enough firepower to defend yourself against multiple attackers (double stacked magazines always hold more rounds than single stacks do).

Examples of specific pistols that fit these criteria include the Glock 19 or 26, Walther PPQ, Taurus PT111 G2, Smith & Wesson M&P Compact, Bersa Thunder 9mm Compact, Ruger SR9 Compact, Beretta 92FS Compact, Beretta Px4 Storm Compact, and the SIG Sauer P320 Compact.

When selecting a specific pistol to buy, the best piece of advice that can be given is to go to your local sporting goods store and hold several models in your hand.  Just because one particular pistol is ergonomic to someone doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be for you as well, and you’ll never know until you actually hold them.


Is the pistol the only gun that you should own? No. Guns are like tools in a toolbox, meaning there is no one gun that does everything for you. But, if you can only own one gun it should be a pistol. The very fact that you can easily conceal a pistol on you and travel with it will be very big advantages in your day-to-day life and in a disaster grid down situation.

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About Nick Oetken

Nick Oetken

Nick Oetken is a prepper, outdoor enthusiast but, most of all, he is our in-house firearms expert. Look out for his articles on guns to find out which ones you need for your survival.


  1. Sound reasoning for both choice and what to look for. If you live in countries where owning military rounds is against the law, that choice can cost you if caught.

    The 9mm is an extremely easy round to find for sale. Stock up for both future and present needs, no guarantees it will be around forever.

  2. Too many assumptions in your article to make it valid. 12-ga shotgun rounds are even more common than 9-mm rounds. Cheaper, too.
    The fact that one man made a 1000-yd shot with a pistol carries no weight with the the millions of people who can’t make that shot. That is no reason to forsake a long-barrelled gun for a pistol.
    You say that the need to use a gun will be unexpected. That’s just another assumption. I can think of many instances in which the need can be seen in advance and so can you.
    Let’s see you kill a flying dove or goose with a pistol. Only a one-in-a-million expert like Miculek can make that shot.
    If I’m going to face down a mob of rioters/looters a shotgun is more intimidating, more powerful and more effective.
    A pistol has only one advantage: the ability to hide it. A shotgun has far more advantages.

    • I’m going to disagree with you Mr. Gray on the “If I’m going to face down a mob of rioters/looters a shotgun is more intimidating, more powerful and more effective.” statement. Or, at least the spirit of it, because there is no doubt that a shotgun is more powerful and versatile than a pistol.

      Your shotgun, stock, only holds 5 rounds, maybe 8 if you got the extended magazine tube. Your Pistol, stock, holds 17 rounds, or 30 if you get an extended magazine. And frankly, against a MOB of people, what you really want is an escape route. If you’re going to try and fight them off, you’re going to need a rifle, because 5 shotgun rounds isn’t enough, and 17 pistol rounds have inferior stopping power (as compared to a long gun).

      As for a shotgun being more intimidating, I’d say that having any gun pointed at you is plenty intimidating. I doubt a person that would ignore a pistol pointed at them would suddenly stop for a shotgun.

      • Your pistol may old 17 or 30 rounds but each “round” of 12 ga buckshot carries 9 pellets of equal size. 8×9 is 72 lead balls down range as opposed to 30 and fired at a much higher rate of speed. The fact is that a shotgun sends more lead down range faster than any other gun.

        As far as the “conceal ability” factor. I also carry a concealed handgun on a daily basis but, if we were WROL I would definitely be walking down the street with a long gun.

      • Well I would have to disagree with you about the intimidation factor. To be honest if a person was pointing a 9 at me from short distance I may try to take it from them. There is a good chance they will miss as if i remember even trained LEO miss at short distance about 40% of the time and an untrained person about 70% of the time. The other factor is that unlike in the movies a single shot from that 9 is not likely to kill or stop a charging man with one round. A 12 gauge at the same distance is going to give someone a better hit ratio and a load of buckshot from 10 feet is a sure man stopper. I might try the hand gun but not the shotgun. JMHO

  3. A Russian or Yugoslavian AK 47 is my choice for these reasons-
    Will not jammed
    More lead
    less maintenance
    Effective range about 300 meters

  4. I agree the handgun is best for self defense but the shotgun is more versatile for survival, I think the semi auto handgun out ways the revolver for personal defense but for an all around defense and survival handgun I would choose the Smith and Wesson Governor or the Taurus Judge, the capability of using multiple ammunition types makes it perfect for SHTF scenarios, you could defend yourself with the .45 caliber round or hunt small game with the shotgun shell capability and in the event you could get close enough even larger game with the .45 rounds, all of this would be in that SHTF case, for every day carry I choose the 9mm double stack handgun because of capacity mine holds 17 and because 9mm is the most common used round making it easier to obtain ammo when it becomes hard to find.

  5. glenn USCCA certified instructor

    hello. my name is Glenn and I am a ceritified USCCA instructor. while the trend is to lean towards semi-autos, I have to disagree. a revolver is a more versatile handgun and can be used with ammo loaded to varying power levels. what if you have to load your own and must stretch the powder supply, the revolver will still work, the semi-auto will not. a good medium frame 357 mag will handle 38specials, be them wadcutters or +p’s plus full power 357 loads. and you could have that gun with a short barrel for concealment. with an exposed hammer spur, you can take carefully aimed shots, or shoot quick double action shots. if you loosed your magazines, you have a semi-auto single shot, or, an auto ejecting single shot. but a revolver does not need any device to load the cylinder. it is nice to have them but the gun will still function without them.

    • Glenn, as another CCW instructor for the past 21 years, I agree with you. Except that I daily carry a “semi” but my backup home defense rests with the 357 Colt Trooper special and a 12 ga. pump operated Winchester Model ’97 as backup.

      For those who do not know: the Model ’97 was known back in the WWI days as a “Trench Gun”, used to “clean out the enemies trenches. Germany filed a “formal complaint” against the USA and attempted to stop US Forces from using it. [We laughed at that.] It was THAT effective.

      Once fired all the operator had to do was hold the trigger fully back and pump in the next shell, it will immediately fire that round.

  6. To each his own. Yes, I have a S&W 9mm, a few long guns, and shotguns. For everyday carry, it’s a S&W snubby 38 for me. No messing with racking, just pull and shoot. Also, very small and light, can actually hide uner a loose tee shirt. If I’m in need of more than 5 rds in an emergency situation, I’m in a world of hurt. Break into my house, and you’ll meet the 9, the pump shotgun, or a 30 round ‘clip’ of 5.56. Depends which room I’m in.

  7. There are several things to consider 1) in a real world situation it is what you have with you at the time that can make a difference . Somehow i do not think that you will be able to carry a shotgun around with you on your person and not end up in jail as they are rather hard to conceal .2) as to type of ammo weather you choose a 9mm a or a 40 s & w the second factor is the LEO’s what type of common ammo do they use as it will also be available .and what you train with !! if you have little or no problem shooting a 45 cal the a 40 / 9 becomes quite easier to handle. with a S.H.T.F. YOU ARE LIMITED FIRST TO WHAT YOU CARRY LEGALLY! Then to what and when you can upgrade to even more firepower !!

    check out double tap ammo they have a round that packs 2 bullets in each cartridge .

  8. Jerry Miculek is definitely a great shooter, one of the best of all time. He did show the bullet impact on the steel plate that was backing the balloon in its place, which was quite a bit off center from the size and location of the balloon. I would say it was the bullet “spray” on impact that actually broke the balloon. Nevertheless, hitting the plate with a 9mm at that distance is a terrific shot. I attend water balloon shoots on a monthly basis. Last year they had a special event of a 1″ dia. ball hung by a piece of fish line at 100 yds. I paid to take 5 shots at it with my Thompson/Center Contender in .223 caliber. I hit it on the 4th shot from the OFFHAND shooting position. I’m the only one that hit the ball with a handgun, few have done it with a rifle, myself being one. Don’t know if I’ll live long enough to do it again.

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