How to Build a Complete Survival Armory for Less Than $500

Any wise prepper knows that security is one of the biggest priorities regarding disaster preparedness and that having a basic armory of guns for survival is necessary for that security plan. That being said, prepping is not cheap, and guns are certainly no exception.

If you’re currently in a financial position where you can’t spend a lot of money on prepping, you may think that putting together an effective survival armory is not an option for you right now.

guns and mags
guns and mags

On the contrary, it’s perfectly possible to put together a complete survival armory for $500 or less. Obviously, this means that you’ll have to limit the number of guns you buy as well as purchase budget versions of those guns. Even though you won’t get the best, it can still be done.

Keep in mind that a budget armory does not have to be a permanent armory. If you’re short on cash now but firmly believe that having at least a small collection of guns at your disposal is necessary as part of your survival/disaster preparations, purchasing budget guns can be an excellent temporary solution until you find yourself in a better financial position later on.

In this article, we will cover the three most important types of guns to have in any survival armory regardless of budget, and then bring up three specific guns you can buy that will fulfill those basic types.


Since you’re limited to $500, you must restrict yourself to the guns that are critical. If you do any perusing online, you’ll find articles telling you that you need to have anywhere from five to fifteen different guns in your armory.

However, we need to start with the guns that are the most critical, or the ones that can complete your basic tasks. So for your budget armory, there are only three types of guns that you should focus on.

The first is a 12 gauge shotgun. Shotguns are among the most versatile firearms to own, and if you think about it, the only two things you can’t use them for are concealed carry and long distance shooting. Slugs aren’t very effective, or accurate over 50m.

You can use a shotgun for home defense and hunting. You can load birdshot for small game and bird hunting, buckshot for home defense, and slugs for hunting larger game such as deer. You may find that your shotgun is the gun you use the most over any of your others.

But remember that we only have $500 to spend, meaning that only a fraction of that can be spent on your shotgun. For these reasons, you likely won’t be able to buy a semi-automatic or a pump action. Instead, you’ll likely have to settle for a single shot breech loading model.

Yes, it’s only a single shot, but it’s still better than nothing, right?  And remember, a budget armory is only a temporary armory. Once you find yourself in a better financial situation, you may be able to afford a pump action or a semi-auto. For now, for a $500 armory, a single shot shotgun is the way to go.

The second most important weapon to own in a survival armory is a semi-automatic .22 rifle. Like a 12 gauge shotgun, a .22 rifle is also highly versatile. Not only is it great for plinking and introducing new people to shooting, but you can also use it for hunting, general homestead use, and even self-defense if needed.

Another great advantage to the .22 is how the ammunition takes up very little space; a box that would normally carry 50 rounds of 9mm, for example, can carry hundreds of rounds of .22 LR. In this regard, you can carry hundreds of rounds on your person, and it would take up very little space and weight.

Finally, the third most important gun to have in a survival armory is a handgun to serve as your sidearm. While not a good choice for hunting, the handgun is still a critical weapon to have because you can have it concealed on your person, and furthermore, you can access it more quickly than you could a rifle or a shotgun.

When choosing a handgun, you have the choice between the semi-automatic pistol or the revolver. While both have pros and cons, the semi-automatic pistol should ideally be your first choice since it can hold twice as much or more ammunition than a revolver, meaning less frequent reloading.

You should also opt for a 9mm pistol since the ammunition costs less than other calibers like .40 and .45 and you’re on a budget.

So the three most critical guns that you can have in your survival armory are the 12 gauge shotgun, .22 rifle, and the 9mm semi-automatic pistol. While there are other types of guns that would ideally belong in a survival armory as well, since $500 is our budget we’re going to limit ourselves to just these three.

Now that we’ve identified what the three most critical firearms in a survival armory are, let’s discover three specific makes and models of these types of guns that you can buy.

H&R single shot 12 gauge shotgun - Excellent choice for those on a budget


H&R Single Shot shotguns and others in its class are very plentiful on the used market and in pawn shops. You should easily be able to find one in good condition for $100, if not cheaper.

They are also incredibly simple and downright reliable; simply depress a lever or a button, and the barrel will open up allowing you to load it. Snap the barrel shut, cock the hammer, and the weapon is ready to fire.

It sounds like a slow process, but with enough practice, you can get to be rather fast with reloading a single shot shotgun. You can easily press the button, load the chamber, snap it shut, and cock and fire in a matter of seconds. All that it takes is enough repetition so that it becomes muscle memory.

MOSSBERG 702 .22 RIFLE – $150

Since we’ve just spent around $100 on our shotgun, that means we have $400 left to spend on the next two guns. The .22 semi-automatic rifle is the next important one to own, and as with the shotgun, we’re looking for budget options.

One of the highest quality budget semi-automatic .22 rifles is the Mossberg 702 rifle, also known as the Mossberg Plinkster. The 702 looks very similar to the Marlin 60 (another popular .22 rifle, but too expensive for our budget), but feeds with either 10 or 25 round magazine rather than through a tube.

Numerous variations of the 702 are produced in a variety of barrel lengths, finishes, and stock types. With a weight of only four pounds, the 702 is one of the lightest .22 rifles on the market, which is a big benefit you have small children and want to teach them how to shoot.

The 702 simply represents a great choice for a budget .22 rifle. You can find these rifles brand new in the $150 range.


So far we’ve spent a combined $250 on our shotgun and .22 rifle. This leaves us with another $250 to spend on our 9mm pistol.

If you’ve done any research on budget guns so far, you’re more than likely familiar with the Hi-Point series of pistols, which are incredibly ugly but have gained a reputation as a reliable budget pistol by some users.

That being said, we still have that $250 left to spend (more than the cost of a Hi-Point), so why not use the extra money to spend it on a pistol that looks a little nicer, is more ergonomic, comes from a well-known manufacturer, and holds more rounds?

One of the best budget pistols that fulfill this criterion is the Smith & Wesson SD9. Some people are wary of the SD-series of pistols from Smith & Wesson because they are descendants of the much-loathed Sigma series.

Make no mistake, the SD9 is a massive improvement over the Sigma and is quickly gaining a reputation for reliability nearly up to the same level as the popular M&P line.

While the SD9 typically costs around $300 in sporting goods stores, do enough searching online and you can find a used or even maybe a new one for $250 instead.

The SD9 ships with two sixteen round magazines and additional magazines are available for around $30-40. Holsters and accessories are fairly easy to find.

Overall, the SD9 is an attractive and reliable choice for a budget pistol, and it provides you with many advantages over the Hi-Point.


Maybe you’re a college student struggling with paying off student loans, or maybe you’re middle aged but have recently lost your job.

Regardless of what your case is, the whole point of this article has been to show you that you can indeed put a basic survival armory together for only $500.

You can have the H&R Single Shot 12 gauge shotgun, Mossberg 702 .22 rifle, and the Smith & Wesson SD9 9mm pistol together for that $500 (probably a little more after taxes), and in the process cover most of the basis you will need guns for.

Is this the ideal survival armory if money were not an issue?  Obviously not, but it’s probably the best you can ask for if you only have $500 to spend.

survival armory for 500 Pinterest

6 thoughts on “How to Build a Complete Survival Armory for Less Than $500”

  1. Not bad thinking! I carried a 12ga single shot brush gun for years in the mountains. Excellent backpacker in 18″
    barrel. Rest of your choices ok too. Finally-there is a YouTube video on using the single shot shotgun as a muzzle loader.

  2. I used a single shot shotgun for many years, 16 guage. Couple of points. First, using a single shot will teach a person to make the first shot count. Second you will learn to hunt with the second shell carried between two fingers. For me the second shell was in my right hand between middle and the ring finger. After the first shot is fired, with practice, you can reload and aim in close to the same time as your buddy with a pump. This will NOT happen on your first try 🙂 but it does comes easy enough. Specially for pheasants, one usally rises before the rest, you will have more then enough time to take two aimed shots. To repeat myself, two good shots after a bit of practice!

  3. Great article with good sense info. I’d add the SCCY pistols for the 9mm slot. Two models, reliable with a lifetime warranty if you wanted a little smaller profile for CCW.

  4. I couldn’t fault any of the points for this piece. Well done. Only thing I’d add would be to try hard for a good combo shotgun in the future. A pump with a field and slug barrel combo. Ordering a 2nd. barrel after is almost as much money as a whole gun. Remington and Mossburg both have combos.

  5. Out West, you need a bit more reach. I can’t hit much past 200 yards, but that extra reach will be important out here in the desert. I’m all geared up from Y2K and have the war surplus bolts that used to be cheap, but if doing this today at a minimum I’d have a hunting bolt action rifle. Even in 223. Since that doesn’t leave enough for a 9mm, I’d settle for a rimfire revolver. Under $500 for both ( $300-$350 rifle, $100 revolver ).

  6. On a local internet classified board I saw a Pardner pump 12 G for $125 last week. Basically an 870 clone. My point being you can find a good pump in $150 range or less if you take your time and look. A shot gun is one firearm in which you can get a good reliable gun at low price. I actually won a local trap competition a couple years ago with the H & R single shot he recommends competing against some Citoris and Benelli M2s. I like a pretty gun gun as much or more than the next guy but it is more the person behind it than the gun itself.

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