Top 5 Semi-Auto Rifles For SHTF

Search for any online article that talks about which firearms you need to have in your SHTF survival armory, and almost all of them will note you need to include a military-style, semi-automatic rifle that has a large magazine capacity and can send a lot of lead downrange quickly.

There are many serious reasons to own such a rifle aside from aesthetics and tactical weaponry, however. Let’s discuss what some of these reasons would be, and then outline the top five best models to own.

Why Own a Semi-Automatic Rifle?

The main reason to own a semi-auto rifle is to defend your home and family against mobs, looters, or multiple attackers. Bolt action or lever action rifles have long range capabilities, allowing you to engage targets at extreme distances.

They also have a slow rate of fire and reloading time. Shotguns are great for close range home defense, but they suffer from a slow rate of fire, not to mention high recoil. Finally, while pistols have a larger capacity and faster reload, they are less powerful than rifles.

A semi-automatic rifle with a large magazine gives you several advantages: you can pick off targets at longer ranges if defending your property, you can fire multiple rounds in a matter of seconds and reload less often (and when you do reload, you can do so more quickly).

This isn’t to say that a military rifle is the ultimate SHTF weapon. There are many things it can’t do that other guns can, such as being used for concealed carry.

There are precious few reasons not to include a combat rifle in your SHTF arsenal. Should you agree and decide that you need to have such a rifle in your collection to train with, here are the top five options for your consideration.

Here is a video going over how to choose rifles for SHTF:

Which budget Semi-auto rifle to choose before SHTF! And it's not what everyone else is saying...


If there’s a combat rifle that just all-around works, it’s the AK-47. It’s not the most attractive looking rifle by any means, nor is it the most accurate and refined, but it’s a rifle that you can trust in practically any kind of a hostile environment.

Field stripping the AK-47 is extraordinarily simple and could be done quickly without the aid of tools. This makes it a great rifle to service in the field should you encounter any malfunctions.

That being said, the chances of your AK having any kind of a serious malfunction are very slim.  This is a rifle built for optimal ruggedness and reliability. It will feed through almost anything you put in the magazine (as long as it’s the ammunition it’s chambered for), and the ammunition (7.62x39mm) is also fairly cheap and easy to find.

While the AK-47 is not the most precise rifle on the planet, it’s still fully capable of hitting moving targets in the 100 yard to 150 yard range. This is the range in which you would most likely be using your rifle.

Overall, the AK-47 is very reliable and simple to use. It’s not the best choice when it comes to ergonomics or accuracy, but it’s incredibly durable. If you want a rifle you can bug out to the woods with, and that you can rely on to run under practically any conditions, it’s near impossible to beat.

Speaking of accuracy, a lot of accuracy depends on the shooter. If you follow the basic marksmanship techniques, you should have no problem hitting a man-sized silhouette from 200 yards and less. A lot of people blame the rifle (or weapon) specifically for their poor accuracy. While the rifle does have a factor, as well as the round it uses, a lot of accuracy is dependent on the user, and not the weapon itself.


Of course, the AR-15 would make this list, as you may have guessed. The AR-15 is America’s rifle, and rightfully so. Not only is it the standard platform for the armed forces, it’s also the most popular center fire rifle sold to civilians.

This makes the AR-15 a top contender, as spare parts and accessories (such as magazines) are incredibly easy to find in comparison to other rifles. That being said, there are pros and cons to the AR-15 just as with the AK-47.

The biggest advantage the AR has going for it, beyond the virtually limitless number of accessories and customization options, is accuracy. The AR-15 is a highly accurate weapon, which makes it great for self-defense or when you need to engage targets. Many people prefer the ergonomics of the AR-15 over the AK-47.

The AR-15 is not without a few flaws. It’s not an unreliable weapon by any means, but it can’t match the AK in this department. The AR-15 simply has more moving parts than the AK-47, which means disassembling it in the field may be more problematic.

On the other hand, 5.56x45mm NATO ammo (or .223 Remington) is cheap and easy to find.   Recoil on the AR is extremely low, which makes it a great rifle for new shooters to become accustomed to. Overall, the AR-15 is a solid rifle with a lot going for it.

IWI Tavor

The IWI Tavor is a unique rifle on this list because it’s a bull pup, meaning the magazine is located behind the trigger. This translates to an overall shorter rifle that is more nimble and easy to maneuver in close quarters.

This could be a huge advantage in a home defense situation, SHTF, or when maneuvering in the field (where trying to move through thick brush with an AR or an AK could present issues).

The charging handle on the IWI Tavor is located near the front of the barrel and can easily be swapped to either the right or left handed side.

Meaning you can chamber the weapon or clear a jam without having to move your hand from the trigger, which makes for an overall fast operation. The Tavor fully is fully compatible AR-15 magazines, so you should have no shortage in that department.

The biggest downside to the Tavor is the trigger and the price. Most triggers on bull pup designs tend to be heavier in comparison to other rifles such as the AR-15.

The Tavor’s trigger will be noticeably harder to you, and may translate to an overall less pleasurable shooting experience.  The price may also be an issue, as it is rare that you will be hard pressed to find a Tavor for less than $1,500.

Although the price may not be in the same range as most preppers, some people are simply looking for a “dream gun” or a weapon that may cost a bit, but is an incredibly great weapon to add to your arsenal. If the Tavor is a bit out of your price range, that’s okay. It gives you an option should you come across enough money to afford it.

The Tavor is still a reliable rifle with the notable advantage of being more compact and maneuverable than the other rifles on this list. If you are in favor having a compact bull pup design for your semi-automatic rifle, the Tavor should be your first choice.

Here’s a series of videos going over bull pup rifles:

Bullpup Rifles: Part 1 - The Concept

Ruger Mini-14

The Ruger Mini-14 heavily resembles the M1 Carbine that served with U.S forces in World War II and Korea. It’s a lightweight rifle chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO that has found favor both with law enforcement personnel and with civilians.

The user-friendly design of the Ruger Mini-14 more closely resembles the AK-47 or the Springfield M1A (which we will talk about next), with the charging handle and ejection port located on the right hand side of the weapon and the magazine release behind the trigger.

Reliability on the Mini-14 is commendable and it will serve you well in rugged terrain, as well as hostile environments. It comes available in a number of different variants, including black and stainless finishes, with wood, synthetic, or folding stocks available.

Springfield M1A

If you want a little extra firepower and more range, you need to shift your attention towards a .308 battle rifle. In this category, there’s no better choice than the Springfield M1A, which is available in a number of different configurations and lengths and is essentially a civilian M14.

While there are other popular .308 semi-auto rifles such as the AR-10, G3, or the FAL, the M1A offers the best combination of reliability, durability, accuracy, and availability of spare parts out of these options.

AR-10s have been known to be a little finicky, while the G3 and FAL are imported and therefore not as widely available. As a result, the M1A reigns supreme in the battle rifle world.

The M1A/M14 design is still used by the military today as a marksman’s rifle, which says a lot about its accuracy and reliability in the field. The M1A will deliver you a greater range, round energy, and reliable accuracy than any of the other rifles on this list.

This means you could have the potential to kill an enemy target at a distance while staying out of range of their AR-15 or AK-47.

On the downside, .308 Winchester ammo is noticeably more expensive than 5.56x45mm NATO or 7.62x39mm, and M1A’s are not cheap.

The M1A is a very heavy rifle, and the long barreled variants will be difficult to maneuver in tight conditions. Fortunately, Springfield also manufactures M1A’s with shorter barrels for these kinds of scenarios.


There are many more military-style combat rifles out there to choose from, and they all have their pros and cons just like the rifles in this list do. But the five rifles we have discussed have each proven themselves over many years of service and are common enough that spare parts should be fairly easy to find. Therefore, they should be the first ones to consider for SHTF.

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13 thoughts on “Top 5 Semi-Auto Rifles For SHTF”

  1. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, of course, but I fail to see why anyone would invest on the plus side of $1500 for the IWI Tavor. Expense aside, parts availability in a full blown and long duration SHTF environment will be minimal or non-existent. If your objective is clearing stairwells, go for it; otherwise, it is no more accurate and does not provide any better range than the more widely available M15.

    The Springfield M1A is an awesome weapon, but I wouldn’t want to lug one on a 75 mile bug out. You forgot to mention that .308 ammo has considerable more bulk and weight than 5.56X45, thereby reducing the amount that you can carry.

    1. Totally agree – besides the points you made about parts/service during a serious SHTF – a quality weapon will be multi-generational reaching a family heritage of perhaps 100+ years …. we have a current political situation that’s favorable to 2A Rights and worldwide availability for weapons … with a change of political breeze the international import aspect can disappear overnite – America First – buy and stock accordingly ….

      1. Amen brother! I say buy American and buy the most common firearms out there! I purchased two ARs one of lesser quality at 1st a Del-Ton in 5.56 and thn later purchased a very good one in a Stag Minimalist and its a great value.Not that in a SHTF situation you can get the barrel mailed to you buy if they give you a life time infinite round Heavy Chrome lined barrel i think the barrel will be the least of your worries in a SHTF live……I also purchased a .38pecial +P Revolver of course and a Glock19.Yes everyone has one so why…….because everybody has one! lol what i plan to do asap is buy at least one if not two rifle kits befor they outlaw buying and selling parts in my communist state of N.J. !!!

  2. the SKS is probably the best option for any budget prepper. no need to buy magazines. can carry double the ammo in stripper clips that can be carried pre loaded into magazines. cheap and robust. fitted with a light weight folding stock it is easy to carry and conceal. uses the heavy hitting AK round that works well even out of a 12 inch barrel.

    1. Mike,
      I generally agree, and have two SKS that I acquired as unfired and “factory new” from the armory. The ten round capacity of the internal magazine is obviously short of the external magazine capacity of the AK pattern rifle, but the SKS is also more accurate than the AK. The way I look at it, putting accurate lead downfield is better than just putting out a lot of lead that doesn’t hit anything. I don’t think anyone would claim that you can drive tacks with an SKS, but you can get decent 4″ groups at 100 yards.
      An investor-related note: I purchased my SKSs when the price was $150. Used SKSs are now selling for $450.

  3. I am an amputee , my dominant right arm was amputated due to a motorcycle accident 30 years ago. I have revolvers which I shoot and maintain in an effective manner . Recently I purchased and unfortunately had to return a Glock 19 pistol, I could not slide the first round in chamber . Are there any “long guns ” that are semi automatic that can be effectively loaded and fired with one hand ?

    1. David, have you been shown how to do a ‘one handed tactical chamber’ with a semi-auto hand gun? Just hold the firearm by the grip in a normal fashion, then hang the rear site on your belt (around your waist) and thrust/shove the firearm downward with force! This will operate the ‘slide’ and chamber a round! This is a standard LEO drill for operating with a disabled/injured arm! Try it and get back with me! I hope this helps!!!

    2. You can easily rack the slide and chamber rounds with a semi auto…including reloads……just catch the rear sight on your belt or front pocket or back of your shoe if doing the move where you hold the gun with your knee for reloading.

    3. Sig sauer m400 ar15 has an ambi mag release….so if you were using a bipod….just hit the mag release….insert new mag and hit bolt release. You are gonna have to hold it with your knees if using the charging handle.

  4. Another advantage the AR has over the AK is in the ammo, while AK ammo is cheap there is a reason that is most is steel cased and cannot be reloaded at least not by the average home re-loader where 5.56 or .223 ammo is mostly brass and can, military brass for the AR my have a crimped primer and needs a de-priming die that is strong enough and needs to be reamed where a lot of the AK ammo is Berdan primed and the tools to de-prime these is extremely expensive, I have read a little on drilling out the flash hole on Berdan primed cases but know of no one who has done it, no matter what firearms you choose ammo is a key important factor and for a prepper reloading is a skill that should be learned

  5. I am somewhat surprised that no one mentioned the M1 Garand, what Patton termed the greatest battle weapon ever. If you’re dealing with a mob that is grouped, it reportedly can penetrate up to three people to at least put them out of commission, although that could be a problem with indoor shooting (use your pistol or shotgun there). I also found an add on that regulated pressure so that you can use standard .30-06 rather than Garand specific ammo.

  6. any kid can see that you’ll need night vision for shtf, and just stay hidden during dayligt hours, You’ll need a silenced autorifle, subsonic ammo option, night sights, passive IR scanner solar charger, concealed armor. Get a shorty AR-15 in 223, have 60 gr softpoints for it, 1 in 9″ rifling twice, $160 CMMG .22lr conversion unit, 60 gr Aquila .22 subsonic ammo for it, trigger job, scope with a see thru mount. Need a micro 9mm in a front pants pocket holster, with Corbon 100 gr jhp’s in it.

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