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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.